Sunday, 13 May 2018

Our happy place!

Everyone should have a happy place - a place that almost 'resets' you, where you feel that you can escape, whilst feeling at home. We are lucky to have a couple of places in England that we love, but none are as special as Brighton.
We first visited Brighton in 2008 (we were pretty shocked when we worked that out!) for Pride, and loved it so much we got engaged there a few years later. When flight changes meant we lost a day of our Mexico honeymoon, we stayed in Brighton for the night instead! We spent Lauren's 30th there, and converted our Civil Partnership to marriage in Brighton Town Hall, so as you can probably tell, its a pretty special place to us!
So when we fund ourselves with three days off over bank holiday (rare in our jobs!), we decided it was a great excuse for a trip to Brighton. We have been pretty frazzled lately - my job that was pretty awful is now pretty lovely, Lauren is settling into a promotion in a career she started a year ago, and our baby is no longer a baby, but a talkative, energetic little boy. It seems to be the start of a new period for us, and whilst its lovely, we were definitely in need of a break to clear our heads.

The only problem was, with such short notice, most hotels and even Air BnB's were full. So we decided to try something a little different, and try a private room. This turned out to be a great idea, as our room turned out to be a large, beautiful bedroom with ensuite, fridge, and Nespresso machine, on the ground floor of a gorgeous Brighton townhouse. Although we were greeted by a couple of members of the family who lived there, we didn't see them for our whole stay, and had free parking - important in Brighton!

So on a very sunny Saturday morning, we drove down to Brighton, and spent the afternoon walking along the seafront, going for amazing vegan pizzas, and breathing in the atmosphere.

After working up an appetite from all that walking, we went for dinner at Purezza, a vegan pizza restaurant we visited on our last Brighton trip. They do the best pizza we have ever tried, and we have been looking forward to going back ever since last time!

The next day we ventured down to one of our favourite places in Brighton, the Laines. We sat outside at one of the street cafes and took in the sights of the Laines. We also had one of the best breakfasts we've ever had! Sat outside in the sunshine, it was a wonderful way to start the day, and definitely got us into holiday mode.

After breakfast we spent a while wandering through the Laines and doing a bit of shopping. The Laines is such a beautiful, quirky interesting place, with something different around every corner, so we are often here for a while!

After a while we decided to head to Pavilion gardens to cool off a little. We love that the gardens feels peaceful even when its busy, and Oskar kindly had a long nap, leaving us to chat and people watch!

We then headed to Boho Gelato, an amazing ice cream shop serving dairy and vegan options - its the best ice cream we've ever tried. We decided the beach would be a great addition to ice cream, so luckily found a quiet spot. We were surprised when we stood up to leave just how full the rest of the beach was! Oskar had a great time sorting all the pebbles into piles, and chatting to fellow beach dwellers! We particularly loved his outfit on this day - rainbows and beach huts!

We had originally planned to go for Indian food for dinner, but on the drive down remembered a Sri Lankan restaurant in Hove called Moonstone, that we have visited several times. We decided to book a table there instead, and were glad we did! It's quiet, pretty, and the food is delicious. The staff are really wonderful too, despite them thinking Oskar was a girl! (And on a rare occasion he was dressed in blue, too!). We had a lovely evening, and it was strange but really nice to be thee with our son this time!

The next morning we went back to The Laines - another cute café, another amazing breakfast! (And how cute is the tea set?!)

After breakfast we went down to the beach, but had underestimated just how hot it was. I usually love the heat, but with all the parasols taken, it was too hot for all of us, and definitely too hot for a half English, half Danish toddler who was already covered in factor 50! So we decided to watch the sea from the street above. Before we left, Oskar had spotted the carousel, so Lauren took him for his first spin on it. I watched them, took pictures, and generally got quite emotional about watching my wife and son laughing on a carousel we had watched so many times throughout our relationship!

We then had a lovely slow walk along the sea front, enjoying the sunshine, and the sparkling sea. We couldn't quite believe we got so lucky with the weather especially on a bank holiday in May, but we were really grateful! We love Brighton anyway, but bright, beautiful sunshine definitely added to the holiday feeling.

Before we left, there was just time for one more ice cream stop, and a visit to a vegan donut shop for car journey treats. Brighton, as always, left us feeling completely recharged, and ready for every day life! It was so wonderful to spend time as a family, and the break helped us to realise ways we can be even happier as people, as a couple and as a family. Every time we leave Brighton we are always thinking of when we can return, but w always seem to bring a bit of its happy magic home with us. Until next time, Brighton!

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Thursday, 26 April 2018

When Myself met Motherhood

It’s weird becoming a mother. No one knows what to expect, but I had no idea what it would be like. Everyone expects the newborn days to be hard, and they are, but in some ways toddlerhood is harder. Your child can walk, and talk, and throw tantrums, and after a couple of years, you expect things to have settled down to somewhat near normal. 

I felt like who I was before I was a parent got swept aside in a haze of sleepless nights, cooking meals as fast as possible, playing games, changing nappies, and trying not to yawn through my days at work. 
I wasn’t aware of this, but it gradually crept up on me. We had wanted a child for many years, and when he came along, we were determined we would do the absolute best for him. We would attachment parent, gentle parent, co sleep until he was at least 2, breastfeed him until he was 2, we wouldn’t leave him with family until we felt it was the right time. 
We pushed everything else in our lives aside to focus on being the best mothers we could possibly be. And we were, and are. I am so proud of how selflessly we parented him, of the mothers we are. No matter how testing motherhood could be, I would go through it ten times over if it bought me my beautiful, perfect son. He gives me new reasons to love him every day, and apart from my wife, is the best thing to ever happen to me. 

But after a while, I realised that although I was an amazing mother, I wasn’t really anything else. 
As our son went into toddlerhood, I realised I didn’t recognise the person in the mirror. I didn’t look, feel, or sound like myself. I didn’t really know who ‘myself’ was anymore. I didn’t want to be in pictures because looking at who I was now made me uncomfortable. My tired skin, neglected hair, and clothes that I wouldn’t have picked before. They were clothes I hadn’t chosen because they bought me any kind of happiness or because they felt like me (my individuality was something I had always been proud of), but because they somewhat fitted, and were practical. I looked down at my dry looking hands, where bright coloured nails and jewellery used to be, and felt sad by them.
I didn’t care what I wore, what I ate. I didn’t listen to music, I didn’t read, I didn’t laugh as much, I didn’t have dreams. 
There were good days, great days, a lot of them in fact, but the majority of the time, the underlying theme was that I wasn’t the person that my wife, son, or myself, deserved. It didn’t help that at the time my work wore me down until I felt like an empty shell, a situation that suddenly resolved itself a few weeks before I was meant to hand my notice in and become a child minder. I believe everything happens when it is meant to. 

But the past week I’ve had time to think about things, and realise that things needed to change. And now I’ve had that realisation, although it won’t be instant, I can feel that person steadily coming back.

I think that change couldn’t happen until I was ready to move on and amalgamate who I was and who I am. I’m a mother, a role which I love with all that I am. But I am other things too, and I can feel them slotting more comfortably and harmoniously together.

 I feel that being a content, happy person, means I am a better mother, a better wife, and a better human. 
I need to spend work days being present in my job, and days off as my days off - not solely ‘what should Oskar do today’. I want to use the time my wife and I have together better. I want to let myself be the person I was. I love rock & folk music (I’ve seen well over 100 bands live), and books about love and happiness, and nature documentaries especially about the sea, and candle light, and learning new things, and seeing new places. I love drawing, painting and making things. I love buying clothes, and beauty products, and make up. I love going for food or coffee and talking for ages. I love, and will always love, ‘dating’ my wife. I love looking after my family and home. I am fiercely loyal.  I don’t want a career but I love finishing work knowing I’ve done a good job. 
But now I add new things to that. I’m calmer, more patient, and I see the bigger picture more. I am kinder, less defensive, I see more good in people and the world. I am ready to dream, and laugh, and love. And I’m excited for all of it. 

New, and new-ish mothers are expected to talk about how motherhood alone fulfils them, and for some, it does. There’s a big part of me it fulfils. But there are many who struggle with the loss of identity, the detrimental effect to their happiness and relationships that can strangely go alongside being so happy and full of love for your child and your role as a mother. But no one talks about it. Please know, if you identify with me, you are not alone. Also know it gets better, and when the time is right, you will find who you were, and who you are, and together they will make you a better person. 
Losing myself to motherhood for a while gave me some dark days, as it has many of us, but we should be proud of the dedication we gave our babies. But today, I am proud of the example I will set to my child, and the memories I will give him of me - as a happy, content woman who loves him and his Mama, the world around her, and more recently, herself.

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Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Mums I thought I'd never be (and what I didn't know about motherhood)

Most women are the same when they plan to have a baby or become pregnant - you have a pretty good idea of the mother you imagine yourself to be, and also what life will be like when you add a baby to the mix.
I definitely did. I used to roll my eyes at women who were already mothers, with their endless reams of advice that just sounded like pessimistic complaining to me. In my mind, their words, from women who had got pregnant simply by sleeping with their husbands, were quite rude and disrespectful.
It had taken a year and a half of appointments, scans, counselling,  examinations, needles, pills, negative pregnancy tests, thousands of pounds, heartache and hope before we had got our wonderful two pink lines. Did they really think we would go through all that and then think 'Oh really, we'll be tired? You should've said, we don't fancy it anymore!"
 I know now that motherhood is literally like being on another planet, and you cannot imagine it until you are right in the middle of it, amongst the noise, and busyness, and mess, and exhaustion, and love, and happiness. But back then, I wouldn't be like them, I thought. I knew better, I was different.

These are just some of the mums I thought I would be, and the mum I actually became:

I'll be a mum who makes sure she looks nice, instead of just her baby having nice new outfits

I realised I had failed miserably on this when I put a top on to go to my nieces second birthday party, then remembered I had worn the same outfit for her first birthday party the year before! Our son regularly has piles of new clothes, when he was a baby and grew out of them every few months, and now for the changing seasons as he is a toddler. They are all organic, beautiful quality from the mainly Scandinavian brands we have loved since before Oskar was even created. Alternatively,  our wardrobes were relegated to the same mum uniform of well worn jeans, old striped tops and battered shoes. I always said I wouldn't stop making an effort with the way I looked when I had children, but the honest truth - you are too tired, have too little time, and there are much more important things.
Saying this,  I have tried to remember lately that I am a person and a wife, not just a mother. Now Oskar is twenty months old, spending a few more seconds on my hair, and putting on a bit of make up are more realistic. And I have made sure to buy a few new items of clothes for myself too...though my sons wardrobe still puts mine to shame!

I won’t be a mum who’s living room is full of toys 

I am quite houseproud, and very tidy, and was adamant that my house wouldn’t turn into one massive playroom. We kept our word with this until Oskar was 18 months old, after him having some larger toys for his second Christmas. Now our living room contains a wooden kitchen (which is quite tucked away next to our dining table), wooden bowls, houses and peg people, which all look like ornaments and go well with the rest of the room, a table and chair with art equipment, a pushchair and dolls, a campervan push along full of cars, and an Ikea tower - it had two cupboards of hidden toys, and two open with wooden cars in one, and wooden animals in the other. I like to think the toys we have out mainly look nice and in keeping with the room, but the no toys thing went out the window. It’s just not practical to have all your toys in your child’s room. Sometimes I look around my living room that looks like a hurricane has hit it and remember my lovely tidy living room, but then I look at the mess and it makes me happy - it shows my son is playing, learning, laughing, it’s the best kind of mess in the world. 

I won't be a Mum who takes nappies, sick and snot in her stride!

I am a fairly squeamish person around anything smelly or slimy, and thought that dealing with poo and vomit was going to be one of the hardest things about parenthood (honestly, how little I knew!).
As people who have long being interested in living as eco friendly as possible, cloth nappies and wipes were something Lauren was eager to use many years before our baby actually came along. I was a little more dubious at first. However, I hated the idea of all those nappies and wipes in landfill, so we bought both cloth nappies and wipes. As our son arrived by c section, I did all the nappy changes in hospital ,and then at home whilst Lauren recovered. It was just immediately something that naturally had to be done, and whilst I can't say I still feel a little queasy at the memories of those months where a mums hair constantly has a faint (or not) scent of vomit, or have to take a deep breath when dealing with a particularly bad nappy situation, I never thought I'd say the words, as I wiped something off my child's face with my hand "What's that? Oh, its just snot." And as for cloth nappies and wipes, within days I was their biggest advocate, and have inspired other mums to switch to cloth too!

I won't be a mum who has natural maternal instinct

I feel ridiculous even saying this, but before I was a mum, I genuinely wondered if  I would love my baby as much as I loved my beloved  dog. I was horrified at people who said what a shame it was that they didn't have nearly as much time for their dogs anymore. I feel I've I've said this many times over the past year and eight months, but how little I knew. I don't want to sound patronising by saying you cannot comprehend the love you have for a child until you have one, but it really is indescribable. I'm also not saying its more than love people without children can feel. The love for my son isn't more than the love for my wife. Its different, but at the same time, apart from for my wife, I have never experienced such powerful, overwhelming love. I am probably still not the most naturally maternal person, but I feel privileged to experience motherhood and the new capabilities it seems to have given me.

I won't take a million pictures of my baby and annoy everyone on social media with them

Haha, oops. Little did I know how every day babies seem to look different, or do something new. The time they are tiny is so fleeting that I have zero regrets of taking a million photographs.I also know people who refuse to put any pictures of their children online, something I respect. Whilst I will still never have a picture of my baby as my profile picture, I take and post a vast amount more pictures of my baby than of myself, or anything or anyone else, something I know I should probably try and change a tiny bit.  Although I use Facebook as photo storage, I think most of my family and friends know this, and there are very minimal, if any, cooing statuses of our bundle of joy. My Instagram contains a lot of pictures of my son, because he is a massive part of my life. Which leads me to...

I won’t  be one of those bores that has nothing in life apart from her baby

The annoying part about this, is this young people who meet you after you’ve had children, assume you’re a boring mom who has never travelled, had fun, got drunk. 
The thing is, when you have a newborn ,you do have little in life apart from your baby. They need constantly changing, feeding, winding, cuddling, comforting, playing with. You have so little sleep that you have very little energy or time for anything else, and how little time you have is something that I couldn't grasp until I had a baby. When they are toddlers they want your attention, to play with you, to follow you in the shower, to the toilet, to have lunch ready the second they decide they are hungry. I bizarrely thought that our lives of friends, music, going out for drinks and meals, to spas and on holiday, wouldn't be that different, we would just have a baby there too. Yes as he gets older I try to find time to be the many things I am as well as a mother, but the reality is being a mother changes your priorities a great deal. In the future the things that used to feature in our lives will slowly return, but for now, I’m content that much of my world is our son - he’s a pretty wonderful thing to devote so much time to!

My child will have perfect manners

Manners have always been very important to me, and was bought up to see them as something that had a big part of peoples first impression of you. I am the kind of person who gets really annoyed if I hold a door open for someone who doesn't say thank you. Our son has a vocabulary at 20 months of 50-60 words- none of them are please, thank you, sorry or excuse me. Why? Because he wouldn't understand the reason he is saying those words. If we taught him to say thank you when we gave him an apple, he wouldn't understand the concept of being thankful we had paid for, or chopped the apple. He does however say apple, as he knows that that word describes that object. When he is old enough to be taught the concept of manners, we will ensure he has excellent ones, and whilst there is nothing wrong with teaching toddlers to say please and thank you, it is, surprisingly, not something that is important to me yet.

I'll never be a mum that gives up foreign holidays

I remember texting my cousin a picture of the view from our hotel room at The Bellagio in Las Vegas whilst we were celebrating our first wedding anniversary. She laughed and said "you wait til you have a baby, it'll be nothing but Peppa Pig World!". When Lauren got pregnant the following year we had planned to take our baby to our holiday home in Malta when he would have been three months old. Once the baby arrived, we watched other mums lament of the horrors of taking a young baby on a plane, how much stuff you had to take, and the struggle of keeping them out of the heat of the sun, and cancelled our trip. Our last foreign holiday was two and  half years ago, and I can't lie and say we haven't missed them, although not as much as I thought we would. I sometimes look back at pictures of us whale watching in California, or navigating the souks of Marrakech and it feels like another world. We have however, discovered far more of our own country than we ever had before. We revisited London, Brighton, Edinburgh and Devon, parts of Wales, and going to Northumberland, The Lake District and Pembrokeshire for the first time, places that have turned into some of our favourite places in the world. Whilst Peppa Pig World is still the stuff of my nightmares (Oskar has only recently been introduced to television, and we haven't made it as far as Peppa yet!) we have been happy to put off our foreign holidays for now -we have been adding to our list though!

I won't be that tired

This was one of the most annoying 'pearls of wisdom' from fellow mums I received, and also the most common. "Gosh, you're all so negative" I thought. "Lauren works 70hrs a week sometimes, 12hr nightshifts with no break, we work hard, we know what being tired is." No, we didn't. Because it didn't matter how long or hard we worked at our jobs during the day, we got to relax when we got home, and then have a full nights sleep.  I’d say that I’d had a puppy, so I was prepared for a baby, then get annoyed at the looks I’d get from Mother’s in response to that! The first few months with a new baby that woke sometimes every 45 minute through the night left us like zombies. Zombies with dry, stinging eyes. Even at 20 months, O will often wake at 5am, or during the night once or twice. I sometimes hear women in their 20s at work, with no children, some who live with their parents and work part time exclaiming "I'm so exhausted!" After the fleeting urge to slap them passed (I'm kidding, just!) I stop myself from uttering those words that seem gifted into your vocabulary when you're a mother - 'you don't know what tired is!'. Because one day they will, and I remember how annoying I found it pre motherhood!

So there we go, the many Mothers I never thought I would be, and how I became...pretty much all of them. The Mother I am often surprises me - I'm calmer, more patient, I spend hours doing things I'd roll my eyes at a few years ago. I'm stronger, more brave, and I love my son with a force I can't explain. Everyones journey into, and through, motherhood is different, and I have witnessed it change people in different ways. Being a mother is not all that I am, but it's definitely one of the best things I've ever been.

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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Making easy no-gelatine bird feeders!

We read recently that the first week in March is very difficult if you’re a feathered friend, being one of the times that birds most struggle to find food.

We decided to make some treats for the birds in our street to enjoy, but struggled to find a recipe that didn’t contain corn syrup (unavailable in the UK) or gelatine (not something vegetarians or vegans will have in their kitchen). So we put together a recipe kind of made up of different recipes we saw, and it seemed to work really well. 

We shared the activity on Instagram stories and had a lot of requests to share how we made them, so thought we would put it into a blog post! 

For the recipe we used:

2 cups (approx. 480ml) of seeds (we had a mix of different seeds at home but good ones are sunflower, millet and flax )
1/4 cup (approx. 60ml) of flour
2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs 
1/4 cup (approx. 60ml) of water 
A tablespoon of golden syrup 
A couple of teaspoons of peanut butter 

We also used:

Foil/baking paper
Heart shaped cutters 
Baking tray 
Some string

Put the ingredients all together in a bowl and give them a big stir - Oskar really enjoyed helping with this part. The mixture seems quite dry at first but becomes stickier the more you stir.

Put the mixture onto a sheet of baking paper or foil, onto a firm surface - we used Oskar’s craft table as it’s low down enough for him to be able to help. 

Flatten the mixture out to about 1/2 inch thick, and stamp out some shapes - we used two different sizes of hearts. Again Oskar really enjoyed this part. 

Transfer the shapes carefully - we used a small spatula (perhaps don’t get your child to help with this bit unless they are older and have careful steady hands!) onto a foil/paper lined baking tray. 
Next you need to make some holes in the shapes - don’t put these too close to the edge. 
We used a plastic straw we had hanging around in a drawer - a good way to reuse plastic straws! We don’t use them often but when we need them for drinks in summer we will be buying some stainless steel reusable ones. 

Leave the shapes overnight to set - we turned ours over a couple of times so they really dried out. 
We then threaded string through them, and tied them in the trees - try and tie them to branches that are above other branches, so the birds have somewhere to perch whilst they snack! 

Oskar really enjoyed both making the treats and hanging them outside, and we did too! But most importantly, we are giving our feathered friends a much needed meal as winter draws to an end. Let us know if you give these a try and how they work out! 

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Monday, 19 February 2018

Making time for two

When Oskar was tiny, time for the two of us wasn’t really something we had to consider. It was just a given that it was something that had to be put on hold. Having a newborn is such a whirlwind, we didn’t even think about it.
There were a few times that his grandparents looked after him for a couple of hours - while we went for a cocktail on my birthday, and when we went to Cirque Du Soleil. It wasn’t until Oskar was a year and two months old however, when we left him for a couple of hours for the 3rd time, that we felt comfortable doing so. We hardly ever have an opportunity where a relative could babysit Oskar, but haven’t at all minded being his sole carers 24/7 - after all, he’s our child! But at that third time, when we went out for food and a cocktail, finally feeling comfortable about him being with someone else meant we could actually enjoy being together without worrying, which was lovely, and we found it to be really rejuvenative.

However, being as Oskar is with us 24/7, we have tried to include ways in day to day life that we can enjoy each other’s company. Every couple has their own ways of making time for each other, and we have by no means got our balance perfect, but here’s what helps us!

Getting outdoors

Oskar, like us, loves being outside in the thick of nature. It’s something we all enjoy that is entertaining for Oskar, meaning if he is happy wandering and exploring for himself, Lauren and I can have a chat as we walk.

We would highly recommend getting outside - having a child can get very cabin-fever like if you are indoors all day, and we always love to spot signs that represent the season.

In general, it’s something we all enjoy, that is good for us, and gives Lauren and I chance to feel like a couple even though we are still hand in hand with our toddler.

Let family help sometimes if they can - but only for as much as you feel comfortable with 

We had a little milestone recently, as Oskar spent his first night away from us. Lauren’s parents had been pleading with us for a while to let him have a little sleepover with Omi and Grandad, and we finally agreed a few weeks ago. Although we were confident they understood his needs, and had witnessed how content he was in their presence, we were still a little apprehensive! 
However we needn’t have worried, as Oskar had a wonderful time being taken to an alpaca farm, and given a very luxurious breakfast. We enjoyed a quiet evening with a bottle of wine, and then went out for lunch the next day before our boy was returned to us very happy and in one piece!

Celebrate things as a family - it means you still get to celebrate them!

We’ve had two Valentines Days and two wedding anniversaries whilst we’ve been mums, and have involved Oskar in all of them. We went to Birmingham Botanical Gardesn for our wedding anniversary with our 1 month old, revisited the coffee shop we spent our first date for Valentine’s 2017 with an 8 month old, and as Oskar was so tiny, he pretty much slept the whole time for both. We spent our 4th wedding anniversary in Brighton converting our Civil Partnership to marriage, and having our 13 month old with us, who could sit happily in restaurants with us, and play on the beach, made it really special. 

This Valentine’s Day Lauren was working in the morning, so I made Oskar a heart themed lunch and we read lots of books about love. 

When Lauren got home we had cards, flowers, presents, and an amazing hot chocolate box! We then went out to Selfridges for a vegan sushi dinner - Oskar was enthralled by the sushi conveyor belt!

 It may not be most people’s idea of a romantic evening but we are proud that we still celebrate Valentine’s (on our 14th one together!) and celebrating with our son meant we still got to enjoy the day. Once Oskar was asleep later in the evening we sat down together to enjoy hot chocolate, which reminds me of our next tip...

Make the most of little moments 

Once Oskar is in bed in the evening (usually about 7.30pm then he will wake once or twice - (hopefully!)in the night before waking between 5am-6.30am) we make the most of being able to snuggle up on the sofa with drinks and snacks, and have a chat or watch a tv show without toddler interruption. It’s a nice way to end our day, winding down and relaxing together - even if we’re always too tired for bedtime to be later than 10pm!

We have seen already just how fast time goes. It seems in the blink of an eye Oskar has gone from a scrunched up tiny newborn to a running, dancing, singing child who can say 60 words, who can make decisions. We are happy to have very little time to ourselves whilst we enjoy the precious time that our boy is little. We seem to feel more in love with every year that goes by, and sometimes, we miss each other, that’s only natural.  Our time together will increase over the years, but for now, we are happy making the most of our moments as wife and wife, whilst enjoying every other moment as Mummy and Mama - we are lucky that we get to call ourselves both of those things!

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