25.05

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I thought today we’d talk about one of my all-out favourite things to buy…children’s books! Ottilie has adored books ever since she was teeny tiny, and reading together is one of our favourite activities. I’ve recently discovered the lovely independent bookshop in our local town of Haslemere, which has a beautiful selection of children’s books to choose from and such an inviting atmosphere. She’ll happily mill around in there for ages, picking out books to read there and then and a couple to buy and take home for our growing collection. It gives me so much joy.

So today, I’m sharing a few of our favourites! We tend to keep paperback story books for reading at bedtime or during Ottie’s meals, and lift-the-flap board books to read whilst we play in the living room. That way we don’t end up with many torn page-casualties…though a couple of Ottilie’s most-loved books for reading during dinnertime are in a pretty bad way, covered with sticky marks and the odd smudge of pasta sauce I can’t get rid of!

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‘The Koala Who Could’, + ‘The Lion Inside’  by Rachel Bright and Jim Field

These story books are two of our most-read, largely I think due to the outstanding Australian accent I deliver during readings of The Koala Who Could ;) Ottie seems to be so engaged by these sweet stories about courage and self-discovery, and the illustrations are brilliant too.

She also now thinks that all koalas are called ‘Kevin’ as per the book, which is just adorable and not something I’m in a rush to correct her on!

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‘Lost and Found’, Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers’ books are just beautiful, with stylish, inky illustrations and simple storylines about friendship and overcoming challenges. Lost and Found tells the story of a boy who discovers a penguin on his doorstep, and in trying to help the penguin find his way home, realises that all he actually wants is to be the boy’s friend.

Ottilie always seems so taken in by the stories of friendship in Oliver Jeffers’ books, and in ‘How to Catch a Star’ (another of our favourites), she always takes my hand and asks me to help the little boy reach the star in the sky he wants to make friends with. And yep, it makes me want to cry every time!

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‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’, by Judith Kerr

I think we’ve read this book every single night before bed for two months on the trot now, but it’s such a classic I still completely love it! The story tells of a ‘cheeky tiger’ (as Ottie has dubbed him!) who visits Sophie’s house, and eats his way through all the cakes and sandwiches, the packets and tins in the cupboard, all Daddy’s beer, and all the water in the tap! The story’s so quaint and old fashioned, and we love the illustrations too. A classic!

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‘Busy Baking’

This book’s one that we keep downstairs for playtime, as it’s so sturdy and a quick read. It’s got tabs to open and pull and twist that perform different actions within the book, and Ottie especially likes to ‘mix’ the cake batter in the bowl just as much as she does when we bake together in the kitchen! It’s such a simple one but a great toddler book, and any from the series would make a lovely first birthday gift.

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‘Peep Inside’ series by Usborne

I LOVE this series of books- it’s definitely my favourite series of baby/toddler board out there…MUCH better than ‘That’s Not My [insert literally anything here!!]‘! These books were the first that Ottie really fell in love with, with the ‘Peep Inside the Farm’ and ‘Dinosaurs’ being our firm favourites. She does sound effects for all the dinosaurs in the book now which makes me laugh every time, and the books have really expanded her vocabulary too. I recommend these to anyone looking to start up a book collection for their little one!

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‘All In One Piece’ by Jill Murphy

Or as it’s known in our house, ‘the paint one’! Along with ‘the tiger one’, this is another that’s been part of our bedtime story line up for a good couple of months straight now. Ottie’s obsessed, and always asks me to wipe the paint from Mrs Large’s dress at the end! I just love Jill Murphy’s writing, and remember so vividly finding the Large Family series absolutely hilarious as a child. Isn’t it the best seeing your children love the things you loved when you were little?

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What books do your little ones love? :)

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18.05

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You’ll have to forgive me the moment of indulgence in posting so many photos of my little girl with no real purpose, but I just love this photo set so very much!

She was playing ‘where’s the yoghurt raisin’ with my Mum the other day, and Grandma was asking Ottie to blow on her hand to make the magic work and the raisin appear. I just can’t get enough of her sweet face in these photos, looking so amazed by the trick she was making happen.

It really is so true, you get to experience the magic of childhood all over again though your own babies <3 Oh, and don’t mind Ottie’s crazy bedhead. She’d just woken from a nap, and point blank refuses to wear clips or bands in her hair!

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Also, it’s Friday! Where on earth did this week disappear to?! I’m planning a toddler-free shopping trip this Sunday with my Mum which (no offence Ottie…) I couldn’t be more excited for! Finding bump-friendly but non-maternity dresses is my quest- I honestly can’t find a single maternity dress I like the look of right now, so am planning on heading to H&M + Zara to see what I can find there. And given I’ll be leaving Ottie at home with Jason, I’ll be able to have a leisurely try-on session in the fitting rooms without rushing or singing Wind the Bobbin Up. Bliss!

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

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11.05

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So in case you didn’t happen to catch my little Instannouncement (is that a word? It is now.) last weekend, then yep! I’m expecting baby number two!

I’m exactly 19 weeks at the time of typing this post up, with a mini bump that’s growing away nicely and a baby roughly the size of a courgette, according to my pregnancy app. It’s been so magic to do this all over again, and the joy of feeling a real little baby wriggling around inside you just doesn’t get old! In a moment of postpartum hormonal madness after Ottie was born I cried to Jason that if we had another baby it wouldn’t be as magical and exciting as it did first time, but I can confirm that’s truly not the case!

I thought I’d write up a little Friday pregnancy update in place of my usual ’10 things that’ve made made me happy this week’ round up, to catch you up on my pregnancy experience so far. So here we go!

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1. I’m totally convinced this baby’s a boy! Apropos of absolutely nothing other than instinct, especially considering my pregnancy’s been exactly the same as with Ottilie down to the very last symptom, but I always ‘knew’ she was a girl so maybe I’ll be right this time too!

2. We won’t be finding out this time either, just like with our first pregnancy. I’m not tempted at all in the sense that I’ll just be absolutely delighted either way, but am ever so slightly tempted just for practicality’s sake so I can get Ottie’s old clothes organised and washed ready for this baby, or packed away in the loft!

3. I’ve had another (luckily!!) very easy pregnancy so far! I was sick just once and had about four weeks of nausea, food aversions and major fatigue, but since about week 11 have been heaps better and almost back to normal. Last time though I had a very difficult and painful final month with sciatica and a breech baby who had to be turned manually back to head-down, so am fully preparing myself for what could be to come in the final few weeks!

4. And it’s true what they say about second bumps popping faster- I’ve been in maternity jeans since about week 8 this time! Though at first it was just major bloating, the bump is well and truly here now! I don’t think it’s massively bigger than I was with Ottie, though I’m definitely not as toned all over as last time. Probably due to the fact that when she goes down to bed at night I’m really struggling with the energy to head out to a workout class!

5. It’s definitely a whole new ballgame being pregnant with a toddler to look after too! I’ve been having to give in and nap when Ottie naps which isn’t something I’ve done since she was a tiny baby, and finding time to keep up with work, the garden, and all the household upkeep is a challenge! Also, Ottilie’s only sleeping for an hour a day now vs the two and a half hours she used to have until just lately, which makes me want to weep a little bit…

6. But speaking of Ottilie, oh my goodness this little girl of ours is obsessed with her sister or brother already! She loves all babies, and so knowing there’s one in Mama’s tummy is the best thing ever as far as she’d concerned. She talks about it all day long, and wants to kiss and cuddle my belly non stop. I’m not concerned at all about any jealousy on her part when the new baby is here, more how to manage her over-enthusiastic sister love!!

7. I’ll be doing hypnobirthing this time round, and also am signed off with my local home birth team! My experiences in labour and delivery with Ottie taught me that nothing is a dead cert when it comes to having babies, and so until I’m at the very end of my pregnancy and know this baby is head down, engaged, and behaving themselves I don’t think I’ll truly believe that I’ll really get the home birth I want so much, but so far so good! It’s so lovely having dedicated midwives and all my antenatal appointments at home too!

8. Two words: Maternity. Leggings. Why on earth didn’t I invest in a pair of these first time around?!

9. We were bad at keeping the secret this time around! With my pregnancy with Ottilie only my cousin knew for the first few weeks, we told our Mums after our 8 week scan, and then the rest of our friends and family after the 12 week scan. This time? I was on FaceTime to my Mum within about 10 minutes of taking the test, and my mother in law found out when I thrust Ottilie upon her so I could run off and be sick days before a test even came up positive!

10. I’m enjoying this pregnancy even more than last time, I think because this time I’m so aware that there’s really and truly a little person growing inside me. First time round that just felt like a concept, and pregnancy felt all about me and what I was experiencing and how my body was changing. This time round, I’m just counting down the days until we get to welcome this new unique, amazing little person into our family!

I’d love to know if you’d be interested in pregnancy blog content this time around- I’m thinking hospital bag packing tips, pregnancy style inspiration (not that I’m an expert, I forgot how crazy hard it is to dress a bump!!), that kind of thing? Let me know! :)

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02.05

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This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness week. I like to think I’ve been open in my sharing of my motherhood experiences, baring my soul at times about the joyful highs and tearful lows I’ve experienced over the past couple of years. To me, there’s nothing more powerful than talking about our experiences as parents- connecting with other mothers who are able to celebrate and console, relate and advise, all in equal measure.

We can’t help but feel pressure to achieve, achieve, achieve as women- aceing not only this motherhood gig but also simultaneously keeping up with work, ‘bossing it’ and ‘hustling’ and launching sideline start-ups, and staying fit and trim and looking like we never were even pregnant in the first place.

What I’ve learnt more than anything since becoming a mother is this:

It’s not possible to succeed at everything all the time.

The plate-spinning is relentless, and I feel I’m forever losing control of one thing or another at any one time. Either my work gets sidelined and Ottilie happily has my undivided attention all day long, or CBeebies goes on and suddenly I’ve got time to tick off my to-do list. In a week where I’ve managed to get the house cleaned and tidy and the laundry baskets emptied and the kitchen cupboards are full with ingredients for home cooked meals, you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t be making it out to any Pilates or yoga classes in the evenings because I’m just too shattered!

I’m learning that as mothers, we have to take care of ourselves as carefully as we do our precious children. Here’s to us <3

~ ~ ~

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1. Everyone’s experience is valid, but not all advice is appropriate.

By this I mean that whilst as a Mum you’ll undoubtedly be given an avalanche of tips and helpful anecdotal advice from other parents, but whilst the experiences of those giving the advice are always valuable in their own right, you yourself have every right to take it with a pinch of salt. ESPECIALLY in the early days, when the advice often is aimed at helping you get your nocturnal bundle of joy to appreciate the value of sleep, and the ‘breastmilk doesn’t fill them up enough so give a bottle of formula at bedtime/cosleeping is a rod for your own back’ type comments come in thick and fast!

2. Every baby and child really is unique.

And that uniqueness is apparent from before they’re even born! When I was pregnant with Ottilie, she would kick up a storm each night between about half 9 and half 11 in the evening. And then she was born, she used to be wide awake and ready to party at that exact time of the evening every single day!

In my opinion, the personality and will of a child is unique and individual and it’s all we can do as parents to nurture it. They all develop at their own predetermined rates- for example, at 19 months Ottie is stringing words together into little three or four word sentences, can count from 1-10 (though often forgets six and starts at 3!!), and blows my mind with her vocabulary. But she didn’t walk until 14 months, still trips over constantly and asks for help with going up and down the stairs even though she’s fully capable of doing it herself, and isn’t especially physically confident. I used to worry about her being slow to master physical skills, but now I’ve learnt to relax!

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3. The management of parental life admin can sometimes feel overwhelming.

I have these moments sometimes that make me feel really and truly like a Mum, and they’re always the silly, insignificant things. Cutting Ottilie’s nails so they aren’t too long and end up scratching her. Buying her new shoes when she’s grown out of the old ones (though probably noticing about two weeks late that she’s grown out of the old ones…). Keeping the house fully stocked with Calpol, nappies, and baby shampoo. Negotiating a sunhat and suntan lotion onto a reluctant toddler. Keeping an eye on her day’s intake of food- has she eaten a balanced diet, or subsisted on toast all day long?

These are the moments of parenting, the minutiae of making sure Ottilie is cared for and provided for in every single way, that make me feel most like a Mum and also sometimes overwhelm me with the responsibility of the job. It feels like my brain might burst sometimes, and I wonder if all parents feel like that or if I’m just still adjusting to my role as a parent?

4.You’re never. ever. alone.

You know you’re a parent when you utter the words ‘No Mummy doesn’t need help wiping, thank you’ whilst on the toilet…

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5. No food you ever serve your child will be as appetising as what’s on your plate.

We taught Ottie the word ‘share’, and now she uses back at us to request whatever we’re eating!

6. Bugs and colds and bouts of illness are just the worst…

Both for baby and you! There’s nothing quite like having to entertain an energetic toddler for 12 hours when you’ve got a raging migraine, and seeing your baby in pain is truly the worst thing in the world. Thank God for Calpol, is all I can say!

7. Having babies really does take it’s toll on your body!

During pregnancy I was super lucky and had allllll the good symptoms. Shiny, bouncy hair, strong nails, glowing skin, tons of energy. But afterwards I felt like a shell of a woman for months! Growing a baby for nine months, delivering them, and then supporting their growth through breastfeeding takes such a lot from your body, and it’s normal to feel depleted. Next time around I’m going to keep taking my vitamins, not give them up the second I give birth like a stupidly did after having Ottie!!

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8. Their joy is your joy!

It’s true what parents always say, that seeing your child happy is the best thing in the world. Treating Ottilie to a new book at the bookshop or a toy bake set for her pretend kitchen feels like a gift to myself! I even bought Ottie a pair of Peppa Pig slippers a couple of months ago despite my own pathological hatred of branded character clothing, because I knew she’d love them! That really is true love.

9. Other Mums are a lifeline.

There’s a generosity of spirit and sense of community amongst mothers that I think is truly unique. Our shared experiences make it so easy to connect and open conversation, and whether those conversations happen between you and your lifelong best friend, on your NCT group’s WhatsApp thread, or via Instagram DMs, it’s a special thing.

10. That rush of love at birth might take a while to come.

I did experience that initial rush of love for Ottilie, but then my overwhelming feeling in the hours that followed was just…of being overwhelmed!

It wasn’t until the following day, when I’d been taken down for an MRI scan on my spine to assess whether the epidural I’d had during labour had caused me permanent spinal damage (a real treat for a new mother, let me tell you!) that I suddenly was floored by a rush of love for Ottie and a desperate urge to be back with my baby so strong that I genuinely wondered whether I could crawl all the way back to the maternity unit rather than wait for a porter to come and push me back in the wheelchair. It’s to this day the most powerful feeling I’ve ever experienced.

11. You develop an encyclopaedic knowledge of nursery rhymes .

Though the fact that every rhyme time and playgroup I go to seems to sing a slightly different version of ‘Hop Little Bunnies’ does throw me for a loop.

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12. You might surprise yourself, as a parent.

I’ve always been an incredibly impatient person. If I can’t get something right straight away or achieve it immediately I’m just not interested, and I’ve got a fairly short temper too. But with Ottie, I’d say one of my strongest traits as a mother is how patient I am! Of course we have hard days and moments where I lose my cool after a week of constant tantrums, bribery and negotiations, but I never expected to learn to be this patient and calm as a mother. Now if only I could channel it into the rest of my life…

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