I am doing really rubbishly (definitely not a word!) with my challenges, i don’t think i met any of them last month, i may have read one book on my kindle and possibly tried one new recipe…but i couldn’t swear to it.  This month has been marginally better, but not by much.  I have watched one new film (“The Social Network”) and tried two new recipes (the aformentioned brownies and muffins) and i am half way through reading “The Bell Jar” and that’s my contribution for April.

In my defence we’ve had our hands and heads full this month and it hasn’t left much time/mental capacity for trying new things.  I’ve been spending a lot of time in the evenings when i could have been reading or watching films browsing http://www.rightmove.co.uk in the hope of coming across our dream house with our dream rent.  Haha.  We don’t actually need to move right now, we have a secure tenancy and the roof isn’t collapsing in on us, so there’s no pressure, but we’re finding it increasingly trying to live here.  The lack of space is becoming a big issue and the damp has been chronic recently.  Our recent trial of the tumble dryer under the stairs resulted in damp spores, so that finally prompted us to start looking i think.  We’ve had a bit of a (not so) short list on Right Move for a few weeks and then we finally made some calls and arranged some viewings last week.  It’s actually possible we have found somewhere but i am trying not to get too excited as it might not all pan out, so i’m not going to talk about it just yet, not for fear of “jinxing” it or anything juvenile like that, i just don’t want to get my hopes up if it’s not going to happen.

Another big change, which actually definitely is going to be happening is that Toby is leaving nursery.  He has two sessions left- this week and next week and then he’s done.  That is also something which we’ve been discussing for a while but then finally acted on a couple of weeks ago and gave nursery our months notice.  At some point (and i can’t for the life of me pinpoint when) he stopped being happy to go, and drop-offs began to be a problem.  I think it must have been shortly after Rudy’s arrival, which makes sense, as i’m sure some of the trouble is him not wanting to feel left out/pushed out.  Anyway, at first he was just having a bit of a sniffle when it came to me or Chris leaving him, then it escalated so that there was crying and clinging when it came to goodbye time, then it got where he started to cry on his way up the stairs to his room knowing what was coming next, then it was crying at the front door of nursery, then the crying started when we pulled up in the nursery car park…you get the picture.  It has gotten so bad now that if we’re at home and he even sees his little frog bag that he takes with him to nursery (with his nappies etc in it)  he starts having an emotional breakdown at just the thought of going there.  It’s become a huge problem.

On top of that, there have been lots of changes at nursery, and although i think they could potentially be quite positive changes if they’re followed through, i think it’s probably come at a very bad time for Toby who was already feeling quite  unsettled.  Lots of staff (including a couple of his favourite members) have either left for good, or gone on maternity leave and some new ones have started.  Some of his little friends have left, and they have rearranged his room.  He only goes the one day a week so he doesn’t really have much scope to adjust to the changes either.  It’s been a bit of an issue for a while and Chris and i have been going backwards and forwards with it in our minds and talking between ourselves about it.  We don’t actually need him to go from a childcare point of view, even when i am back at work, it’s not strictly necessary, and it’s a lot of money to be paying for something he doesn’t enjoy.  After much discussion and a particularly bad drop-off a couple of weeks ago where he clung so hard to me that i actually toppled over, we finally made a decision and gave nursery our notice.  I felt a bit conflicted about it at the time as i don’t know how things are going to work out when i go back to work next month (i.e. when on earth i’m going to actually sleep?!) and also just because he’s been going there 1-2 days per week since he was 10.5 months old, so it’s a big change, but i have since been reassured that we’ve definitely made the right decision.  We didn’t actually take him last week as he cried so much when we pulled up outside it just didn’t even bear thinking about.  Then every day for the past few days when we’ve been getting dressed in the morning he’s protested out of the blue “No! Not going to nursery!” and i’ve reassured him no, and he’s wanted to know where we’re going instead, so it’s obviously become quite a big deal for him and i’m glad we’re in a  position where we can take him out and give him that reassurance.  I figure we can always re-evaluate a few months down the line. We’ve talked about looking at some of the school nurseries in the area and putting his name down for next January (which i think is when he’ll qualify for his 15 free hours- if they’re still available at that point!)

Anyway, i’m exhausted and i fear this is becoming waffly already so think i’m going to leave it there.  April has been alright i suppose.  It really sucks beyond all measure that the dog has this bloody lump and we don’t know what it is and that the insurance won’t pay for us to find out, but aside from that it’s not been bad i guess.



painting, baking, swimming and broken things

Alright, i don’t even know where to start to be honest! These past few weeks have been a blur.  I have been trying to think how to summarise them, and i was going to say that our main activities seem to have been painting, baking, swimming and spending hours and hours on rightmove, but actually, we have also had a broken boiler, broken tumble dryer and broken dog to a certain extent, so they have also been quite big features 😦

The boiler has since been replaced and the tumble dryer is now what you might call “temperamental” or “dodgy”, or Chris’s preferred term: “Possessed”.  Haha.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have neither the energy nor inclination to do anything other than feel slightly peeved about it right now, as the evening that it first broke, was also the evening i found a lump on the dog’s neck 😦

That’s Fudge, our 5 year old springer spaniel.  Two years ago he had a nasty accident with a stick in the park and needed some pretty major surgery afterwards.  When i first found this lump i didn’t connect that it could be related to that as it seems like a lifetime ago, and anyway, i’m sure pretty much everyone’s first thought on finding, or even hearing the word “lump” is “Cancer” right? Certainly mine was.  Our vet referred us straight back to a soft tissue specialist at North West Surgeons, and we had an appointment just a few days later.  We saw the same specialist as last time, and she is brilliant, she told us the two most likely possibilities were a thyroid tumor, or else something related to his stick injury.  He had a sample of fluid taken from the lump and that was sent away and we had the first set of results on Monday and the rest yesterday, the conclusion being that it is definitely not a thyroid tumour (yay!) and that his cultures came back positive so there’s a chance that the swelling may respond to antibiotics, which is what we’re now trying- a 2 week course of antibiotics and a weeks course of anti-inflammatories and crossing all our fingers, toes and general appendages that it works to reduce the lump in size.

We are of course insured, but sadly that will be of entirely NO use whatsoever if it turns out to definitely be related to his accident as we’re only insured for up to £7,000 per condition and we already used that full £7,000 when the accident first happened.  (Crazy, i know, but the MRI scan to find the piece of stick inside him cost £1500 alone, then there were the xrays, endoscopies, samples, blood tests, IVs, medications, overnight stays, out of hours consultations and multiple GA’s and surgeries, it all mounts up!) At the time we just felt lucky.  Lucky that he survived and lucky that we had the insurance to give him the best possible treatment and outcome.  We still had to pay an excess £70 plus 10% of the total cost but £700 is very different to £7,000!

So this time it’s pretty scary to be honest, if his lump doesn’t respond to the antibiotics i’m not sure what we’ll do.  Luckily he’s clinically very well and it doesn’t seem to be causing him any problems, but if that changes further down the line, the next step would be another MRI or CT scan (i.e. another £1500 just to see what we’re dealing with) and we just don’t have that kind of money lying around.  By which i mean, we actually don’t.  I wish it were the case that we did have that kind of money tucked away but earmarked for something else, and then we could say “Oh, we’ll just have to use it for fudge’s scan instead” but it just doesn’t exist.  We do have a little back-up for emergencies, so far, this time, his consultations and meds have run into the £100’s and we’re still all eating and not pawning our kidneys, but like i say, hundreds and thousands are a bit different, so it’s all a bit of a worry. Also it’s a little infuriating, as this is exactly the reason you have pet insurance, so you don’t have this kind of stress on top of the stress of your animal being sick, so finding out it’s essentially useless is more than a tad frustrating.

So, moving swiftly on (so as not to depress myself too much there!) Let’s talk about the painting, baking and swimming instead!

Toby’s been feeling quite creative recently, wanting to do painting and playdough and colouring in and wanting to help me in the kitchen etc so i’ve been trying to embrace that (as much as circumstances allow!) Plus the weather has been wet and windy so we’ve been trying to have nice dry indoorsy type fun!  Last week we did some easel painting, some finger painting and we baked some banana and bran flake muffins, which sound quite unappetising but were actually a big hit with everyone!

We also FINALLY went on our first family swimming trip- hurray!  The water was f-f-f-freeeeeezing compared to the pool we have our Aquababies lessons in, so that was a real shock to the system but the boys still seemed to enjoy themselves.  Rudy had his little wetsuit on so he managed to last half an hour in the baby pool/jacuzzi pool, Toby was just in his little happy nappy swimming trunks but was determined to stay in with Daddy when me and Rudy got out, and ended up staying in for just over an hour, although Chris did say that even then he still didn’t want to get out but Chris had to insist as Toby’s lips were turning blue!  They were both clearly cold, damp and cranky in the changing rooms after but zonked out fast asleep in the car on the way home which was a bonus!  We didn’t get any pictures, i’m pretty sure you’d get arrested for even taking a camera to a public pool these days, which is a little sad i suppose, but we do have photos from Rudy’s Aquababies lesson last week, as with Chris being off last week he was able to come along and watch.

He’s really enjoying the lessons so far, we had another this afternoon and he was splashing and chatting away to himself.  He’s a real chatterbox these days and makes some really strange gurgly sounds, i was saying yesterday that he sounds a bit like a chicken laying an egg when he’s tired and talking to himself.  Seriously.  It wasn’t so funny last night as he randomly woke up and started talking to us in the middle of the night and wasn’t for going back to sleep at all.  God knows what time it was, we don’t have a clock in the bedroom as i figure it would just depress me knowing how much of the night i was awake for, but i’d guess it was proper middle of the night- it had a “far-too-late-for-a-late-night-but-far-too-early-to-be-up-early” kind of feel.  In my sleep-deprived rage i told Chris that when we move house Rudy is going in his own room because i WANT TO SLEEP! So today Chris asked if i was serious but i don’t think i am really.  If anything i’d probably get less sleep as he feeds so bloody much i’d just spend the entire night pottering about across the landing (sigh)

Anyway, i’d better leave it there.  I appreciate i haven’t quite rounded things off, and may have left people puzzling about the whole moving house business, and i also haven’t talked about the fact Toby is leaving nursery at all either, but this is becoming a somewhat mammoth entry as it is and anyway i’m sure i can hear some stirring on the baby monitor.  TO BE CONTINUED i guess 😉

Got Milk?

Today i waved goodbye to my first batch of breastmilk for donation.  One of the volunteer drivers for the milk bank came by around lunch time and collected my first litre.  Actually, just over a litre, 1160mls, but hey, who’s counting?…Oh right…that would be me! 😉

I’d like to say that tub of ice cream is my reward for the expressing but in reality it’s just a random tub of ice cream that Chris picked up last time we went shopping, i may yet have to lay claim to it though for all my hard work.  That’s the thing though, it hasn’t really been hard work at all.  I am lucky that i’ve never had any issues with milk supply, i own an electric pump, and i just take 10-15 minutes out of every evening to sit down and express a couple of ounces, freeze it, repeat daily and watch the bottles multiply.  I don’t feel like it’s been a massive hardship.  Admittedly, there are the restrictions on coffee and alcohol, but with my stress levels at the minute, it’s probably a good thing i have an outside force dictating my alcohol consumption to be honest!

It’s great to know that i’m making a real difference, and because of what i do for a living i am fortunate enough to actually see donor milk being used and what benefits it brings.

When i was pregnant with Toby, and a fairly newly qualified staff nurse working in neonates, my stance on breastfeeding if questioned would probably have read something like “Give it a go, don’t worry if it doesn’t work out” That was a blanket policy- i applied it to others, and when pregnant with Toby i adopted it myself.  I was very matter of fact about it- i would try breastfeeding and see how i got on with it, but i was fairly ambivalent about the whole thing and wouldn’t be shedding any tears if i had to formula feed.  It’s not a bad stance to have really, although what i hadn’t factored in was how different i would feel once that slippery, soft and warm baby with fuzzy shoulders and big dark blue eyes was handed up to me.

Suddenly it wasn’t about “breast is best”, it was just about me and my baby and my innate biological need to feed and nurture him.  I was extremely fortunate that it all went rather smoothly from the outset.  He latched on 20 minutes after being born and spent the majority of his first few months in exactly that position!  Aside from some issues with reflux and over-supply, and of course the dreaded growth spurts and marathon feeding sessions and lack of sleep- the kinds of things all breastfeeding (and some bottle feeding!) Mamas must face, we never had any major bumps in the road on our breastfeeding journey, and it came to a fairly gentle end when he was 13 months of age.  By which point i was no longer ambivalent, i was an altogether different adjective- passionate.  Passionate about breastfeeding, about supporting women to make informed choices and supporting them after they have made their choices.  Outwardly i don’t think my behaviour changed much, at work i’m always professional, and i’ve always been able to reel off the reasons why breastmilk is brilliant and why it’s good to give it a go, but inwardly, i was in a whole different place.  I felt i understood now, what it was all about, and how amazing it was that something you thought of as minor, or even irrelevant (“It’s only milk- what difference does it make which way i feed my baby?”) could become so much more.  When i became pregnant with Rudy, as far as i was concerned there wasn’t even a question to be asked.  Of course he’d be breastfed, just as his brother was.  And again i was lucky.  He was a bit slower to get the hang of it, i still think he has a “lazy” latch compared to his big brother.  I could nurse Toby bent over, hands free and he was like a little dyson, feeding away oblivious to anything else, such as pesky gravity! Rudy has a much shallower latch and is also more easily distracted, but nonetheless, it’s never posed any real problems for us.  He’s always fed, and there’s always been milk.  I had mastitis when he was a couple of months old and for a day or so thought i might die but i didn’t, and in fact i didn’t even need antibiotics!

I feel really fortunate that it’s been so easy for us, and i have seen, and i know that it isn’t always so easy for others.  There are so many factors affecting breastfeeding, some of them in play before the mother has even fallen pregnant, like the views of friends and family, and society in general. The health of the mother (and baby) during pregnancy, and what happens during labour and birth and immediately after.  And of course how well supported the mother is during the early hours, days, weeks and months afterwards.  Sometimes at work we use donor milk for babies on the unit whose Mums don’t want to express milk for their babies, but it’s more often the case that we use it because they are unable (for a whole host of reasons) to express milk (or enough milk) for their babies at that time.  Donating makes me feel like i am giving something back, in exchange for having had such a smooth and positive breastfeeding relationship with both my babies.

I really hope that i have struck the right balance with this entry because writing about infant feeding (whether breast or bottle) can be an emotional minefield and there are strong views at either end of the spectrum, it’s hard to write openly and honestly about your own experiences, feelings and opinions without stirring up other people’s but it’s something i wanted to talk about.  So now i have.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about donating breast milk, you can visit the UK Association for Milk Banking at http://www.ukamb.org

Erm, actually…

Since declaring it was Spring, we have had snow…

So. Apocalypse anyone?! Seriously, this weather is crazy, we had a week of pure sunshine and high temperatures and clear skies and then it all went a bit grey and dismal, and we had some rain…nothing unusual about that, i mean there’s even a song about “April Showers” so nothing to get excited over- but then the rain turned to sleet, which turned to snow and the wind picked up and the next thing i am stood in the back garden in my pyjamas and pumps in a veritable blizzard trying to collect up random bits of plastic shite, such as children’s chairs and mop buckets and cat-transporter-boxes lest they be blown away into a main road and cause some kind of terrible RTA.

Within the space of a fortnight the boys have literally gone from wearing wooly hats to sun hats back to wooly hats again!

It’s nuts!  As is, it turns out, life with two very small children.  Chris is meant to be on his Easter break now but has filled the first week of it with PMVA training and lots of shifts at the Apollo so neither of us is really feeling the “break” part of Easter Break yet.  Unless you mean “break” as in “nervous breakdown” that is.  Toby hasn’t been well since Monday, at first it just seemed to be a cold, then he got a fever, then he vomited…(groan) He has been much brighter today though and more like his usual-self so hopefully it was a short lived virus.  We’ve had a few really restless nights with him crying and both Chris and i have spent a few hours sleeping, well, lying in his bed with him.  Lying rather than sleeping because it’s nigh impossible to sleep in there, not only is it a tiny single bed, and he sprawls out and takes up most of the space, but it’s also the world’s most uncomfortable mattress for a fully grown adult, he has the world’s flattest pillow and he’s under the attic so on windy nights (which they have been) it’s incredibly draughty to be a big lumpy grown-up person sticking out of the covers!

Rudy has also been something of a sleep barrier.  Tuesday night, i swear to you, he fed ALL night.  I say all night because i mean ALL night.  I think there may have been possibly 10-15 minutes of the night where he wasn’t latched on, otherwise he was feeding all night.  I fully expected to wake up in the morning to find he had grown into a 6 foot, 12 stone baby! As it was i woke up feeling physically sick at my level of tiredness and just general “drained-ness” (definitely not a word, i know!)  I didn’t even need to go for a morning wee.  It was like i’d gone into acute renal failure due to a lack of fluids on board due to my baby sucking my very life force from me!

Last night was better.  In fact, i went through to settle Toby down at around 3am this morning and by some miracle must have dozed off in there because Chris had to come through and collect me at 6am to feed Rudy so he must have gone at least 3.5 maybe even 4 hours between two feeds?!?

As you can see, there appears to be no patterns to his feeding behaviour, and for the most part i don’t even pretend to try to make sense of it as it eludes me.

Aside from not sleeping ever, i suppose i should summarise what else we have been up to!

Well, we all went to Experitots this month.  As we didn’t make last month’s session i’d assumed Toby would be really excited and i also hoped Rudy might enjoy it as he’s a little older and wanting to interact with things/people more now.   It wasn’t quite as good as i’d hoped this month, it seemed very busy as there were school trips there, and i don’t think Toby was in quite the right mood.  To be honest, with the lack of sleeping going on, i’m not sure any of us were! Rudy had some time out of the sling having a look around and a chew on some things (nice!) but got very tired and grumbly and then ended up vomiting all over himself, me and the sling as i tried to wrestle him back into it (D’oh!)

Toby and i had fun making a rocket picture though:

We had to go to The Trafford Centre afterwards to go outfit shopping for a wedding we were going to and that was like Hell on Toast.  It wasn’t actually busy as it was a weekday lunch time, but let’s face it, The Trafford Centre with a bored toddler and over-tired baby was always going to be a…ahem…challenge!  We had a yummy dinner in La Tasca first

We were serenaded by the sound of Rudy shrieking/grizzling because he wanted to sleep but also wanted to stay awake to check he wasn’t missing out on anything.  Then we hit the shops and the Toby tantrums started.  They were mainly shoe related.  First up he wanted flip flops not sandals, then he agreed to the sandals but wanted to try a random pair of canvas shoes 2 sizes too big on and get those instead.  Then after a major meltdown, tears and lots of staring from strangers, when we’d all had some cuddles on a bench outside, we went into the ladies shoe section to find me some footwear, cue more tantrums because i didn’t want to try on/buy the ones he pointed out, and when i couldn’t find any i liked and we went through to the menswear department, he had another major meltdown in the middle of the floor as he wanted to stay with the shoes instead.  I think he may have a shoe addiction!

Rudy meanwhile had a power nap and then spent the rest of the afternoon kidding me that he wanted to feed, waiting for me to get my boobs out in public and then acting like it was a ludicrous suggestion and why on earth would i think he wanted milk?! So basically we were tantrumming/flashing our way around the Trafford Centre, gradually accumulating clothing and footwear and haemorraging money.

The wedding was nice anyway, what with the nutty weather i was a little worried that we’d end up needing to wear big anoraks over our clothes anyway but it was actually a lovely spring day.  Toby loved the venue, in fact i think if he could have picked he’d have stayed in the grounds at Plas Newydd (where the ceremony was held) rather than move on to the reception as lets face it, sit down meals must be pretty dull when you’re a toddler whereas big open spaces and shrubs you can hide in?!= Awesome!

The happy couple were Chris’s oldest/best friend Tom and his new wife Jessica (who we met for the first time at the wedding!) The boys were very good during the ceremony (i was so nervous that Rudy would do his trademark glass-shattering shrieking) but got fed-up/tired during the meal.  We tried various stalling tactics to stay as long as we possibly could, like walking around the block with Rudy to try to get him to sleep, and making Toby’s place-card into a Pirate’s Telescope (?!) but to no avail.  We ended up leaving immediately after the dessert course and before the cake was cut.  No late-night dancing and drinking for us!

And since then, like i say Chris has been busy learning wrestling moves (aka, managing violence and aggression) and working shows at the apollo and i’ve had my hands full with Toby and Rudy.  We made it out to sling meet briefly on Wednesday morning but Toby really wasn’t well bless him, so we didn’t stay long.   Which is a shame because it has a new venue at Longsight Sure Start Centre, which is fab, and also because i am really struggling with my wrap so could have done with a couple of demos i think!  I’ve been using it a lot recently (as you can see from the pics) and for the most part Rudy feels fairly secure but i don’t think i am getting it tight enough as he is able to lean quite far in it (which i don’t think he should be able to) and it also gets uncomfortable/diggy if i wear it for any length of time, so i know i am going wrong somewhere.  There’s another meet in a fortnight anyway so will get some advice then.

I also this week baked my first ever batch of brownies!

Chocolate and beetroot brownies!  Sounds disgusting i know, but they’re honestly not!  Toby isn’t a fan, although he enjoyed making them and licking the wooden spoon at the end?! But not the actual finished product.  He prefers cooking chocolate it would seem (bad Mummy!)  Chris tried one when he got home from work and said “Hmm, they’re actually not bad” Not exactly gushing with compliments there but better than Toby’s reaction which was to eat half of one then hand me the rest of it saying “No like it”

They are a bit too gooey though so next time (if i make them again) i would bake them for longer.

Anyway…duty calls…Rudy is waking for the first of what may possibly be many many night feeds…so will have to end it there!