One

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On 18 September, 2015 in the very early hours, my boy made his grand appearance into the world. He was covered in green stuff, and I was conked out on an operating table with my middle sliced open. It was not quite what I had in mind. A calm water birth, a not so calm water birth, lying on a bed pushing him out with Ryan and Mum by my side…anything but that. Ah well, we made it!

And now, just like that, we’re a whole year on. I don’t know how it has happened.

As we’ve been building up to the big day, I’ve been hearing about what Ryan and I were doing when we turned one. But depending on who we’ve been speaking to, the facts get a little squiffy. Some say I said my first swear word on my first birthday (f!*k off, in case you were wondering). In actual fact, that was when I was two. Others say I stood unassisted for the first time. That one is probably true. And so on, and so on.

It got me thinking. I’d better document this event properly to help us all out when we’re trying to remember many years down the line. So Ralphie, if you happen to be reading this, this one’s for you…

Dear Ralphie,

Today you turn one. If I could describe you in one sentence right now, it would be a wild whirlwind of cheekiness who gives the best kisses (albeit wet ones) and cuddles. Your dad calls you a little madman, and he is right. Your heavy breathing when you crawl fast or get overexcited is both alarming and wonderful all at the same time. And I can’t tell you how much I laughed when you kissed Grandad the other day and pretty much stuck your entire tongue in his mouth. You will learn that this is not the done thing.

So, what do you want to know? Well, here is a list of some things you are currently able to do:

  • You’re on the move, from dawn ’til dusk. You can’t walk yet, but you can scale furniture like Spider-Man. No wall, door, side table or unit is out of your reach. And you have just recently mastered stairs, which you’re ever so pleased about. Me, not so much.
  • You can stand unassisted for a whole five seconds. I’m sure you could stand for longer, but because you’ve not figured out the walking bit and it means you’re not getting anywhere, you’re not that bothered.
  • You can talk, although I must admit that your vocabulary is limited. Most of the time you say “dada” or “da” or “ada”. However, when you choose, you can also say “mama” (mainly when you’re cross or upset), “grandad,” “ta,” “dirty” and maybe “cat.” I don’t know, I’m still trying to understand you! When you see Grandma you grunt at her, and she grunts back. Hopefully you will both grow out of this.
  • You eat everything and anything, even Jaffa Cakes, which I’m not so delighted about. I received this message from Grandad the other day while I was at work; “He’s asleep after I filled him up with Jaffa cakes – he couldn’t eat them fast enough.” Your favourite meal is a baby friendly version of tuna Niçoise salad – tuna, avocado, egg, potato – you love it! Porridge and Petit Filous are also strong favourites; you cry when they’ve all gone!
  • You are brilliant at mimicking what we do. Your dad and I get you to copy us far too much! “Do pat-a-cake, Ralphie!” “Do the pose.” “Go ah ah ah!” “Put your hands up in the air and go wooooo!” Yeah, we’re learning on the job too. Sorry.
  • Toys – it’s hard for me to pick a clear favourite. You do love chucking your blue ball around (it looks like a dog toy or something you’d put in the tumble dryer, but I promise you it’s not). Although your aim is very hit and miss, you love playing catch. I’m sure it won’t be long before Daddy has you chasing a football around. And books, I can’t tell you how proud I am that you love books. It is just the cutest when you bring a book over for me to read to you. You have your favourites -“Vroom” and “Cars go” – I think I’ve already read them to you a million times!
  • You have two naps a day, and you definitely still need them. You switch to ‘tired mode’ without any warning. You start desperately rubbing your eyes, and if I put you down in your cot, you fall asleep quickly. I leave you lying on your back, but you’re such a mover and a groover! Most of the time I find you lying on your tummy with your little bottom in the air. And yes, I do photograph the evidence.
  • Although I’m doing my best to be a chilled mum, I have some non negotiables with you, which of course you fight! I don’t know what it is about them, but you are drawn to the tv stand and coffee table (which I moved to the corner of the room so it was less of a temptation). “Please don’t climb up them,” I plead. And you just ignore me. You also try to slam doors, grab things, eat shoes, and generally make me anxious. You know you are doing it; you give me a wry grin every time!
  • There’s actually so so much I could write about you; this post could go on forever! But one thing I must mention is the way you scrunch up your nose when you feed or have your dummy. It melts my heart every time.

Thank you for the best year ever, dear boy. Your dad and I are the smuggest, happiest parents; you should hear us coo over you! Today, we’ll be raising a glass to you. And we’ll most likely eat plenty of cake on your behalf too. You’re welcome! 

All my love

Mum x

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Time for some adult conversation

 

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And so a new chapter has begun. September – the month I head back to work. The month Ralphie turns one.

A week in and I know we’re all going to be ok. But I already miss maternity leave dreadfully. I wasn’t prepared for it to be over so soon. Can we rewind the clock, please?

If you’re reading this and you happen to be on maternity leave or going on leave soon, my one word of advice is to enjoy the small things – a hot shower, afternoon cuddles, making it out of the house only half an hour late. Some days will be good, others will be great, and others you’ll want to curl up into a ball and cry. And that’s fine. If you didn’t manage to get dressed today, don’t worry.

It’s probably also worth knowing the following:

  • The washing and cleaning can wait. As long as you’re not festering, you’ll all be fine
  • Remember to go to the loo, don’t hold it in!
  • Snuggle that baby as much as you want. You won’t make him clingy in later life. Ralphie only fell asleep on us when he was tiny and now he falls asleep by himself in his cot. Those cuddles did no lasting damage. Phew!
  • Take plenty of pictures and videos, and make sure you’re in them too
  • It’s ok not to be a perfect mum, housewife, cook and partner at the same time – you can’t be all things to all people. Well, I can’t anyway
  • Sing – a good nursery rhyme fixes most things. I’m the mad lady singing ‘Pat-a-cake’ to Ralphie in his pram when we’re out and about
  •  Try not to compare yourself to other mums. By all means listen to their advice, but do what’s right for you and your baby. I’m yet to meet anyone who has taken the exact same approach on everything
  • You will sleep again, just maybe not tonight!
  • Statutory maternity pay is rubbish and if, like me, your work didn’t give you a decent package, things will feel a bit tight. You’ll learn to adapt, though. New clothes and fancy meals out can wait
  • Get creative! You won’t have loads of free time on your hands, but when that babe is asleep, you may just want to try out something new, or old. For me, it was writing and photography. I thought I wouldn’t mind a year off from writing, but I missed it. And I never expected to love taking photos as much as I do, but it’s definitely a new passion of mine.

Looking back on the last year, I have no regrets. I would like to experience it all again, though, just in case.

But, alas, it’s too late. I won’t be able to stay in my pyjamas until midday – not on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, anyway!

And most gutting of all, on those days there’ll be nobody around that gives me hugs and kisses on demand.

So it’s back to adult conversation and hot drinks. The thing is, I don’t even mind cold coffee anymore.

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Dear nursery…

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I’ve been given a form to fill out so that the folk at nursery can learn a little more about Ralphie and what he gets up to in a typical day. Nap times, favourite toys…you know the drill.

The thing is, it’s quite hard to encapsulate my boy’s habits and little quirks in a single form. Do I, for example, let them know about his new tendency to pucker up his face and look like a pig? Do they need to know that he enjoys pinching that soft bit of skin at the top of your arm? It hurts – a lot – by the way.

For his sake, and mine, I’ve omitted a few details. But just in case anyone’s reading, here is a more honest response…

Dear nursery,

Good luck looking after my gorgeous boy. Please look after him well. He’s the happiest baby I know. He never really cries, unless he’s super hungry or tired. And he loves to laugh and sing. However, he may look like a little angel, but he will certainly make sure I get my money’s worth. 

Here are a few reasons why…

Busy. If I had to describe him in one word, it would be busy. My little guy doesn’t like to miss a thing. He is into EVERYTHING. Even when you think he’s sound asleep at nap time, don’t be fooled. Put the magazine down. Because if you happen to peek and check on him, and catch your foot on a creaky floorboard, he will hear you and sit up immediately.

Don’t bother tidying. Ralphie has this thing with neat sideboards and stuff tidied safely away in boxes. He hates it. Turn your back and he will remedy the situation in no time. Turns out, toys, clothes, ornaments, magazines, you name it, all belong on the floor.

He loves pulling hair, and I’m sure that he actually says “hair” while he’s doing it. I’m so proud. But, unless you are willing to experience serious pain, do not let him go anywhere near your head. He has the grip of a grown man. And if you happen to be bald, he will lick your head instead.

He likes mouths too. Try not to open yours when his hand is close by. He will stick his fingers in and pull your teeth.

Ralphie is a great communicator. If he doesn’t like the food you’re trying to carefully spoon into his mouth at lunch, he will let you know. Without any warning he will whack the utensil out of your hands.

After his morning nap (or perhaps during), Ralphie will do a poo. It doesn’t smell of roses. 

Nine times out of ten, you will get peed on as you’re changing his nappy. He will also get pee on himself in the process – it will run all up his back and soak into his vest and top. That wipe I put over his nether regions does absolutely nothing.

Do not, I repeat, do not let him roll mid way through the nappy change. He flips in a split second and tries to do a runner. A pack of wipes usually does the trick and keeps him in place. 

You will get called “dad,” even though you are clearly not his dad. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Just so you know, he calls his Daddy “Ada.”

Ask him not to do something and he will turn around, look at you, and grin. He will then carry on doing whatever it was you didn’t want him to, such as grabbing your jewellery, trying to push the tv over, that kind of thing.

Once again, good luck. And if you’re not up to the job, please let me know. I miss him already.

Mum x

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Read all about it

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If you pop into your local corner shop today and happen to pick up a copy of Tatler, head to page 216. You may see a familiar face.

There he is – a five month old version of my little chunk in his Didi and Bud sleepsuit and hat. It was back in the day when he slept on our bed and I didn’t worry about him launching himself off. He would fall asleep anywhere, and I would take photos!

I love that sleepsuit. I got it out again the other day. It looks so tiny now. And the hat – admittedly it was always a bit tight on Ralphie’s generously sized head – is just the cutest.

Because I’m feeling all nostalgic (did I mention that Ralphie turns one in two weeks?), here are a few more of the tiny squidger – hat and all.image

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Off to nursery we go

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This isn’t a post I’ve been looking forward to writing. After months of denial, it finally happened – I took Ralphie to his first settling in session at nursery. And do you know what…it was fine. Admittedly, I was there the whole time. Maybe I’ll be writing something entirely different next week!

The thing is, I’m pretty sure that Ralphie will take it all in his stride. He’s a sociable, happy little chap. Yes, he is a mummy’s boy, but sing him some songs, read him a book and he’s as happy as Larry (whoever he is.). It’s me I’m worried about. They mentioned bringing in some photos of us for him to look at during the day, and I welled up at the thought of it.

I deliberated over which nursery to send him to for a long long time. It took me even longer to fill in the form and register his place. And I’ve left it until as late as possible to book in his settling in sessions. I’ve always known I will be going back to work (albeit part-time), and I’m fine about the actual working bit; it’s the leaving Ralphie part I can’t get my head around.

But we’re not the first to go through this. I’ve taken great comfort hearing from friends about how they’ve got on. And I know it’s not easy, but you’re all coping. Plus, I’m sure the nursery I’ve picked is lovely. It’s not too big; it has more toys than Ralphie could possibly wish for; the other children seem sweet; and the staff took a real shining to him. He’ll be well looked after.

After almost a year of maternity leave bliss together, these next few weeks bring a lot of change. I don’t know if I’m ready for the next chapter, but it is almost here. Just whatever you do, don’t mention his birthday!

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Operation sleep: the verdict

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They say that us humans sleep for around one third of our lives. I don’t know about you, but these last few months I’ve been struggling to get my quota! Turns out that babies have quite different plans.

Don’t get me wrong – they like their sleep; they’re just not so bothered about you getting yours. But, it’s not all bad. There is a way to readdress the balance. Some lucky mums and dads crack it after just a few weeks with their newborn. Others have a longer battle on their hands. It took us ten months and we’re just about there when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep. Although I’m not convinced that 6am is a reasonable wake up time, especially on a weekend.

I spoke all about how we finally got Ralphie to sleep through in my first ‘Operation sleep‘ post. As we were going through it, it got me thinking…every parent must have their own sleep hacks. Why don’t we share them? And you did, and it has been fantastic!

So, here’s what you lovely mamas (and dadas) have been doing to get your little ones off to the land of nod with as little fuss as possible. Thanks once again for all of your input.

Routine, routine, routine!

Turns out, routine is key to a good night’s sleep. And most of you go for the classic bath, book and bed approach to get your babies settled ready for bed. It works for us too!

@siass_zak: I have always (from birth) had a strict routine with all of my children at bedtime. It’s always been bath no later than 7pm then bed and if they wake never take them out of their own room. With my other three, controlled crying worked. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s what my mum did with us and was the only thing that worked. All babies are unique so I think it’s all just trial and error, and what you are comfortable with, and whatever fits into your routine.

@kezla_88: My two monkeys enjoy bathtime every night at 6:45 together, then Bradley has his bedtime bottle while we read him a story. A big squeeze and a few pats on the back, then we lay him in his cot and don’t hear from him till 7am.

@deehollhan: Our constants in an ever-evolving sleep routine are baby massage – particularly legs and often tummy – and a very short story, currently “The dog I love best” – Ned loves it. ‘They’ say repetition is comforting.

@katerodway: Every night so far we have bathtime around 7, smother ourselves in Kokoso coconut oil (it’s amazing!), give Piper a big feed around 8 and she sleeps like an angel most of the night and normally only wakes up once between 3-4am.

@mumandted: I only have three books in his room that I save for ‘bedtime stories’ (he has lots of other books we read downstairs), which I think helps him realise it’s bedtime when he hears the words. They’re all nice sleepy ones – Goodnight Moon, Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum. I usually just read one or two depending on how tired he is!

@schweenifer: Consistent sleep cues – bedtime at 6.30ish depending on day, change, sleepsuit, red nightlight on (red is the only light that doesn’t stimulate melatonin), black-out blind, white noise (heavy rain), same lullabies. Whenever they stir after 6am we get up and have family cuddles, playtime and sing-songs on our bed until dad has to leave for work and their first nap is due. It’s my favourite part of the day.

Keep them comforted

Dummies, blankets, teddies, Ewan the Sheep, Sleepyhead, muslin label tags (Ralphie’s a special boy!), YOU…whatever it is – babies usually need some kind of comfort for when the lights go out.

@r_deegsxx: Milo is 14 weeks old and he’s recently picked up a habit of only falling asleep in our arms and refusing to be put down, which makes for a very tired mummy and daddy! When he eventually does go down he manages 11pm until 5.30am with the inevitable replace-the-dummy game a few times! We’ll gradually get him to break the habit, but for now we’re enjoying the cuddles.

@ra.and.byron: Fisher Price glow owl all day everyday. Or if that fails, sit on the floor next to their cot and have a stare off for around 45 minutes!

@jo_and_livvy: Bedtime = bath, story, milk and then Sleepyhead. I resisted for ages because of the price, but the Sleepyhead has been amazing for us.

@mummy_and_jack: A Sleepyhead and Ewan the dream sheep have worked well for us, and surrounding him with dummies. And to remember that doing what works for you is all you can do, no matter what the books or your Great Aunt Sheila says. Oh and breastfed babies do sleep through the night so don’t give up if that’s your reason.

@ayesharose: My sleep hack is 100% a Poddle Pod! Eddie point blank refused to sleep unless he was snuggled up on me, which I didn’t mind until he got massive and was basically beating me up in my sleep. The pod makes them feel like they are still being cuddled! 

@liss_andtheboys: Dummies are godsends, so is music, baths before bed relax and I don’t use a baby monitor.

@mywinterandjonah: Jonah usually goes to bed about 8ish himself and sleeps through the night with us (co-sleepers) and I love it. Winter has a @snuzuk pod that attaches to the bed so he’s right in the mix too. It works for us and I love having my cubs nearby. I mourn the day it ends!

Don’t stop the music

Personally I like it to be quiet when I’m lying in bed falling asleep. Some babies, however, have other ideas and like some background noise to accompany their peaceful snores. I’m liking the creativity with this one!

@its_a_jayke_thing: From 13 months, we knew it was time the guy slept and me too. So we found an app on the tablet that makes pretty noises, meaning every single night his bedroom sounds like a tropical rainforest. Works a treat and he has since slept through most nights – thank god for the app, oh and a buzzy bee that plays lullabies and shines stars on the ceiling… and the good old-fashioned dummy.

@mumma_of_ava: We’re slowly developing a routine, but find white noise played on the iPad works a treat in getting her off to sleep!

Feed ’em!

Full tummies keep hunger at bay, and that leads to more sleep. From porridge to milk – get it in them!

@cart_rina: Fill their belly!!! Full belly = full night’s sleep

Channel the night vibes

It can take a while for newborns to figure out the difference between night and day. Most work it out for themselves within a few weeks, but there are a few things you can do to help them out in the meantime.

@coteriekids: Since day one we have separated daytime naps and a good night’s sleep from each other. 1) He sleeps in our bedroom in his crib only during the night. In the day he sleeps in strollers, a baby carrier, a babynest on the sofa or in his second crib. 2) During the night, it’s dark and quiet in the bedroom vs during the day when the sun is shining into our living room and we are chatting and often have (classical) music on.

Be prepared for setbacks

Things change. Teething, colds, jabs, growth spurts or just a bad day – they can all affect your little one’s sleep pattern. It’s up to us to roll with the punches and see it through. You will get there!

@joel_and_mummy: He snores like a walrus! This is a good phase where he’s sleeping. Even at two years old you think you’ve cracked it and they then throw a curve ball and come up with a new problem. Three months ago he got scared seeing his own shadow on the wall one night. It took over a month for him to get over it and not be scared at bedtime. I ended up buying a torch and cutting out dinosaurs to make shadows so he understood and wasn’t scared.

@ragtaggmama: With a teething nine month old, the only sleep hack that will cut it right now is letting him fall asleep on our tummies! Thank goodness for a squidgy mum tum!

@tashaparkerrr: I think it’s easy to panic if they have a few shit days, but I’ve always thought “don’t stress about it and it will always sort itself out” and it has! 

@clempicks: Little piglet has started climbing out of her cot whenever she fancies, so to avoid the second broken ankle in the last year we have opened up the side of her cot and put a double mattress for her to roll onto…

@emjayne0: Once the boys started weaning it all went to pot. They didn’t sleep any more and we went back to co-sleeping and even that didn’t work some nights. It killed us – we would say every night ‘we are NEVER having any more kids’. I called them many names I could not repeat on here and I have apologised to them for calling them these names more times than I can remember. However, about two months ago, I cut out anything sweet from their diet – yoghurts and baby desserts etc…. After two nights of cold turkey twitches they actually slept through the night without a peep! For us, diet has been the #1 sleep hack. Now it’s bath after tea, play time for an hour then in bed with a bottle and I’ll see you at 6.30 am guys! However, I’m just enjoying it whilst it lasts as children are sent to this earth to test us and break us.

Persevere!

I don’t know many teenagers that don’t sleep through, unless they’re partying, of course. Even if it feels like a full night’s kip is as elusive as my chances are of winning an Olympic gold medal, it will happen – eventually! Keep at it. And reassure yourself that loads of us are in the same boat as you.

@shade_of_auburn: The one thing I would say is that most of the time, having spoken to so many friends and read so many forums, babies and sleep (up until a certain point) is a lot down to good luck. Because of this, I haven’t beat myself up about it and tried not to worry too much. But then he sleeps enough for me to function, it might be different if he didn’t! At one point I thought I would never sleep again, but we do. We still have the occasional night feed/play but it’s not that often. It won’t last forever and I have a great husband who helps me out.

@hollypop8686: When they are tiny and sleep all day and not at night – it’s all new and so tiring! And then they’re almost 50 weeks and they crawl and climb all day, and you have work and they still don’t sleep…. I now know what ‘I’m tired’ really means.

Meeting the Queen Bee

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If you’ve been following me for a while, you will know that I’ve grown into a big fan of Instagram shops and brands. One of the first I ever came across was baby clothing and accessories supplier Bee Bee’s Boutique. At the time, they were running a brand rep search and, after getting approval from Ryan and some friends, I decided to enter Ralphie. With just a few followers to my name, not to mention a feed of photos that were a bit all over the place, the lovely Rhiannon Beeson took a punt on us. And it’s been up, up, up ever since then!

I think the same can be said for Bee Bee’s. Rhiannon set up the store with her own little bee – Lottie – in mind, wanting to find cool clothing and accessories that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to buy on the high street. Today, she stocks a fabulous range of amazing brands from around the world, and her customer base is growing as demand for handmade, on-trend, baby clothes from small businesses continues to skyrocket.

“I’m super passionate about supporting other mumpreneurs and small businesses, and we’re so proud to work with our stockists,” Rhiannon says. “We’re also pretty proud to have a couple of firsts under our belt, being the first supplier of Lil’ Cubs, Hudson Reign and Lyn in Stitches; the first UK supplier of CarlijnQ; and the first European supplier of Coco & Cru.”

Rhiannon has also let me in on a little secret that I’m absolutely honoured to be able to share with you all. Bee Bee’s is now an official stockist of Fred and Noah!

“We’re so excited to be working with the wonderful Natalie from Fred and Noah,” she says. “They were the first Instashop we bought from and we’re totally addicted to their awesome leggings. When we got the email to say ‘welcome aboard’, I ran into the kitchen screaming in total disbelief!

“All of our Fred and Noah stock is ready made and ready to ship so our little bees will get the same quick turnaround. We’re really honoured to be working with them and think this is a really exciting time for Bee Bee’s.”

I feel very lucky to be one of the first to congratulate Bee Bee’s on this fantastic news. The leggings are going to be in great company on the website and they certainly fit the bill in terms of what types of clothing Rhiannon aims to stock – bright and colourful, and funky and bold.

“We also test all of our products before we approach a stockist – how do they wash, what’s the fit like, the material and so on,” she explains. “Talking to mums on a regular basis and looking after our own little bee means we know what’s important. But most of all we go on gut feeling. What brands do we love, what’s their approach with customers and do they fit with the Bee Bee’s ethos? We’re super lucky to work with such wonderful brands.”

When asked what her favourite Bee Bee’s item is, Rhiannon says that it is way too difficult to choose just one. So she opts for one from each brand she stocks instead: “Fred and Noah – has to be the fabulous pink cloud leggings: super soft, bright and funky yet girly print, perfect fit and they last. Lil’ Cubs has to be the Oranges and Lemons baby grows – the little yellow soles are soooo cute and the unisex print makes it one of my go-to baby shower gifts. Hudson Reign – personalised tees without a doubt; they’re just so cool and the quality is amazing. Coco and Cru – all of the blankets are lush but Mint Triangle and the Peach Herringbone are to die for!”

If you haven’t already, you can check out the full range of clothing and accessories at www.beebeesboutique.co.uk. I don’t know about you, but I’m off shopping…

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