LIFE Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings: Life updates

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More trees today, sorry!

Long time no blog. I apologise. If I’m honest, I’ve been a bit stuck for topics. Now Daphne is older, there isn’t so much to write about her on a regular basis (although she’s changing all the time, of course, it’s all quite subtle now and we’ve settled into a reasonably happy routine). I’d love to blog about the house but the truth is we’ve done a big fat NADA to it since we moved in. I don’t know how people manage to do up houses with babies/jobs/lives.

But here are a few little updates, just to reassure you I haven’t died:

  1. We have found a childminder! From January, Daphne will be going to a lovely lady in the village next to ours for one day per week. Even this feels slightly traumatic/scary, but at the same time, incredibly exciting as it means a whole day to myself to do whatever I like! Well, mostly work, of course, but still. I will have time to reply to emails, to plan stuff, to get ahead, to work on my book… I cannot wait.
  2. I have finished the first draft of my novel. It’s a bit of a mess (a massive mess in fact) but still, I’m really pleased as now I finally know what the story is about, and how to fix it. I had my critiquing session with my group at the Faber Academy last week (we share our first 5000 words with each other and give feedback) and it went really well, which was reassuring. I am sure it’s super boring reading on a blog about someone working on a book, but I have and I’m afraid it has been taking up most of my headspace lately, leaving little room for anything else. But I’m going to have a bit of a break from it over Christmas, and then get stuck in with the redraft in January. If anyone’s interested as to what it’s about, let’s just say it’s about new motherhood not turning out exactly how someone had planned…
  3. And on that note… I’ve been having a real think about the blog lately. When I first started blogging after Daph was born, it was as an outlet for all the experiences I was going through that felt so alien and new. But now I feel a bit more sorted (not much, but a bit) and also more like I should stop with the oversharing, as if I’m honest, I don’t think it’ll help me try to relaunch a career (more on that in a minute). So I’m trying to work out how the blog can fit into this new way of thinking. I don’t go to glamorous events anymore. My restaurant review days are well and truly over. My life on a day to day basis is incredibly mundane. I’m not one of those supermums who does crafts round the clock with their offspring, providing plenty of blog fodder. I could blog more about interiors, but somehow that doesn’t feel like it fits with the content I already have on here (plus there are a gazillion interiors blogs out there already). So yes. I need to make some decisions. I want to know what people find (and don’t find) interesting, so if you fancy sharing what YOU want to read about, that would be awesome and very helpful. I try to be honest about motherhood, and these posts do seem to be the most popular, but then I worry I sound like a right moaner… Generally it seems my real life friends like reading the personal stuff as a way of keeping up to date with my life when everyone’s so busy, but for those who don’t, I’m sure it’s a massive snorefest. Pondering pondering… and open to suggestions!
  4. Careers. Hmm, I shouldn’t write much about this really, but I am feeling so so saddened by the state of my former industry (magazine journalism). I haven’t done proper journalism for ages now, just bits and bobs here and there, but still, it was a bloody awesome job while it lasted. I found out the other day that the interiors website I worked on for four years from launch has been rebranded and basically turned into a shadow of its former self, with loads of staff being made redundant. I nearly wept! It is crazy how journalism has just died a death thanks to the internet. So yes, in 2017 I need to start making some firm decisions about what the hell I am going to focus on for the rest of my working life. SCARY stuff. I have written a list of priorities for my new career, top of which is not having to commute into London every day. More on that soon…
LIFE

Running on empty

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No one told me that once you had a toddler on your hands, you’d be covered in bruises. And that every part of you would ache. But it’s true. I am literally covered in bruises as Daph is constantly knocking into me, throwing things at my face (my mobile phone has hit me in the eye at least five times in the past two months alone), and generally requiring me to save her from imminent death and thus injuring myself in the process. It is full on protecting a one year old from their many and varied attempts to harm themselves. Since having her, I’ve had about 300 colds, another bout of norovirus, shut my finger in my car door and lost a fingernail in the process, dropped my (switched on) hair straighteners through my finger tips losing lots of skin in the process, bashed my arm against our banister trying to stop the pushchair from knocking a huge glass-framed picture over (yes, really) and then last week, I topped it all off by falling down the stairs. While holding her.

She now weighs about two stone (not joking), and somehow I managed not to drop her as I fell (meaning she was absolutely fine), but this achievement left me feeling like I’ve been in a car accident. I have a bruise the size of my palm on one buttock (it’s gone purply-black now and is very impressive – I’ve been sharing bum-selfies with everyone and anyone I know well enough not to judge me), a huge bruise on my elbow where I knocked it trying to lessen the fall, and polka dot bruises all down my spine from where it bumped its way to the bottom of the stairs. It bloody hurts. Every part of me hurts. My neck (which has never not hurt thanks to a career spent hunched over a computer screen) is now a complete write off – leaning down to haul Daph off the floor 1200 times a day means I am rapidly turning into the hunchback of Notre Dame.

I am exhausted. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and any other bloody way you can be. I had booked a spa break next week with my sister, and I was so looking forward to it (and the hot stone massage) but unfortunately we’ve had to postpone as we’re going to a funeral instead. That just about sums up 2016.

The upside to all this moaning is that I am incredibly excited about Christmas and the new year. 2016 has been one of the hardest years of my life for so many varied reasons (not the worst, but the hardest), and has also been pretty shitty for most people I know. So all I can think is that stuff is going to get better. The only way is up! Last night, Daph slept from 7pm to 7.20am when we had to go in and WAKE HER UP. I am taking this miraculous event as a sign. Things are going to improve. Just a few weeks left of this godawful year – hang on in there people, we can do it.

LIFE Midweek Musings

Midweek Musings: Simple pleasures

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Blame the fact I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale at the moment, blame the fact that November seems to be dragging on unbearably long, blame the fact that I haven’t been out for dinner with friends for nearly ten weeks now as I’ve been totally housebound six nights a week, meaning adult conversation is somewhat limited – whatever it is, I’ve been in a very reflective mood lately.

The other night, I made Oli do some silly quiz someone had posted on Facebook – a bit like Mr & Mrs, you had to answer questions about the other person. One of them was ‘What do you like the most about me?’ and, somewhat incredibly I think, Oli said my ‘positivity’. I nearly fell out of bed (we were just about to go to sleep). I try very hard to stay positive, but I do have a tendency to moan on – for me a bit of whinging is cathartic and I do love a good rant. Generally speaking though, I’m quite a content person. When I moan I’m trying to make light of things – it’s my way of dealing with stuff, trying to turn it into some silly exaggerated joke.

Having said that, I have been trying really hard to be positive lately, which has been really tough, given the state of the world in general. There’s an interesting message in The Handmaid’s Tale which basically says ‘we didn’t know how good we had it until it all changed’ and that’s kind of how I feel about the state of things world-wise at the moment. It’s all very good thinking change will be better, but what if it’s not, what if it’s worse?

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Anyway, in order to counteract this rather deep-seated sense of malaise and fear – especially as I have a little one to think of, imagining the world she’s coming into is terrifying quite frankly – I’ve been trying to appreciate the small things in life. Each day, trying to live in the present (which is one of my top tips for coping with life in general actually). I do think having a baby makes you appreciate the simple things – it’s a cliche because it’s true. I used to be all about fancy events, expensive clothes and handbags and, well… showing off, and while I do still like most of these things (!), they seem to come at a price. But it’s the little things that now bring me those small thrills of excitement, like you used to get as a kid.

So, here are a few of my simple pleasures. Things that make me smile. I’d love to hear yours too.

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  1. Cold walks wrapped in big coats. Watching my breath mist in the air.
  2. Online shopping arriving (especially when it’s something cute for the baby).
  3. The smell of Christmas candles. Candles in general. Let’s be honest, they don’t have quite the same effect on long summer evenings.
  4. Lebkuchen.
  5. My daily gin and tonic once the baby is asleep at 7pm.
  6. Writing. It’s been hard – I’ve written about 76,000 words now, done over just nine weeks, and am nearly finished with the first draft. But it’s so satisfying to be working on something that I feel passionate about.
  7. My blow fan heater. Economical it may not be, but god that thing brings me joy. #toastytoes
  8. The baby running around naked before her bath every night and being ridiculously excited about it.
  9. Getting a decent night’s sleep after a year of not doing so. Just waking up and not feeling exhausted is amazing – I will never take sleep for granted again!
  10. The Missing. I don’t watch much telly at all, but this is addictively good and I get very excited when I realise it’s Wednesday and there’s another episode on.
  11. Christmas coffees – OK, they are responsible for around half a stone in weight gain each year but still. No one has to see my white flabby thighs, it’s winter.
  12. And on that note… no one has to see my white flabby thighs, it’s winter. I don’t have to shave my legs every day and faff about with fake tan. Hurrah for low-maintenance beauty.
  13. The colour of the leaves on the trees outside my office window. It’s insanely beautiful. I have tried photographing them but my windows need cleaning and the pictures don’t do them justice. Instead, please enjoy these recent pics by my professional photographer sister. Suffice to say, nature beats everything.

Oh god, have I just described hygge? Shoot me now.

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BABY ON BOARD Baby updates

15 month baby update

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Hello hello! I’m a bit late with this one, sorry! Daph turned 15 months last Thursday (which was also my mum’s birthday) and I kind of forgot until later on the evening. When people ask me how old she is these days I tend to say one and I actually have to think about it if people want the precise number of months – time is rushing past so quickly!

Development wise, not much has changed in the past month. She’s still not walking and is showing no signs of starting, but she is much more confident standing now and can stand unsupported for about two seconds before her little legs decide to give up. She’s also started cruising around the furniture. The only time I mind about her being behind with this is when we’re out and about and I think how much easier it would be if she could walk. That’s been the biggest frustration of the last month actually – she has decided she hates going shopping, or being restrained in any way (eg in a pushchair or a trolley). She just wants to be crawling everywhere and anywhere, and doesn’t seem to understand why that isn’t allowed in the supermarket.

We had a really fun moment on Friday in M&S when she just totally lost it and started screaming at the top of her lungs in the trolley – a proper tantrum. Everyone stared at me. EVERYONE. A little old lady walked past and said ‘Oh dear, someone’s not very happy are they?’ and I wanted to say ‘Damn right I’m not, I’ve had enough.’ Daph’s screaming is really very very impressive and could probably shatter glass. I remember how, before I had Daph, I used to think ‘Oh god, why do people with bratty kids take them to supermarkets in the first place?’ and I have to say, I had no good answer for my old self on Friday.

It was so bad actually, that I left Oli to it and took her back to the car. I resisted the urge to weep. I envied the days when people could stick their babies in prams and leave them outside shops without fear of them being kidnapped. (Sort of).

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What else what else… oooh, one of the best things is she has finally started feeding herself, which has been amazing. She always ‘could’ feed herself (eg if I give her a biscuit she knows what to do with it) but at mealtimes she stubbornly used to sit there staring at whatever we put in front of her, waiting for us to feed her. This definitely ties in with her lack of interest in walking – she’s figured out that life’s easier if you get other people to do stuff for you, and don’t trouble yourself with doing anything on your own. But in the last week or so (thanks I think in large part to my mum having less patience when she looks after her on Wednesdays) she’s started to pick up food and put it in her mouth All By Herself. The other day she ate a whole (slice of) pizza all by herself, and then followed it up with a mandarin (cut into pieces). It was amazing to be able to eat my own piece of pizza before it got cold, and watch her happily helping herself. There was a LOT of mess, obvs, and I had to leave my OCD hat on the peg, but I’ve bought her one of those brilliant bibs that is basically like a bib jumper and covers everything, so at least she’s not ruining her clothes… I’ve long given up on the carpet under the dining table (who puts carpet in dining rooms anyway, morons).

As for talking, ‘tea’ is definitely her first word (she says it whenever she sees a mug), and she’s added lots of other interesting sounds to her repertoire in the last month. I love listening to her babble away because now it sounds as though she thinks she’s actually saying real sentences, with little inflections that go up at the end, as though she’s asking a question. She’s also started giving us kisses along with the cuddles. It’s all very adorable.

Her sleep is back to normal, although we had a few days of nap refusal which weren’t fun. Generally though she’s still having two naps a day, one at 9.30am and another at 2.30pm, and then going to bed at 6.30 and is (usually) asleep by 7. However, the time she wakes up each day seems to vary enormously which is weird – the past few days have been 5.45am *weeps* but earlier in the week she was doing more like 6.30 – 7. No idea how to make this more consistent, as she always goes to bed at the same time, and her bedtime routine is identical every night. I guess that some days she’s just less tired than others?! She’s been sleeping through though, 90% of the time, which is great.

Her sense of humour at the moment is just WONDERFUL, with lots of giggles and cheekiness. She deliberately does ‘naughty’ things (like trying to escape through the cat flap) just to see how we react – it’s VERY hard to tell her off with a straight face when she’s chuckling away at you, her little eyes shining with delight.

So yes, on the whole, a quiet month, apart from the screaming which hasn’t, er, been quiet at all. I hope this is just a phase, as so many things turn out to be, and eventually she’ll cotton on to how wonderful shopping is (yesterday I was in Baby Gap trying to get her some cool new leggings and she STILL had a meltdown, I mean, HONESTLY!) and then we’ll be able to leave the house again. Having a toddler to entertain is SO much easier in the summer when you can take them to the park and let them roam free, and I do so miss all our outdoor pursuits… I guess it’s time to start investigating some soft play areas. Gulp.

BABY ON BOARD

Wonder Week 9 and the need for rules

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LEMME OUT!

I’m going to be honest here, trying to write a 90,000 word novel in nine weeks is pushing me to the brink (of something, not sure what). I stare at my laptop on a daily basis and know I should be blogging, but I am totally drained by pumping out 2000 words every night. But today I wanted to write a few words about discipline. Not mine, which seems to be holding up OK no matter how many tempting crappy programmes are on TV. But Daph’s.

She’s currently in the middle of Wonder Week 9 – I think I’ve mentioned the Wonder Weeks before, but if not then click on the link to find out more. I was quite sold on their theories when Daph was tiny, but as she’s grown, a couple of the ‘leaps’ have been completely off for us – she’s been grumpy when she’s not meant to be, and vice versa. But this latest leap (thankfully the second to last) has definitely seen a marked change in her behaviour. She’s pushing boundaries all the time (and not in some groundbreaking scientist way, but more in a pushing-her-luck-with-mummy way) and it’s quite exhausting. She’s whining a lot, is incredibly clingy with me in particular, is sleeping at random times during the day and not falling asleep easily at night, and is generally being quite ‘challenging’.

The most difficult thing with Daphne is her patience. Or lack thereof. She’s always been quite feisty, and I do like it – rather that than a wallflower – but if we go out to the shops or whatever now, within 10 minutes she’s screaming her head off trying to get out of her pushchair, and generally kicking up a stink. If she doesn’t get what she wants immediately, she has a meltdown. Yesterday I had grand visions of us enjoying a nice Sunday lunch together as a family, but this went out the window as soon as we plonked Daph in her high chair in the restaurant. She screamed, and bashed her little fists about, leant over the edge nearly toppling over – she was desperate to get out. People stared. I felt embarrassed and regretted taking her. Eventually I grabbed her and she sat on my lap for most of the meal (of which she ate very little, while screaming for no apparent reason as I tried to eat mine). Everything I’ve read lately has said that this is the prime time to ‘lay the groundwork’ to ensure that she doesn’t turn into a terrible two year old. But I don’t really know where to start.

I’ve downloaded a few toddler books and they mostly refer to using a ‘naughty step’ system or similar, but all also (un)helpfully explain that it doesn’t work until kids are around 2 and have enough verbal understanding to know what on earth is going on. At present when Daph kicks off, we mostly try to distract her as a means of calming her down, but I do often give in for an easy life (eg picking her up and carrying her when she’s moaning in the pushchair, taking her out of the playpen when she screams) and I think I’m probably making a rod for my own back. Anything for an easy life. Ironically, I wish I could lose my temper a bit more with her – I hardly ever do, I just get tired – but perhaps I need to raise my voice a bit to let her know ‘I’m serious’. On the handful of occasions I have shouted at her in the past, she’s just found it hilariously funny, which wasn’t really what I was aiming for.

So yes, really this is a bit of a cry for help. If anyone has any tips on how to deal with temper tantrums in 15 month olds, I’d love to hear them! I am going to try being a bit firmer and ignore her whining. My mum has also suggested offering her choices, so for example, if she doesn’t want to eat her dinner, rather than trying to force it into her (I have long since realised this never works) I take it away and offer her a mandarin or a yoghurt instead, and usually she’s happy to eat one of those (or both). I do understand that everything that’s going on in her little head at the moment is related to wanting to be in control and can imagine that a toddler’s life is a very frustrating one, but so is a parent’s! 😉

Here are some more of the tips we’re going to try:

  1. Distraction – we’ve got this one down but it’s beginning to lose its effectiveness and I am slightly worried I’m shortening her attention span (eg if she screams in the supermarket, I give her my keys to play with – this used to fascinate her for ages, now they are boring after five minutes…). I think I need to take more toys with us when we’re out and about, and should probably get some more board books, as she loves them. Also, I’m thinking of saving some special toys for when we’re out and about, so she’s not bored of them
  2. Sitting with her on my lap facing outwards – if she’s screeching or whining for no apparent reason, I’m going to sit with her facing away from me and give her no attention whatsoever. I’m hoping she’ll soon figure out the cause-and-effect here. We ignored her when she went through her biting phase and I’m happy to say she’s no longer doing that, so hopefully this will work again (although I know that screeching is a whole different ballgame!)
  3. Trying to sound strict – altering my tone of voice/facial expression when I say no (in the past I’ve probably been a bit too mild). And explaining to her why I am saying no, even if it does seem she’s too young to understand me
  4. Giving her choices – as explained above with mealtimes and also things like what top to wear, which socks to put on etc
  5. If she throws something or drops it deliberately, she doesn’t get it back, or get another one (eg a biscuit when we’re out and about – she quite often drops them over the side of the pushchair and looks at me for my reaction, because she knows it’s wrong)
  6. Giving her loads of praise when she does something good – we’ve started this already and it sits with me better than anything else. I’ve been going ridiculously OTT if she feeds herself nicely, or tries to use the fork herself etc
  7. Limiting snacks – so she’s hungrier at meal times and eats better
  8. Screaming to get out of her playpen / cot – this is going to the hardest but once I’ve established she’s OK and it’s just attention, I’m going to ignore her… *gulp*
  9. Full-on tantrums – eventually if she has one (I can tell it’s only a matter of time), we’ll put her in her room on her own (or maybe her cot) and shut the door for a minute. This seems mean to me but I’m hoping will give her a chance to learn to calm herself down

So yes, that’s my very rough plan for surviving this phase. As I said, I would love to know of any obvious tricks or tips that I’m missing – please do share with me here or on Facebook!