Sunday, 18 December 2011

Feeling Festive

We're starting to feel all Christmas-sy here.  Obviously the plethora (I love that word - note to self must use it more) of advent calendars help but the tree is now up and the pictures duly tinselled!

Last weekend we went to North Wales to go on the Santa Special on the Llangollen Railway.  This was our third annual trip and I feel that now qualifies it as a Christmas tradition.  The first year we went, we went with J and her family.  Last year we went with J and family and also with K and her family.  This year it was all of us again, 11 in total, for the trip on the steam train, coupled with presents for the kids from Santa and mince pies and mulled wine for the adults.  I think next year I need to remember to sit next to J so I can eat her mince pie!!!  After a stop at Lapland for a photo op with Santa, it was back on the train to Llangollen and time for a long lunch in the Corn Mill.  We all had a lovely day and will be back again next year - well we've got to make the most of it before the kids decide they're too old for it.  Max looks less than impressed with Santa in this picture but, by contrast, you'd think this was the first time Paul had ever met him!!

We were made to feel even more festive this week with Max's first school nativity.  I made his shepherd's outfit myself.  Partly to see whether I could actually make a decent enough job of it and partly on the grounds of cost - well I had the material already so it seemed a waste not to use it.  I was really pleased with the embroidery sheep detail and even toyed with the idea of putting "Shepherd" across the back, simply because I could, but decided that was probably a step too far!

The nativity was lovely with all the children waving as they spotted their parents in the audience.  Max was able to see us and he sang beautifully which, if you remember this post, was a feat in itself.  It just goes to show how much he has developed, and how his confidence has grown, since he started school in September.

So we're all feeling nice and festive - how about you??

Monday, 5 December 2011

An excess of advent

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?  At the moment we have five advent calendars on the go:


A chocolate one from her great-auntie.  It only took her until 2 December to work out that chocolate came out of the calendar each morning and I now get pointing at the calendar coupled with "more"


A chocolate one from his great-auntie.  Max is slightly disappointed that Penelope gets to eat her own advent chocolate this year.

A Lego one from me and Paul.  He has come to terms with the fact that he couldn't open every door and build everything immediately upon receipt.  

For all of us

Every year the German markets come to Manchester.  You know Christmas is on its way when they start putting up the stalls.  I bought an advent tree from one of the stalls this year.  I am assuming that the way it works is that you add a new decoration each day, but it didn't come with any instructions.  Needless to say Max has co-opted this as his own and is in charge of putting on the daily decoration.  When Penelope is old enough I can see I am going to have to enforce a strict alternate days rule.

And me

I have what I laughingly call my "diet" calendar.  I like an advent calendar with pictures.  One year I had a calendar with the most random set of pictures (including a elephant with a sprig of holly!) and every year I hope the experience will be repeated.  Sadly I appear to have a generic angels and shepherds one this year.  Max also gets to open my calendar but only once he has given me a kiss and cuddle!

So essentially Penelope has one and Max has four.  More is definitely more when it comes to advent!!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Putting on the Ritz

Mum was a moderately special number last month (sssh, say it quietly - one with a "5" at the end) and for her birthday I decided to treat us both to a day out in London.  Before Max was born Mum and I would go to London semi-regularly to do some shopping/sight-seeing and then to see a show - we're both fans of musicals!

Having seen most of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musicals, plus the other major ones (Les Mis etc) I opted for "Wicked".  At the time I booked it I had no idea whether Mum wanted to see it but I did!!  We weren't disappointed - fantastic staging, great story, an amazing cast and brilliant songs.  When Rachel Tucker (as Elphaba) sang "Defying Gravity" at the end of the first Act, it was incredible.

Before we went to see the show, we had afternoon tea at the Ritz.  It was everything I thought it would be - civilised, genteel and with plenty of cake!  After the finger sandwiches, we had a little pot of apple crumble, followed by raisin and plain scones, mini pastries and then (as if we hadn't already eaten enough!) the cake trolley came round!!  Here's a couple of pics

And here's the cake that I couldn't quite finish!

Of course a visit to London wouldn't have been complete for me without a visit to the new Coach shop on New Bond Street.  I was under strict instructions from Paul not to buy a bag.  I did manage to resist that temptation but didn't resist shopping there entirely!  Sunglasses and leather gloves were purchased, thus ensuring I am now covered for every eventuality that the weather seems to throw at us at the moment. 

Now I just need the weather to be sunny enough to wear them!!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A bit of crafting

I've mentioned before the blog that my friend Jo writes.  Jo is a soft toy designer by trade and a week or so ago she posted this free pattern on her blog.  Well I just had to try it and here's the result

Obviously it's not very polar bear-like as I used the only material I had available at the time, but at least it matches my dining room curtains though!  I also didn't have the proper stuffing available so it's stuffed with scraps of curtain lining but for a first attempt I'm quite pleased with it.  A touch of the wonk gives it a bit more character I think.  It was really quite easy to do and Jo's instructions were clear with the photos helping for the tricky parts.  I really enjoyed making it and I am now contemplating who I can make ones for as Christmas presents.....

Now I just need Jo to post some more patterns so I can expand my repertoire :)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

To push or not to push?

I have been reading, with some interest, the news that NICE will recommend that every woman that requests one can have a caesarean section regardless of whether there is a medical reason for it.

Having had both an emergency section and a normal delivery I feel that I am, at least, qualified to have an opinion as to which is the better option.

Max was born in 2007.  Having gone ten days overdue, I was induced at about 11am and after about 10 hours started to have contractions.  These lasted for a while and eventually I  was transferred to the labour ward at about 1.30am.  Paul arrived, having been woken from his slumber, and then Max's heartbeat started dropping with every contraction.  Having then broken my waters and attempting to attach an oxygen monitor to Max's head with no success, the doctors decided that I needed an emergency section as Max's heartbeat was getting dangerously low.  Max was born at 4.10am, about 5-10 minutes after they first sliced open my stomach.  After Max was born it took about another 40 minutes to sew me back together, all the while Max was in a separate room with Paul.  When I was transferred down to the ward, I was propped at an angle that was neither laying flat nor sitting up.  I could not get out of bed, mainly because I couldn't feel my legs but also because I had a catheter in.  That night I had to get the midwives to come every time I needed to feed him.  I remember that my notes said "Lynne pressed the buzzer again" several times as, if he stopped feeding, I was in a very awkward position and didn't know how to/couldn't get him back on.

I was not the first person to hold my baby, spend his first few precious minutes with him nor did I change any of his first nappies - an honour which fell to Paul!  Oh yes and I couldn't drive for 6 weeks....

When Penelope was born last year, everything about my pregnancy and delivery was coloured by the fact I had had a section with Max.  I had to have "shared care", rather than "midwife-led" care, as my pregnancy was considered to be "high risk" because of the section.  I saw the consultant three of four times and was told that there was no reason I could not have a normal delivery.  The statistics were that I had a 72% chance of delivering normally, particularly as the reason for the section was "foetal distress" rather than "failure to progress".    

When my waters broke 5 days before my due date I was told that I had to stay in hospital, again because of the section.  Three days later after there being next-to-no sign of madam appearing by herself I was again induced.  This time things progressed more quickly and I was fully dilated about five and a half hours after being induced, having managed on just gas and air and diamorphine.  Oh don't get me wrong I asked for an epidural - it was just too late!  An hour and a half of pushing and an episiotomy finally saw Penelope appear just after midnight. 

Hurrah - I was the first person to hold my new baby.  I was also the person who got to find out what colour of baby we had, even though I had to get the midwife to double check!

After I was transferred down to the ward, I could get up and about - I could feed my baby and change her nappies without having to press the buzzer!

When I had the section with Max I had nothing to compare it against.  I accepted, and do still accept, that having the section was the safest thing for me and for Max.  Having had a normal delivery though I cannot understand why women would choose to have major surgery, for that is what a section is, if they do not need it.  Make no mistake, they slice open your stomach and pull the baby out.  Some women profess to wanting a section because they are scared that a normal delivery will hurt.  Well yes a normal delivery does hurt, but not for long, but a section will hurt much more and for much longer afterwards.

Sometimes sections are necessary.  Three friends of mine have had sections with all their deliveries but they were done because they were necessary, not on some vain whim.  

Let's face it, babies were meant to come out one way and if you're not prepared to face the possibility of them coming out that way then perhaps you shouldn't be having a baby.  

Monday, 31 October 2011

What a week!

Last week I had my first experience of "school holidays" since I was at school.  It was Max's first half-term holiday and fortunately I had enough holiday to take the week off too.  After Paul and I had been to Windsor we still had the rest of the week ahead of us and it went something like this:

Monday - return from Windsor.  Paul off to play golf with my Dad and I took Max and Penelope to see some friends of ours that used to live near us but now live near my Mum and Dad.  It was nice to see K and her children E and S.  

Tuesday - mess about in the morning with my niece M and the kids before getting in the car and driving back up north.

Wednesday - Paul had the day off so we took Max and Penelope to Knowsley Safari Park.  I was quite surprised at how much Penelope seemed to enjoy looking at the animals and giving the lions and tigers her best lion roar.  To be honest though her best lion roar (whilst very cute) sounds like a lion that has lost its voice!

And the obligatory "monkey on the car" shot - although technically it's actually a baboon - that's me ever the pedant!

Thursday - Paul was back at work and I packed Penelope off to nursery.  It was nice to have a day with Max on my own, something that I've not really been able to do since I had Penelope.  We made cakes, although halfway through making cakes I realised I couldn't find my muffin tin so a quick visit was had to the shop to buy one.  Note to self - must remember to check kitchen equipment!  After we made cakes it was off to the cinema to see "Dolphin Tale".  Now this was Max's choice of film, chosen because "The Lion King" looked "too scary Mummy" and so apparently did "The Smurfs"!  We were duly entertained with the tale of Winter the dolphin and her prosthetic tale.  Afterwards we enjoyed looking at Winter's website and the webcams of her there.

Friday - a morning visit to Coffee-au-Clay was had followed in the afternoon by a Halloween party at V's house.  Penelope made a slightly grumpy cat and Max refused to dress as anything remotely Halloween related on the basis that "it's a bit scary" - hmmm I sense a theme here.

Saturday - a visit to see Paul's Mum and Dad in Sheffield

Sunday - a day of rest or, in my case, a day of being covered in vomit by a poorly Penelope!!  Yuck!

Phew - I think I need another week off to recover....

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Last weekend Paul and I were lucky enough to have a couple of nights in Windsor without the kids - thank you Mum and Dad!!  We stayed at the very nice Macdonald Windsor which has only been open about a year.  We managed (quite handily) to pay for the bulk of the room courtesy of Tesco Clubcard vouchers.

We had a lovely couple of days, wandering round Windsor and down into Eton.  We did the obligatory tour round Windsor Castle, which is absolutely stunning, especially on a sunny autumn day.

Surprisingly we didn't do too much talking about the kids.  We talked more about where Paul wants to go on holiday when he turns 40 (not for a few years yet) - Pebble Beach to play golf in case you're interested which you're probably not! And what we want to do to the house - the extension has only been finished about 18 months and we're already thinking of the next job - probably closing the gap between the lounge and dining room.

The kids had a nice time with Granny and Grandad and (hopefully) Granny and Grandad enjoyed it too. Sam time next year Mum and Dad??

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Every so often

Every so often your children do something that either makes you laugh out loud or wonder at their achievements.  In the last week Penelope has achieved the former and Max the latter.

Last Sunday was my nephew, J's, christening.  Penelope managed, during the middle of the service to get her head stuck in some stair spindles!  She had been wandering up and down a ramp and had previously popped her head through a set at the bottom and shouted "hiya" to us.  Unfortunately when she tried it further up the ramp she discovered that the spindles were closer together!  Result - one small child with her head stuck!!  

Now when I tell this story (which I have done a lot since Sunday) everyone asks me whether I panicked and I have to confess now that I didn't (well not at first anyway) instead I was just laughing at her - is that mean?  When I tried to get her free there was a brief moment of panic when I did wonder if we'd need to call the fire brigade but with a bit of a firmer tug she was free.  We had about 30 seconds of what I like to call her "diva" cry, but I think that was more from embarrassment than anything else as both her ears were still intact.  Hopefully she has learnt her lesson and won't try that again.  Now I just need to see whether my dad caught any of it on video :)

Max's class are currently doing work around the theme of "Autumn on the Farm".  They had a lady from Stockley Farm come and talk to them about the farm.  I was told very specifically that on the farm they grow "cabbages, fruit, things and vegetables"!  Max very proudly told me that the lady had asked the class whether anyone knew which machine was used to cut the corn.  Apparently Max was the only one to put up his hand and answered her very proudly with "combine harvester"!  I'm so proud that a) he knew the answer and b) had the confidence to answer the question.  

When I was at school even if I was certain I knew the answer to the question there was no way I would put up my hand just in case there was a slight chance I was wrong.  I can only hope that I have and can continue to give Max confidence in himself.

I'm a very proud and amused Mummy this week!!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Sometimes I feel like I do every job I have badly - bad mother, bad wife, bad lawyer.  I feel bad that Max has to go to after-school club even though it's only two days a week (thank you V for meaning it doesn't have to be three!), that Paul has me moaning about everything and about how he doesn't help enough when really he does plenty and that everything at work is so rushed, because I have to leave to pick up the kids.

I must try and remember that plenty of people are worse off than I am and that plenty of children go to after school club more than twice a week, that I have a husband that puts up with my bitchiness and that I have a job that I (sometimes) enjoy.

Here's some pics of the squidlets to remind me that they are fine.  Penelope enjoying some pizza..

Max dressed as a pirate..

I could go to my grave knowing I've been a bad lawyer but a bad wife and mother?  I don't think so. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Last weekend I went on a spa weekend with 5 other members of the MM.  We went to Shrigley Hall near Macclesfield.  We had a great time and the package generally represented good value for money.  The thing that let Shrigley Hall down was the service we received.  Nothing major but just a series of little things that left you wondering why such a lovely hotel couldn't get them right.  I felt compelled to write a review on TripAdvisor.  Nice to know that the hotel monitors the reviews.

It's a far cry from the excellent service that Paul and I experienced when we went to Menorca last year with both the children.  Penelope was about 5 months and Max was a 3 and a bit.  Having had one of our bags delayed, Max then got chickenpox the day before we were due to fly home which meant that he couldn't!  Paul and Max got their first "boys' holiday" and Penelope and I flew home on our own.  The hotel was great while Paul stayed there the extra days, the holiday rep was fab and everyone was very kind and helpful to me travelling home on my own with a small baby.

It's very easy to complain about poor service but fewer people take the time to compliment good service.  After Menorca I took the time to write to the holiday company to praise the rep for her help.  Recently after a minor issue with an order from John Lewis I got great customer service from them and complimented the person I dealt with there too.  Let's celebrate the good and focus less on the bad - it might just cheer us all up!

Anyway, suffice to say the less than perfect service at Shrigley Hall has not put us off having another MM spa weekend next year.  I am already trawling the web to find a venue!!

Friday, 23 September 2011

And lo she walks!

Penelope has finally started walking.  OK she's 17 months now, so she clearly wasn't in much of rush.  Mind you I don't know why we're always in such a rush to get them to walk - as one of my friends said you spend two years desperate for them to walk and talk and then you spend the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up!  

If you think about it you spend much longer walking (generally) than not so who can blame her for wanting to be carried for a few extra months, while she's still cute enough to get away with it!

It got me thinking about some of the differences between Max and Penelope.  It seems strange to think they were both "cooked" in the same place (!) but they are quite different:

Max - 10 and a half months; Penelope - never!

Bottom shuffling:
Max - never; Penelope - 1 year

Max - 13 months; Penelope - 17 months

First tooth:
Max - 5 months; Penelope - 10 months.  By the time Max was 17 months (as Penelope is now) he had practically a full set of teeth (16), whereas Penelope currently only has 8.

Max - about 16 months; Penelope - 10 months

Sleeping through:
Max - a tad shy of 9 months; Penelope - 6 and a half weeks!  And yes I do mean weeks!!

In some ways though they are similar.  They both smiled at around 5 weeks and sat at 6 months. 

And sometimes scarily similar - when Max was cutting his first teeth, he cut the bottom middle two first and then the outside top two next.  There was a period of about 6 weeks where Max looked like a vampire.  Penelope cut the regulation bottom two first and then went and did exactly the same and looked like a vampire for three months!  Who knew it was possible to give birth to two vampire babies??!!

Yay - well done baby girl!  Or maybe, in a couple of weeks, not-so-yay when I am chasing you everywhere.  Anyway Penelope, Mummy is very proud of you xx

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Unexpected things

Sometimes the unexpected can be the nicest - like a handmade bunny from a friend.  Also when you have no expectations of something you cannot be disappointed and the only way from there is up!  Conversely when you have high expectations of something, it can be hard for it to live up to them.

Paul and I went to Barcelona in 2005.  Everyone had said what an amazing place it was and, whilst we had a brilliant time and I would go again, I don't think it quite managed to live up to the hype.

In September 2006 Paul and I went to Ireland to watch a couple of days of the Ryder Cup and I went expecting the worst.  Two days of watching grown men trying to get small white balls in holes didn't strike me as a great way to spend time.  As it was I couldn't have enjoyed the Ryder Cup more as my expectations, which were admittedly very low, had been far surpassed.

On Sunday we took Max to the new Lego shop that had opened in Liverpool.  After much deliberation he decided not to get the Lego fire boat (mainly because they didn't have it) and got the Police lorry.  Here he is building it with Daddy, and Penelope trying to emulate her big brother!

After we had spent some time (and some cash!) in the shop, we took a walk down to the Albert Dock.  It turned out that the Mersey River Festival was on and all sorts was happening.  We wandered all around seeing different types of ships which kept Max fascinated, water skiing displays and street entertainers.  Max and Paul had a visit on to the Zebu, an actual pirate ship.  A small boy's day was complete with a visit below decks and some chocolate eggs.  We then saw an acrobatic plane display before making our way home.

We had some lovely family time and made all the nicer because it was completely unexpected.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Bribery - noun: a mum's best friend

It has been a week of firsts in this house.  On Monday Max started "big" school and confounded all my expectations by taking it like a duck to water, well, so far anyway.  I have managed to leave him each morning without any tears or clinginess.

Today's first was his first "big boy" swimming lesson without me getting in the water with him.  Max has been a Puddleduck since he was about 12 weeks old and Penelope has been one since she was 7 weeks old.  He has been through Floaties, Splashers, Kickers, Little Dippers and Dippers and has now graduated to Swim Academy.  

Being in Swim Academy means that he has to get in the water without me and when I first mention this to him the tears weren't far away.  I have since tried not to mention it but when I picked him up from school today it was a bit hard not to mention it, especially as we had to race home to jump in the car to get there in time.

After a bit of persuasion bribery* we made it into the car and to the swimming pool.  Max was unsure about going in and the teachers were really good and didn't try to push it.  After about 5 minutes Max made it into the pool (Mummy having mentioned the aforementioned bribery again) with no tears at all and took part in all the swimming just as he would have done if I had been in with him - there was one very proud Mummy sat on the side!

*And the nature of the bribery? A visit to the new Lego shop that is opening this weekend in Liverpool and the promise of this

He's had a great first week (new school, new swimming) and has got 20 stars on his chart for listening to Mummy and Daddy - I think he deserves the Lego Fire Boat.  I truly have an amazing little boy.  Love you Max xx

Monday, 5 September 2011


...was the big day in our house.  Max started school!  The day didn't get off to the best start when Daddy told Max that he couldn't take Luise* (his bear) to school with him - tears ensued until Max could be persuaded that the best thing would be to either put Luise in the window (so Max could see him when he came back) or on the stairs (so he'd be the first thing Max would see when he came through the door).

We were ready so early that Max got the unexpected treat of some TV before we had to walk to school.  Actually when I say walk what I really mean is an enforced route march as Max scoots ahead on his scooter and I try and keep up!

He had had two taster sessions in July and each time there had been tears when he was left so I was expecting more tears this morning.  I was pleasantly surprised that when it came time for me and Paul to leave that Max gave us each a kiss and cuddle and was perfectly happy to be left with his pal P.  I was so proud of my little boy at that point.

I walked home, watched a bit of uninterrupted TV of my choice and then met J for a coffee/tea to compare notes on our first experience of the school run.  After that I went to Ikea to purchase three items and (as is always the way) came out having acquired several other things that I did not really need!

I was however very nearly late to pick Max up - in my defence I got sidetracked building one of the pieces of Ikea furniture for Max's bedroom.  Thankfully I realised just in time and made it with 5 minutes to spare.  How bad would I have felt if I actually had been late??!!  Doesn't bear thinking about especially as when we left school Max said "I was worried about you Mummy" "why Max?" "because I thought you might not come and pick me up but you did" PHEW!!

It appears (from what Paul and I have been able to glean) that he had a good day and spent most of it playing with P and water.  He didn't get to draw "as there weren't enough spaces".  And he ate three packets of raisins.....

Here's some pictures of my beautiful little man 

Fingers crossed he's as enthusiastic again tomorrow.

*The bear came with that name - if Max had named him he would have been called "Max"

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Pre-school is over....

It was Max's last day at pre-school today.   Here he is in his uniform this morning

He's been going to the amazing Kids Allowed nursery in Manchester since he was about 10 and a half months old.  He started off in the baby room, progressed through Woddler 3 and Toddler 2, finally ending up in Pre-school 1.  At every step of the way the staff have treated him as if he were their own.  It made it so much easier for me to leave him there (and now Penelope) knowing he would be so well looked after.

In every room Max had special bonds with certain members of staff.  When asked who he loved best, Mummy or Meg - he said that he loved us both the same!  Not quite the answer you hope to get as a mother but an indication of just how safe and secure he feels there.  Either that or he'll be a politician when he's older!! 

One of the many great things about Kids Allowed is that they genuinely want to improve and take on board parents' suggestions, if they are able to, in order to improve the service they are giving.   Also the staff retention is great which means the children have consistency of care.  Penelope's keyworker in Woddler 3 is the same keyworker that Max had when he was there.

When Paul and I first looked at nurseries for Max (while he was still a bump!) we saw one locally which was ok and, if Paul hadn't had to move office locations, we probably would have sent Max there.  When I visited Kids Allowed with my mum (Paul didn't actually see it until Max started) I just got such a great feeling about it.  With certain things I am a great believer in your "gut" feeling and nurseries fall within that category.  I have to say I haven't been disappointed.

This post is really just to say how grateful Paul and I are for all the care that Max has been given in his time at nursery.  We'll still be there with Penelope but Max and I are going to miss Kids Allowed.  Well actually Max is going to miss Meg......

Yep pre-school's over and proper big school is just round the corner - only four more big sleeps - forget Max, I am so not ready for this, eek!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Fun times

We had a lovely day out today with most of the members of the MM as a final trip out before the biggest babies start school :(

After some deliberation about where we should go (Chester Zoo, Gullivers) we opted for Stockley Farm.  This was mainly on the basis that if the weather wasn't too good (and let's face it we can't ever really rely on the weather..) there is plenty under cover to keep the kids amused.

After a cursory glance at the animals, the kids headed straight for the playground.  A picnic lunch was then had followed swiftly by sandpit and soft play and an enormous inflatable slide.  After they'd made scarecrows and had ice-creams, it was time to groom some horses and then feed some baby goats.  A last play was had in the playground before watching a peregrine falcon demonstration and then face painting before heading back onto the tractor trailer for the ride back to the car park.  PHEW - I am exhausted even writing about it!!

Here's some pics of the fun we had

Fun times indeed xx

Friday, 19 August 2011

I've got a theory...

...that it's a demon, a dancing demon, no something isn't right there*  

Anyhooo, it's not actually my theory but Paul's.  Paul has this theory which, when it comes to guessing the expected sex of babies is proving strangely accurate.  It goes like this - the sex of the first baby will be the same sex as the eldest child in the father's family.  In Paul's case he is the eldest so we were bound to have a boy first, and yes along came Max.  When I was expecting Max we didn't find out what flavour we were having although nothing could have convinced me we were having anything other than a boy.  This was evidenced by the fact that the first thing I said to Paul after being told we had a boy was "I told you so" - a wife should never miss an opportunity to tell her husband she's right!

In respect of a second baby, the sex is based on the second child in the father's family.  As Paul has a younger sister it meant we should have a girl and along came Penelope.  When I was expecting Penelope, again we didn't find out, and this time I wasn't so sure.  I thought the baby was probably a girl but wasn't sure if that was a genuine thought or wishful thinking.  When I was in hospital just before having Penelope I had virtually convinced myself I was having a boy, presumably to ensure that if she had been a he I wouldn't have been disappointed.  Mind you even though I was the one that got to discover what flavour Penelope was I still had to get the midwife to check I wasn't wrong!

So does Paul's theory work for others?  In my brother's case, as I am the eldest, it meant that he as destined to have a girl first and, sure enough he, or rather my lovely sis-in-law C had my gorgeous niece M.  Not too long ago they had their second, which according to Paul's theory meant a boy.  Along came J my gorgeous nephew.  

The same also holds true for Paul's sister, H's other half has an elder sister so it meant they should have a girl and they did, the amazing sleeping niece that is L.  H has, this week, had her second.  According to the theory it meant a boy and yep that worked out nicely thanks.  Although H and B did find out they were having a boy.  Mind you, having had at least 20 weeks to decide on a name my new nephew is, at present, nameless!

Paul's theory doesn't work for everyone but does have a high accuracy rate, something that is quite impressive, particularly if you knew Paul!

And because I feel the need for some pictures, here's Max and Penelope at Llandudno beach today

*Oh, and in case you were wondering the quote is from "Once More With Feeling" the musical episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - I bet you got it, didn't you A??

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A bit of baking

Every so often I get inspired to bake.  When I was first on maternity leave (just before I had Penelope) it was cookies and then, for Penelope's christening, it was cupcakes.  All recipes coming from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook.  The only problem is really that baking is not particularly compatible with Slimming World.  Baking + lack of willpower = a weight gain rather than loss!

Having watched "The Great British Bake Off" this week I was inspired to make something again.  Paul had seen a recipe in one of the Sunday magazines recently and had been on at me to make it.  This added to the fact that the MM are coming round tomorrow with the kids meant that yesterday I made Mocha-top Nanaimo Bars:

Biscuit base:
150g unsalted butter melted plus extra for greasing the tin
100g digestives broken into pieces (I used gluten free digestives so Jo could partake tomorrow too)
60g walnut pieces
40g cocoa powder
100g golden caster sugar
80g dessicated coconut
2 medium eggs, beaten

Custard cream:
100g unsalted butter softened
2 tbsp custard powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g icing sugar
2 tbsp milk

Mocha top:
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
25g unsalted butter
4 tbsp strong black coffee

1. Preheat oven to 180c.  Butter a 23cm square cake tin.
2. Whizz the digestives and walnut pieces to crumbs in a food processor.  Add the cocoa powder and sugar, whizz again and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Mix in the coconut, the melted butter and beaten eggs and stir until combined.  Transfer the mixture to the tin, level off and bake for 15 minutes then leave to cool.
4. Using an electric whisk, whisk the butter for the custard cream filling in a large bowl for about a minute until pale and fluffy.  Whisk in the custard powder and vanilla extract and then the icing sugar.  Once the mixture appears crumbly add the milk and continue to mix until it becomes pale and moussey.  Spread over the biscuit base and chill for about an hour until set.
5. For the top layer, break the chocolate and melt it with the butter over a pan containing a little simmering water.  Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the coffee.  It may separate but keep mixing until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
6. Smooth the chocolate mixture over the custard cream.  Loosely cover with clingfilm and chill for several hours until set.
7. Cut the bars about 3cm wide and half the width of the tin.  They keep for several days and are best served chilled.

Apparently this is a variation on a Canadian national treasure (Nanaimo refers to a town and, slightly coincidentally I read a book recently where this town featured) that, so the story goes, can be traced back to the 1950s when the original recipe came first in a competition held by the local WI.

Here's what they should have looked like

And here's what they actually turned out like - I didn't have quite the right sized pan!

Although this is only half of them - the rest are on another plate!  Paul thought they were "awesome" but I doubt they would be up to Mary Berry's exacting standards.  Let's hope the girls enjoy them tomorrow although I think I might have to send them home with some too - it's either that or risk ruining the diet completely :)

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Problem Part Two

The post before last I wrote about the fact that I suffered with post natal depression after I had Penelope. After I wrote the post, and put a link to it on Facebook, one of my Facebook friends contacted me to say that she'd read the post and wondered if she could talk to me about it.  She had recently been diagnosed with PND and said that I was the only other person she knew that had experienced it.

Statistics show that approximately 1 in 10 mothers in the UK experience PND so it's not that uncommon.  After I admitted to having it, I found it surprising that a number of my friends, whilst not being formally diagnosed, had certainly felt low for a while after having their babies.  

There does still seem to be a bit of a stigma attached to it as plenty of people feel that by admitting to having PND they are also admitting to being a bad mother.  This isn't true but then PND can put all sorts of thoughts in your head which aren't all that rational.  I was absolutely petrified that Penelope would stop sleeping at night when there was no indication this would happen at all.  Although given my experience of Max as a baby this worry was perhaps not without some foundation.

S wondered whether I had any hints or tips for coping with PND and I said I found the following useful:

1. Actually talking about that fact that I was suffering from PND was a major winner.  Just admitting that everything in the garden wasn't rosy was a huge help and seemed to lift a weight off my shoulders;

2.  The magic tablets - some people think that taking anti-depressants is an admission of failure but it's not!  In my view drugs were invented for a reason (I held much the same opinion during childbirth!) so why not use them.  OK I ended up having to take more pills for the side effects of the anti-depressants (!) but they definitely worked;

3. Getting out each day, even if it was only for a hour helped.  I think a change of scenery can always be useful; and

4.  Once the magic tablets had started to work, I found something quite therapeutic in housework, hence the reason why Paul nicknamed them my "cleaning tablets".  As we only finished our extension just before I had Penelope (carpets were being laid whilst I was in hospital!), doing some cleaning meant I actually felt like I was achieving something.  As most of the rooms had been upside down during the building works, just sorting things out was strangely satisfying.  

Not all of these will obviously work for everyone but they helped me.  What, I hope, S found helpful is the fact that I somehow symbolise a light at the end of the tunnel, in that I've made it through PND and come out the other side.  There is, therefore, hope that things won't feel as miserable for her as they do at the moment.  It's nice for me to know that my blog has, in some very small way, helped someone else.  

If anyone out there is suffering than all I can do is encourage you to reach out for the support you need.  Speak to your health visitor, your doctor, your friends - you are not alone.

S - sending you lots of love, hugs and happy thoughts - you WILL make it through it and you are a brilliant mum.  There's no shame in PND at all.  

Been there, done that, taken the anti-depressants xx

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Mothers' Mafia

I think it's about time I wrote a post about the Mothers' Mafia.  I belong to a group of friends that met (mostly) when we had our first children and were nicknamed the "Mothers' Mafia" (or MM for short) by one of the men.  Let me introduce you to them, in absolutely no particular order:

1. Jo - you know her already.  Mum to A & R (currently our littlest baby) and the only one of us to have two boys!  Very talented designer and all round lovely person.  Oh and she makes a mean gluten free Rocky Road!

2. T - Mum to M & H, one of each.  I met T in hospital as M is only a day younger than Max.  We originally met on the hospital tour (albeit briefly) and I remember waking up on the Friday after having Max (on the Thursday) and thinking that "the lady over there looks awfully familiar".  We swapped numbers and the rest, as they say is history.  We are all currently missing T a lot as she's living in Dubai at the moment.  We've had her back over the summer (too hot in Dubai at the moment - it does have its disadvantages) and only have a couple of weeks before she's got to go back.

3. V - Mum to P & Y, both girls.  V is also Penelope's godmother.  I met V (along with several others) at the local breastfeeding support group when Max was about two weeks old and P was four weeks old.  One of quite the nicest people you're ever likely to meet and currently nicknamed "tiny tears" for her propensity to blub at the merest thought of P starting school.  P and Max will be in the same class which is lovely.

4. K - Mum to C.  I really admire K - she's not afraid to say what she thinks, which is usually a very funny take on something.  She's set up two businesses as well and, in a shameless plug, they are Chloe's Mummy and Little Miss Chloe.  So now you know what C is for! I also met K at breastfeeding group.

5. S - Mum to Z & A, both girls.  We originally met S at breastfeeding group but she didn't become a fully paid up member of the MM until just before she had A.  As we like to tell her the MM has a strict "one in one out" policy!  One of the most genuinely funny and outrageous people I know. 

6. J - Mum to I & S, again both girls (there are a lot of girls within the MM - poor Max is quite outnumbered most of the time!).  Again I met J through breastfeeding.  We don't get to see J as often as we used to, well apart from me who gets to see her every week at Slimming World as she's my consultant.  In the slimming stakes, she is a cut above the rest and is very inspiring.

7. R - Mum to M & W, one of each. R is a fairly recent addition to our group and, like S, added to our number by the open-hearted V.  We laughingly tell R that V is always on the look out for "waifs and strays"!  R takes it in good grace and is lovely to boot.

8. K - Mum to E & S, one of each.  Again a fellow breast feeder and lovely person.  The first of us to take the plunge with number 2, even though E was the youngest of the first babies.  We don't see K very often these days as she has moved away to be nearer to her family and, coincidentally, nearer to mine as well!  

So that's the MM - my saviours in times of need, support in times of stress and companions in all sorts of fun and mischief.  I genuinely don't think I could have got through the last four years without them so THANK YOU GIRLS - Max, Penelope and I love you all xx

For my part I get to be the organiser, I think it's because I'm secretly a bit worried they'd forget about me if I didn't organise things.  The best bit of organisation recently has been organising our inaugural MM spa weekend.  A whole night away in a nice, not-too-local hotel with pampering, dinner and drinking thrown in and without the need to get up with the kids the following morning - bliss.  We've had to delay it this long as we needed to wait until none of us were pregnant or breastfeeding.  It will be interesting to see how the men all cope with the children that weekend!

Fingers crossed they don't object to me writing about them - hopefully I've been nice enough :)

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Problem...

...with having a blog is that you really need to have something interesting to say.  Needless to say I haven't found anything interesting to say over the last week or so (or at least nothing that can be talked about on here, at least for the moment) and I'm still not sure I have actually found anything interesting to say...

Life with two children, a husband and a part-time job is, by necessity, not always all that full of interesting things, at least not things that will be interesting to other people anyway.  Instead it's full of minor achievements, small battles fought and won, tears, laughter, kisses and cuddles.

About this time last year life was pretty hard.  Penelope was about 3 and a half months old and I had just been diagnosed with post-natal depression.  To be honest I am pretty sure I had it after Max but as he was such a horrible sleeper it was hard to tell where sleep deprivation ended and PND maybe began.  With Penelope it was much easier to identify that something was wrong as she was (and still is) a brilliant sleeper so I couldn't hide behind the lack of sleep excuse.  With the help of two lovely health visitors, a brilliant doctor, fabulous friends and my wonderful family I made it through.  Mostly I think just admitting that everything wasn't a bed of roses was the biggest help.  I did end up on anti-depressants and these definitely helped too.  Paul called them my "cleaning tablets" as I ended up doing a shedload of housework! I remarked to my mum that if they were making me clean then I had clearly been depressed for a very long time :) 

I've been off the cleaning tablets for about four months now and, fingers crossed, there hasn't been a recurrence.  If I get snippy at the moment I can definitely put it down to lack of sleep as Paul and I seem incapable of going to bed early.  I think some early nights are needed!

So no, nothing much interesting to say but life isn't too bad at present, and how can it be when we've had such nice weather and I get to spend time with the children in the park eating ice-cream?

As for minor achievements, Penelope finally worked out how to pull herself up using the sofa yesterday - yay!  Next stop walking....

Friday, 29 July 2011

Fame and fortune - sort of...

I don't know about you but I've only got into Twitter relatively recently.  It was a godsend on my iPhone when I was doing night feeds with Penelope as you could practically guarantee there would be someone tweeting in the wee small hours...

I follow what would appear to be a fairly random selection of people but when you look closely they fall into quite defined groups:

1. Friends - well it's only polite isn't it?  One of my friends (a work colleague) has the handle @cheeseyweasel - at some point I'm going to have to ask how that came about

2. People everyone else seems to follow - Stephen Fry, Barack Obama, Piers Morgan

3. Actors etc from my favourite tv programmes - Castle, House, Desperate Housewives, Glee, Bones

4. Golfers - I think that must be Paul's influence....

5. Various Organisations - BBC, Tatton Park, CBeebies

6. And the random ones - like Max and Penelope's nursery

It was whilst reading tweets that I found my route to a small amount of fame (no fortune sadly - maybe that will follow) when Practical Parenting Magazine tweeted asking for interesting baby name stories.  I duly replied with the story of how Penelope came to be named.  I got a reply asking for a photo of me and my gorgeous girl.  The new issue has arrived by post (I subscribe) and on page 77 there we both are!

Yep - that's how my beautiful baby girl got her name - two seemingly responsible adults let a not-quite 3 year old choose it!  Could have been worse I suppose.  If she was being named now I'm sure she'd be called Lego :)

And in case you were wondering I'm @lynnemaxpen.  Mind you most of my tweets seems to be replying to a certain @JoTwoOwls......