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....