Penny’s {DDH} Story {Part 2}

{Read Part 1 of Penny’s DDH Story here}

We went back into hospital for an ultrasound scan of Penny’s hips a couple of weeks after her Pavlik Harness was fitted which confirmed she had moderate Developmental Dyslasia of the Hip {DDH} in her right hip and severe in her left. Although they were repeating what I already knew and I knew the harness wouldn’t be removed anytime soon it still felt like another punch to the stomach. Seeing my tiny baby clamped into the scanning machine. Listening to her cries. Again feeling so useless.

We would then come back to the hospital every 2 weeks to have her harness re-fitted and so she could have a bath. This was to become our routine for the foreseeable future. Those bath times were so precious. She loved being in the water and to see her harness free was heavenly. I’d spend some time cuddling her afterwards before a new harness was fitted and she would scream the house down {she became well known in the hospital for the Penny scream!} The staff became friends and I actually still miss going in strangely!

Those early days felt incredibly lonely. It felt like me and Penny against the world. I was fiercely protective of her and the harness meant people often shied away from changing her nappy, dressing or even holding her. In fact I think I was the only one who ever changed her during those early months! I desperately needed information and support. Someone to tell me everything was going to be ok, we would get through this and Penny would be fine. I decided to share her diagnosis on Facebook and Instagram, partly to put it out there but also as a way of desperately seeking some kind of help. Silently reaching out for comfort so that I wasn’t as alone as I felt.

I did a search of Facebook groups and that was when I came across DDH UK Charitable Trust and Hip Dysplasia Support Group. I posted a picture of Penny and our brief story. The replies came instantly. The sense of support, understanding and solidarity overwhelming. Vicki Psarias {from Honestmum.com} commented on my Instagram post that her friend Natalie Trice had written a book about DDH. One quick Amazon search later and it was purchased. I suddenly felt like I was starting to surround myself with an armour of information. Although I must admit it took me a while to turn the first page of the Cast Life simply because doing so made it all so real. I wanted information but was also happy in my little bubble coping with one day at a time.

We were discharged from hospital after 3 days. Although they had visited us everyday in hospital I waited until we were home to show the boys {who were 3 at the time} Penny’s harness properly; explaining that she had poorly legs so needed to wear this to help make her better. They accepted it and that was that. I think their acceptance and matter of fact attitude helped us to accept it too. We would get through this. This was absolutely the best thing for Penny and it only made her even more special. Whatever the future held we would be ready for it.

We soon got used to navigating the harness and what we could dress her in comfortably {mostly sleep suits and vests in the next size up and rompers with long socks}. People would notice her legs were in a strange position and sneak a peak at baby weigh in days when her full harness was exposed. Some people politely ignored it whilst others asked questions. I didn’t mind either way. I was happy to talk about it and answer people’s questions as best I could.

However hard it was to accept and to see our tiny baby strapped up we quickly realised from hearing other parents’ and patients’ stories that we were incredibly lucky for such an early diagnosis. The chance of a positive prognosis of a Pavlik Harness working from a very young age is much higher and we were incredibly lucky that after 4 months of wearing it 24/7 {hospital baths aside} it worked. She did not need to undergo surgery or wear a spica or rhino cast as so many children do. The condition is not life threatening but left undiagnosed it would be life altering and living through treatment certainly is for so many.

At Penny’s third hip scan it was confirmed her hips were normal and healthy. I could have kissed the consultant! She would be able to have the harness off the day before she turned 4 months and in time for Christmas. I had butterflies in my stomach the day we went in for removal. What if they decided that actually she needed to stay in the harness? Or that actually it hadn’t worked and she would therefore need surgery. I even convinced myself we would be told she would go in for surgery that day! But thankfully no. The harness was removed and everyone was visibly genuinely happy for us which was so lovely! To get her dressed without a harness, to feed and strap her into her car seat, to be able to bath her at home! To lay her down and let her kick her legs for the first {proper} time. She was so long! The boys kept telling everyone Penny’s poorly legs were better 🙂

We are now nearly 5 months on from removal and Penny is amazing. She can confidently sit up and roll from there onto her tummy. She rolled over from flat on her back for the first time last week! She loves standing up {with support} and is starting to get on the move {mainly backwards!} She’s able to do everything a baby with healthy hips can do, although we were advised not to use baby walkers or jumperoos and we only use carriers which have been approved for hip health.

We have Penny’s 6 month check up next month and I pray that her hips remain healthy. I have kept her first ever harness so I can show Penny when she is older and as a reminder of the journey we have been through. She is our strong hippy baby, our little warrior, our wonder woman. My hope is that she will develop and grow without anyone ever having to know she was born with under-developed hips. A story she can tell if she wishes. Part of, but not limiting, her life story.

In conclusion I’d like to thank all our friends and family for their support and all the staff at Gloucester Royal Hospital who were fantastic throughout Penny’s diagnosis and treatment {a special shout out to our friends in the plaster room}. I’d also like to thank Natalie Trice for sharing her family’s story, setting up DDH UK to help so many families and also for her personal support.

{Penny’s last and first Pavlik Harness} | {Christmas party ready}
{The Plaster Room staff at GRH} | {Penny’s first home bath}

To all the hippy families out there check out Natalie’s open letter guest post Dear {You} and know that you’ve totally got this 🙂

Dear {you} | {by Natalie Trice}

This month the blog will be focusing on Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip {DDH}.

DDH is a subject very close to my heart – as some of you may know my daughter Penny was diagnosed at birth {more on Penny’s story coming soon}. This week I’m excited to share a guest post by Natalie Trice, founder of DDH UK, the author of Cast Life – A Parent’s Guide to DDH {see bio below for more information}.

I was first introduced to Natalie by Vicki Psarias {from Honestmum.com} and she has since been a great support during both Penny’s diagnosis and treatment. Her charity and book provide much needed information and advice and she has opened up a forum of support for which I will always be thankful for.

My son will be ten in June and for the past decade, we have been on the emotional roller coaster that is developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). 

DDH occurs when the ball and socket of the hip joint do not fit snugly together and it affects between one and three children in every thousand. One of those children is my son, Lucas. 

I didn’t find the information I needed when he was diagnosed, and this left me feel alone and confused. I didn’t know what to expect, where to find people in a similar situation and it was a pretty dark time. 

As the years passed Lucas continued on his treatment path, and while I closed my business to look after him, and his older brother who was also going through this strange time, I wrote Cast Life and set up DDH UK, a charitable trust that today supports thousands of people around the world trying navigate this challenging condition. 

This is a letter to all you hippy parents and I hope it will offer you some comfort and support. 

Dear you, 

I read your posts and I feel your pain.

Your anguish is real and it isn’t going away.

I have been there many times and wish you didn’t have to do this.

I wish your baby didn’t have to be put to sleep.

To have an operation to help their hips become healthy.

But they do, so I want to offer just a little solace so you know you aren’t alone.

You want your child to be ok, that’s all any of us want.

You are scared for them, and for you.

That’s ok.

It’s normal.

That’s what makes you such an amazing parent.

I wish I could be there to hold your hand.

Wipe your tears.

Walk along the corridor to the theatre.

Buy you a cup of tea and chat as the clock ticks and your heart pounds.

I could say don’t worry, but that is all you have done since the diagnosis was made.

I could say it will be fine, but I am no doctor and know from my experience, that cannot be guaranteed.

But I can say, I am thinking of you.

That this isn’t fair.

That you and your child shouldn’t have to go through any of this.

But, you can do this.

I know you can.

There is no other way.

Yes, they might be cross when they come into recovery.

There might be pain and crying.

But the staff are there to help you.

They will make sure your little one is as comfortable as possible.

Ask questions.

Ask for help.

Take all the information you  can.

Go home when they are comfortable.

Take your time.

Take it all minute by minute.

Don’t think ahead or ask, ‘what if’.

There are so many people thinking of you.

Loving you all.

Willing those hips to heal and for life to get back to normal.

Go on Spica Mummy, put on your best smile and show DDH who is control.

Big hugs and lots of love.

Natalie

{Lucas}

Natalie is the founder of DDH UK, the author of Cast Life – A Parent’s Guide to DDH and a member of the International Advisory Board for the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

She is often seen in the media talking about the subject with passion and professionalism and is dedicated to raising awareness of a condition that has changed her life.

Natalie lives in Devon with her family, and when she isn’t running her PR business or writing books, she will be found on the beach walking her dog, she loves coffee, shoes and she never takes anything for granted anymore. 

The end of {maternity} leave

And just like that I’m in the final week of my maternity leave {blub}.

How has {nearly} 9 months passed already? It literally feels like yesterday that I was happily mooching around with a huge pregnant belly, preparing to welcome our new baby and turning my brain to “out of office”.

Am I ready to go back to work and leave my little family? Do I want to go back to the same job/working hours? How are we going to organise childcare? Can I continue to breastfeed? Is P going to cope? Are my boobs going to cope?! Have I achieved everything I wanted to during my time “off”? {Ha!}

Maternity leave this time around has been very different. Living in the new baby bubble has been somewhat sporadic balancing life with two strapping {then} threenagers. I thought I would go back to work with the house “sorted”, my life “sorted”, baby weight lost, probably living an incredibly impressive fit and healthy lifestyle and totally nailing motherhood. #winningatlife

Looking back it would be easy to think I’ve failed. I’ve not achieved any of those things. But what I have achieved is a very happy {loud} baby and lots of quality time with my very boisterous {also loud} boys. We’ve had pjs days {weeks}, spontaneous trips out, made a mess, cleared up {a bit} and learnt a lot along the way. I also managed to squeeze in launching this blog which is something I desperately wanted to do for so long {go me!}

As usual I underestimated the difficulties which laid ahead thinking I’d sail through and everything would simply work it’s self out. To some extent it did. To some extent it didn’t. I had a plan. I’d done it before. I was confident I could nail the old maternal instincts second time around. But that’s a story for another day.

Anywho. Now that {probably my last} period of maternity leave is coming to an end it’s time to get organised, figure out our next steps and attempt to dust off the old brain ready to get back into work mode.

I knew quite early on that I didn’t want to return to the exact job I left last summer. I knew I wanted to do things differently but I didn’t know how. I’m happy to work. I love my job. But I knew it no longer fitted in with how I saw my life {and career} progressing. Stepping out of a secure mould is scary. Attempting to start something new and having the confidence to ask for a different working arrangement may seem impossible. Or maybe it’s time to try something completely different. What better time to have those conversations or think about a change in vocation than now?

Twintastic tips:

  • Practice days: These were key for us. P has pretty much always been with me and I was keen to soak in as much baby time as possible. Childcare settings will usually offer settling in sessions and we did a few solo mornings of Grandma and daddy practice during my final couple of weeks at home to help everyone adjust. Plus they gave me a chance to get organised and buy new bras {!} Our first attempt at leaving P was right in the middle of her 29 week separation anxiety period {see Wonder Weeks} which in hindsight probably wasn’t great timing. It also turns out she was reacting to the formula I was attempting to give her {see CMPA page for posts coming soon} and all in all it was pretty disastrous which didn’t do wonders for anyone’s confidence. But we waited a few weeks and tried again with me lurking in the rafters {as it were} with much more success {phew!}
  • KIT days: Make the most of keep in touch {KIT} days offered by your employer. In the UK you have the option of working up to 10 paid KIT days {check your employer’s maternity leave policy}. I’ve opted for two mornings which have really helped my transition back to work, mean I won’t be starting back completely cold turkey and can have a practice doing drop-offs and pick-ups.
  • Feeding: P is purely breastfed {with weaning foods} and I was keen to continue feeding her myself as much as possible. I did toy with the idea of reducing breastfeeds and transitioning to formula but {for us} it just didn’t work out {partly due to her CMPA which I prefer to manage through my diet}. So for now we’ve found a way of me continuing to feed her when I’m home and I’ve invested in a manual breast pump so she can have expressed milk when I’m away from home all day and opted for oat milk if she needs/wants top-ups in between. Luckily she’s happy to drink from a bottle, sippy cup, open cup and even a bowl as well as breast…. so that’s been easy enough! I’ve realised it doesn’t have to be as complicated or black and white as I originally thought. I’ve not got a plan as to when to end our breastfeeding journey but we’ll figure it out as she takes in more solids and naturally reduces her feeds. For now we’re both happy to continue {although when she gets teeth that may change!}
  • Communicate with your employer: Think about how you want your working life to look when you go back. Do you want to return full-time? Do you want to request reducing your hours or building in some flexibility? Try not to be afraid of having those conversations with your employer even if you’re unsure of exactly what it is you want {key phase – review period}. And don’t feel guilty if actually you can’t wait to get back to your professional life and would happily work 6 days a week! Could your first week back start midweek? Can you start with mornings and work up to a full day? Can you take every Friday off as annual leave for the first month? Finding a balance which works for you {and your employer} can really help ease your transition back.
  • Look for a silver lining: The thought of returning to work and leaving your baby can be incredibly sad. I know it made me borderline depressed. I went through a roller coaster of emotions including guilt, jealousy and even anger that I had to return to work. It helped to think of my return to work as more of a new start rather than the end of this lovely period of time with my young family. Think about the things you loved most about your maternity leave and try to incorporate them into your new routine. I loved simply pottering about and meeting friends for coffee or baby group and walking to pick the boys up from nursery so I’ve tried to build time for these things into my schedule.
  • Happy memories and future plans: Why not make a scrapbook of your baby’s first year? Or make a bucket list of activities or days out you can enjoy over the coming months as something to look forward to. We’ve booked a holiday 6 weeks after I return to work #bikinimumbod
  • Be kind to yourself: Try not to overbook your diary. Returning to work can feel like adding to your already {rather full} workload and you’ll need time out to rest and rejuvenate. It’s ok to say no and not take on {more} extra duties.
  • Excuse for a pamper: Going back to work is a great excuse for a {probably} long overdue pamper and new wardrobe {or at least a new bag or pair of shoes right?}. I treated myself to an impromptu 15 minute facial during one of our practice mornings – something I could legitimately do on a regular basis! P is {generally} so easy that I usually just bring her along for the ride but {whispers} it has actually been quite nice to do things alone.
  • Dress your new body shape: Putting on “work” clothes can feel incredibly unnatural {depending on your line of work}, especially with a new {and improved} mum-bod. I’ve had to accept some of my old clothes just won’t fit me anymore and re-learn what suits my new body shape {big boobs, big tum}. New bras have helped – it’s amazing what a correctly fitting bra can do for your confidence {36FF what?!} and I’ve gone from feeling down and frumpy to empowered and comfortable just by re-thinking what suits me now and finding a few key pieces that work. Helping me to step into the office feeling a bit more confident.
  • Get organised: I will be working partly from home which has been a good excuse to give the old home office a bit of a spruce up. This has also helped me get other things organised and sorted and kick start some of the projects I meant to do whilst on maternity leave {always last minute.com} which although may seem like bad timing has actually been quite therapeutic and satisfying! From a practical point of view – pack bags and prepare clothes the night before, have some easy dinner ideas sorted and if you can batch cook and freeze extra portions. Keep your home simple – anything to make life a bit easier!
  • Support: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from your spouse, friend, family member, colleague, boss or doctor. Lean on your support network. You can do anything but not everything.

All in all know that you {and your baby} will adjust. This will become your new normal and if something isn’t working look to change it. You only live once and all that. Don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility if you want it {and don’t feel guilty if you don’t}. Being a mummy is still your number one job and you will still be the most important person in you child’s life. It may feel very strange and you may feel incredibly awkward but you will find your feet and rock it!

As a side note – I completed my second KIT morning today and {whispers} I actually really enjoyed it {thumbs up!}

Working 9 to {preferably} 2:15

Preparing for {change}

Last week was National school allocation day for primary aged children in the UK.

Even though we knew the boys would start school this year, had visited numerous schools prior to submitting our choices and knew allocation date was coming, receiving the email confirming their place really hit home that huge changes are upon us.

I had been so focused on the boys’ birthday and preparing for my imminent return to work that I had put the twins starting school somewhat on the back-burner until I had the mental capacity to think about it {which is probably never}. Luckily we got our first choice of school {along with 90% of the rest of Gloucestershire} so that took that stress away but suddenly September feels very close and that’s it – once they’re at school that is our life for the next 7+ {or 10+ if you count P} years.

I can already feel the weight of pressure on my shoulders. Have we made the right decision? How can we best prepare the boys {and us!} for the transition to school? Do we need/want to make use of before and after school clubs/activities? Who will drop them off and pick them up everyday? Can we change our work schedules to fit around the school day? What will we do in school holidays? How many pairs of school trousers/jumpers do we need to buy?! How will we get organised to get everyone up and out the door on time?! What if they hate it? What if we hate it? Will they make friends, be picked on, have a nice teacher? Agh!

To split or not to split?

The next big choice for us is whether or not to split the boys up into separate classes.  Having spoken to a lot of twin mums about this subject I’ve come to the conclusion that the choice is a very personal one {as with most things}. What’s right for one family isn’t for another. Our school has {so far} been very supportive and very much of the view that it’s our choice whether to split them up or not.  For some the decision may be easier. For us I fear it is not.

Our boys have always been together. Through both personal circumstance and preference they haven’t had a lot of opportunities to do things separately.  They {generally} get on and very much look out for each other. As strapping 4 years olds {!} it’s easy to forget how little they still are. They seek comfort and reassurance from each other and sometimes I’m sure about the decision to keep them together, at least for the reception year, but then I wonder if actually they’ll do better apart. We’ve started to notice that {away from home} Noah particularly will often speak for Ollie and they naturally gravitate together for activities {or loo trips!}. If we separate them they may have more of a chance to be themselves, make their own friends, pursue different interests and be treated {more} as individuals. Or will this scar them for life when all they’ve ever known is being together? Agh {again}!

Daunting as it feels I also know that starting school is a very exciting time for the boys. And however unsure I feel come the autumn they will be so ready to start. Chances are they will absolutely love it and thrive in a school environment. I already feel proud and excited for them. I really hope to be able to get involved with their school life {without going all Beverly Goldberg on them – when you know you know} and help give them the best experience of education.

Growing up

When the boys turned 4 last week something felt very different.  They suddenly felt very grown up and a whole world of opportunities seemed to open up for them.  They are now able to join in activities which were not open to them as 3 year olds and are tall enough to go on a ferris wheel and even junior Go Ape!  {Ok so this didn’t happen overnight but it’s only just become apparent}. They can wear ‘adult’ seat belts {with their high-back booster seats} and start swimming lessons {at our local pool}. I’m hoping they drop the threenager attitude but that’s yet to be seen {!} Their level of understanding and speech has come on tenfold and you can {sometimes} hold a {somewhat} sensible conversation with them {or ask them to get stuff for you – ha!}

Our little boys are growing up {blub}. Add to that the fact that I’ve now entered the last couple of weeks of my maternity leave and {attempting} to prepare everyone for my return to work and leave my littlest baby I feel like I’m fully locked into the emotional roller coaster of change. {More on the end of my maternity leave coming soon}.

Lots to think about and organise!

See you at the school gates {I’ll be the one sobbing uncontrollably much to the embarrassment of my sons}.

How do you best prepare for change?  And what do you wish you’d known before your little ones started school?

Organised {Chaos}

People often comment how tidy my house is considering I have three young children.

But the truth is, it’s not that my house is ALWAYS tidy {anyone who’s come round at feeding time can vouch for this} but more that I’ve put methods in place to make it EASY {or easier} to tidy. I like to think of it more of an “organised {or at least contained} chaos” kinda home.

When you have kids mess is inevitable. Toys come out, drinks get spilled and food gets EVERYWHERE. In fact almost everything is fair game when the boys want to play games such as “roads” aka get anything and everything out on the floor. Fun times.

This level of chaos can send any laid back wannabe-be perfect housewife into full meltdown mode and I’m the first to admit I’ve found it incredibly hard at times to accept. But {as with most things} a level of compromise is required. I like an organised house. The kids need to be able to play. So we make it work.

An orderly home makes me feel relaxed and in control. Subsequently chaos makes me anxious and feeling overwhelmed; making finding ways of organising {for me} a priority. But if I’m not careful I can spend a lot of my time attempting to keep some level of status quo and get a bit obsessed. So I’ve tried to find a balance between my own need for tidiness, letting the kids be kids and spending quality time with my little family rather than spending all my time cleaning up.

Our home is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not a show home or Mrs Hinch worthy but I like to think we keep it nice-enough for us. And actually since the twins came along I think it’s much more homely and welcoming.

So how do I attempt to keep on top of our own little corner of chaos? Here’s a few twintastic tips:

1 / Simplify

Keep.It.Simple. You can’t organise mess. I’m a HUGE fan of Marie Kondo {if you haven’t watched Tidying Up on Netflix or read her book do it NOW!} and even after numerous trips to the charity shop and local dump I’m still shocked by the amount of STUFF we have. I’ll do a separate post about the KonMari Method but in summary – the simpler the better. You don’t need to buy your kids hundred of toys or have everything out at once {see point 3 below}. Your shelves don’t need to be full to the brim and every inch of floor space taken up. More stuff = more to tidy and clean. What do all those home posts you like on Pinterest or in magazines have in common? They are usually relatively simple. Ditch the clutter and embrace simplicity.

2 / A place for everything and everything in it’s place

I aim for every single thing in my house to have a home. This makes it easier to tidy up and put things where they belong {as long as everyone knows where that place is!} If something doesn’t have a home it’s usually because we don’t need it. This mindset also helps curb random buys – where is that item is going to live in your home? Is it useful and/or brings you joy? If not. Ditch it.

3 / Remove ‘high stress’ objects/toys

Lego. The boys love it but clearing up a million tiny pieces drives me potty. Add to that the fact we now have a little person who likes to put everything in her mouth it has became an important issue to tackle. Attempts at getting them to tidying up or keep these tiny bricks of mischief in one place have been pretty fruitless and if it’s kept in their bedroom they’ll end up staying up late into the evening. Therefore {for now} Lego lives out of the boys’ reach as an ‘under supervision’ or ‘get out and put away’ activity. The same goes for play dough and any kind of arts and crafts. It’s just not worth the stress. Similarly if sand {for example} drives you potty don’t buy a sandpit; instead find a local park or cafe that has one. Problem solved.

4 / Think about storage

When it comes to storage {again} simplicity is key. I’m a huge fan of Ikea’s Kallax shelves {you can also get versions at B&Q and Argos} which can be fitted with boxes, shelves, doors or left open. I currently have 6 Kallax; three with four squares and three with eight and find them so useful for storing everything from toys and books to office equipment and even as a TV stand. I use pretty boxes and baskets and try not to clutter things together too much. I also use Pinterest for both storage and design inspiration.

5 / Designated rooms for toys

We try to keep the living room, our room and the spare room generally toy free {apart from a few of Penny’s things which can be easily boxed up or put to the side} and designate specific rooms for toys {the conservatory, kids’ rooms and we are lucky enough to have a playroom}. The boys can play in any room but those are the rooms the toys are kept in and if all else fails they contain the chaos keeping our ‘adult’ rooms free to relax in and basically ignore the mess/current in-progress or abandoned game {ha!}

6 / Finding a cleaning/tidying routine that works for you

I’m a huge fan of The Organised Mum Method {#TeamTOMM} designed by Gemma Bray who has created an achievable cleaning plan based on 15 minute ‘level 1 jobs’ and 30 minutes of focused cleaning 5 days a week. All of which can be downloaded for free on her website! Gemma also has a book coming out in the autumn now available for pre-order. Whatever method works for you – little and often helps keep the chaos at bay.

7 / Target dump areas

Similar to ‘high stress’ objects try to find a way of getting rid of ‘dump’ areas – the place everyone puts unread mail, shoes, bags or just random stuff. To tackle these types of items I have a basket under the stairs for the boys’ shoes which they can kick them off into; I also have a basket for my bags and have fitted hooks for the kid’s backpacks and coats which they can reach themselves. I try to keep on top of the dump area in our kitchen and by following Marie Kondo’s tidying method I find it a lot easier to either dispose of or file paperwork straightaway. I’m still working on my ‘current’ pile as I usually end up just moving it around the house instead of dealing with it.

8 / 15 minute sweep up

I spend 15 mins every evening {usually whilst the boys are winding down} putting things away, doing the final bits of washing up, sweep the floors and prep for the next day. I use a ‘bung it’ basket to collect up and re-distribute anything that doesn’t belong and try to prep a wash to put on first thing. Then when the kids are {finally} in bed I can put my comfies on, have a cuppa and relax or get some work or a project done in a tidy, uncluttered space. It also means we can start a fresh each day ready for the next round of chaos.

9 / Give your kids responsibility

Now the boys are nearly 4 I feel like they can start to take responsibility for some simple actions/chores {like put your coat and shoes away, tidying up their toys or even a bit of dusting!} and for them to have the opportunity to have responsibility for their own things – these are YOUR toys and this is YOUR playroom and therefore your responsibility to keep it tidy. It also never dawned on me that kids may need you to show them HOW to tidy. My boys now quite enjoy arranging the cushions on the sofa {!} But I also think it’s important to give them the chance to have things as they want them. You may like all the cars sorted into separate boxes but they may like them to be with the farm animals. Try to give them the opportunity to decide how they want THEIR stuff.

10 / Don’t try to be perfect

Your children won’t stay little for long and your house will one day be toy-free. I really try not to clean up whilst the kids are playing but sometimes I just can’t help myself {!} If they’re happily engrossed in something, I’ll do a quick tidy up around them just to help keep on top of things {and because I’m a crazy person who likes tidying}. Find a level of organisation you can cope with and try to accept that kids = some level of chaos. Let them play, get muddy and build dens. They’re only little once and all that.

Obviously we have times when tidying up just isn’t a priority but I also won’t apologise for trying to be house-proud. These methods help me keep my mind and our home ‘homely’. They mean a room can go from complete chaos to some level of organisation with relative ease. I don’t always go to bed with or come home to a tidy home but that’s ok 🙂 But when I do I can think clearly, ready to face what’s next to come. Until the house needs tidying again {ha!}

The one exception to all of this is if we have a play date – all rules go out the window and you just have to embrace the pandemonium! {When you know you know!}

How do you attempt to organise you’re own personal corner of chaos?

The Big {Pink} Jumper

Truth be told I’ve not been feeling particularly pukka lately.

Big changes are looming; with the end of my maternity leave playing heavily on my mind and an overwhelming list of jobs I’d hoped to complete before going back to work paralysed by procrastination/mummy life {see The Art of {Completion}}.

On Saturday I was presented with an unexpected opportunity to leave the house {Mr H had hurt his back so was off work}. So like any wild-at-heart mum I left the boys at home and took P to Tesco {ha!} Wandering around at our own pace was blissful. P is now big enough to sit in the trolley and Tesco’s free fruit for kids policy meant she could happily munch on a banana – thank you free entertainment!

And there it was. On a random sale rack by the biscuit aisle. A big pink jumper. My interest was sparked. It was bright and loud. Everything I was not feeling. But I liked it anyway. And quite frankly for a tenner it was an absolute bargain.

Back home and on it went. I instantly felt self-conscious and slightly blancmange like. But oh wow it was sooooo comfortable and perfect for lounging around the house in if nothing else.

{Living it large amongst the playroom chaos}
 
{The pink jumper}

Later that day my friend popped round and we took the kids for a walk to the park. I was planning to change but couldn’t be bothered and that’s when I thought f**k it. I love my big pink jumper. I’m comfortable and it makes me happy so who cares what anyone else thinks. {Self-conscious thoughts be gone!}

The next day I wore it again to the garden centre. Then again this morning and now snuggled up in bed {it probably needs to go in the wash}.

I’ve still got some work to do on my self-confidence and getting to a place I feel happy both mentally and physically but for now I shall wear my big pink jumper with pride 🙂

The point of this post? To say wear your ‘pink jumper’, don’t let your perceived thoughts of what other people think deter you from being you and doing/wearing what makes you happy. I may not always feel bright, but in my big pink jumper maybe I can fake it ’til I make it right?

 

 

 

Back to {me}

A friend shared this post on Facebook today which really hit home:

Parenting is a selfless act.  The act of putting those you care about most before yourself.  You spend so much time tending to their needs that it’s easy to forget your own.  And it’s also easy to feel like you’ve forgotten part of yourself. You wouldn’t change being a parent for the world but you can also feel like you’ve lost who you were before you were mummy.  Before your day revolved solely around the needs of others. Before you could put yourself first guilt free.

Lately I’ve felt like I’ve lost my sparkle.  I’ve produced three beautiful children who bring me more happiness than I could ever imagine but somewhere along the way I’ve lost sight of myself.  

With P now 7 months old, the boys more settled and me starting to plan my return to work, now seems like a good time to start putting in some much needed me time and self-reflection.

Standing in front of the mirror it’s hard to recognise the reflection staring back at me.  Grey hairs, sore skin, milk filled breasts, mum tum. No definition. Too much excess. The crashing waves of defeat and self loathing come strong.  The urge to change. To do better. Look better. Feel better.

But then my perception changes.

I remember to be kind to myself.

I look again and change my terminology to soft, curvy, womanly, voluptuous.  My children would see the the person who makes them feel safe and loved. The person who gives the best cuddles and tells stories in silly voices. I asked them what they liked about mummy and they replied “you”.

This is the body that created and nurtured three children.  The body those children cuddle up to and seek comfort and strength from.  The body my husband fell in love with, The body my friends and family accept.  My body. This is me.

I thought becoming a mother had made me lose my sparkle but what is my perception of “sparkle”?  I’m not actually sure this “sparkle” actually ever existed.  A figment of my imagination of what I “should” look like. How I should feel and act. This perfect image of life.

I’ve probably spent the best part of 30 years thinking {worrying} about body image.  Trying to change or will myself to change how I look. Never quite comfortable with how I am or accepting myself.  And to be honest I really don’t want to spend another minute {let alone another 30 years} feeling like I need to change myself, feeling guilty for not giving up chocolate or deprived from living my best life.

What I do want is to be healthy and happy and respect my body.  I want to work on my mental health and have a healthy relationship with myself.  I want my children to grow up with a positive body image and see me comfortable in my own skin so that hopefully they will be comfortable in theirs.  I want my sons to love and respect women of all shapes and sizes and my daughter to feel confident and secure. I don’t want them to feel shame or to shame others.

I want to enjoy life and know I’ve not only given them the best start but also that I’m going to do my very best to be around for a long time to see them grow and flourish.  

To know that I can sparkle at any time.  That this is who I am and I should embrace it rather than shy away.  

Time to sparkle 🙂  

Daddy {Daycare}

Hands up who has had a moan about their husband/partner recently? ✋

A recent Instagram post by mother of all adventures {Our Men – see below} got me thinking.

Quite frankly Mr H drives me potty {!}

He can be is so annoying , knows how to press my buttons and delights in winding me up {can I get an amen}. After 13 years together you’d think I’d have him sussed but nope I still take the bate and get more wound up than a tangled slinky.

Mr H is not Mr Romantic. Remembering anniversaries and birthdays and lavishing gifts is not his thing. He’s more of a “I bought you two cans of Rio because I know you love it” rather than a “look darling I’ve booked a weekend away in Paris” kinda guy. And you know what that’s ok by me {I do love a can of Rio with my chicken shish kebab}.

He’s not a morning person and his first response to most things before 10am {aka coffee and something to eat} is no. You have to pick the timing of requests or general conversations carefully if you want to get a positive response.

His parenting style is very different to mine. He’s quick to anger but also quick to forgive and forget. He’s all bark and no bite. He will play with the kids for hours. Putting in quality time over housework. I’m definitely guilty of coming in from work and seeing the house turned upside down before seeing happy children.

I see him sitting on his phone whilst I sort breakfast, the washing, getting everyone dressed and bags packed for the day when actually he stayed up late to pre-cook tonight’s dinner so we can eat as soon as we’re home {and did the washing up}.

I see an untidy house when he sees a home {and he sees a poorly organised fridge when I see somewhere to shove food}.

I see unsociable when he’s actually fiercely private.

I see lack of family time when he’s working all hours to provide.

I wish for weekends away when he carries our financial burden.

I see nit picking when he’s just trying to have an input.

I expect him to read my mind, understand what I want and preempt my mood. When actually a simple request for help or to say I’m not feeling great would give him a heads up and the opportunity to step in.

He’s loyal, kind, generous and has stood by and supported me through everything life has to throw at us. And I him.

He’s changed his life to suit us. He chose family over a social life. Sometimes I wonder if {and actually know that} I’ve tamed him too much. He has a wild spirit and adventurous heart whereas I’m naturally cautious and risk averse. But as he reminds me, he chose to change.

He trusts me without question. He has never said I can’t do something, go out, spend money. He has never tried to tame my independence. If I told him I was going away for a week with the girls he wouldn’t bat an eyelid. He’d probably forget I was going but he’d never question it or ask me not to go.

We are so different in so many ways

He’s figuring it out like the rest of us.

He drives me mad but my goodness that man makes me laugh, makes me feel safe, loved and desired and I wouldn’t change him for the world.

He works hard to provide for us and ensure we want for nothing.

I’m guilty of putting my own mental health before his. Forgetting that he also needs the opportunity to take some time out, offload and feel supported.

Daddy Daycare 2 - A Life Twintastic

My boys have the best role {with some tweaking from mum} and are being raised as gentlemen {who can probably pack a punch}.  They are loud. They are grumpy. They are kind. They are fiercely protective of each other and of us. “Mummy I’ll come with you to look after you.” “Mummy hold my hand and I’ll help you.” “My favourite part of today was daddy chasing me with a baby dragon” {aka Penny}.

I read a comment on a post about someone’s dislike of the use of the term “daddy daycare”. A phase I use all the time. Not because he’s “babysitting” but because in our personal case I’ve taken maternity leave {as opposed to shared paternity} and have taken on the bulk of childcare before going back to work at which time we will share it. I am also a bit of a control freak and like to take on the role of family organiser. Not because he is any less a parent but because that’s what I’m good at and enjoy.

I get up to the baby in the night because I chose to do so. If {heaven forbid} I got hit by a bus he’d be fine. So yes I use the phase “daddy daycare” and will continue to do so, as a lighthearted name for the day’s daddy goes it alone. When we’re both home we both parent. The fact of the matter is he works longer hours than me and therefore I am home more. If it was the other way around we’d call it “mummy daycare”. {Was that ranting? It felt like a rant, my bad}.

Anyway it’s now 5am and I’ve been nursing P since 3am so should probably try to get some sleep. Between us I think we’re doing ok.

 

The Art of {Completion}

Do you ever feel like you have a never-ending to-do list which feels impossible to complete?  

I find myself looking forward to the day I can sit down with everything in place.  My to-do list done. Projects on track. The house clean. Cupboards stocked. Wardrobe organised.  Everything ready to for the next day. Everything complete. Wine in hand. Food in belly. Bliss. Finally able to fully switch off and relax.

But alas that’s not how life works.  Food gets eaten. Houses get dirty. Children need attention.  It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed in the endless need to keep on top of everything.  Something which can affect both adults and children alike – from parental guilt of never doing or giving enough to children feeling overwhelmed by endless projects and social anxiety.  

For many tasks completion in its simplest term is near enough impossible.  But re-defined it can become empowering. You will never ‘complete’ housework.  However, by sticking to a schedule {such as TOMM} you can rethink your definition of completion and tick that endless job off your list.  YOU can decide what ‘completed’ looks like. For example – if I put a clothes wash on every weekday morning then that job is completed.

I’m a typical to-do list writer and thrive off ticking things off but with that I am also guilty of being highly skilled at the art of procrastination and spend more time writing lists than completing them  I also tend to have lists everywhere; on my phone, in notebooks, on scraps of paper, in my diary and on Alexa. Alas my attempt at being organised suddenly becomes a contradiction in terms and very little, if anything at all, gets done.  

Whilst clearing out our office space I found an array of lists which I piled up with a plan to condense into one.  I kid you not, some of these lists contained the same repeated items from over two years {or more} ago which STILL haven’t been ‘completed’.  I realised that these things are either a) no longer necessary/a priority b) too big a project that need breaking down into manageable chunks or c) ongoing activities which don’t have an obvious endpoint .  For example one of the things which regularly featured on my geriatric lists was ‘sort the garage’.

IMG_5428
{Exhibit A}

Our garage has a door into the house which makes it a prime place to dump stuff and can easily build up a mass of all sorts of rubbish interspersed with useful items which have gone MIA (see exhibit A >>>}.  To this day the garage remains to be sorted and therefore it continues to be on my to-do list. But what does sorted look like? What does completion look like? In my idealistic mind I envisage a Pinterest perfect set-up cleverly organised and accessible. Is this likely to happen? Is it a priority? How committed are we to getting {and keeping} it organised? Are we content with a vaguely organised garage  or can it be pushed to the Spring when the kids are in daycare and we can tackle it properly?

My view on this example is that yes I do want to organise the garage, no it probably won’t look Pinterest perfect and yes I expect it will continue to be used as a convenient dumping ground but having started the Konmari Method on the rest of the house I feel like I’m in a good mindset to Marie Kondo the crap out of it 😉  then stay on top of the chaos using the TOMM.  So my plans is to to a) move ‘sort garage’ to a project list and set aside some time probably in the spring to have a proper sort out using the Konmari Method then b) add ‘quick tidy of garage’ to my weekly TOMM, probably on a Wednesday to tie in with the entrance and hallway cleaning.  That way, once the initial clear out has been done, and by ensuring it has a regular tidy up I can be satisfied the job has been ‘completed’ and it will no longer haunt my to-do list 🙂

Other ideas when it comes to windling down that never-ending to-do list:

  • Create a weekly or daily braindump and from it a comprehensive list for immediate/priority jobs – Some days {especially if I’m tired} I like to write down a really extensive to do list even down to getting dressed. Which may, or may not, get completed 😉 but I also know that I don’t need to add things like washing to my to-do list as it’s part of my usual daily tasks anyway making the things that are on their more prominent
  • At the end of the day/week review your list and anything left either gets moved or ditched {be ruthless}
  • Separate larger, non-priority jobs onto a project list which can be done as a sort of hobby, like sorting out your photo collection
  • Allocate deadlines or timescales.  Then if, for example, you haven’t listed those clothes on eBay by the end of the month resolve to take them to the charity shop
  • Factor in help/support – get the kids involved – if I sort and fold the washing they can put it away or they can make their own beds every morning.  
  • ‘Just do it mentality’.  Some jobs just need to be done and got out the way.  
  • Top 3 tasks – Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise
  • Limit the number of places you log your lists – I may use my phone or Alexa for shopping lists but I use one notepad for daily tasks. Reminders are kept in my diary.
  • Book it in.  Want to decorate the bathroom but never seem to get around to it?  Send the kids to your parents/friends for the afternoon and book it into the diary
  • My old favourite – delegate!

And remember to be realistic.  If a job has been on your to-do or project list for a long time chances are it has become irrelevant and can be ditched. Maybe now isn’t the right time for particular tasks.  Just started a new job? Have a young baby? Take the pressure off yourself and ditch non-priority tasks. If something is that important it will come up again later when the time is right.  

By creating little routines or a plan of action hopefully you will feel the satisfying sense of completion, life will become a little less stressful and everyone will benefit from a new found sense of harmony in your home.  Sitting down with that glass of wine, having a hot bath or spending more time with your kids guilt free. Whatever your completion looks like, relax and enjoy it!

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