Thursday, December 01, 2016

first things first

The first of December.

This month will be a special one, it will be our first Christmas as parents, and we will soon be heading on a trip to the Lake District with my family, which will be our first holiday as parents too. We did a similar trip last year, and days before we went we found out that I was pregnant again and so this feels like a very poignant time of year. From those tentative first days of knowing, it is incredible to see the three and a half month old little boy in front of us and see how far we have come.

Yet again, this is the first post in a long time. It feels like there is so much to say, but I have realised that in the absence of being able to say everything, it is better to write to something rather than nothing. In a bid to get this post written it is the first time in years I have used the Blogger app to write a post so apologies if the formatting is a mess!

These first few months of parenthood have been incredible, and I still can't quite believe I am lucky enough to be his mummy. Somehow when I come to write though, I feel like everything is too mundane, acutely aware that my days are filled entirely with motherhood, which, while fascinating to me, is not the most interesting reading. The mammoth undertaking that is a walk to the library or a trip to the swimming pool fills a whole morning but leaves me with not all that much to say.

Most days I feel like I'm doing a half decent job of being a mum, though today has been an exception where I have convinced myself I'm not doing the "right" thing with naps and sleep, whatever that might be, and Google has proved, as always, the perfect source of confirmation for my fears! That was then compounded by the fact in one of my two minute bursts of productivity, between letting Millie out, making a drink and tidying the lounge, I had felt super organised as I put baked potatoes into the oven for dinner, only to return an hour and a half later to realise I had forgotten to turn it on.

I'm trying to work out where the person I was before fits in these days, and I am on a learning curve trying to find out how to keep some sense of myself along the way. So many of the things that I enjoyed, cooking, baking, photography, trying to run, reading, all feel like luxuries I don't know how to fit in any more. I remember the first week after I gave birth coincided with the first episode of Great British Bake Off and in blissful naivety I bought the ingredients to make the first technical challenge, hoping to join in as I had last year, and quickly realising that was a somewhat unrealistic aim. 

This is the first time since I was seventeen I haven't had some kind of paid employment, and the first time since goodness knows how long I haven't been working towards some kind of exam, or qualification or training. I've discovered that becoming a parent teaches you quite quickly about your self-identity, as the first few months have been given over to looking after another person, completely dependent, you gradually notice what you miss. I'm not altogether sure where this post is going. I'm conscious it sounds negative, when I genuinely couldn't feel luckier to have my baby boy, and I would hate to think in years to come he would read this and think I didn't adore being his mum. I'm just at the point of starting to work out how to be a mum and be myself, finding out what I can happily let go of and what I want to hold on to. I suppose taking half an hour to write something here is a step towards holding onto this blog, holding on to a little bit of who I was before, holding on to my voice. Yet just as one part of me holds on to some threads of who I was before, another holds so tightly to that little boy who clings to me, grabs at the joy of being his mum, being there for him wholeheartedly, and seeing what we both can become.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

first things first

The first of October.

The first blog post in a little while, and predictably, I am starting posting again at the start of a new month. Today also marks 6 weeks since our son was born, and so we celebrate the first 6 weeks of parenthood.

These weeks have been full of firsts, big and small. It feels like he has been a part of our lives for a long time, and yet life seems to be flying by at an alarming rate. Having spent so long knowing that our baby would be born in the summer, it was shock to realise that we have now already moved into Autumn. In the last few days we have found that some of his first outfits no longer fit, and that is frankly far too soon for him to be growing out of things!

The first weeks are somewhat of a blur now. As well as the overwhelming mix of emotions of those initial days as new parents, my grandad had an emergency trip to hospital in the first week, I was a bridesmaid for a close friend two weeks after the birth, my stepdad also had an emergency trip to the hospital, and there have been numerous birthdays in recent weeks, including The Husband's. Life has felt intense recently, to say the least. Gladly, everyone is doing fine, and we are settling into our new normal.

The Husband went back to work in mid September, and so this will be my first full month of maternity leave without him at home during the week. I have already realised how lucky we are to have family and friends so nearby, their support has made such a difference as we grow accustomed to life with a new baby.

This first blog post is not coming easily. I have found that the right words often evade me at the moment, and so trying to sit and write sentences is less more challenging than previously! I feel unable to do justice to these first weeks, to the incredible elation, the highs and lows, the overwhelming love and the waves of deepest gratitude. I can't explain the new ways in which I see my husband, as he becomes an amazing daddy to our son, or my parents, as they dote on their grandson with such tenderness. Whatever I write won't capture fully the experience, and though countless others have been through it before, it is somehow, at the same time, entirely unique to us.

We are so very lucky, and while I won't pretend we haven't had plenty of tough moments, curled up, as I am, with the dog draped across my legs, and The Husband next to me cradling our baby boy, I am very content. Our first baby, he has made parents of us, he has made life richer by far, and brought our family so much closer, he is so very lovely and so very loved. Welcome to the world my darling son, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

word of the week

A fairly alliterative word of the week post, brought to you by the letter W it would seem, although the overriding word has to be waiting. Today brings us to six days after our due date and the baby is still content to stay put. I keep reminding myself that anything up to 42 weeks is normal, but it has been such an odd week, such a strange feeling.

Each night I go to bed wondering if tomorrow will bring news, waking overnight and lying there trying to guess whether anything has changed, whether anything feels different, getting up each morning and accepting that things are just the same. It is hard not to watch every twinge, every tightening, hoping that it might possibly be the start of something. It is hard not to worry, which is generally my way, trying to reassure myself that the baby is safe and not focus on concerns that something might go wrong.

I have been doing lots of walking (and eating pineapple, making increasingly spicy curries, bouncing on a birthing ball, and following midwife advice trying acupressure and aromatherapy oils). We had a trip to the beach yesterday, and I took Millie and some music on a long walk across the fields on Friday (can you spot her in the above picture?!). It is tricky not to succumb to the sense that there is something I could, or should, be doing, and I am trying, but mostly failing, to not get frustrated at the inquiries from people pointing out that the baby has not arrived yet.

It has been wonderful to have my mum so close, to accompany me to appointments, take me out on spontaneous trips when it becomes clear that another empty day stretches ahead, and to give fabulous foot rubs too. Soon enough things will change, although I am trying to adjust to the idea that it may not happen spontaneously! Hopefully, this time next week I will have different news to share, but for now I wait, and wish, and wonder when we will finally meet our baby.

The Reading Residence

Project 52: Week 32

Yesterday we ventured out for a trip with Millie and headed for the beach. One of our nearest beaches, although still a bit of a distance away, is home to Antony Gormley's Another Place. It is somewhere we go once or twice a year, having taken Millie there on her first journey out as a puppy, and I love being by the sea. We timed it well, arriving to blue skies and a gentle breeze, as the tide was ebbing. We spent a happy hour gently chasing it out along the sand. The statues are always eye-catching, and this barnacled one had emerged from the water.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Project 52: Week 31

This week I spent a lovely few hours with my mum and Grandad, wandering around a local art exhibition and going for lunch. The entrance to the building includes a reconstructed industrial tower, and this was the view upwards as we left.

word of the week

It has been a week of contrasts, seven days spent in an odd limbo. Tomorrow is our due date, so the week has been a bizarre blend of getting on with life as normal, whilst waiting (impatiently!) for something that has not yet happened.

The days have been restful, plenty of relaxing, yet with an underlying restlessness that finds me pacing the house in the early hours. Looking back, it has been a nicely busy week. I have done lots of cooking, had days out with my mum and Grandad, coffees, lunches, an art exhibition, shopping with a friend, walks with Millie. Yet there is that sense of not having achieved the biggest thing, of waking up each morning and wondering what the day might have in store.

I feel ready, each evening I say to The Husband that I feel we are as prepared as we can be, I just want to meet our baby. Yet we both know that we can never truly be ready for the change that is coming, that it is beyond what we can imagine, and when things eventually start happening I expect the calm confidence I have currently will quickly disappear!

The weekend has been gentle, but with an undercurrent, perhaps more for The Husband, who has not known whether he will be going back into work tomorrow or starting the week on paternity leave. For now, there is no suggestion that the baby is on the way imminently, the alarms are set, and Monday will bring the start of another normal week, much like the last. And yet, there is the promise of this being an extraordinary week indeed.

The Reading Residence

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Cookery Calendar Challenge: July

I'm afraid that in the great phone calamity I lost the pictures of the meals that I made for this month, and, typically, I hadn't instagrammed them or sent them to my mum! So, you shall have to believe that I did make the dishes, and accept an attempt at some artfully arranged herbs, that I still have leftover from the recipes.

Excuses out of the way, I decided to venture back to Jamie Oliver, and after my experience of the 15 minute meals, give the 30 minute meal book a try. I suspected that the recipes would take longer than 30 minutes, if the previous experience was anything to go by, and having long wanted to use this book I thought it might be realistic to do so before the baby arrives!

While both of the recipes took longer, between 45-60 minutes, I was really impressed with them both. The recipes are not without their downsides, they require lots of ingredients, and the cost mounted up. They also require more time than I would usually spend, and many more dishes and utensils, to the extent that when I was making the second recipe, The Husband came and cleared up after me as I was cooking just to try and get a head start! The book is clear at the outset about the equipment needed, and my long-neglected food processor was hoisted out, which again felt like excessive effort for saving time slicing a few vegetables instead of using a knife. 

All of this meant that I partially expected the recipes to be a let-down, I thought they would have to be really successful to feel that all of that had been worth it. I was, however, proved wrong, and was really impressed with the outcome of both. In fact, I went to the lengths of ordering some replacement parts for my food processor that have been lost at some point, which I think is clearly a sign that I was converted.

So, on to the actual recipes. The first was super-fast beef hash, with jacket potatoes, goddess salad, and butter beans and bacon. A few people have blogged the recipe previously. This was a serve it in lots of big dishes recipe, like most in the book, and it was a real success. Microwaving the baked potatoes then crisping them up on a hot baking tray in the oven worked really well, the hash was lovely (although the absence of the right attachment meant my veg were chopped much more finely - hence the new purchase for future attempts!), and The Husband has discovered a love of butter beans too, although I couldn't convince him to try the avocado dressing or salad.

The second recipe was the mustard chicken, quick dauphinoise, greens and black forest affogato. I will confess to leaving out the anchovies, and also knowing The Husband would not want cherries in the affogato, I replaced them with some frozen raspberries in mine that I already had in. This was a great dish, all of the parts were beautifully flavoured, and the dessert was simple but something a little different. 

What I really liked about both recipes was that they felt like complete meals, with plenty of vegetables, making them well balanced. I also found that there was a good amount of food, with the dishes that served four feeding us both well with more than enough for a second meal for two for the freezer. I enjoyed the salad for lunches for a few days after too. The recipes do require lots of ingredients, but the different condiments and herbs do seem to bring the flavours together well, and using the shortcuts such as the food processor and the microwave does make it possible to have dishes that would normally take a lot longer. I still don't think they are realistic for everyday cooking, or for week nights, but I do think, with time, they wouldn't be far off the 30 minute mark, and the results are well worth the effort.

It might be a little while before I get around to picking this book up again, as I guess our weekends might be somewhat different in the coming months, but I do look forward to trying some of the other recipes, and have already bookmarked a few that really appeal. I have picked a book for August, and for now am hoping to make the recipes, but watch this space! In the meantime, do follow the link below to Penny's blog and see what everyone else has been up to this month.