children-in-need-fundraising-nursery
Parenting, mum life, nursery

Children in Need Week at Nursery

It’s that time of year again folks; the Children in Need Appeal takes place this Friday. It must be an age thing, but it feels like it really wasn’t a whole year since the last one.

For the uninitiated, Children in Need (CIN) is a UK charity which supports disadvantaged children and young people in the country. Their goal is to ensure every child feels happy, safe, and has the chance to reach their full potential, no matter their circumstances. Every year, an appeal show is held on the BBC on the third Friday of November, to encourage donations from across the UK. The appeal show usually starts around 7pm and lasts all evening, with special episodes of soaps and popular TV programmes, musical performances, and lots of short clips from some of the children who have benefitted from CIN, which are sure to make you cry.

Above this, many organisations of various sizes take part too, from retailers like Greggs and ASDA to schools, youth clubs, workplaces and more. As the charity focuses on children, it makes sense that Travis’ nursery would be involved, with a week of fundraising activities for him to take part in.

I never thought I’d be the type of mum that got excited at the prospect of all the different activities and things you have to do for your kids to be a part of something, but I actually bloody love it. I think part of me is genuinely excited because I loved those days myself as a child, and probably wish I could still join Travis at nursery with his dress up, parties, baking and so on. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it feels like we have to remember to do something, wear something or bring something extra to nursery every other week, which gets hard to keep track of. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Besides, how can you be upset at a whole week of fundraising activities for disadvantaged children when your son attends a private nursery and has all he ever needs (and more besides!) at home?

Here’s how our week of fundraising looks to be shaping up: (I hope to add photos from each day as we go!)

Pyjama Party

Travis doesn’t attend nursery on Mondays, so we missed the Teddy Bear’s Picnic day, but there are still 4 fun days for him to get involved in, starting with Tuesday’s Pyjama Party! Really though, could there be a more perfect fundraising activity for mums? Literally just send your child out in their jammies, meaning you don’t have to think about an outfit for the day.
Bonus for them: they get a comfy nap at that time of day
Bonus for mum and dad: slightly less laundry

Playroom Theme

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a clue what this theme was meant to be to start with. I thought playroom themes were things you searched for on Pinterest, offering a world of dreams for kids, but something which you couldn’t actually afford to implement. Turns out in this instance it simply means dressing up like your favourite toys, teddy bears in particular as Pudsey the bear is the CIN mascot. We opted for some Pudsey ears, socks and top, though as you can imagine the ears lasted about 1.5 seconds!

Crazy Hair Day

I think this is is probably another ideal theme for parents. I mean, just don’t brush your kids hair in the morning, right? Travis is in desperate need of a haircut, as he is currently sporting some curls around his neck, despite still having about 4 strands of hair on the top of his head, so his hair already looks crazy enough on a daily basis. However I might get a bit creative with some of his dad’s hair wax or maybe some hair makeup which can easily wash out.

Superhero & Princess Party

This one we might have a little trouble with. Travis had a Thor outfit for Halloween, kindly bought for his birthday by his uncle. Said Thor outfit was made a little on the neat side, but it worked for a Halloween party we went to the weekend before Halloween. By the time actual Halloween rolled around (a whole 4 days later) Travis had outgrown the outfit, so much so we couldn’t even fasten the poppers around the crotch. Delightful. And unfortunately now since Halloween has passed and Christmas is a mere 6 weeks away (I can’t wait!), there doesn’t seem to be any glimpse of a superhero in sight in any of the shops! And the superhero clothing that does seem to be on offer is few and far between in Travis’ size. Stay tuned to find out how this one ends up!

do-dont-dunkeld-scotland
Lists, mum life

Do’s and Don’ts in Dunkeld

At the end of October the other half and I managed to escape for a quick getaway to the beautiful village of Dunkeld in Perthshire. The overnight stay was a gift from Craig’s parents for our engagement earlier in the year.

This was the last possible weekend to book our stay, so in true last minute Unlikely Mum style, we squeezed our visit in between work shifts and babysitters and headed for a very short romantic date night essentially.

Although we didn’t have much time to spend there, we definitely made the most of what we could, and noted some pointers for anyone else looking to travel around this area – particularly on a short timescale. I’d definitely recommend visiting Dunkeld and the surrounding area as it’s such a beautiful and mainly unspoilt part of Scotland, with lots to still see and do for tourists.

DO head to Howie’s Bistro

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This lovely little bistro was recommended to us by a taxi driver, and it was defintely worth the hype. I had some mushroom starter that I couldnt pronounce if you paid me (pictured) and a vegetarian moussaka. The other half opted for soup (it was souper cold. See what I did there?) and a massive chicken burger. There was so much food that neither of us could manage a dessert, despite the choices being mouthwatering. They have a healthy collection of gins for a smallish restaurant, and a decent choice of beers, wines and other spirits too. Howie’s Bistro is definitely a winner in my book

DON’T go out without planning how to get home

We may have picked up some dining tips from our taxi driver, but she also told us that she was only working until 10pm. On a Friday night. I will never get used to taxi companies/taxi drivers in remote areas not being available 24/7. Dunkeld also has buses running to various locations, and there’s a train station not too far outside Dunkeld, but if you aren’t staying right in the centre of the village, then it pays to check with the local transport and taxi drivers, so you’re not left stranded when the pub shuts!

DO head to nearby Birnam

We took a short drive into Birnam the next day (from the main village it would have been a nice walk, but we were staying just too far away for that). It’s another small and beautiful village, and one which boasts the Beatrix Potter Exhibition & Garden. I didn’t realise that Beatrix Potter had a connection with Perthshire until we visited, so it was really interesting to find out more. The garden is also cute and quaint, with various characters of the author’s appearing in statue form throughout the garden.

DO visit in Autumn

Maybe it’s just my love of the orange, yellow and red hues, or maybe Autumn is just the best time to visit Dunkeld. It’s so beautiful and picturesque, and the views will take your breath away. Plus, Autumn means it’s hit-and-miss weather-wise, but perfect for exploring out of season once the rest of the tourists have gone home to find their thermals.

DON’T go for just one day

I can’t stress enough the fact we really crammed our visit. There was so much we left unseen, and so many activities on offer that we had to pass up. Within our hotel alone there was the opportunity to quad bike, clay pigeon shoot or walk through some of the lovely nature trails. Other nearby visitor attractions include the Scottish Liqueur Centre in Bankfoot, Active Kids Adventure Park in Stanley and much more.

DO bring a camera

I’m so glad I brought my camera, even though we only had time to capture a few snaps in the morning. As I said, Dunkeld and the surrounding area is so picturesque, a camera is a must-have for any keen photographer. Plus, if you arrive at the right time of year, you might snap some deer as well as the usual pheasants, grouse and other Scottish wildlife which are in abundance in this neck of the woods.

dunkeld-scotland-travel-tips

makeup-birchbox-subscription
Lists, mum life

My Top 5 Birchbox Makeup Finds

I’ve been signed up to Birchbox for over 2 years now, and every time I think about cancelling, they seem to send me a brand new product I love. Don’t get me wrong, I have loads of stuff I probably will never use again (if I’ve even tried it yet!) but I’ve managed to discover a few great makeup products that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise known about, least of all tried. As this was my sole reason for signing up to this beauty subscription service, I’ve got to say it’s been good value for money so far!

I should point out that I’m in no way affiliated with Birchbox, I’ve not been asked to write this post by them and I don’t receive any commission or payment in kind from them, I just really love their service!

Here are the top 5 makeup products I’ve found thanks to Birchbox:

Benefit Bad Gal bang mascara
I am an absolute mascara fiend so I’m always very open to trying new mascaras in any shape or form. Having tried Benefit’s Roller Lash before, I knew I was in for good things. The Bad Gal Bang mascara does exactly what I want it to do, so it’s ideal for me. It’s thick and dramatic, and defines every last with minim clumps so it’s now a staple in my makeup bag, and I’ve made several repurchases through the Birchbox shop.

Beautaniq Beauty fill + tame eyebrow gel
This eyebrow gel was a complete game changer for me. I’d never succumbed to any eyebrow trends before, and have never had them waxed, threaded or even plucked. Make of that what you will, but with fair brows it’s never been a problem for me! However sometimes my brows are just too pale and there are patches which could do with a bit more hair. This is where Beautaniq Beauty brow gel comes in. Considering I use the blonde shade, it’s darker than any eyebrow pencil I’ve used before, or would normally choose myself. However the shade works with the rest of my makeup and provides the finishing touches without creating obviously fake looking brows.

Model Co highlighter trio
This isn’t something I use every day, but instead only when I’m going out and want to contour my face (ain’t nobody got time for that on a work morning with a 1 year old!). So much so, I’ve only just run out of my original Birchbox sample which I received about 18 months ago! I love the creamy texture of the Model Co highlighter trio and the shine that it leaves on the skin. It’s so easy to blend that even a novice like me can do it!

Dirty Little Secret eye shadow crayon in Gold Plated
This is a fairly recent Birchbox makeup treat, and one I fell in love with since I received it! The DLS eyeshadow crayon originally came with 2 shade options, and subscribers were invited to choose their preference in the month before it was due to arrive in the box. I’m glad I chose gold plated as I feel like it makes my blue eyes pop. It’s a great shade for a sweep of colour during the daytime and mixed with other shades to bring life to a smoky look in the evening.

LOC (Love of Colour) lip pencil in Bohemian Rose
This was in one of my first event Birchboxes, and this particular shade was in partnership with Millie Mackintosh. It’s so light and summery and is the shade of pink I think goes with pretty much anything. I’m not sure if this exact shade of this LOC lip pencil is still available to buy, but I’d recommend trying one of their other shades just because it’s so creamy and nourishing.

mum life

At What Point is it ok to Admit You’re Exhausted

Let’s be honest, whether you have one kid or 10, we all know it’s no easy feat raising a child or children. There’s a reason the saying “it takes a village ” exists. However the times are constantly changing and unless you are to the manor born, have retired parents or win the lottery, it becomes more and more likely you will have to go back to work to provide for your child if nothing else.

I enjoy my job, I really do, and I thrive when I can get stuck into a task and give my full focus and efforts to a project. And while that may have been second nature before, it takes a little more focus and added extras (hello, caffeine drip!) To get you there when you’ve got a whole other role to play after 5pm. And then it starts over again. You have this whole little being you created, who relies on you 100% for everything, who loves and cherishes and thrives off you, needing that same focus, enthusiasm and ambition.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when you’re used to being so always-on and filling every day with 100% energy, enthusiasm and activity both with your child and at work, what point is it ok to say you’re exhausted?

I didn’t say I was exhausted when my house went on fire
For the months of displacement, recovery, anxiety, rebuilding and dealing with insurance companies (a job in itself fyi), I never said I was exhausted. When I had half an hour of sleep and couldn’t close my eyes because of adrenaline and fear, much less sleep, I didn’t say I was struggling. When I couldnt sleep properly for days after and had to cope with a baby who just got their first set of jags, I seemed to be coping. So there sets a precedent.

I didn’t say I was exhausted when I had tonsilitis
The first time you get ill as a parent is definitely an eye opener. You may think that you didn’t get muchsympathy for illness before but boy will that perception change when you have a newborn. They are still the most important thing and should come first, (I don’t disagree) but as if it isn’t hard enough adjusting to life with a tiny human, than you have to go and get ill and try to cope. But it was only tonsilitis. I get it a good 4/5 times a year. I know how to manage it, what to do, what to take. So everybody knew I’d be fine. How could I possibly be exhausted?

I didn’t say I was exhausted when I went back to work
No matter how we prepare, I think mammas can all agree that returning to work is a bit of a struggle. There’s a new level of tiredness unlocked when you return to work, not to mention a new routine to adjust to, and inevitably a change in your baby as they get used to a different kind of day. But still I kept calm and carried on then. Knowing that this was the logical next step, something that the majority of women have to do all the damn time, so what was my problem?

I didn’t say I was exhausted when I was left with routines, household chores, work and no long lies or catch up naps while daddy worked nights.
When daddy worked nights and mum was left in charge of wake up and bedtime routines, preparing food, clothes and necessities for the day, doing the nursery run, bath time and play time while somehow managing to organise herself and work in between, there was no utter of exhaustion. No cry for help. Just a conscience that said nobody else was going to do it, and nobody had time for my pity party anyway.

So what makes me think it’s ok to say it now?
Now I’m at the edge. I’ve never felt an illness like this before so I don’t know how to deal with it. With tonsilitis I know what to expect, how to manage it, how to cope. I’m grasping at straws here while Travis is ill as I’m so helpless with him too. They give you nothing for colds, except maybe cough syrup which the doctor admits has no curing powers. So I lie in pain waiting for sleep and when I get there, Travis wakes with his coughing. And before I know it it’s 5am and I’m basically just hoping for a nap in the next hour before I have to get up and rinse and repeat. I feel completely exhausted physically whilst being constantly mentally drained. Maybe I forget the severity of the tiredness in the first few weekend Travis life but this just seems tougher. I don’t feel like I can be a parent, a nurse, a house maid, a competent employee, a fiance, a friend, All at the same time as being an invalid. And I know there’s people out there who do all this on their own, who do all this with other kids in tow and I absolutely salute them because I don’t know how they do it. And I definitely don’t think I can say I’m exhausted when they have it so much harder.

And now I’ve lay awake for an extra hour writing this blog so I’m going to be even more exhausted. Go figure!

mum life, Reviews

Rimmel Volume Shake Mascara

One of my makeup must-haves is mascara, due to having been blessed with short, mostly blonde eyelashes. That means I’m always looking for a great new mascara, so I was delighted to be able to try Rimmel’s Volume Shake mascara.

Clumping is one of the most annoying and disappointing features of a mascara, but thankfully Rimmel’s Volume Shake mascara promises to stay clump-free. The promise is made clear on the product tube, which I found to be particularly heavy for a small 9ml makeup product. It made me wonder what lay inside!

Thankfully there were no nasty surprises awaiting, and the wand itself appeared to be lightweight and super bristly, which is just how I like it.
As I mentioned, my eyelashes are pretty blonde and invisible until coated with mascara, so I normally have to apply a few layers to get them looking visible and with some length. One thing I noted about the Volume Shake mascara is that no matter how many layers I coated my lashes with, the mascara refused to clump, which was great.

The only thing I would say is that for me, this is definitely a daytime mascara. In the evening, I prefer my lashes to be quite dark and dramatic, but this mascara is so light and airy that I found it near on impossible to achieve this sort of look, no matter how many coats I put on. Not that this put me off the mascara, as I definitely think it’s good for a more subtle daytime look, whether at work, out shopping, or even sitting in the sunshine on a nice summer’s day. I would definitely recommend it to friends for this sort of thing, and to those of my friends who don’t go for such a dramatic evening look.

 

 

*I’m a BzzAgent and got this product free to test. I wasn’t asked to provide a blog in exchange for the product or anything else, this is just purely my opinion.

mum life, Reviews

Simple Water Boost Hydrating Sheet Mask

*I was given this product in exchange for a review as part of a product testing experience, and was not required to write this post. This review is entirely my own opinion.

I was recently sent the new Simple Water Boost Hydrating Sheet Mask to review, and was excited to be included in this campaign as I love Simple products, particularly their makeup removing face wipes, which I religiously use every day.

My skin has changed somewhat since I was a teen, and my beauty regimes have taken a bit of a knock on the head since becoming a mum, so I’m not as aware of new products or those which would specifically benefit my skin. With winter taking it’s toll, not to mention buckets full of snow in March, Simple’s Water Boost hydrating sheet mask could not have come at a better time for me.

I have to say I’m a bit of a sheet mask novice, tending to go for clay or peel-off masks, so I was a bit apprehensive at first. I found the process of unfolding the mask and placing it on my face correctly to be a bit fiddly, but that could be more to do with lack of practice than any shortcoming on the product’s part.

simple-hydration-boosting-sheet-mask
My face looking freakishly plastic with the mask on

After a small battle with the slippery sheet, I chilled out for 15 minutes with the mask on. The main thing I noticed was how instantly cooling the mask felt. I loved the smell of the mask too – nice, fresh, cucumber vibes.

There was quite a bit of excess when it was time to peel the mask off, which you’re instructed to either remove with a towel or rub into the skin. I opted for the latter and am glad I did as my skin felt lovely and soft for the rest of the day (I didn’t add any other products or makeup to my face all day).

I would definitely recommend this mask to others as it’s so gentle and fresh that I’m sure it would be fine with most skin types. I also think it definitely delivers its promise as my skin feels more refreshed not only visibly, but to the touch too.

mum life, Mum time

April challenge: the results

In April, I set myself the personal challenge to cut down on my caffeine intake. Note, not completely cut out caffeine, just cut down. This was a big step for me as I basically live on caffeine to help plug the gaps in sleep lost thanks to the joys of a newborn (I wouldn’t change it for the world).

I realised something probably had to change as I was getting headaches or would find myself being overly tired if I hadn’t had a particularly strong coffee or two. Plus, most of the time, I was accompanying my coffee with a biscuit, pastry, cake or something else I probably didn’t need to eat. So for the sake of my waistline, not to mention my wallet, I decided to start weaning off the coffee.

My aim was to trim down to just a couple of cups of instant coffee a day, and easing my bank balance by purchasing just 1 or 2 strong barista coffees a week. Here’s how I got on:

Week 1 (Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th)
I started off lightly in week one, trying to limit my coffee intake at home first. On a normal day I would have 3-4 cups of Azera, in addition to any barista coffees and cups of tea, so my first aim was to knock those down to just 1. I’m happy to report that I pretty much succeeded from this week onwards. By starting in good stead, it became easier later on. There was one day (the Saturday) which I was particularly struggling with lack of sleep from a bad night with the wee fella, so I did have more than one coffee that day. But in all, I made a good start to the challenge.

Week 2 (Monday 9th to Sunday 15th)
Week 2 was all about tackling the stronger coffee. At one point in the winter (the long, never-ending winter) I was getting coffee at cafes or takeout from the likes of Costa at least once a day. Partly to warm up, partly to wake up thanks to an unpredictable newborn, I ended up drinking a lot more caffeine and spending a lot more cash than I probably should on something that last for about 7 minutes. I knew this new habit was going to be hard to break, but that it would be worth it in the end. I definitely found myself wandering aimlessly around shops to avoid going and getting coffee, but I also noticed I had more cash in my bank, and we all know that every little helps when you’re on maternity leave!

Week 3 (Monday 16th to Sunday 22nd)
This week, all Travis classes started back after the Easter break, and we started swimming lessons for the first time (see April firsts for more on that) so I was worried I’d need more energy to get by. Did someone say caffeine dependency? In actual fact I found that because we were always busy in the day, I didn’t have time to go out of my way to get a takeout coffee or even really to think about coffee too much. I’d say this was probably my best week challenge wise, despite having more on and a more unsettled baby this week (he had a bad cough and cold which was tailing off and leaving some nappy issues!).

Week 4 (Monday 23rd to Sunday 29th)
I’d say this was where things started to get difficult again. I’d been on my best behaviour when Craig and I were away for the weekend, even opting for tea after a wee trek up the Nevis Range, but I somehow started to falter a bit. I was trying my best not to get takeout coffee but I most definitely didn’t manage to get down to just 1 or 2 a week. One thing I was proud of however, was returning to work on the Tuesday for a keep in touch day, and managing not to have a single coffee all day. I think it probably played havoc with me though – that and a sleepless night with Travis before work meant I slid rapidly downhill as the week progressed. By the Friday I’d had about 3 coffees (2 barista ones) by lunchtime.

I may not have gotten completely to the target is set myself for my April challenge, but it’s clear I was consuming too much caffeine beforehand and I’m glad I’ve managed to cut that down quite substantially. I found that not only did my bank balance take kindly to the less frequent coffee stops, I also found myself losing more weight than I had done in any month since having Travis. In fact, since my exercise stayed the same (if not less) in April as in previous months, and since I made no conscious effort to make any other changes to my diet, I can only assume it was the lack of caffeine that contributed to the weight loss. With the lighter nights coming in and warmer days, I doubt I’ll crave coffee as much, as it’s not my go-to for a cool-down drink. That said, I did just purchase my first iced latte of the year today so hopefully I manage to keep a reign on that!

Exhibitions and shows, mum life, Reviews

Baby and Toddler Show

I was really excited to learn that the Made for Mums Baby and Toddler Show was going to be in Glasgow in April. I hadn’t been to anything like that whilst I was pregnant (truth be told, I don’t think there were any shows like that when I was expecting) so I was keen to go along and see what was on offer and what new products or services Travis and I could try.

So when tickets became available for the event, which took place from 27th-29th April, I just had to snap some up. Craig and I decided to go together with the wee man and by ordering tickets early enough, we also got the option to purchase a Made for Mums goody bag for just £5.

Goody goody
I was certainly impressed with the goody bag, which contained items for mums, babies and toddlers. There were a couple of travel size tubs of Palmer’s cocoa stretch mark cream, which I used religiously posts-partum and would definitely recommend for expectant mums, or those who still have newborns. Toddlers will certainly get endless enjoyment from the magazines included, which contain stories, puzzles, stickers, colouring fun and of course some toys too.

Baby centric
What I will say is that the show is definitely far more focused on babies than toddlers, and even more so at newborns. The back half of the show was taken up by the bigger items such as prams, pushchairs, car seats, cribs, cotbeds and other nursery furniture which most parents will already have sorted for their little one if they are already here! Obviously there’s some usefulness from car seats and pushchairs or strollers in larger sizes for kids moving from their first pram or car seat to ones more inline with their height and weight.

With many of the other stands, particularly the clothing stands, a lot of time and effort was put into presenting beautiful clothes for newborn, 0-3 months and in quite a lot of cases, up to 6 months. After that there was limited stock or simply none available at the show – bear in mind I attended on the first day so it was likely there was even less older age stock as the weekend went on. I found that disappointing as although Travis is only 6 months, he wears 9-12 or 12-18 month clothes, so we didn’t manage to get him any cute new outfits.

However, I wouldn’t let that put anyone off the show, as most clothing retailers were pretty apologetic and offered lots of information about their product ranges, sizes available etc.

Highlights for us
I would say that for us the highlights were certainly more focused on activities rather than products. We missed some of the demonstrations, but there were taster sessions of baby sensory and toddler sense which I’m sure Travis would have loved. Unfortunately he had a swimming lesson so we couldn’t make the show till after lunch – it’s a hard life for a busy baby!

We did manage to speak to the organisers of baby sensory at their stand and found a range of information including classes in our area. Along the same vein, there were numerous stands for other baby and toddler activities like swimming lessons and other play and development.

Another great point for us was all the photography stands, which are great for expectant mums too. Quite a few offered services such as a cake smash and other birthday or milestone photography or celebrations. We even spoke to a celebrationist who conducts naming ceremonies and other special celebrations for kids which are non-religious.

There were plenty of stands offering products and advice on weaning and offering sample foodstuffs, but again, Travis has been eating for a couple of months now so we had most of that stuff sorted. Similarly there were stalls focused on different teethers, educational toys and so on, but we felt that we already had enough in the way of those sorts of items, so didn’t really give those stalls our full attention.

Mum time!
I have to say though, I definitely came out of the show with the best experience. At one stand I had my makeup done (and duly bought one of their wonder products – original beauty glow), and also managed to get myself a massage with a lovely company called massage sense who provide services for parents and babies.

There was definitely a great balance for both mums and babies, including large changing and feeding stations to accommodate so many babies and buggies. I’d say this event was definitely a “must attend” for expectant mums, but if you’re pretty organised with your baby or toddler, you might not get as much from it unless you’re attending for something specific like a new pram/stroller.

Mother and Baby classes, mum life

Top 5 free things to do on maternity leave

This list is post baby, not for any mat leave when impatiently waiting for baby to get here. I’ve been there, done that! If that’s what you’re after then maybe this post might help?

Everyone has different ideas about mat leave and how they would like to spend it with their children. However not everyone has a limitless budget to spend on things for baby to see, do and learn from every day so sometimes us mums have to get creative. Thankfully there are also some free resources out there that mums can enjoy with babies. Here are the top free things I’ve utilised whilst on mat leave.

Walking
If its nice (even if its not) then getting your baby out in the fresh air can be a great for both you and him/her. As my mat leave has fallen predominantly in a horrendous winter, there have been times where we literally couldn’t get a pram out in the street for snow/ice, and it really made a difference to our days. Walking gives mum’s gentle exercise whilst breaking up the day for you and baby. Plus babies love seeing and taking in everything going on around them, so a walk provides more stimulus for their senses. And to top it off, Travis loves sleeping in his pram so walks have also been a good, free, helper with sleep and naps.

Going to the park
As I said, my mat leave has been predominantly in winter so there haven’t been a great deal of times to enjoy the park so far, but we go there if we can. Great combined with point 1, the park is a great place to walk through, or to have a wee rest on a nice bench if you’ve overdone it on the walking or need to stop for a feed (for either you or baby, I’m not judging!). Plus, as your little one grows stronger, baby swings and slides become more appealing. A 10 minute play on the swings on an otherwise boring day can burn up energy for your little one, and give you a lot of joy as they giggle their little heads off going back and forth!

Soft play
Soft play is a great invention for kids of all ages, and in our area (and most places I’m assuming?) infants under 1 go free. Admittedly we’ve only started going since the wee fella turned 6 months old, but as long as your kiddo can sit up they will be able to get some enjoyment from it. He loves the ball pit, any mirrors and, after a few confused attempts, the baby slides.

Bookbug
We started going to a bookbug group at our local library in January (see our January firsts) and I couldn’t recommend it enough. As far as I know this seems to be a government initiative (in Scotland anyway) which encourages a love of reading from a young age. The group is for young babies and toddlers and combines nursery rhymes with stories and play to instil an interest in reading, but to break up activities enough so that children aren’t expected to sit still and pay attention for long periods of time. The only criticism is that bookbug runs during term times, which has meant no classes during Easter/Christmas/summer breaks in line with schools. Although it’s free, place a are limited, and you need to sign up through your local authority’s website or page for library services.

Baby massage/baby yoga
Again, I’m not sure if this is just a Scottish service, or even just specific to central Scotland. Our local authorities run a number of free mother and baby classes, again often taking place at the library or community centres. The main ones in our area are baby massage, baby yoga and breastfeeding support classes. I’ve never been to the latter but can definitely recommend both the former classes. Baby massage was great for the wee man’s colic, and we still use some massage techniques today to calm him before bed, help with colic or teething, or just to help promote development. Similarly, the baby yoga is great for their muscle and bone development, and helps you remember some of those old nursery rhymes if you’re a bit rusty!

So those are the great free things we’ve been getting up to on mat leave. I’m really interested to know if there are any other great cost-free activities we are missing, or if there are different local services in different areas. I’d love to get your thoughts!

first-time-mums-post-photos-body-image
mum life

The real reason mums post hundreds of baby photos

Before I had a baby myself, it used to annoy the life out of me that people, especially first time mums, would share pictures of their child on social media every blooming day. Not only that, there would be the mums that would share a whole album of photos of essentially the same 10 mins of the day from about 90 different angles (just take a video?) or the mums who were all about a selfie before, never to be seen again, instead replaced by this mini-me. But now I get it. And it’s not what you think.

I used to think these mums were filled with self-assurance that their child, was, in fact, the cutest baby there ever was. And don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely an element of “aww cute” about baby pics, especially if, like me, you like to dress your baby up in old man outfits. But actually, the heart-melting factor wears off after a couple of weeks when you remember other people have kids and you see their photos and, oh gosh, isn’t little Amelia/Max (insert on-trend baby name here) cute in that little outfit/doing whatever they are doing.

So no, it’s not an egotistical thing where we magically think we’ve co-created the perfect being. It’s for a few reasons. Firstly we want you to know we are still alive. You may not have heard much from us in the first few weeks after we announced the birth of said perfect being. That’s because no matter how many books we read or sites we researched or advice we took, absolutely nothing prepared us for actually having to take care of these tiny beings all day every day. It’s like when you go off the radar for the first day at a new job, except you can’t just clock out at 5pm and join the real world again. There’s been a lot of learning, going with the flow and general panic and disruption at every hour of the day, so we haven’t had the chance to brush our hair let alone get ready and pose for a selfie, never mind actually go anywhere or do anything like we used to in the good old days. But we did get our baby up and dressed, and they did a windy smile. That was the highlight of the day rather than a fancy meal at a nice restaurant or catching a new film/band, so you’ll just have to deal with it.

Secondly, many of us feel like absolute shit. Our bodies have been through more trauma than any non-childbearing person will know; we are fragile, trying to recover and simultaneously being flung into the most difficult role we’ve yet faced, with about 5 minutes sleep into the bargain. We currently consider it a good day if all parties in the house can manage to get washed, dressed and fed, so forgive us if we don’t feel like taking a selfie or doing anything other than take a quick snap of this beautiful little creature with wide eyes and perfect skin and long eyelashes and heart-melting smile. We’re not jealous, honest.

Not only do we feel like shit in the exhausted, outward-looking sense,
we’re mentally exhausted too. We are tired of looking in a mirror, not sure of what we see. We’re tired of being told about mums who walked out of the hospital in their size 8 jeans, or the mums who manage to get their kids into a routine and sleeping through the night by 6 weeks old. We’re tired of society telling us how we should behave as a parent, what we should or shouldn’t be doing with our lives and bodies now our child is here. And despite knowing that all this stuff doesn’t really matter, it still gets to us.

Whether it’s scrolling through our Facebook feeds to see some supermum taking perfect pictures from the perfect adventure with her 3 perfect kids in tow, or the Pinterest infograhics telling you how to lose the baby pouch, it all creates an overwhelming amount of pressure and guilt. It’s so hard not to compare ourselves with others in this situation, even though we know all pregnancies, births and babies are different. Us ladies get a rough time as it is from the media always telling us how to look, what to wear, how to behave, never mind when you throw a child into the mix. And despite our best efforts to rise above it, sometimes we just can’t.

Sometimes we feel really low and hate our bodies and the way they have changed, even if we have already been told a thousand times that pregnancy and childbirth will change your body, and that creating the miracle of life doesn’t always come without battle scars. Nevertheless, we still can’t quite come to grips with the fact that our body wont 100% go back to the way it was before, and, for impatient people like myself, it can turn into an internal battle between your head and body, when you still don’t fit into those pre-pregnancy clothes months down the line.

Sometimes we hate that we can’t even do our simple daily makeup like before, and hate it enough that we have to go to the shops for nappies with bags under our eyes and spots on our face, and don’t really feel like showing anyone that face, other than the cashier at ASDA – and that’s only because we absolutely have to. Everybody tells you about the changes to your boobs, belly, bum and thighs as a new mum, but nobody warns you about the massive changes to your skin and hair post-pregnancy. For me, my skin returned to that of a teenager, with eyebags you could carry a Primark spree in. Then, my hair started to fall out at an alarming rate (more on that here), so now there’s even more desire for me to actually do my hair and make up, despite having no time. This created more feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth (still comparing myself to supermum with her perfect eyebrows and coiffed updo), meaning I was reluctant to go anywhere and do anything unless necessary, in turn meaning less life updates, pics, witty things to Tweet etc.

Sure, this may not be the case for all new mums. Some might really believe that their kid is the cutest on the planet and that everyone else deserves to see at least 45 pictures of them a day. But for many of us it’s a mask, preventing people from seeing what we don’t want them to see. Our child (or children) represents the light in our life – smiling, bright-eyed, learning and doing something new every day, where sometimes we don’t feel good enough ourselves, we know that they are perfect to us and worth sharing. So please remember that the next time you see another new mum posting yet another album of her little treasure.