Five things I’ve learnt from maternity leave

With exactly a week to go before I return to the daily grind, the Final Countdown is on. Here are the top five things I’ve learnt from my year off…

1. There’s no such thing as boredom.

I asked DH before my maternity leave was due to start, “shall I do a Master’s degree? To pass the time?” After having DS1 during my undergraduate degree, I thought it would be perfect timing to have a year off work, look after a baby and gain another qualification. Young fresh-faced me may have stood up to that challenge – the slight older more worn me eventually decided I probably could do with a break. And you know, spend more time with the baby.

2. I’m not as introverted as I thought.

I felt enlightened after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution and watching her TED Talk. She and Myers & Briggs had me down to a T. But I found myself signing up to all sorts; baby yoga, Baby Sensory, Peas’n’Pods, the PTA for the older one at school. What’s more, I found I thrived around people and actually enjoyed small talk – yeah I know, right?

3. Yes, I can do it all over again.

A year ago I was gearing up to send my eldest off to school at the same time as welcoming a new baby to our family. I was past night feeds, controlled crying and potty training, not to mention shunting trucks and hauling freight. I was ready for homework, show and tell, and tales of who pushed who in the playground. What if I forgot how to do something vital? I found myself plunged in a world of nappies and clock watching for the next feed, Googling the odd bit to fill in the gaps. Within a few weeks, I was in the full swing of being mummy to a little once again and it turns out, it wasn’t that difficult after a routine was in place.

4. Change is scary.

There’s a real sense of panic when I think too much about going back to work. It’s not that I don’t want to work; if DH ever suggested I could be a SAHM, I think I’d be quite sad at that prospect. I felt a similar fear a few weeks leading up to maternity leave. It’s the new era, change, how our routine will be turned upside down. The lack of control I have over the situation is probably more overwhelming than the change itself. I absolutely love how interesting my job is and if I think about the job in itself without all the baggage, I’m actually quite excited.

5. I bloody hate cleaning.

Gone are the days of SAHMs scrubbing the floors and wiping down the windows. DH finds it hilarious when I say my week has been so busy, I haven’t found the time to pick up the Hoover. I can’t wait until I can legitimately ask DH to do his fair share.

Swimming with an eczema baby

DS2 is such a water baby, I’ve been desperate to get him into the pool. The only thing that’s been holding me back is his eczema, which coats the whole of his body.

Okay, it’s not the only thing holding me back… getting into the pool myself for such a brief time, just to faff about in the changing rooms after with a shivering cold baby, as well as the horrible smell of chlorine, has put me off.

Splash About Warm-In-One wetsuit

Splash About Warm-In-One wetsuit

As you can tell, I don’t share the same enthusiasm for the water as DS2. But, I was willing to put all my doubts aside when Splash About sent me their Warm-In-One wetsuit to review.

Moisturised head to toe with his eczema cream, we set off to the local pool with DS2 already wearing the wetsuit for ease. At 8.5 months, the wetsuit fits comfortably with his swimming nappy on and there’s still lots of growing room. The website says it’s made from a specialist fabric and fleece lined – perfect for keeping him warm and protecting his skin.

The pool itself was quite warm, but the wetsuit meant we could stay in just that bit longer. The real test was when we got out of the pool (where I was shivering, as anticipated), but amazingly DS2 remained warm in his wetsuit. He didn’t give any indication of being cold (however, he was clearly shattered from all that splashing about).

Luckily the velcro strip gives it a wide opening back. It was a bit of a struggle to get his arms and legs out, but that’s to be expected with a wetsuit. We showered and headed home, with DS2 having a lovely nap as soon as he got hold of his special blanket. All in all, a very successful trip to the swimming pool!

I should mention that the wetsuit also has UPF 50+ sun protection. It came in handy at the seaside in Cornwall, when it was (shockingly) rather hot.

Although it’s a bit pricey (currently at £22.99), the age brackets for 6-12 months and 12-24 months means it’ll last for longer (they also have it in 3-6 months if you’re super keen to get into the pool).

You can purchase a Splash About Warm-In-One wetsuit from their website.

What is childhood?

Artist Raindropmemory from

Artist Raindropmemory from

Reading the comments below this blog post on extra-curricular activities for children has got me thinking – what is childhood?

Are those who say “let children be children” and “XXX is being robbed of his childhood” a bit disillusioned? It’s only in recent decades society has romanticised childhood. Before the war and for hundreds of years (and in many countries even today) children were/are expected to work in factories, not have an education and provide for their family doing laborious, and very dangerous, jobs.

Children now in the Western world have never had it better. Education, toys, technology and more all on their doorstep. No longer are they shoved up a chimney or whipped to fetch a pail of water. Most are privileged to have loving families, a school system to help them succeed and to participate in extra curricular activities, which more often than not, are fun.

A fair number of parents shake their heads disapprovingly at the latter. When a parent is prepared to pour their time and money (not to say it always requires money) into educating and bettering their children, how can that be a bad thing? I see and hear about parents who don’t read to their kids, aren’t fussed about homework and let them play on the streets until dark in the name of childhood. Letting their child fall out of education without a plan in place, because you know, little Timmy is still trying to work out the path he wants to take.

Children get stressed when they have too many choices. Choices should be arbitrary (“would you like a custard cream or a digestive?”) not about serious life decisions. No child will ever volunteer themselves for maths tuition (or anything else that requires effort quite frankly), but that doesn’t mean it’s cruel to enrol them. DS1 started Kumon workbooks I bought from Amazon from aged three and they were a game to him.

At aged five, DS1 has been enrolled onto the Kumon course for three months now. He gets home from school, has a snack, does his 20 page Kumon worksheet in approximately 15 minutes, practises reading with his daily book from school and then he is allowed free play. He understands the routine, there’s no fight, no shouting, no tears. The misconception that a strict routine entails negativity from the parent is wrong. He is praised for his efforts and excited for the sticker at the end. Kumon hasn’t only taught him sums – he’s learnt routine, concentration (even when the task in hand isn’t brightly coloured and flashing to get your attention like most activities – that’s another blog post for another time…), to work autonomously, self-correction, seeing things through to the end, pencil control among many others.

The key to success is to be relentless with everything you do. I try my best to instil good habits from an early age, so as they grow up my children are hungry to achieve for themselves.

A note to second-time parents

Remember that cot mobile you bought, with the fancy toys suspended on organic Free Trade cotton and the sweetest lullaby you’ve ever heard? The one you just couldn’t resist despite the expensive price tag? I’m sorry to say, but it’s time to ditch it.

I’ll tell you why. When you come to play that cutesy tune in the early hours for your second child, you’ll remember that it’s not actually cute, it’s creepy. You’ll get flashbacks of attempting to lull your firstborn to sleep at 3AM, lying in bed half asleep, desperately trying to catch a few minutes before he wakes for another feed. Eerie fairground music on repeat as you fade in and out of consciousness.

“My firstborn was a perfect little sleeper. We didn’t have any bad nights”, I hear you say. DS slept through most nights from very early on, but like all babies, he definitely had his moments. Teething, growth spurts, illness… all those nights you sat at the end of the bed clutching the Calpol will come flooding back.

So make sure you add ‘cot mobile’ to your shopping list, if not for your sanity, at least so your second child has something that’s theirs (because let’s face it, the second child always gets the raw deal).

DIY party invites

DS’s birthday is coming up and I stupidly kindly agreed to throwing his first proper party with school friends. I’ve been shopping on Etsy and various other websites for party invites, and as fabulous as they are, I’m not really willing to pay for a PDF file and still have to get them printed at a further cost.

I decided to put my Photoshop skills to the test and make my own invites, thank you cards and labels for the cake boxes as cheap as possible, while ensuring they are just as good as the ones on Etsy. Here’s how they turned out…

Party invites

invitationblogI downloaded images from Shutterstock for my invites, but you can get your images from anywhere as long as they are high resolution.

To make sure the print is high quality, set the image resolution to at least 300 pixels per inch. Change the image size to how big you’d like your invites to be – mine are 4x6in. Once you’ve created the invite, save it in PSD format so you can make any alterations later on and save another in CMYK mode JPEG format, which is best for print.

There are lots of websites (Snapfish, Truprint, Photobox, Boots Photo etc) that offer a number of free prints the first time you register. I used Boots Photo to print out my invites, as they offered 20 free prints with 99p delivery charge. I bought C6 size envelopes in Morrisons (25 for 50p), which brings the total cost of my party invites to £1.49 for 20!

(I’ve changed DS’s name, the location of his party and my telephone number on the image for obvious reasons…)

Cake box labels

thankyoucard3I’m not keen on giving out slices of cake wrapped in tissue at parties, as often the tissue (and everything else in the party bag) are soaked in grease, cream and icing, so I purchased 25 small cake boxes on eBay. I wanted to jazz them up a bit so I made labels for the boxes.

I measured the face of the box (9x6in) and set the image size slightly smaller to 7x4in on Photoshop. The image is from the same set of football images on Shutterstock, and I made the green font match the green on the image.

Again I saved the image in PSD and JPEG formats, before opening a new blank canvas as A4 size (210mm × 297mm) and dragging the JPEG version over continuously until I filled up the page. I saved this as a high resolution JPEG image before opening again in Preview and sending to print. I used normal white paper and a standard laser printer, so my total cost, without including one sheet of paper and ink (let’s not be pedantic…) was £0.

Thank you cards

thankyoublogEver since DS could write, I’ve always insisted on thank you cards for birthday presents. If someone took the time to buy and wrap you a gift, you can spare a few minutes to scribble a few words on a sheet. And anyway, it’s good to practise writing cards and using a pencil. We don’t really bother for Christmas presents, as it’s so close to his birthday, it may be a bit cruel to spend hours on end writing cards…

As he’ll have a fair number of cards to write out, I thought I’d spare him the same repetitive sentences and have them printed on the card, that way he only needs to fill in the name and present.

I haven’t printed the cards yet, but I’ve purchased cardstock from Amazon for £3.78 and I plan to print them using a standard printer. I’ve managed to fit two 5x7in invites onto an A4 sheet – you can fit three 4x6in if you want them smaller.

I love you because…

Desperate for a creative way to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, I took to Pinterest for inspiration.

Traditionally (and I’m not sure who made this up), the fifth year of marriage is meant to be celebrated with a gift made of wood. Don’t worry, I haven’t taken up carpentry. This is what I’ve made… <proud face>

photo frame


What I purchased to make this:

– 8x10in Wooden photo frame £12.99 TK Maxx
– Natural linen burlap/ grain sack fabric from £3 Etsy
– Reynolds Freezer Paper £5.38 Amazon (I couldn’t find this anywhere else online – if you happen to be in the US, pop to WalMart – will be a lot cheaper!)


1. Cut out the fabric and freezer paper to the size of an A4 sheet of paper, to ensure your printer will take.

2. Iron the fabric so remove the creases, and then match up with the freezer paper (with the plastic side facing the fabric) and iron. Make sure the fabric is facing down and you’re ironing on the freezer paper. It’s important you get this right, as otherwise you’ll end up ruining your iron!

3. Once the freezer paper is stuck to the fabric, trim off any loose edges.

4. Now time to choose some whacky fonts (if you’re not happy with the standard ones). I used Sunshine in my Soul and Return to Sender on Da Font, as recommended by this blogger.

5. I used Photoshop, but you can use any application to type your text. Make sure the font is big, and the text is centralised. Remember the size of the paper is most probably bigger than the size of your frame.

6. When you’re good to go, feed the fabric/freezer paper to your printer and print! I’ve got a standard HP Deskjet printer – you can use any printer to do this (believe me, mine is not fancy at all).

7. Once you’re done, trim the fabric/freezer paper to the size of your frame. Peel off the freezer paper gently and snip off any frayed edges.

8. Add it to your frame and voilà. All you need now is a whiteboard pen to write lovely messages :)

photo frame

Taking a step up(cycling)

It’s been a while, I admit. But let’s not dwell. 

I’ve been forever browsing decor ideas on Pinterest, waiting for inspiration to strike. It came, in the form of a ladder

So I sent DH to the local junk shop, where he found a wooden ladder. We had measured how long we’d want it at home, so he purchased the ladder, carried it to the car and took a saw to it (don’t worry – we didn’t want it to function as a ladder…)

Once DH got it home, he sanded the ladder and sponged it down with some soap. We then took a trip to Wickes and bought three brackets. We were paranoid about how much the ladder could support, so we opted for heavy duty brackets.

Half an hour later…



Although I didn’t actually create any of this (I’m more of a thinker, than a do-er) – DH said himself it was pretty easy to do.

Overall cost…

Ladder – junk shop £15
Brackets – Wickes £2.49 x3