A baby in Paris

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to have a bit of work to do in Paris, checking out a fabulous apartment for work… more news on this and how you could win a holiday there in a few weeks time. Even more lucky is the fact that I work for the most amazing company, who were perfectly happy for me to take Libby to Paris. 

I had initially panicked a little bit about travelling by plane with a 9 1/2 month old, so I thought I’d take the Eurostar. Unfortunately though, this was both more expensive than flying and more hassle than it was worth. As our local airport is only an hour away by train, I decided to risk it and booked the flights. 

So, it was with a little trepidation on Wednesday that I packed our overnight bag (8 reusable nappies, a change of clothes each and our toothbrushes) and off we went on our merry way. Libby loved the train to the airport, was perfectly fine with the various procedures when we got there and then fell asleep just before we got on the plane. Unfortunately, I woke her up when we boarded and I strapped her in, then she couldn’t get back to sleep. Despite this though, the flight didn’t bother her at all. She just sat and had a look at all the people, glanced out of the window at the clouds and ate a few chocolate buttons. The flight was so short that I was soon attempting to navigate Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and wondering what all the fuss had been about. 

On arrival in Paris, we took the train and then the Metro to the apartment. As soon as we got to the train station, I realised that my decision to use a mei tai baby carrier rather than a pushchair was the best decision I’ve ever made. Paris really isn’t set up for pushchairs. They wouldn’t fit through the barriers and there is generally nobody around to help you. As it was, Libby was just tied onto my hip in the mei tai and I was totally unrestricted by her.  We both got a bit fed up on the journey to the apartment because the directions weren’t great, but writing proper directions was part of my job and trying to find it without them certainly made me realise how important it is to get them right. 

The apartment itself was beautiful. It’s only little, the size of an average hotel room with a tiny kitchen attached to it but it was really traditionally Parisian with wooden floors, a grandfather clock and fabulous paintings on the walls. Libby and I loved it. 

Another first for me whilst we were there was sharing a bed with Libby all night. I know a lot of

my friends get on fabulously with co-sleeping, but it’s not something we’ve ever done. Luckily though, she was exhausted and slept like a dream, as did I. 

Yesterday morning, we got up and left the apartment by 9.30am, but didn’t have time to fit in much sight seeing before heading back to the airport. We took a stroll by the stunning Seine River, looked at the amazing architecture and grabbed a pain au chocolate for our breakfast. I’m pretty sure what Libby muttered whilst eating the pain au chocolate was baby language for “this is the best breakfast ever!!” 

The flight home was even easier than it had been on the way over. Libby looked around her when we got on the plane, chuckled at being back there and settled down on my lap with her feet up on the arm rest for a nap. She woke up just before we landed, looked out of the window for a while and played peekaboo with the nice man in the seat behind her and then it was time to head back. 

The whole experience of travelling with Libby has made me realise that there really won’t be any problem should we ever decide to go on holiday abroad as a family. I’d heard so many horror stories about travelling with children that I’d totally ruled it out but now it’s back on the cards. What I’d really like to do is buy a camper van and spend a year going round Europe so that our dogs could come too, they’re part of the family after all. Fingers crossed we will be able to do that one day. 

Whilst we were away, I had some fabulous news. I have been asked to write a blog post reviewing a radio show for the Boots Feel Good Forum Radio project with Mumsnet. Of course I’ve agreed to do it, I’m so honoured and excited! I will be listening to the radio shows over the next couple of days and then discussing the shows on my blog and highlighting the advice that was given. The first show is about anti ageing, the second is about skin conditions and hair care. Believe me, I need advice about all of these things! So watch this space for my post, I’m hoping to get it done on Monday!


Where has my motivation gone?

As my runkeeper on my phone keeps kindly reminding me, this time last week I was running 6  miles in the best time I’ve done in ages. I was feeling quite positive about the half marathon I’m doing in June and was convinced I must be losing weight. Sadly, this week it has all gone wrong. Work has been really busy, Libby has been poorly, the weather has been cold and rubbish and, quite frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. 

To add to my sedentary lifestyle, I managed to drag myself out once this week to exercise. This involved a two hour drive to play in a water polo match that turned out to be the worst match I’ve ever played in. It’s fairly normal to get sent out when playing Water Polo, it’s not like football or rugby where you get sent off for quite a while. In water polo you just get sent out for 30 seconds or until the ball changes possession. The only problem is, if you get sent out 3 times then you’re out for the rest of the match. 

By half time on Monday night, I had been sent out twice already so I decided to go in goal for the third quarter. This did the trick, you’re fairly out of the way in goal so I managed not to notch up any more fouls against me. Unfortunately, I then decided to swap out of goal again for the final quarter and got sent out within the first few seconds of that quarter. This meant that I was out for the rest of the game. As it happened, I was the second of our team to get excluded for the rest of the game, so by that time we only had seven players in the water and no substitutes. Minutes later, another of our team got her third major foul and joined us on the side of the pool. That meant just six players in the water, one less that there is supposed to be. As you can imagine, we lost that match with a goal score of “quite a lot” to “not many”. 

So that was the end of my physical activity for the week. Looking outside at the snow, sleet, rain and wind just hasn’t inspired me to go running. I’m playing water polo again tonight, hoping that this will give me the inspiration I need to get going again this week. I could still fit in a run tomorrow and a swim Tuesday before going off to Paris on Wednesday. I will be back at a reasonable time on Thursday so I could fit in another run or swim them. I just need someone to give me a motivational kick. If anyone has any words of wisdom to inspire me, I would be most grateful to receive your comments! Thanks 🙂

Life in two dimensions

A few months ago, a friend of ours who is a doctor mentioned that Libby’s eyes didn’t look like they were focusing properly and that they should have been by then. The main impact of this is that she often looks quite cross-eyed. He recommended that we take her to the GP so that they could refer us to an eye specialist. Since then, we have had a few trips to a couple of hospitals, various eye tests, a few nasty eye drops and some talk of surgery. We settled on her having surgery when she turns two, which is apparently when it is likely to be the most successful. 

Despite having spoken to several opthalmologists, nurses and doctors over the past few months, today was the first time that anyone explained to us that Libby’s sight would be irreparably effected by this problem. It turns out that the surgery will make Libby’s eyes move together, but because she didn’t learn to use both eyes at the same time before the age of three months old, she never will. 

This means that she will never be able to see the world in three dimensions like everyone else. She will never have any depth perception and will struggle to know how far away things are. She is likely to be clumsy and frequently bump into things. They have explained that this is generally unlikely to effect her in every day life, but equally there are some professions that she would not be able to go into because of her eyesight such as a pilot or a surgeon. 

It is strange to imagine not being able to see in three dimensions, I am trying to get my head around the world that she lives in. I suppose it would be a bit like watching the world on a television screen. Everything is flat. I wonder how this will effect her later in life. I am sure that there must be some advantages to living in a two dimensional world. Maybe it will be easier for her to focus on one thing at a time? Or could it will be more difficult? Perhaps she will be good at painting and drawing things because she sees things in two dimensions so it might be easier to put what she sees onto paper? 

Whilst I am slightly disappointed that Libby will never be able to see the world in the same way that I do, I am determined to make the best of the situation for her. I’m off to research what her strengths are likely to be and how I can help her to maximise them. Does anybody else have any experience of this sort of thing and how it will effect her? 

On the way home from the hospital, we dropped in at a shop to buy a new bed for our dogs and picked up a baby-sized chair for Libby’s bedroom. We have recycled a little plastic table that has been sat in our garden for ages and now she’s got an area of her own for colouring and crafts. She hasn’t quite got to grips with what crayons are for yet, but she’s fascinated by the paper! 

Is this what they call runners high?

For the last few weeks I’ve been putting a bit more effort into motivating myself to go out running. I’ve been trying to go a bit further or a bit faster each time I run. The last few times I’ve been, I’ve taken the same route. It’s just over 4 miles and each time I’ve done it, I’ve managed to go nearly a minute quicker than the last time. 

Inspired by that, last night I decided to try to go a little bit further. I had a route in mind that incorporated an absolute killer of a hill. The hill was about 15 minutes into the run and it took me  about 10 minutes to run up it. There were then a few other hills but none that steep or long. I always take a similar route that incorporates a hill and I always know that from a particular pub at the top of town, the rest of my run will all be downhill or on the flat. 

So at that point in my run last night after the extra distance and the murderous hill, I subconsciously picked up speed in celebration of being over the worst of it. Being a Saturday night, I ran past all the drunken loons in town. This raised my mood a bit more as I considered the fact that, not only could I take the moral high ground about being out for a run, I could also be quite pleased with myself that it was over 18 months since I was last a drunken loon myself. That’s not to say I’m t-total, heaven forbid, but it’s a good while since I’ve been absolutely rat arsed and made an idiot of myself. 

So, with all these self-righteous thoughts whizzing through my head, I tanked it along the flat road and started to run the last downward straight towards home. Then, against my better judgement, a really strange thing happened. It slowly dawned on me that not only was I quite pleased with myself for running, happy to have made it up the hill without collapsing and delighted to be on the home straight, there was something more… I was actually enjoying myself. I was out for a run, on my own, and, for just an instant, I was having fun. 

I managed to hold on to that feeling all the way home, finishing the run to see that I’d run 5.99 miles in 55 minutes. Still pretty slow, nowhere near back to the speed I was doing before I had the baby, but not too bad either. 

Two things entered my mind during that strange instant of running-induced euphoria. Firstly, I thought of Christopher McDougall’s fabulous, awesome, inspiring book Born to Run. He talks in the book about the realisation that running, long distance, ultra marathon, endurance-type running no less, is in fact what we have evolved to do. He also mentions feeling that his running had suddenly got better when, one day he realised he was enjoying it and wanted to keep going. In his case, he ended up running a lot further than he intended to do that day. Sadly in my case, I knew there was a nice glass of red waiting for me at home so my spontaneous ultra-marathon will have to wait for another day. 

The other thing that crossed my mind when I realised that running was momentarily fun was the phrase “runners high”. I thought about Rosie Swale-Pope and her Little Run Around the World (another amazing running book) and all the adventures that running had led to for her. Was this my runners high? That little moment of enjoyment? Will it happen again? I hope so. I would love to want to go running, I’d love to find that special spark that amazing people like Rosie Swale-Pope and the ultra-marathoners seem to possess.

Have you experienced runners high? What was it like for you and did it last? 

Goodnight little cat

Sadly we had to have our dear old Simba put to sleep today. She had kidney failure, she was on a special diet and she’d had some injections at the vets but it didn’t work and she’d got so weak she was struggling to walk. The vet said we could have had a couple more days with her and waited until she couldn’t lift her head but that would have been for our sake not hers, it wouldn’t have been fair to let her suffer. 

Simba was my cat, I had her for 9 years and she was an adult rescue cat when we got her so she was really quite old but nobody knows how old. My husband (yes you, I know you’re reading this) didn’t like her because she didn’t do much. That was just her character though, she was lovely and friendly and didn’t want much other than her cat food, some milk and a cuddle or a lap to sit on. She coped really well with Libby wanting to touch her and stroke her even though she was old and weak and Libby wasn’t very gentle. Simba never once tried to scratch or hurt Libby, who had recently started to call her “ca ca ca”. 

I am sad to lose Simba and particularly sad that Libby won’t remember her. Libby came to the vets with me to have Simba put to sleep and we were both with her when she passed away. I know she is too young to understand but I don’t believe that children should be sheltered from things like this, pets teach them valuable lessons about life and death. 

When Libby was born, an old friend of mine +Markus Hunt bought her a fabulous diary called “my life story”. It is a 100 year diary with a page for every season of her life from birth to 100 years old and space for photographs. There is then a little annotation to say that if you reach the end of the book, you can contact the company that make it and they will give you a complimentary continuation copy. This is the best baby present we could ever have received, there is nothing more valuable to a person than their memories.A book recording all of her memories from birth will really be something to treasure when she is older. 

Today has really brought home its value to me. I have written a little note in the book to say that Simba has passed away today and that Libby was there with her. There is already a picture of Simba in the book. Whilst it is sad that Libby won’t remember the cat that she loved, I look forward to looking at the book with her when she is older, showing her the picture and telling her all about Simba and how much we loved her.

Where have all the children gone?

This morning, the sun was shining for the first time in a few days. It was still a little chilly but the sky was blue and the wind had died down. I had to walk the dogs anyway, so I decided to make the most of the weather and walk up to Libby’s favourite park. 

It’s a bit of a trek to this particular park, mostly uphill on the way there but it’s a beautiful scenic route, the dogs and I get some exercise and Libby gets to go on the swings. Everyone’s a winner. My sister came to join us on the walk so we strolled up there slowly, putting the world to rights on the way. We arrived at the park at about 11.30 am and we had the whole park and adjacent large playing field to ourselves. Nobody walking their dogs, no children, nothing. That got me thinking that we didn’t see anybody out with their children on the way up there either, or on the way home. 

I know that older children are currently in school and that most people have to be in work at that time of day. Even so, surely there are other mums that stay at home with their children? I know it’s cold and nobody wants their children to get too chilly and end up ill, but surely the fresh air is beneficial? When I was a child, going to the park was a staple part of growing up. Getting some fresh air every day to keep you healthy was as important as eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep. The park was always a winner because the children could get on and do their own thing, the adults could have a sit down and a chat and everyone would enjoy the outing. Moreover, the park was always busy. It didn’t matter if it was winter, or a school day, or a little bit on the fresh side… even in the rain you used to have to queue for the slide and walk the long way around the swings so the people on there didn’t kick you. Getting a space on the roundabout or a go on the seesaw was a real treat that sometimes took what seemed like hours of waiting and persuading the big kids to let you on. 

So, my question is, what do people do with their children these days? It’s not a sarcastic or rhetorical question, I am genuinely not sure. If you are a stay at home or work at home mum, how do you entertain your preschool children during the day? I am wondering whether I’m missing something. Television, games consoles, books, crafts, swimming? Do you incorporate a trip out of the house every day? 

I’d love to think that today was a one off and children do still go to the park but even at the weekends, it is rare to see more than one other family there. I would hate to see our parks and playing fields disappearing in the UK through lack of use. Has anyone else experienced this or am I living in a ghost town? 

Running for goal

A couple of days ago, I was chatting with my sister about motivation for running. My sister is lucky enough to be young and beautiful with a fabulous figure, so she really doesn’t need to run for any aesthetic reasons and she was saying how she struggles to motivate herself to stick to going out running. To be honest I can’t say I blame her. If I didn’t have a reason to run then I’d never go, especially on evenings like yesterday when it was sub zero outside and I had to work until gone midnight to make up the time. So what does make me drag myself out running? 

Well firstly, I’m sadly not as lucky as my gorgeous sister and I’m carrying a few extra pounds (well, a few extra stone actually). There really is no better way of losing weight than running, it burns so many calories and tones up the muscles bringing on an athletic figure rather than the slightly squidgey round the edges podge that I’m sporting at the moment. 

Unfortunately though, I’ve never been very bothered about my appearance. Looking nice certainly isn’t enough to motivate me to get out for a run when I’d rather be sat at home with a nice glass of red wine. What really motivates me is my competitive nature. In order to persuade myself to go out running regularly, I need to enter an event, preferably one that is outside of my comfort zone. 

My current goal is a half marathon in June. That’s fairly tame I know, and I had hoped to be doing a much bigger event 12 months after having my baby but unfortunately fitting in the training has been even tougher than I imagined. I usually enter a triathlon or an open water swim as well as a half marathon but I’ve had to drop the cycling and focus on running. I still keep up with the swimming to keep some sort of upper body strength but a half marathon is more of a challenge for me than a marathon swim so my energy is going to be focussed on that. 

Just entering an event is a great motivator. If this isn’t enough for you then you could try adding in an extra element. For example, if you have a charity that is really close to your heart then you could sign up to run for them. That way it wouldn’t just be you that you were letting down but your sponsors and your charity if you were to fail. That sort of responsibility is enough to get most people training. 

Alternatively, you could use my tactic and turn the event into your own personal race against someone that you really, really want to beat. For me it’s my husband. Its men against women; it’s England against Wales and in our house, that’s everything. This weekend’s rugby match will be bad enough, I hope England understand what I will go through living with a Welshman if England lose. So on that basis, my husband is also doing the half marathon and I MUST beat him. We have done four triathlons, he’s beaten me on the two shorter distance ones and I’ve beaten him on the two longer ones. We’ve done three half marathons and I’m currently 2-1 up. If he beats me this time then we’re even on both triathlons and half marathons. That would be awful. Just thinking about this is making me want to get out running right now. 

If none of these motivators work for you and you’d still like to get into running, have a look at +Emily S.‘s blog. It’s fabulous motivation for running, and I was particularly interested in her post about how she feels that it has influenced her daughter. If my dragging myself out for a run on a freezing, windy night will teach my daughter the value of sport then it’s worth it in my book. 

The complex case of the domestic moggy

I had to take our little old cat Simba to the vets this morning. She seemed so poorly yesterday, hardly moving from her bed so I thought that I might be coming home without her. Luckily this morning, she has bucked up a bit and is back to bossing me around and demanding food and milk. So instead of an empty cat basket, I’ve come home with new insight into the world of the domestic cat… and an air freshener! 

Simba was a rescue cat about 10 years ago. We were told that she was 3 years old, but it turned out that when the vet examined her after we got her, he thought she was between 6 and 9. Which would put her at between 16 and 20 now, so a proper old lady. We had her along with her sister, who sadly died this time last year of renal failure so when I took Simba to the vets today I really was expecting the worst. But it turns out that the state Simba is in is pretty normal for older cats. Her back legs are going a bit weak, but apparently that’s not because of any health conditions or because she’s in pain, but because she’s forgotten where they are! She is also really skinny so she’s had a steroid injection and some vitamins to help her. 

Whilst I was there, I mentioned that I was concerned that Simba might be a bit stressed because she now lives with two big dogs (although it’s Simba that rules the roost) and, more stressful for all concerned- a baby. So, the vet tells me that stress can play a huge part in health problems with cats, and it turns out the solution is an air freshener- for cats! I’ve paid £28 for a pheromone plug-in air freshener that gives out the same smell as hormones that cats secrete when they rub their faces around things. This smell is supposed to reassure them and prevent stress. Fingers crossed for you Simba, hope it works! 

Here is my beautiful Simba when she was in her prime. 

Walking, carrying and recycling

Today we decided to go for a walk across the hills rather than going out for lunch. Libby was bundled into the sturdy new baby rucksack that my husband recently bought for her, hoisted onto his back and off we went. For the first 45 minutes, she loved being in the rucksack. Lots of giggles and looking around, but then I think she got a bit chilly despite her snowsuit, hat and mittens. Cue grizzling, grumbling and then floods of tears. Luckily I’d packed my trusty mei tai into her rucksack, so out she came and into the mei tai in a hip-carry. The crying soon subsided and off she went to sleep. I do like the big rucksack, bought second hand it was £25 well spent. It will be fabulous for long hikes in the summer, but I’ve always thought that there was a reason why for centuries people have carried their babies in fabric slings.

This has lead me to thinking about other things that I do that are probably a little bit unusual in terms of looking after a baby, and things that I don’t do that I’d like to try. We do have a pushchair, but haven’t used if for months, I always opt for a carrier because I just think that keeping a baby close to you has to be a good thing. I also use reusable nappies. I know this is a bit controversial and many people think that I spend my days washing nappies. It doesn’t really work like that though. We use disposable nappy liners so they go straight in the toilet and the nappies go straight into a nappy bucket. We wash a load of nappies about once every two days. They come out of the washing machine and onto the line or radiator and we grab them from there when we need them. Not too much hassle really?

I always try to buy things second hand, especially for Libby. She wears / uses / plays with things for such a short period of time that it seems ridiculous to spend the amount of money that things tend to cost. I am also a big fan of recycling and reusing rather than just disposing of things as waste. Our best bargain recently was a beautiful wooden baby walker that we picked up for 99p. Libby just loves it, best 99p I’ve ever spent. I would love to be talented enough to make things out of reclaimed material, particularly after seeing the amazing photos of reclaimed wood furniture made by my good friend +Ben Michelle Powell. I think there are so many things that could be done by reusing items, from clothing to furniture. My sister is thinking of starting a boutique selling things that she picks up in charity shops and thrift stores that she personalises and repairs where necessary. I think this is a fabulous idea but I do wish that I could do something like this myself. There must be craft things that I can do with Libby where we can do something that will be useful, if not to us then to somebody else. I will get my thinking cap on, but any ideas and suggestions would be appreciated!

Fitting it all in.

Inspired by my good friend +Marianne Hopwood and her fabulous blog about her and her family, I thought it was about time I gave this blogging lark a go… 

Last November I started the most amazing job that I can do from home whilst fitting my hours in around my 9 month old baby, Libby. Work is setting up the fabulous Win My Holiday Home website, which is now up and running but we haven’t started to publicise it yet. We are working alongside an amazing marketing company and aiming to launch at the beginning of April. 

Libby is fabulous, she is growing and changing every day and I’m always looking for new ideas as to how to keep her entertained! Yesterday I made play dough for the first time. I know this is a bit odd with a 9 month old, but I do think that she got something out of it, just the different texture on her fingers was novel for her. She also loved playing with the tin foil that it was wrapped in, and playing with something that can’t be eaten is definitely teaching her the meaning of the word “NO!”

Life around here tends to be fairly mundane with the odd strange event thrown in for good measure, mainly centred around our little family of pets. Soxa the cross eyed staffy has a different health problem every week; sadly Simba the cat seems to be on her last legs and then there’s my trusty old best mate, Pluto the lurcher. He never causes any problems, except for the odd run in with a dog. 

My aim at the moment is to fit in a bit of running training with the ultimate ambition of running a half marathon in June, and… most importantly… beating my husband. I have a long way to go at the moment but I really believe anything is possible if you put your mind to it!