Today is the day: Weds 31st December 2014

Somehow, it is New Years Eve. Where did a year go? It’s a cliche but I really have no idea – it has flown by in a blur and landed me here, in my dressing gown in the Kitchen while Blake watches Cars 2 and James has a mini lie in (I have to get him up at 8.30 for work), reflecting briefly upon it.

It has been a good year. In fact, I would go so far to say great. I turned 30 and celebrated and was spoiled and realised how lucky I am to have the friends and family I do. I started this blog and, unexpectedly, people read it and I found my way back to a little part of me that had been missing really since I fell pregnant. A new opportunity came up at work that has made me happier. James and I celebrated 5 years of marriage and our first year in our new house. My in-laws celebrated their Ruby Wedding over a gorgeous, sunny weekend in the Summer. We went to France with my parents, and of course we had the unexpected trip of a lifetime to Singapore. I have only had three really bad hangovers. And there have been a wealth of lovely moments that I couldn’t even begin to record here – happy days out and about, precious moments with my family, fun with friends. I have laughed lots, smiled more, felt lucky.

Of course I have cried to. I have witnessed people I care about go through tough, rough, awful things this year and I continue to send my love to them.

But overwhelmingly, the taste 2014 leaves me with is sweet. And predictably and rightly, wrapped up at the very heart of it is Blake. I’ve already reflected on his growth this year, the changes that have seen him come into his own. But what Christmas has made me aware of, and what I reflect on now, is that he is just on the cusp of boyhood – straddling a line between toddler and boy. Spending Christmas with my Brother in Law and his family brought this into sharp relief as their little girl Emelia, who is less than 2 weeks older than Blake, has made the leap. She is a gorgeous little girl – nothing of the toddler remains. Blake is not quite there, and while I have watched him creep up on boyhood this year, what I want to record here, which will otherwise pass by and be forgotten are those last vestiges of the toddler that I know will go during 2015.

I still lift Blake out of the bath at night, wrap him in a warm towel and carry him up to his room to get into his PJs. This will go quite soon I think as he is verging on being simply too heavy to lift and will want to climb out of the bath himself, but I love that last real cuddle of the day, and I love the nights when he is really tired and snuggles himself into the gap between my shoulder and neck rather than wacking me over the head with Lightening McQueen or a train.

There are some nights, particularly after a full day at Nursery, when he will get to within a few spoonfuls of finishing his tea and look at me with weary eyes and say ‘please will you help me Mummy? I’m too tired.’ And I do.

Nappies. They are going soon I hope, Nursery are adamant he’s ready to potty train despite active resistance at home. But sometimes, after I’ve changed him, he will stand up on his changing unit and literally throw himself into my arms.

He was a late starter on the movement front – not walking until 18 months, and sometimes his confidence isn’t quite there. He’s only really just mastered jumping and while he can get up stairs, sometimes coming down on his own is push too far. And so we come down stairs together, with his little hand in mine.

He’s an affectionate little boy right now, generous with hugs and kisses. I love that he will often potter up to me in the middle of the day, plant a smacker on me and then toddle off again. I hope that won’t go this year, but I suspect it might as he becomes simply too busy for such things.

I look forward to 2015. James has a new job and I am beyond hopeful this will allow a little more family time before school beckons for Blake and we lose this blissful stage. I look forward to more big and little moments with everyone dear to me. And of course I look forward to watching Blake grow through another year.

Thank you for taking the time to read and support dazedandmumfused this year. It has meant an awful lot. I hope your moments of reflection bring back more happiness than sadness, and however you are celebrating later have a great night. I’m cooking Toad in the Hole for my parents, hoping James is home before midnight and categorically not getting so drunk that I ring my in-laws to tell them I’m leaving their Son for Gary Barlow and spend the first day of the New Year in a pit of hungover woe.

Happy New Year x

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

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May your days be merry and bright

And so it is Christmas Eve. I think it’s special isn’t it – Christmas Eve. The promise of magic, the anticipation, the family time. It is cinnamon and vanilla scented, warm and cosy and special.

We are at James’ parents this Christmas – myself, Blake, James as and when work permits, Great Gramps, Nana, Papa, Uncle Jon, Auntie Ro, Emelia and Benjamin. Three little people, a healthy dose of adults and a house bursting at the seams with food, drink and decorations. It is merry chaos and absolutely wonderful for it.

Earlier we went outside and watched the Space Station fly through the sky, telling Blake and Emelia it was Santa on his way to Australia, and we all waved to him as he whizzed over. Then it was Christmas Eve Tea for the children and on with Christmas PJs and playing with puzzles and Snowman and Snowdog and books and cuddles and hanging of stockings and they are all snuggled up in bed ready for Santa.

And you find me content in the company of loved ones, about to tuck into dinner with a little glass of bubbly. Which I raise to you and wish you a very Merry Christmas. Have a wonderful day tomorrow. Hold those you love a little closer for a little longer, and be glad for the little blessings in life. X

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dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

Looking good

I promised you a post about Essex didn’t I? Quite some time ago – sorry about that. Singapore happened.

Although there is a similarity I can pin between Singapore and Essex, and in fact also with the Season we are in. Making an effort.

The friends we stayed with in Singapore assured us the temperature had dropped notably over the last few weeks. It was hot. We averaged three outfits a day, Blake’s (increasingly long) hair was permanently plastered to his forehead and I quickly found the advice ‘don’t bother with makeup because it will melt off your face, and while you’re at it just embrace whatever the hell your hair does’ to be very true. Liz S remarked to me when we returned home ‘the photos are amazing. But your hair looks A.B.S.O.L.U.T.E.L.Y mental.’ I’d like to have been outraged, but she spoke the truth.

The locals however, look great. I was flabbergasted one day, as I huffed and puffed my way over to the local Mall, to observe a native Singaporean with poker straight hair, skyscraper heels, full face of makeup inc. uber rouge lips, sporting some sort of Barbie meets peplum mini dress. Despite the sweltering heat, the natives make an effort out there. All credit to them.

Likewise in Essex. I squeezed myself into the only party dress I’ve purchased since Blake was born, threw some makeup haphazardly into my face, ran my straighteners over my hair and trotted gaily off to Sugar Hut to realise that I was underdressed by a clear mile. (Cue squealing forlornly to make up aficionado Hannah PLEASE DO SOMETHING WITH MY FACE!) Whatever the Essex stereotypes, the people make an effort. When they go to town, THEY GO TO TOWN.

Facebook is plastered, most of time, with messages that go along the line of:
‘Each stretch mark brought me a bit closer to you’
‘My wobbly tummy housed you my darling’
‘Bingo wings take me on the joyous flight of motherhood’

Well. If you feel that way, I salute you. I really do. Do not mistake me for a second, I adore Blake and I will be forever grateful for him. He is a joy. But I cannot bring myself to such wild declarations of love for the havoc pregnancy and motherhood have wrought upon my body.

Pre-Blake, I was a regular at the gym. I’d trot off early doors twice a week to start the day with a Spin class or a workout, and I’d end at least one other day in the same fashion. I really enjoyed it, and I was pretty proud of the shape I was in for my Wedding Day. I trotted off to the Spa fairly regularly, and I generally looked after myself. I had the money for such things and James’ antisocial hours allowed for them because I could crack on without cutting into our time together.

These days the most I manage is a 15 minute workout video.

I do feel sorry for my poor Husband, for he has been royally conned. He has the Son he’d always hoped for, and the shadowy memory of a Wife who looked after herself, replaced by a scrappy thing who fannies about doing 10 minutes of Pilates here and there when she could be talking to him and classes painting her nails as having made an effort.

It’s brought into even sharper relief at Christmas. To my (childish) mind, we should all be wearing sequins throughout the month of December and dipping ourselves in glitter, with a Champagne flute permanently attached to our hands. I am writing this somewhere on the M6 (CALM DOWN JAMES IS DRIVING) en route to a Christmas get together at James’ Aunt and Uncles’ house (this will be a right old knees up by the way – I have never met a more welcoming bunch, nor a group of people who know how to have as much fun as this lot), and I am wearing the only clean clothes that were available and ironed this morning. Five years ago a lot of planning would have gone into the outfit and the preparation. Oh well.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, or a Christmas hating troll. I am not. I love Christmas – seeing family, seeing Blake’s understanding and excitement grow year on year. I understand I am lucky. I am healthy and I have a child. But I do want to be honest because I am sure I cannot be the only Mum who cannot get completely comfortable with the post baby bod, and who winces slightly at all the expectation to look fabulous this month when the reality of it is you are tearing round trying to layer Christmas and all its baggage on top of your daily, busy life.

I hear ya Sistas! I have no magic words that can repel stretch marks or undo the wrinkles caused by years of sleep deprivation. But I raise my champagne flute (filled with cheap Aldi Prosecco), clutched in fingers sporting chipped nail varnish, to you in solidarity and wish you a Happy Christmas. It’s not just you, it’s me too, and I think it is quite possibly ok.

(Jolly Christmas post to follow)

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

Jetlag

Here are some things I have observed about jet lag:

– if you are flying with time, by which I mean you get to your destination and it is hours further forward in the day than your body clock thinks it is, jetlag is not the wildly debilitating thing I had imagined it would be. It is, in fact, a wildly BORING thing because you will find yourself awake at an odd time in the morning reserved only for the drunk or the parents of newborns. And whilst you will not be able to get back to sleep for hours, neither will you feel like you should get up because it is after all the middle of the pissing night. So you lie there, not getting up, not reading, not doing anything to stimulate your brain in the vain hope you can trick it back to sleep. For hours. Which allows ample time for you to peruse all of your parenting fails for the day – the lack of patience, the short temper, the giving in too easily or being too hard. It also allows ample time for an irritating children’s TV theme of your choice to play on loop in your head CHUUUUUUUUUG-ING-TON! CHUGGER CHUGGER CHUGGER CHUGGER CHUG-ING-TON!

– if you are flying against time, so you land thinking it is lunch time when it is actually 5am, it is COMPLETELY debilitating. You will find yourself crying in Tescos because you cannot remember where the canned tomatoes are and you will go to bed approximately 5 minutes after you have put your toddler to bed feeling like you have been hit by a bus

– speaking of toddlers, if you expose a toddler to jetlag, you should prepare yourself for the fact that somewhere along the line they will stage a coup against your leadership of the house and attempt to set up a dictator state that functions entirely on their whims. I cannot tell you how long this will go on for – we are two weeks in and still having to defend against random attacks including demands to eat chocolate Christmas tree decorations at 6am, meltdowns because we have not read books exactly right, breakfast cereal being used as a weapon, and a general denunciation of all food offered up as DISGUSTING (even that most beloved toddler food the sausage is not past rejection at times)

– speaking of food, you will not be able to figure out what you should eat and when. You will find yourself craving steak at 2am and preparing Weetabix for dinner. You will not be hungry at lunchtime.

– jetlag’s tail has a sting. You may think you are recovered, you may be sleeping at the right time and eating relatively normally, but you are not quite over it. What you should definitely not do, in the two weeks post flight, is go out to your company Christmas party, all giddy and WOO HOO thinking you are 25 and can handle drink (especially if your track record in life indicates that you have NEVER been able to handle drink) and hit the vodka, because that almost certainly will not end well for you. You will wake up with a bruised arse having taken a graceful fall down some steps, and little to no dignity remaining.

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If however, you are offered the opportunity to visit Singapore one day, you should absolutely go and take whatever the jetlag lobs at you. You will not regret it.

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

We interrupt this blog to bring you a recipe: Mon 8th December 2014

I write with another unexpected kitchen triumph. Potatoes are, in my humble opinion, the best carb out there. Pasta, bread, rice, cous cous (even GIANT cous cous which I have recently found to be a rather nice thing when cooked with Chorizo) pale into insignificance for me when stood next to a spud. So versatile! So cheap! And really one of the best comfort foods going.

So there I stood the other evening, at about 8pm, after a long day with Blake (blog to follow no doubt) honestly contemplating just reheating his rejected meal of fish fingers, chips and peas (rejected because I DARED to put the peas on the same plate and therefore contaminated the whole meal) for my own dinner. And in the absolute nick of time I realised that that was a completely ridiculous thing to do because I am a GROWN WOMAN and dashed to the freezer and found a salmon portion, and rifled around the store cupboard and found pesto and a bag of sorry looking mini potatoes.

And in a blur of fish-finger-avoiding delirium and unexpected ‘creativity’ *did not follow a recipe* I came up with this princely little plan for the potatoes which was absolutely delicious. Although it was only me eating it, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

If James was authoring this recipe he would probably title it something like ‘Crushed Mini Maris Pipers’ but then James is a Gods-honest, bloody amazing Chef and I am just an idiot with a potato masher.

So then…

Crispy bashed up little spuds

Stick a pan of salted water on high heat and once it’s boiling, chuck in your potatoes.

Bubble away until they are about al dente but not mushy.

Drain em off and then bash em about with a potato masher (skins on, no butter or anything, just as they are).

Once bashed, pop a frying pan on a medium heat and slosh in some olive oil. Dollop in the bashed up spuds, throw in a bit of sea salt and fry away gently.

Do go gently here, you want it partially crispy not burnt to buggery. I had to slosh in a bit more oil twice, and a pinch more salt to get it to a point where it had turned golden and crispy but there were still some soft, fluffy bits too.

Eat it.

De-li-cious.

I reckon if you fried off some finely chopped bacon and added this in it would be lovely. Maybe a bit of dried oregano or basil. Or some creme fraiche or a bit of Parmesan. I suspect the possibilities are vast.

Then again, lovely as is, served with some baked Salmon and pesto and steamed peas.

Bashing marvellous.

dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused

Longhaul

I have flown longhaul twice now. Once to Tanzania, for our Honeymoon, and now to Singapore.

The flight to Africa I remember fondly. We managed to persuade an exceptionally bad tempered air steward to grab us two glasses of champagne from Business Class by screaming ‘WE’RE ON OUR HONEYMOON!’ at him each time he marched past us until he relaxed his ‘I have no alcohol with bubbles’ line and flung our bubbly at us with supreme bad grace, probably hoping it would sedate us for the flight.

A few glasses of wine later and we settled into amicable silence, me dozing on and off and reading Harry Potter and James struck down by a TERRIBLE case of insomnia that meant he had to watch ALL the man films available on the inflight entertainment in quick succession. The amusing result of this was him lolling about like a scarecrow on his seat in the lounge at Dar es Salaam, completely unable to keep his eyes open as he dropped into a half slumber and then jolted himself out of it muttering ‘I’m fine, it’s ok’ and at one point shouting ‘WE’VE MISSED OUR FLIGHT!’

The flights to and from Singapore were less comfortable. Longhaul is HARD WORK, regardless of whether you are flying with a child or not. Blake, despite all my worrying, was a dream on both flights thanks in no small part to BA’s decision to screen Planes – Fire and Rescue on the in flight entertainment. James and I did not fare so well.

There is not a lot of legroom when you are in cattle class is there? This stings in particular when the f**kers make you board at the front of the plane and parade you past the (smug) Business-classers (OH LOOK EVERYONE, HERE COME THE PLEBS! MIND YOU TUCK YOUR FEET INTO THE MILE LONG SPACE YOU HAVE IN FRONT OF YOU TO AVOID TRIPPING THEM UP AS THEY STAGGER PAST TO THEIR MATCHBOXES. I AM NOT BITTER.) James and I are both of the leggy variety, and I have totally ruined my knees pretending to be a runner of late, so the limited space left him bruised by virtue of having to sit with the seat frame in front pressing directly into his knee and left me administering baby Nurofen through a medicine syringe at 2am to try and take the edge off the severe cramp that had set in.

And then there is always the possibility that they will seat you next to someone INSANE. An insane woman perhaps, who insists on chatting loudly on her mobile phone until the plane has finished taxiing and is about to take off and said phone is forcibly removed from her hands by the world’s most intimidating air stewardess, who seems to take her proximity to you as a sign that you are all related and should be treated with total disdain. Meanwhile, the loon has blown up a travel pillow and placed this around the front of her throat so that it serves as essentially an inflatable neck brace and dropped immediately into the kind of deep sleep that necessitates snoring like a warthog. Periodically she will fling out her right arm out and punch you in the side of the head/shoulder. And then, after HOURS AND HOURS OF HER BLOODY SNORING she will rouse herself (and the rest of Economy) gently from her slumber with the kind of rattling, roaring intake of breath you’d expect from an Elephant, peer indignantly at you and your sleeping child, hook her toes into the arm well of the seats in front (forcing you to sit at a jaunty diagonal angle), cover her head with her blanket and resume snoring.

Thirteen and a half hours is a long time. Initially, in the early stages, you kid yourself into thinking it is speeding by. ‘Oooooh, down to 10 hours 43 minutes already’ I thought to myself. That’s gone pretty fast! 3 hours in already! And then comes the crushing realisation that your child is asleep on your lap, preventing you from any movement beyond breathing, and you have OVER TEN HOURS left to go. You watch the minutes tick. down. slowly. and the passing of each hour is met with a small sense of triumph and then horror that you ARE NOT EVEN HALF WAY THERE.

And finally, with a couple of hours to go, your child wakes and you think you’ll treat yourself to a little trip to the toilet to wash your face and brush your teeth given your mouth feels like a badger has died in it, and you trot merrily into the bathroom in which someone has just had a little puke. And this sentences you to sitting, nauseous, for the remaining long hours of the flight, fighting the urge to have a little vomit of your own whilst your stomach churns like a washing machine.

I sound ungrateful don’t I? Ultimately I’d do it all again in a heart beat for the holiday we’ve just had, but that doesn’t stop it being a flipping uncomfortable way to spend near on 27 hours.

Anyway – if you are flying longhaul (or any haul) with a child, here’s what worked for us.

1. Prep them for it. Continually and relentlessly. This us my number 1 tip. We booked our flights about 2 months in advance and from the minute we knew the trip was going ahead we talked to Blake about the fact he would be going on an airplane and flying through the night, and that he would have his sleep on the airplane. That didn’t stop some open hostility to the idea of the journey (at one point he was quite convinced he was walking to Singapore), but it also meant the experience didn’t take him completely by surprise and throw him off course.

2. Take your child’s pillow and a pair of pyjamas. The familiarity seemed to work well to reassure Blake, and the PJs were incredibly useful when a helpful waiter at Heathrow knocked a pint of Coke over him.

3. Buy toddler head-phones and resign yourself to the fact that you are going to have to lay any concerns about excessive TV consumption to one side for now. And then thank your lucky stars that the airline have put two movies your child will watch onto the in-flight entertainment and allow him/her to watch them on repeat until you land if necessary.

4. Make sure you’ve confirmed your meals in advance. We did not do this, meaning that Blake was served up an adult meal on the way out and subsequently didn’t eat. Eating is good – you’re working towards a food coma here, and it also passes time.

5. Airlines have a ‘secret’ stash of snacks available for young flyers. Raid it mercilessly at 4am when delirium has set in for you and your child is hungry.

6. Lower your expectations. It is not going to be stress free or straightforward. Your child probably will cry somewhere along the line. But it is, in the scheme of things, a tiny proportion of your life. Other passengers are not as bothered by your child’s cry as you are, and a refreshing number of them actually want to help. Grit your teeth, take advantage of the free bar to take the edge off your nerves (don’t get pissed though – even I can see that’s a bad plan), and roll with it. It will be over soon enough.

7. Take children’s medicine on board. You can all take it if it comes to it.

Here’s Blake watching the planes at Singapore before we boarded.

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dazedandmumfused is on Twitter @dazednmumfused and Instagram: dazedandmumfused