Being braver and bolder – a life update!Β 

Firstly, I am massively sorry I’ve not blogged for AGES! I am a ridiculously rubbish human. All I can say is, this last couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind…

I wrote a post earlier this year about being brave and bold in 2015, so this an update to that entry. In January, I started the year still on maternity leave, unquestionably fatter than usual and slightly apprehensive about putting Little J in nursery due to his mummy’s boy ways πŸ™‚ 

Since then, I’ve managed to lose 17 pounds, I’ve started work as a PR freelancer and J has indeed started nursery. I’m still trying to be brave and bold – which isn’t always easy – but I’m trying!

Here’s my update in detail:

Losing the baby weight

I have always been pretty slim and into healthy eating, so when I found out I was pregnant I decided to take it as a license to eat EVERYTHING in sight. In the early months I crammed in the stodge and sugar to get me through the insane tiredness, in the second trimester I craved creamy Thai green curry and raw pickled chillies, and in the final three months I ate A LOT of chocolate (and Rennies. Good Lord did I crunch those bad boys down!). I ate lots of good stuff too, but the sheer amount of calories I consumed meant that I stacked on over two stone during my pregnancy. 

I absolutely thought that this would drop off me when I started breastfeeding but nothing could be further from the truth! In those first few months when J would feed for four hours (four blinkin’ hours!) from 3am – 7am every night, I used to make myself four rounds of wholemeal toast with butter and Tesco crunchy chocolate spread, plus a pint of milk, just to see me through. I’m not quite sure what I would have done without that chocolate spread and crap Made in Chelsea re-runs in those dark days. So, erm, a big thank you to the makers of both! 

Anyway, losing the weight didn’t happen at all until I discovered a diet that could be done while breastfeeding. It’s essentially based on clean eating and nutrition rather than calorie counting, which is great – and so far I’ve managed to ditch a stone and a bit (with one more to go). I’m so happy! It’s a very healthy way to lose weight. My face doesn’t look quite so porky and I’ve managed to get into a few of my old clothes. I’ve got one pair of size 10 skinny Levi’s that have become my ultimate goal. I’m coming for you, you beautiful creatures! 

Starting work after maternity leave 

I left my job of ten years while I was on maternity leave. I wasn’t expecting to go down that road when I waved goodbye to my colleagues last February armed with my maternity gifts and cards, but various circumstances have meant that I’ve been given a fabulous opportunity to try freelancing, which I’ve always really fancied but never quite been brave enough! 

Going it alone with no planned pension, sick pay, holiday pay and private healthcare has been slightly scary, but not half as scary as I thought it would have been – especially after leaving the lovely bubble that is maternity leave! I’ve been lucky enough to land a few contracts with a couple of lovely PR agencies and I’ve got two of my own clients too. So far so good! I still find it almost cringy to ask for money for my services, if that makes sense. I suppose knowing your worth comes with time and it’s a new journey for me to invoice people rather than just wait for my salary to magically appear in my account! I feel very blessed though. I really believe that because I’ve been positive about the whole journey, I’ve been rewarded with positivity. It’s been a great learning curve! Sometimes, extending yourself out of your comfort zone is only ever a good thing, 

I’ve been fortunate enough to only work three days a week (plus a few hours in the evenings writing my press releases and copy) which has meant I can spend more time with my little guy. This is worth its weight in gold and I’m very thankful. 

Nursery for J – Eeeeeek!

This was the biggie for me, I was completely bricking it about dropping my boy off at nursery and leaving him. Honestly, the thought of that first day hung over me like a big scary hammer (sorry, I tried to think of a better analogy but inspiration has escaped me!). I once read a story that a mum got a phone call on her first day back at work from her child’s daycare worker, instructing her to pick her cherub up immediately as he ‘wasn’t ready for care”. Oh sweet CRIKEY how those words haunted me! 

My Little J is a breastfeeding monster (even now at 14 months old). He loves da boob. He has refused all bottles and dummies from nine weeks old when I tried to express a bit, so it’s me or nothing. He will drink water or juice from a sippy cup, but he’s not exactly enthusiastic about it and the majority ends up on the floor. This was the main reason I was crapping it, plus the fact that he screams if I dare to go to the loo most of the time!  

Everyone told me it would be ok though, and guess what? It was! That first day was pretty crappy, as you can imagine! Having to peel him off me while he sobbed and tried to cling on to me like a spider monkey was devastating, but ever since then he’s been fine. He usually stops sobbing before I’ve even left the building nowadays! Honestly, he is due an Oscar for his emotional performances πŸ™‚ And he has a fabulous time with his new friends. 

If I’m out all day at work, I feed him in the morning before I leave, usually once when we get home (as he’s usually pawing at my top at this point and trying to expose my bangers) and once before bed. If I’m off work with him, he will happily feed like a newborn still! I’m hoping he will self-wean at some point (which basically means I’m taking the lazy/meandering/see-what-happens approach to parenthood as per usual!). I still have nightmares about having to appear on This Morning and explain to Phil and Holly why I’m still breastfeeding a ten year old, but I try to quiet those invasive thoughts πŸ™‚ 

The only downside to nursery is we seem to have been non-stop poorly since he started! Eurgh. 

So all-in-all, it’s been a crazy few months! Onwards and upwards though – I’m moving house in August now, and then maybe it’s time to think about adding another baby into the mix. We never give ourselves a break, huh?! πŸ™‚ 

Evie xxx

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Love & Fear

One of the biggest things to change in my life since embarking on this wonderfully wondrous parenthood journey is the sudden, powerful and quite overwhelming introduction of FEAR. 

Before becoming pregnant, I – like most people – felt pretty immortal. I was young (ish!), healthy and happy. I had no real fears. I was a bit of a stress head, probably verged on being classed as a worrier, but I wouldn’t say I was massively SCARED of anything. I brushed off newspaper headline scaremongering and war threats, I took the chance and dashed across the road when the tram was looming, I smoked the odd cigarette and ate crap at weekends, the usual. 

When I discovered I was pregnant, the feeling of immortality dropped off me like a stone into a river. And as my baby and my belly grew, I was suddenly scared of everything. Everything. As well as being occasionally crippled with fear that I’d eaten something forbidden or slept on my wrong side, I also felt really vulnerable for the first time in my life. I’d be overly careful when walking home from work to make sure I didn’t walk down any backstreets and I even felt slightly suspicious of any unsavoury looking characters in the city in case they wanted to do me (or mainly my baby) any harm. I hope I’m not sounding like a complete lunatic here! The rational side of my brain always kicked in and luckily my fears didn’t spill over too much so they affected my life, but even so – it was a strange new feeling to suddenly become untrusting of the world. As my baby wriggled and kicked inside me, I also knew in my bones that I would have done anything, absolutely anything to protect it. 

My friends all told me that the feeling of love for your baby was incredibly beautiful and overwhelming – which was true – but nobody warned me about the fear which followed! Consequently, I’ve had conversations with many of my mummy friends who feel exactly the same way – one of them summed it up perfectly when she said that having a baby “made you take your heart out of your chest and wear it forever on your sleeve.”

When Little J was born, I did find the first few weeks pretty crazy. I loved it, absolutely loved it, and I loved him so so much right from the first second, but sometimes irrational fears would creep into my brain and I’d be extra extra careful when say, straightening my hair, just in case I dropped them and they somehow bounced up and touched the baby. I was far too scared to leave J sleeping in his Moses basket and go for a shower in case he cried or choked and I didn’t hear him. I also wanted one of us, myself or my husband, to be awake with the baby all the time, so I used to make poor Mr Muddle stay up until 4am with J so I could get a few hours sleep!  I mentioned this to be health visitor and she told my husband to keep an eye on me as this could be one indicator that I may develop PND, but luckily I kicked myself into touch and the more irrational fears melted away eventually. I know not all mummies are so lucky so I’m very thankful for this. 

As well as being more fearful (although I must say, this is improving and I’m beginning to feel slightly more back to normal), I also want to cry for the world most days. All of a sudden, homeless people aren’t just a bit sad to me, they are someone’s children. Someone lost at sea in the Pacific is somebody’s son. Any world tragedy affects babies. It’s cripplingly sad, it occasionally makes me want to run off with my family to a remote Scottish island with no internet connection or newspapers (although I think I’d miss Facebook too much πŸ˜‰ ). 

I think (well, I hope!) that these feelings are part and parcel of being a parent. I suppose the overwhelming love and incredible protective instincts towards our babies are part of our DNA and inbuilt into our genetic make-up since prehistoric times. 

As my Little J nears his first birthday, I must say that life, and my brain, does feel more “normal” again – but I also know that my life has changed forever. ο»Ώ

ο»ΏWhat about you mummies? Did you have similar thoughts or was your experience different? I’d be very interested to hear your perspectives… 


Single Mother Ahoy

The Muddle-Through Guide to Weaning

Hey mamas.

Weaning is a tricky journey. Although there are a million and one books and websites telling you how to do it, babies are all so completely different it’s essentially down to you and your beloved squidgy one to muddle along this unexplored path together.

My Little J has just gone ten months old now, and eats three square meals most days (as well as a few breastfeeds obvs, being the boob monster that he is!). I’ve weaned him on a mixture of spoon-fed meals and baby-led finger foods, proving that a combination of the two methods is entirely possible (and works quite well, I think).

When i was pregnant, I was kindly given two books – one copy of Annabel Karmel’s Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner (signed and presented to me by the lovely Annabel herself!), and one copy of The Baby Led Weaning Cookbook. During those long four-hour marathon breastfeeds in the early days, I read both books voraciously and I decided quite early on that I might give a combination approach a go.

Spoon-feeding babies with purΓ©es and the like is pretty easy and you know what they’re eating and how much they’re getting, but baby-led does have many advantages and I liked the ethos behind letting them become masters of their own destiny, food-wise. They eat until they are full and stop when they want to – and they generally learn to be much less fussy (apparently, anyway!). They also learn how to chew rather than just swallow, and they get used to lots of different textures.

When we started our weaning journey, I always found it interesting to read what other real-life mummies fed their babies, and what a typical “food day” looked like to them. So, here are my experiences for you to read. I’m certainly no expert though, but this is what we did, so if any of it gives you any ideas or inspiration, then that is just grand!

Here’s a brief history of our story so far…

From six – seven months
I started weaning J just before he was six months old. He developed an interest in food and seemed ready to me. I gave him baby rice once, and then didn’t bother again as it looked a bit rubbish! I moved straight on to porridge in the mornings. I gave him just breakfast for a few weeks, before progressing to giving him a little something at dinner time too.

From seven – eight months
I kept up the porridge for breakfast, and introduced first-tastes style foods for dinner – home-made roasted butternut squash purΓ©e was his absolute favourite. He started trying bits of my lunch too, things like toast, sandwich fingers, cucumber and tomato slices (or even bits of cake on occasion!) It was lovely to see him getting to grips with feeding himself (although mildly terrifying at first!) He didn’t take long to get the hang of it though – buttered toast fingers went down a treat. As did the cake (takes after his mum).

From eight months – present
From around eight months old, J has been eating three proper meals a day (although once, for two weeks, he refused all foods apart from mashed banana. The health visitor told me that the canny little beggar had realised that, if he held out, he would be rewarded with his favourite food – which was, is and probably always will be – banana. Monkey!)

Here are some pick-n-mix examples of his current meals to give you a few ideas…

Breakfast;
Banana porridge with whole milk
Weetabix with whole milk
Scrambled egg and toast fingers
Toast with strawberry jam

Lunch
Home-made egg mayo sandwich fingers and cucumber sticks
Wholemeal pitta fingers with houmous and red pepper sticks
Cheese on toast (or, let’s be honest, Costa Coffee Mozzerella and Pesto paninis) πŸ™‚

Dinner Continue reading

Valentine’s Gifts for Mommas

Hi ladies (and gentlemen),

This post has taken me absolutely ages to write, because as a rule, my husband and I don’t bother too much with Valentine’s Day. We usually buy each other a card and possibly a jokey, silly present, but it’s my birthday the following week and my husband is convinced that V Day is “a load of commercialised nonsense” anyway (but if he didn’t buy me a card I would actually kill him) πŸ™‚

Since becoming parents though, I do think it’s important to take a teeny tiny bit of time out to treat your other half, because – let’s face it – your relationship or marriage definitely takes a back seat when you have a cute squidgy blob to take care of 24-7 . So, this year I shall endeavour to embrace Valentine’s Day, commercialised or not.

I’m a big fan of well thought out, personal presents rather than the usual flowers and chocs, so here are some idea for gifts for mummies – based entirely on what I’d like to receive as a tired but happy first-time momma.

ASOS vouchers
I don’t know about you but I’ve become an online shopping addict since having my now ten-month-old. I don’t have as much money as I used to, but I’m always on the look-out for a bargain on eBay, ASOS and Zara. Mainly baby clothes though – I’m a sucker for a Breton stripe! An ASOS voucher or gift card would be very lovely to receive, as I could merrily choose some beautiful new shoes or a funky bag just for me (not buying too many actual clothes while I’m still dieting) and not have to worry about spending too much. It’s a pretty easy win for the other half, too.

Posh skincare products
Before having a baby I merrily slapped on several quite pricy skincare products every day, including YSL Youth Liberator Serum (which is uh-mazing!), Eve Lom cleanser and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. I now use Body Shop Aloe Vera cleanser, and Garnier Moisture Match moisturiser. To be honest, the cheap-and-cheerful items are doing a grand job, but it would be awesome to receive a few little luxuries as gifts, and I’d absolutely love to be treated to some of my old favourites.

A family day out – magical mystery tour!
I love a grand day out, and I think it would be spiffing marvellous to be taken on a “magical mystery” trip. As a mummy, my days are usually well planned in advance and going anywhere is like a military operation – so it would be nice to be removed from the driving seat for once and whisked off somewhere lovely for the day, which had been planned to perfection by the hubby. Think York, with a a trip to a local attraction such as York Minster, lunch somewhere lovely and a river cruise thrown in – all planned around the baby as well, of course. Bliss!

Breakfast in bed – with a lie in πŸ™‚
Ahhhhh what I would do for a lie in! It would be absolutely amazing to be given the luxury of a long, luxurious lie in – with breakfast in bed thrown in at the end. It’s not going to be easy, fellas (or indeed ladies, of course!) Making perfectly crumbly yet soft croissants with chocolate spread and real coffee, whilst looking after the baby/babies, may prove challenging – but if you accept the mission for your lovely lady, I’m pretty sure she will love you forever! It could even be done in a quirky voucher form, allowing the mummy to “cash it in” whenever she needed a few extra zzzz’s.

Family photo session
I live in North Derbyshire, and we have an absolutely fabulous local photographer, Natalie Leech, who specialises in newborn and family photography. She shoots exclusively in natural light and takes families out to local countryside locations for their sessions. Her pictures capture beautiful, natural moments set against a backdrop of rolling hills and meadows. If you are lucky enough to live in the area, do check her out. If not, have a look for local snappers who offer similar shoots. Timeless keepsakes you’ll treasure forever – and a photography session voucher would be a lovely gift to receive on Valentine’s Day. After all, your babies are in your heart now, too πŸ’—

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For even more Valentine’s gift inspiration, check out these fabulous posts from two of my beautiful blogger friends:

Shelley Loves…
https://shelleyloves.wordpress.com/2015/02/02/valentines-day/
Shelley is mummy to Daisy (7) and Bobby (5). She has worked with and loved fashion for a LONG time, and since having children, Shelley has grown to love fashion for little ones even more. Her gorgeous blog shares things that her and her children love and enjoy. Check out ShelleyLoves@wordpress.com

Mamamim
http://bit.ly/1DwvT5A
Mim is a 30something mother and writes for http://www.mamamim.com. She lives between the UK and Australia with her husband and toddler and is expecting her second baby in April 2015. Check out http://www.mamamim.com for weekly pregnancy updates and parenting tips.

Passing on the pearls…

Since becoming a mummy last March, I’ve thought long and hard about the things that I want to teach my Little J, and the wisdom that I want to impart that will (hopefully) go some way to ensuring that he grows up to be a happy, confident and kind person.

It’s quite daunting being a parent. You remember what it was like to be a small child when you hung onto every word that your parents said (before getting older and realising that your mum and dad are only human and were just winging it like the rest of us!). Your parents are the first people that help you to create your mental “maps” of the world, some of which you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. Although, let’s not forget, we are all still learning, every day.

Even now at 36, I can still remember some of the pearls of wisdom that my parents and grandparents gave me and many of them have, I think, shaped me as a human. I definitely think it’s worth considering carefully the knowledge, ideas and values that you want to pass on to your babies.

With this in mind, here are my top five:

1. Good manners.
It goes without saying really, but nice manners and being polite and courteous are worth their weight in gold. Having worked in restaurants and bars as a teenager and young adult, it’s staggering how many adults can’t be bothered saying please or thank you, and find general politeness beyond them.

My favourite saying is “Be excellent to each other” (thanks to Bill and Ted) and if you think about it, if everyone embraced this simple philosophy the world would be a very beautiful place indeed. This starts with being polite and kind to fellow humans on a day-to-day basis.

2. Do something you LOVE for a job
This is so important when you consider that you’ll be getting up
early in the morning quite literally thousands of times to go to work. Of course jobs are a means to an end for most, and their main function is to make you some moolah so you can do things you enjoy with your favourites, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love what you do for a living.

I used to get the train to work and it’s depressing seeing the same glum faces every morning, clinging onto their flasks and staring mournfully out of the rain-splattered windows. I’ve always envied those folk who enthuse about their jobs and bounce out of bed merrily of a morning, skipping along to jobs and careers that fill them with vigour and vim.

Because of this, I’ll always encourage J to make a career out of something that he loves and has passion for if possible. The main thing is that he’s happy though. If he’s happy working as a mechanic, a quantum physicist or a traffic warden, then that’s good enough for me.

3. The world is a big place. Go and see it.
It fills me with fear to imagine him going to nursery at the moment, let along boarding a place to Fiji, but despite my trepidation I’ll definitely be encouraging my Little J to see as much of the world as he can.

Although there are hundreds upon thousands of places I’ve never been and would like to go, I’m proud of the travelling I have done and – despite the money I’ve spent over the years – I have loved every second of my adventures.

I remember an advert some time ago that said that your eyes capture 100 million images in a lifetime. I suppose I wanted mine to have lots of variety. And travelling is the best education ever – history, cultural studies, languages and geography all at once. So if J wants to do a gap year or trek to Machu Picchu, I’ll definitely be behind him. Maybe I’ll quite literally be behind him, on the next plane. Just to make sure he’s ok πŸ˜‰

4. Don’t be THAT guy.
You know the guys I mean. The ones that drink full bottles of whisky for a dare, the ones that leap from hotel balconies into swimming pools, the ones that take drugs because everyone is doing it and it’s “cool”, the ones that have tattoos in Magaluf when they’re drunk, The idiots. We all know them.

I would like to think I’ll teach my boy to have his own mind, to stick to his guns and not feel the need to do stupid things to impress his mates. To be his own man.

You totally know THAT guy. Don’t you. We all do πŸ™‚

5. Life is hard. But misery is (mostly) optional.
One of my favourite books is The Road Less Travelled, and one of the very first lines in the book, and the “greatest truth”, is that life is difficult. Once you’ve come to terms with that fact, it’s much easier to live it. And, as my title suggests, the misery part is – hopefully – optional.

I hope i can teach my son to tackle life’s issues and dilemmas with humour, with strength and with kindness, and I hope he knows I’ll be there with him – every step of the way.

Beautwins

Be Brave, Be Bold

This year is full of unknowns for me. Rather than starting the year (as usual) with a regular job, no babies to depend on me and my ass in size ten skinny jeans, I’m kicking it off unemployed, decidedly fatter than usual and with a nine month old baby boy who cries if I leave the room and sleeps with his hands on my face so he knows where I am.

Because of this, I have decided that my mantra for life is this:

BE BRAVE, BE BOLD

I keep repeating this to myself when I think about all the things I’m going to do that may be challenging. The main things are…

Little J going to nursery
From April, when I officially finish my planned maternity leave, I’m aiming to put Little J in daycare for two or three days a week. I’ve found a nursery that allows complete flexibility in terms of days and hours, which is perfect as my husband works different shift patterns every week.

If I’m honest. I’m completely bricking it about J going to nursery! Mainly because I’ve never actually been apart from him for longer than a couple of hours, and I’ll more than likely miss his little face so much that it hurts to even think about it. Also, there are a few things I need to sort out before he goes – notably his sleep patterns and his co-sleeping with me, and his ongoing bottle and cup refusal. Most mummies tell me that these things seem to iron themselves out when they start daycare, especially the cup feeding. Regardless though, I’m terrified – especially seeing as Little J has become very clingy of late and sometimes cries if I go into the kitchen! Words of wisdom and comfort definitely welcome… πŸ™‚

Going it alone in business…
Next, after a decade working for the same company, I’ve taken voluntary redundancy and I’m going it alone as a freelance PR lady and copy writer. l’ll be honest, I sway from being massively excited and giddy as a kipper about this, to being gripped with fear about my lack of pension/holiday pay/regular money etc – especially with a young baby to look after (and more to come hopefully!). When the negative thoughts creep in, I’ve taken to repeating my new positive mantra over and over again in my head and re-reading Louise L Hay’s teachings about attracting good things to you (check out You Can Heal Your Life – spectacular read). I’ve got a few ideas though and some potential irons in the fire, I’m just praying that this time next year I’ll be doing well and be amazingly glad and grateful that I finally took the leap.

Getting back in shape…
After almost 18 months of being a porker, I’ve decided that enough is enough, and rather than just staring at my lovely teeny dresses and drainpipe Levi’s, I’m going to be bloody well sporting them upon my person by April. It’s my own fault. I was the one that decided that a positive pregnancy test was also a licence to eat for England (baby wanted pizza, and Thai green curry, and Greggs cheese pasties) and I am also responsible for eating most of the cakes in the world since starting mat leave. I now need to undo this gluttony and get my ass in gear. And my mummy tummy. And my…entire body.

I went to Pizza Express today and had a superfood salad with chicken and no dressing. Have you any idea how hard it was not to order a Fiorentina with a dippy egg and extra Parma ham? Hmmm?! I want to cry just thinking about this travesty.

But hey! I’m doing it. I’m in gear. I aim to shrink. Watch this space.

So there we go. What’s your mantra for 2015?

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Reflecting and reconnecting

Whenever I look back at my life, I consider myself a very lucky girl indeed. I’ve had a ball really, and have been fortunate enough to spend
my time with some amazing people, enjoy an interesting, fun PR career
and do a bit of world travelling to boot.

Usually, when I reflect over the past year at Christmas, I think about
far flung places I’ve been to, parties and social functions I’ve attended, glam trips to London with colleagues…but then there was this year. In 2014, I haven’t been on holiday abroad, I’ve only been on two nights out, I haven’t been to any wine tasting events or posh award ceremonies, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep and my back is shot to buggery – but it’s been my absolute favourite year. Bar none.

Ah, pre-baby me (on the right). Out on the town, as always!
Ah, pre-baby me (on the right). Out on the town, as always!

Of course, the reason for that is currently snoozing on my knee. My Little J came bouncing into being in March, and from that moment on, my world began to spin on a different axis.

I didn’t know what I’d think of maternity leave really. I had an inkling that I’d probably enjoy it at first, but miss the hustle and bustle of working in the city soon enough. In reality, I’ve loved, LOVED, every single second. I’ve just loved it.

I live in a lovely little market town in the Peak District (about 12 miles from Manchester). It’s surrounded by green hills and rolling purple moors, and over the past few years, the town centre has really started to flourish. Beautiful delis, independent coffee shops, vintage tea rooms and wine tasters have opened up in some of the old, shut-down shops and it’s a very fabulous place to be a new mummy. I didn’t used to love it here, as a teenager I ached to get away to live somewhere where I could be anonymous, and for several years after university, I lived with my girlfriends in various locations around Manchester. But it lured me back eventually and I feel very fortunate to be able to bring J up in such a fabulous place.

Being on maternity leave has allowed me reconnect with my hometown and has given me a sense of community previously unimagined. Rather than rushing from place to place in my car, having a baby has slowed down my pace of life to such an extent that I’ve been able to really look around me once again, and take stock of my life. Trying to get back in shape (and trying to get J to sleep) has meant hours of walking up and down streets and lanes that I’ve not walked on with my actual feet since I was a kid. I’ve actually become quite emotional on occasion as walking down certain streets has awoken forgotten childhood memories; walking in the rain with my grandma, laughing and chatting with school friends. It’s been almost magical really. I’ve even been to the library hall that once hosted my 9th birthday party (for a baby group), but I refrained from reliving the occasion by dancing to Jason Donovan and eating cheesy pineapple on sticks. Much as I wanted to.

As well as slowing down the pace, I really think maternity leave has given me a sense of ownership of my town. I feel part of something, a member of the community and, for the first time, I’ve been joining in with things that I would have usually shunned in favour of going to the pub or a city centre bar. This Christmas, Little J and I been to watch carol singers in the town centre, attended a lantern parade and been to a children’s Christmas music party at my local church. We’ve been to craft fairs and cupcake decorating sessions. Who even knew this kind of thing existed!?

Coupled with that, it’s Christmas Eve and rather than working and trying to frantically tie up all the loose ends for the year before darting out for copious amounts of alcohol, I’m in my pyjamas with a hot chocolate, curled up on the sofa watching Elf. Maternity leave does indeed ROCK.

Additionally, I’ve decided to go freelance after my leave ends, which will hopefully allow me a greater work-life balance in the future. I’m genuinely excited to see what happens, and I feel truly blessed for the opportunity.

So here’s to you, 2014. Thanks for being massively awesome. And a big MERRY CHRISTMAS and happy new year to all – and I hope your 2015 is brilliant xxxx

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