Thursday, 24 November 2016

little stories

A text conversation with a friend prompted me to write this blog post. I had shared on Instagram how I love making photo books with my Instagram pictures. She sent me a text saying that this had reminded her of my blog posts, and that she missed them. I told her that even if I wanted to write more on this blog, I am not taking enough photos to accompany posts. She talked about how, perhaps it was to do with the change of light as we approach Winter, and this is so very true. I certainly take less photos at this time of year.

This text conversation came back to me when I went for a run this evening. Almost exactly four years ago, I ran a mile a day for thirty days, and shared a photo on Instagram of each run as a way of documenting the process. It was quite a challenge to find novel things to photograph each day for thirty days, particularly as light was not on my side. Most of my runs were in the dark, but somehow, I managed to complete the challenge. (To give context to the photo at the top of this post, I took it while running this evening.) This got me thinking about why I used to write regularly in this space, and it has a lot to do with stories. I am no storyteller, but I like to record and photograph the simple stories of our days, because my memory is just not reliable. I am in no doubt that in ten years time, I will not remember what our days looked like in this season of life, and that matters to me. Perhaps this sounds a little morbid, but I often think about the fact that if I were to die while my children were very young, they would not remember me. So I want to leave them with photos and stories. Even if I live for many more years, these stories will still be precious memories for us as a family to look back on and see how we grew and changed together and individually.

When I stopped writing this blog, I had been disheartened for a long time that I had such a tiny readership. Although deep down I knew this didn't matter, I couldn't shake the feeling of, 'who am I doing this for, really? If I just want to record what goes on in our family, it really doesn't need to be broadcast to the world.' So, I have spent the last year or so recording family life in a way that works for now - through daily photos, one second videos and by writing a couple of lines in my One Line A Day' diary.

The details of stories are important to me. Fairly early on in our relationship, my husband introduced me to the phrase, 'go to the end now' as a way of indicating that he wanted me to get to the crux of whatever story I was telling. This was not the first time someone had kindly indicated to me that perhaps not everyone cares for all of the details in a retelling of an event. But I do. I want to hear the highs and lows and understand the full shape of a story. One of the challenging things about motherhood and friendship is the opportunity for holding a conversation with friends without interruption. I suppose that is one of the reasons I like writing here. To record the stories of my family that I want to remember. I love stories. I love the details of stories and knowing the whole journey. For me, photos and songs are like landmarks along the way. In this season of life when I have had less time to write, I keep on taking photos and sharing snippets of stories on Instagram, so that I will remember. Photos join up the dots of stories where the words have not been written. And maybe, just maybe, I will return to sharing some of those stories here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

the 52 Project: 45/52


Dear Ruby,
We are in the middle of birthday season at the moment, and I love seeing how your understanding of birthdays has evolved over this year. You have fully embraced the tradition of singing, 'Happy Birthday' in the days leading up to someone's birthday, and then sing it multiple times on the day as well. This week, Jude turned six months, and just as we did for you at six months old, we celebrated his half birthday by baking him a cake. At breakfast on Thursday morning, you said, 'We're celebrating your half birthday - are you excited? We've made you a cake.' You took such great care over decorating Jude's cake by yourself, and helped him blow out the candles. (The evidence of licking the bowl, spatula and anything else with chocolate in is still visible on your face in this photo!) You are a treasure and we love how you love Jude.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

*****************

Dear Jude,
We celebrated half a year of you being with us with a chocolate orange bundt cake which Nanny and Ruby baked for you. Ruby decorated it completely by herself, and took great pride in putting 'all the candles' in to the cake. Here's to celebrating the small milestones of life with great gusto. We love you.
All my love,
Mama xxx

The 52 Project: 44/52


A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Ruby - standing inside a circle of ancient Ash trees at Westonbirt Arboretum
Jude - underneath a glorious acer on his second trip to the Arboretum.

Monday, 24 October 2016

The 52 Project: 43/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'
Dear Ruby,
I took this photo to remind me of a few things:
1) Our mutual love for bagels and peanut butter for breakfast. (And granola, never forgetting granola.)
2) The way we have started to plait your hair at bedtime to stop it becoming like a bird's nest by the morning. Sometimes you like to adorn your hair with every hair clip you can find.
3) The Autumn light in the mornings in this house. We won't be living here for much longer, and it is unlikely that you will have memories of this house, so I am doing my best to capture you in all of the golden Autumnal light.

All my love,
Mummy xxx

**********************
Dear Jude,
We have introduced you to the wonderful world of solid food this week. So far you have only tried three foods and these were cucumber, avocado and banana, in that order. There is something so exciting about knowing this is the first time your tiny taste buds have encountered any flavour (other than my milk, the Rota virus vaccine, or Calpol, which are the only consumables that have entered your mouth since you were born).
All my love,
Mama xxx


The 52 Project: 42/52

 'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'
Dear Ruby, 
I am writing this letter in hindsight, as I didn't manage to write you one during week 42 of this year. Aside from this photo reminding me we went to Ashton Court and you conquered climbing the tree trunk, I honestly cannot remember what we did. I took very few photos that week. So my letter is simply a reminder to myself and your future self about the benefit of writing things down so that we might remember.
All my love,
Mama xxx
Dear Jude,
You have become very interested in trying to reach things that are just beyond your grasp. You were particularly interested in this bowl of conkers, and successfully pulled the bowl off the table and onto the floor at least three times while Nanny held you.
Keep growing strong, little one.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The 52 Project: 41/52

 'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'
Dear Ruby,
The light at this time of year is just beautiful. In the late afternoon, our living room and master bedroom fill with golden light. On Friday afternoon, we were upstairs to change Jude's nappy, and the golden light was spilling out onto the landing wall. I just had to capture it, and thankfully, you were willing to step into the light so I could capture you. I really love finding where the light falls in different places, and to me, this is a constant reminder of how the Bible teaches us that Jesus is the light of the world, and that His light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it. Light is beautiful, and I pray that you would know the beauty of the light and life that Jesus gives.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

************************

Dear Jude,
When I think about each of the letters I have written you since you were born just five months ago, I feel like the consistent them has been sleep. In parenting, it can sometimes be hard to see the wood from the trees, and feel like nothing is changing. But sometimes, change is just a very slow and gradual process. Of course you are changing, you absolutely are. One way that I see you have changed in the last couple of months is just how much you love being around other people. There was a time when you were at your happiest at home, without a doubt. Now, I see a calmness about you, along with your beaming smile, when we are with our friends. I took this photo when we were at a third birthday party in St. Andrew's Park. You spent the entire time awake in the sling, just quietly observing everyone around you. I love watching you, little one.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The 52 Project: 40/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
We are definitely feeling the transition into Autumn this week, and one of the consequences of this is that you have become undecided about which is the most appropriate form of footwear - 'sandals or boots?' is a daily dilemma. Whichever footwear you choose, I have started taking the alternative with us too, so if you decide your feet are too warm in boots, you can switch to sandals, and vice versa. You have been asking a lot of questions about why it's getting dark earlier, and have learnt that the weather forecast can give an indication of what the weather might be like at any given moment. When we are out walking, you will often ask, 'is it going to rain?' so we talk about what the clouds look like, and if it 'feels' like it's going to rain. This week, you asked, 'what does the weather cast say today?' Your interest and understanding about the world is so amazing to see.

We have done a good amount of baking and cooking together this week. So often when I am baking for customers, you ask if you can help, and it saddens me to have to say 'no', so I have really appreciated some of the slow afternoons we've had at home where we have baked together for our own consumption while Jude sleeps. Interestingly, if I am baking for a customer and you would rather I would be doing something else, you say, 'take your baking hat off...you need to take your baking hat off.' You are incredibly trustworthy when it comes to stirring pans on the hob - there is no need to remind you not to touch the pan and you take such care when you cook - it is such a pleasure to have your help in the kitchen.

Daddy went to Prague for a couple of days this week, and you were very interested to know what it is like there:
You: 'Is there a water fall there?'
Me: 'No, but there is a river.'
You: 'Is Daddy going to swim in it?'
Me: 'Probably not.'
You: 'Why?'
Me: 'Well, he doesn't have his swimming things with him, and he is working, so he probably won't be able to.'
You: What colour is it?'
Me: 'I expect it looks blue or maybe green, a little bit like the sea.'
You: 'Like my paintbrushes?'

All my love,
Mummy

Dear Jude,
You cut your first two teeth this week, almost exactly five months after you were born. There have been many occasions over the last seven days where you have simply not wanted to be put down, so I have resorted to cooking with you in the sling on my back, and being able to hand you over to grandparents has been a great relief to my aching arms when Daddy was away in Prague.

I have been trying to remind myself that sleep does not define us, but it certainly shapes us. In a week where you have taken to 5am starts and many, many hours of pacing to calm you to sleep, it is very easy to feel thwarted. Sleep has not come easily to you since you entered the world, and I try to hold the long view that one day, these first months with you will be a faded memory, when you no longer need us to walk with you, endure hours of crying, or hold you to get to slip into slumber.

We adore you, little one.
All my love,
Mama xxx

The 52 Project: 39/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'
Dear Ruby,
Since Jude was born, you have given up napping, but occasionally you can't quite make it through the day without a little bit of shut-eye. There has been more than one occasion where I have found you asleep in an armchair or on the sofa.

We shared a bath this week, and chatted about the stars. You asked if the stars come out when it's dark and you wanted to know why it gets dark. You have so much to discover about the world and I am excited about helping you learn.
When Daddy came to see us in the bathroom, you said, 'We're just talking about the stars, Daddy.'
All my love,
Mummy xxx

**************************

Dear Jude,
There is a fragmented nature to my thoughts in these early months of motherhood with two children. I often find myself thinking about things I want to write down, but finding the time to write prose is rather challenging when I do not really get time to myself during the day...or evening. So sometimes, I end up writing you short poems. These tend to feel unfinished, but I think that that is ok. It accurately reflects this season of life. I have mentioned before how difficult sleep and feeding have been since you were born, but one thing that I am extremely grateful for is that night time has always been the calmest time for us, which has been quite healing for me.

I'll find you in the dark,
My sweet boy.
Find you in the quiet space that the lull of night time brings.
In the white of sheets and duvets strewn
So carefully to keep you safe,
I'll find you in the dark.

Your tiny snuffles are all the sound I need
To respond and feed
Your tiny tummy that need to be full of milk
Once again. And again, and again.

I'll find you in the dark and you find me.
We don't need light to see in this sacred space.
You shuffle to and fro with great purpose,
Always, always, finding your way
Back to me.

Belly full, you roll, back to your tummy,
Legs tucked up and ready to sleep again.
We repeat this through the dark hours until dawn:
Feed, Roll, Sleep.
Feed, Roll, Sleep.

I'll find you in the dark,
My precious one.

All my love,
Mama.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The 52 Project: 38/52

Dear Ruby,
You have become quite the prolific artist this week, spending some time every day painting with water colours, glitter glue or poster paint. You made the wonderful discovery that if you mix two or more colours together, you get a new colour! So exciting. I love watching your creativity emerge.
All my love,
Mummy xxx


Dear Jude,
You have become completely intent on grabbing and chewing anything that passes near your hands, and while Ruby loves giving you her finger to chew on, she is quickly learning that your vice-like grip is a force to be reckoned with, and it hurts. Granny and Grandad visited this week, and you were completely full of your beautiful beaming smiles, especially for Grandad. What a lovely bond you have.
I normally take photos of you by yourself for these weekly portraits, but I had to choose this one of you and Daddy this week, because it really says a lot about what life is like right now:
1) You sucking on your toes at any opportunity you get
2) You were ready for a nap but weren't falling asleep easily - the fact that Daddy is lying beside you on the bed says it all. He's given up trying to settle you and is relaxing while you do your thing, sucking your toes. You had nailed falling asleep by yourself a few weeks back, but that's all changed.
3) You are 4.5 months old and wearing 6-9 month old clothes. Clearly, you are thriving.
Keep growing strong, little one.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The 52 Project: 37/52


'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
For the last few months, you have gradually been dropping your nap, meaning that you only sleep in the day every few days. It is a delicate balance to do enough with you in a day that keeps you awake, but not so much that you get to 4.30pm and physically cannot keep your eyes open. We had a day like that this week. Jude was struggling to fall asleep, so I suggested we go for a walk around the block in the double buggy, and you suggested that we could go to the park. We got halfway to the park, and you had fallen asleep, while Jude lay next to you, wide awake. An hour later, I woke you up, which never goes well (understandably - who wants to be woken up mid-sleep?!), but bedtime becomes very difficult if you have a sleep so late on in the day. You were completely devastated that we hadn't gone to the park and flat out refused to climb out of the buggy. After fifteen minutes of you crying and asking, 'why did you unstrap me? I don't want to get out! I want to go to the park!', I decided to scrap my attempts to cook dinner, put Jude back in the buggy and we went back out in the hope of meeting Daddy as he cycled home from work. We met Daddy and came up with a new plan - he would take Jude and cook dinner while you and I went to the park. And what a wonderful time we had. It was a beautiful evening and you were completely in your element, scaling up ropes to platforms way above my head height. I took this photo of you as you ran across the platform, and smiled as I reflected that sometimes the best thing we can do to cope is abandon all seemingly sensible plans and just get outside in the sunshine.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

Dear Jude,
Summer is fading, and I am truly going to miss this - watching the evening light fall over you as you sleep on my bed. September has only just arrived and I am already noticing how much more quickly the light fades once the evening comes. By this time next year, we will be living in a different house,. While I am looking forward to seeing how the light falls in our new home, I will honestly miss the way the light lands in my bedroom, and how much it has characterised our mornings and evenings in your first four months of life since you joined us in Spring time this year.
All my love,
Mama xxx

The 52 Project: 36/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Jude at four months


Dear Jude,
Today you are four months old. This month has been a good one. Life feels like it is getting a little easier for both of us, and we are finding a bit more of a rhythm together. You squeal and squeak with laughter, especially when we kiss your face and neck. You really are, without a doubt, most happy when you are at home. You laugh more, feed more and sleep more when we are at home. I've started calling you my home boy. 
Feeding you is slightly challenging because you are only content to nurse while both of us are lying down. This is particularly challenging when you get hungry and we're not at home. So, in the past month, I have nursed you while lying down in a park in Leominster, on a beach by the River Wye, in a meadow and in Page Park. I have lost count of the number of times people have suggested you might have reflux because of your horizontal preference, but no, you are absolutely fine. This is just how you roll. Life with you is certainly never dull.
Since birth you have fought sleep in an incredible way. But in the last week, we've turned a corner. We discovered about three weeks ago that you prefer sleeping on your tummy (you started flipping over in your sleep), and in the last week, we've been able to put you down on your tummy, along with the customary white noise, give you a gentle jiggle, and you fall asleep within ten minutes. This might not sound particularly exciting, but it is HUGE. Especially when you consider that Ruby napped in a sling and in the buggy for the first fourteen months of her life. The only downside to you sleeping on your tummy is that I am slightly terrified at the possibility of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, which is far more likely to happen to babies who sleep on their tummies. This means that I frequently check to see if you're still breathing while you sleep - something I never did with Ruby! It can be quite entertaining watching you get to sleep. Sometimes, you shuffle around the bed like a little caterpillar, pulling your knees up to your chest then pushing them away to propel yourself around until you get comfy. Considering that you cannot crawl yet, it is incredible how much distance you can cover when you move like this.
You love to chew on hands and fabric and have a vice-like grip when you get your gums around our fingers. You seem to enjoy our singing and I am amazed at how often you break into a smile when we sing to you. I love that Ruby has also joined in and sings to you when you are sad. 

When we hold you, your preference is most definitely to be facing outwards. I realize this is a small and possibly uninteresting thing to observe, but for the age you are now, it's these little things that matter and make a big difference to you. It's our job to get to know you and what makes you comfortable, and this is one of the things we have learned. 
When you cry relentlessly, I tend to have one of a few different reactions:
1) I cry along with you because I feel like I am failing caring for you well and giving you what you need.
2) I find myself thinking that I could actually bite through a wine glass. I can't say that this is something I have ever contemplated doing before, nor would I actually do it, because common sense prevails and a trip to A&E with a cut up face is not in the least appealing, but there we go. 
Thankfully, these episodes are becoming far more infrequent, so our wine glasses are safe for now.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Sunday, 28 August 2016

The 52 Project: 35/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
You have spent two nights and three days staying at Granny and Grandad's house without us this week. This is the longest time I have ever spent away from you, and we have missed your lovely presence in our house. You caught two buses and three trains to get to Southbourne from Bristol, and told us on Facetime, 'we went on ALL the trains!'
Spending time at home with you being away makes me realise how much time we spend talking, talking, talking every single day. You are so intrigued by the world and ask a lot of questions to make sense of everything. Here are some notable conversations from this week.

You: 'What did you do?'
Me: 'I just cleaned up Jude's sick from the floor.'
You: 'Why?'
Me: 'So that we don't tread in it.'
You: 'So it doesn't go mouldy?'

On our walk to the park:
You: 'Where do cats live?'
Me: 'In people's houses, but they like walking outside a lot.'
You: 'Have they got paws?'
Me: 'Yes, they do!'
You: 'Why? Can't they wear sandals?'

You are fantastic.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

**************

Dear Jude,
About a month ago, you started sleeping on your tummy at night time, purely of your own volition. This week, we finally decided to try a different approach to get you to sleep for your naps (which you have fought since you were tiny), and much to my surprise and delight, it has worked! When you start showing signs of tiredness, we put the white noise app on, lie you on your side or tummy, depending on what you are most comfortable with, then jiggle you gently until you fall asleep. You consistently flip from your side onto your tummy to settle into deep sleep, keeping your left arm tucked under your tummy. I love seeing how peaceful you look when you are sleeping. I realise that I am talking about sleep quite a lot here, and I imagine you reading this as an adult thinking, 'seriously, what is the big deal. Mum?! Why were you so bothered about sleep?' If this is what you're thinking then you probably haven't had your own babies yet. The topic of sleep suddenly becomes all consuming and perplexing in a way that it never has before when you have your own children. Sleep is so fundamental to our well being, and it is unbelievably hard when babies don't sleep well. Anyhow, it has made the world of difference to our week, now that we have found what works best for you, and I am thrilled. You seem to have turned a corner in every respect this week. You laugh a lot these days, and are so much calmer now. I am loving getting to know you, little one.
All my love,
Mama xxx

The 52 Project: 34/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
We have been on holiday this week with some of our friends, and you have spent a wonderful amount of time outdoors. The two friends who you have played with this week are a little bit younger than you, and it has been so wonderful seeing how you have instinctively taken care of them when they were upset, offering them cuddles or toys to help them feel happier. You experienced your first trip in a canoe on the River Wye - albeit very short and you didn't paddle anywhere! Over the last couple of months, you have started dropping your afternoon nap. Some days you can't quite cope without a bit of a daytime sleep, but I happened to take this photo on an afternoon when you clearly hadn't napped. Your eyes look so incredibly tired, but you were still having fun chasing giant bubbles!
All my love,
Mummy xxx

**********************
Dear Jude,
From a very young age, you have shown a preference for feeding while lying down. This creates a bit of a challenge for us when we go out, and has resulted in me lying down in all manner of places that I wouldn't normally do, from beaches by the River Wye, to meadows and parks. Life with you is certainly never dull! Getting you to sleep during the day continues to be a great challenge, and the phrase, 'it takes a village to raise a child' has come to my mind many times this week as we have called on our kind friends to cuddle you, walk with you, sway with you and do whatever it takes to get you to fall asleep when you're tired. I took this photo in a park in Leominster. You spent almost an hour lying on the grass under an avenue of trees on a beautifully sunny day, completely content just looking up at the leaves and sky. It was a lovely time relaxing together.
All my love,
Mama xxx

The 52 Project: 33/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
We spent half the week at Nanny and Grandad's house, and you were enthralled by their lovely garden. You particularly loved declaring, 'Let's go and run around the tree!' I lost count of the number of times you ran around their magnolia tree over the course of three days. There was a wonderful moment where you were eating a sliver of chocolate cheesecake at dinner time, completely shattered from the adventures of the day. You could barely keep your eyes open, but you managed to scrape every last morsel of cheesecake from the bowl, propping your elbow on the table to involve minimal effort, as your eyes blinked slower and slower, edging you towards sleep.
We celebrated Nanny's 60th Birthday, and you relished another opportunity to sing, 'Happy Birthday' to her over and over again. I love your enthusiasm for celebrating and I hope this never wanes.
All my love,
Mummy xxxx

**********************


Dear Jude,
You have spent abundant amounts of time in the arms of my family this week. Grandad is far from being old, but his arms and wrists might well feel like they have aged twenty years from holding you for so many hours, helping you to drift off to dreamland. You have some serious staying awake stamina, little one.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The 52 Project: 32/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby, 
I know that this photo is fairly similar to your portrait from last week, but I just love it. You were running into the sea, then you'd turn around and run up the beach until the waves caught up with you, then you'd repeat the process over and over again. It has been so lovely to think about how much your confidence in the sea has grown since last Summer when we spent two weeks in Italy, and you regarded the sea with a healthy amount of caution for days before venturing in for a paddle.
This week has consisted of daily trips to the beach, visits to the playground (one of the playgrounds involved taking a short boat ride across the river), crabbing at Mudeford Quay, flying kites, baking scones, countless games of hide and seek, and reading hundreds of stories with Granny. 
All my love,
Mummy xxx

*******************

Dear Jude,
Ever since you were born, we have used white noise as a way of settling you to sleep. Both Daddy and I love the sound of rain on the roof, and waves crashing on a beach, so these are the sounds that we play to you via our white noise app. This week, we have been visiting Granny and Grandad who live by the sea, and so you have had the luxury of the sound of real waves to lull you to sleep rather than an app. On a couple of our trips to the beach, you fell asleep within moments of hearing the waves. This is so very different to your normal struggle to sleep, so much so that it brought tears to my eyes. 
You continue to love sucking furiously on your fingers, and can often be seen trying to put your entire fist into your tiny mouth. 
Keep growing strong, little one.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The 52 Project: 31/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016

Dear Ruby,
I am going to keep this week's letter short, as there aren't many words or memories in my head right now. This week ended with a trip to see Granny and Grandad in Southbourne. You were so incredibly excited to get to the beach, run in the sand and paddle in the sea. Upon seeing the sea, you jumped up and down, saying, 'we're at the beach! we're at the beach!' then proceeded to run all the way down the long slope to the beach. You and I needed this break, to come to this beautiful place and be refreshed, and I hope that you will take the time when you need to, to be refreshed by the beauty of the outdoors and open spaces for the rest of your life.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

**********************
Dear Jude,
We've had another week of clocking up many miles of walking together (approximately 45), as this is often what you need in order to calm enough to feed, or go to sleep. The fresh air works wonders for you, little one, and when we go walking, I keep thinking that I am so grateful that you were born in the Spring, so that we can enjoy the warmth of the sun and the beauty of blue skies on our walks. 
One night last week, you stirred in your sleep and all I had to do to help you resettle was hold your hand. That was enough to reassure you and I couldn't help but think about how love can be complex, but at times, it is so simple. Sometimes all we need to feel ok is to hold the hand of someone we love, and for now, I am grateful that I get to have this role in your life.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The 52 Project: 30/52

 'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
I love watching you learn and seeing the ways you explore the world. In the last week or so, you seem to be exploring an enveloping schema, which involves wrapping all manner of things up. You often wrap a quilt inside a swaddling blanket, or an envelope inside another envelope. With this in mind, I thought you might particularly enjoy a treasure hunt using a variety of plastic eggs and jars
with surprises inside them. It took all of about five minutes to prepare this for you to do, and you absolutely loved searching in the alley behind our house for all of the hidden treasure. You then carried on this game after we had finished by collecting blackberries from the bushes in the alley and popping them inside your little eggs. These are the small but significant moments that I love about motherhood.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

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Dear Jude,
I have just looked back at the letter I wrote you last week, and shook my head in disbelief when I read that you were becoming happier with sleeping in the sling during the day. Maybe that was the case for a couple of days last week. But this week? Absolutely not the case. The phrase 'sleep fighter' came to mind over, and over, and over again last week. Sometimes you'd take three hours to fall asleep, then nap for forty minutes before waking up, ready to repeat this cycle over and over again until night time. There were a few occasions where I thought I might lose my mind, but thankfully, I am still just about sane. On the bright side, we are clocking up an enormous number of miles walked together. Thank you for putting me through my paces in every respect, little one.

You have started trying to giggle which is the loveliest thing to watch and hear. It mainly involves you doing your ear to ear smile, then taking a sharp intake of breath and making this squeaky sound that's akin to laughing. I love watching your joy develop.

All my love,
Mama xxx
P.S Your eyelashes are phenomenal.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The 52 Project: 29/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
I took this photo of you while you were playing Hide and Seek with Daddy in the rose garden at Ashton Court. You were in the middle of saying, 'where is he? Where he gone?' and I love that your whole body language speaks that question too. You never seem to tire of this game, and the rose garden provided the perfect place for Daddy to hide - plenty of benches behind tall rose bushes so that he could have a little rest while you looked for him!
I love your joy, little one.
All my love, 
Mummy xxx

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Dear Jude,
My sweet sleep-smiler. I can't get over the number of times since you were born where I have gone to take a photo of you and you have broken into a smile while sleeping. I love this about you. You are eleven weeks old today, and I am so thankful for the small but significant changes that have happened this last week. You are becoming much calmer and happier, and more content to drop off to sleep in the sling, which is wonderful.
All my love,
Mama xxx

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The 52 Project: 28/52

'A portrait of my daughter, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
One of the things I like to do with all of your books is rotate the ones in our baskets and our our shelves according to the seasons. My attempts to do this have been mildly thwarted by you, as I keep returning a selection of your Winter books to the shelf. only to have you request these books at bedtime. The one book that has featured most highly this year is called 'Bear Snores On.' Even though this is a book about a hibernating bear, set in the Winter months, I secretly love that you keep asking for it, as I really enjoy reading it. It has such a great rhythm to it and my favourite like is, 'An itty bitty mouse piter-patter tip toes, creep-crawls through the cave through the fluff cold snow.' You have started this routine with Daddy at bedtime when reading where you say, 'I read quietly, you read louder'. then you proceed to provide a whispered accompaniment which is badly out of sync. This makes Daddy giggle and you say, 'you laughing at something - what you laughing 'bout?!' We love you and watching you learn and grown.

Here's a few of my favourite conversations with you from this week:

R: 'What's that banging noise?'
Me: 'It's Daddy making coffee,'
R: I want to make you a coffee.
M: Ooh I'd love that, thank you.
R; I'm going to sprinkle hot sauce on it

While walking along the railway path (finding moths, the smallest snails ever, and beautiful flowers):
You: 'I just need to have some water for my energy. I've got some water in my energy, Mummy.'

Playing in the garden, mixing soil and water together:
'I'm making mud, Mummy. Just normal mud. And soil.'

All my love,
Mummy xxx


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Dear Jude,
After you were born, I quickly discovered that feeding you is very different to what feeding Ruby was like when she was your age. (I promise you that I will not spend your life comparing you to your sister, but at this age when you are so young, it is fascinating to me to notice the differences between my babies.) She would feed for long periods of time, and my Mum once commented that none of her babies had taken as long to feed as Ruby did. She would without fail fall asleep while feeding, and happily nurse for hours. You, on the other hand, take between five and ten minutes to feed, and you very rarely fall asleep in the 'milk drunk' way that babies often do. If ever I offer you more milk in the hope that it might comfort you when you're fretful, you look at me with an expression which says, 'are you serious, Mum? I have had enough, why would I want more?!' If only I could take the same approach with chocolate as you do with milk.

Grandad came to visit this week (my Dad) and worked wonders at calming you down and helping you sleep. You are very blessed to have four very calm and patient grandparents who will do anything it takes to help you. One evening after you had had your first round of vaccinations and were particularly unsettled, Grandad wrapped you up in the sling and went walking with you. I hope you always know how loved you are by us and your Grandparents.
All my love,
Mama xx




Friday, 8 July 2016

Sixty One Days

It's been sixty one days since Jude joined us in this big, beautiful world. There's a kind of intensity to the feelings that Motherhood provokes in me that nothing else does, and I know that what feels hard and intense now will all too soon become a faded memory. I find it quite cathartic to imagine re-telling my children the stories of our early days and weeks together when they are grown up. So I thought I would share a little extract from one of my diary entries last week, typed into my phone while I lay on my bed with Jude finally sleeping on my chest after spending the last three hours trying to help him settle. I find the words come very easily to me in the thick of the difficult moments, but will soon disappear, replaced by the next wave of mildness or madness. This season of adjusting to life with two children does feel quite tidal, for want of a good metaphor. There are plenty of moments of calm, and then the tides come, loud, chaotic, crashing and crushing, intense and all consuming, but then they pass, making way for the calm again.


It's 5.30am
You wake up, crying. Your transition from night to day. I feed you, you scream a little then settle. Hairdryer on. 
It's your favourite kind of white noise. Knocks you right out to sleep in a way that nothing else does. I'm so hungry, I have to eat before I sleep again so I creep downstairs, hoping not to wake Ruby and John. 
A bowl of granola and half a mug of hot water later, and then you wake from your peaceful slumber, tiny hands flailing upwards to your face in a way that signals your hunger. The five seconds it takes to lift you into my lap and ready myself to feed you is too long. 
So the crying begins. You feed then scream. You burp then scream some more. Like you're in pain but I don't know what else I can do to help you. 
Hairdryer goes back on. 
Over my shoulder and you calm. Body goes heavy. Fall asleep. 

10.52pm
It's evening now and this pattern looks so familiar to the morning routine. 
From 8pm onwards, Dad and I take it in turns to try and settle you to sleep. 
Feed? Not interested. 
Swaddle and rock to no avail. 
So I change your nappy - sometimes this acts like pressing a reset button. It distracts you from your tears just long enough to break a smile or five. That sweet gummy, full-faced, eyes bright light up smile and we exchange our affection for one another. 
You with your beaming and me with my, 'I love you's'. 
After a while of hairdryer blaring its beautiful white noise I take you back downstairs. My arms are getting weary now. 
You are only young, but you are long and strong and I need to pass you to your Daddy. 
Back and forth we go, tag teaming as one eats and one cuddles you, willing you to surrender to sleep. You drift off for half an hour, only to wake again and for us to start the whole process of helping you off to dreamland. Your lip quivers as you cry a sleepy cry, your hands claw at your face and so we assume our position on my bed - the one that seems to calm you the most. 
I lay down, you lay on my chest, body and legs outstretched. The top of your head nestled under my chin, your long legs reaching halfway down my thighs. How are you this long already?
I hold your hand to stop you clawing your face and for a moment we both gaze out of the window at the summer time sky. 
Clouds are full of colour tonight and light spills across the room. 
A wriggle and a shuffle and you move up towards my chin, tossing head from side to side, not sure of what you need. Sleep or feed? Sleep or feed?
Time for milk again, you feed. 
Gulping down the sweet white stuff, only to scream when you've had enough. 
Back over my shoulder you go and I pat pat pat your tiny back to get the wind out of your tummy. 
It's not welcome there, but daily we find that this is the grind. 
Milk, burp, scream then settle. Swaddle again and now the hairdryer draws your eyes shut tight as you succumb to sleep for the night. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

The 52 Project: 27/52

 'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
You go to sleep each night with a growing collection of items in your bed. Tonight I took a quick inventory after you got out of bed for the third time, asking for cuddles with Daddy. You had a squish toy, a sheet of insect stickers (including one stuck to your back), two dolls knitted by one of Granny's old colleagues' Mother's, little moon bunny (named after Topsy's bunny in Topsy & Tim), a Lamaze baby toy that you found in your wardrobe, another baby toy with a bell attached, and a duck-billed platypus puppet. There's also a polar bear (that Daddy's work gave you as a baby) and the bear that I've had since I was little. My older brother (Uncle John) and I each had one that we got from buying so many pairs of Clarks shoes. He cut a 'hole' of hair in my bear's head so we would always know whose bear was whose, but really I think it was just to antagonize me. He called it a bullet hole, upsetting me at the thought that my bear had been shot. Way back then when we weren't very kind to each other. Last but not least, you have an enormous bead toy which you seem perfectly comfortable sleeping with, much to my amazement.
I love you and your quirky ways.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

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Dear Jude,
I have started reading a book this week called, 'Nobody Told Me' by Hollie McNish. It is the perfect book for me to read in this season of you being a new baby, and all of the mild madness which this brings. You currently love lying under your black and white contrast mobile, focusing intently on the patterns you can see. You can also spend an incredible amount of time kicking your arms and legs, every part of you moving, moving, moving. 
All my love,
Mama xxx

Friday, 1 July 2016

Jude Benjamin // Two Months.


Jude Benjamin, you have the widest eyes, the curliest lashes and the most active limbs. You were such a calm baby while my womb was your home, but now that you have all the space you need to move, your limbs don't stop moving. You can happily lie kicking & waving for 30 minutes at a time. You fight sleep in the day, but embrace it during the night (thank you, Lord!) Keep growing strong, little one. 

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The 52 Project: 26/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby and Jude,
By now, you will be aware that I have written letters to each of you individually since you were born. This week, I have decided to write you a joint letter in light of the events of this week. Today marks half way through 2016, and Friday was perhaps the most momentous day of the year so far. If not the most momentous, certainly, the most historic moment of the year. A referendum took place where everyone aged 18 and over had the chance to vote to decide if the United Kingdom (currently consisting of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales - who knows if it will still look the same by the time you are old enough to read and understand these letters) would like to remain a part of the European Union or leave and effectively be independent. Our entire family (us, your Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents) all wanted to remain in the E.U. However, 52% of the people who voted wanted to leave the E.U, and so they won the referendum. For my entire lifetime, we have been a part of the European Union, and so I have never known what it's like for our country to distance itself from all of the other EU countries, and you will grow up never knowing a time when we haven't been independent of it. (Which will be the case, unless something revolutionary happens, like a second referendum, which is possible but quite unlikely.) There was a heaviness in my heart the whole day after hearing the news that we would be leaving the E.U, and that was echoed across the country. Politics is so complicated, I cannot even begin to unwrap it here in this little letter, and you might be thinking, 'but why are people sad if this is what the majority of people chose?' I cannot imagine my head around what your futures will be like in light of this decision, but time will tell, and I sincerely hope the leaders of this country make some wise decisions from here on in. It's an odd thought that the events of this week could become a topic that you study when you are in secondary school, learning about the history, politics and economy of our country. You are both so young right now, and have no concept of what is going on in the world beyond our little lives, and yet the decisions of this week will have major consequences for your lives.
All my love,
Mummy xxx

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The 52 Project: 25/52

'A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.'

Dear Ruby,
This week you have scooted all the way to the Post Office dressed in your sandals, mermaid dress (made by Granny), and pyjamas, practiced diving at swimming, told stories about Cinderella and learned that your birthday is in November. Here's how your storytelling went: (You were looking at a book about a poor girl called Hannah who was hungry and saw some bees with honey, just to add some context.)

'Once upon a time there was a girl called Cinderella....Once upon a time there was a girl called...that girl. Today there was a girl called Cinderella. She went on the garden with him. Once upon a time, there was a girl called Cinderella. She looked very sad. She wanted some bees.'

Talking about your birthday with great excitement:
'I remember I went to her birthday....it's my birthday in No...No-member! Daddy! It's my birthday in So-member!' 

I have a feeling your third birthday party is going to be a lot of fun.

On Saturday night, you woke up at 1.30am, and came running to my room in floods of tears, saying, 'I want Giraffe's Can't Dance' over and over again. I had no idea why you were so upset about this and figured you must have had a dream about this book. I suggested you go and find Daddy in the spare room, as I was worried that your loud crying would wake Jude, and once you had found Daddy, you just got more and more upset, saying, 'I want these books! I want my books!' In the end, the solution was for Daddy to get your book basket, bring it into the spare room, then you were content to fall asleep.

All my love,

Mummy xxx

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Dear Jude,
Last week was a tough old week. You just cried so much and we struggled to help calm you down. As a parent of a new baby, it can feel a bit like you're failing if you can't soothe your baby. We are the ones who know you the best, and yet we just couldn't work out what you needed. On Tuesday this week, I was chatting with a good friend (we met three years ago when I was pregnant with Ruby and she was pregnant with her first daughter), and she very helpfully reminded me about the Wonder Weeks. This is a term that has been coined as a way of describing the significant developmental milestones that every baby experiences and reaches in the first seventy five weeks of life. The first of these milestones, or 'wonder weeks' is week five. That afternoon, I re-read the first section of my Wonder Weeks book, having not read it since Ruby was a baby, and had one of those 'Aha' moments. Everything they described that happens during the fifth week of life was so characteristic of how you had been. I was so thankful to that friend for giving me just the little bit of perspective I needed in that moment. To be reminded that perhaps you were going through significant developmental changes, rather than us being awful parents, was very helpful. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the friends I have to journey through life with, and one of my prayers for you is that you would find the kind of friends that Daddy and I have been blessed with. You do not need lots of friends, but those you do have should be people that you know love you regardless, who can see you at your worst and walk with you through those times, and celebrate with you when you are at your best.

This week has been quite different. You have been calmer, less uncomfortable after feeds and you are just a little bit more interested in the world around you when you are awake. On Thursday we spent the entire day going back and forth between appointments for you. You had your hips scanned at the hospital, just to check that everything is ok with them - you were breech until 37 weeks of pregnancy, when an obstetrican managed to turn you around - but they like to scan all babies that have been breech in the last weeks of pregnancy. The Doctor checked you over for your six week check and deemed you 'perfect'. We love you, Jude.
All my love,
Mama xxx

P.S Your new favourite way of falling asleep is in the sling with me walking up and down the stairs over and over again. I don't know why but this works, almost without fail at calming you and lulling you to sleep.