Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Valentine's Day the Mum way!

In our last post, we mentioned that our first Valentine's Day as parents was coming up, and that we still wanted to try and celebrate it as much as possible.
This how our first Valentine's Day as parents went!

Although I was at work, the day still started off full of love! Lauren had left out a  breakfast for me to take to work of heart shaped pancakes, berries, and a tiny bottle of maple syrup. So cute, especially as Oskar had the same breakfast!


Although I had a fun day at work laughing at people's excitement (or disgust!) for Valentine's Day, I couldn't wait to meet my wife after work with a bunch of roses.


I had asked Lauren to meet me after work for coffee, which we often do, but this time was a bit special. The coffee shop I took her to had previously been empty for years, and used to be a Starbucks - the Starbucks we shared our first date at almost 13 years ago! It was very surreal to enjoy coffee and cake there as married 30 something's with our son, not 18 and 19 year olds on a first date. Conveniently the coffee shop is now vegan, so we had cake and coffee, and Oskar enjoyed making many friends by catching the eyes of fellow customers! 


Oskar even had a Valentine's themed outfit!


We spent the rest of the evening opening cards and presents, and having a gorgeous meal cooked by Lauren (with heart shaped picnic for Oskar!) Sarah had three beautiful rings from The White Company, and Lauren had a gorgeous wooden heart necklace from one of our favourite companies, Grimms - which is baby friendly, as Oskar puts everything in his mouth! 





 I didn't expect our first Valentine's as parents, with an 8 month old in tow, to be so full of romance, but I think it was our favourite one so far!

Monday, 13 February 2017

The places that hold our love

This Valentines Day is our first as mums, but we definitely still want to share a bit of romance. Our next post will detail how successful that was!
However, becoming mums has also gave us a new kind of love - for our son, for each other, and also made us appreciate the love that is all around us, from friends and family. 

This post is dedicated to the places and people, that show us how lucky we are to have so much love in our lives.

Leeds

Birmingham, being the city we are from, was where we met and fell for each other, but Leeds was where our love grew. For Lauren's first two years of university I took constant train journeys to see her, going to bars and eating takeaways in her uni halls, and then we moved in together. It was where we grew, and where our love grew, where we got to know each other, fell in love, and learned how to live together (and away from our parents!) We learnt to cook amazing vegan food, decorated the house in rainbows and flowers, went shopping in chapel Allerton and the corn exchange, and went for meals in our favourite little fairy lit independent cafe. Although an amazing city, and somewhere we will always hold dear, ultimately we wanted to go back home, to Birmingham and our families, so after a magical two years, we returned to the midlands! 



Starbucks

Home of our first date, and many, many more! From getting our new married names on our cups as we drove to our honeymoon, to red cups signalling Christmas, to sitting with frappucinos reading through our ivf paperwork, to stopping for coffee and staring at photos on our phones of the positive pregnancy test we had just taken, to drive throughs in America in our wedding anniversary trip...Starbucks has been our go-to stop and relax place for so many years, it always feels homely!



Family

I (Sarah) have never really had a close family - my family aren't an affectionate family, my relationship with my parents isn't always the best, and my parents relationship hasn't always been great, although it is much better now. It was strange for me when I met Lauren, to witness her parents very much in love - they have gotten through a lot together, and still, after many years together, enjoy spending time together, usually travelling! 


They have been particularly amazing since we had Oskar, and are fantastic grandparents.
 Lauren's whole family is a close one, and she has a lot of cousins, all in our age group, which makes family get togethers fun. We are lucky that we have such supportive parents regarding our relationship, and have been made to feel very much like each other's family, but Sarah will always be grateful to have been given the chance to be very much a loved part of a very close family who love to spend time together. 


Lovely words written by Lauren's dad in a card for our first wedding anniversary 



Brighton

Brighton is 'our place'. We first visited in 2009, and completely fell in love with it. Although it's known for being gay friendly, we've never visited the gay scene there, and have only gone to pride once (though that will change now we have a little one!) instead we love the quirky, fun atmosphere, how veggie/vegan friendly it is... it's hard to put our finger on, but it's just very us, and we love it. So much so we got engaged there in 2011! We spent the day wandering the laines, eating cupcakes on the beach, then went out to our favourite restaurant. Our hotel room was filled with purple and pink rose petals, a bath was filled, champagne was on ice, the moon was a supermoon...it was perfect. We've returned many times since, including for our mini moon before we flew to Mexico, and Lauren's 30th when she was 28weeks pregnant! 



There are other places that we love - Wales and Reykjavik are places we've returned to as they always provide us with so much peace, Las Vegas, Mexico, Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Marrakech have been our favourite holidays, and there are many places in London and of course Birmingham, that are special to us, but we'll always feel like a bit of our hearts are in Brighton. 
It is quite simply our happy place, and somewhere that prompts so much excitement whenever we visit - that first glimpse of the seafront when we drive down never gets old! 



Willow

We used to think that Willow had prepared us for parenthood - we were responsible for a tiny, dependable creature who relied on us, who we loved. We now realise that nothing on this earth can prepare you for parenthood, definitely not a dog! But Willow has bought us so much joy, since they day we drove her home from a rescue home six years ago, she has been such a little ball of happiness. She is the sweetest, most loving dog we know - she has never barked, or growled, and seems only to know how to play and show affection. She has been on many adventures with us - she has climbed Welsh mountains, glamped in a yurt, and ran along Brighton beach to name a few. We are definitely dog lovers, but no dog will ever be as special as Willow!




Oskar

And of course, there's our son. People used to say "you don't know love until you have a child" and I used to silently disagree. I did know love, for my wife, an all encompassing, unconditional, amazing love. But then our son was born, and the moment we held him, we realised. This isn't a love that's greater than our love for each other, you can't compare them - because it really is a different kind of love. Yes, the painfully zombie-esqe sleep deprivation, the end of impromptu date nights, the ear splitting screaming, is the most difficult thing we've ever done, but motherhood is also one of the most amazing things to happen to us. Watching our boy catch our eye and break into a smile, his love for laughter and chattering, his innocence, watching him grow, watching him learn, dreaming of what his world will be...it truly is a love like no other. 

 

Gratitude is encouraged a lot these days, and we certainly feel lucky thinking about all the people and memories we have written about.   
Happy Valentine's Day :)

The "Honest Parenting" Trend

It seems to be that there's a new trend dominating social media where motherhood is concerned. The so called "honest parenting" group. Those people who have decided to bare all for social media, and post pictures of themselves labelled 'scummy mummies' when they've not showered, with their children half naked at lunchtime, in a house which hasn't seen a hoover for a couple of weeks and the caption, "but this is reality. This is motherhood."

Look a little further and you will see whole blogs dedicated to the subject, and books published which comply with the new rules that your portrayal of your life can only be complete with a glass of wine in your hand, a few swear words in your post and your vomit stained PJs on. 

When we had Oskar people directed us to these blogs, and bought us books, the Unmumsy Mum, and Hurrah for Gin, to name but two. We sold them on eBay. 

Yes, we are well aware that these posts are majoritively 'tongue in cheek', jokes or comic relief. But there's something that makes us personally feel a bit uncomfortable about whole blogs, books and twitter feeds dedicated to almost bragging about how awful you find being a mother. We starting reading The Unmumsy Mum, and didn't finish it, because we just found it a bit..well..sad. Time being a mum to a tiny one is so fleeting, it seems such a shame to spend it complaining about how much you hate it.  It's almost uncool to say "actually, I enjoy being a mum, and I try my best to be a really good one."    As we said, a lot of people obviously love the trend, but we think there should maybe be a bit more balance to it. 

You see for us, we have absolutely no desire to portray our lives with Oskar as being something which means we have to open a bottle of wine and call him a few names just to get through the day. This is some people's  motherhood - and that's fine. It's not ours, and that doesn't make us any less 'honest'. Yes, we are mothers, yes we are real parents, but that doesn't mean that in order to be seen as being a true parent we need to change the way we get through a hard day, or how we post on social media.

Mums need support, but they also need to remember the positive, beautiful moments that motherhood brings, and that's what social media is about. It's about preserving memories, and aspiring to be a better version of yourself. It's about showing that one moment in the day that your child did sit quietly with a book, before they spent all of the rest of the day screaming. Because when Oskar is 26 and doesn't need us as much anymore, I want to look back and remember all of those wonderful quiet moments, sharing a book with my son.

Personally I don't need to be reminded that sometimes when you're a new mum you can't have a shower that easily, or often can't make yourself some food, and spend the best part of a few months constantly covered in vomit, crying at how hard motherhood is - we know. It's a given that parenting is really hard.  I understand that some mums may feel consolation or understanding from seeing social media images of women going through the same and that's great for them, but as we said, a bit of balance would be nice. Plus, the biggest part of our social media, is not portraying a perfect image, but preserving our own memories.

On the days when motherhood is hard, when our boy has cried all night, or been sick in someone's hair, or needs a nappy change right as we're about to leave, we can log on to Instagram or Twitter and see a stream of reminders that most of the time, motherhood is magical. We can look back and see our boy a few moments after birth, us holding him as a newborn, his first smiles, that wonderful night he first slept through, beautiful autumn leaf filled family walks, him meeting santa, playing with cousins, moments we were just holding him, looking at him, not quite believing he is ours. That is how we get through our hard times - not by swearing or gulping down gin. Why can you only be honest about parenting, if your parenting involves those things? Why is it suddenly uncool to actually like being a mum, and to want to do more than sticking your baby in front of an iPad all day? 

Because ultimately, we know how much a privilege this is, and even in those really hard moments, when we are exhausted, sleep deprived, he is crying, we are hungry, we never ever forget just how lucky we are. We remember watching thousands leave our bank account, then watching that second pink line on a pregnancy test fail to appear. We remember more money - for IVF,  the mandatory counselling, the numerous blood tests, the uncomfortable scans, the thrice daily injections, the silent, tangible hope. Watching others, paying their thousands, going through their treatments, seeing their heartbreak. We are so lucky to be here. We also know how fast this time goes. In twelve short weeks our son will be one year old and we will look back over the first year with our precious boy and want more than anything to do it all over again. To hold him as a tiny newborn just one more time, to be able to watch him in amazement as he claps for the first time just once more, to relive every beautiful second with our precious son.

So no, we won't subscribe to the hashtag honest parenting, exclaim we are only coping with a glass or five of wine, or call our little boy names for being, well, a baby, and yes, we will still keep posting beautiful pictures that capture special moments in our son's life. This is how we parent, and how we get through the hard times, no gin required. If, like us, you don't pretend that every day is baking and laughter, but get through those days without drinking or swearing at your baby - it's ok. Honest. 

 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Our favourite baby led weaning recipes!

I often see posts on Instagram or Facebook asking for new, nutritious recipe ideas for during the weaning phase. Lots of "but what do I give to the baby?" and "can I have some breakfast ideas please" etc. Probably the thing I love most about baby led weaning is that Oskar can literally eat what we eat. I mean of course there are times we are sat watching TV and he's in bed and we crack open the oreos but every meal I eat, he eats too. But to share some of the ideas that we have, here are a small collection of ideas that Oskar has really loved.

Breakfast
Oskar wakes anywhere between 8-9am, and immediately wants a good, long breastfeed. He must be hungry, after all, he only wakes approximately 6 times a night for milk!! So I tend to wait about 90 minutes following this milk feed before offering breakfast. His favourite things are:
* Toast. With a variety of toppings. His favourite ones are avocado, or almond and coconut butter. He also enjoys mashed banana, fruit spread, and cheese on toast.


*Pancakes. I usually make the two ingredient ones - mashed banana, 1 egg, fry in coconut oil. But they are also super easy to make with leftover cooked porridge, and sometimes I just make a simple crepe batter.

*Fruit roll ups. So easy, like filled French toast. You roll a slice of bread to thin it, fill with fruit puree, roll, coat in egg and fry gently in coconut oil. So yummy!

* Fruit and natural yoghurt. We only give plain, full fat natural or Greek yoghurt, with any variety or fresh, stewed or defrosted frozen fruits, and it is always a hit with our tiny boy.


The only thing he will absolutely not eat is porridge, or cereal including weetabix etc. Even made with expressed breast milk. So we have to be a little more creative!

Lunch
We eat lunch together anytime between 1-2pm depending on nap times etc. My favourite kind of lunch for us both is a kind of picnic platter, which consists of whatever we have in the house that day. So anything from crackers and cheese, bagels, veg sticks, houmous, falafel, olives, fruit, quorn mini sausages, a bit of quiche etc. It's an easy way to offer a bit variety of foods in an easy way, and we both just eat as much or as little as we fancy. Other easy lunches include:
* Leftovers. Probably the easiest meal on the planet! I literally just warm up a bit of whatever we all are the night before.

* Soup and bread. He loves chunky soup with pieces he can fish out with his fingers, and chunky bread to dip in and soak up all the moisture.


* Pin wheels. Easy. Ready made puff pastry, filled, sliced and baked.

*Lentil and cheese wegdes. One from the baby led weaning cookbook. So tasty!

*Veggie bakes / patties / fritters etc.
One of my concerns with baby led weaning was making sure we were able to offer enough different vegetables so that he got the flavour and texture right from the start. As well as offering veggie sticks along side main meals, these have been an invaluable way of getting goodness in to Oskar while he is learning how to feed himself. There are lots of options available online, on Pinterest etc, Oskar's favourites have been spinach muffins and carrot and butternut squash bakes!


Dinner
We sit down together to eat when Sarah is home from work, usually around 7pm. Oskar eats a smaller portion of whatever we are having, but often with a few more sticks of soft veg on the side for taste and texture. He has had a whole range of different foods, I love to cook and so cook from scratch every night. We like flavours, different cuisines and a lot of different meals each week, but there are a few that we regularly eat as we all really enjoy them.
*Satay tofu, noodles and veg. Oskar loves tofu! He takes after his Mommy in this respect. The satay sauce is a mix of olive oil, soy sauce, peanut butter and chilli, served with noodles and steamed veggies.


*Homemade pizza. The base is equal parts natural yoghurt and flour. Topped with tomato puree or homemade tomato and veg sauce, lots of veg like mushrooms, peppers, sweet corn etc, and cheese. This is so simple and so delicious!

*Curry, daal and rice. We love Indian food in this house! Most weekends we make a curry with paneer or quorn chicken and serve it with rice and Chapatti or naan. But lentil and spinach daal and homemade bread is often a meal during the week too.

*Lasagne. So messy but we all love it! We literally just put it on the tray of the highchair and Oskar helps himself.

*Risotto. Our favourites are butternut squash and courgette and aubergine. If you save leftovers then the sticky rice can be made it to balls, covered in breadcrumbs and baked the next day for another easy lunch!

Hopefully as time goes on and we find more meals we all enjoy I will post a few more posts on this. Feel free to share with us any of your favourites, we love trying new things!

Friday, 3 February 2017

This Girl Can.

One of the things I love about our home city is it's enthusiasm in supporting various campaigns. In the run up to Christmas all buses, taxes and billboards were adorned with posters urging people to go vegan. Now that Veganuary is over, it seems to have moved on to a new focus - the campaign "This Girl Can". As I drive around the place we call home I can't help but be impressed by the pictures of women enjoying sports in all shapes and sizes.
 
This campaign has really struck a chord with me, both as a woman and as a mother. I love the message it is giving to girls and boys alike that just because you are a woman, doesn't mean you can't enjoy sport. For too long in this country sport has been dominated by the male species. Men's football is a bazillion pound sport, yet women have only recently started to be paid to play. Men's cricket is televised yet when GB women won the World Cup it was barely even recognised on the news programmes. And men's rugby has thousands and thousands of followers, thousands of pounds of sponsorship poured in to it, and expensive prizes for the winning teams, yet their female equivalent get to play in a field supported by a few handfuls of family and friends, usually.
 
But more than that, more than the professionals who make a living from sport, this campaign speaks to every day people, it speaks to girls at school who are too ashamed of their bodies to get in to the swimming pool, to women who have had babies who are too ashamed to go running in fear of someone seeing them.

 It reminds us all that something is better than nothing, and trying is better than not trying at all. Slogans like "one is better than none" and "lapping the people sat on the couch" are powerful messages to all of us.
 
As a mother to a young boy, who may or may not have as much interest in sports as his mummies (none at all!), I wholly support the campaign in terms of teaching my son that not only are women equal, but they can be powerful too. I never ever want him to grow up thinking that he is better because he is male, that he has an advantage in the world, in sport, at work, solely because of his genitalia. I want him to have as much respect for women as he would for his mothers, and that includes respecting people for their own individual achievements, whether that's winning the next Olympic Gold medal or just simply not being afraid to put on their running shoes and go for a run for ten minutes each morning.

I would be lying if I said This Girl Can has motivated me to try sports! I've tried them, it's not for me. But I hope it inspires others. And I hope, more than that, that it inspires a confidence in them to believe that they can, however big or small their goal is, they can achieve it. Campaigns like this inspire us all to support each other and celebrate how beautiful, different and unique we all are, I wish we saw more!

Monday, 30 January 2017

The (Baby Led) Weaning Diaries - a progress report!

I actually can't believe it has only been about 6 weeks of us introducing food to Oskar, he has really taken to weaning like a duck to water. He was obviously ready for weaning to happen, as each time we offer him food he has happily picked it up, chewed it, licked it, eaten some of it, or dropped it on the floor and then laughed his head off at Willow eating it. You hear many stories of babies who are baby led weaning and at 8 months still haven't managed to pick anything up, because they are just not interested. Oskar is most definitely our son, and loves his food!
We are currently managing to give two meals a day, usually a brunch type meal around 12pm and dinner with us around 7pm. Sometimes we have breakfast earlier or lunch a little later, but it's easier to combine the two and go for a brunch! Dinner may seem quite late for a lot of babies, but Oskar has always been a late to bed and late to rise kinda baby, and so it works perfectly well for him to eat with us at 7 and then be in bed for around 8:30. In fact the closer to his bedtime we eat the better he seems to sleep, which as adults seems rather odd, but I guess he likes to go to bed with a full tummy, even more so as he breastfeeds to sleep every night too.

I am slightly concerned about how and when to go about adding in a third meal for Oskar, especially with snacks too. It's hard enough at the moment fitting in two, whilst making sure he has milk on demand and sleeps enough during the day! Ultimately I suppose, food before one is just for fun, and Oskar had certainly not dropped any breastfeeds as far as I can tell, so we will just follow his lead and there​ may well come a time when it becomes obvious he needs more food.
Baby led weaning is definitely messy, but it's really good fun too. At times I have to admit I have resented the clean up operation and have wondered if just spoon feeding him would be easier, but he grabs the spoon off us as soon as he sees it's got any food on, so I doubt he'd let us if we tried. It is amazing to watch his skills come on in leaps and bounds though, and I'd like to think it is partly down to the way we have chosen go wean him. He is now confidently passing things from hand to hand and has almost mastered his pincer grip. He has worked out how to bring food to his mouth in a fist and then open it to get the food in, and if something slips out of his hand he uses his other hand to catch it and push it in. I never knew you could be so proud of a tiny human for such tiny skills!

We are enjoying giving him new flavours, textures and tastes, and he is certainly showing us what he does and doesn't like. He likes most things, loves broccoli, pumpkin, bread, cheese and tofu, and absolutely hates porridge and weetabix, even made with milk I have lovingly expressed for him!
I wanted to share a few of our favourite baby led weaning recipes but will save them for another post. And will instead leave you with this picture from last week, when he had fed himself stewed plums and natural yoghurt. Gold star for effort babe!

And we didn't think this would happen for a while...!