The quest for shrinkage

I am so cross with myself.

Back at the start of the year, I was the heaviest I’d ever been. At 9st 13lb and five foot tall, my BMI of 27 put me officially in the Overweight category. I knew exactly how I got there; a combination of post-pregnancy sag, reintroducing dairy after six months off it in an attempt to help The Baby’s reflux, reducing to three breastfeeds a day having been doing anywhere up to 12 in a 24-hour period, and, most significantly, too much food and wine.

I hated the way I looked. Until I had children, I’d never had to worry about my weight. As a teenager and young adult, I was tiny. I could eat anything I wanted without changing shape or size. When I got married, 10 years ago, I was under 8st. People used to warn me that my metabolism would change and my weight would catch up on me one day, but I never gave it too much thought. Continue reading


The trials and tribulations of a family cat

We knew our cat was a softy when we got her. The Boy was three and a half at the time, so much as I wanted a cute fluffy kitten, our top priority was a mog who would be tolerant with children. When we met 18-month-old Poppy at the Cats Protection centre, and she immediately prostrated herself at The Boy’s feet, we had a pretty good idea that she’d be good with kids. We weren’t wrong.

Typically, for all his begging and pleading, the novelty of having a cat wore off very quickly for The Boy. DH has never liked her – he’s allergic to cats, and while he’s desensitised to Pops, he resents her on principle. I *do* like her, but I could live without the muddy footprints, wilful destruction of doorframes, dead squirrels and moulting (never get a monochrome cat; they shed white fur when you’re wearing black, and black when you’re wearing white). Continue reading

Mind the gap…

Once upon a time, back in my staffer days, I remember writing a feature about the best age gap to leave between having children. I vaguely recall one of the experts I interviewed postulating that the best gaps are either less than 18 months (eek!) or over three years. These gaps, the expert said, were the most likely to lead to harmonious sibling relationships, unburdened by jealousy and rivalry.

With my five and a quarter year gap, I should, then, be onto a winner. And indeed, for the first, what, 14 months of The Baby’s life, the relationship between my children was pretty much perfect. Yes, there was the occasional wail of, ‘Stop her eating my Lego!’ but in general, brother and sister were the best of friends.  Continue reading

The Gallery: Hands

They were so tiny, once. So precious.

I so clearly remember taking my babies to have their hand and footprints taken in John Lewis when they were just a few weeks old. I remember having second thoughts about the expense, especially when The Boy was newborn and I hadn’t got my head around my future work plans and where – if anywhere – the money would come from. The Boy slept through his imprinting, even when we took his sock off and shoved it into the cold clay; The Baby, however, screamed, writhed and clenched her fists. It was stressful. I was convinced her prints would be a write-off, but they turned out fine. Continue reading

Summer loving

I always know it’s going to be a good day when I wake up in the morning and open the curtains to blue skies. Because everything is easier on a sunny day.

Getting out of bed at 6.15am – the default time at which my little 16-month-old alarm clock goes off – is easier. In the winter months, when it’s still pitch black, it feels like that wake-up call is coming in the dead of night. While I never relish the thought of being dragged from my sleep, it’s less painful in summer, when the sky is light and the birds are singing. Continue reading

New shoes


I was so excited (and disbelieving) when I found out at 24 weeks that I was expecting a baby girl. I love my son to bits, but after five years of trains, tractors and mud, I couldn’t wait to have a house full of pink. I was a very girlie girl myself, growing up. Okay, I did go through a (long) Goth phase in my teens, but up to that point, I was all about dolls, ballet and pretty things. I was still playing with my Barbies when I started secondary school, for goodness sake.

I was so looking forward to indulging my love of all things girlie with my daughter, but what I didn’t consider was that she’d be a proper little tomboy. Whether it’s the big brother influence or just in her nature, who knows, but it’s blindingly obvious that she’s much happier playing with cars, balls and Lego than dolls.

She does, however, have one concession to girliness – and that’s shoes.

I vaguely remember The Boy going through a phase where he was obsessed with shoes, but that was with chewing them, not wearing them. The Baby, in contrast, just loves shoes. Her favourite pastime is sitting beside the shoe rack, trying on a selection of footwear belonging to other members of the family. If she’s barefoot, she’ll often go and find a pair of her own shoes and try to put them on. She even tries to put the laundry liquid dispenser pots on her feet.

Unsurprisingly, then, this morning’s trip to get The Baby’s feet measured was a big success. It probably ranks up there as one of the best experiences of her 16-month life so far. When she was first fitted with shoes, two months ago, she measured up as a dinky size two, and so it was cruisers or nothing. But now that she’s walking confidently (including backwards), I wanted to get her some proper walkers.

We’d already been to Boots for eye drops for The Boy, John Lewis to browse the sale, and Primark to pick up some vests and socks before we hit the shoe shop, and The Baby was beginning to get grumpy. But as we entered Shoe Mecca, her face lit up. ‘Shooooooe!’ she cried, straining at the straps of her pushchair. ‘Shooooooooooooe!’

For the next half-hour, The Baby was in her element. She tried on pair after pair of shoes. She ran up and down the shop. She sat down and admired each style option, and gazed at herself in the mirror. She methodically took every pair off the lower shelf of the sale rack and lined them up on the floor. All while squealing, ‘shoooooooe!’

But despite her evident delight at being surrounded by such objects of beauty, shoe-shopping with The Baby was no mean feat (excuse the pun). Because she’s inherited her mummy’s tiny feet. My childhood was blighted by small, narrow and shallow feet that meant I always had to have boring, fitted, near-orthopaedic styles, while my normal-footed friends got to wear those pretty Mary-Janes with the strap that you could slide back over the heel to convert them to slip-ons; remember those? And after visiting two shoe shops, and pushing our car parking ticket into the third hour, we’d discovered that proper walking shoes are hard to come by if you’re a teeny tiny size three. Most styles, it transpires, start at a four.

But all was not lost. After exhausting our options in the big high street chain stores, we had a last-resort look in the expensive independent shoe shop. It yielded two possibilities; both white (*sigh*), but one more robust-looking than the other.

Of course, The Baby didn’t want the sturdy, sensible shoes. Oh no. She shoved them out of the way in favour of the white pearlescent Italian designer leather pair with glittery red hearts. So scuffable. So impractical. So expensive, at £25 in the half-price sale.

But her luck was in. The more practical pair gaped when she walked, while the designer efforts fit like the proverbial glove. And with them adorning her minuscule feet, The Baby was *not* taking them off again. I left the shop £25 lighter, with The Baby positively beaming about her pretty new ‘shoooooooes.’

They do look pretty. And my inner girlie-girl is secretly pleased that my little tomboy does have a feminine side. But I’m not entirely sure how her beautiful designer shoes are going to stand up to playing football in the mud…

The Gallery: Family

Even though we spent five years feeling perfectly satisfied with having an only child – and, in fact, for at least four of those, thought we’d stick with just the one – there was one thing that always rankled. And that was the way that other people seemed to consider us ‘less of a family’ than those with two or more children.

No one ever said it outright, but it was implicit in people’s attitudes. I felt they didn’t consider me a sufficiently experienced mum because I was raising a single child rather than a brood. I often felt we were expected to go further out of our way for get-togethers and outings than other families, because it was theoretically easier for us to get up and go. I found myself giving endless lifts to parties and playdates just because there was more space in our car, and no younger sibling to make alternative arrangements for.  Continue reading