If money were no object: The play kitchen of Pippin’s (my) dreams

I had a hand-me-down plastic kitchen when I was little, and we played with it so much I absolutely knew I wanted to get Pippin one too. They’re so versatile and encourage imaginative play.

We used that play kitchen an awful lot. It was white plastic, with a little yellow fold out table and a plastic tiled work surface. It had seen a lot of tea making, mud pies and plastic food over the years and it had held up really well. But it was a bit ugly.

I remember reading about a play kitchen, it might have been in one of Louisa M. Alcott’s books, that had a proper working oven and was built into a bay window. That was the kitchen I wanted.

I’ve definitely scaled back my ideas since then. But if money really were no object I would be creating the play kitchen of my dreams for Pip, and living vicariously through her.

The base kitchen would absolutely be IKEA’s Duktig. It is a brilliant blank canvas to make something really one of a kind from, and there are some amazing hacks out there.

Ikea Duktig Picture Collage
Miss Audrey Sue // This Haus of Ours // Peachy Parade // Anchors and Honey

It would have all the pans, pots and casserole dishes: because you really can’t cook your pretend fudge without having the proper equipment.

 

Utensils and Cookware Collage
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

 

Of course, Pippin wouldn’t be doing much cooking if she didn’t have any food to cook with. So what she needs is some shopping. And of course it has to be wood, because I love wooden toys.

 

Basic Groceries.jpg
1 // 2 // 3

 

And lets face it. We all want a treat every now and again.

Extra Groceries Collage.jpg
1 // 2 // 3 // 4

So, two thoughts have now occurred to me.

  1. I’d need to take out a second mortgage to pay for all this, and
  2. Pippin’s toy kitchen is probably going to be better stocked than my actual kitchen.

Baby Clothes and Tears

We are really, actually really this time, on the final stages of the renovation. I could actually do a happy dance and I probably will when we get over the finish line.

My job for today was to start unpacking some of the many boxes of crap that we packed up on our retreat from the building site. I’ve made a little promise to myself that only things I love or we need will find places in our home again. I can’t be bother to have all the stuff cluttering up everywhere again, especially since the small one now has plenty of stuff of her own to take up space.

As Pip has moved up through the sizes I carefully washed and folded her old clothes, packing them away in boxes labelled by size. Lots of clothes, more clothes frankly than she has ever actually worn.

Why? I couldn’t tell you. After the trauma of having her, and the near certainty that I will develop gestational diabetes again meaning they want me under their care from pre-conception my husband and I have decided that we are one and done, as far as biological children go.

I don’t plan on having another pregnancy, and yet I’ve kept my maternity clothes. Something in me didn’t want to let go, and today as I folded the tiny vests and pairs of leggings I felt a really deep sadness. Maybe it is because I know we possibly would have more if circumstances were different. I don’t know.

So this huge pile of clothes will be working its way to new homes, hopefully to be used by new mums and babies. Which is admittedly a much better use for it than sitting in plastic boxes in my loft. I look at it that it’s good for the environment too, or something.

I know my husband feels sad too, he came and hugged me as I sat in a sea of soft jersey and tiny jeans. Our baby has grown so very fast, it is hard to remember her being so small.

I have kept some bits, hand knitted cardigans and some of my favourite outfits. I don’t know if that is silly or not, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of everything yet.

Another thing struck me after I took this picture. I really, really have to stop buying her clothes!

Building Work and Comparisons

I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps and disheartened over here, and I’ve been struggling to put my finger quite on why. My OCD has been kicking my arse, I’m tired and everything has felt like a lot of hard work.

Then I realised why, because it is bloody hard work! I’m mum to a toddler whilst also trying to renovate a house (still), working and trying to manage my writing work too. We are also keeping each other awake most of the night because we’re all sharing one room still. I’ve been beating myself up because everyone has had all these beautiful Instagram photos full of their children picking pumpkins and dressing up and we’ve done none of it because time and money are so tight.

Despite me never celebrating Halloween and really disliking it as a holiday I’ve found myself kicking myself because Pippin is missing out and it is all my fault.

Then I realised that actually it doesn’t matter if we’re not doing what all the other families are doing, because we are our own family and Pippin is enjoying herself just fine, she has no idea what a pumpkin is, let alone that she could have had an Instagram photo taken of her sitting on one.

That’s not a criticism of people who do, but more of my own need to compare myself with others, and negatively at that. Ok, so this year she hasn’t had a lot of outings, but she’s had cuddles, and playtime and her family round her.

She hasn’t had a holiday, but she will have a home that is safe and warm for her.

In a world where pretty much everyone and their dog has social media it is really, really easy to get sucked into comparisons. This will become even more evident the closer we get to Christmas, I think we need to give ourselves a break and look at our own children: if they’re healthy and happy then I’d guess we’re doing alright.

What we did for Pippin’s Birthday

It has only taken me three weeks to write about what we did for Pip’s birthday.

As you’re only one once she actually had a four day long birthday spectacular, and I am pretty sure she loved it. I am also equally sure she had absolutely no idea what was going on at all.

I had been hoping to have a little party for Pippin and her friends, but the weather and the house renovation had other ideas. So we all got together at my friends and destroyed her house with cake and paint. Which was lovely, and they enjoyed themselves. Pippin’s particular trick is to stroke her friends faces whilst saying “awh”. This is what we taught her to do to the dogs. I’m not yet sure if she thinks her friends are dogs or the dogs are her friends…

 

On her actual birthday we took a trip to the zoo. It was absolutely boiling and very busy. But we had a really nice day, and Pip loved seeing all the ‘Ack Acks’ (Ducks), Dogs and ‘Oooow’ (Cats). Currently anything with wings is a duck, and cat and dog are used interchangeably for anything with four legs. She really liked the big dogs with a horn.

We then went to Zizzi’s for tea. We love eating there, it is one of the few places you can get a dairy free, gluten free pizza. They also do a children’s menu which can be adapted for allergies, and they even do a pasta and garlic bread for really tiny tummys. Of course she never wants her own meal and always wants mine, but the option is there at least. Allergy mummies, if you haven’t been already then I urge you to check it out.

On the bank holiday Monday we went out with family for a birthday tea and Pip had her second birthday cake. She put her toes in it, which is clearly what chocolate cake is for.

Then for her final birthday day she saw the family that couldn’t make it to her birthday meal and had her third birthday cake, and got more presents.

Birthday Photo Shoot with Milk and Cuddles Photography

For Pippin’s birthday I wanted to have some photos taken. I adore photographs, I love taking them, I love having them and I love looking back at them and remembering the time they immortalise, and when a friend shared the photos take for her daughter’s first birthday I knew I wanted Lauren from Milk and Cuddles photography to take them.

She didn’t disappoint.

We didn’t want to do a cake smash, and initially we were going to have a studio shoot that took elements of our wedding. But then Lauren suggested we go to Dunham Massey and it was perfect. We have been to Dunham quite a few times since Pippin was born, we’re National Trust members and we love exploring with her.

The weather wasn’t brilliant, and we nearly moved everything to the studio at the eleventh hour, but Lauren was really flexible and we pushed things back to the afternoon and, luckily, the rain held off. Although I did have to do some last minute outfit changes because the little romper I had picked out was a definite no go!

Lauren was divine with Pippin, she made her feel comfortable and I think she made a friend for life after presenting her with a pink balloon (or ‘Baaaaall’ as she calls them)! Pip doesn’t warm to people easily, but she acted like Lauren was an old friend, which led to some really beautiful photos.

Oh and she did all of this whilst being heavily pregnant.

My only problem now is picking only a few to put up around the house.

When things don’t go exactly to plan…

Does anything go according to plan? Not the renovation at any rate.

We are four months in and we’re still no closer to being home. Well, that’s a lie. We have functioning electrics and some rooms on the way to being completed, but it is now looking like it will be the end of November before we’re back in our house, and that is if everything goes smoothly.

Nothing ever goes smoothly with a renovation.

It feels so disheartening to go over there, our family home has been reduced to brick walls and although we’ve re-plastered all of the upstairs and most of the downstairs it is still no closer to being liveable. Which is sad because it was our family home, and now it just feels like a bit of a shell!

That has a knock of effect as well, because I love my in-laws and I’m grateful we’ve had somewhere to stay and the ability to do the much needed work on the house. But it is hard for a family of three, and a lot of their stuff, to be in one room.

I’ve lost motivation with it all, because it feels never ending.

Has anyone else done a renovation? How do you get over the hump?

Hopefully, soon, I will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Hopefully we will be back home for Christmas!

My OCD and Pregnancy

This post is written for PNDAW17. This year PANDAS Foundation are concentrating on pre-natal mental health, highlighting how illnesses such as depression, anxiety and OCD can affect mental wellbeing during pregnancy.   

I’m crouched outside of our bedroom listening intently for the sound of my daughter breathing.

It took ages to get her to sleep, and I’ve checked on her four or five times since then. Logic tells me she’s ok, but my brain won’t rest until I’ve been in and gently put my hand on her chest.

After each time I’ll be able to relax for a few minutes but, inevitably, the thoughts will start again. I’ll keep checking the monitor. Then I’ll stare, watching her chest move up and down. Then I’ll feel the need to check on her again.

Sounds like normal behaviour for someone with a newborn doesn’t it?

What if I told you my daughter was twelve months old?

What if I told you that everytime I get the urge to check on her that I also have to touch the wooden table I’m sat at as a way to keep the bad thoughts away?

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Simply put OCD is a series of obsessive thoughts that are dealt with by the use of a compulsive behaviour. In this case the thought is that my daughter has stopped breathing in her cot, and the compulsion is both touching wood and then going and checking on her.

I’d tried lots of medication and therapy prior to my diagnosis at age twenty, but it took having private therapy for things to really click, and on a day to day basis I was coping pretty well.

Then I became pregnant.

Unexpectedly. My world was turned upside down.

We hadn’t planned to get pregnant, and since I had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and didn’t appear to be ovulating the chance of me becoming pregnancy seemed slim. To say I was shocked is an understatement. My normal reaction in situations of stress is to run. Unfortunately there’s no way to run from cells that are rapidly dividing in your uterus. You kind of have to deal with the situation.

It is really difficult when you know you should be happy, and everyone is congratulating you and the reality is that you’re terrified and hurtling towards an unknown that you have no way of coping with.

Pregnancy was scary. I had “complications” and there wasn’t a day I didn’t think I would lose my baby. I developed coping rituals to try and deal with the anxiety: I started colouring books in the hope that it might allow me some respite from my own brain. Every scan we had I would turn my face to the wall, expecting to hear the baby didn’t have a heartbeat.

I made good friends with Dr. Google, analysing every little twinge and ache, checking ingredients in all products to try and reduce risk. I even struggling to have blood taken during my pregnancy, the fear of contamination actually caused my blood flow to slow down when the needle was in.

I opted for a home birth, in an effort to help myself remain as calm as possible. My reasoning was that being in a familiar environment might help reduce my stress levels and therefore bring about an easier birth. That didn’t work out. I ended up with Gestational Diabetes and was scheduled to be induced at thirty-seven weeks.

I’m not sure how people without OCD face impending labour. I worried that I wouldn’t want to hold my baby because of the blood, I was concerned about going into hospital and the risk of Pippin or I contracting something, I was scared of sharing a bathroom with other women on the ward after the birth in case of contamination, and I was really scared that my OCD would come back with a vengeance.

As it turns out I coped better than I expected.

My birth was not idea or as planned. I was never given the choice to have her birthed onto my chest, as she was born via emergency caesarean and immediately taken away whilst they dealt with my bleeding uterus. I breast fed, the decision was almost made for me as I had expressed colostrum to be taken over to the SBCU for my poorly daughter. I also managed to share the bathroom with the other women, because the only way I was getting out of that ward was to pee and nothing would stop me seeing my little girl.

It wasn’t easy, and in the first few weeks after her birth I was plagued with intrusive thoughts. I look back and I can feel a little of what I went through in those early weeks. I remember feeling sick every time I tried to feed my daughter, and the dread that appeared towards the end of the day when I knew I had to have my daily injection. It’s still not easy some days: I’m having therapy again to help me deal with the trauma of the birth and the separation from my daughter, but I’m here and my daughter is doing well.

I was reading a few blogs, as you do, and came accross the concept of Zero Waste.

So, I want to be a bit more commited to looking at the stuff we throw away.

We used to be quite good, but then we had a baby. A baby who never sleeps and, quite frankly, somewhere around the fifth day my brain stopped functioning correctly. I’m never quite sure if I’ve remembered to brush my teeth, so actually getting my head around dealing with our waste output felt a bit too much to handle. Then my dad came round, and he took five bags of rubbish from around my house to the bin, and I was horrified. We’d gone from meticulously sorting rubbish to throwing away colossal amounts of rubbish and it felt grim.

Yet another thing that fell of the wagon when the baby arrived, and yet it was probably one of the more important things we could do for our daughter. Not only to help safeguard the planet that she will be living on, but also to teach her (and through her future generations) about the importance of minimising our impact on the planet (and how nasty landfill is, obv. We live near a skip company, if the wind is against us we can smell how nasty it is.)

Zero Waste Week was launched in 2008, to raise awareness of the impact on the environment of the things we throw away. It runs for one week in September, and this year it starts this coming Monday.

So we’ve made a pledge at No. 1: this week we’re going to attempt to cut down on the rubbish we put in our general waste bin, and hopefully go into our next collection without an overflowing bin.

We’re hopefully going to achieve this by:

  1. Bringing less packaging into the house.
  2. Making sure we recycle everything that can be recycled.
  3. Wasting as little food as possible.
  4. Making use of our green bin for what food waste we do have.

One year of Pippin

I didn’t think I’d feel so emotional about Pippin turning one. I was ok until I looked at the clock at 10pm on the 25th and had a vivid flashback to leaning over the windowsill on the maternity ward breathing through a contraction. An artificially induced one mind as the second pessary began to do its work. I wouldn’t be in full blow labour until the 26th.

I still don’t like thinking about the birth. It leaves me feeling a little sick, and I struggle looking at the pictures of those first few days, which is sad because I should have been happy. Birth isn’t always easy though, it can be traumatic for mum and baby. I didn’t expect to become a mum, and sometimes I still look at Pippin and can’t quite believe I am one, but I couldn’t be without her. I’m glad she unexpectedly appeared in our lives.

 

I feel like I’m writing a lot of sad things at the moment, and if I’m honest I am the happiest and most stable I’ve been in a long time.

It is hard to know what to write about Pippin. I couldn’t be prouder of how well she is doing, not just because of her achievements – but also because of her little personality. She’s bright and bubbly, she’s caring and happy and she’s independent and fierce too. She’s fearless, determined and loving. She delights us every day.

I can really put into words how I’m feeling. I haven’t found parenting easy, but I’m pretty sure it has made me a better me. Pippin has pushed me to do things I struggled to do before.

As a family we’ve had a lot going on over the past few years. With bereavements, and buying a house, getting married, graduating, having a baby and now renovating our house. These are big life events and in some respects it feels like I’ve not stopped.

I’m looking forward to spending the day with my two favourite people, and just spending time in the moment.

I am sad that it is going so quickly, but I’m excited about the future.

Particularly about the fact that she can walk!!!

The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

I make no secret of the fact that I adore having a National Trust Membership. We’ve used it so much since getting it, and I like the fact that pretty much wherever we go we can find a wonderful place to visit.

So when my cousin wanted to do a meet up for Pippin’s birthday a Trust property seemed perfect, so we headed off to Dunham Massey.

Dunham Massey is an 18th Century House in between Manchester and Cheshire, with impressive grounds filled with deer and a beautiful Garden. It isn’t the first time we have visited, but it is the first time we’ve visited when there was an event on!

Currently the house has been transformed to tell the tale of the 7th Earl and his scandalous marriage to London Celebrity Catherine Cox.

Little Pippin was really getting some steps in wandering up and down the hallways of the house. She had great fun pointing out all the different dogs in the portraits too.

The garden’s are currently home to ‘The Lost Carnival’.

Essentially a treasure hunt, but filled with performances and fun. Including hula hooping, which I think the adults enjoyed more than the littles on our trip!

And we made sure to say hello to the ‘Ack Acks’ (for the uninitiated that’s my daughter speak for Ducks)…

Before heading to the café for tea and cake.

The Lost Carnival is running until the 30th of August, so you still have a few more days to catch it!