Kitchen Table Portraits

Is obsessing too strong a word? No I think obsessing is right.

I am OBSESSING over this little portraits I’ve been doing in my kitchen. Everyone knows the kitchen is the heart of a home. In addition to that the light is just perfect in mine and the setting is so comfortable that my subjects are at ease. A dog and a cat at their feet, adding to the fun (and chaos)!

My plan is to have everyone who comes to the house (prior warning to anyone planning a visit) to pull up a stool and sit with me a while. Pretty much as we do, a cup of tea and chat.

Each of these shoots was no more than 15 minutes and I adore how simple they are but now much personality you can see in each one.

I’d love to open these mini sessions up to others. If you’re interested give me a shout xxx

Romancing the toddler

Wow. Three year olds are full on aren’t they? And boys are full on. And two of them are FULL ON. Add into the mix a weekend of rain and solo parenting, we were climbing the walls by Saturday night.

And then I tried something new. Something they recommended in the early days of babyhood, about the sounds and smells and general atmosphere effecting a baby’s mood.

So in a desperate attempt to turn the energy volume down a notch before something was broken (including me), I turned the lights lower, lit a load of candles in the kitchen and put on some kids folk music. In addition, while the boys were napping, I made some play dough for the first time adding essential oils of lavender and rosemary.

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The effort was well worth it. The mood changed and the building emotion of the day that had been escalating, eased. Incredible.

So next time you’re pulling your hair out, try a little romance to lift the mood!

Recipe I used for the play dough –

Mix together:

  • 2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of Cream of Tartar
  • 3 tablespoons of everyday cooking oil
  • 3 drops of Lavender essential oil (or any oil – go easy on the drops!)
  • Optional fresh Lavender

Once mixed, slowly add 1 1/2 cups of very hot water (almost boiling) mix a little bit at a time. It will form into a ball when it’s all mixed.

I gave the boys a ball of dough each and some natural items to create with. It’s winter here so not much in the way of flowers but sticks, shells, rosemary, pasta shapes and lentils.

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For the music, take a look at Naomi from (the utterly amazing) Boys Run Free, she’s put together a Spotify playlist of children’s folk music.

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And enjoy.

(Smugness of being the type of mother who makes her own play dough an added bonus!)

 

 

 

5 ways to avoid losing your sh*#%t on a long haul flight with kids

Being a lover of travel combined with having an Australian husband means we’ve experienced our fair share of long haul flights. We’re dab hands at ensuring those 23 hours on board go without a hitch. Add kids into the mix though and it’s a whole new ball game with new rules and motivational words to live by. Here’s some tips we’ve learnt along the way.

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1. Keeping them entertained for 23 solid hours of entertainment can seem incredibly daunting. It’s much more manageable if you break it up into bite size chunks – packing games, magazines and iPads can seem like the solution but you need to stagger these otherwise all your entertainment options will be out the window an hour into your flight.

Instead, similar to home, get a bit of routine together. For the next hour we’ll watch TV, then we’ll go for a walk through the cabin chatting to people. An hour later we’ll go to the loo and freshen up. Next hour we’ll have a snack – with the aim being to make tasks last as long as you can. If you know your plan you can try be on the front foot and not just react to their screams for something new. (Worth noting there will be screams, who has ever spent a 24 hour period with a toddler with no screams?? It’s how you react and deal that counts).

2. Sleep blessed sleep. One of the biggest questions I get asked by friends is whether the kids slept on the flight. Whether they be 3 months or 3 years, sleep is really tricky. The benefit of 3 months is that they’re in a bassinet… 3 years and they’re in their own seat – in-between is more of an issue.

One of the hardest things we found in getting them to sleep was getting them to switch off. With so many people around, noise and lights – over stimulation was our biggest issues. When they were babies, putting a muslin loosely over the bassinet helped enormously – for toddlers an eye mask after they’d drifted off. Prepping before you leave with sounds and smells that can be taken with you really helped too – I’ve used the same essential oils since they were little so a familiar smell on the muslin helps to eradicate the musty aeroplane smell!

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3. Feeding the beast. There seems to be a lot of myths about feeding little ones on the flight and specifically milk if you’re bottle feeding (clearly no dramas with taking your boobs on board). So a few things of note

  • Under twos can take as much formula on a flight as you need – over twos can’t
  • We went with ready made stuff for ease in small bottles so nothing would go off
  • You don’t have to open the bottles at security (they go through a special x-ray machine) something I was worried about for fear of them going off
  • If you want to minimise the stress UK side, do a click and collect order at Boots in the terminal. That way you don’t have to go through security with it and you know it will definitely be there.

When it comes to ‘real’ food – we’ve found huge discrepancies between the airlines. We always order the kids meal (although they spend a lot of time picking ours) the main reason is they get their food first. Other than that though, I tend to rely on packing our own food for flights. We had a terrible  experience with BA – the boys slept through their meal on a 12 hour flight and we asked if they had any snacks… the answer was no but we were welcome to pick through the cleared away trays to see if  there were any rolls left over. Nice. On the other hand Singapore Airlines couldn’t do more and always had food available for the boys. If you do go for packing your own food, don’t pack yoghurts. You can’t take them through security.

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4. Seating choice is key. My husband and I have dwelled on the best ways to seat our family – divide and conquer or take it in turns. What works best for us with twins is to do shifts of childcare and shifts of sleep. That way we don’t both lose our sh*#%t for 23 hours!! Now the boys are bigger we aim to get three seats together for an adult and two kids and one ‘sanity seat’. Then do stints and swap regularly… that’s the plan anyway!

5. Remember, it won’t last forever. God I’ve whispered this to myself on many a flight but it sometimes needs reminding. My mantra: ‘By tomorrow we will be there. We won’t see these people again. No matter what happens in the next 23 hours, we will survive!’

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In addition to my tips, some well travelled friends have the following advice:

“Pack extra water and milk, and less nappies. Kids get quite dehydrated (as we all do) on the flight so need to keep the fluids up and as a result they also wee a lot less!”

“On really long flights, try and have a distinction between night and day. Changing into pyjamas, brushing teeth and settling down for a story can help them think it’s night, even if they don’t get to sleep!”

“Give babies and small children a dummy, bottle or boob at take off an landing to stop their ears popping”

“Make friends with other parents on the flight. There’s strength in numbers and they may be useful at 30,000 feet when you need a spare wet wipe or just to share an understanding smile”

“Don’t rush. Get to the airport early, make use of the soft play in the terminal or just climbing the chairs before boarding and make use of the early boarding.”

Finally, grow thick skin and ignore any haters. A lot of people will moan at the sight of a small child on board but you just have to focus on yourself and what you’re doing. And refer back to the mantra!

 

 

 

 

A Motherhood Taboo: Antenatal Depression #timetotalk

It’s funny, since I picked up the phone to a therapist in 2014 at three months pregnant, a number of people have said that I shouldn’t talk about ‘thinking’ I had antenatal depression.

Apparently it makes me sound bad, unloving and ungrateful about my pregnancy. I’ve even been told by healthcare professionals that I shouldn’t say I suffered with antenatal depression as I wasn’t diagnosed – so much so I place a million caveats ahead of broaching the subject with anyone and this really is the first time I’ve spoken about it to most of my friends. While we’ve made huge in roads with talking about post natal depression, my experience has been that the less common antenatal depression still has a load of taboos attached.

Prior to getting pregnant I had never suffered proper anxiety before. I had always been pretty up and down with stress, but proper debilitating can’t breathe anxiety was a new one on me. I first became aware that I wasn’t OK when I was sitting in the shower, tears streaming down my face unable to stand… I’d missed every sign up until that point but I couldn’t miss that one. It’s like my brain was screaming for help and as a last stand for me to take notice, it resorted to physical breakdown.

Of course, the crying in the shower wasn’t the moment it all started. No, no. With fresh eyes and perspective I can trace it back to the very moment the sonographer told me at 12 weeks, ‘It’s twins’.

The out of body experience I felt from that moment should have been my first clue. I saw my plans for me and my little baby disappearing before my eyes –  living simply and travelling the world. You see for anyone that doesn’t know me, I’m a planner and a control freak and a virgo (sorry for stating the obvious for those that do know me!). This huge life curve ball rattled my plans and the well oiled machine that was my life, and it did not sit comfortably.

As the weeks went by and the excitement from everyone around me intensified I felt myself disappearing. No longer feeling like a person people cared about, now just a vessel for these two little beings to come into the world.

Long story short, I did get through it. I found help quickly in the form of a wonderful therapist who created an open forum for me to say everything I felt too afraid to say to anyone else. Who listened and didn’t judge and offered me incredible coping mechanisms to help me put one foot in front of the other on the path to motherhood.

Now I’m going to resist the caveat of stating the obvious – that never for one moment have I not loved both of my boys – that I would take a bullet for them, and that they are my world – because you know that already. (Oops looks like I didn’t quite manage it) Mental illness isn’t about that. For mothers it’s the worst, because it’s just about me, and as soon as that stick turns blue you know it’s can’t just be about you anymore.

Fast forward four years, in fact from the time I gave birth – those feelings of anxiety have subsided and the attacks that had been frequent in pregnancy have eased. Most importantly I know the warning signs and the triggers so I can (hopefully) start working on myself long before I’m crying in the shower.

Occasionally it does happen though. I’m learning that’s just me. I am a work in progress, I’m not perfect but I’m constantly striving to improve and evolve. I continue to have epic highs, but  you have to come down eventually. By taking time to talk I’ve learnt the crash doesn’t have to be too great.

In honour of #timetotalk day today I wanted to make it clear that I will always have Time To Talk to anyone about mental illness. It’s OK, it doesn’t make you sound bad, unloving or ungrateful. It makes you real and honest and brave.