A day out at Packwood House National Trust

We became members of the National Trust a few months ago and have already had so much out of our membership.

Previously, on those weekends where we didn’t have much planned, we would perhaps drive into town to spend money on things we didn’t need, or spend the days ‘getting jobs done’ around the house, which frankly is never fun. Now we (I) scour our National Trust handbook to see where we should go visit for the day.

Packwood House National Trust

Admittedly, Mr M isn’t hugely into the history (I like to think I am), but we both love the outdoors and we are both lovers of England and all it has to offer. The National Trust has certainly made us appreciate more of what’s on our doorstep and all of those great places at home you never think to visit.

A couple of weeks back we decided to visit Packwood House, which is not far from where we live. Once described as ‘a house to dream of, a garden to dream in’ Packwood House certainly offers dreamy escapism and there’s something quite enchanting about both the gardens and the house. There’s plenty of countryside to explore as well as various gardens and a newly restored kitchen garden which immediately makes you want to go dig up your back lawn and start ‘growing your own’. The Yew Garden is also quite spectacular – I can’t imagine how many hours it must take to keep those trees so perfectly pruned!

yew garden packwood house

After the gardens we took a leisurely stroll around the lake which has plenty of great spots for a picnic (as usual we hadn’t gone prepared). We also passed a couple of Packwood’s ‘Follies’ – a series of playful artworks created by artist Hilary Jack, which I imagine are great for older children to explore. This had-carved wooden bed structure is one of them – a nod to ‘a garden to dream in’ and (apparently) famous beds in history, folklore and fairytale (so I read).

Packwood House Follies Embedded

Following our morning of exploration, we headed into the Garden Kitchen Café for a bite to eat. We were pleased to discover that afternoon tea was on offer so of course took full advantage of this, stuffing our faces with clotted cream and scones. Taylor may have even been treated to a few cheeky licks…there were of course much healthier options available with everything made fresh – the soups and sandwiches looked particularly tempting (although obviously not as tempting at the cream tea!)

Packwood House lake National Trust

Stomach’s satisfied, we took a tour of the house which was restored in the 1920s and 1930s by Graham Baron Ash who created his own vision of the perfect Tudor house. The house is kept as when he left it in 1941 and as you walk around the house, you really get a feel for the great care and attention to detail that went into the restoration. Highlights for me included the Great Hall (where I think I would’ve enjoyed a party or two!), and the bedroom where Queen Mary stayed when she visited the house in 1927. Mr M, as usual, was rushing me around the rooms, so I didn’t get to take in as much as I would’ve liked, but if you have a thing for Tudor houses, then this is your place.

All in all we had a great family day out and really enjoyed all that Packwood has to offer. I’m sure we will be returning again this summer with a picnic blanket in tow.

Packwood House entrance sign

Life Unexpected
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The six month evolution

This week Taylor hit six-months – a big milestone in a baby’s life and the point when everything (I can confirm) does get a lot easier. In some ways it’s flown by – it seems like only yesterday when I started to have those contractions leaning over the sofa in the living room and being told at the hospital that I was too late to have an epidural (whaaaat????).six month baby

Yet I can’t imagine our lives now without her – she has completed us in so many ways and every day she brings more fun, love and happiness to our lives and excitement about what the future holds for us as a family.

I’ve also discovered that I’m actually quite a good mum. I did have my suspicions pre-baby that I might turn out to be a bit useless, but I’ve actually taken to motherhood pretty well *big pat on the back*. I’ve had to become much more organised with a baby and I actually quite like the new me – I’m even on time for appointments and meetings, which (those who knew me Before Taylor will appreciate) is a somewhat spectacular achievement. Or perhaps it’s just that those meetings and appointments are now much more pleasurable lunch dates and play groups…either way, I’m enjoying this new chapter in my life and have discovered that I’m far better at looking after someone else than I ever was at looking after myself. Continue reading

Why we’re addicted to parenting forums

From the minute we find out we’re expecting a baby, we find ourselves turning to the internet for all manner of uncertainties (is this feeling normal?) parenting forums

This continues when we approach labour (what should I expect?), through the early days of parenthood (I’m clueless) and (I can only imagine) throughout your child’s whole life (she’s sick, she’s troublesome, she’s quiet…)

I admit that I have never actually posted anything on a forum, but I am a bit of a serial browser (or rather frantic scanner) as I trawl through the comment threads on Babycentre looking for the ‘answers’ to my daily queries about motherhood. The truth is, I don’t necessarily want answers, just confirmation that my inclinations are right. Unlike my health visitor, midwife and GP, forums provide me with thousands of answers to choose from and I will keep on searching until I find one that I like and agree with. Any answers that don’t back up what I already thought before I typed my query into Google just get swiped past – what do they know anyhow?

More often than not, I don’t find any answers at all. Just hundreds of parents who are all experiencing the same problems and facing the same challenges. This in itself is enough for me – it makes me feel better knowing that there are thousands of others out there having just as hard a time of it. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not being over-dramatic and that another parent who has experienced the same challenges as me thought that it warranted signing up and posting a comment about it.

I started to understand very early on this journey of motherhood that nobody really knows better than yourself. Forums serve this mindset nicely, allowing us to self-diagnose any problems and take and leave advice as we see fit. I’ve had no end of conversations with my parent friends who have tried to obtain advice from their health visitors/ GPs but have been disappointed (or darn right pissed off) by text book responses that leave no room for individual circumstances. My health visitor is actually pretty easy going about ‘just do what works for you’, but even I find myself just asking for advice for the sake of it, already knowing beforehand what I’m going to do regardless of her response (I already Googled it).

So here’s to another 18 years of stalking parenting forums. What would I do without you?

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Parenting fails

Being a new parent is no easy feat. Despite getting by on four hours’ sleep a night and having to adjust to a whole new way of life, there’s an expectation that because you are now a mother/father you should all of a sudden become the most organised, responsible and capable person overnight.

parenting fails

Alongside this, there are also those ‘rules’set out by the healthcare professionals that put the fear of god in you from day one – if you don’t abide by them you are a very bad parent. Not to mention your baby eyeing your every move with suspicion and wailing whenever you don’t quite understand her needs – ‘seriously, what kind of mother are you?’And to top it all off, there seems to be a whole host of very organised, responsible and capable parents everywhere you go – the ones with four kids in tow who don’t seem in the slightest bit flustered and smile at you with pity for not knowing that your pushchair wouldn’t quite fit in the lift.

So here is my list of those times (so far) I’ve been very aware of my ‘newbie mum’ status:

1) I realise baby has been in her car seat for a whole 2 hours and 10 minutes. I’m not quite sure what’s happened to baby during those extra ten minutes, but I know it’s really bad.

2) Baby wakes up from her nap early and I realise I haven’t even sterilised the bottles, let alone boiled the kettle and waited for the water to cool down. Shit, shit, shit!parenting fails

3) Those pesky vests are sooo difficult to put on, especially when baby’s screaming and throwing her arms and legs all over the place. After a particularly stressful episode, I finally get it on. Only to realise it’s on BACK TO FRONT.

4) I forgot the red book – again. The health visitor, nurse, doctor asks encouragingly, ‘has it been a bit of a stressful morning?’ No it hasn’t actually, I’m just a terrible mother.

5) I’ve been winding baby for at least 20 minutes now and she hasn’t burped yet. I convince myself that I must have just missed it and put her back in her crib and crawl back into bed. She’s immediately sick all over herself.

6) I was sure I tucked baby’s blankets into the mattress but wake up to find that she’s pulled them up over her face. I’ve been lead to believe that she will die if this happens. Luckily she’s alive and smiling.

7) I decide to go out for a nice walk. Half way through it starts to piss it down and I didn’t bring the rain cover for the pram. Baby is not happy.

8) I momentarily forget I have a baby and plan a night out…

The List

Things you thought stupid before becoming a parent

baby on board image

‘Baby on Board’ car stickers

Before having a baby I used to get irrational irritated by these. I perceived them as a self-righteous indulgence by parents who want to tell the world that they made a baby (all by themselves) and are currently on their way to the park to make daisy chains, whilst the rest of us are running late for another shit day at the office. I thought they gave overly cautious parent drivers an unnecessary excuse to be even more cautious,  and shame on you if you get too close – don’t you know there’s a BABY in the car?? 

Yet since becoming mum, I now totally ‘get’ these.

On my first outing out with Taylor, I had this overwhelming sense of responsibility. Overnight my most precious possession went from being my engagement ring to a little human being. What if I lost her, or forgot I had her, or took my hand off the pram and she rolled in to oncoming traffic? What if someone stole her, or she stopped breathing and I didn’t notice??? The thoughts were endless. So being in the car was no different. I went from being a relatively impatient driver to being one of those in the inside lane dutifully sticking to the speed limit. “How dare you get up my ass – I have a bloody baby in the car and I don’t give a shit if you’re running late for work…arsehole.”

Saturday pushchair shoppers

I admit it. I used to judge parents who went shopping on Saturdays, charging their pushchairs through crowds of people whilst looking harassed and pissed off. Why bother? I thought. Doesn’t she have the whole week to get out? OUCH – that’s my bloody ankle! Bitch. 

Now, let me enlighten those without child. That mum did intend to get this shopping trip done and dusted before Saturday, but things just didn’t go to plan this week. So that’s why she’s here. She’s had to time the trip perfectly so that she’s back home or sat having a coffee in Costa in two hours as her baby will need feeding. So she’s in a bit of a rush. She had three hours’ sleep last night and the British public haven’t done much to help her mood so far, watching from the sidelines as she struggles to get the pushchair through various doors and up flights of steps. As she gets to the till to pay for her purchases she remembers that the basket in her pram is minuscule so she’s having to carry all of her bags on one hand, which is cutting off the circulation in her fingers. She now only has 30 minutes until the feed is due. Sod the coffee, she wants to get home. She’s ramming into you because you’re dawdling and you didn’t hear her say ‘excuse me’ because you’re having too much fun. Move out the way! Bitch. 

boring facebook updatesStatus updates 

You groan every time you see another baby picture that your friend’s uploaded onto Facebook. You really don’t need to know that she was up again all night, that she’s managed to change the bed today, or that her baby was sick all over the sofa. You don’t care. You have better things to do with your day.

So spare a thought for her. Whilst you’re instagramming your gourmet brunch, sharing your night on the town or tweeting your thoughts about that commentary you read in The Times today, your friend is changing nappies, watching CBeebies and speaking gaga language to a six week old. Any spare time she has is spent sterilizing bottles and folding laundry. She’s bloody proud of those clean sheets. Indulge her, it won’t be forever.

Parent/child parking bays

I was pretty ignorant before Taylor. I didn’t really see what the big deal was about parking with a child and why this gave parents the special privilege of having a space close to the entrance. They have buggies to transport the children after all. There always seemed to be too many of these spaces and not enough for everyone else.parent child parking

I found out the hard way why these bays are absolutely necessary when I embarked on my first trip to our local shopping centre. I felt pretty smug at first, privately gloating about the fact that I would finally be able to park in one of these spaces for the privileged people with children. The smugness was short-lived however when I entered the multi-storey car park and found that throughout the first six floors, not a single one of these bays was free. After 20 minutes of driving around, I accepted that I would just have to use one of the non-privileged spaces so drove into one only to find a concrete post within inches of my door. Before Taylor I would’ve simply climbed over to the passenger side and got out of the car that way. But ah, there’s not enough room to get the bloody car seat out anyway. It’s not like I could tell her to hop out whilst I straightened up. I drove into and reversed out of another five spaces before finally taking up two spaces on the TWELFTH FLOOR.

So much for privileged treatment.

The List

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

MaternityMondays

Becoming mum: The part they don’t tell you about

becoming new mum

If I’m honest, I thought I would adapt to motherhood fairly easily. In comparison to working full-time and being out of the house for 12 hours a day Monday-Friday, I was actually looking forward to having a bit more free time. I had visions of finally doing all of those things that I never had time for – clearing out the cupboards, starting an exercise regime and trying out that recipe I pulled out of BBC Good Food over three years ago. After all, babies sleep a lot of the time, right?

WRONG! Parenting is hard work. Not only is it a ‘full-time job’, but it’s the type of full-time job that would have you running to the HR department if there was one – expected to work 20 hour shifts on under four hours of sleep, getting screamed at if you don’t stand to attention quick enough, and absolutely no prior training provided to ensure that you’re fit for the job.

Now, don’t get me wrong, being a mum is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but why the hell didn’t anyone think to warn me about the first few weeks??

At first, we thought that perhaps we had a challenging baby. Taylor takes at least an hour and a half to settle to sleep after a feed and quite often doesn’t go to sleep between them, so waking up at 3am for a feed can mean that we’re still awake by the time the 6am feed comes around and then it’s hello to another day. Surely this isn’t normal? SOMEONE WOULD’VE WARNED US…

We attributed her restlessness to reflux (she screams after feeds), colic (she cries a lot), constipation (she poos very little), too much sleep in the day (yes she does sleep in the day), spoiling her (she just wants to be held all the time)…until finally accepting that she is just a NORMAL baby.

So here is my warning to you, since other parents may not be completely honest. Following the first couple of days out of hospital thinking that you have a little angel, things get pretty tough. Forget that you just went though the pain and exhaustion of labour and just want a good night’s sleep – your baby does not care.

In addition to the lack of sleep, the part I found particularly difficult to accept was the passing of days and not getting a single ‘productive’ task complete. Again, I caveat this by saying that I love spending my days with Taylor – feeding her, changing her, cleaning her, bathing her, playing with her. But I was kind of hoping (fully expecting) to be able to fit Taylor Time in between my other tasks (maintaining a spotless house, visiting friends, walking Max, cooking wholesome meals…)

The old me wrote To Do lists for fun, so realising that these are now redundant in my new life was difficult for me to come to terms with – getting to 5pm and realising that the house was still a mess and I hadn’t even bothered to put a bra on that day made me feel like a bit of a failure. Mr M would return from work and I was certain I’d see a glimmer of disappointment on his face as he critically assessed ‘what I had done all day’ (he assures me this was not the case). I even ignored the midwife’s advice to ‘sleep when baby sleeps’ and instead adopted the ‘do as much as possible when baby sleeps’ approach, but still couldn’t get 10 minutes to myself.

However, the very fact that I’m writing this post, is evidence that it DOES GET BETTER. Taylor is five weeks old tomorrow, and I do feel that we are starting to turn a bit of a corner. We’ve got more accustomed to her wants and needs and understand her better. Her night-time demands for feeding are gradually stretching past the three-hour mark, and we ourselves have accepted that we do actually need to be in bed for 9pm if we’re to get anything near a functional amount of sleep.

I’m sure I will look back fondly on these days in months to come and wish for my little oh-so-cute-when-not-crying newborn again. But for now, roll on week six.