Wednesday, 27 March 2013

5 ways to get through a LONG night

Having babies is hard work, but always worth it, right? These mothers in shops who yell at their kids are just bad parents - after all, they're just children. Any mother who feels tempted to hurt her baby is quite simply a bad person.

That's what I thought before I had my wee frog. I was wrong. Here's my reality check - I've gotten so frustrated with my baby I've yelled, I've cried, I've kicked his cot. There have been times when I've come to the end of my rope and have had terrible thoughts. And most of the mothers I've spoken to are the same.

So, how do we deal with that frustration? I've put together a list of the pathway I go through. Some might not work for you, some you might not need. This is a list about how you can deal with frustration, not how to get your baby to sleep/stop crying (I'm afraid after 10 months I still don't have that list). I would love to know how you get through these nights that seem never-ending.

#1 Breathe
Okay, an easy one to start with, I'll grant you. But how many times have you been holding your crying baby and realised you're also holding your breath? Try this:
Gently move your neck from side to side, and drop your shoulders. Release your jaw (because you're probably clenching it) and relax your face. Now breathe in, counting to 5 as you do so, and breath out through a soft, open mouth for 6.
(Just to be clear, the numbers don't matter. Maybe repeating a phrase such as 'relax' or 'in/out' would help you more). I know this seems simple (and maybe a bit hippy-ish?), but trust me, don't miss this step. You might not even need the others.

#2 Gently
Any mother who hasn't held her baby a little too tightly or spoken to them a little too harshly, well done. I most certainly have. And I've found that when I feel most frustrated, I do pat him too hard or bounce him too vigorously. So when I realise I'm doing it, I try to do the opposite. Release your arms so you're holding your baby just tightly enough to stop them falling. Stop rocking or patting them, or do it extra gently. Speak soft, gentle words, sing a quiet song. I don't know about you but when I get mad and am sarcastic or yell at my frog, all that happens is he cries harder and I feel even worse.
My husband once mentioned to me that I was patting my frog harder and harder the more he cried. I responded angrily, but he was right to point it out. We now try to mention to each other when we think they're getting too harsh. Often ends up in harsh words towards each other, but that's a risk worth taking.

#3 Distract yourself
I couldn't have gotten through the first few months of my frogs life without The West Wing. At night I'd have it on pause, ready to start the next time he woke up (then it was every hour or more). Did it distract him? Yes, of course it did. I minimised this by muting it and having subtitles (usually couldn't hear it anyway) but the light still bothered him. But I would always prefer an hour of manageable time spent feeding/trying to get to sleep than 45 minutes of hell. Yes I know this goes against all the parenting books and doesn't create a 'dark, quiet environment'. Sometimes it's about getting through to the next morning, plain and simple. When you start dreading every night (I would cry just at the thought), you have to find a way of coping. This was mine.

#4 Change what you're doing
Yes, babies need to sleep and eat. But do they have to do that right now? If you've held a crying baby for 3 hours trying to get them to sleep, you're punishing yourself and your baby. If you're wanting to establish some sort of routine, fine if it works for you. But is it working right now? Take your baby downstairs, play with them. Most importantly, try to make your baby smile/laugh. This is not to let them get their own way/spoil them! This is because you will feel better and remember how much you love your child (sometimes easy to forget). And try again later.

#5 Take 5
My husband and I have an agreement that as soon as one gets annoyed with the frog, the other has to take over. It took us a long time to come to this arrangement, and I wish we'd done it sooner.
If your partner isn't there, then leave your baby somewhere completely safe, and go away for 5 minutes. They will cry and probably be more upset by the time you get back, but you'll be more able to handle it. Give yourself a task to do so you're not just sitting listening to them, such as:
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Get a snack
  • Put a load of washing on
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Check your emails/Facebook
  • Read a few pages of a book
This is not about letting your baby cry it out (something I'm not willing to do), it's about having a break and coming back a slightly calmer mummy.

These things work for me - just last night I went through stages 1-5 twice (it was a long night). Maybe come up with your own coping 'pathway'. Things you'll try and if they don't work, other things to move on to. These things won't help your baby sleep better, but they will help you feel better about being a mother. Try not to feel guilty about doing them - pick your battles and get through the day. If your baby constantly cries and you don't know why, a trip to the doctor might be in order.

A last note about terrible nights, when your baby is cry/moaning/just plain not sleeping. Do not think long term anything. This is not the time to worry about what you'll do when you have more kids/your husband goes to work/your in-laws come to stay. Similarly, this isn't the time to devise a plan about a routine/schedule for your baby. You're tired, you're probably in a bad mood, and nothing looks good at 3am. Fight these long-term thoughts away, and focus on the mundane and superficial (if Josh and Donna/C.J. and Danny will get together is a good example, and one that got me through many-a-night!). If I've discovered anything, it's that things really do look better in the morning.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Organising your House Series - Kitchen: Tip # 3. Pantry Time

This was my last project in my kitchen, and I feel so much better now that it's done! I have a big cupboard I keep most of my food in. The exceptions are our 'naughty' cupboard, where we keep all chocolate/sweets/fizzy juice, and the frog's cupboard. I like to keep his specific snacks separate so it's easy just to grab him something. That way other people know what things are for him as well.

Anyway, I digress. The pantry. Same as before - categorise to organise. This is a good time to take everything out, throw anything out of date (for me it was a can of baked beans from 2009), and clean the shelves. I like to put dry goods in labeled tupperware containers. You'll need to be careful with best before dates - I cut these out and put it on top. I also use large containers to keep loose/messy things like oils together.

In the short time I've had one (!), I've found a neat pantry makes writing a meal plan and shopping list much easier. If having things in the right place is important to you, think about labelling where things go (or always be the person in the house to put the shopping away). If your husband is anything like mine, all the good intentions in the world will not make him care in what order the flour goes! Also I like him to get home to find a well-stoked fridge/cupboard - it really is a nice thing to come home to.




After. Top Shelf: entertaining - party box (napkins, candles etc). Second shelf: Tins, jars and oils. Third Shelf: Packets. Left - this is a bath rack that I've turned upside down and slotted thin packets into. Right - basket for loose packets such as noodles etc.

Fourth shelf: boxes and biscuits (biscuits in a air-tight container). Fifth self: baking. At the back is flour and sugar (Asda £1 each container), front is icing sugar, cocoa etc. (5 around tupperware, Ikea £3). Tupperware for loose items.
For more Organising your House Series, see:
Organising your House Series - Kitchen: Tip #1. Be Brutal!
Organising your House Series - Kitchen: Tip # 2. Categorise to Organise
Organising your House Series - Linen Cupboard

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Red Pepper and Philadelphia Soup

This is my step-mother's recipe, and it's easily my favourite soup.

4 potatoes, peeled and cooked through
1 onion, chopped
3 red peppers, chopped
Chilli (I found that half a small chilli was enough for us, but we're not fond of hot food)
1 stick celery (optional, but a good way to sneak those veggies in)
150g cream cheese

1) Simmer the potatoes, onion, peppers, celery and chilli together with water for 30 (ish) minutes
2) Blend all together using a hand-held blender, adding the cheese as you go. Add water depending on how thin you like your soup
3) Serve with crusty bread

Without the cream cheese is not quite as tasty, but nice and healthy. My wee frog wasn't a big fan but as he's never really had pureed food I think he was just confused by the consistancy. He did like to use it as a dipping sauce though, especially after it's gone cold and thickened (eww). You can freeze this soup, but best to do so before adding the cheese.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Reality Check

So a few weeks ago we went away on a little holiday, came back and was busy with work and then it was mother's day weekend. This all equals a very untidy house. I'm learning that especially now with the frog I can't let the housework slip, or else I have all-out disaster zone. My son is 9-months old and very clingy, to the point that trying to put a load of washing on becomes a choice between (quite literally) running from room to room getting it done while he screams like he's being murdered, or wearing dirty clothes. And trust me recently, we've opted for the later.

So, how do you keep a clean house while you have young children? The truth is, I don't know how to do it with one, never mind multiple. I get some done when my husband comes home, but that's time I want to spending with my family. That leaves nap time, which I am very blessed to still have a fair amount of. In those 45 minutes I run around my house and try to get the whole place clean(ish), but often a cup of tea seems more pressing.

So, here's my reality check. More often than not, my house is a mess. When I have guests coming around I run around like a mad thing making sure things look like they're always this tidy. And I do care. I'm not going to tell you that I think it's fine because I spend time with my son and that's the most important thing, because of course it is. But I like having a tidy house - I'd like it not to be a big deal when people come over, and I'd like my husband to come home from work and not need to immediately do more work around the house (which, gratefully, he does without complaining).

So, I'm going to do better tomorrow.

My reality... after a weekend of no cleaning

Friday, 8 March 2013



She is the woman who has 4 kids under five, who works/homeschools, who teaches Sunday school, keeps a clean house, is artistic, all while baking delicious goodies for the charity sale. She is a Supermom.  

Everyone has other mothers in their lives that they look up to; their 'Supermoms'. We determine just how super they are by a variety of factors - how many children they have, how much they work outside the home, their creative hobbies, and so on. The 'I don't know how she does it' mentality is common amongst mommy friends. But do these comparisons help us become better mothers, or do they just damage our self-esteem? 

It's great to surround ourselves with other mothers we can learn from and aspire to. Titus 2:4 says older women can train younger women to love their husbands and children. Other mothers (especially experienced ones) can offer help and advice, as well as practical help. Have you ever tried to learn to sew or bake using a book? Always better to ask a mother you know that has this skill. The time together will not only teach you the skill, but just by asking her you will be raising her self esteem. 

Problems arise when we go from "Look what she can do" "I wish I could do that" "Why can't I do that?" "I must be lazy/stupid/a bad mother". How wonderful it would be if we could stop after the first step! But, here's the truth. Your family is your family. What you can/can't do is between you, your husband and God. Compare yourself to yourself and no-one else. Did you used to be a good cleaner? You can be again. Do you have a flair for the artistic? Then use it. Try your hand at something new, not because you want to be like others (or worse, beat them), but because you think it would benefit you or your family.
Remember this above all - God gave you your family and situation because he knows you can handle it and bring good from it. No one else could raise your children the way you do, and no one else could be your husband's partner the way you are. You are your family's Supermom. Let that be enough.


Saturday, 2 March 2013

Organising your House Series - Kitchen: Tip # 2. Categorise to Organise

This tip will work for some people, and will be counter-intuitive to others. I know some people like to organise by priority (putting everything you use most frequently in one place). I like to organise by category, so all similar things are together, usually by material. This also has the added benefit that when husband/well meaning friend or relative pack your dishes away for you (something to be encouraged when you have small children!), they'll be able to find where thing go. If it works for you, great!

Here a list of the categories I use:
  • Every day items (plates, bowls, glasses)
    – I keep the frog’s plates in here too so that I can get everything for dinner from one place.
  • Glassware and ceramics (glass bowls, ramekins, le crueust casserole dish)
    – The higher the shelf, the less used.
  • Plastic (tupperware, colander)
    – Remember to throw all tupperware away that doesn’t have a lid/base. I’d even go as far as to say, (if space is an issue) only keep the sizes that you actually use. Like that tiny one that couldn’t fit a walnut in. What is that even for?!! If you, like me, don’t know; toss it.
  • Pots and pans
    – I have pots and pans that have detachable handles. They’re a great space saver and make things stack very neatly. Not at all saying you need to buy a new pan set, but when it’s time to do so maybe keep these in mind.
  • Casserole dishes
  • Baking (cooling rack, cake tins etc)
    – I don’t bake very often, so some of my baking stuff is in the cupboard. Especially things for Christmas baking – I keep that with my Christmas decorations. Remember the 6 months rule.
  • Tea and coffee stuff (mugs, tea and coffee)
    – I like this all to be in the same cupboard, although I know some people like their mugs to be on their counter top. I suggest this isn’t the best idea, especially when space is an issue. If you can clear a cupboard for them, do so. They get dirty and broken when they’re out. Also, do you need that many mugs? Think about the most amount of people you have around for coffee at one time – that is the amount of mugs you need. I’d say keep the ones that mean the most sentimentally, and the others should go. From now on operate a ‘one-in-one-out’ system – don’t put a new mug in your cupboard without taking an old one out. Be brutal!
  • Cutlery
    – Odd cutlery really frustrates me, but of course I know that this is sometimes necessary. But again, how many people do you have to dinner at once? Are you really going to throw that 15-person dinner party you’ve been talking about for the last 5 years? If you’re sure you’ll get around to it, then how about packing some of that cutlery away, and only keep out the number you need on a daily basis, matching if possible (if you have them) – makes it look so much neater and (I think) easier for cleaning/storing.
  • Utensils
    – This is the one I’m most guilty of! I love kitchen gadgets, and am very easily taken in by new-fangled items promising to make my life easier. Case in point, my most recent clear-out had me find 4 different utensils to deal with garlic, all of them different. I bet you didn’t know there were 4 ways to prepare garlic! In actual fact I still couldn’t name them as 2 of them I didn’t even know how to use. So, implement the 6 months rule again. For utensils maybe a 3-month rule is more useful. Also, watch out for replicas. You do not need 5 different ladles. Pick your favourite 1 or 2 at most, and get rid of the rest.
  • Miscellaneous
    – A little tip about the place in your kitchen for miscellaneous things. Try not to have a drawer for this purpose - things will get lost and dirty and you'll find things in there you couldn't possibly need. To sum this up perfectly, look at this clip:

(NB - this is not to say your husband shouldn’t have a ‘man drawer’! In fact I think it’s really important that men have their own space that you have nothing to do with. Just if it could be somewhere other than your kitchen, that would be best.)

Anyway, your miscellaneous place. Try to have this be a cupboard, and then put different baskets for different things in there. So in mine I have a wicker basket for medicines (clean out regularly), and a metal basket for things like light bulbs (the ideal ‘man drawer’ filler!). I also have placemats (do you need that many?!) and electrical items that I use regularly. By that I mean at least every 1-2 weeks, such as a toastie-maker (that's right, we still eat them regularly!), coffee maker and slow cooker. Those electrical items you don’t use frequently (but at least every 6 months) can go in a cupboard. For example I have an egg boiler and a steamer in mine. And yes, even a bread-maker, which I haven’t used since I was first married and had delusions of freshly-made bread every morning. 
·         Frog Shelf
– I’m sure I’ll need to expand this later when he gets bigger – for now there’s just some bottles and bowls. Bottles fall all over the place and get in a mess – try to put them together and then in a basket if you can (I love my baskets!). This is a good place to put your steriliser if you have one, but not your breast pump (if you use one)– I don’t express in the kitchen so it’s no good in there.
I'll do a different post about organising your pantry later (just as soon as I get around to organising mine!).