The One Piece...

I remember the days, not that long ago, when I would ask myself  "why would you wear a one piece bathing suit?  I mean, how the hell do you tan your tummy?!"  The irony is that, currently (6 months postpartum, baby no: 2), I wouldn't dream of wearing a bikini, I let my tummy remain 'untanned' and I ponder the changes in perception towards women and bodies who have carried and birthed children.

The distinction between the internal perception 'I am uncomfortable in my new  shape and skin'  and the external 'Will other people judge my figure'  or simply a combination of the two is very present and learning how to celebrate  'war wounds' and 'newly establishes curves, bumps and scars' revelling in their beauty without it being anarchic statement is a real art to discover.  It reminds me of the assumed love a mother is expected to have for her newly born babe; to some may come  naturally and easily, but to others is one of the most confronting challenges she will ever face and takes time to learn to love and accept.

I admire all those who do wear a bikini by the way - the mums with the dreamy postpartum body that bounced back a week after pushing that watermelon out and who's boobs stayed all perky and fresh, those who clearly have worked SUPER hard to get themselves to a place that they feel really proud of their bodies and 'getting it back' and the other women who silently empowered exhibit their battle scars, blubber and saggy boobies and are just so so mesmerising  for doing so because they radiate a deep inner 'Mother Earth' beauty that radiates from their souls and says 'I am changed and that's ok, I am embracing who I am now'.  

The body image conversation is a really interesting one as it's by no means new and every now and again gets  confronted by a few articles of those wishing to backlash against societies messages to women. A sort of silent protest, an anarchic statement towards the social media news feeds that create misleading and detrimental messages of motherhood and body image to fragile postpartum women desperate to gain some control or sanity in their lives during one of the most transformational and confronting periods in their lives.

Here are a coupe of beautifully empowering examples featured in the Huffington Post that I really like:

 Postpartum Body Image & Jade beall's Beautiful Body Project

The cult of the Insta 'perfect-fu*&ing-mother-blogs' (as I call them) and articles about how you can be like the Duchess of Cambridge or Kim Kardashian and loose your baby weight in 6 weeks just feed a rather dark and ungrounded perception of women, their bodies as well as motherhood in general.  No one looks deeper to unearth the rest of the story - the disclaimer underneath every Instagram image that should say something like"

"this was the 10th attempt I took to take this perfect photo as I had to keep reapplying my make up to cover up the dark circles"  or   "Please note, the Duchess of Cambridge &  Kim Kardashian has the following: a nanny, a night nurse, a cook, a housekeeper, a gardener, a hairstylist and a personal trainer".  

So, with all of the above in mind, I was recently really inspired by this video from NOWNESS, it is the raw confronting side of motherhood, facing sexuality as well as the physical body, how it changes after birth and and I feel like it's one of those few positive silent beautiful statements to all the women, and men in the world to really connect back to what it means to have a child and the beauty that comes with it both spiritually as well as physically.  This short film explores the process women go through and the many areas we transform and evolve through on our journey of motherhood; self of love, self acceptance, sexuality, how we perceive ourselves and how the world sees us in our new domains,  it's beautifully shot with a lovely narrative, short and to the point and well worth a peek.

For a full interview with the creator of 'Redefining the Mother Figure' Director and NOWNESS check out:

LBBONLINE 'Redefining The Mother Figure' - Natasja Fourie & Katie Metcalf

To 'love yourself' after such a transformational experience is such a personal journey, and the above the touches the surface on the many facets of the many discussions that surround it.    I won't sugar coat it,  I can't, motherhood changes you, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, it's not good or bad, for the better or worse, it's just different, everything is different, it's a matrix you enter without even realising you took the darn pill and there comes a moment when you realise you can fight it, this is the new status quo, this is your new tummy, these are your new boobs and this is your new life and a new journey through a new reality, in a one piece or a bikini, one suit, either or neither! ;) 

I am humbled and consider myself stupidly blessed;  my husband tells me all the time how gorgeous I look and to be so proud of my battle scars as they tell the story of our lives and what we created.  he says stuff like:  "Yes, LIFE, you have created life, you didn't buy it, tag it, share it or post it.  You MADE IT."   He encourages me all the time to wear my bikini with pride, I'm getting closer, it's in the drawer, I am starting to take it out and try it on every now and again ;)

Rock-a-bye-Baby...

Babies cry, it's what they do, it's their job, they are so good at it, they cry to get their needs met, be it food, toilet, comfort, gas or just wanting to be held tight to feel safe.  Sometimes babies cry cos they are having a rubbish day, I can understand that! There is a concept called the 5 cries of a newborn that claims to expose the different sounding cries of a baby to help you distinguish their needs,   it must be true as it was on Oprah!  Being brutal, I tried this a few times, me and my husband would look at each other with question marks floating above our heads.  Having said that, when you have a crying baby you will try ANYTHING and it's worth checking out, you have nothing to loose!

 

I found there was a check list when Reno was newborn and crying:  boob, nappy, burp, boob, rock, sing, boob, nappy, boob

I had an ethos that a lot of lactation consultants adhere to which is "whenever your baby cries offer the boob"  I liked that and followed it, my kids never took a dummy/pacifier, which I sometimes wished they had.  I reckon too if I had bottle fed from birth I would have shoved a bottle in their mouth instead of the boob too! 

But sometimes, babies still just cry and I totally get it, and it's the most helpless feeling in the universe when your baby just won't stop.  But something I learnt was that before the age of 3 months, one of the best ways to keep my baby calm and therefore crying less and sleeping more was to keep him on me 24/7.  Now, this doesn't suit everyone, nor am I preaching to tell you this is the ONLY way because it is not, but it is ONE way that worked for me and I will explain why.

It's very simple, when a baby is first born it has no concept of ME or I, it doesn't really know if it's day or light or dinner or breakfast, what it does know is it's been listening to your heart beat for 9 months solid, and suddenly it is not, so that gentle hum that has been there fore 24/7 has gone. Are you surprised they cry until you hold them tight in a way that they know you are not going to put them back down again a few moments later.

I remember a friend of mine who had a baby close to me and after he was born she called me up in tears wondering why her baby would not settle when she put him down.  I quietly comforted her and reminded her that for 3 months following the birth it may as well be like her baby is still inside her. She was initially slightly shocked and I think offended as it went against what she thought her baby should do, "won't I spoil him" she said... But, I encouraged her to put the baby in the sling rather than in the stroller trying to force her baby to sooth himself, she soothed HIM and it worked!  

It was SO simple, but often goes against so much of what we are told...  I was very clearly advised when Reno was born:  "put him down"  "don't hold him all the time"  "you'll spoil him"  "he is playing you, he knows how to get what he wants" 

These quotes disturbed me a lot as I was having a conflict inside, 'am I spoiling him?  Is that even possible at 2 weeks old?!'  So my Husband and I chatted and we came to the conclusion that there was no way in hell a new born baby could be spoiled.  My husband said, verbatim; "babe, have you ever heard of an adult who complained they were loved and hugged too much by having their needs met as a kid?"  To be honest, I had no answer to that, it rang truth to me too.

Our grand parents generation were raised just trying to get basic needs met like having enough to eat, moving post WW2 to safety and finding refuge and sanctuary.  They didn't have time to think about their babies emotions the way our generation does.  We, on the other hand are equipped, most of us to cater to our babies needs in the physical sense, be it food, clothing, housing etc... so now we are focusing more on their emotional and mental wellbeing and development.  With this in mind, the idea of leaving our baby to 'cry it out' didn't feel right to us.  So I held him.  I held him all bloody day and all bloody night.  But it worked, he didn't cry, his needs were met.

I am not for one minute suggesting that holding your baby 24/7 is possible or convenient and ALL mothers need a break, some go to work before 3 months, but it sure did help us in nurturing a calmer baby and now child.  I got a really comfy sling and just kept him in there for at least the first 8 weeks.  It was only towards the end of the first 3 months it got heavy and annoying, prior to this he was still small and cuddly.  I decided that the time goes so fast who cares if I have him strapped to me all day and night, he won't even remember but I will, and I do, I remember so fondly how relaxed he was and how sweet he was snuggled up to my chest all the time.  I just sniffed his head.  mmmmmm

After the 3 months, I noticed a massive shift in his energy, he woke up.  He was no longer a sleepy baby trying to recreate the womb all curled up.  His limbs were stretched out, he reacted and smiled and understood communication in it's most primitive forms.  So... I put him down and instead of him crying he was happy as anything.  I truly believe that going to him every time he initially cried trying to sooth him made him learn to trust me and to trust life.  His needs were met, he didn't have to resort to self soothing and believing that his tears wouldn't be addressed.  Now he is 2 years old he is so confident and trusting and happy and when we leave him as a toddler to 'cry it out' at bed times it comes from a VERY different place.  he gets it completely.  We go in and remind him we love him but with a gentle but firm tone tell him it's still bedtime and not play time and it works.  USUALLY!?....

I now TOTALLY trust myself and this way of being with my new born Eden and everyone who meets him says "wow, he is so chilled"  " you got lucky"  "does he ever cry?"  I just smile politely, but I know that although it looks effortless to hold your baby all the time and have him calmly hanging out on you,  it's bloody hard work, but 100% worth it and pays off!

Our 4th trimester came to a close 6 weeks ago now and Eden  happily sleeps in his crib on him own and fingers crossed he is doing really well, unless I just jinxed myself by writing this article!... ce la vie ;)

PS: disclaimer & apologies to any mothers who have done this method from birth and their babies STILL cry...  

 

The Mother Island

I often feel like what I call a 'Mother Island'  a small self contained amazing and often rewarding island floating out at sea and I notice most other mothers in the same position. The islands float close to each other on occasions, with groups, play dates and vacations, but ultimately the foundations of the land is still separated.  This is the island where I pay for help and need to schedule my island activities to make sure I can get everything completed in a day.  This isn't a depressive or resentful island, it is simply the 'I do everything' island.   This is the island where a sense of achievement becomes really important and 'doing' overtakes 'being'.  Oh, by the way, my island is perfect...

On the flip side, I have friends who have chosen to live communally in San Diego and share their parenting (yes, you may call them hippies).  Once a week the mothers in the community take it in turns to make dinner for everyone, this means once a week you don't have to cook, whoo, unless of course, it's your turn. There is always child care which means the couples get time together without having to worry about the cost or availability of a baby sitter.  There are always other kids to play with outside, so less entertainment is needed and lots of nature is part of daily life and it really feels like these guys spend a hell of a lot more time on the 'BEING' side of life because they can and have created their village to allow them to.  I am not advocating that communal living is the only solution to parenting, it's not, but it sure makes things easier with other people around that you trust with your kids.

I keep reading articles about how 'it takes a village' to raise our kids (which randomly,  ends up making me hum 'it only takes a village girl' to Take That) and yet there are fewer and fewer examples of the above and more and more islands, just think of Dubai's ever growing man made islands.  The elements of motherhood that were so often taken up by extended families and other women who had children in the neighbourhood are no longer  there due to us living  far away or being too nervous to talk to our neighbours in case they are lunatics.  I just read an article in The Washington Post called 'Lessons from 'The Goonies' and the loss of unsupervised time for kids'.  It talks about a kid was watching the Goonies with his dad and was shocked that kids are allowed to go and play by themselves.  I found this to be so sad, but so true.  Will my kids only be able to play with supervised play dates?  I sure hope not. so, where are we headed as a society and where is our parenting taking us as we grow increasingly sedentary, screen based, and fear inflicted?  How do we manage Motherhood on our islands in 2016?  

I think about this  stuff ALL the time, I wonder about my life and how different the raising of my children is to my parents and grandparents generation is and whilst there are many things I am grateful for, like amenities, healthcare, facilities and standard of living, there are some things that make me uncomfortable.  Therefore, I am constantly listening to an internal conversation about my desire to be the 'Perfect Mother' without grudge, without malice, just whole heartedly trying to do everything I can for my kids attempting to fill in all the gaps that society, family and the world didn't manage to, or perhaps I don't trust to. In short I am trying to make my Island a 'perfect' village, single handed.

Isn't it time to take a breath from this impossible task?  How can I access 'being' perfect?

The desire / search / need to be a 'Perfect Mother' is such a self construct and something that I think is growing progressively more aggressive in today's world.  We are bombarded with consumer goods we are told we need, a body we are told we should strive for, lessons we are advised to show our kids, achievements and development goals we are given for our kids and more often than not mothers (working or not working) are thinking, being and breathing their kids 24/7 devoting every moment of their existence to them in the constant strife to be the best Mother we can be, so this abundance of outside noise doesn't help it only feeds our desires and internal struggles floating out islands further out to sea.  Amidst the waves... where is the self love for the Mama's?  I am often so busy 'doing' perfect in service of my family, I forget to take care of myself, energetically by 'being'.  Sure, I go to the gym, but all the while I am there, I am wondering how many kg lighter I might be and have I reached 'pre baby weight'?  Sure I go treat myself to a massage or get my nails done which I am very lucky to be able to do, but all the while feeling guilty and thinking about what I have to come home to and that pile of laundry still not folded.

I noticed that this feeling of guilt can be all consuming at times, a bit like that feeling after Christmas lunch, waiting for Eastenders to start, it's comforting but yet so revolting at the same time.   As mothers we often feel like we don't have the right to take a break, a real break as what will that make us?  It might make us imperfect, we might cease 'doing' for a while.  Perhaps this imperfection will make us better mothers, perhaps taking that time away and focusing on 'being not doing' will give us the energy we need to produce more milk, or chase after our toddler or evolve our isolated islands into communities.  Perhaps going back to work will allow a break in the brain from 'wheels on the bus' and welcome an engaging conversation that makes you feel valued as a grown up and not just for your boobs.

The truth is, I have had to dig deep to discover that no matter what I do as a mother the pattern that will forever run inside my head is 'it wasn't good enough'.  I think this is a quote that runs truth for many many people, actually, with or without kids, it's not personal it just is, and we have to uncover the layers to see where it comes from and set it free.  I am practicing mindfulness, that when I hear this little line pop up into my head when the dinner is not ready 'on time' or the house is a mess that 'Mrs You're not good enough, why aren't you a perfect mother' I simply reply to with 'I LOVE that about myself'.  If I say that, then it seems to loose it's power, like Bowie (RIP) in the Labyrinth.  Stare it straight in the face and say 'yes, I'm not good enough, I'm not perfect but that's OK, I'm an Island and I am 'being' perfect not 'doing' perfect'.  Try it - you will feel like a right numpty the first few times, but after a while it really starts to work, perhaps in time we will be able to see that amidst our imperfections we are actually BEING 'The Perfect Mother' all the time. 

 

 

bump photography

When I was pregnant with Reno, my first son, our amazing friend Martine, who incidentally introduced myself and my husband as well as owning this wonderful photography company 'Martine Payne Photography' took some beautiful photos of me and my husband and our bump on the beach in Sydney.  She is amazing, so gentle and fun and takes awesome photos for loads of occasions. 

When we moved to Silicon Valley we were a bit lost as to who to go to for some bump photography done with my now second son Eden. My husband found this lovely lady: Kree Photography.  It wasn't a cheap thing to do but it was well worth it. I highly recommend it as a gift for someone who is going to have a baby or a gift to yourselves as I look at the images of my first pregnancy now and it feels like a lifetime ago but Im so happy it was captured. 

Kree is awesome, she is so down to earth and a mother herself she was perfect to take our photos, her no BS attitude and warm manner made it a really fun morning together.  We brought our own clothes and props and it was very ad-hoc with no real set ups except for the nature around us.  We wandered around the park she took us too and just had a real giggle.  her photos turned out beautifully and it was such a great memory of being pregnant.

Here are some photos of both shoots, Reno & Eden in utero, a couple of my favourites :)

California Livin'

This article is an honest and personal reflection of my journey of moving to California whilst 6 months pregnant with my second baby: The funny, fascinating and cultural differences that both surprised, sometimes annoyed and also delighted me.

Where we live... Middle of No where!!!

Where we live... Middle of No where!!!

Moving to the USA has been a massive culture shock,  I was dumbfounded by how different things are here, compared to Muswell Hill! It has defiantly taken me the past 6 months to find my feet but now I have I love it here.  You would think being an 'English' speaking country people would have understood me here, but actually there are so many variations in the language, sometimes it felt like I was speaking Russian!  To ease your reading, I have used both English and USA in this article, no Russian required...  ;)

Firstly, everything here is SO BIG!!! When we got here, it was super overwhelming, especially being pregnant, there was no Tesco Express or Local Waitrose. There was no Boots The Chemist that I could pop to as a 5 minute walk from my house to get nappies / diapers.  No, everything was a mammoth task and a giant store with 10,000 varieties of everything you want.  It literally took me 3 hours to do a supermarket shop as I was so bolted over by the amount of products there are here.  American's LOVE to shop and Heaven to them is a place called Target.  I found myself walking around most days initially,  

I didn't seem to be the only one, it felt like a 'Bored Housewives Members Club'  on occasions.  

I won't sugar coat it, there is a real lack of local coffee shops (although a Starbucks literally on every corner)  and trendy hang outs once you get outside San Fran and being in Silicon Valley, I just could not understand how things worked, everything looks like offices and yet they are shops...  I began to notice that everything is pretty dead except for lunch time rush traffic and then dinner time.  Most places are sleepy during the day time, with mothers and buggys'/ strollers wondering around passing time, unless the Superbowl is on or It's Mother's day, then it's Armageddon!  Downtowns / Highstreets are all boutique parades where people go on the week ends to look at aspirational consumer items and sit in over priced restaurants.  There was no real useful stores located in downtown / high street areas.  The areas are beautifully kept with a high value placed on local municipality, when I first got here I felt like I was living on a movie set!  However, I was rather disappointed as it felt like everything was lacking style, rather boring and too spread out to feel part of any sort of community.  It was really hard to find things, everyone told me to YELP stuff which I thought was a bit 90's but people are really big on their YELP profiles and reviews.

Californian Family

Californian Family

Not being able to walk anywhere and having to drive to go to even the local shops meant that I really have to plan my days more, it's such a different culture. The comforts are I literally have enough stuff to survive a nuclear holocaust in the boot / trunk of my car and I drive a truck which is badass and VERY comfortable.  There is ALWAYS a parking space wherever I wish to go to and lovely air con for those extra hot days.

The downsides are - I feel like my car drinks petrol / gas which makes me feel terrible as I wish there were other ways to get around California that are cheaper and more environmentally friendly (there is VERY LITTLE good public transport here)  but I just can't do them with 2 kids and alone.  Walking around NYC the other week really made me see how comfortable the California lifestyle is as I was clambering around Manhattan with my buggy, no one got out of our way or helped and on a summers day you know you would just be a sweaty mess!

I have to check the time for everything as it takes a minimum of 30 mins to get anywhere and it usually takes freeway/ motorway driving as well which was very daunting when I first got here. Now it feels perfectly normal to jump on a 6 lane road to go to Wholefoods!?...  I have to take note of rush hours, it's a nightmare to get stuck in rush hour traffic even if you do get the perks of using car pool with kids in the back...

Going for a swim after work with Reno

Going for a swim after work with Reno

So, this all sounds pretty rubbish doesn't it.  Well I thought it wasn't my dream place when I first got here and I really could not understand why everyone raved about it so much...

 THEN... I GOT IT...  

I got used to it.  I got used to being able to park up right outside a store 24 hours a day to get whatever I need.  I got used to everyone being SUPER friendly in all stores, including Target, making wondering around shops a really pleasant experience.  I got used to the amazing customer service here that means you could literally come to a shop with your dirty old socks and they would return them and give you a voucher for your next visit to their venue.  I got used to the sunshine being a daily occurrence not a once a year 'kick-bollock-scramble to find a left over patch of grass in the local park'.  I got used to everything no longer looking like a a film set from Pleasantville and begun to think this is what municipality should be like.  I got used to the no trash / litter on the ground and recycle bins everywhere you go.  I got used to meandering around pointless hops in the downtown areas on a week end then moseying down to the beautifully kept playground with my kids.  I got used to being able to go for a swim EVERY DAY if I wanted to (not that I have the time!).  I got used to everyone going Skiing for a week end or Surfing or camping, it all began to feel really normal and amazing.  I got used to seeing Green Mountains wherever I drove feeling free and oh so 'Californian'.

I just got used to it.  Here, you see, everyone lives referrals. So as soon as you meet people you talk and refer places.  You get given suggestions of places to visit and go to and suddenly a secret world opens up to you down here of alternative living, hippies brimming on every street and just wonderfully spirited people...  You suddenly find these amazing nature trails and beaches and wonderful little farms where you can buy your produce straight from the growers.  You suddenly see that you have some of the most amazing products you could wish for right on your doorstep (all be it a bit of a drive away) But you just don't know they are here when you first arrive as everything is so spread out and there are no hubs and definitive communities.

Suddenly life got easy and comfortable.

I am not preaching here, there are many things I miss about living in a place like London, the Culture, Art, Food to name a few, the healthcare system's equality and the support for people without are also more pivotable issues I struggle with living here, not to mention Trump...

However, in my small nuclear universe of having a peaceful and easy life, I realise now how wonderful this place is to raise a family and how blessed I am to have been given this opportunity to explore it.

Our Back yard. Sunset. No Filter. 

Traveling with two

Last week was the first trip I made as a double mama via aeroplane.  I am not only a well travelled woman, but a well travelled mother, taking my oldest son on a flight when he was only 6 weeks old... But two... it's a whole new beast.  Let me fill you in on our adventures and leave a few of my pearls behind for you to read, dismiss or take to the grave with you.  I think in heart, a mother really has to experience things to really work out for herself how to do things, but there are somethings I will defiantly repeat and others I will make sure I don't.  I have broken this down into categories to make it an easier read.

 Flights:  in flight entertainment

  • Snacks:  snacks, you can never have too many, savoury, sweet, dry, smooth, anything and everything you can pack that you don't have to put in a 100ml plastic bag for liquids is a dream come true.  We packed crackers, popcorn, Ella snacks (which I LOVE as they don't have refined sugar in them) dried fruit and cheese sticks.
  • Blankets:  I always take a comfy blanket for the plane and am so glad I did as it was really cold on the way out and Reno wanted to snuggle so it was excellent.  My favourite blanket of all times is the Rainbow Ripple  Blanket.
  • Kids Bag:  the night before we flew, I thought it would be a great thing for Reno to have his own bag for carry on with his toys and snacks, to give him a sense of responsibility and also independence.  This worked SUPER well.  My darling husband did a Target run at 10pm the night before we flew at 5am and got him a Despicable Me roller case for kids and he packed it with his toys and books for the flights, he spent a lot of the flight playing and he loved to walk through the airport with his case he felt so grown up!
  • I PAD:  I try to keep TV at home for the moments when I am alone with the kids cooking etc...  but let me tell you flights are a whole exception.  The best thing I did was download his favourite programme 'Something Special'  a British kids show you can get on the BBC or youtube that has loads of sign language and kids from lots of backgrounds and abilities doing every day activities like cooking, going to the farm.  Reno loves this show and I had no issues with him watching this when he got sick of his toys! He left the flight teaching me how to say hippo and playground in sign.
  • Travel Bottle Warmer:  One of the best thing I bought.  I pump and combination feed Eden and he is super fussy about the temperature of his milk.  I  bought the Tommee Tippie Travel Bottle and Food Warmer.  It's a bit like a glorified flask, as my husband puts it, but it was fantastic for the whole flight and beyond.  It meant I could warm milk in my time to the temp I desired and was small and easy with a big enough container for the bottle to fit in safely so I wasn't worried about boiling water spilling on the kids or me during turbulence.  

Luggage: what to take, what not to take

  • Don't pack too much!  the neurotic jewish mother in me forgot that NYC is a perfectly civilised city with washing machines!  I could have packed half as I ended up doing laundry twice on our trip so didn't need the variety of different outfits I took with.  I also bought new clothes as the clothes in NYC are SOOOOOO cute.  I went Bitz Kids in Tribeca, which had super cute outfits, I had to stop myself buying more :) 
  • Car Seats / UBER: Only take one car seat.  UBER in NYC have an amazing addition to their bookings in NYC, kids booster seats.  This saved us So much hasstle of taking two car seats.  So we just took Eden's seat as he is still very little we didn't want to compromise his safety.  The uber car seat is fantastic and perfect for a 2 year old plus.  We found UBER to be the perfect way to get round the city.

Getting Around: strollers, slings and bags

  • Stroller: We bought a YOYO Babyzen Stroller when Reno was born as we knew we were going to travel a lot.  It was an investment as it's not cheap but I tell you it's the most amazing tool for traveling.  It folds up to be a carry on item in the plane so you don't have to faff around with putting the buggy under before going onto the plane.  It always surprises cabin crew as they always ask us to put the buggy under then in two ticks we fold it up and they are blown away by how compact it is.  it's also very light weight so a brilliant way to travel around and carry over the shoulder.    The downsides to this buggy is it doesn't have amazing storage space under neath, so if you like to travel with a big old change bag like me, be prepared to have to carry it...  The other situation I found myself in this trip with a 2 year old and 3 month old, was the 2 year old wanted to sit in it and not always walk so I had to put Eden in the sling.  this got tiring after a while, walking around the city.  So next time I go to a walking city I would take our big double stroller just for ease.
  • Essentials for my  travel change bag:  bottle of milk, bottle bag, 2 diapers for each kid, portable change mat, bottle of water, hat, jumper, change of clothes for baby, snack for toddler, portable phone charger as I always get caught out without phone battery! Sunglasses, wallet, phone and keys. P H E W!!!
  • Ju-Ju Bottle Bag:  Again, bottle feeding can be a pain in the ass, but this insulated bottle bag made it dreamy.  It holds 3 4oz bottles, the warmer flask, the milk powder container and keeps bottles warm if you want to pre fill them.  It was dreamy and looks so neat with the anchor print. 
  • Slings:  This was So great to take on the flights as well as around the city.  I wanted to be 'Mother Earth' and take my lovely long fabric sling that wraps around, but you know, with two kids, a million bags and a queue of people waiting behind you to board a plane, the robust practical sling is much faster and easier.  We have the Lillie and it's great and means both me and my husband can carry both Eden or Reno front, back, side so it's brilliant for traveling :)

I think now I have done a trip once, I feel much more confident to do it a second time and would take far less stuff, but also invest in checking in the big double stroller that we have if I was going to a city that had lots of walking in it again.  I realised that when traveling with two, it's only realistic to book ONE activity per day, otherwise it's just too crazy trying to fit everything in like I would have done being young free and single.  I used to cram in 4 coffees, a lunch, dinner then drinks.  I was so happy when I managed to meet up with a girlfriend this trip as it just takes so much longer to do anything in a new environment with two kids.  However, it was SUCH a fun trip and I would not hesitate to do it again :)

Visual Reference images of everything I linked to in this article.

Baby G's

A few weeks before I was due to have baby Eden, who I now can't believe is 8 weeks old, I received a surprise package to my door from the Amazon man.  To my absolute delight it was a starter box of gDiapers.  The gift actually bought me to tears, partly due to being a pregnant lump and partly due to the thoughtfulness of my friend Emma, who had taken note of my interest in her use of these reusable nappies and been so kind as to send me the starter box as a new baby gift for Eden.  The 'newborn starter kit' makes for the most delightful gift by the way :)

Emma is a gorgeous friend, who also has a beautiful blog too called mamalina, you should check her out.  We have a lot in common, one of our threads is that we both wanted to continue the exciting and beautiful elements of our lives, even after we had kids and she is one of the few mums I know who takes her kid on wild adventures like we do!  

I have debated the use of disposable vs reusable nappies for so long, it felt like such hard work with Reno (my older son) as I was on the road a lot and didn't always have time for laundry.  We lived in an RV over the whole summer, working across festivals in the UK, so the thought of carrying around poo with me until I hit a laundrette wasn't appealing.  HOWEVER, I get SO SAD when I think of all the hundreds of thousands of nappies that are not compostable or biodegradable just sitting in land-fills in the world.   Then I questioned if it even was any better for the environment as there is still a disposable element to the nappy AND you have to wash the covers, so that's water usage!  I keep thinking about our kids and what the future of the world will look like for them and how can I help in my lifetime, even if it's small  and feels somewhat insignificant.  

All this aside, I have this box and so thought, let give this a whirl.  First of all, they look SUPER cute!  They really make those little baby bots so round and juicy, they come in loads of different colours and there are mountains of cool patterns on Instagram to choose from with awesome designs on them.  The downside is this is a VERY middle class way of collecting poo for your kids and you need a disposable income to have these 'non-disposable' nappies!  It's not cheap at all!!!  I would say I change Eden twice as much as I do with regular pampers as otherwise they leek and then you have to buy new covers as they grow out of them.  The upside is that I can keep the covers for the next kid ;)

Unfortunately, in the apartment complex and neighbourhood where we currently live in California, there is no way to compost anything, which surprises me, being California.  However, solution -  There is an amazing place called Tiny Tots who has a collection service.  They do this amazing diaper service where they collect and clean cloth nappies for you or simply collect your compost inserts from the gDiapers.  Again, this is not cheap, but good for the planet, not your pocket.

In short - If you have time and money these things are the best! They look adorable and there are so may cute designs to choose from (Etsy) you can have someone else do your 'dirty work' for you and take comfort that you are helping the planet.  

However, if you are on a budget, unfortunately saving the planet doesn't come onto the agenda.  When cloth diapering is made affordable for everyone, then I think it will really be 100% cool.  Until then, I have loved trying it out, but am not sure how much I can justify it as the ONLY way to go...

DayOne Baby

A few weeks ago I was looking for a parking spot, downtown Palo Alto. A task, not always so easy, I finally found one.  BIG DEAL, you are thinking...  But what happened next was a game changer...  Eden was 2 weeks old and as I pulled out his stroller from the trunk I saw the shop window directly in front of me and it said 'DayOne Baby'.  

I went inside, bracing myself for the unknown... "Aladdin's cave"  "Heaven for new mothers" "a Godsend"  "Genius" were all phrases I said to myself as I meandered around this beautiful stylish tranquil environment.  I was gracefully asked for help but not bugged, I was offered a place to feed my baby and change him and a glass of water. 

I felt like Barberella with her Duran Duran.   These guys have got it right.

DayOne baby is an innovative idea of a shop, play area, weigh in clinic, as well as being safe place for mum's to nurse with friendly faces around. A real source of oxytocin, which is super important for all mothers, especially those who nurse.   They have private rooms, changing facilities, basically everything you could ever wish for as a new mother coming out of the sunshine on a busy high street.  They have councillors for post natal anxiety and depression on hand to have chats to as well as lactation consultants on hand to support nursing, pumping and all the other joys and struggles of breastfeeding. They host weekly 'Keep Fit Classes' where you put your baby in the sling and jump around with other mums.  There is more, I could go on, but I suggest you just go and check it out for yourselves.

In the UK, where I had my first son, we had a weigh in clinic just 5 minutes walk from my house, it was the image of 'Call the Midwife'  I loved it, everyone knew each other and was in an old Church, so friendly, safe and welcoming.  We don't have that here, we have to book an opt with our paediatrician to our new baby weighed.  This meant I could just go and see how fat he was... he's pretty chubby, I am proud :)

In the UK, there are loads of groups and activities for new mums that are easy to find,  your midwife and health visitor come to your house and give you loads of pamphlets after you have your baby with local resources and make you feel really supported.  Here, there is no midwife or health visitor.  You have your baby and you are sort of left to find things out for yourself.  Now, don't get me wrong, the services are abundant and a lot covered by your health insurance (which is also a weird concept I am still learning about) but unless you know WHERE to look or WHO to ask, they are really hard to find and there is no real epicentre for them all, unless you come to places like this where they have a whole timetable of classes and resources on tap.  Also, best marketing is word of mouth, so, put all the mums together and bravo... 

I never saw myself as one of those mums that would need a support network and outreach, but since moving to the states I have been so grateful for them, to meet new people and just feel more connected.  People drive everywhere here so there is less of the 'high street hello's' and 'mother matrix nods' that I had in Muswell Hill London.

So - If you are a new mum or not, go check this place out, it's really brilliant.  If you have a friend who is having a baby, there are beautiful gifts in here too, all very stylish and carefully picked, there is nothing in this shop that I think is a waste of space or time and shouldn't be there.

www.dayonebaby.com

Sugar is Sugar...

Lets get one thing straight... Sugar is sugar, in all it's forms and too much of ANY sugar is not a good thing.  One thing I am learning is what TYPE of sugar I would rather consume into my body and how I consume it.  

I am not a super-hero, although sometimes I am a 'super-mum!'  - I did the 100% NO SUGAR diet for a while in order to heal my thyroid after the birth of my first son, it worked, for which I am so proud of, it completely dumbfounded the western doctors who were sure that it was impossible to cure through diet alone. I am not on life long medication and my levels have stabilised from my hard work and this above all gave me solid proof of how excess sugar consumption affects our body functions and causes inflammation and disease.

However not having ANY fruit or ANY sugar at all is a miserable existence for me and most others.  I want to eat birthday cake with my kids, I want to have an afternoon tea treat and not feel a rush of panic or anxiety from a 'refined sugar' overload.

So, with the dilemma of; my necessity to maintain a low sugar diet to prevent the recurrence of inflammation in the body, alongside being a mum who wants to eat something delicious for a dopamine hit, what's the solution?  I don't have ALL the answers, but, here are a few suggestions...

First thing I do I look at the types of sugars I am going to use in my cooking and baking, , I go towards non refined sugars that include:

  • honey
  • agave nectar
  • brown rice syrup
  • maple syrup
  • date sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • molasses

The above list are still classified as sugar in my books, they are just a better version.  However, as they still spike the blood sugar levels,  I treat them with caution and respect.  

When it comes to preparing food and baking,  I tend to use HALVE the amount  of sugar advised from the recipe.  I find that most recipes put WAY too much sugar in their sweet treats to begin with.  The next thing I do, when I am craving that sweet tooth is ask myself:  "Do I really want something sweet right now?  Or is there something else at play?"  When  I truly listen to my body and why I am craving something sweet I am usually honest enough to discover that there is more going on and actually I probably need to sleep, have a hug or build up some other nutrients like protein, magnesium, zinc, calcium and other minerals that are depleted.  i try to reach for a handful of nuts to see if that does the trick.  Often not, but I have at least had some protein before I hit the sugar which is really important when breaking down sugar in the body.

Note to self:  always try to eat sugar after you have eaten a meal or have sugar with protein to help break it down in the blood system better.

In short - I am not going to lie - I would love to be that 'perfect person' (do they exist?!) who can 100% all the time  just break the sugar cycle and be satisfied with a stick of celery and cup of herbal tea when I feel like something sweet, but I am not and I am human.  So, investigating alternative sugar sources and how I can incorporate them into my cooking in moderation is the next best thing.  Something I have learnt is that the less sugar I eat, the less I crave it and the more unpalatable very sweet refined foods become. I also believe that depriving oneself of things only leads to greater addictive patterns in the long run and who needs that, certainly not me :) 

 

TV Dinners

I have been watching a wonderful Documentary on Netflix called COOKED, Michael Pollan explores food through the four elements on earth (fire, water, air & earth).  It's a wonderful series, investigating the evolution of what food means to us, highlighting our primal human desire to cook and the desire to have a meaningful connection to what we nourish ourselves with.

This show has totally resonated with me on so many levels.  Creatively, it has been beautifully executed and as a documentary lover I think it's a really informative and engaging one.  It also made me more aware of the culture, particularly in the USA of 'TV Dinners' - the concept of 'allowing others to cook for us' especially, as a now, a stay at home mother of 2 and previously a working mother of 1 child... I get it... 

WHO HAS TIME THESE DAYS TO COOK???!!! 

On the topic of time... Albert Einstein wrote in 1952 ( in his book Relativity)  that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously, he believed that there is no true division between past and future there is rather a single existence: 

Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent "now" objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated. It appears therefore more natural to think of physical reality as a four dimensional existence, instead of, as hitherto, the evolution of a three dimensional existence.

Pondering the above, immediately leads me to ask myself the following important questions... "Does this mean that I am doing everything at the same time?"  I often feel like that with two kids any how, either that or I am octopus, or psychotic, for thinking I am actually an octopus...   So... "If time doesn't exist, why don't I have time to pee some days???!!!"  Perhaps I have too much time on my hands to even question all this stuff.  However, at the end of this train of thought, and agreeing a lot with the sentiments of what Einstein writes,  I have made a commitment to myself to 'make time' to prepare food at home.

The benefits of preparing our food at home are abundant.  A lot of them are addressed in this documentary I have mentioned above and a lot just FEEL GOOD and intuitive as someone who has an awareness of themselves and their family and wants to be conscious to what they are putting into it.  

I do see the value in making food from scratch, I also find it a necessity the more and more I read ingredients on packets and have the following sentences on loop in my mind as I go round the supermarket, which can make shopping a real headache sometimes:

"if you don't know that the ingredient means, or can't say it out loud DON'T buy it... If it has more than 4 basic ingredients added to it, DON'T buy it... if it has sugar in it ( in it's many forms...) DON'T buy it!"  

This is one of the reasons I have started this blog, to log all the things I make, a lot of them are bastardised dishes from internet trawling and cookery books, taking the bits that work for me and dumping the time consuming, measuring fussiness that frankly puts me off cooking.  It's to log the experiments that work and not the ones that don't! it's to remind myself of all the reasons why I know it's so important to keep making time to  cook for my kids, husband and most of all myself.  It's meditation, it's consciousness and it's nutrition to the body and soul.  We can heal through food and I want to be part of that revolution that reminds people of the importance of cooking, eating, sharing and celebrating food.

Believe me, it takes commitment, but it's amazing to see my elder son grasp the concept of preparing food.  He has his toy kitchen and when i cook he cooks too.  It's magical to exhibit such an ingrained and integral cultural identity that makes us human in someone so little, knowing that I am teaching him values that he can carry with him throughout his entire life...  

Sling yer...

Age old question... To sling or not to sling and then... which sling?

Do I get the fabric one to be all boho and hippy, or do I get the Bjorn cos it's the most 'well known' so that must surely mean something...  Do I get the 360 / 180 spin it on your head can carry in 20 ways or just a simple side sling and be done with it?  This is an age old debate, to the extent that here in Silicon Valley they have a help group and rental service for slings.

These people help you find the right sling for you and then how to fit it.  AWESOME or what!!

I met a girl today who has 5 slings... I mean - that's serious commitment.  Okay okay, I have 2, one fabric material one which is super comfy but a nightmare to try and put on when you are out the car in a car park and it's traipsing all over the ground and you trip over it.  So I also have a new sling that we got from Lilebaby.  It is robust, durable and any idiot can put it on in a rush, including myself.  it's just not quite as sexy and 'Mother Earth'.  It's really important to me that when my baby is screaming wants to be picked up that I do just that, this is a challenge when i want to cook, do anything else with my hands, so having a fast sling that i can throw on and that really protects his neck and head was a must.  I love love love my fabric sling, but it's a bit like a 'week end' car, the kind you drive around in for fun on a sunny day with the top down.  nuff said.

For some of the HIPPEST slings you will ever wear, check out:  5MR