A mother’s pride & a friend’s talent

IMG_6210Last night, I attended the gig of an old friend. She’s been plugging away at her music since we graduated Uni in 2011 & I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen her perform in nearly two years; it was just before I fell pregnant.

In our final year at Uni, Sophie & I had bedrooms in an attic conversion of our 6 person house. She was a morning person. I, to this day, am not. Even after a particularly heavy night out, Sophie would spring down the two flights of stairs, IMG_6209smiling & chipper – usually humming to herself – down a Barroca & often start her day with a run. I did none of these things. In fact, I spent these mornings not-so-quietly cursing her from my pit where I wallowed as she practised fa-la-la-la-ing in the next room. Perhaps I should also say Soph is classically trained & at the time was part of OpSoc (Opera Society to me & you). Those mornings were bleak…

However, four years on & not in a hungover state, those scales were worth it. Seeing her perform last night was absolutely incredible.

Her music is dark (unexpected for someone so chipper!), sexy & heartfelt. I was blown away by how much she has changed as a performer. Her voice has really matured & filled St. Pancras Old Church with nothing but her keyboard to keep her company.

I was already feeling emotional thanks to support act Harry Phillips. His song, Coming Home, written for his mom, basically saying how much he loves her was just a bit much & got the tears flowing. Apparently motherhood has ruined me. (Also well worth a listen; his voice was stunning & he was a dab hand at the guitar too.)

Then about half way through Sophie’s set, I was struck suddenly by how proud her mom must be. I’ve seen friends perform before & strut their stuff in their own amazing ways. But this was the first since Baby Girl was born. And suddenly I get it. I now understand why moms cry at ballet recitals or dads have to take a thousand photos at graduation. The amount of pride I feel when Baby Girl manages to shake a maraca is overwhelming. God help me if she ever has a song played on the radio!

Sophie’s song Home started to gain traction last year, getting her noticed by BBC Introducing. 

I realise I’ve already had a cheeky plug earlier this week, but I can’t help but shout about Sophie’s music from the rooftops. She’s come a long way from OpSoc & is just going from strength to strength. But I bet she still starts her off days with a Barroca…

Download Sophie’s new EP, Treading Water, on iTunes now.

@sophieraymusic
Sophie Ray on Facebook
Sophie Ray on Soundcloud

@Hphillipsmusic
Harry Phillips Facebook
Harry Phillips on Soundcloud
(He said he’s not very good at the social media stuff, so help him out, go say hi, but bear with him if he’s slow to respond.)

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I’ve been keeping secrets…

Last week, I was talking about how I’ve been off work one year & reflected on my mixed emotions about job hunting & returning to work. Whatever that may mean for me.

But the truth is, I’ve had a little side project this year. It’s not been entirely bottles, diapers, nursery rhymes & sleepless nights.

Back in March, bleary eyed, clueless & pretty much the only person I knew with a baby apart from my four NCT friends I was trawling the App Store during a breastfeeding session looking for parenting apps. Specifically ones to help me find out what was available in the area for [new] parents.

I came across Bubele. A location based app for London parents telling you where to find activities, services, child-friendly restaurants, the lot. It was a little rough around the edges, but it did the trick.

Then I got an email from Vivien at Bubele, thanking me for adding some locations to the app, wondering if I’d like to be an East London ‘Editor’. And my involvement has spiralled from there.

In another life, I worked in marketing & branding for a UK telecoms network. Amongst other things I’ve launched apps & managed in life marketing for apps. So my skill set were somewhat of use to Vivien.

Home Screen featured partnerSince then, the app has been removed from the App Store, completely redesigned (it’s now beautiful) & our beta version went live in the App Store in early December.

We’ve got activity & service providers all over London listed on the app – from the British Museum to a local Sing & Sign franchisee – & we’re working with some big partners I can’t yet talk about lined up in the wings. Bubele is really starting to take off.

MapHats off to Vivien who’s brainchild this is. Because it’s exactly what I was looking for & am yet to find anything else like it.

So, any iPhone using parents of London (Android will follow asap); please download our app. I promise, it’s useful. And easy to use.

And no rest for the wicked, there’s already an update coming soon with new features for you to play with. So what are you waiting for? London for babies, tots & under 8’s is now at your finger tips.

If you have a child-related business in London, get in touch. If you have feedback for the app, get in touch. If you’re an Android user, like us on any of our social media platforms to stay in the loop with what’s going on in your area & be the first to know when the Android version is coming.

Like Bubele on Facebook
Tweet @BubeleLondon
Bubele on Google+
Sign up to the weekly newsletter

But most of all, please download the app!

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In case it wasn’t clear, I am affiliated with this brand, this post is a massive cheeky plug for the Bubele app & I do have an invested interest beyond simply telling you what I’ve been doing with my life.  However, the opinions expressed here are independent & my own. And I think our app is totally awesome.
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Me & You: January 20 (+ 4 days)

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Following on from last week’s Me & You post, this weekend the Other Half & I celebrated our 6 year anniversary.

It was also the first time I have spent the night away from Baby Girl.

In an attempt to put my words into action, (both Mojo & Me & You) I decided it was time the Other Half & I had some proper time to be just us again. So, my mom took Baby Girl from about midday on Saturday until around 1pm on Sunday.

I’d actually been looking forward to the weekend, despite the impending separation from Baby Girl. We were planning baby-free shopping trip (rare for me), dinner, drinks & a lie in on Sunday morning. Excellent.

But by Friday evening separation anxiety was setting in & I was feeling quite nervous. Saturday morning, I cried twice. At one point I didn’t know if I’d be able to leave Baby Girl & actually called my mom to say don’t come. She was already on her way. Which was probably just as well as I think the Other Half might have lost it somewhat if I hadn’t followed through with our night off…

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Looking ‘traumatised’, packed & ready to go for her sleepover with Nina on Saturday.

When mom arrived, Baby Girl clapped & giggled. She just seemed thrilled. We bundled her into the carseat, she continued waving her arms & kicking her feet. Once in the car, she was still smiling. When they finally drove off, I cried. Again.

The Other Half gave me a hug & a cup of tea. After 10 minutes he went & closed the nursery door saying, ‘First things first, close this so you don’t look in or we’ll just be wiping tears all day. Now, no more moping. Time to enjoy the afternoon.’

Being out of the house was definitely better. I started to relax as I received a text saying they were back at mom’s & Baby Girl seemed to be happy exploring, getting into everything.

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Ready for date night in my new un-baby-friendly skirt. Mojo creeping back slowly but surely.

I even managed to spend all my birthday money buying a very un-baby-friendly skirt & a new pair of boots. I also spent £66 in BabyGap, which made me feel happier about abandoning Baby Girl taking a break this weekend.

Originally, we’d been planning to go away for the night. But we failed dismally to find anywhere within our budget that wasn’t more than an hour or so away (just in case) with space available. So instead, we spent the money on a sushi dinner & cocktails. (We love sushi.)

We went to Sticks ‘n’ Sushi in Covent Garden. The service was a little slow, but the food was awesome; modern twists on traditional sushi dishes. The Other Half had even pre-arranged a glass of champagne at the table when we arrived – nice romantic touch.

IMG_0022Then we decided to be sophisticated & order a bottle of Azure Sake instead of cocktails. Error. With the sushi it was bearable. But in between dishes, if I’m perfectly honest, it tasted like Sainsbury’s Basics vodka slapping the back of my throat. (And yes, I’m ashamed to say I do know what Sainsbury’s Basics vodka tastes like. There were some dark student days.)

So I’ve decided, sophisticated or not, I don’t much like Sake. But at £60 a bottle, I did my best. The glasses were very cool though.

Quick aside: incase you decide to visit Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, they don’t include VAT on their menu prices. Bad restaurant etiquette in my opinion, but luckily we hadn’t already blown our budget. Though we were close once the VAT was added.

My phone was glued to my pocket all day, just in case. I received a text about 5:30pm saying, “Evil child! She’s throwing raisins & peas at me & laughing!” Bravo Baby Girl. Bravo. But at dinner, it sat quietly on the table beside me, with only a short update about 11pm saying, “all’s quiet”.

Sunday, we had planned a leisurely morning with a lie-in, lazing, maybe some Xbox & bacon & poached eggs. It was going to be glorious.

8:30am. We both looked over to find the other wide awake. Safe to say, 10 months of early mornings with Baby Girl has ruined us. So we lazed in bed for all of 30 minutes before deciding we wanted bacon. (The Other Half would like to interject here: “No, you kicked me out of bed demanding bacon.” You to decide which is more likely…)

We also have a new sideboard arriving tomorrow as our current kitchen shelving solution is hopeless with a baby who crawls, climbs & uses shelves full of pans, cookbooks & a Le Creuset dish to help her stand (AH!!). So after breakfast we used the baby free zone to unload & dismantle the shelves & thoroughly clean the kitchen in preparation for the sideboard. I know. We’re so rock ‘n’ roll.

As the morning progressed, I got more & more excited about seeing Baby Girl. As silly as it may sound, after only 24 hours, I’d really missed her & couldn’t wait for a cuddle.

When they arrived, Baby Girl was just coming-to in the car. I got in to unstrap her & seemed to give her the fright of her life. She looked at me like she had no idea who I was. Which wasn’t quite the hello I was hoping for.

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Baby Girl seemed happier to see the Xbox controller than me on Sunday morning… These are tears of laughter… honest…

Once we got upstairs, Daddy got a cuddle & a smile. When Nina (my mom) came in from parking the car, Baby Girl crawled straight to her with a big smile. She just kept looking at me betrayed & questioning. I’m not going to lie. I was quite upset by this.

Eventually, she started playing peek-a-boo with me round the coffee table. I finally got my cuddle & all was well.

Though this evening, it seems Baby Girl was missing Nina as 30 minutes after she went to sleep, she was bolt up right in the cot crying out. This went on for a while… Looks like we’re back to business as usual.

Better start thinking what we want to do on February 20!

 

Maternity leave: 1 year on

A year ago today, I began my maternity leave. How long ago that feels now.

It’s been a long year in many ways.  There’s been insatiable highs, there’s been tears – from all three of us, there’s been uncontrollable laughter, disbelief, exhaustion; there’s been more bodily fluids & functions that we knew possible & we’ve learnt more than I could ever fit into a blog post (or bore you with), not just about babies, childbirth & parenting but also about ourselves, our families, & sadly about the pitfalls of renting.

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first bath & first Mother’s Day: 2 weeks

In numbers, I’ve;

  1. Given birth once. (And thank god it was only once.)
  2. Written 178 blog posts.
  3. Changed approximately 112,198 diapers.
  4. Expressed approximately 480oz of breastmilk.
  5. Filled approximately 858 bottles of formula.
  6. Performed the baby Heimlich manoeuvre once.
  7. Been to A&E once (not including childbirth).
  8. Been shit on, in the most literal sense, 5 times, I think.
  9. Been weed on twice.
  10. Prised one poo log out of an extremely constipated baby’s bum
  11. Sung on the tube at least 8 times.
  12. Lost it with a complete stranger: once. Actually, maybe twice.
  13. Watched 5 seasons of Breaking Bad.
  14. Watched 2 seasons of House of Cards.
  15. Watched 2 seasons of Orange is the New Black.
  16. Watched 5.5 seasons of Vampire Diaries.
  17. Watched 2.5 seasons of Once Upon A Time.
  18. Watched 5.5 seasons of Pretty Little Liers.
  19. Watched 3 seasons of Greek.
  20. Watched nearly 1 season of The Originals.
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 the puzzle piece flooring was our best idea all year (4 months)

Before I continue, one quick thing; the effort to produce that much extra breastmilk felt like I expressed a damn sight more breastmilk than 480oz!

Also, I’m aware I may have a slight TV addiction. Please remember I had 5 weeks to fill before Baby Girl arrived & I do just leave the TV on whilst I do other things… I also have barely watched any TV in the day since Baby Girl stopped breastfeeding just before 6 months… honest…

But this week, I feel very emotional. I’ve been dreading this week for most of the year.

Obviously, I feel the usual Mama troubles of returning to work;  leaving Baby Girl; wanting to be at home with her, etc, etc. But in truth, I can already see Baby Girl getting bored. She’s so active & requires an immense amount of stimulation. I can see I’m not enough. And if I don’t return to work, we can’t afford to take her to all the little clubs & classes that would stimulate. Which isn’t fair on her. So nursery or a childminder with other children seems the best solution for her.

And everyone tells me, ‘once you’re back in the office, you’ll appreciate the time as an adult again. You’ll enjoy using your brain ‘fully’ again & cherish the time you do spend with Baby Girl all the more. Her little face when you pick her up at the end of the day will make it all worthwhile.’

And so I start to think about going back to work. But you see, it’s not quite that straightforward for me. I don’t have a job to go back to.

The week I went on maternity leave, like all the contractors in the business, I got made redundant. Yes, yes, I know, it could be considered a bit dodgy but actually, taking the redundancy meant I could take the year off. A luxury we couldn’t have otherwise afforded.

That being said, I had a two hour commute to Slough (west of London), while the Other Half worked outside London in the opposite direction. (East London bizarrely was sort of in the middle for us.) We’d already been wondering how it would work with a nursery run as well. ‘Kindly,’ my employer made the decision for us.

So, I’ve had a year off. And it’s been amazing. But now, I’m job hunting. And it’s not so amazing.

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learning to swim with Water Babies

The uncertainty of when I’ll return to work makes planning anything difficult. Whether it’s booking a holiday or deciding whether to book onto the next course of Water Babies. And of course, the question, ‘what happens if I don’t find anything’ lingers like a bad smell in the background. (Or maybe that’s the diaper bin…)

I’m of the school, ‘it’ll come right in the end.’ Because it usually does. And life is pretty miserable if you think anything else. So that’s what I keep thinking. Something will come up.

Just a question of what. And when?

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From what I remember, work doesn’t seem so bad…

Me & You <3

It’s no secret that when you have a baby, your relationship takes a back seat. You are so full of joy & love for your new littlun that romance goes out the window; all you can think about is when you get to sleep next & to be honest, money troubles hang over you like a wet Sunday.

IMG_25422013, for us, was the year of pregnancy. We found out we were expecting unexpectedly at the end of June & from then on everything revolved around Bump. It was, to say the least, a stressful 9 months. But I think the Other Half & I came out of it stronger than we ever had been.

2014 then was the year of the baby. Baby Girl joined us nine days late (she’s definitely our child then!) & the two weeks that followed were possibly IMG_2712the happiest of our five years together. Shockingly, despite the hand grenade thrown into our lives, the torture that was sleep deprivation & total cluelessness, there wasn’t a cross word between us (& we’re known to be a, err, ‘passionate’ couple!). By the six month mark though, the usual service had resumed & we lost ourselves to ‘heated discussions’ about money, me returning work & controlled crying vs. gentle parenting or dummy vs. thumb.

IMG_2070Today, January 20th, 2015 is our six year anniversary. And I hereby declare 2015 the year of us.

It’s time to blow off the cobwebs, stretch our weary legs & dig our relationship out from under the overflowing laundry basket & Sophie the Giraffe.

The Other Half was a bit of a romantic when we first got together. And on the 20th of every month for that first year, he insisted we do something special.

So. On the 20th of every month (or there abouts, depending when we can get a babysitter), I’m taking a leaf out of 20-year-old-Other-Half’s book. Whether it’s going to the movies, organising a surprise or simply cooking something together; we will be doing something just the two of us (sorry Baby Girl, you’re not invited), like old times.

And to keep us on track, I’ll be joining the Me & You blogging linky, originally started by Dear Beautiful, conveniently on the 20th of each month.

And, in true blogging fashion, I will also be blogging about it. Of course.

Here’s to us.

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Edit: I’ve just been informed by Lucy of Dear Beautiful (@dear_beautiful_) that the Me & You linky isn’t running during 2015. So I won’t be joining the linky afterall. However, take a look at her beautiful work on the links above & come back next month to hear what we’ve been up to. I’ll still be using the #meandyou hashtag for these posts on Twitter.

She speaks?

Every parent anticipates one milestone more than the rest. You’re proud when they clap for the first time, your thrilled when they sit up, crawling is met with joy & dread.

But that moment, when suddenly the babble becomes a word. That’s the moment we all look forward to with baited breath.

What will it be? When will it be? Who will she say it to? Will we miss it?

Well, today, we think our wait might be over.

At lunch, The Other Half asked Baby Girl if she was ‘all done’ & she replied, “aw dah”. This happened three times, once even with the sign language signs (hold up both hands & turn them back to front).

So we’re stood there, shocked, amazed, excited, wondering if this is actually it. Is this her first word?

It makes perfect sense to be as she hears it at every meal time, with every bottle & we’ve used this phrase consistently because of the sign language (we only have 5 signs we use, we’re not really into it – more on this another time).

Or are we just hearing what we want to hear?

Any more seasoned parents out there got any ideas?

Mama’s first birthday

Yesterday was my 26th birthday. My first as a Mama. And it was perfect.

The Other Half took the day off & I opted for the relaxed, quiet day, just happy to spend it with my two favourite people.

IMG_5793We’ve had a good run this week. Baby Girl slept through 7pm-7am three nights in a row. So I woke up on my birthday feeling more rested than I have in a year. Which was a nice surprise!

We went for a long wintery walk through Victoria Park, tea in hand.

Lunch at Loafing; a small cafe I’ve been wanting to show the Other Half (it’s always rammed on weekends – not hugely buggy friendly). And because it was a quiet Thursday, we had the run of the place, so we could let Baby Girl roam around, which she liked. It was relaxed, the food was delish, & the cake. Oh my. The cake.

IMG_5661There’s a long standing joke (of sorts) between the Other Half & I. You see, I love to bake. And every year I bake him a birthday cake. Victoria Sponge, extra jam, as requested. And the past few years it has been decorated in the theme of a movie he’s recently been obsessed with. Last year, it was Despicable Me. This year, Guardians of the Galaxy.

IMG_5797And as his birthday is only 14 days before mine, he always reminds me, he doesn’t do cakes. Which to be honest, I’m fine with. Because he’s such a good cook,  if he tried his hand at baking, he’d probably be better at it than me. Which I wouldn’t like.

So this year, he was pleased I got a slice of chocolate & coffee cake from Loafing. And so was I. Because it was divine.

In the evening, the Other Half made a Spag Bol to end all Spag Bols for dinner, with beef & pork mince from Ginger Pig. (My favourite. I am the Spag Bol Queen.) And just as we were serving up, Baby Girl’s winning streak of sleep ended. 7:30-9pm was a series of ‘pat, pat, pat, sh, sh, sh – leave the room, wait – pat, pat, pat, sh, sh, sh…’ It was as though she knew there was something special going on & she was missing out.

Or maybe she could just smell the Spag Bol (also her favourite).

But despite the slight interlude to our evening, it was probably the best birthday I’ve had.

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Parenting hack #1: baby got a cough? Tilt the cot

IMG_0177 This one comes from the Other Half’s cousin who has two under two’s (brave man).

When you have a cough, or lots of mucus (lovely), the doctor tells you to sit up in bed to help all the icky stuff drain off your chest. It’s a bit tricky to prop a baby up in their cot given we’re not even supposed to have bumpers for fear of suffocation. Imagine if we started piling pillows round them to help them sleep upright…

But Cousin E suggested putting books under one end of the cot to tilt it to help Baby Girl when she had a cough. This was she slept propped up without even realising.

Well, last week, Baby Girl did indeed have the sniffles & a chesty cough so we tried it out. And it worked a treat. She slept almost all the way through the night, only waking when she turned a little too vigorously & rolled to the end of the cot!

Look out for more Bump, Baby & Me Parenting Hacks on the 13th of every month. You can submit your hacks via Twitter, (#parentinghacks), Facebook or comment below to be featured on future Parenting Hacks.

Me time… with an audience

I’m lazing in the bath. A little bit of me time. The Other Half is cooking dinner. Cosmo is sat waiting to be read. Steam rising around me, candles flickering, frogs, ducks & flashing octopus floating by my feet…

Wait. That’s new. They weren’t here last time.

Baby Girl got loads of bath toys for Christmas. Which she loves as bath time is possibly her favourite part of the day. But we definitely need to invest in a bath toy basket of some kind.

2015/01/img_5737.jpgIt feels a bit like they’re mocking me somehow. I’m not used to a bath with an audience.