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Author: Lara Ruffle Coles Page 3 of 12

A Weekend in the Garden

Given many don’t have the luxury of a garden, or even a living room, we did what we were told last week, and stayed home the whole weekend*.

Saturday’s gardening activities included cutting trees back, clearing leaves, weeding and some ivy clearance (all his work).

Saturday’s lazy activities included lounging about on the grass, dicking around on our phones, dicking around on my laptop, and occasionally interacting with our child.

Tee hee hee etc.

Painting with Daddy’s miniature paints from Salute, “I got 10 for a couple of quid”
A present for Grandma and Grandad
This all went in the grass. Ho hum.

Sunday was more relaxed but the husband did clear a load of ivy and mixed some postcrete to fix a corner of the rockery, very industrious. And even I got off my arse to saw logs and kindling for our new wood burner.

Rafe took his clothes off at some point, and we had a lovely picnic during his nap – sausages in a pitta with wholegrain mustard and mayonnaise. Yum!

Random disrobing
Sunday picnic

* Tell a lie… I did pop out on Saturday to get a prescription for a friend who is in self isolation.

It is quite frustrating not having anything of real value to do at the moment, but every little thing helps the brain, and I do loathe not being useful.

Lockdown Achievements so far

  • Finally went through all our photos from the past two years to find some shots of us all together for framing. Ordered them through Photobox the other week and they are now all on display in some lovely gold frames from Homesense/TK Maxx
Family trip on the DLR, 29th September 2018
  • I rearranged the dining room so we have more space for play, as we don’t know when the living room carpet will arrive
  • We switched Rafe from his too small sleeping bag to a duvet with no trouble. One step closer to the big boy bed!
Thursday 26th March was duvet day (night)
  • Went for a walk to Shrewsbury Park for the first time, such a lovely spot! And the child walked 0.8 of a mile too!
  • Another walk through Oxleas Woods, this time down to the secret pond by the Rochester Way / Welling Way junction. The ducks in the pond chased each other about which was a big hit. This time he managed 1.2 miles all the way down the hill and back again to home!
We walked through this beautiful tree arch en route to the duck pond, Thursday 2nd April

Life in the Time of Covid-19

My brain feels like a yo-yo at the moment, constantly up and down. I seem to flit between content and calm, and listless and down – on a day to day basis at times. Sigh.

I look forward to the daily nap, hope it lasts 2 hours instead of the average 1 and a bit, and then fanny about for most of it. On Thursday, he’d been asleep for 1 hour, 25 minutes and I managed a grand total of 15 minutes focusing on this blog. There is always something else to do that I always prioritise first – let alone actually being inspired to write. Hence no blogs for 9 months!

Weekends are better as the husband isn’t working – I can run away from him and the child at regular intervals. Which is good and bad because I don’t have anyone else to be with, or anywhere I can really go, so then I want to run back to them. Ngggh.

On the DLR in February – the back view is as good as the front!

Two weeks ago I lost my part-time job, my son’s nursery closed, and the husband started WFH full-time. It is quite a big adjustment after working for six months.

BUT.

Since I wrote the above on Thursday, I’ve been feeling a lot better and haven’t had a low day since Wednesday. Hurrah!

Given this, I’ve decided to set myself the goal of writing a diary post each day. Hopefully the structure of the task, and it’s informal nature, will help keep me more glass half full than glass half empty…

And I need to keep up the walks outside!

Greenwich Park, Thursday 26th March

Twelve Week Scan

My first scan was on the 26th of September 2017 and it was a complete palaver.

The appointment at QEH is at 14.20 and we get there early as you do. We inform the receptionist that we have an appointment, she makes a note and tells us to sit down, and so we nervously wait.

14.20 comes and goes. We keep waiting because this is the NHS and you always expect the free service to be running behind schedule. We don’t actually ask what is going on for a good 20-30 minutes.

We ask when we will be going in: “Oh, I forgot to tell the sonographer you were here.” Oh.

We’ve missed our slot. Oh.

Apparently the sonographer was ready and waiting. Oh.

We now have to wait for a gap, and for the sonographer to answer the phone because you can’t go in and interrupt another scan (which is fair obviously).

There is a gap about an hour after our appointment. We go in. Yay.

“Your baby isn’t moving enough to do the scan properly, you need to go and eat some sugar and walk around and then I’ll try again.” Oh.

We leave and go down to the crappy WHSmith at QEH. I buy Fanta and chocolate. I drink the Fanta and eat the chocolate. We walk about. We go back into the scanning department and wait for another gap.

It’s about two hours after the original appointment when we go back in. We do the scan in full. Hurrah. I spend half the scan trying not to snap/cry at the sonographer because she’s grumpy because of the original admin error combined with the stupid baby not moving enough. LOLs all round. Not the dream first scan.

Then we realise that we forgot to ask for photos because everything became too stressful and the sonographer’s schedule had been completely buggered. We faff about for a while deciding whether to wait again, or whether to get the hospital to post us the photos. We decide to wait again.

Once the sonographer can answer the phone (again), she prints off the photos, brings them out to us, and then and no-one charges for them. Hurrah!

It’s now about three hours after the original appointment and we are finally done.

Slightly later we drive down to Croydon(-ish) to see my brother and sister-in-law. I’m on my phone too much so I puke up all the Fanta and chocolate onto a verge at the side of the road. 👍

My one and only vomiting experience in the entire pregnancy. I know, I’m insufferable.

However, the scan was fine (!), the baby was fine (!), the sonographer was really efficient and capable (yay!), and we managed to have a laugh about it all by the end.

I still ❤️ the NHS.

Podcasts

At the moment I regularly listen to two podcasts: Giovanna Fletcher’s ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’, and Alistair and Grace Campbell’s ‘Football, Feminism and Everything in Between’. Contrasting choices one might say, but then that’s the key – serve the different parts of your brain, keep those neurons firing etc.

‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’ appeals to the part of my brain that needs parent chat, and to feel part of a community when you are spending the majority of your time alone with a child. You might have some mum and baby dates, and sporadic chat with other adults, but it’s usually when paying for something or getting on the bus. ‘I don’t need the receipt’ and ‘thank you’ is not proper chat.

Compare your life now to the one you had before, did you sit in the office whinging about being sat in the office? Remember all that chat and gossip? Popping out for lunch with a colleague, those boring meetings – wouldn’t you kill for that now? But blah blah blah, the grass is always greener…

So combat your mumliness – my new hip portmanteau of ‘mum’ and ‘loneliness’ – by listening to Gi!

Added bonus: You stop your partner from wanting to strangle you for being so hyper and needy when they get in from work.

‘Football, Feminism and Everything in Between’ is hosted by father and daughter combo Alistair and Grace Campbell. Campbell Sr is known to me from the heady days of New Labour in the late 1990s. Aged thirteen, I remember going with my Dad to the polling station in 1997 and being told that he was voting for the Lib Dems as a protest even though Labour were expected to win by a landslide (and they did).

In my mind he was always New Labour and the war in Iraq and nothing else. But then Charles Kennedy died. I loved Charles Kennedy, a wonderful and witty person who tried to do good, but then I discovered he was friends with Alistair Campbell – so he can’t be all bad right?

Campbell’s obituary discusses their friendship and the mental health issues they shared. As well as being moving and warm, it really reminded me how multifaceted we all are, and how we really should try to not judge on first impressions.

I can’t remember how or why, but four years later I started following him on Instagram, which led me to the above podcast and his comedian and feminist daughter Grace.

As with ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’, each episode is an hour or so chat with a celebrity or ‘known person in their field’, and both podcasts introduce you to people and/or a topic you may be unfamiliar with.

IMHO, it is always wonderful to learn, and to see things from a different perspective, and in a world of Donald and Boris, this is a key skill to keep developing.

Another podcast I must start listening to is ‘Wonder Women’ by musical theatre actresses Celinde Schoenmaker and Carrie Hope Fletcher. Topics include female hysteria and cartoon women and I’m very much looking forward to a good listen.

I would also recommend either of James O’Brien‘s podcasts and Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd‘s ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’. I’ve not listened to them in forever but they are great. I blame my child.

Solar Shower Pregnancy Test

I always wanted children and we discussed it within a year of being together. He wanted children as well, but as it all seemed very far away and very grown up – it wasn’t a big dramatic OH MY GOD discussion topic. It was more of an eventuality, but also my decision: my body, my choice etc.

I knew I wanted to travel, work and get settled in a home before coming off the pill, and I hoped to not get accidentally pregnant in my 20s – it was my only real fear when I was younger and with Sam. I wanted to be selfish, do what I wanted, and I wanted to be in control.

We successfully went eight years with no dramas or panics, and once our trip to Japan was booked for March 2017, the time to try was approaching – our final big travel goals were trips to America and Japan, and we had already done five weeks in the US in 2015.

I was also approaching my 33rd birthday and I hoped to have a baby at 33 as that was the age my mum had me. Silly, but if able, I wanted to forge that additional connection to her.

So my pill supply ran out in February and I started tracking my crimson wave with Clue. Once we got back from Japan in early April we irregularly tried for a couple of months – we didn’t get too scientific about it at first as we had barely any cycle data to use, but by June/July we were using the ovulation schedule suggested by the app.

Side note: Don’t be fooled by those who tell you that trying for a baby is anything but an additional task for your daily routine. Who does romantic and/or sexy when you both work, have evening activities, and need to cook, clean and sleep. You have to keep on top of it (haha) every day for about 10 days to maximise your chances during your fertile window. Where is the romance in that.

July arrives and my period doesn’t come on the Sunday/Monday as usual. We get excited but nervous and decide to give it a whole week before taking a test.

That weekend we were away for a friend’s birthday at Eweleaze Farm near Weymouth. We decided to take the test in a super large solar shower on the Saturday morning, and after doing the pee pee deed we waited nervously.

The test said I was 2-3 weeks pregnant. Yay!

Contemporary advice says to keep quiet for the first trimester, so we did exactly that. It was our special little secret and we didn’t have to share it. Nor did we want the risk of something going wrong and then having to update people with shitty, awkward and sad news. 1 in 8 women go through a miscarriage, and many more miscarriages occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant.

We had our first scan at Queen Elizabeth Hospital on the 26th of September 2017 and all was well. The scan itself was a complete palaver but that’s a story for another day…

Armed with our scan photos we surprised my brother and sister-in-law that night with our news. It was wonderful to share our joy with them and my belle-sœur was just as excited and bubbly as I had hoped her to be (as was my brother). It was a lovely evening.

It was another week or so until we told my in-laws and they seems quite confused at first. We had told them we were going to try for one, but they hadn’t asked for regular updates (!) as you just don’t do that. But once the news had sunk in they were full of questions and excitement. It was another lovely evening.

We told more people over the coming weeks, mainly family and close friends, and let ourselves get a bit more excited. In general, I refused to buy anything for the baby as I didn’t want to jinx anything (how scientific of me), but I caved in at four months and bought four letters spelling out ‘BABY’ from a cutesy boutique shop when we were in Battle one weekend. I added ‘RAFE’ to these once he was born. 😍

We ‘publicly’ announced the pregnancy at the beginning of December in front of the Christmas tree at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris.

I also wrote the announcement in French.

I know, what a nob I am.

Very excited people ^

Unsolicited Advice at Nandos

My son and I had lunch at Nandos Canary Wharf today while we waited for my Pixel 3 screen to be replaced (because I’m crap and damaged it within a fortnight of getting it).

He was happily munching away on half a corn on the cob – it’s an amazing sight, some chicken and a few chips, when a group of men left the restaurant and walked past our table.

Most people look towards Rafe, smile and have a brief chat with the two of us. Not this time, one of the group said the following:

“You should get him a plate for his lunch so he isn’t eating off the table”

stranger

Oh, should he now?

I was quite pleased with my response:

“So he can break the plate?”

ME

He repeated his advice.

I repeated my sentence.

There endeth the interaction.

  1. Rafe is fourteen and a half months, he can’t be trusted with a plate or bowl, plastic or otherwise
  2. The table isn’t dirty
  3. If the table is a bit dirty it will only boost his immune system
  4. Who the fuck are you? Fuck off

People. Tsk.

Thank you to the nice lady next to me who chatted to me after and basically said he was being a nob. You are good people.


This was him in Nandos Bayswater last week. I started giving him knifed off bits of corn, and then thought I needed to see his reaction to the entire cob. It’s brilliant!

Preparing for the Baby

We did our best to not over prepare while I was pregnant, and given that we were trying to move from a flat to a house at the same time, minimal preparation seemed sensible.

However, I did do a lot of research, I love researching, it is pure joy to me. But we did have rules: I was only allowed to look up pregnancy and birth on the NHS website, and random Googling was reserved for the husband alone. The research mainly consisted of “what shit shall we buy for a baby”, but I did a bit of reading along the way as well. So here below is a list of things we bought, and things I read.

Happy Mum, Happy Baby by Giovanna (Gi) Fletcher is a lovely first person account of how Gi is raising her children (two out of three at publication). I discovered her via McBusted in 2014 and gradually got hooked on McBusted and McFly and then the YouTube channels of the Fletchers (Gi, Tom and Carrie Hope). She’s a very unfussy straightforward kind of person, and does not claim to know anything more than her own mind – and she will freely admit she does not always know that either. Bravo.

Entering the world of motherhood was something I could not discuss with my own mother, and whilst I am close with my mother-in-law, her book was a lovely introduction into a world I didn’t know and made me feel comfortable and excited about trying for a baby in 2017.

Her book led to a podcast titled Happy Mum, Happy Baby (well duh), and it is now into its fourth series. I love listening to it, you feel part of a community without having to go anywhere or arrange anything, and I love that men are on the podcast as well – it’s great to hear their opinions!

She also has a YouTube series called Mumdays, and whilst it hasn’t been updated since August (how dare she!), I also looked forward to these videos for a window into another mum’s world.

The husband and I also attended two courses: Red Cross First Aid for Baby and Child, and the NCT Essentials Antenatal course. Both were good, useful – and at the time seemed really important, but once you have the baby you kinda just get on with it – whether that is running round like a headless chicken or taking everything in your stride.

And as I was told by the friends who recommended NCT, the most important part of it is the parents you meet on the course. And I’m proud to say that I’ve made two really good friends out of the seven couples we met – that’s not bad going! And over a year later, seven out of the eight mums still message each other, and we have arranged giant pub meet ups for Christmas and for a first birthday play date. And as soon as we move (ha!), I’m intending to host a BBQ. Just got to get that Doodle poll going…

Now onto the purchases, there are definitely things we don’t use as much as we expected: BabyBjorn Carrier one – but we’ve used it enough, and things that were completely pointless: Ewan the Dream Sheep – not loud enough, just use YouTube for white noise, but because we spent a lot of time researching, we are still pretty happy with our purchasing a year later. Oooh, look at us. Superior or what! But of course we still bought him too many clothes, and were given too many clothes. Meh.

I learnt about the Finnish Baby Box after reading this BBC News story and I was in love. I’ve never been to Scandinavia but they all seem to know what they are doing so I was definitely getting one. The idea is a magical box with all the things you might need for your baby’s first year, and I wanted to not have to figure everything out in advance, and to then panic that our baby didn’t have a thing that they NEEDED RIGHT NOW.

The Finnish government gives a box to new parents and some canny Finnish Dads decided to set up the company for those in less enlightened climes. Obviously there is a cost and it isn’t particularly cheap at 399€ (thanks Auntie Jeanette and Uncle Ben), but if you live in Scotland you can get your own baby box for free.

We used the actual box for four and a half months before he got too long and we loved it. It now sits in the wardrobe full of clothes, but we hope to use it again. :-).

On the cheaper end of the spectrum at £10.99, thanks to a recommendation from my cousin-in-law Lorna, we bought a Milton Steriliser Unit for our bottles, breast pump parts and syringes. It is literally a fancy 5 litre bucket that you throw a 24 hour tablet into. It was a fantastic purchase and really appealed to the part of my brain that hates buying overly complex expensive gadgets – paying £100 for a breast pump that broke in under three months was annoying enough (replaced for free thank goodness).

And once we got into the ‘travelling with a baby’ groove, we stopped taking the bucket with us and just threw the sterilising tablets (currently £1.53 for 28 on Ocado) into a bowl wherever we were. The things you learn…

Talking of travel, I love our BabyBjorn travel cot. You could definitely spend less, many many cheaper travel cots are available, but, it is amazing and so easy to put up, take down and carry about. We also don’t have a room for our special creature, a combination of not giving up the office, and hoping to move to a house where we can go mad and make the third bedroom his.

So, the travel cot replaced my desk but not the husband’s, and it is the only bed he has. It goes anywhere we go with the car, and it is great when we go to the in-laws as they don’t have to sort a bed for him (for a few years at least). Highly recommended.

My final recommendation is our buggy, we have a BabyZen YoYo+ and I don’t just love it, I love love love it. We didn’t have any preferred brands in mind prior to pregnancy but I wanted something for buses, trains and planes, and a buggy that would be easy to carry about in central London.

Our friends Eleanor and Matthew had already purchased a YoYo+ so we got to have a good look at it, and then try it out with their little Sam a few months later. We were given the buggy itself (£369 – thanks Mummy and Daddy Coles) as well as buying the newborn pack (£175) with the aim of only ever buying one buggy for him. So far so good…

It is very light to use, fits through tiny gaps, can be folded down very quickly, and popping it back up is even simpler. We’ve taken it on planes as hand luggage and wheeled it over all sorts of surfaces, and I still carry it on my own at 14 months – but I do ask for help more these days, he’s a heavy lump!

For the future, I plan to get the little seat accessory and will be trying that with the newborn pack. Out and about with two children sounds terrifying but I chatted to a mum who does the above with her YoYo+ so if she can do it, I can too.

12 Months of Rafe

Ooh look, its a blog about a baby, quelle surprise!

Anyway… I had a baby and he’s great. He’s lovely, squishy, cuddly, and he smells of beauty – apart from when he does a stinky poo.

Rafe is currently feeling a bit sorry for himself because of yesterday’s first year injections, but in general he’s a happy chappy and is 98% perfect.

I wanted to buy baby month cards to help document his first year, and so we could compare and contrast tiny Rafe to slightly less tiny Rafe. Below is the sequence of photos, we only missed the three week card so we did pretty well – enjoy!

And if you scrolled this far, how about something completely different?

Japan 2017

So, I’ve had a baby… but luckily I managed to sort out the ridiculous number of Japan photos before going into labour – huzzah!

I also managed to not delete the Google Map I made for the trip, unlike when we went to the US in 2015 – good work Ruffle!

Go check it out… Tokyo, Himeji, Kyoto and Toyko, plus mucho Sakura.

We love Japan.

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