Wednesday, December 9

On toileting

You are sitting on the toilet, surrounded by a mountain of damp baby clothes on airers, an overflowing washing basket and a bath full of plastic ducks, watering cans and soggy Miffy flannels.

The baby is lying on a towel on the floor, cutting her first tooth, and screaming at you with a pleading look in her eyes that says "How can you possibly leave me down here on my own, you heartless woman?".

The toddler is pulling apart a toilet roll and rolling it into 'sausages' all over the floor. She stops her play and looks at you. "Is that a poo coming out Mammy? Can I see it?".

The dog comes in and just stares at you.

Ladies and gentlemen, your dignity has left the building.

Thursday, December 3

Baby Legs



The thing is about being a sling baby is that your legs can get awfully chillsome. No way do any kind of boots or shoes stay on your feet and there's always a gap where your trousers rise up. And let's face it, no amount of stripy tights are going to keep this December chill off your podgy little legs.

The solution? Baby leg warmers. Cute as can be and practical too. And as money is tight, I decided to make my own. Couldn't find a pattern anywhere, so made it up. And here they are... as modelled by a delighted Miss Molly Mumpet.

The pattern
To fit one exceptionaly cute and not really very fat 5-and-a-half month baby. Using Size 8 needles and double knitting wool.

Cast on 28 stitches
Rib stitch (knit two, purl two) for six rows
30 rows of stocking stitch
Six more rows of rib stitch
Cast off

They were all a bit experimental, so one's longer than the other, and one has actually come undone (it's been a while since I made anything). But now I've worked it out, I'm onto a second pair in bonkersly bright rainbow wool. Oh, the cuteness.

Wednesday, December 2

Christmas Countdown


Let the stollen-munching commence (OK, let's face it, that started as soon as it hit the shops in early November).

I'm not even remotely religious, so for me, Christmas time is about celebrating the end of a year and the winter solstice, being grateful for what we have, seeing friends and family and, of course, cosying up under blankets on the sofa with mulled wine and a mince pie. I want a sort of kind of Pagan-meets-Thanksgiving vibe going on, but with added obligatory viewing of Love Actually on Christmas Eve.

Now The Snail's old enough to get excited about it all, I want to start some of our own family traditions and for Christmas to be about more than just the pressies. So to start with, instead of a chocolate-filled advent calendar, we've got our own way of counting down and getting excited.

I've made 24 stars, each with a Christmas activity on. We do one each day, then stick the star up on the wall. Today was 'Make a Christmas collage', and Gwen got very into the spirit of things by decorating most of the house and the dog with a glitter shaker. Also coming up are making lots of edible goodies, going on winter woodland walks, reading Christmas stories, making cards and decorations.

I can't wait.

Thursday, November 26

A Tale of Two Toddler Groups


Now that the weather has turned yuk, spending most of the day wombling about in the garden or the park, or walking in the woods or up the mountain is not such an appealing option.

I've always eschewed toddler groups, preferring to potter around at home with Gwen (any excuse to bake bread, dance around the kitchen and paint rainbows all morning). But I thought I'd check out a few for those days when it is just too torrential to venture out, I've exhausted all the craftivities I can think of and everyone's getting cabin fever.

The group in our village falls at nap time, so has never worked for us. But I saw a poster in the library for a group in the community centre in the next village. We thought we'd give it a go.

Toddler Group Number One
We arrived at a large hall, with the floor absolutely covered in plastic toys. Just plastic toys, and nothing else. There was no order to the toys. It was just a jumble of random objects. Among the plastic toys were some pretend McDonalds chips and burgers. Ok, I thought, maybe this is free play at the start, then they do something else.

They were serving tea and coffee at a little kitchen in the corner, so I went over to get us a drink. There were hot drinks for the parents and nothing at all for the children. "But she can have a snack," said the woman behind the counter, then showed me the selection. Toast made from value white bread, those pink wafer biscuits, or Jaffa cakes. Gwen was quite keen. I managed to distract her with some raisins and a smoothie I had stashed away in my bag.

She wandered off to play with the toys and the group organiser came over to chat. "I believe in providing a safe and stimulating environment for children to play," she said, "so we just leave them with the toys, then we have sing some songs at the end for five minutes." No stories, no dressing up clothes, no drawing, no books, no crafts, no music...

"And we've got some great stuff coming up before Christmas." She pointed to the stage, where there was a trestle table covered in novelty Christmas gifts. "This week, we've got gifts on sale. Next week, we're doing Avon, then The Chocolate Club..."

Gwen waded her way through the sea of phthalates. "Can we go now Mama?" I didn't need asking twice.

As we left, group leader was screeching "It's tidy time" and we left to the din of the plastic toys being thrown into huge plastic boxes. We could just make out the CD player in the corner, playing the Postman Pat theme tune, which had got stuck on the word "cat... cat... cat... cat...".

I went home and lay in a bath of organic mung bean oil, sipping fennel and patchouli tea and reading 'What breastpump?'.


Toddler Group Number Two

The next day, I met a friend for a cuppa and she said I should try the Steiner toddler group. Before kids and when were fancy-free city dwellers living the high life in Splott, I'd walked past the Steiner school every morning on my way to work.

I've always fancied trying it, but didn't fancy the trip into Cardiff in the traffic to get there for 10am. My fears were realised - we were late getting there, couldn't find anywhere to park, Moll was screaming for a feed and it was all a tad stressful.

But when we arrived, the stress vanished. If the Dalai Lama ran toddler groups, they'd be like this.

We took our shoes off at the door, then it was like walking into a lovely warm, calm and serene home. People smiled at me. Children played imaginatively with fabrics and knitted animals and simple wooden cars. There was a season table, play silks for dressing up, baskets of pine cones and shells, a comfy corner for reading. At a table in another corner, some other parents and littlies were chopping up vegetables to make a soup for snack time. "Everyone brings a piece of fruit and a vegetable," explained the group leader.

"Would you like drink?" she asked, pointing to a shelf of green and roibos and fruity teas that almost rivalled my own collection.

Then she explained how the group worked. "After free play, we sing a gentle song, while we tidy up. Next, we sit in a circle for traditional songs, then coats on to play outside in the garden, whatever the weather." I almost kissed her.

After we'd done all these things, we ALL sat down for snacks. No parents gossiping on the edge of the room, while the children ate. Instead we all sat together and shared a meal. We even had bread baked by the kids in the kindergarten upstairs.

I met some fab people - a photographer, a home-schooling mama, a family from Japan, a lovely Spanish lady, a snowboarding dad - and went home full of home-made soup and a warm, fuzzy glow.

Guess where Gwen and Molly will be going to school?

Sunday, November 1


Since having a new baby in the house, things have slipped. Our daily doses of fresh air, nature walks, home cooking, creativity and brain fodder have given way to sofa slobbing, CBeebies, chip shop Fridays (I never thought I'd be on first name terms with the local chipmonger) and chicklit (three Jane Green's in a row anyone?).

Poor Blod's had a few too many 'no walk' days; I've stuck G in front of a DVD when I've needed 20 minutes to tidy up; bean and cheese toasties have featured on the lunch menu more than once; my underwear isn't even close to being matching; and the house can often smell a bit like pets (eek!).

But now the newborn isn't a newborn anymore, I've given myself a good old outdoor, eco, frugal clonk on the head and I'm starting to get my groove back.

This weekend, I cooked and baked so our fridge is filled with yummy, healthy(ish) home-made treats. I made:

Pizzas
Pumpkin pie
Spinach and Squash lasagne
Leek and potato soup
Lentil Shepherd's pie
Banana pancakes

We've had friends over for dinner. I walked up the mountain (mountain, not hill - and my wobbly legs are all the proof I need). I've read a poetry book (oo, get me). I've knitted Gwen a sparkly scarf. I made my first ever pumpkin lantern. Mr Meep and I are even going out for dinner this week.

OK, so there's still too much chocolate being munched and the washing pile is taking over the house, but I'm getting there.

In other news, I'm tackling potty training with G. We've had a 90% success rate at home, culminating in her rushing into the dining room while we had friends round last night with a full potty, excitedly exclaiming "Look mama, I done a wee" then promptly spilling the whole lot all over the floor. Next up, daring to go out and about with a nappy-free toddler and a new(ish)baby at the same time. Eeek.

Monday, October 19

Confessions of a Meep


OK, deep breath for confession time... My name is Emma and I am a chocoholic.

I didn't even used to like chocolate. In fact, I was all about the savoury. My hangover junk food of choice in my student days would have been a nice bag of salt 'n' vinegar Discos.

I blame Mr Meep, who has an impressive capacity for gobbling huge quantities of chocolate completely unnoticed (until I find the wrappers poking out of his jean pockets in the washing basket). His love of the brown stuff has gradually seeped into my consciousness and I've now become a fellow secret choc scoffer.

It used to be only the best stuff - just a square or two of dark, bitter organic. Then I moved on to milk chocolate - still the posh stuff and not much of it, so didn't feel too guilty. Then came the event that changed everything: the day that Mr Meep bought a bag of Giant Buttons for the cinema. One go of holding a giant disc in my mouth until it melted into sweet, creamy gorgeousness and I was hooked.

It's now reached a crisis point. These days, I find myself searching the cupboards for a little mid-morning fix. I invent excuses to go the village shop so I can grab a little after lunch pick-me-up.

And the worst thing? I'm hiding my habit from my family. All the while, I'm telling off Mr Meep when I discover Yorkie wrappers in the car and steering the snail towards a healthy diet of smoothies and fruit and veggies and all the good stuff. But she's not stupid, and for a two-and-a-half-year-old, her speech is pretty good, so there's no more getting away with it.

Just this morning, we were making bread. I went into the pantry to get some flour, and surreptitiously popped a bit of chocolate into my mouth. The snail immediately notices something's up.

"What you eating mama?"
"Er... nothing Gwen. Let's start kneading the dough."

Up on the kitchen counter...

"What's that chocolate smell, mama? You eating chocolate?"
"Um, no sweetie... Oh look out of the window - there's a squirrel."

What I should have really said is well, yes, actually - and it's your chocolate. The little bags of buttons I keep for those times when you fall over and are completely inconsolable. You are allowed one very occasionally, but when you're not looking, I shovel a bag full down my neck. Oh, the shame.

It's not just chocolate either - it's all kinds of sugary treats. Today's cavity-inducing itinerary involved:

One yummy home-made flapjack
The said chocolate buttons
Another flapjack
About 8 squares of Green and Blacks Maya Gold
Hot chocolate

Blimey, it looks even worse written down. I feel dirty inside.

Tomorrow, it's green smoothies, mung bean casserole and wheatgrass shots all round. Better go and finish those last few squares of G&B though - you know, to get them out of the way.

Sunday, October 18

Four months


Dear Molly,
You've been earthside for almost four months. Time is flying by and I can't believe the squishy squashy newborn stage has already passed and you're becoming a smiling, laughing, wiggling, peaceful little person.

As babies go, you're a pretty easy-going one. You only seem to cry when you need to sleep or eat. You're happy to sit on my lap or in the sling and watch the world go by. And for the last two nights, you have slept for 11 hours straight. Not that I go in for this whole thing about 'sleeping through' being the holy grail of modern parenting, but oh how a couple of full night's sleep have made me feel like a new woman.

I love the way you smile and cringe when I start to undress you, because you think I'm going to tickle under your arms. I love that your bottom lip wobbles and you look genuinely sad when you hear your sister crying. I love the way you still snuggle in to me all scrunched up like a teeny tiny newborn.

I could spend hours just staring at you and sniffing your sweet milky mouth - and some days, I do. No wonder the cleaning never gets done.

Every Friday night, I get into bed and drift off to sleep remembering how you were born right here however many Friday nights ago - my beautiful, home-grown, babe in arms.

We all love you so much (apart from maybe Blod, who gets even less belly tickles now there's another baby in the house - but once you start flinging food off the edge of your high chair in a few months, she'll forgive you).

Love,
Mama
x

Tuesday, September 29

Go On, Wear Your Baby


Self-portrait of me wearing Molly in the fisheye mirror.

Been on holiday in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, so missed International Babywearing Week. Although, of course, spent most of the week wearing my baby.

Here's why babywearing rocks.

1. Because cwtching is what babies were invented for.

2. Your baby gets to see what really goes on in the world. Molly thinks that life is just one long round of baking, sitting around drinking tea, pegging out washing and going to the park. Oh, it is.

3. You can snuzzle your little wuzzle all day long, but still have your hands free for important stuff like making cakes and pushing swings and throwing balls for your dog.

4. People always, always talk to you when you have a baby in a sling - "Oo, is there a baby in there?", "Ooo, that looks cosy", "My daughter/wife/friend is pregnant - I must get her one of those".

5. Your baby gets more kisses on the bonce than the average baby.

So for happy, cwtchy babies and hands-free mamas, check out this cheesy promo vid and get yourself a sling.

But, be warned, slings are addictive. At the last count, I had just one baby but - gulp - five slings.

Wednesday, September 16

Days Like These



My days at home are filled with finger painting, messy crafts, even messier baking, walking the dog, reading stories, washing blowing on the line, going to the library, going to the park, stopping at cafes for carrot cake or toast, visiting friends, hanging out with family, cooking up a storm, books and roibos tea while the babies nap, taking photographs, eating cake, chalking on the patio, watering the plants, snuggling under blankets with apple juice and iPlayer, dancing round the kitchen to Feist and Crazy Nights.

The house is on the dirty side, our clothes are usually creased, we don't have lots of money for expensive clothes and treats. Sometimes when there's a baby screaming, a toddler tantruming AND a dog barking all at the same time, I can feel ever-so-slightly frazzled, but I wouldn't swap these days of simple freedom and chaotic domestic bliss for anything.

Now if only I could hatch a plan so I didn't have to return to work in March.

Wednesday, September 9

Lovely Things



  • Summer came back today - hurrah.

  • Gwen saying "Look, the moon is open" when she spotted the fading moon in this morning's blue sky.

  • Pesto made from the veg box swiss chard - who'd have known that could be so scrum-diddly-umptious?

  • Getting my photography groove back with a 365 project.

  • Sing-a-long-a Lily Allen on the Ipod.

  • Molly having a bed-time of 7.30pm, so I can start swimming and running and cinema-going and photography course again. Woo-hoo.
  • Wednesday, September 2

    On Babies and Boobs (and Cake)



    I know breastfeeding is fab for lots of reasons - great for bonding, boosts the immune system, the greenest option, etc. But if the NHS really want to boost the appalling breastfeeding rates in the UK, they just need to change their health promotion campaign to reflect the hidden benefit.

    You can eat cake. Every single day. Sometimes (well, make that more often than not) more then one slice. And still lose weight.

    I weighed myself this morning and am half a stone lighter than I was pre-pregnancy. And I'm eating all day long. In fact, my humongous birthday cake disappeared embarrassingly quickly.

    In other news, despite having a 10-week-old baby, I am - gulp - exceptionally broody. Here's the evidence.

    Went to Roath Park in the sunshine and saw the most beautiful, heavily pregnant woman, dressed in a green cut off trousers, a floaty top and a straw hat - looking the vision of summery pregnant glowing gorgeousness. I turned to Mr Meep and said wistfully, "I've got bump envy." He went a bit white.

    One of my oldest friends text me last Saturday to say she was in labour. Me: "Oh, I'm so jealous - she gets to give birth today and have a snuggly newborn to cwtch up with tonight." Mr Meep: "Oh my god, you're actually insane."

    I can't help it. I love babies. I love their fat bracelets and their fuzzy heads and the sweet smell of their milky mouths. And I just want more, more, more! And I am 34 now, so the clock is a-tick-tock-ticking.

    Tuesday, September 1

    Elvis was wrong


    There IS a cure for the summertime blues.

    I turned 34 on Sunday. It rained all day. My lovely girl had been taken away and replaced by the tantruming toddler from hell. Then it rained some more.*

    The next morning, the rain clouds had taken up permanent residence above my head. I ate my breakfast in a fog of gloom. By 10am, I decided to take action. The best cure for the rainy bank holiday, God-I'm-getting-old blues? Don wellies and macs, head to the beach, splash in rock pools, find sea snails and do roly polys in the sand. Of course, there was the customary eating of hot, salty chips on the picnic blanket behind the rocks too.

    Today, the sun came out, my head clouds have lifted and my sunshiny daughter is back. Hurrah for beach therapy.

    *Despite this, had a lovely day and was completely spoilt with Neale's Yard goodies, wombly books, new funky music, the best chocolate in the world (orange and geranium - who'd have thought it?), bottle of posh Sauvignon Blanc, an incredible three course 'meals-on-wheels' from my lovely mam, and the most enormous carrot cake baked by Mr and Mini Meep.

    Friday, August 28

    Friday Foraging


    Figs from the garden. Blackberries from the bushes in the park.

    About to be transformed into Fig and Port Sorbet and a good old fashioned Blackberry Crumble.

    I love free food.

    Monday, August 24

    Autumn



    It's a coming. There's a chill in the air at night, I've broken out the thicker duvet, been foraging for blackberries and made the first soup of the season.

    So looking forward to snuggly blankets, pumpkin carving, mashed potato, bonfire smells, furry coats, crispy days, falling leaves, Christmas countdown, boots and tights, stripy mittens.

    I love the seasons, me.*

    *Apart from winter, which I like for December, then get totally sick of come mid-January and no amount of fairy lights, hot chocolate, roaring fires and knitted hats with cat ears can get me out of my seasonal grump.

    Friday, August 21

    The Big Sister



    Dear Gwen,
    Although you're not the littlest one anymore, I just want you to know that you'll always be my baby.

    Love, Mam
    x

    Thursday, August 20

    Lookie Likie

    Having lunch today, I looked over at Mr Meep and saw that he and Molly were recreating a photograph that I have of Mr Meep and Gwen. The babes are even wearing the same baby grow.

    Gwen - 17 weeks


    Molly - 9 weeks

    Thursday, August 13

    Not that I'm tired or anything...

    ... but in the last week I have:

  • Put cat food in the powder drawer of the washing machine

  • Left my bank card in the chip and pin machine in the post office

  • Gone to the village shop for tea bags and come back with milk

  • Gone completely blank when someone asked me what the baby's name was

  • Went to the florist to buy my nan a bouquet for her birthday. The florist looked at me and said: "Aw, how old?". I was baffled - I hadn't said who the flowers were for. I said, "She's 84". She laughed. I looked confused. She pointed to my chest, where Molly was sleeping in the sling. I'd kind of forgotten she was there.
  • Thursday, July 30

    Blod is Four


    The hairy hound turned four yesterday. As a rainy day activity, Gwen and I made her a card, went to the pet shop to buy her a bone and concocted a doggie birthday cake, which is possibly the most disgusting thing ever invented - she went wagging mad for it.

    Here's the recipe, in case any of your canine friends are having a birthday soon.

    One tin of tuna, drained and smushed up with a fork
    1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
    Handful of breadcrumbs
    1 egg, beaten
    Some hot dog sausages, to decorate

    1. Mix all the ingredients together well.
    2. Form the resulting congealed horror into a cake shape.
    3. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.
    4. Allow to cool, then decorate it with the relevant number, made out of hot dog sausages.
    5. Add some candles, sing 'Woofy Birthday', then present it to your furry friend.

    Thursday, July 23

    How To Tell That She's Had a Good Day


    Her hair is a crazy, windswept, tangly mess from playing on a windy beach
    She's got sticky fingers and a mucky chin from eating hot, ketchup-smeared chips
    Her trousers are wet from splashing in rock pools
    Her wellies are muddy from tramping through the rain-drenched park
    She smells of fresh air
    She crashed out on the way home and I just dropped her into bed, shattered, filthy and happy

    My theory on parenting: if they're dirty and tired by the end of the day, it's been a good one.

    Friday, July 10

    Life With Two



    Molly - she really can't be bothered. She's very sleepy and, three weeks after making her entrance into the world, is only just starting to uncurl from her scrunched up little ball position. I fact, I still can't really get her baby grows on her as her legs are all curled up. Gwen keeps saying "I want to open her".

    So far, having two is a lot easier than I thought. Probably because there's none of the 'shock factor' that you have with your first.

    However, when your husband's at work and you're trying to get one ready for bed one-handed while feeding the other one, it's not so good - especially when it ends with both mini ones screaming. However, I'm embracing the chaos and trying to look at it all with a sense of humour.

    I remember being terrified to leave the house with Gwen, but Molly's already been to the beach, a farm, the library, the park, the shops, a cafe, Pizza Express (twice!), the pub, Cardiff Bay... have sling and boobs, will travel.

    And so different from last time, looking after a newborn when you're used to the whirlwind chaos of a toddler is just so relaxing. Having just the newborn for the day when the toddler is with Grandma is just so restful - feeding on the sofa while reading, drinking tea and eating cake. Bliss.

    Monday, July 6

    Quotes from Shepherd Towers

    It's the morning after Molly's birth. I'm resting in bed, Mr Meep's having a tidy up. He enters the room.

    "I've put the placenta in the freezer. It's between the Jus Roll puff pastry and the lemoncello."

    (Don't worry, we're not making a casserole out of it - we are going to bury it under a fruit tree in the garden. And it's double-bagged, in case you ever pop round and I offer you a refreshing glass of ice cold home-made lemoncello.)

    Monday, June 22

    How Molly Got Here



    I'm really glad that I wrote down my birth story for Gwen, and I've read it often over the last two years. So I need to write Molly's story down too, before I forget the details of my lovely homebirth.

    There was something almost magical about giving birth at home. While people in the neighbouring houses slept on a quiet, balmy June night, a baby was born here at number 12 unknown to anyone but us. Here's how it happened...

    On Friday morning, I couldn't sleep so got up to go for a swim really early. As I was swimming lengths, I was getting a few twinges in my tummy, but as this had been going on for a few days, I didn't think too much of it.

    Came home for breakfast and the pains were getting a bit stronger and more regular, but still nothing to speak of. So I went to meet some friends in the park for a picnic. Stopped off at the bakery to get some goodies on the way and got some pains that were really starting to sting a bit. Still, no point rushing home - thought I may as well go out and take my mind off things.

    Pushing Gwen on the swing, the pains are still coming, so I started to time them - they're about 15 minutes apart and lasting about 30 seconds. Announce to my friends that I am in labour - they are in a blind panic. I am calm and suggest we go and sit in the sunshine and have our picnic.

    (And here I am, in labour in Ponty Park!).



    At about 1pm, I thought it'd probably be sensible to make my way home. Gwen, however, is shattered and refuses to walk, so I have to carry her half a mile on my shoulders back to the car - while in early labour.

    I get home and announce to Mr Meep that he doesn't have to go to work tonight, as the baby is coming. He's chuffed to bits, as he doesn't like working Fridays. I rung my mum to come and collect Gwen and Blod. I felt so emotional saying goodbye to Gwen, knowing that the next time I saw her, she wouldn't be the little baby any more.

    By now, it's about 4pm. The contractions are still coming every 10 to 15 minutes, but aren't getting any more frequent. I call the midwife, warn her I'm in labour but don't feel I need anyone at the moment. She said to get some rest and call her when things kick off a bit.

    Being a sufferer of the 'can't sit still' disease, I decide to do what all labouring women do - make a cake.

    When the cake was done, I wrapped some pressies for Gwen from the baby, plus Fathers' Day pressies for Dave. Then we had some lovely home-made pizza and coleslaw.

    As things were still not getting distinctly worse, I thought I'd get a couple of hours kip, so I took myself off to bed. At 11.30pm, I woke up with the pain. I was getting three contractions every ten minutes. Still not all that bad, but thought I'd better call the midwife.

    She arrived at 12. I was bouncing on my big bouncy birthing ball in the bedroom and the contractions were coming every two minutes. I was having to breathe through them, but was chatting away in between, and using my hypnobirthing, they were really manageable and I thought it'd be hours until the baby arrived.

    But suddenly, it all kicked off. The contractions were coming one after another, but as I'd asked to be left alone and didn't want a 'countdown' of my progress, I had no idea how close the birth was.

    Maybe the fact that I was hot, then cold, slightly losing the plot a bit, and needing to be on all fours should have made me twig that I was in 'transition'. Hypnobirthing was pretty hard to focus on at this point. As my waters hadn't broken, the pressure was really unbearable. I just kept thinking "Sod the 'warmth, pressure and power' (one of the 'mantras'), this bloody hurts". The midwife asked if I wanted the gas and air now - yes please! She realised she'd left the mouthpiece in her car, which was parked down the road, so she went to get it.

    Which, of course, is exactly when we heard a big 'pop' as my waters exploded, the baby's head started to appear and I felt an unbearable urge to push. With the midwife down the road, Mr Meep admits he was slightly panicked at this point. I was on all fours, groaning "Get her, get her" as I didn't know whether to start pushing.

    The midwife returns, I have my first go on the gas and air, and with the first push, the head crowns. Next push and the head appears, followed by the third and final push as Molly glides out into the world. And just as we did when Gwen appeared, there were no tears from Mr Meep and I - we just looked at each other and started laughing.

    So from established labour to delivery was just three hours and, apart from the 15 minutes or so of transition, it really was calm, peaceful and relaxed.

    Midwife number two (you need two present for a homebirth), arrived to the sound of Molly crying. Then while the midwives cleared up, we had a cwtch, a cuppa and a piece of my lovely sponge cake in bed. Ah.

    Saturday, June 20

    Introducing...


    Molly Tess Shepherd. Born at home at 2.32am this morning. 7lbs 11oz.

    We can't stop cwtching her.

    Thursday, June 18

    Still waiting....

    Meanwhile, Gwen and I found a bumato at the supermarket and were absolutely delighted.


    Tuesday, June 16

    Officially overcooked


    Although I don't think she's actually due until Thursday. But tomorrow I have to go to horrid, vile, hideous 'induction of labour advice clinic' and stand my ground that no-one is sticking any pessaries up my doo-da or needles in my arm and this little one will come when she's ready, thank you very much (can you tell I've been practising?).

    Living in a village when your baby is officially overdue is an interesting experience, because everyone in the whole street is on tenterhooks waiting for the new resident's arrival.

    Since the weekend, I've had:

  • Megan from two doors down just happened to be popping out of the front door when I was going swimming at 6.45am to see if there was 'any news?'
  • Megan also saying - "I've got the card written and everything"
  • The whole street being shocked to find out (presumably from Megan) that I've been going swimming in my delicate condition
  • Brian from next door to the pub pausing outside to look for balloons/cards/hear newborn cries twice a day when he walks his dog
  • Man opposite popping over when I'm in the garden to see if there are 'any signs'? (I was so tempted to tell him my mucus plug had dropped out this morning)
  • Very lovely friend of friend slowing down to do a 'drive-by' nosey, while I was out the front watering my hosta

    I know it annoys some people, but I can't help feeling touched by people's concern. And I've had lots of lovely texts and emails from my mates too. Gawd bless the bloomin' lot of ya.

    She'll be here by the weekend. She promises.

    Meanwhile, I've been spending a lot of time at the beach having picnics in the sunshine.
  • Friday, June 12

    On fashion

    People who know me will be quick to testify that I have absolutely no dress sense whatsoever. One friend has taken the situation into her own hands and gives me her old stuff she can't sell at the car boot sale - even this is better than leaving anything fashion-related up to me.

    I recently saw a picture of fake daughter kidnapper and all-round anti-mumpet Karen Matthews in the paper. I looked at her, looked at myself - and realised we were wearing the same jumper. I have recreated the scene today for your perusal.

    Karen Matthews...



    Me...



    But today, imagine my surprise when I realised that I was sharing a jumper with fellow-pregger Kate Garraway, who is someone who does have a vague clue about these things and probably gets styled and everything.

    Here's Kate...



    And here I am...



    Maybe I'm not so clueless after all.

    Tuesday, June 9

    An artist in the making


    Crazy hair - check
    Wild glint in her eyes - check
    Ability to get lost in her art - check

    Tuesday, June 2

    More procrastination...

    Well, I am trying to write a brochure about a company that cleans out water mains.

    I so, so wish that I had found Jesus in my Marmite.

    Monday, June 1

    The Joys of Freelancing


    Means that you can sit at your desk like this when you are 38 weeks pregnant, have eaten half a jacket potato with houmous too much for lunch and it is ever so hot.

    In the background, Blod has turned into Mr Miyagi and is leaping through the air trying to catch a fly in her stinky jaws.

    Now, back to the corporate brochure... or maybe a dog walk in the sunshine, or a nice cuppa and a teeny square of that delovely organic chocolate...

    Sunday, May 31

    One of those Meme-type things

    Because I feel like writing, but I don't know what and this one's doing the rounds on various blogs at the moment...

    8 Things I am Looking Forward to
  • Finishing off two freelance jobs over the next week and having all of... ooo... a week off before the new arrival
  • Swimming tomorrow morning
  • Being able to a) kick the Gaviscon habit, b) poo and c) turn over in bed once Mini Mini Meep arrives (that was going to say 'sleep all night without waking for a wee/worry at 5am', but ha, ha, ha...)
  • Lots of beach picnics over the lovely sunny summer we're going to have
  • Transforming my garden from wild jungle to somewhere we can play, relax, eat, entertain and grow our own food
  • My new red Converse boots
  • Having Mr Meep's just-baked home-made bread for breakfast tomorrow morning (toasted, with marmite on one and peanut butter on the other, of course)
  • Oh, obviously, my lovely new daughter arriving in the next couple of weeks

    8 Things I did Yesterday This Weekend

  • Bounced on a trampoline outside on a sunny Sunday morning (I so want one)
  • Had a lovely picnic at the beach and frolicked about in the waves in the sunshine all afternoon with a nakey Gwen, Mr Meep (clothed) and Blod - at one point declaring it was one of the happiest times I'd ever had. Ah!
  • Made a yummy thai curry
  • Had felafel and Welsh cakes and apple juice at the Farmers' Market
  • Had a cry outside the garden centre because I hadn't made a list of what I needed and got overwhelmed by the compost selection (hormones, anyone?)
  • Fell asleep while hypnobirthing - twice
  • Attempted to shave my bikini line with huge bump in the way - ladies, NEVER attempt this
  • Sat in the park with a (miniscule) cup of Leffe Blonde, like a gourmet pregnant trampette

    8 Things I Wish I Could do
  • Sew
  • Sing
  • Run and run and run without getting tired
  • Escape capitalism (ooo, deep) and live in a caravan made of sustainable organic mung beans
  • Speak another language
  • Add an extra day onto each week just for reading/baking/photography/walking
  • Turn over in bed
  • Poo

    8 4 Programmes I Watch
    Don't do telly dahling, but a bit partial to:
  • Adam and Joe on 6Music
  • My daily dose of Jeremy Vine
  • Endless DVDs of Charlie and Lola
  • The same episode of Fireman Sam on You Tube over and over and over
    NB - the last two not necessarily out of choice.
  • Saturday, May 30

    Gwen is 2



    Dear Snail,
    You turned two years old on Tuesday. Happy birthday, my beautiful baby girl. I wish you could stay two forever, because you are just so perfectly amazing - but, of course, you just get more amazing every day.

    Every day is an adventure for you, and you're such a happy little soul, finding joy in so many little everyday things. You like singing, dancing, the seaside, nic-nics (picnics), diggers and cranes, horses (from a distance), swings, apple juice, stickers, poo, ice cream, hunting for snails, cooking, all kinds of shoes, little babies, painting, books, swimming... in fact, the only things you don't really like are bees and mangoes.



    You talk incessantly, which I just love (and secretly always hoped that you would) - and we can even have little conversations about what you've been up to during the day.

    Happy birthday Miss S Naily. Thanks for being such a lovely, lovely little girl.

    Love, Mam
    x

    Wednesday, May 20

    Happy Days


    Do you ever get days when you just want to put your hair in bunches, wear some knee-high stripy socks and bounce on a trampoline in the sunshine?

    That's what I've wanted to do all day.

    I was just as happy, however, donning my red wellies and dungarees (hurrah for pregnancy 'fashion') and taking Blod on our favourite countryside walk through the buttercup fields.

    Monday, May 11

    35 weeks



    Number of:
    Gigantic bottles of Gaviscon consumed: 3 (will probably buy a fourth this week)
    Baby names shortlisted: Just the 1, although feeling twitchy about it and starting to introduce some more into the mix, just to confuse us
    Nightly twilight trips to the toilet: 2
    Daily gasps out loud in public as large lump tries to actually leap out through my stomach (Gwen was never this violent): 3
    Times pelvis has actually CRACKED while turning over in bed: 4 (ouch)
    Practical preparations taken care of, like car seat and small hats etc: 0
    Scary stuff like big pants and breast pads bought: 0

    Have started listening to my hypnobirthing CD, got the raspberry leaf tea in and all sorted for my home birth (provided she stays cooking in there for at least another two weeks). I can't wait for the birth and I'm so excited about wearing a little squishy newborn next to me in a sling again.

    I can't wait to meet you, Little Miss Mini Mini Meep.

    Friday, May 1

    Cornwall by Numbers



    Number of people in party: 3
    Number of people in party who caught horrible cold during holiday: 3
    Number of pasties consumed by the party: 4 (2 x mixed veg, 1 x cheese and mushroom, 1 x spicy veg)
    Number of cream teas consumed by party: 1 (between 3 of us - poor performance)
    Number of sunny days: 6 (out of seven - amazing)
    Number of blissful solo evening swims enjoyed by heavily pregnant woman: 4

    And, no, I had absolutely no influence on the snail's choice of bucket. Nope, absolutely none whatsoever.

    Thursday, April 16

    Reasons to be cheerful


  • Going on holiday to Cornwall on Saturday - we've already christened it The Cream Tea and Pasties Tour 2009.

  • Went out for yummy vegan Japanese food last night, which made me feel very spoilt but so very virtuous and... clean. Edamame, miso soup, teryaki tofu, noodles, avocado maki, vegetable tempura and the cleanest, purest, most refreshing green tea. Resolve to eat vegan at least half the week (maybe start that particular resolution after The Cream Tea and Pasties Tour 2009).

  • 31 weeks up the duff today and feeling great (well, apart from the heartburn). So excited to meet my new baby girl and actually can't wait for my (fingers crossed) lovely, peaceful home birth. I start listening to my hypnobirthing CD this week... my cervix is, indeed, like a beautiful flower coming into bloom.

  • So thankful to Mr Gav E Scone, inventor of miracle heartburn cure.

  • The house is almost finished - the plaster is currently drying in my girls' new boudoir. Next, on to the jungle garden, which will be a nightmare, but thoughts of sunflowers and pumpkins and tomatoes and courgettes by late summer are spurring me on.

  • I gave away some antique furniture from the house to a friend a while back. I wanted to get rid of it and she was looking for some shabby chic style stuff, so everyone was a winner. She asked me to meet her the other day and gave me a humongous box of Neal's Yard goodies and bought me tea and cake at my new favourite cafe. Karma in action.

  • At work, the Welsh Assembly have deemed our offices "the worst premises in the voluntary sector" and given us money for a refurb. This means there is nowhere to hold meetings - apart from my new favourite cafe or on a bench in the park opposite. Hurrah.

  • My gorgeous girl is almost two years old, and a big bundle of chatting, singing, laughing loveliness.

  • Summer is just around the corner. Let the sea-paddling and strawberry-munching commence.
  • Sunday, April 12

    Happy Easter

    Although I'm not even remotely religious, I love Easter. For me, it's all about optimism and new beginnings, nature coming to life after the dark days of winter. Oh, and the chocolate, of course.

    Some photos from our lovely Easter weekend so far...

    One of my favourite places - the Dare Valley Country Park.



    Gwen liked it so much, she got in the lake.



    The emormobump at 30 weeks.



    The Great Easter Egg Hunt.