Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Babywearing in Britain (read 'the rain')

I didn't set out to be a babywearer. I bought a wrap in my second trimester because, renovating our home, I thought it would be a good way to carry on working hands free, just strap it (the baby) on and off we go. (Anyone who is also a parent will be stunned to know this hasn't really happened.)

I didn't like the ones with fabric between the baby and parent as I thought that, if I had one that held them as close as possible, it would keep them happier. So we got the Flo wrap from Mamas & Papas when it was on sale and that was that.

Nothing could have prepared me for the insane, hormones-plus need to protect my bundle. Speaking to other parents, not everyone has this, (you're possibly lucky), but I felt panicky if or little girl was anywhere but on me or my husband (where I could see him, to start with). The wrap meant she never had to be anywhere else.

For the first 6 weeks or so, my insides would clench whenever anyone except me or my husband held her. Whilst I did battle with those clenches to ensure grandparents were - gasp - allowed to hold her, it doubled up as a magic forcefield when we went out, keeping all those loving, adoring coos the other side of our cocoon and meaning that no overzealous relatives or friends could take her for cuddles then whisk her off out of sight (particularly useful at church).

The munchkin decided from day one the sleeping anywhere except on us was a no-no so the uses continued. If she needed to nap, into the wrap she went, and I would do housework, bake, or walk the dog. In the early days when she basically napped non-stop, this was a lifesaver.

It got to the point where I felt naked if she wasn't with me, like when you take off a favourite necklace. Also, my paranoia that she would spontaneously combust if she wasn't attached to me was calming down but still very much present. I got all wobbly the first time I put her in a buggy and felt nervous the entire 10 minutes she was in it - nervous like at the start of a rollercoaster ride when you're going up slowly and it's making that clicking sound (without the knowledge that any second it'll get all exhilarating). Roll these things together, combine them with an inordinate amount of love for the munchkin which required regular snuggles, and that was it, I was a babywearer.

That would all be fabulous if it wasn't for our glorious British weather.

This summer has been irresponsibly warm for England with hot, humid days for weeks on end. It started late April so I bought a length of thinner, lighter coloured fabric and made a new wrap.

Then, as July came around, even this was still very hot-and-bothered-y so I made a mei tai (thanks to Hobo Mama and Grunts & Grumbles for the patterns and how-to's I used to create my modified pattern - I'll put links at the end). It turns out, as an aside, that making mei tais is really addictive and I've started making them as gifts now too...

Anyway, that hot weather had now gotten wet-and-hot. So now what?! Well, whilst an umbrella is fine in a light drizzle, in a dog-walking deluge it just doesn't cut it. My first idea was to make a new mei tai out of oil cloth and add a hood, but her little legs would get wet...Cue a brainwave (my dad's actually, I can't take credit).

So the munchkin now has an aged 4-5 pack-a-mac which I stretch over the sling, once the little'un is safe inside, tucking it in around the edges, tying the arms to the sling straps and pulling the hood up over her head. I then put my mac on and pull the front as closed as it'll go. We look awesome.

And we are ready to face the British weather as a team until one of us decides we're big enough to announce that we can go out alone and have our own mac and wellies (because it will be her, I'm sure of it).

(How to make a mei tai :

Both of these were great starting points and then I sort of adapted from there but you could just go crazy and follow one of them properly.


Monday, 4 August 2014

Tick tock goes the renovation clock

Last year, we bought a house - our first house. Seriously exciting stuff. It was a bit of a fixer upper, stuck in a 60's time warp but with a lot of promise if you had the vision to see it. Which quite a few of our friends and family members didn't, but hey ho. We went for it, all in.

Our first weekend as owners, we opened the front door and pulled out the interior, from carpets and linos to cupboards and curtains. Doors came off, partitions were pulled down, layers of damp, horrifically patterned wallpaper was shed from the walls like a snakeskin. And that was when we realised just how much we had bitten off.

Actually, I lie. We thought we had realised. So we took one extra month's rent at our old place. We had the new place rewired, sprayed for woodworm, and enlisted a lot of help from family members with replumbing and deep cleaning.

Then we realised the extent of the work.

We had a month to replace the entire lounge and bathroom floors from joists and timbers to floorboards, tear down and rebuild two stud walls, and get the (cold) water working (hot water was a pipe dream). 

At the time, I was 6 months pregnant. Suddenly, into our lives came an enormous ticking clock, belligerently shouting at us to get a move on, or else.

Shockingly, clock ticking in our ears, we managed this bare minimum level of functionality and safety thanks to friends and family who gave up pretty much all their spare time, ando an amazing husband working every hour he could squeeze from the day. My own personal contribution included waddling around the place armed with a few tools and a notebook, scribbling PRINCE2-inspired product breakdown charts on various bare plasterboard walls and placing orders to Travis Perkins every other day.

We put our stuff into storage, which sounds really cool, like something out of a film, but basically meant that all our valued possessions went to live in a dank metal box. The storage guys even made me buy my own padlock for it. For the next couple of months, we camped out on a futon in the what-would-eventually-be lounge. Our kitchen was a kettle and a micro-convection oven, and our water supply came from a copper stand pipe hanging out of the bare stone of the back wall. Of all of us, our spaniel, just over one year old at the time, was the least willing to adjust and make the best of things.

During this time, we brought gas into the property (another story in itself), installed a boiler and central heating bringing hot water with it, redid the sofits and fascias (bye bye leaks), and performed complex surgery on the kitchen wall armed with a lot of research, some stone chisels, and enormous sheets of, essentially, bubblewrap for builders.

Finally, my husband took a bit of holiday before the holidays, spending the three days before Christmas learning to create a kitchen from scratch (no fitted flatpacks for us). On Christmas day, I prepped veg on a fixed wood work top, cooked in a gas oven, rinsed in a working (hot and cold water) sink and threw all the dirty plates in the working dishwasher. What a wonder he was.

We had done it - or mostly, he had, while I waddled around eating tomatoes and Haagan daaz and made encouraging cups of tea from our makeshift kitchen.

By the time our little girl arrived, the lounge was finished, bar the skirting and alcoving, her bedroom was complete, our bathroom and kitchen were functional - if not beautiful, - and our bedroom was reasonably livable in (plasterboard walls and hardboard flooring being highly sought after).

We agreed to take a 4 month break when our little munchkin arrived so we could enjoy those early days, (and not feel useless when we failed to finish the tasks we had at ourselves).

But now 5 months have gone, and our last month of renovating has been... Slow. Really slow. We dedicate evenings, weekends, whatever we can, but everything just takes so much longer with our little'un around.

And now she's starting to crawl.

Our days of trying to stop only the dog from eating loose plaster are now limited, and just as the clock was tick tocking loudly before we came along, it's back with a vengeance. And this time, I have her safety to think about.

It ticks louder and louder every time I look at her rocking back and forth on her knees, trying to work out what moves next. Every time she makes a little bunny hop then face-plants adorably and looks up grinning. Because soon she'll be wrenching the hot water pipes off the wall, picking and eating rotten plaster and loose nails, and splitting her head on the concrete steps in the kitchen.

Tick tock, tick tock.

It's not just marking the passing the time, it's marking the gradual increase of mummy-hysteria.

I'd best get downstairs and start pulling the grippy spikes out of the stairs.