Family Heirloom Surprise

My table is too big for my kitchen.

I have bruises from hitting off the corner of it as I try to get to the back door or pop something in the bin. The room feels tiny in its presence and not being able to walk around it makes me claustrophobic.

But today, I came home and found this.

This is *not* my kitchen table
This is *not* my kitchen table

This table is a hundred and five years old and has been in my family since 1910. The underside of the tabletop holds the scrawled handwriting of my great-uncle (which he scratched into it as a child) along with mine and my brothers’ when we were growing up. My mom brought it out of storage in secret and sent it to a local antique repair company with specific instructions that the underside of the table was to be left as is, so that Austin could add his mark to it when he gets a bit older. How wonderful is that?

Mom – I cannot tell you how grateful I am and how much this table means to me. It’s not just the avoidance of bruised hips and more space in my little home. It’s a physical expression of the wonderful, happy childhood that you and dad worked so hard to give to me and a gentle reminder that my family is the the most important thing in my life.

I try my absolute hardest to be as good a mom to Austin as you are to me but I doubt I will ever top your flair for the grand gesture!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, for all of it.

Me and Mom with some bubbly!
Me and Mom with some bubbly!

Why I’m Devastated that my Baby is Enjoying DayCare

Yesterday, I picked Austin up from the Childminder. He was flying along in his walker with his Batman cape fluttering behind him. He cried when he saw me and put his arms up for me to lift him, but he couldn’t fool me – he had been smiling. Without me.

At first I was delighted, he had been having a great time. The Childminder told me that she was surprised at how quickly he was settling in. He didn’t cry after nap time much any more and he was eating his food like a horse. He was loving all the older kids and followed them everywhere, trying to get in on the action. I was pleased as punch as I drove him home.

But the more I thought about him being happy with the minder and her kids, the more I realised there was a small part of me that wanted to curl into a ball and cry until I threw up.

Two weeks ago I was terrified that he wouldn’t settle. I worried that he wouldn’t eat if I wasn’t there to play Airplane or sleep without me singing a lullaby first. I focused on organising the house like my life depended on it, because it helped me stop crying.

But he is ok. He is doing fine without me. He is even smiling and having fun. As I pulled into my driveway yesterday, I knew that I should feel nothing but relief and happiness about this.

But I didn’t.

Part of me wondered if he wasn’t bothered by me leaving him because I just wasn’t a very good mom.

Part of me is loosing confidence as his routine changes and I can’t tell what he needs instantaneuosly anymore. Part of me is so angry about having to leave him every day that I want to tear the walls down and scream until the whole world is covering their ears. Part of me wants him to scream and cry until the minder tells me that I will just have to give up work because my baby needs his mommy.

And part of me, the very worst part, finds office work a little easier than being at home with him. I don’t have to be ‘on’ every moment of the day. I can take a break without fear of a collegue eating something off the floor or pulling the dog’s tail or sticking a finger in a socket. Maybe if I do it long enough, I won’t want to spend all my days with him any more. And that is my dirtiest and most secret fear.

But Today

He got the sniffles. All he wanted was cuddles and backrubs and to have a good cry about feeling rotten. He rubbed his snotty little nose on my neck and roared directly into my ear and I thanked my lucky stars that this was my day off so I could sing lullabies at nap-time and play Airplane when he wouldn’t eat.

I’m almost certain there are other mom’s out there with these awful secret thoughts and I reckon the only way to beat them back is to talk about them – to laugh them off. I was upset that he was smiling without me but I am not a bad mom… I’m almost certain…

What the first day back at work after maternity is really like. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m lucky. I have a good job with paid maternity and I have spent 8 months with my gorgeous little boy. But going back to work after having a baby is hard, no matter what your circumstances.

Here is what I have found to be the Pro’s and Con’s of Day 1 – Back in the Office:

Con’s

  1. You will cry. Bring extra make up and avoid mascara unless it’s seriously waterproof. If possible, have daddy drop the baby into childcare. I found Austin settled better that way and I cried a little less hard on the drive to work.
  2. Seriously… you will want to cry a lot. Try to really focus on getting back up to speed and keep your mind off the baby. It also helps to tighten your belly muscles when you feel like you might burst into tears – weird tip, I know, but it really does work… mostly.
  3. You will forget something – passwords, cabinet keys, co-workers names or in my extreme and mortifying case, laptop. Laugh it off and work around it as best you can.
  4. Everything will feel familiar but different. I wasn’t sure if I left yesterday or just dreamed my ten years in the company. Ride it out and ask as many questions as you need to. People will surprise you in their helpfulness.
  5. Everyone will want to know about the baby and how you are finding it being back. Which will make you want to cry. See points 1 and 2 above.

Pro’s

  1. You will find that there are nice things about being back – this might surprise you and make you feel a bit guilty about liking anything about being away from the baby but focus on those things and they will help you get through the afternoon.
  2. Warm coffee – really warm, not lukewarm. And no one screams for attention or pulls your hair in the middle of it. Enjoy.
  3. Catching up. If you’re lucky you will have co-workers that you love to talk to and hear how they’ve got on. Go ahead and distract them but do try to be considerate.
  4. You will find that you remember more than you thought you would. This is encouraging and will go some way to making you feel like you can be productive again soon.
  5. Lunch break – admittedly you might use a few minutes to call and check up on baby, but the rest is yours. Bring a book or a magazine if you’d rather not talk and do your very best to make it Mama Time. I am hoping this becomes a new habit.

To be really honest, I found the evening hardest. In a blink, it was Austin’s bedtime and I was devastated that I didn’t have more time with him. Make sure that you are prepared the night before and have a little plan to do something together so it feels special. Today we played blocks and I didn’t think it wasn’t fun enough so tomorrow I’m planning on yoghurt painting!

I’d love to hear how other moms coped with the first few days back in the office after maternity leave so please do share your experiences and tips in the comments below…

Mom-Guilt vs IKEA (Mom-Guilt Wins) 

Earlier today Austin went to the childminder for three hours. It was the longest we have been apart since he was born (while he was awake, at least).

How could anyone not wanna spend all day with this little cutie?
How could anyone *not* wanna spend all day with this little cutie?
Dave is dropping him off in the mornings to save my colleagues dealing with a splotchy, teary mess first thing in their working day.

I am ashamed to say, I never thought about it being hard for him to do the drop-off (my good-wife days are over!) but he found it really tough to leave Austin there.

Rather than spend the childminding time buying lotto tickets so we could afford for me to stay home, we decided to use the three hours to make a run out to IKEA and pick up a replacement lovey for Austin and maybe some baby-proofing gadgets.

 

This one is his favourite
 
This is the haul we came back with.

 

We bought EVERYTHING
We just kept buying things. It was like we couldn’t stop. They had sold out of his favourite toy (sob!) so “He’ll like this” became a mantra we kept repeating on every aisle. Usually, Dave stops me from overspending in IKEA, Penny’s and Heatons (anywhere relatively inexpensive is toxic for my wallet!) but, today, he was just as bad – Dad-Guilt.

When we went to pick Austin up, his voice was hoarse from crying and suddenly I didn’t care that parent-guilt had bested us in IKEA. We gave him his new toys and I felt just a little better seeing a small smile on a splotchy, teary face.

 

New Stuff!!!
Batch Cooking, Cheap Batch Cooking, Cheap Weekly Meals, Aldi

The Monthly Batch Cooking Freezer Meals for 50 Euro – Part 1

I love to cook – yes, even batch cooking. Really, I find it relaxing and satisfying – especially if I have lots of time to prepare and clean the kitchen as I go. I’m not amazing at it (my older brother puts me to shame every time with his Michelin star creations) but Dave has been known fake an argument so I get stressed and start to bake… 🙂

However, when I return to work, I won’t want to cook a dinner in the precious two hours I have with Austin before his bedtime. To prevent meal prep taking much time, I created the following list of batch cooking dinners, just for me and Dave, that can be made and frozen in advance. The prep time for each dish is about a half hour so they can be done at nap-time, on the weekends or during Peppa Pig, if needs be!

For a bit of variety, I created two weeks worth of meals and made doubles of each so I have a months worth of food in the house. Each double week of meals cost only 50 Euro in Aldi so this can be used if you are trying batch cooking from a tight budget and don’t want to spend a million hours working our whats for dinner! I also had a ten euro voucher which was inexplicably satisfying to use.

I’ve split this post into two parts as you would not want to cook the two weeks together on the same day – it would get a bit confusing and messy (or is that just me?)

Here is what’s on the batch cooking menu (and yes, the pizza night is a take-away night – I swear I am starting a diet soon!):

Week 1

Monday – Lasanga
Tuesday – Chicken Curry
Wednesday – Salmon Fishcakes with Sweet Potato Chips
Thursday – Pulled Pork Baps
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – Chicken and Chorizo Potato Bake
Sunday – Fish and Veggie Pie

Week 2

Monday – Meatball Subs
Tuesday – Chicken Enchiladas
Wednesday – Seafood Chowder
Thursday – Chicken and Veggie Pie
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – Chilli
Sunday – Ham and Roast Potatoes

If you’d like to give this a go, I have attached the recipes for Week 1 plus a shopping list that is set out, pretty conveniently, in the order which they appear on Aldi shelves (you can thank me after this saves you twenty minutes in the shop0 🙂

Week two will be coming shortly.

I really hope you find this useful!

This is my first post that holds a printable (and my first time writing recipes) so please let me know if there are any errors so I can correct them.

Also, if you have any other yummy dinners that can be made quickly in advance, please do share in the comments below!

Shopping List for Week 1 Freezer Meals

Week 1 Freezer Meal Recipes

Preparing for Returning to Work after Maternity

Before I had Austin, I spent weeks preparing for his arrival. I researched the best products to buy and spent hours decorating his room. Dave even built him a wardrobe!

Dave looking super-manly as he DIY's the crap out of Austin's room
Dave looking super manly in his work gear

Back then, I found a million posts about preparing for a baby – getting your home ready, steeling yourself for birth and living with a newborn. Every topic you could imagine was out there waiting for me to read it. But now that my maternity leave is ending and I am heading back to work I have found myself unwilling to even think about preparing.

The most that I have done is to finally sort out childcare that I am reasonably comfortable with.

But, having spoken to a few other parents about returning to work, it sounds like just as much preparation, if not more, is required. People have told me that I will be exhausted for the first few weeks and that it will take time to adjust and develop a new routine. Several of my close friends have warned me that leaving Austin with the childminder will be the hardest thing I will ever have to do.

This is about how comfortable I am with leaving my kid!
This is about how comfortable I am with leaving my small baby with someone I don’t know…

So for the next week or two I will be focusing on making this transition a little easier.

First up will be making a good few weeks worth of freezer meals so I don’t have to spend time cooking in the evenings or give up precious weekend time for a big shop. I will organise Austin’s room, including clothes, toys and creams, so that they are easy to find in the mornings. I’ll also be interviewing some working mothers to see how they managed their return to work and I’ll look further into the pro’s and cons of Au Pairs, Childminders and Creches.

In the interest of helping others, I’ll be sharing my findings here so I hope you find this series useful.

As always, if you’d like to leave any tips that you found worked well or just share your experience, please comment!

On How it All Goes Too Fast

Everybody told me. I was fore-warned every day of my pregnancy. Maybe that was the problem –  I already knew those baby days would be over in a flash.

Day three and terrified to cut off the hospital tag!
Day three and terrified to cut off the hospital tag

Two minutes ago he was born, to the sound of my Monday morning iPhone alarm bells and a room full of laughter, a digital age baby. His first strangled, short cry was the most amazing sound I had ever heard in my whole life.

Day Two he got the hiccups, like he’d had every day for three months against my ribs and I videoed him for his Daddy – our first Bauer “in joke”.

 

Today, he frowned at me and said “Dadadada” when I took his toy off him at lunch. He may as well have called out,

“Give that back to me, woman!” His intent was that clear. And that’s when I noticed that he could talk to me. He could process what was happening and express his displeasure about it, coherently.

How did that happen? How is the time passing and constantly catching me off-guard? Where the hell did those seven months go?

I know I didn’t miss it. I was right here, smiling and teary for almost every second. I recorded half those seconds for Dave while he was working, texting like spam every time Austin did something remotely different.

How was I not more prepared, when everyone had warned me about it?

He’s not a tiny newborn anymore. He is a small baby now and I am shocked and, I’ll admit it, scared. In another minute he’ll be at school and then college and I’ll wonder where it all went.

  

Majoring in digging

Everybody tells me that’s the way of it and part of me wishes I could throw things at them and make it all stop. Then I’d have all my days with him just like this – pick-up-able and sleeping through and full of half laughs and half cries and hard-won giggles.

But the moral is – it does go so fast. And no matter how many times you are told it you will never, ever be prepared for the change of clothes size or the first pack-up of baby toys or, I suppose, college.

It will always be too fast.

All you can do is video the hiccup and take as many photo’s as your iPhone allows. Print them. Go to the park. Lie in bed and play peekaboo in the sheets. Play as many baby games as you can find on Pinterest. Don’t hide the tears when you pack away their too-small clothes and you go right ahead and spam people with their insignificant, wonderful updates.
So, for all the mom’s of Day Two babies – Don’t be afraid.  Fast is amazing too and there are so many more awesome moments to come.

uh-oh, yer one is getting alll emotional again…