Wrapping solutions

I can’t stand  waste. It is one of my biggest pet peeves. I grew up in a creative  household  where we learnt to  sew at a young age by making doll’s clothes from scrap material, and did arts and crafts  projects  using rubbish and things we found through beach combing and the like. A large family, mum always  cooked enough to feed an army and there was always at least one meal a week that was a random assortment of leftovers. And use by dates? So long as it looked, smelled and tasted alright then what was the problem? Working  in catering  was quite a shock to the  system  in the beginning.

Detesting waste has led to  me becoming  something of a hoarder. Having young children  I have become  more selective about what I keep because I am  more restricted ad to where I can keep  things and they certainly  have enough of their own  stuff! But I still have  one of those magic cupboards. You know, one of those ones you could reach  into  and pull out a giraffe. It gets a good sort out at least twice a year – when the weather  turns nice and I am after the  gardening  box, and at this time of year when I’m digging  out the Christmas  decorations.

This year when I  pulled everything out I discovered an excessive amount of wrapping paper. Half rolls from the last three Christmas’ in fact. Not to mention  a varied collection  of  tissue paper, ribbon, labels and Christmas  cards.  We get a bit enthusiastic about present  wrapping  in our family. I’ve never thought I’m that bad but I have found myself longingly scouring the aisles of paper and ribbon this year while knowing I can’t buy any.

I’m having a homemade Christmas this year so it is fitting that my wrapping solution  is to use stuff up. I’m currently down to one of those three rolls and only a few labels and ribbons. The actual packaging for my homemade offerings have been rescued from the recycling and I purposefully bought a shredder so I could make my own shredded paper from stuff that would have otherwise gone in recycling. To cover up brand names on the boxes I have cut up last year’s Christmas cards  (which I’d

actually kept back with the intention of  making labels).

I think all I have bought is sellophane for wrapping soaps and twine from Oxfam.

It’s been really easy, addictive even. Just like eating organic or buying  fairtrade, once you start you see ideas everywhere. My idea for next year, as I won’t have three year’s worth of wrapping paper, is to make my own paper. Sounds good in theory but might prove disastrous!


The thoughts in my head and the baby in my arms

An almost sleeping baby in my arms who will no doubt start to grizzle as soon as I move him. He is very cuddly today, mainly teething I think but in part because daddy has gone away. It always amazes me how perceptive children can be. For example Charlie gets so excited when we go to pick Harry up from school, he just knows that it is time to see his big brother. As for Harry he has always been so loving and sensitive to other people’s feelings and I certainly hope that never changes.

I’ve always found it hard to express my feelings. James will always tell me exactly what is going on his head but I could never be like that, not even with him. I think I just like to deal with things myself. Why let other people worry if I’m feeling worried? Or pass on my sadness to them? You see those poems about smiling being contagious (we had one up in the hotel that I worked at), in fact I saw a video on Facebook yesterday about making the world smile back – one of those social experiments where someone starts laughing at a train station and soon enough everyone is smiling.

And it’s true, smiling is contagious but so are feelings in general. We talk of sharing a person’s grief and I’ve always thought that sounds quite insincere and intrusive in a way but it’s not. I recall days at work where if one colleague came in in a bad mood that was it, it was going to be a day from hell. I like to think I’m a good listener but I think I’m rubbish at giving advice. Instead I’m the one who tries to rise above it. In truth I get a bit hyper with it but I hate seeing people down just like Harry does and I know I can’t fix things but if I can make someone smile, make them laugh, then I’ve made a difference.

Writing is my outlet. I don’t need to write that, I’m sure the majority of writers and bloggers feel like that, but sometimes even then I can’t really say what I feel. I don’t think that matters though, why should I tell the world my problems? They’re extremely minor in comparison to others.

I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here. This was supposed to be a post about charity shops and instead I’m waffling on about feelings. I often feel like such a contradiction but I’m just trying to find my place I  this world,  my purpose, and it’s a hard task when the people all around you are trying to shape it too.

In case anyone is concerned I am fine. There is something about a sleeping baby in my arms that makes me philosophical. And writing my book too, sometimes I feel like that is just one big metaphor for everything that whizzes round in my head.

General updates

It’s been a while since my last post. James has been home a lot more but he has been back to normal (ish) this week, so I too have been able to get into something of a routine, although it has been slow-going and I have had to battle the tiredness somewhat. Tonight though I finally succeeded in finishing editing my first three chapters based on the feedback I had received and have sent off two submissions. I was keen to get some sent off tonight as James is home tomorrow night and then on Sunday we are away for a couple of weeks (Granny’s 90th in Cambridge, James is working in Oxford then visiting the in-laws in Devon stopping via Stonehenge on the way and a side-trip to Dorset).

Charlie is doing well. He had his six-week check with the health visitor today and now weighs 12lb 5oz (he has gone from the 50th percentile to the 75th, the chubby chops, but weight gain like that is supposedly normal with breastfed babies). We also had our check-up with the doctor last Friday. Charlie ticked a couple of the ‘referral’ boxes so we have to go and see a pediatrician. He has only one palm crease on each hand which can sometimes be a sign of an underlying issue, and he is also ridiculously chilled out for a six-week-old (of course, that could just be his personality, but getting him referred is precautionary).

I’ve been trying my best to keep Harry busy these past couple of weeks now we have run out of visitors. I was getting a bit tired of going to Mini Monsters everyday (even though all I have to do is sit with a cup of coffee and read while he plays it can be exhausting). But I have managed to find lots of summer holiday activities. We have been going twice a week to the library for various reading and craft sessions (he has also now got his own library card which he is loving!) and James took him to an animal handling session at the museums where they got to see, touch and hold snakes, spiders, lizards, frogs and more. I’m glad James was able to take him as I wouldn’t have liked it much and couldn’t have taken Charlie anyway.

I also talked to the health visitor again about Harry’s pooing but she didn’t really say anything she hadn’t said before. The thing is, up until Monday Harry had got into a routine. He was having proper poos every other day and even went twice on the potty. He had also stopped kicking up a fuss each time I asked him to sit on the potty. But all this week he has reverted. I was harsh again and I made him sit on it for over an hour this afternoon. It seemed to work the last time so we’ll see how he is tomorrow and while we’re away. If not, here’s to hoping school will do the trick! He now has all his uniform bar the bits we can buy from the school when we go for an informal meeting on the 28th, we have even booked him swimming lessons starting in September! By the time I post next he might have even started school as the rest of this month is hectic :-D.

Warm up

Maybe this is a bad idea but I am just going to type. My boys are asleep and my plan for the evening is to finish editing the first two chapters of my book following the critique I received from a publisher. Naturally though, as soon as I stare into the computer my eyes feel very heavy. But they will not get the better of me. This is my time to write. The first evening – well, any time, really – that I have had alone in quite a while, and I know I won’t get a chance again like this for a while. So let us call this blog post a warm up and when it is done I will return to my book and get the editing finished with a far less hazy mind. After which I can think of sleep.

I have taken to spending evenings like this in utter silence. TV does not go on at all and even the CDs stay in the drawer. But, I fancied a little music to work with tonight. Sometimes the silence does get too much. Sometimes there is too much noise in my head that I can’t drown it out. So I looked through the drawer of CDs. They are a mess. The DVDs are too. Harry likes looking at them. To be fair, he doesn’t wreck them like he used to so we have no need of putting them out of his reach (though I swear nothing is out of his reach). But they do need a mega sort out, and certain things do need hiding from him now he knows how to use the DVD player (what is it with kids and technology?). He is adamant he wants to watch Jaws. And Silence of the Lambs. His synopsis of Jaws is something to do with a girl going swimming and eating a whale.

As for the CDs, I don’t even know what I have anymore. I was searching through trying to find something to suit my mood – I wanted something to fill the silence but not to upstage it; something I wouldn’t be inclined to sing along to. Eventually I found Dido ‘Safe Trip Home’. It is the one I often find on evenings like this and for good reason. There is a song on it called ‘Quiet Times’ and that sums it up, but actually the whole album is like that. It is music for those Quiet Times. I got the CD for my Birthday one year and we listened it in the car as we drove to my parents late Christmas Eve that year. It always take me back there.

Musings over, back to work. I will finish this tonight. I will.

Change of plans

Camp NaNo didn’t last very long, but then I knew it wouldn’t. And because I already knew that I didn’t have the motivation and inclination to keep going with it.

I had a bad day on the 3rd which was a shame as I’d started writing quite an awesome short story on the 2nd which I will finish. The number of half finished short stories I have is terrible, but this one has potential so I don’t want it to rot away in my writing folder.

It was one of those bad days where I just wanted to delete everything and throw everything away. I managed to ignore the urges until the mood passed. But yesterday I thought seriously about it. And today I did it. Or I made a start, at least. I have deactivated my Twitter and Pinterest accounts (Twitter had been hacked anyway so it was a perfect opportunity), deleted my Goodreads, finally deleted my online diary which has been inactive for many years and I have only kept it for the sentiment, and sorted my emails so that I can start using my other email account. Only Facebook, WordPress and NaNoWriMo remain, although they are in need of organising to some extent but I don’t know where to start right now.

It feels good, it feels tidy. I feel like I am almost ready to start over. Things like Twitter I never really go into and I feel like if I am going to ‘get into it’ I have to do it on a clean slate, so I will be opening a new account once I have everything else sorted.

As for Camp NaNo, I need a different take. I sat down last night and read through a critique of my first two chapters from an editor. It had arrived before Charlie was born and I had only skimmed it then. It was my first critique and I was fearing what it would say. As it goes, I’m happy with it. There are some really positive things that give me the motivation to keep querying and there are plenty of points that I have taken on board and really want to sit down and make changes for the better. I was nodding along as I read it, kicking myself at some things, seeing other things through fresh eyes. There were a couple of things I had never been 100% happy with and I now know how I can make them 100%.

So I am now thinking I need to focus on editing again. But I know it is important to keep writing too. I just need to find that balance, and I suppose through organising all the clutter around me I will find it.

Baby Charlie

The 1st July and I have decided to take part in Camp NaNoWriMo again. The first time I took part I followed the traditional November rules for NaNoWriMo – 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days – despite Camp offering the flexibility to do other things and to set your own word counts. This time though I feel it is far important to me personally to just write. And write anything. So my plan for the next month is to write approximately 1613 words every day, be it a blog post, short story, article, even letter. It is a good opportunity to get those writing muscles working again and to experiment with different styles and genres.

I had to kick start the month with a blog post as it has been a good couple of weeks and a lot has happened it the meantime. I am writing of course about the arrival of baby number 2 at 12.47 on the 20th June, a tiny little boy of 7lb 8oz (average, I know, but compared to his big brother’s 10lb 10oz he is like a baby doll). We have called him Charlie Adam, a name long decided on, and he is referred to most commonly as Baby Charlie because this is what Harry has always called him and it has stuck, for now. James and I both agree that he is the spitting image of Harry – although where Harry is more like James, Charlie is more like me, in terms of colouring.

Despite their similarities, particularly their expressions, they could not be more different. Harry, probably because he was so big and it was a really hot summer, most likely because he was my first and I was waiting for that maternal instinct to kick in, cried a lot, fed a lot (and threw up most of those feeds because he was too greedy). He would barely let me put him down, he would never fall asleep by himself (and still won’t). Dirty wet nappies never seemed to bother him. Charlie, in comparison, is so quiet. He will happily lie in the bouncer or on the playmat and take in everything that is going on around him. Even on his first day he was fascinated by the noises outside the hospital window. Sirens, drilling, voices, music. When he’s hungry he just grizzles to let me know, but already he is like clockwork every three hours so he doesn’t even need to do that. I can put him down in his cot with his eyes wide open and when I go to check on him he’ll be sound asleep. But the one thing that does make him scream his head off is a wet or dirty nappy!

Of course, there was the difference too in their births. Harry was born around 56 hours after my water’s broke by emergency caesarean. By the time he was in my arms, everything was a blur. Yet I’ve always been amazed at how quickly he latched on to feed, especially when you hear about how many mums who have had more traumatic births really struggle with feeding. With Charlie I was given the choice of having an elective caesarean and I went for it. I couldn’t stand the possibility of going through everything I went through with Harry only to end up in the same place.

The two experiences couldn’t have been more different. James and I arrived at the hospital at 7.15am and were shown into a room, basically a delivery suite but for our purpose it wasn’t quite the right word! Our assigned midwife did all the various tests and we were visited by the anaesthetist, surgeon and cord blood donor people. Basically though we were just waiting until it was our turn. I think we were fourth in queue, although that could have been influenced by any emergencies that came up, but there weren’t. We were finally called at about midday, though I cannot remember precisely. I think the strangest feeling of that day though was walking down the corridor in a hospital gown and kissing James before I went into the theatre. James had to go to a special room to get changed and wait some more while I was given the spinal epidural. Of course, I had to have a little bit of drama, nearly passing out when they inserted the cannula in my hand after which they had to wait for my blood pressure to rise again. This took forever and even after Charlie was born it took it’s time returning to normal!

The moment of Charlie’s birth was surreal. With Harry I was feeling a bit out of it and felt very weary and emotional. With Charlie I just felt emotional. I’d asked beforehand about having skin-to-skin in theatre but the midwife had said it wasn’t always practical. As it happened, I would have struggled. I first held him when I was in recovery and, as I had always feared, he did not want to latch on straightaway like Harry had done. It didn’t help that my blood pressure cuff was in the way and I couldn’t hold him the other way any easier because of the cannula. One helpful midwife, not the one who had been in theatre, sensed my difficulty and helped me out a bit until he had it. I think that was the key difference between Harry and Charlie’s births though – Charlie’s was far more impersonal. Don’t get me wrong, the staff were brilliant, particularly the anaesthetist, but I couldn’t help feeling like a product in a production line, a name on a list.

Things were different once I was up on the ward, the same ward in fact where I had been with Harry, except this time I had a private room. Goodness knows how they work all that out; I kept waiting for the moment someone came along to say ‘by the way, we’re moving you to another room now’. But having my own room was wonderful. Having a catheter and cannula (not so much the cannula) in were bearable too as when meal times came around I didn’t have to go get it myself. My own room was also great for when Harry came to visit – I can just imagine him if I had been in a shared room! And it was good for sleep, as much as good sleep comes with a newborn. As with Harry, I found the second night to be the worst – partially attributed to midsummer madness. Of course, waking baby isn’t so bad until you count in the comings and goings of midwifes, nursery nurses, paediatricians, midwifes dispensing painkillers, support staff taking your blood pressure ten million times at 1 o’clock in the morning just so they don’t have to wake you up every hour for the rest of the night. Even so, I could never imagine going home straight after giving birth. The time in hospital is invaluable.

Harry has really taken to his baby brother. He is keen to pick out what clothes Charlie wears, although as a typical 4-year-old he keeps trying to insist that the bodysuit goes on top of the sleepsuit. He will go to Charlie before me when he wakes up in the morning and holds his hand for a moment before the desire for mummy cuddles takes over. He always kisses Charlie good night and will happily sit beside the bouncer holding Charlie’s hand while he sucks his thumb. What he hates though is when I am feeding him. He could have had my sole attention for the past two hours but as soon as Charlie is feeding all he wants is for me to play in his room with him. And feeding Charlie isn’t easy and hasn’t particularly got any easier, although at least not I know why as the community midwife on her first visit after I got out of hospital discovered he had mild tongue-tie (two days later the midwife noticed he was jaundiced so we still have not been discharged as they have to do a two week review for that!).

There was a day or two where I thought we’d got round the tongue-tie. We seemed to get the right angle or something. But that didn’t last long. I find that when he is feeding on the right he struggles to latch on but once he is feeding he is fine; it is the opposite for the left as he will latch on OK but keeps slipping off until he finally gets it. I guess the hunger must get too much that he works through it. As for me, it isn’t painful, although slightly uncomfortable at times. The midwife told me that the tongue-tie can be snipped if necessary, for example if he is struggling to gain weight – although based on his first weighing that won’t be an issue! From my own research online I would rather it didn’t come to this. As it is only mild it is likely that the tongue-tie will get snipped itself when he is a bit older through biting down on a toy or hard food, for example, and so won’t have any long-term effect on speech. The procedure itself sounds relatively simple and painless but if it can be avoided then I would rather avoid it!

As I finish writing this he has finished, rather successfully, his feed and is lying fast asleep on my lap with one of those little grins on his face that always make me thing of chasing rabbits, although most likely it is just wind. It always makes me wonder what goes through a baby’s head when they sleep.

Candle making ventures

I mentioned a while back about starting candle making again. It was a hobby I had when I was still in school, my parents having bought me a candlemaking kit one Christmas/Birthday. I had stumbled upon my book whilst searching through the boxes of books that had finally made their way from my parent’s house to mine (although they remain in their boxes due to lack of space). Finding the book had sparked the desire within me to get creative again.

I’d been feeling a bit lost, always seeing photos on Facebook of the amazing cakes, crafts, clothes, etc, that family and friends were creating and I had been thinking ‘I wish I was like that.’ Finding that book made me realise that I had been like that once. Writing aside, I had always been busy with one project or another. Candles. Chutneys and marmalade. Beading. I built a whole village for my GCSE Graphics project but that was the sort of thing I would have just done for fun.

So, I dug the candlemaking out again (another shelf-space free for my mum and dad!). I started simply, just refamiliarising myself with the process, using the basic candle and floating candle moulds that came with the original kit. Harry helped me, mainly by selecting what colour I should make them. I read the book cover-to-cover and came up with endless ideas I wanted to try, or in some cases re-try. A sort through my cupboards for random containers suitable for holding candles gave spark to new ideas and since then, family Birthday presents have been sorted!

Yesterday, I tried something I hadn’t done before. I had this bizarre desire to try candle dipping. So, I melted down this horrible green candle that had been stuck in a mould for ten years, added a couple of scoops of wax pellets until it became this lovely turquoise colour – the colour completely surprised me given how horrid it had been previously – and transferred it a jug so I could start dipping.

I was a bit rubbish at first. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. My book had two different instructions for candle dipping and I was following the one I thought was most suitable given the wax I was using (the other one was for beeswax candles). But I was wrong. In the end I got another jug of cold water and after dipping the wick in the wax three times I would then dip it in the cold water and repeat this process until I had a couple of rather bizarre looking stumps (which gave inappropriate comments from my husband. But they were candles nonetheless.

After hanging them up to dry overnight (not that they needed that long, but I didn’t have time to finish them off later) I finished them off this morning. One I simply melted down the base and put it in a candle holder. The other (which was the scruffier of the two) I initially scraped with a zester, my intention to then paint it with metallic paint. However, the paint had past its best so I threw that idea away and instead decided to dip it again – this time into blue wax that I happened to be using for another candle at the time. It wasn’t quite deep enough (I didn’t have a narrow enough container) so it is still a bit turquoise on the top, but that won’t matter once we start using it! It will be interesting to see how they both burn.