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Finding time to write when you have a toddler


(even if you aren’t sure you’ll ever get published)

Top tips for finding time and inspiration

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I’ve read a few blogs on this subject, but they always seem to be from someone who has already published their book. That makes sense – their being published is what gives them the authority to speak – but they always refer to writing under pressure of deadlines or signing a contract with baby sick on it. They say things like ‘I got my publishing deal when I was pregnant and then wrote book two as I rocked the baby bouncer with one foot’… Ok pretty impressive… But you had the publishing deal! I’d be motivated too if I thought anyone else believed in me actually making this dream a reality.

The fact is, there’s an awful lot of us juggling kids and work and writing without any promise of success – now that’s a real challenge! (and I have no idea why people say ‘juggling’ that makes it sound like there’s some sort of order to it all. There isn’t. It’s chaos!).

I admit it’s a challenge that defeats me some days; one that brings with it guilt and questions about my priorities and leaves me wondering whether I’ll look back in ten years and be sad I wasted all those hours deluding myself that I could do this.

Some days I return from work (where I write all day), feed my 2 year old, bath him, greet my husband, read the little man a story, put him to bed, cook for us (my husband does share the chores but that doesn’t help me make my point so ignore that for now!), attempt adult conversation… and then start writing. And I haven’t mentioned the tantrums, the second toddler dinner I made as the first went to the dog by mistake, the washing, cleaning, bills and correspondence or the fact we’re all meant to be on social media constantly to promote our platforms in the hope that one day we can flog all our followers a copy (sorry followers!) – by then any teens I had following me will be too old to enjoy it so I’m confident I’m wasting my time but hey! Ooh badly structured tangent sentence alert – should probably rewrite. Nope. Too exhausted!

So yeah, it’s not easy and it’s not ideal. I mean we’d all love a week long writing retreat, or days holed up in sunlit attic writing room, but if I waited for that there’d never be a single word produced. And yet, somehow, I have 85,000 words of my first novel, 5,000 of my second, several children’s stories, a few prizewinning short stories and a pile of new ideas brewing, all since my little boy was born. It’s not because I’ve been especially organised or good, it’s more because writing is a bit of a compulsion and even when I think I probably should give up, I can’t. But I have developed a few strategies over the past couple of years and thought it may help to share them…

6 windows of time I exploit wherever possible:

  • nap times – these are gold. Of course there are other jobs that need doing in this time like, housework or perhaps you have other children, but if you can manage a minimum of 20 minutes free it’s ideal writing time.
  • 30 mins in the evening – either as my husband puts him to bed (which is so lovely as I can hear them giggling or discussing the bedtime story as I type) or just after I’ve done it (which is often the case as he travels a lot for work so I’m frequently a single parent – in case some of you are trying to do this alone, it is still possible).
  • Plan a tv programme’s worth of writing -whatever the concentration span of your child, you’ll probably manage a minimum of 20 minutes and that’s a window of time you can work in, but you need to plan. Know what you want to achieve and as soon as they are settled – scram! (or get the laptop out and hope they don’t notice and want to ‘help’). No time for making tea or just folding the washing first. Sit down and write!
  • Find a weekly activity for dad or grandparents to do with kid(s) – this pretty hit and miss in our house due to my travelling partner, but signing them up to Sunday swimming sessions definitely gained me a few clear hours about every other Sunday, so it was worth it!
  • Get up early – I struggle with this one. I already have to get up at 6.30 to get my boy up and fed and ready for nursery and me all set for work, so anything much earlier is a lot like torture, but just occasionally the sacrifice is worth it.
  • If you can’t sleep, get up and clear your head – this one works for me every time. I often can’t sleep for things buzzing around in my head, I just get up and write it all down (which can generate useful story or character material later) and then possibly take 20 minutes of writing time on the book as well. By the time I’m done I’m sleepy and my head is clear.

 

In the meantime, whilst you are actually doing the parenting stuff…

5 tips for inspiration

  1. use the notes section of your phone (or the voice recorder if your hands aren’t free, or a notebook if you prefer low tech) whenever inspiration strikes mid-nappy-change.
  1. Read your child stories and watch their favourite tv shows with them to get inspired with characters and settings and plot lines. No matter which audience you’re writing for there’s a wealth of ideas out there, plus it’s good positive parent time.
  1. Talk to them about your story- sometimes kids have the best ideas.
  1. Take them to inspiring places. It benefits you both, even if it means an hour of Prep before you go, a battle to get them into the car and a meltdown in the gift shop! If you can’t find a story in the Pitt Rivers museum or the local woods, for that matter, I’ll eat my… cliche.
  1. Be present – try to put the writing aside and actually play with them sometimes! Sometimes a rest is refreshing for the mind, and being childlike feeds your creative well.

Writing jobs you can do in twenty minutes


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Finding time to write is always tricky – so many of us have a regular job to go to, a family to take care of and friends that occasionally require attention (!) – but I don’t believe that anyone can genuinely claim not to be able to find twenty minutes in their day. Of course it’s true that no one who loves writing fiction would actually choose to produce a novel in 20 minute sections. It’s definitely not the most productive or easiest way to work, but it does get the job done if that’s the only choice you have.

Here’s a quick-look list of writerly tasks you can easily squeeze in between everything else that needs doing. Please feel to add more suggestions in the comments – I just wrote this in twenty minutes!

  • draft a buzz blog
  • Edit a blog
  • Update/write your bio on your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook
  • Make a meme and share it (try free sites like memedad.com that are super easy to use)
  • Draw and label one of your characters
  • Map out a section of your story
  • Research (actually having a twenty minute limit can be helpful and stop you going off on tangents)
  • Review/edit a chapter
  • Plot a short story
  • Draft a cover letter (but never send it until it’s been redrafted, edited, subbed, etc etc – you’re after perfection here)
  • Work on your synopsis
  • Study an agent’s submission guidelines
  • Submit to an agent – if you’re ready, why not? (must take my own advice some day!)
  • Make notes for your book’s thank you page (it helps to dream positively and actively prepare for print!)
  • Take the time to go through each of your Social Media platforms and like, respond, comment, share – anything that actively engages in a positive way with your followers
  • Just write! Even if it’s just a few paragraphs (though it could be as much as 500words when you get into it!)

 

Who am I to say all this? Truth? No one really, but I genuinely hope it helps and in case you need me to justify myself here’s the bio: Melissa Kay is mum to a two year old, works as a copywriter, is a sometimes single parent (due to a travelling husband) and attempts to occasionally have fun and see friends. She’s written and been published (mostly in magazines and newspapers, but also some short stories) and her YA novel opening was shortlisted for the SCBWI’s Undiscovered Voices 2016. She’s managed to write consistently since the birth of her son and returning to work.


My first eclipse


In the early hours of Monday morning, in the pitch black English autumn cold, I hauled myself out of bed, and snuck out of my parents’ house (it’s been a while since I did that!)… to witness my first eclipse.

It was ‘only’ a lunar eclipse. Solar eclipse fans will tell me this is a meager event by comparison, but it was pretty spectacular to me and it got me thinking…

Now I am no astronomer, but I have been learning the basics thanks to the astronomy tours client I’ve been working with (The Independent Traveller – shameless plug!). And I’m no astrophotographer, but again I’ve been learning the basics due to my recent writing work with Phil Hart (author of ‘Shooting Stars’) so I persuaded my brother-in-law (a brilliant photographer but also a doctor who was on call the following night – sorry Pete!) to join me and we headed out with our tripods into the night.

I’ll admit to struggling in the darkness to change lenses and get the settings right. Messing about with infinity focus, live view and bulb mode did cause some anxiety in the still, calm of the small hours! But I thoroughly enjoyed the learning and was so focused on taking shots that I failed to notice two things – first, how very cold my hands and feet had become and second what a profound effect the whole thing was having on me. It was only in hindsight that I could really appreciate the whole experience (one of the key reasons why I so love writing and photography – for their ability to freeze time and record a moment I may otherwise struggle to review in years to come. They allow us to be about as close to immortal as we can get, but let’s get back to the eclipse…)

It was so clear, and bright we could hardly believe our luck as the penumbral shadow turned the silvery moon an autumnal red. Silhouetted trees and a zillion stars set the backdrop. An owl hooted from the darkness of the earth as we turned our faces and our lenses to the sky. It was a gentle process; the passing of ships in the night – only this was planets. Huge chunks of universe aligning in such a way that we could actually see the effect. We could see the movement, the rotation. It is enough to make anyone feel small and humble.

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It is almost overwhelming. And when you learn some of the statistics it seems so incredible as to be beyond belief. (One of my favourites, recently learned as I write about the solar eclipse coming up over Tanzania next year, is that the Moon is around 400 times smaller than the Sun, but also roughly 400 times closer to Earth, making it possible for the two to align and for the Sun to be completely concealed during a solar eclipse. I’m sure there are equally stunning lunar eclipse facts.) But the common feeling is that we are small and insignificant, the moments are fleeting and that very little matters in this ‘grand scheme.’

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The following morning I woke to another day… and Facebook! Now I’ve written about Facebook before and my concerns with it. But today it reminded me of our connections. Far from feeling small and insignificant, I realised our power and unity. Millions of people had watched the eclipse. Thousands had taken incredible photographs of it. We are all trying to play out our roles as best we can in this giant, daunting universe and so many of us all over the world united in this one eerie moment. Imagine what it must have looked like from space to see all those humans scattered around the world peering up at the sky, all focused on the moon. What a powerful energy we directed out there in the middle of the night. How lucky we are to be able to witness such incredible beauty.

These eclipses happen regularly. A stupid statement perhaps, but I find it rather incredible that it has taken me more than thirty years to take the time to see one, and also that our planets align in various formations on a timetable. Eclipses can be predicted for millennium to come! It is reassuring in some way, and also somewhat metaphorical. I have often felt that shift in life when things seem to adjust – for good or bad – and it seems to me it can only be positive when there are occasions, however brief, where everything lines up. Perhaps for others it is more about the light returning after the darkness (certainly ancient cultures saw it that way), but for me it was about being able to physically see the alignment that was so stunning and comforting. An experience I highly recommend. Positive in every respect.

Now how do I get myself to Tanzania to watch the solar eclipse next Sept?!


Judgement & Criticism… & Paranoia


Had a bit of a revelation this week. The thing is, being a parent you are learning how to manage new stuff every day. And just as you get one thing under control they change their habits, likes, reactions, whatever and you are back in the dark again wondering what to try next. I think that’s probably true even if you are doing it for the second or third time. They are each their own little parcel of crazy contradictions and joyous mayhem!

So, with that in mind, it’s easy to feel that you never know what you’re doing. Meanwhile, everyone else seems to be in total control. It’s the perfect storm for feeling that everyone is looking at you and wondering what the hell you are doing!

My husband and I recently attempted our first hotel stay away since baby K was born. He’s 14 months so it’s been a while. We’ve done visiting parents and family and friends, but this time we had booked a posh hotel and were looking forward to a proper mini-break. Ha ha ha!

First mistake was booking a posh hotel. One year olds don’t care where they stay and have little respect for other people’s property, or other people! We spent all his waking hours herding him back towards us and trying to stop him from bothering anyone else. I was convinced that every guest – none of whom had children and all of whom were there just trying to relax – hated us and thought we were totally crap at controlling our boy’s behaviour. I even wanted to shh him when he was laughing too loudly at breakfast! Later I decided we were probably worrying too much, perhaps they liked the laughter and were judging us for being too controlling and hovery. Either way I was very conscious of everyone else and almost forgot we had gone there to relax ourselves… In case you were worried we found the bar once baby was in bed and all was well! But it got me thinking – perhaps most of the criticism was in my head!… especially when it was time to say goodbye any everyone wanted to wave to little K and wish us well!

My inkling that perhaps we were not being judged as much as I’d imagined, was then reinforced by a blog I read. It was a very well written and amusing blog about how annoying ‘helicopter’ parents are in parks. In a nutshell she said she went there to let her kids feel free to play, but felt that other mums gave her evils (or ‘stink eye’ as she called it) if her children were left to it. I thought I agreed with her, but then I read the comments… Other mums had said they felt bad as they might be seen as that parent but they never meant to seem judgey, only that if a child asked for help they would help, or if they seemed lost they’d look around for the mum. Some said they only hovered as their little junior always climbed too high and had no sense of fear or that they’d had a bad experience before. I suddenly realised the writer had been judging the ‘helicopter’ mums and they felt just as paranoid!

I remembered a moment in a supermarket some time ago where a mum was clearly close to tears as her daughter screamed and launched a packet of new potatoes all over the floor. As the little summer delicacies rolled along the aisle I sent her what I thought was a look of sympathy and support, and was about to go over and help her pick up the escaping potatoes. But before I could she turned on me: “What are you looking at?” she barked with narrowed eyes. At the time I’d thought bad thoughts (I admit it; she was mean I was trying to be kind!), but now I realise she was feeling awful and assumed that I was judging.

It’s dawned on me… 99% of the time we are probably not being criticized. No one else can do it better. They all know it’s hard! And even if you are being judged, there’s very little good that can come out of thinking about it – better to assume you are not! I’ve discovered if I smile and say something to the person I feel is casting aspersions, they generally admit they’ve been there, they have five, or that they’d find it hard too if they did and then… ‘isn’t he cute’ and ‘how old is he?’ And suddenly none of it mattered anyway!

I know I’ve written this about parenting, but it occurs to me this might apply to lots of things. Perhaps my worries about my writing, house keeping, friends, fat bits, work, dress sense, husband, family blah blah are mostly in my head! Wouldn’t that be great? Let’s pretend it’s true even if it isn’t, it’d save us a whole heap of worrying!

Found a great saying the other day: My worrying is very successful… 99% of the stuff I worry about never happens! It seems an appropriate close to today’s blog!


Thirty things I’ve learned since the birth of my little boy (a year ago today!)


It’s been one hell of a year. It feels like five years in which I haven’t stopped, but it also feels like five minutes and I’ve achieved nothing (except growing a tiny little boy from a tiny little baby who is totally awesome, of course).

I was trying to explain to a pregnant friend what it’s all like; wanting to tell the truth without glossing over the daunting parts like so many people did with me. Only I had no idea where to start. I remember feeling that I’d prepared, read books, spoken to people, even done a course… and then the baby came! It was unbelievable how clueless I was. I learned a degree’s worth of information hands on, in a couple of months.

…And then abandoned most of what I’d learned and started all over again as we entered a different phase… and then another.

The way I see it the year splits in half. Some of my points from the first six months (which I found SO hard) just don’t apply to the next, but anyone who’s been through this one year marker will recognize most of these, I’m sure. In no particular order, here are some of the gems I’ve gathered in the past twelve months:

1. Even though every experience is unique, there is a vast commonality and that means an amazing world of supportive, interesting, wonderful people out there to share it all with.

2. That the hours are long but the days are short. In fact time is just a total mess – see my previous post on that topic:

3. To abandon all judgements – you know exactly how that mum got to that point in the supermarket now; it’s not bad parenting it’s a bad day, a bad world, and a momentarily bad child!

4. That guilt and foreseeing doom are two side effects of childbirth and they don’t go away. Scary stuff! https://beingmelissakay.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/the-day-the-world-went-dark/

5. How annoying sympathy can be – those pulled in eyebrows and tilted heads from the mums whose children sleep all night are a good example (except in the second six months when mine was sleeping I somehow adopted exactly the same expression when talking to sleep deprived friends – oh no! how could I?!)

6. How annoying advice and clichés can be – I really had to restrain myself from punching people who suggested I ‘sleep when he sleeps’, and I couldn’t believe how many people did (give me the advice, not sleep when he slept!).

7. To take advice from anyone and everyone! – Yes, I know what I said in point 6 but it’s also true that those offering the advice generally have very good intentions, are occasionally right and clichés are clichés for a reason. I resigned myself to trying anything once! (though sleeping when he slept never did work for me!)

8. How to operate on no sleep – it’s incredible how you can keep going. I used to do sleep deprivation in terms of clubbing or camping (or Barb Wire/Tofani Porini for those in the know) but nothing like the endless nights of an hour here and an hour there followed by hours of crying or feeding as your husband snores in the other room. I’m honestly surprised there aren’t more murders committed in those first few months! And yet, we survive. We even get up, occasionally add make-up and eat something and somehow everyone is kept alive and reasonably happy. (note: I only have one child, if I’d already had one at this point I could not guarantee the safety of said imaginary older sibling during those first months!!)

9. How to do everything with one hand – As if it isn’t hard enough to start with – in plenty of pain from the birth, attempting to breast feed (see next point), sleep deprived, hormonal – you are also expected to suddenly cope without one hand as it is constantly holding your baby (even when it weighs over 10kg and wriggles it cannot be put down!) It took a while but now I can even butter toast with one hand!

10. How to set up a pram, install a car seat, build a cot – all of which are rocket science (and that’s without sleep deprivation). These were all skills which absolutely terrified me, led to broken nails, a trapped thumb, many tears… And then then I learned to suck it up and do it all with one hand!

11. Kids bounce! – not that I’ve deliberately tried out this theory, but my wibbly wobbly walking boy has fallen off everything in the house and hit his head on everything with corners, and somehow he still pops up smiling. They are much tougher than they look – thank goodness!

12. Being a mum makes you cry – I now cry at adverts! Actually TV in general is bad – there’s always something to trigger it. And the news is a nightmare. But it’s not just TV, it’s everything: parking, supermarkets, being late, any excuse really.

13. You do adjust. If someone had explained what my life would look like today a couple of years ago I would have laughed and said there’d be no way I’d allow that to happen. I was a free spirited, travelling, partying, creative, writing, singing, sociable blonde with boobs that stayed up and time for everything. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. But would I go back? If you’d asked me this in month one I might have said yes! But honestly, absolutely no way. Somehow or other my life morphed into my current existence and along the way I caught up and we are ok. No, better than that, we are happy.

14. How to shower with a child of 2, 10, 20 etc weeks – with all the techniques for keeping them safe and busy at the various stages I think I could write one of those tiny books you find at the checkout. The bouncer on the bathroom floor, the washing basket full of plastic balls, a special drawer for him to unpack and reload. Anything to allow me those crucial ten minutes – without which it’s best if I don’t leave the house for the rest of the day!

15. Flying with a baby is horrendous!

16. How to drive with a crying child – I have a terrifying memory of my boy yelling so loudly for so long that I finally pulled into an A road layby to feed him. It was pouring with rain and I hauled him out of the back into the front with me and had to breast feed as great big lorries roared past shaking my little car. Not fun. Now I mostly can ignore him without getting too stressed but it’s definitely no one’s favourite experience being stuff in traffic on a motorway with a baby that has no understanding of why they can’t just have a cuddle.

17. How to cook everything without salt – you develop a weird phobia of salt as a new mum!

18. How to make new friends fast – you need them! Sometimes just a honest comment or a sympathetic ear can prove to be the beginning of a new friendship. This has been a surprise to me in many ways as I always said – ‘just because they’re mums too doesn’t mean I’m going to like them all’. Of course that’s true, but it’s amazing how many I do like!

19. How to appreciate the little things – some days they’re all you’ve got! But often it’s amazing how the tiniest thing can light up your day.

20. To appreciate my parents (see above link to ‘the day the world went dark’)

21. Never to put a cup of tea down -you’ll forget and it will be spilled in spectacular fashion

22. That your heart has an unending capacity to expand. Every time you think you couldn’t love them any more, you find you can.

23. How to have a conversation when no one finishes a sentence!

24. Everything’s a phase (a handy mantra for surviving the first year)

25. The pure joy of he first smile, first laugh, first steps. I didn’t expect to get much back for the first few years, but have been very pleasantly surprised.

26. How to handle poo (in all its guises. Who knew it had so many?!)

27. How to handle a wriggler covered in poo (…shower!)

28. Nothing matters very much, and very little matters at all (thanks Gran!)

29. Children are disgusting!

30. Despite point 29, all children are beautiful and absolutely deserve to be loved. I’m not sure I really got that before. I mean I did, of course, I wasn’t an evil child hating monster, I just wasn’t that bothered. Now refer to point 12 – even other people’s children can make me cry. Hell, even fictional children can make me cry!

I’m sure this isn’t all I’ve learned, it’s just what came off the top of my head when I sat down to write. I’d love to hear what you guys would add to the list, but these are a few to get you started.

* * *

What with rolling, crawling, walking, weaning, entertaining, cleaning, nursing (both in terms of milk and medicine!), and desperately trying to maintain some elements of your old self and a house that doesn’t look too much as though it’s been burgled… there hasn’t been time for a lot, but looking back I am surprised to be able to say I am quite proud of the year’s accomplishments and I am incredibly proud of my beautiful, clever, sunny little boy. We’ve moved house (twice!), been to Italy and Kenya, celebrated birthdays, had our boy christened, Damien’s worked (often abroad for weeks at a time), I’ve written several articles and done some PR, and all whilst managing to remember to stay in love! Not bad!

Happy happy birthday beautiful boy. Thanks for all the smiles you’ve brought into our lives. Shame about the various bodily fluids and sleepless nights but you’re worth it!! We love you.


The day the world went dark


Having a baby lights up the world. It’s not easy, but all the clichés are true about how you’ve never known love like it, how magical it all is blah blah. The thing is it comes with a dark side too. One I only fully understood slowly over this first year of my first child as I fell totally and utterly in love with this tiny little character.

It didn’t happen all at once, it crept in, seeping into my heart and head and every cell until I realised… what a horrible, dangerous and messed up world we live in!

Seriously, I’ve lived my life absolutely fear free. I have travelled all over the world, leapt off cliffs, out of planes, been skiing, had typhoid, pneumonia, malaria, been in gun sieges (yes, plural!), camped with wild animals. It never really occurred to me that my brave brave parents must be quaking somewhere with the heads in a bucket of sand.

And all that was nothing really. Not compared to the terrifying prospect of the thousands of childhood diseases, bullying (cyber or otherwise) that can cause children to take drastic actions, perverts, roads! Oh my goodness, I have to work so hard to switch my head off sometimes.

We are nearly at our little boy’s first birthday. What a year it has been. Highs and lows to the extreme. But it has all been pretty cosy and safe so far, and this amazing kid just smiles and smiles and smiles. The thing is, he’s barely seen the outside world – that amazing, glorious beautiful world that is so fraught with danger I’d like to keep inside wrapped tightly in cotton wool with a layer of bubble wrap for good measure! I can handle him bumping his head or eating dog hair, I am pretty un-stressy mum about that stuff, but the thought of him caught up in drugs and unable to communicate with us simply because he’s a teenager and thinks that we won’t get it, or don’t care, or whatever – well it makes me cry. And I mean to the point where I can barely turn on the tv. Last night a childrens’ cancer advert followed by a BB2 film called ‘Disconnect’ about the internet world we live in had me absolutely beside myself, red faced and snotty because all I could think about was him and all he’ll have to face. I don’t want it to change him; for him to close up because his heart’s been broken, or because some other kids thought he wasn’t cool enough. I can’t bear for him to go through any of it.

But then I remember the incredible gift that my parents gave me: They kept all that fear a secret. I don’t mean they didn’t talk about issues and concerns, but that they let me go without showing me how frightening that was for them. At every stage they let me run off with no idea that they were still standing there, watching me go, arms wide ready for me to run back whenever it got too much. How very, very brave they were.

And how hard it is going to be to pass on that gift! But I am determined we will do the same for our boy because without that freedom he might miss all the joyous, beauty and wonder that is out there too.

So, on this Valentine’s Day don’t just think about the kind of love that makes you all mushy and romantic. Think about the big loves. About family and friends who have been there and supported you, both in tough times and celebrations.


The Feeding Frenzy


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Food has taken over my life. It’s not even me that’s eating it (mostly). For the past 6 months I’ve basically been delivering around 9 meals a day. At one point that was 9 milk feeds and nothing for me as I didn’t have any spare hands or minutes, but now we’re into weaning (just change two letters and it’s waring – go figure!).

So, it’s 5 milk feeds, 3 ‘solid’ feeds (how can they call that mushed up vomit solids?!) and a meal for me and my man at the end of the day. It’s endless and exhausting and occasionally highly entertaining!

Preparation
Hours spent in the kitchen slaving over an Annabel Karmel cook book leave you with pulped fruit, pureed veg and mushy chicken all neatly spooned into ice trays, and a very smug feeling – until you realise that actually getting this stuff into your baby is a whole different ball game! …Basically, he chucks what he doesn’t like, so I just spent all those hours making delicate little canapés for the dogs.

If I’m honest, I was really dreading this whole stage. Squashed banana has always made me gag! And that stuff that mums wipe off the table into their hands – urgh! And the things that they do like licking stuff of their child’s fingers or picking out bogies – reeeeally?! So, I had to psych myself up.

Having said this, we started the whole food thing early. That was a whole other battle. How are you supposed to know when to do anything when advice is so contradictory?… 4 months was always the norm, now suddenly it’s 6 months. Can they sit up? Are they interested in food? Yeeees, but that was at 4 months. So we went for it. It was clearly a success as baby K has got entirely stuck in and started sleeping through the night (though they say the connection between these two events is mythical, well it wasn’t for us). But it’s certainly a journey. Yet another learning curve. I’ve learned so much new information in the past year – like an entire degree’s worth – most of it about stuff I never really wanted to know in the first place!

Anyway, there we were: Day one. Little bottom perched in big high chair, cute clean bib in position and mini spoon in hand. I offered up the fruits of my labour… only to have them returned in a splattery spitty mess seconds later along with a look of absolute disgust!

Our rented house is definitely going to require an entire blog post to itself (once we’ve moved out and got the/some of the deposit back!) but there’s no hiding the fact that there is rejected food splattered up walls! Thank goodness for the dogs (never thought you’d hear me say that!) or the floors would be thick with dried slop that I don’t have time to clean up – at least you can’t see dog spit!

Progress
There are at least a thousand things you can’t give a baby for fear of allergies, choking, or alien invasion, so planning meals is a bit of a minefield. And the homemade vs shop bought ‘organic’ options is a conundrum too. But we’ve found our middle ground and I’m pleased to say we have made progress. More food goes inside baby K than on him (more like 60/40 than 40/60!) and enthusiasm has improved – mainly in the form of ‘mmmmm mmmm mmm’ noises and flapping excited arms.

I’m not surprised he gets excited – the little prince is brought offerings of three or even four courses including finger food appetisers, nutritious blended mains and generally fruit-themed deserts. We don’t eat like this!

Mostly though, it’s good we don’t eat like him. If we did we’d be doubling our body weight every couple of years and also finding bits of lunch in our ears or eyebrows at around 3pm when we wake up from our naps. Oh, hang on – that does happen! Not the nap obviously, but randomly discovering he’s sneakily smushed some unrecogniseable food substance into my clothes, generally at a moment where I can’t do anything about it, happens quite a lot. It’s so glamorous being a mum!

But…
it’s worth it: Worth scrabbling through the freezer amongst all the little pots of mysterious green stuff (damn, must start labeling them); the endless planning ahead; the messy disgusting state of everything; because he’s growing and smiling and enjoying it all. I never realised how much fun it would be to watch him try jelly for the first time, or taste pineapple or experience philadelphia’s creamy coolness on his tongue. Imagine what it must be like to have all those new tastes coming your way.

The endless preparation, laying out, delivery, clean up (then clean up again as he generally pukes at least some of it up once we’re all done) leaves you with little time to do anything else much, and makes it close to impossible to leave the house (the prospect of doing all this in a café where the high chair is probably too big so he slides around, other people distract him and he’s likely to strain for a poo very loudly half way through is just not that appealing!). It means doing anything for yourself is likely to be out of the question and has left me feeling slightly neglected: No time to exercise, grabbing a ready meal when you get a minute and growing steadily paler and paler. I jumped on the scales the other day to check how bad things have really got and nearly had a heart attack. So focused was I on the huge numbers which had appeared, that I failed to spot the little hands pressing down on the weighing plate just behind my feet! I forgot about my weight, because all of a sudden our little boy can crawl!!

Hmmm keeping him still to be fed is going to be even more interesting now!