Month 10 has been my absolute favourite so far

Peyton is 11-months-old today, but the last month has been one of my favourites so far.

Of course, nothing compares to the snuggly, squishy newborn phase, but this last month has just been wonderful.

April was shit, for many reasons, and I was super excited about May (because I knew it couldn't have possibly been any worse!) and it has just been great.

Not only has she developed the cheekiest, funniest personality, but she is learning things every single day. She's so close to walking now, taking up to 10 steps at a time, and is babbling away in her own little language. She's starting to try and use cutlery when she eats and is showing such an interest in the world around her. And tonight, which I’m most excited about, she’s started clapping! I know you shouldn’t listen to those apps that say “your baby should be doing x, y and z at this age”, why do they do it?! She’s finally started it tonight, though. She looks so chuffed when she does it, bless her.

The weekend before last we went down to Bristol to stay with family and P was a little dream. She was so well behaved in the car (it's a long drive even for an adult, never mind a baby who hates sitting still!) and when we were there.

I was worried about her bedtime being unsettled being in new surroundings but she went off like a dream and slept really well still. (Not so much at nap time, though...! See pic below ha.) It was strange being back in the same room as her, though. I've got so used to hearing her breathe on the monitor I did wake up a few times and panic that I couldn't hear her. It's strange how she seemed quieter being in the same room than over the monitor.

She had the best weekend while we were there. They live on a big, working farm and there were so many animals. We took her to watch milking one morning, she saw lambs, horses, ponies, rabbits... She was mesmerised by it all.

It was also lovely to see family who have babies a similar age to Peyton. It makes me sad that we don't live closer so they can all grow up together, but it's nice that we do get to see them when we can.

We've been all over the place recently as the weekend just gone we went to Bedford and back for the day for my friend's little girl's 1st birthday. Laura and I met on a cruise in 2006 and have stayed friends since - despite living 150 miles apart. Florence is a month older than Peyton so it's lovely that they're so close in age.

I think we'll spend the next few weekends in Yorkshire, I'm bloody exhausted haha!

Saying that, I can't believe we're just a few weeks away from her first birthday now; it's mental.

Each day my Timehop is filled with bump photos and videos, and countdowns to when she was due to arrive. It makes me feel all fuzzy inside, seeing picures of me being pregnant. I say it every time but, God, I was huge. It almost puts me off wanting to get pregnant again incase I balloon in the same way. I did say, though, when I got pregnant I knew I'd go full Kim Kardashian and be the size of a house.

We have so many lovely things planned in the run-up to, and after, her birthday.

We're having a small BBQ/tea party (weather dependent) the weekend after her birthday which, I'll be honest, is more for our benefit than hers. She won't know what the hell is happening so, while it's her first birthday, I am choosing her cake, decorations etc. how I would like them for a party for me. There will also be prosecco. Lots of prosecco. Because I missed that so much while pregnant and in those first few months when I was breastfeeding so much and scared to touch more than a drop of alcohol.

On the subject of breastfeeding, the last month or so has seen us stop completely.

Last time I wrote a post about parenting/Peyton I said we were close to stopping, but we're completely done now. And it was so easy.

For those not aware, I started weaning her off the boob ready for me going back to work. I knew it would be too difficult to express while at work, particularly as I struggled to get more than 1oz or 2oz in over 30 mins of pumping - previously I'd get 5oz in less than 15 mins! She transitioned onto formula through the day really well and, when I went back to work, I was only feeding her myself first thing on a morning and through the night.

We managed to swap the morning feed for formula, too, and then were just left with through the night. This managed to phase out gradually when her night waking lessened. Then, when she did wake, we got her back to sleep without the boob. Now, she doesn't stir at all through the night and, when she does, it's for a minute or two and she's straight back off.

All those months of being up three or more times in the night for 45+ minutes seem like a lifetime ago now!

I tied myself in all sorts of knots when it came to her sleeping and naps, but I really wish I hadn't got so worried about it now. Trying controlled crying with her was, honestly, the best thing we did. Since then, she's been like a different baby when it's come to sleep.

I'm sorry to those mums reading this who have babies/children that don't like sleep; I honestly feel your pain! There's nothing worse than reading about children who sleep when you're exhausted because yours doesn't, so I'm sorry if I've made you want to weep. I have no advice - all the advice I was given didn't work, so I won't even bother suggesting it - but just keep going! Every child is different, so there's no point even trying to compare, and they all do things in their own time. There was a time I thought I'd never get a good night's sleep again, but here we are.

Erm, what else have we been doing?!

Oh, weaning! Yes. That's going very well. She eats three full meals now, and snacks in between. I think she would eat all day if I let her; she loves her food. I don't think there's much she doesn't like, she is like a human dustbin.

Greens are her favourite at the moment. I always try and include some vegetables or fruit with every meal, where possible, and she always goes for the green stuff first; whether it be peas, broccoli, cucumber, kiwi...

I never thought I'd get so much happiness and pride out of watching a baby eat but, honestly, my heart swells when I see her. It's so cute I could sit for hours.

She just has three bottles a day now, usually: one first thing, one either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and one before bed.

As soon as she's one, I'll move her onto cows milk. Formula is bloody expensive, and such a faff. I take my hat off to mums who formula feed from newborn because holy hell it is a lot of effort; and expense. I can't imagine being bleary-eyed in the night fannying with boiling water, bottles and powder making up bottles.

She's had her 9-12 month review with the health visitor recently. Tom took her as I was at work. It was nice for him to go as all her newborn/early stuff he missed out on because he was at work.

They said she's almost at the 9kg mark - feels like it's taken forever to get there - and is on the 50th centile for her weight and, wait for it, then 98th for her height.

We always knew she was tall but even I was shocked at that! She's going to get all the same comments I did when I was growing up: "oooh you're so tall, you should be a model!"

I feel like we are on countdown to so many exciting things now! We've got her birthday and (my) party, our best friends' little girl's christening, two of our lovely friends (and P's godparents) are getting married; our holiday (I'm in full-on Slimming World mode with that in mind); and then one of my oldest (in time we've known each other, not age) friends is getting married as soon as we are back.

Life just seems to be feeling so positive at the moment. Of course, there are days when she's an absolute whiney nightmare - I'm not going to pretend it's all sunshine and rainbows. Yesterday she was a proper whingebag for 80% of the day. She'd suddenly snap out of it and be all happy and cheeky again but it didn't take long for her to be a moody Margaret again.

Here she is, mid-tantrum on the floor. Brill.

Aside from the odd meltdown (on both mine and P's part!) I think it's fair to say we are loving life at the moment.


So, I've re-joined Slimming World

Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while will know that, prior to our wedding, I lost two and a half stone through Slimming World.

I joined in November 2015 and by March 2016 was at my target weight. I kept the weight off for the year up to our wedding, and for the summer that followed while I was bridesmaid for my best friend, and then went on our honeymoon, put almost a stone on, and got pregnant. And the rest, as they say, is history!

I did go back to Slimming World when Peyton was around 6-8 weeks old, however, because I was still breastfeeding I think my "baby weight" was dropping off more because of that, rather than because I was sticking to plan.

I piled on over five stone while I was pregnant and, boy, did I know it. Every part of me got bigger: my arms, my legs, my neck, my face... It was just like someone had inflated me.

By November, I was two stone away from my original target weight. I figured it would be "easy" to lose this last bit so decided to go it alone at home, without going to group. It was hard for me to go to group and stay because Peyton was still breastfed and needed me there to feed her to sleep (it was far from an ideal situation), and when Tom changed his job he was often not home in time for me to go. I also didn't like to take her with me because I was conscious she would cry during image therapy and, while everyone would pretend to be understanding, nobody wants to listen to a crying baby when they're trying to listen to others talking.

I knocked it on the head and hoped that, when I started back at work in March, my head would be in a better place to get back to the Slimming World ways. I wouldn't be going out for lunch regularly, or having coffee (and cake) dates on random weekdays. I also wouldn't be diving headfirst into the snack cupboard because I was at home and it was there.

This didn't go to plan, though. I just couldn't get my head back in it.

As summer is approaching, and we've had a few tastes of nice weather, I've got so disheartened when my summer clothes haven't fit properly. I have two options - my summer clothes from 2017, or my summer clothes from last year. The ones from last year are ginormous (to incoroporate my slowly deflating belly and gigantic knockers) and the ones from 2017 are too small.

So a change had to be made; and back to Slimming World I went.

I re-joined as a new member because I found it quite demoralising when I went back after Peyton was born and I didn't get awards when I lost weight. And the awards are what keep you going.

I had a really good first week, losing 5lbs.

I didn't expect to lose that much. In fact, I was only saying at work before weigh-in that I thought I'd be disheartened when I didn't lose as much weight as I did on week one my first time around. But there was no worries about that - I lost more than I did during my first week one back in 2015.

I had an okay week, but didn't think it was spectacular enough to have lost that. But, I will take it and run!

I am so determined to get rid of this weight and feel a bit happier and more confident in my skin again. I'm still not mad on my post-baby body, and still have a bad relationship with my stretch marks, but I'm hoping if I lose the rest of this weight it'll go some way towards repairing that.

Peyton turns one in five weeks and I would love to be a stone lighter by then. Then we have our best friends' baby girl's christening, a wedding, our holiday and another wedding! I want to look back at those pictures and like how I look, and be able to wear outfits I'm comfortable in, rather than just whatever fits at the time.

My target is half a stone above what it was originally, as I feel it'll be difficult to get back down to that weight. However, if I find I get there quite easily I can always lower it.

For now, though, I am just focusing one week at a time.

Some days are hard, I find I have to be very organised; which isn't always easy when working long days and having a little one to factor into everything. Baby steps, though!

If I lose 2lbs or more this week I will get my half a stone award. Half a stone gone, just like that!

I still can't believe I lost so much this week. Not by doing any crazy diet where you blend weird things or cut out carbs. Not by busting my ass in the gym for hours a day. Just by eating well. And, I still drank half a bottle of red wine on Saturday!

That's why I love Slimming World. You can still live your life, enjoy yourself and be social while losing weight.

Sorry, but I'm probably going to bore you with regular updates each week now! I used to include everything I'd eaten that week on my blogs so I might do that again, as I felt it helped keep me accountable, but we'll see if I get chance to write it down/remember what I've eaten...!


The age for free childcare hours needs re-assessing

I saw a petition shared on Facebook yesterday. This isn't uncommon, I often see all sorts of petitions shared: boycott this, change that, implement this... I rarely pay much attention.

However, this one caught my eye. And I signed it. And now I'm going to rant about it.

It was a petition to the government to give 15 hours free childcare to working parents of children from the age of nine months.

After nine months of maternity leave, most mums stop getting maternity pay (unless you work for a company that has a banging maternity scheme - if that's you, I'm really jealous).

I got statutory maternity pay when I was off which meant that when my nine months of leave were up, the £130-odd a week I got paid would stop. I was entitled to take a full 12 months of maternity leave, however the last quarter would be unpaid.

We, obviously, could not afford this. We saved enough to supplement the poor statutory maternity pay each month for the nine months I was off, but would've struggled to go any longer.

I've come back to work full-time, because I couldn't afford not to.

It's a double-edged sword.

Peyton goes to nursery three days a week because we couldn't manage grandparent childcare for those days. Even if we could, I'd have still sent her one day a week so she got to do all the fun/messy things I don't want to do at home (and obvs for the social interaction/development etc, too). Just for three days a week, our bill for nursery last month was more than our mortgage. And will be every month.

Granted, I do the tax-free childcare government scheme which pays 20% of your bill; so I saved about £100 off it. But still, it's a huge chunk of my wage gone.

**If you don't do this, you really need to! It's really easy to sign up to. Once you're done, all you do is pay 80% of your bill onto this government portal, they top it up with the further 20%, and then you send the payment to your nursery. It'll save us just over £1,000 a year which is better than a slap in the face.**

I can't go part-time because the days I would work would be the three we have no alternative childcare and she goes to nursery. So I'd be on a reduced wage, still paying out the hefty bill every month.

It's absolutely ludicrous that parents are faced with this expense - as if it wasn't expensive enough having a child!

Peyton loves nursery, so it's money well spent, but a helping hand from the government in terms of free hours would go a long way. Fifteen hours is not even two full days, it's not a lot, but it would be a huge help. Particularly to parents who are even less fortunate than us and don't have any childcare help and require full-time nursery places.

It would mean mums - and dads - could go back to work with more ease; it would encourage more parents to go back to work rather than to quit their jobs because, in so many cases, it costs too much to work.

How crazy is that?! It costs us too much money to work.

I'll get a certain amount of free hours when she turns two, I think, but even then that doesn't start until the start of the next term; meaning they'll kick in next September!

Fifteen hours a week from nine months for working parents would make the biggest of differences. In a country where employment rates aren't the greatest, surely the government should be doing everything it can to encourage people to get (back) into work. This would go such a long way to that.

Of course, there are parents who don't want to go back to work once their baby has been born. So not every single parent would claim the free hours. Some, even if they are going back to work, might still favour grandparent childcare to nurseries so they wouldn't require it either.

It's hard enough going back to work after having a baby without facing the prospect of steep childcare  costs (which are totally and utterly warranted, by the way, because the staff at nurseries do an amazing job and deal with an awful lot of shit; quite literally!!)

This petition is probably going to make no difference whatsoever. Parliament is so busy dealing with/arguing over Brexit it doesn't seem that anything else gets done at the moment.

Even if Brexit wasn't occupying so much of our politicians' time, I still highly doubt they would listen to the thousands who are crying out for the change. These petitions pop up all the time and the success rate is depressingly low.

But, I suppose, if you don't ask you don't get. I might write to my MP and see if it is something that could be raised in Parliament; often a quite email/letter to them gets things brought up at least in PMQs (Prime Minister's questions) and noted on record more than these petitions do.

If you want to sign the petition, which as I write this is still climbing, the link is here.

When I saw it yesterday it was on 18,000 signatures - it's now over 66,000 less than 24 hours later.

It's unlikely it'll make a difference, but we can but try!