I don’t know what possessed me!

++++ POLITE NOTICE ++++

++++ MISSING SPACES ARE DUE TO BABY REMOVING SPACE BAR EARLIER TODAY ++++

N.B. Any other mistakes are entirely my own ūüėČ

When I was walking to Mum’s a few weeks ago in the rain and my feet were getting wet. Unusually, not because I had my flim-flams (fit flops) on – they finally broke earlier this summer.

No, it was all down to my tatty old hiking boots. ¬†They weren’t brilliant boots to start with but they were on sale in the Trespass shop at Gunwharf Quays and I needed a pair so I thought they’d do. ¬†The soles were having a conversation. ¬†Now, I can’t afford either new flim-flams or new hiking boots at the moment and had requested the latter for Christmas but I was sick of getting wet feet, luckily, Mr PinQ had delved into some of the (still packed – I know, I know but I have decorated two rooms,made a couple of sets of curtains, repaired appliances and a million and one other things!) boxes and had rather randomly, pulled my trail running shoes out.

They were a last-minute buy before my first event. ¬†I had ordered some at booking but the week of the race, they hadn’t arrived and when I contacted the seller, they offered to bring me a pair on the day. ¬†Yeah right. ¬†I asked for a refund and ordered a cheap pair of Karrimor ones because I had no intention of ruining my Brooks on a February cross-country event. ¬†They were tight but I didn’t have time to return them and get the half-size bigger that I should have ordered in the first place! ¬†I then wore them for the next event.

I cycled, skated and swam my way through most of that summer and early autumn but with the Team disbanded by our employer and a very poorly pregnancy, I didn’t run again. ¬†I carried on cycling, swimming and skating (the latter until a few weeks before Baby-Girl was born) and of course, Pup-Pup had come into our lives too so I was walking every day again.

I guess it was the wet feet thing. ¬†I binned my hiking boots when I emptied the bin and litter tray this morning, having worn the trail runners to walk to Mum’s yesterday and not only loving that I had dry toesies (it was a mizzy day yesterday) but also realising that they fitted beautifully! ¬†I’ve lost about 2st since that first run 2 years ago so my feet are back to normal – I was so pleased.

So today, I set off walking to Mum’s with Baby-Girl in her pram (which also contained a nappy bag, handbag and laptop) and Pup-Pup on her lead, which was slung over my shoulder as I had no spare hands. ¬†What did I then decide to do?

Run.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that I have all these beautiful hills around me again and what a shame it is that I can’t go cross-country running because I am (temporarily) a single mummy and whilst I can walk the dog all day in the hills, Baby-Girl is getting rather heavy in her little harness and the pram isn’t brilliant on most of the footpaths. I’m odd. ¬†I love cross-country running but I don’t particularly like road running and I hate treadmills.

I was doing a variation of fartlek training. ¬†There are lots of roads to cross on the way so I ran a block, walked a block, ran a block, walked a block etc. ¬†I’ll be honest, I do need to find my sports bras; a lovely, soft, cotton, non-wired maternity bra really isn’t the best for running but it didn’t stop me.

If I hadn’t surprised myself enough by running there, I only went and did it on the way back as well! ¬†The best bit… I thought that one block would kill me because it has been such a long time since I did any training but I feel fine. ¬†Let’s see if I edit that last bit tomorrow.

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Buying and Selling through Social Media

Before Baby-Girl, I wasn’t really aware of the marketplace that exists on Facebook. ¬†I knew people that used Facebook as a platform for selling htings that they had made but I had no comprehension of the variety and volume of sales of everyday things.

I think that it was my old, lovely, next door neighbours that had suggested it for buying things for the baby because toys and clothes that were barely used were available very cheaply. ¬†They weren’t kidding. ¬†In the last year, I bought her a Rainforest Jumperoo, a swing which is currently half height with a baby seat but with the parts to make it full height with a normal seat and a wooden, Mothercare walker (I was desperate for one of those, rather than the plastic toy station type). They cost me ¬£25 in total. ¬†That’s right, ¬£25. ¬†To have bought them all new would have cost ¬£245!

Having to move from a house with a fitted fridge and an attempt at a fitted freezer to one without was pretty scary from the perspective of funds so I decided to take a risk and replace those via FB too.  We got a reasonably new Hotpoint fridge freezer for £40.

When we got here, our old chest freezer died, I bought it from a friend about 6 years ago so I wasn’t surprised but with an extra little mouth and huge tummy in the house, I had to get another chest freezer too. ¬†I had my eye on a much larger specimen that I can get lots of different ice-cream flavours into next summer. ¬†I messaged the lady to ask for the dimensions and that I was at my mum’s and that I would get back to her after 16:00 when I’d been home and measured up. ¬†She said that she’d sold it. ¬†So, I grabbed a smaller one that had a broken hinge and a bit of corrosion on the outside (as they get knocked over the years). ¬†I bought new hinges (we’ll get to repair later) and the larger fridge freezer was suddenly available so, I put the other back on FB with a shiny new pair of hinges and a bit of radiator paint adn made a ¬£13.50 profit!

Now, I didn’t _need_ a tumble dryer but with a baby, I really wanted one after living in temporary accomodation that had one. ¬†Her little cotton nappies came off the maiden like cardboard if it was too mizzy to line dry them and I was ironing them. ¬†Inorite! ¬†Me, iron :/

Of course, a tumble dryer leaves them all soft and lovely and the turnaround for laundry is amazing so I thought I’d keep an eye out.

It turns out, the second-hand prices on FB in the North-West are quite a bit higher than those in the South. ¬†Perhaps there’s less disposable income up here or less of a throw-away society, who knows but the cost of dryers in the county was far beyond my budget, even second-hand. ¬†That is, until I saw one advertised with a broken belt that the lady needed rid of as the new place that she was moving to (within the week) didn’t have room… Of course, no-one wants to buy broken, second-hand (potential fire risk) appliances so I made a ridiculous offer, citing the fire risk – which she was ignorant to – and she accepted. ¬†When I took it apart, it transpired that the belt was broken because the jockey wheel was knackered so I ordered new ones, fitted them and I have a working dryer which is just awaiting the nice Hotpoint Engineer to come and modify in order to rectify the fire hazard issue.

My 13 year old Dyson Animal was also poorly by the time that we landed in the North and his was the first new part to be searched for…

I found a website called BuySpares.co.uk that is superb!  Around about the time I was ordering for the Dyson, the washing machine developed a fault too and I got the filter cover for the vac and the brushes for the washer for £18.  I found some helpful little videos on their site and YouTube adn have been able to undertake all of the repairs myself!

Now, I worked out the cost, like for like, of the items that I have bought second-hand and/or repaired against the cost of brand new replacements, taking my £13.50 profit into account and I have spent £141, new would have cost me £1035.

I have been washing and drying clothes, bedding, curtains and towels for about a week on and off every day. ¬†Prior to getting the dryer working, I took one week’s worth of wet washing to the launderette to dry and it cost me a fiver. ¬†Imagine if I’d taken the two massive piles of stuff that has been in storage for over 6 months. ¬†If that dryer works for 8 weeks just doing normal washing, it has paid for itself, anything beyond that is just a bonus.

If you are buying on FB. ¬†Be safe. ¬†It may sound stupid but you may find yourself in an area you don’t know, with a couple of people waiting for you who know that you are carrying x amount of cash and a mobile phone. ¬†Make sure, at the very least, that someone knows exactly where you are going.

Kindness

I cannot get over the kindness of our family and friends.

Since I was made redundant 18 months ago, things have been really difficult financially, particularly when¬†Mr PinQ’s contract with the charity that he worked for came to an end and he started doing temp work. ¬†Losing my great wage was a blow but losing his low one was devastating, we didn’t know how we could feed and clothe ourselves, never mind our beautiful Baby-Girl when she arrived last summer.

Everyone has been so generous, giving us: bags and bags of knitted, crocheted and bought clothes, blankets, a pram, nappies, a cot-bed, change bags, a steriliser; a little work to earn extra money; lessons in crochet so that I could make things for her myself; toys; a practical helping hand when we’ve needed it; somewhere to stop and feed Baby-Girl or somewhere to sleep when travelling to see family and friends; a shoulder to cry on when it has been needed; puppy- and baby-sitting; baby sign classes – the list is endless!

If that weren’t enough, a friend with a property portfolio is buying another house¬†for us to rent so that we will have a secure roof over our heads until we can afford to buy; another has arranged for us to live in another house until the sale of the other completes.

I’ve had hard times in the past, but it was never as bad as the last 18 months and of course, it was only ever me, my old doggy and cat (when they were still alive) that I had to think about. ¬†Having a baby magnifies those sorts of stresses a hundredfold but having such wonderful, kind-hearted and generous people in our lives negates most¬†of that stress.

Some people handed me money and said, “Get something for the baby”, so I put it straight into savings accounts for her. ¬†With everyone having bought her so much already, we didn’t really need anything so making sure that she has a bit of money behind her when she grows up seemed like the right thing to do with it.

I’ve even been given loads of textiles (Nan-Bear and NannaD) and clothes so that I can make things, either for Baby-Girl or even to sell. ¬†On top of that, people donated to help me set up my own business and I’ve already bought the sewing machine that I dreamed of owning when mine broke – although I’m goign to buy the other bits when we are settled in our new home, it would be silly to buy it now just to have to transport it 275 miles!

We’ve had all of the things from the food bank that other people wouldn’t take. Things like vegetables and uncut, lovely bread: Meditteranean, soda bread, organic brown batch, olive bread, ciabatta rolls and the rest!

We are the poorest we’ve ever been financially but the richest in love because of the kindness of others. ¬†I really do hope that there is a heaven so that I can sit down with all of those wonderful people and tell them what they mean to me. ¬†Some of you will think, “but it as just a little thing…” it wasn’t a little thing to us. ¬†The baby clothes from the charity shop was as gratefully received as the leg of lamb, the pork joint, the vegetables, the vegetable peeling to feed the hens, the second-hand crib, the cot-bed and everything else. ¬†I can never sell any on any of the beautiful things that people have made for Baby-Girl, they are too precious, but I expect I will¬†sell bags of assorted baby clothes at some point but even if I don’t keep everything forever, I will never forget the generous, kind souls that gave us so much peace of mind. ¬†Being able to dress your baby (for at least a year) because so many lovely people have given you so much – when you didn’t know how you were going to dress her past her first few weeks, really is amazing.

I have no way to adequately express what it means to be moving to a warm home where you aren’t in a daily battle with mould. ¬†I even think that the cough and sinus thing that I started with on Christmas day will go when we are settled.

From anyone in need, thank you to all the good people.  When you help someone who really needs it, you give a them light, hope and joy.  Even when reality hits again as it must, the benefactor will always have the memory of that helping hand, in whatever form.

N.B. I normally proof-read in case of garbled sentences, typos and grammatical errors.  I am too tired to do that tonight and I have a tonne of work to do for Saturday plus a landlord visit tomorrow so I am just leaving the post as is.  Apologies if it reads like alphabetti spaghetti!

 

19 days…

On Friday 24th March 2017, we will be filling¬†a¬†3.5 tonne low loader with the penultimate load of “stuff” to be transported to the North-West. ¬†We’re going home.

Here is where it gets a bit scary.

We don’t have anywhere to live.

A dear friend with a property portfolio is buying a house specifically for us to rent but the seller initially refused the offer and then changed her mind.  That means that the completion date could be anytime between 14th of April and sometime in May.  So I am faced with the challenge of finding somewhere for my Baby-Girl, dog and cat to live for anywhere between 3 and 8 weeks.  The chickens, rabbits, guinea-bobs and chinchilla have temporary accomodation sorted out but I need to be close by (within 20-odd miles) to care for them and Mr PinQ has several options for bunking down somewhere.

I have been bidding on social housing and searching for short-term lets but as yet, without success. ¬†We can’t stay in the South because of Mr PinQ’s start date for his dream job. If we extended our current tenancy, I would have to manage the move on my own and with the animals and Baby-Girl, not even I could deal with the logistics alone.

We have family and lots of friends who would put us up in a heartbeat but it is too much to ask anyone to take on so much and with Puppy-Dog being so young (14 months the day before move day), she still has very destructive moments and I could never forgive myself if she destroyed something belonging to someone that we love!

I can easily get a second storage unit for the last bits of furniture and as I have said, there is a Plan B for the chooks and small furries but I am starting to get a little bit stressed about housing the rest of us.

Stress aside, I can’t wait. ¬†I have loved being down South for the last 8 years. ¬†If I hadn’t moved here for that job in Easter 2009: I wouldn’t have met my husband or had our beautiful Baby-Girl;¬†I¬†would have missed out on becoming friends with some truly wonderful people; I’d never have found my big brother (we should have been brother and sister) and Nan-Bear (his mum); I wouldn’t be doing my Creative Arts degree or have had an exhibition of my own or a piece exhibited in London as a finalist with a V&A competition; I wouldn’t have returned to the stage or¬†begun singing again and found my panto family; I would never have begun ice-skating lessons and fallen in love with the sport; I doubt that I would have started running and cycling again; I certainly wouldn’t have had the amazing career that I did before becoming a mum and I wouldn’t be be building a business doing what I love.

We are exchanging this:

stokes-bay

For this:

dovestone

We had always said that we would return to the North-West, although we had planned to stay in the South for another 2 years, so when we were given notice on the house, it seemed like fate was telling us something. ¬†We sat and wrote a list of decent local dog walks within a few minutes walk to an hour’s drive in both locations, the sort of walk that you would do in a morning at the weekend. ¬†We spent five minutes on each list and came up with 12 down here and 55 with my home town as the cantre point.

We also considered different locations across 4 counties, all of which we were happy to move to and started to look at both rental and purchase costs. ¬†Although we can’t buy for a few years yet, we found some incredible houses for sale in the North-West at less than half the price of comparable homes where we are now.

This house is out of our price range for the moment and not necessarily what we will be looking to buy in the future but a property of a similar size and in similar condition costs £160,000 more down here.

Neighbours and friends have said, “Yes, but it’s hard to get work up North.” To be honest, there is no discernible difference in the job market. ¬†In fact, Mr PinQ has had more interviews, for better positions and a much more positive response with several more offers made than he’s had in 6 years here.

Our plans have had to change so many times in the last four months that I am still spinning.  A few weeks ago, we thought we had it sussed when I finally got a chance at a great job myself, on better pay than I had been down here and Mr PinQ was going be a stay-at-home dad.  Typically, he then got a start date that he has been waiting over a year for!  I am really pleased because it means that I can be at home with my beautiful baby, building my business and studying.

Apart from the worry about lack of accomodation from 24th March to when we can move into our new house, I can’t wait to be home.

Feeding Baby

Wow.

There is an overwhelming amount of (often conflicting) information out there.

I ignored it all.

My advice to anyone who is soon to becoma a parent: find what works for you and your baby.

I couldn’t eat much during the pregnancy due to Hyperemesis Gradivarium and if you think that is the same as morning sickness, try hurling until you suffocate yourself and begin to feel panic rising alongside the bile as your airways close and you think you are going to die SEVEN OR EIGHT TIMES A DAY FOR 39¬†WEEKS!

Anyhoo. ¬†As a rule, I cook from scratch. ¬†Even when I’ve been cash rich and time poor, I tended to devote a day to cooking and make huge batches of chillis, soups, stews and even bread that could be put in the freezer as “convenience” meals. ¬†I’m lucky because my Mum and Step-Grandma loved to cook so I learned to cook. ¬†Convenience food and even a lot of restaurant food just isn’t up to the high standards that were set by the magnificent women in my life. ¬†In fact, in recent months, our menu for the week was set by what Mr PinQ brought home form the food bank – it’s amazing how much more inventive you become! ¬†I suppose that I was hoping to be able to breast feed as a natural progression from that, feeding my baby formula that is full of palm oil really didn’t appeal to me.

“Oh here we go. ¬†Another of those self-righteous, blow-up-your-own-backside posts about how marvellous a mother you are because your baby was breast fed.” I hear you think. ¬†Well read on…

As it happens, I’m a realist. ¬†I was hoping to be able to breast feed but I know plenty of lovely mums and some of them chose to breast feed, some chose to bottle feed and others had to bottle feed whether they liked it or not. ¬†I was under no illusions on that score. ¬†To be honest, I found the posters in the local maternity unit intimidating because the message was that the best mums breastfeed their babies and I actually felt inadequate before my baby was even born!

One of the things that went into my “grab bag” was a tub of Cow & Gate formula, just in case. ¬†In the hospital, everyone was talking about Aptimil like it was the food of the Gods so again, I felt inadequate.

I had HELLP Syndrome, my kidneys were failing a week before the birth, my liver was failing during and after but I managed about half of my Baby-Girl’s feeds myself but I had to combination feed. ¬†After 5 months, my milk was completely gone.

On her first day, she showed me that she was hungry by sweeping her finger down her cheek towards her mouth so on our second morning when I was snapped at by a midwife:

“When did this baby last have a feed?”

“About midnight.”

“That was over 5 hours ago! ¬†You must wake her up for a feed every 2 to 3 hours.”

I thought, “F*** off. ¬†She tells me when she is hungry and this place is covered in posters about feeding on demand – which is it?”

Anyway, my milk should have come in on the Wednesday (I gave birth on the Sunday) but even by the Friday, it hadn’t. ¬†I had been too poorly and we’d been thrown on a ward with a bright light over us all night on our last night in hospital so that messed us both up and my beautiful little girl lost far too much weight. ¬†I decided to combination feed for as long as I could¬†and persevered with expressing and lots of skin-to-skin but I was never going to be able to feed her wholly myself, regardless of how much I wanted to. ¬†In 5 months, I had only two days when I was able to feed her entirely myself.

I decided to do¬†a little research into baby formula, partly because of the people raving about Aptimil and partly because we have very little money and guess what I discovered… there is NO DISCERNIBLE DIFFERNCE between the brands of baby formula because it is so highly regulated. ¬†That decided me. ¬†Cow & Gate – that said, Lidl are now selling baby formula¬†in their Bebivita range and it’s only ¬£4.49 a box so I shall be trialling that in the next few weeks.

I had also planned to take the Baby Led Weaning route.  I read about how stressful spoon-feeding could be and saw the sense of letting baby have control over what they ate etc.  Then I had a little lightbulb moment.

If all baby has ever had is milk, he/she is bound to pull their face when you shove a spoonful of dinner in their mouth.  It must taste really strange.

So, the plan changed and a little shy of 15 weeks, everything that I (or Nanny or Nan-Bear) cooked got my little finger dipped in it and I let my Baby-Girl have a tiny taste.

At 17 weeks, she had her first baby porridge (Aptimil stank and she wasn’t keen so we replaced it with a plain Cow and Gate porridge and some Heinz Peach and Apricot porridge) and for dinner,¬†vegetable and rice medleys that I’d boiled, blended and frozen and she absolutely loved them.

We tried a couple of flavours of “proper” baby food time and again but she¬†didn’t like them.

At 33 weeks now, she has a list of “Big Girl Dinners” 50-something long which includes: hot smoked salmon; home-made celery, onion, rice and green lentil soup; crumpets; bacon sammiches; blueberries, mashed banana, smoked mackerel; tiny pots of fromage frais; scrambled egg; salami and cream cheese sammiches; home-made butternut squash and red pepper soup, black pudding; mashed potato¬†with broccoli and cauliflower; tiny pancakes with lemon and many more.

I started a list in case there was anything that she wouldn’t eat but so far, she’s liked everything!

As a tiny baby, she set her feeding and sleeping routine and by week three, she slept through until 05:30.  That gradually got later and later and now, she normally wakes up at about 07:00.  I suspectthat is because of the combination feeding, the people that I know that were breastfeeding seemed to have to get up a lot in the night.

We start the day with a 150ml bottle and then play and cuddles for an hour and a half to two hours; then she has her baby porridge¬†with some juice or water (I’ll come to that) and a nap until about 11:00; then it’s time for her second 150ml bottle and play for a couple of hours until lunch.

Lunch consists of one of her big-girl dinners, followed by a fruit pot, mashed banana, chopped strawberry or about 7 blueberries with a drink¬†and then it’s time for another nap of about an hour and a half. ¬†When she gets up, she has a little bottle (120ml) and we play for another couple of hours and at 17:30 ish, she has her next big-girl dinner, followed by a fromage frais and then it’s more play for a couple of hours and a 150 ml bottle before bed at about 20:00.

With all of her big-girl dinners and during play time, she has juice or filtered water. ¬†Initially, my Mum had bought some baby juice and I carried on but then I realised: I was paying ¬£1 for 500ml of watered down fruit juice. ¬†I checked the sugar content and it’s 4.7g¬†per 100ml and she can easily drink half a bottle in a day so… ¬†I went into Lidl (Tesco’s or Asda’s own would work just as well) and bought cranberry and raspberry – less than 60p a litre – and watered it down with filtered tap 1:1. ¬†The sugar content is 6.2g¬†per 100ml so watered down, it is only 3.1g; so in making her baby juice myself, I am saving over ¬£1.40 and she is having less sugar!

I also researched whether or not she could have fromage frais when she got to 6 months old and discovered that she can! You can buy 18 Petit Filous for ¬£3, although it was half price in Tesco the other week so that was a major bonus. ¬†The sugar content is 9.9g per 100g and the pot size is 47g, so she’s having 4.65g of sugar in that pot. ¬†With a 200g jar of baby yoghurt at 10g sugar per 100g, even if you separated it into 4 portions, that’s still 5g of sugar per portion- although I suspect that you’d be tempted to feed a third or a half a jar as one dessert. ¬†If you averaged one jar for 3 desserts, you would have to buy 6 jars and at 80p per jar, that’s ¬£4.80. ¬†Yet again, I am saving money and feeding her less sugar.

She eats beautifully and daintily from a spoon with only a tiny bit of mess around her mouth when I’ve overloaded the spoon or she’s been excited about what she’s eating and so far,¬†with the exception of actual¬†baby food, she has loved everything – she even tried KieŇābasa this evening (Polish sausage)! ¬†I swear that it’s down to the finger dip tastes that she had just prior to trying her on pur√©ed solids.

Now, just because that worked for me, doesn’t mean it is what other people should do. ¬†So regardless of what route you take, it has to be what’s right for you and if you want to (and can afford to) buy organic fruit¬†pur√©e, then do it. ¬†My only advice would be to read enough to make sure that you can make an informed decision but try not to be overwhelmed and let the volume of inormation out there confuse you. ¬†In truth, you will know what is right for you so even if you read something that tells you that you MUST feed your baby on a diet that includes meat and oily fish but you want to raise them on a gluten-free and vegan diet, just read how to do that in the right way to make sure that your baby gets all of the nutrients he or she needs and you’ll be fine.

They must think we are stupid!

“Hello,
Message important for you!¬†You have a tax refund of ¬£ 241,76 GBP still pending!¬†We have been unable to credit the funds on your account.”

Their email address showed as:HM Revenue & Customs <payment@germany-carsale24.com>

Honestly! ¬†Even if the email address¬†hadn’t been visible, the dodgy English in the subject field would have made it an obvious scam: “Enquiry from HMRC urgent for you! You have a tax refund of ¬£ 241,76 GBP still pending!”.

Reported to HMRC.

07527915436

“Am I speaking to Mrs PinQ?”

“Ye—s”

“Hello Mrs PinQ. ¬†I am Dave [MYAR5E] from Credit _______”

I didn’t catch the name of the ‘company’.

“It is my understanding that you have personal debt that you pay off monthly.”

“I must stop you there. ¬†This number is TPS registered.”

“But your number was given to us by Citizens Advice and the Financial Conduct Authority with regard to your debt.”

“I don’t think so. ¬†Even if Citizens Advice did have my details due to a problem with debt, they would not contravene the DPA ’98.”

“Well, what I don’t understand is if you can’t amanage your debt, why you have TPS.”

He then hung up.

I have reported the call to the TPS, Action Fraud, Citizens Advice and the FCA.  Mainly because of the people that would be suckered by these scammers Рespecially when they are bandying about organisations such as Citizens Advice and the FAC.