Life when I wrote my last update feels like a world away now. I have just read it back to myself and the focus was all about preparing for returning work and the party for the Big 4. Yet those events have now happened and we are in the throws of adjusting to our new normal. I’ll be honest, I’m still coming to terms with the fact my Maternity Leave has ended. I’ve definitely got a huge wave of nostalgia going out right now. I’ve been back at work for 4 days now (over 3 weeks…don’t ask) and a number of colleagues have just left for, or are about to start, their maternity leave. It serves as a constant reminder that I’m done with mine and that I’ve clearly not processed the change yet. I suspect it will take some time! And I miss not being with my littlest girl during the day. That might sound like I’m being neglectful to Little H but she’s long since been happy and settled at nursery – I’ve adjusted to being apart from her for those 3 days each week. But that time away from Little Z still feels a bit alien even after 3 weeks of nursery.
On the subject of nursery though, she’s done incredibly well so far. For her first two weeks she ate, slept (not as much as at home but we’ll by nursery standards), played and didn’t really cry. It’s been an astonishingly good settle. So much so that the realist in me is waiting for the balance to tip back the other way. I don’t believe it will be that easy. This week has definitely proven a little more challenging as she was unwell over last weekend with a stomach bug. Coupled with heavy teething and resulting poor sleep, she’s not been on her top form and I felt a real wrench sending her to nursery on Tuesday even though there was no significant reason not to. Getting used to sending your child to nursery when they aren’t 100% takes a long time. Fortunately she has been okay and, whilst a little more emotional and lacking in her trademark curiosity, did play, sleep, eat and not too much time crying. I’ll be glad to have her at home for a few days though…assuming she doesn’t resist napping like last Monday!
Little H has been a superstar with her sister though. In the lead up to nursery settles, every time we talked about nursery Little H would be full of excitement about her sister going too. According to Sam she chats away to her on the drive and as they go in. And on her second day when Little Z needed to have a nappy change immediately after arriving and got a bit grizzly, Little H and 3 of her friends rallied round the change table to lend Little Z moral support by all accounts! It’s made me realise the overarching positive impact I think Little H has had on this settle at nursery. Little Z has been going to collect her sister almost her entire life. During that time, she only had happy experiences at the nursery because Little H loves her days there with her friends. Whilst no doubt Little Z will have her struggles with going there at times, seeing her sister (and friends) so happy, and being constantly greeted by the staff who always cooed over her can only built a positive association in her mind, I’m in no doubt of that.
For me, returning to work has been a bit of a rollercoaster. In some ways it feels so familiar – the first day I was back, the office felt really familiar and many of my friends and colleagues came over to say hello and welcome me back. But once I delved into the ‘content’ of my job, I started to see the gaping gaps in my knowledge of what’s going on now. Whilst the handover I got from our departing contractor was excellent, it was a lot to take on and intense because I only had 4 days. I ended up doing 4 days over 3 weeks and I was grateful for the gradual return as my brain needed time to process everything. Next week is a full 3 days but handover free so at least I have some power over my own time. It’s going to definitely take some time adjust to this too!
Aside from these changes, life has been fun as always. As the weather is improving, we’ve been enjoying our walks a little more and getting out for fresh air and look at the flowers and nature. We’ve also continued to do some baking or making when Little H wasn’t at nursery. We’ve become big fans of a vegan banana bread that Mamalina shared over her blog. It’s a great one not least because it only contains natural sugars and I don’t feel too guilty for letting Little Z have a bit too. Perhaps we’ll make some of that tomorrow…
But of course the biggest events of the last couple of months have been Little H’s 4th birthday and the long-awaited 4th birthday bash. As we came into the New Year, the hall was booked and most RSVPs were in but I had everything else to sort out. Party bags were a big one as I was trying to go as plastic-free as possible. In the end we gave: a Disney story book, a small coloured pencil which looked like a twig, one of a yo-yo / jitter bug / spinning top and then a couple of ‘treats’. I’d hope to make some biscuits but I realised (with Sam’s gentle questioning) that I didn’t have the time to do that alongside the cake. So in the end I had to resort to some pre-packed snacks.
The cake was the pièce de résistance though. I decided close to the time that I was going to make Little H a ‘The Incredibles’ themed birthday cake. The logo for the second film had a II in it which was prime for turning into a H. Also, I thought she would love an Incredibles suit costume so I got her one for her birthday which she wore for her party. She loved the costume and she loved the cake. The latter took so much effort but it was completely worth it to see her reaction. It also got demolished at the party and everyone said they really enjoyed it! The whole birthday period, especially the party went incredibly well. I was very relieved once we left the village hall after the event though – it was exhausting work!
The other big change at home has been the implementation of ‘The Chore List’. I’m a very organised person and used to be really on top of the cleaning. But I would very much do and all-or-nothing approach which didn’t mesh with kids as it took too much time. It also made the cleaning rather daunting. So instead, I broke down the mandatory chores into small chunks which take on average 15 minutes or less each. I then split them across two weeks.
One tip I have taken on board recently is from the book ‘Live Green‘ by Jen Chillingsworth. She pointed out that there is no point on expending regular energy on a room that isn’t heavily used. Good point! So I added a weekly ‘ad hoc’ tasks and cleaning spare room for example is covered on that as-and-when it needs it. I have been making a real effort to do 1 or 2 of the chores on the days when I am at home with the girls. Little Z is usually napping but Little H gets to see the effort that goes into keeping the house clean. She also now has her own ‘chore’ which is helping to put on the washing. It’s lovely to see her take some ownership of a task and she always enjoys to help. Four weeks in and it’s going well. We’ve only had to roll-over a couple of tasks through the entire time. I sense it will be harder work once I am back in the office my full 3 days, but if we slip sometimes, we slip. The key thing will getting straight ‘back on the wagon’ even if we have a blip.
One activity which has kept me sane during the recent changes has been having some child-free time to get out into the garden. I have spent many months musing over the changes I wanted to make out in the back and I was chomping at the bit to get going. I have cut back a couple of shrubs hard and the garden already feels bigger. There is a nasty spikey pyracantha that needs cutting out though – I need to in laws to bring the electric saw and gaunlets round for that though! I’m most excited about my vegetable growing this year though. I finally got my vegetable planters assembled after I bought them with some Christmas money from Dad. The planned crop is: potatoes (Maris Piper), onions, leeks, tomatoes (obvs!), courgettes and cucumbers. I have also got a kit for Little H to grow strawberries.
So hopefully it won’t be so long until my next update and by then we’ll have settled into the work / nursery routine more comfortably. Also, it might make the update a little shorter! At some point in the next month or so I’d like to get back into a more active fitness routine – my last mention was far too ambitious. But for now I’ll be happy to focus on keeping my general health and energy levels steady as I adjust back to being at work! Plus, walking up the tube escalators and the 7 floors of stairs to and from the work dining room count as a workout in my view. Haha!