Whenever I start writing my end of year summary, I always take a minute to read back over previous years. It is crazy to think that this time last year we were just building up to the arrival of our youngest family member. Fast forward 12 months and she is very much here, present and part of our family. I can obviously remember life before her but I can’t remember what it feels like. The last 12 months have been exhausting, hectic, hard work and yet utterly, utterly wonderful. Sam and I have both survived our first 9 months of parenting two without too much bickering. Little H has grown-up so much and has fully embraced the role of big sister; whilst she’s also challenged us this year, she’s also been amazing and we’re as proud of her as ever. Little Z, well she is our shining little star; almost always happy and continually exploring. I can’t wait for more adventures next year but for now I’m going to look back at 2018:
‘Best of the Year’ awards
Song of the Year
I have a number of songs which remind me of my girls at different stages in their lives. This song will always and forever remind me of my last month of pregnancy with Little Z. I was off work and enjoying the tune on repeat at home as she squirmed around inside. It felt like our first secret little connection.
Film of the Year
Until a week before the end of the year, Bad Moms was my winner here. (See ‘When the Control Freak lost control‘ for my favourite scene.) But on Christmas Day, we gave Little H the Pixar film ‘Coco’ and it immediately jumped to the top spot. I love it. It’s such a wonderfully cute and warm tale and take on death. It also has some awesome Latin music. The skeletons do put people off but seriously, it must be watched!
Another festive season over, January was a quiet month for us. Little H had a birthday party and Sam did some cycling without injuring himself like the previous January. He also did his training to become a qualified marshall for British Cycling. Personally, I had midwife visits as Baby Watling moved closer and closer to it’s due date. I was getting bigger and more fatigued but my hip held out which was a definite win. I was also on the wind down for work which felt strange.
By far the biggest event of the month though was my baby girl turning the Big Three. Every year I am shocked she’s yet another year older and another year bigger. This year she wanted a big bike and we got her a lovely sunflower one. Writing this from December I can confirm she hasn’t really used it because it was “too hard”. She really wanted a party but I couldn’t brave organising an official one like some of her friends. But a few of her NCT pals came over on her birthday and we also celebrated with Sam’s family so she got two parties as far as she was concerned!
Favourite personal blog post: Maternity Leave – take 2
Literally the day the month started and I finished work. I was so pleased with my decision to stop at 35 weeks again like with Little H. I was tired and those 3 days a week when Little H was at nursery were an incredibly luxury. I enjoyed pottering about and getting things ready for the baby. I washed and folded clothes, packing the hospital bags and prepared meals for the freezer. I also enjoyed those last few days of just Little H and together. I enjoyed our fortnightly Friday walks down to the midwife. As the weeks went on she got confident walking to the midwife and always told us what the next check was!
Favourite personal blog post: What Little H did – 3.0 years
March, the month that everything changed. Because Baby Watling became Little Z. She kept us waiting until a few days after her due date but she arrived as well as I could have possibly hoped. Sam was off for three weeks after the birth and it was delightful having that quiet time to start working on our new family dynamics. Little Z slotted in wonderfully and Little H was a doting big sister. We took each day as it came and enjoyed just ‘being’ for a while. Which is a major accomplishment for Sam and I!
Favourite personal blog post: Going from three to four!
Our second month with Little Z was a real mixed bag. At the start of the month Sam went back to work. So the work really started taking care of the two smalls alone. It wasn’t as tricky as I though although doing things like going to the bathroom and cooking were trickier as I didn’t dare leave Little Z completely alone with Little H; she was super with her sister still but she was still 3! The soft carrier we bought back when Little H was small proved really uncomfortable. So I quickly invested in a proper sling and it was genuinely a game changer. Little Z could have all her naps snuggled on mummy still, but leaving me hands-free to cook, tidy, play with Little H and drink tea!
We also enjoyed our first family birthday today by taking Sam to the zoo for the day. For the first time Little H took complete control of the outing and decided where we were going. Little Z slept the whole time.
Unfortunately the month ended on a slight low when Little Z got a temperature. After checking through the day, at bedtime I finally decided that it was too high and we called 111. After a trip to see the Out of Hours GP, we then had to go to the Children’s Ambulatory Unit (CAU) where Little Z was admitted, given antibiotics and a number of other procedures to try and work out what was wrong with her. We were fortunately allowed to go home the following evening but had to go back the following three evenings for antibiotics until they finally discharged her. It was incredibly stressful but a relief that she quickly recovered.
Favourite personal blog post: The arrival of Little Z
Things started to feel more ‘normal’ again in May. I felt that the Littles and I had found a groove. I started back at Pilates, joining a Tuesday morning postnatal class where I could take Little Z. It was wonderful being active once more, even though my body felt wobbly and creaky. Towards the end of the month, I also signed Little H up for a Disco Duck class to give us something to focus on on Friday mornings. She really enjoyed it and Little Z would watch from the sling! Little Z also had her first round of immunisations which we she took in her stride as she did everything else!
Favourite personal blog post: Feeling lucky and Why I’ll always be little jealous of pregnant women
Birthday month for me and it was wonderful having my birthday as a Ma of two wonderful girls. Unfortunately on my actual birthday I felt a bit low (although I treated myself to sushi!) but Little Z and I went out on some adventures the following couple of days to make up for it and perk-up the mood. Although a couple of days after my birthday, I did start the day with an event causing some distress in our household – pre-school immunisations! Little H was incredibly brave though and got to have one of my birthday chocolates as a treat as promised.
Sam had a week off at the end of June whilst Little H was at nursery. We pottered about and didn’t do much. Although on the second morning, he drilled through a central heating pipe whilst trying to put up a shelf. This resulted in some stress trying to get a plumber to repair the pipe. Then we had to deal with the wall repair; our awesome decorator friend Paul popped in one Sunday and re-built the wall so that now it’s almost impossible to see. Aside from that drama, we had a lovely week, including going out for lunch!
Sam took Little H to see ‘Gruffalo’s Child’ at the theatre in Hertford at the end of the month. Little Z and I went for a walk and then stopped for a drink. It was a scorching though so they both found it quite tiring as the theatre wasn’t well air conditioned.
Favourite personal blog post: My new love of ‘babywearing’
July was hot – crazy hot. Many nights we’d put the girls to bed and it would be over 30 degrees in our room (where Little Z was sleeping) and Little H’s. One night it even topped 35! It was tricky getting them both to sleep comfortably but they both had a fan on them for most of the night (which meant I did too). It also wasn’t the best time for Little Z to have her final set of jabs; this was a tough set and she took quite some time to settle back down afterwards.
I also had an hour ‘off’ for a postnatal massage – a delayed birthday gift from Sam. It was at a physio in Hertford with a focus on helping my body heal rather than simply on relaxation. It was amazing and really helped unlock some sore and stiff parts of my body that hadn’t been given any attention since early pregnancy.
We also popped over to Sam’s office so folks could meet Little Z and have lunch with one of our old friends. Then at the end of the month we went over to Sam’s sisters house for a BBQ. Fortunately the weather was a bit cooler that day but it was bizarrely windy!
Favourite personal blog post: What Little H did – 3.5 years
The heat continued into August and by the middle of the month, that compounded with mothering two small children was starting to hit hard. I was pretty worn out with a sort of unrelenting fatigue. Little Z had hit her four-month development leap and started waking a lot more regularly and never settled back down. But however weary I felt we still carried on with life. Weaning Little Z continued at pace – she is a true Watling and a food lover! We caught up with various friends (Lou & kids, the Meads and a couple of my new-mum Pilates pals and babies) and we tried to get outside when we could! Sam also took Little H to a Disco Ducks and Runaround Rascals summer party one Saturday morning giving me a little extra break whilst Little Z napped! I also started a new blog post series – What we’ve been doing lately – because I wanted to get my blog back to its original purpose of just documenting the day-to-day rather than only specific events.
We also took Little Z on her first overnight road trip up to see my dad. We drove up on Friday morning with a stop for lunch. Then on Saturday my dad had invited a couple of my aunties and one of my uncles (I have a lot!) over for lunch. It was really lovely to see them and for them to catch-up with Little H and meet Little Z. My aunty Karen came with us for a walk to the village park which is fantastic compared to when I was a kid. Little H had a good play. She was zonked that night! Then on Sunday we snuck in a family pub lunch before heading home.
Favourite personal blog post: What we’ve been doing lately #1
The heat continued into September and the first week of the month was made even more challenging when Sam went on a 3 night residential training course. It was the first time I had to look after the two girls alone for so long and it was tiring. But I survived and was able to watch some of my own TV choices for a couple of nights! Our usual weekly activities also started up again after the summer holiday break – Music Train and Disco Ducks.
By far the most significant event of the month though was our family holiday to Norfolk. Sam had two entire weeks off and we spent the first one pottering around at home, doing small tasks and getting a bit of a rest on the days Little H was at nursery. Then on Friday at the end of the first week, we headed to the north coast of Norfolk to a village called Weybourne where we stayed in an awesome little cottage for a week. I dedicated an entire post to the subject; we had such a wonderful week!
Favourite personal blog post: Your face
As we moved into October, the hot weather of the summer seemed an age away as it got cooler and damper! We tried to get out walking as much as possible though to enjoy the fresh air and the autumn colours. Back in the house, Little Z moved into her own room. After getting back from our holiday, I left the side-up on the crib to start preparing us both and after a few days of successfully putting her into her bedroom for naps, it felt like it was time to move her. Whilst I missed her being there, it didn’t feel such a wrench as it had with Little H. Perhaps because she had been with me longer and I had also spent a bit more time mentally preparing for it. It was definitely the right time and she slept a little more soundly whilst I enjoyed my bedside table once more!
We headed north one weekend to the wedding of one of my oldest friends, Jenny, to her long-term partner Steve. It was a lovely weekend (despite two pretty horrific journeys) and we also got to catch-up with another of my oldest friends, Helen, and her family who we rarely see as they live in Wales!
After several successful holiday pool sessions, Little H started swimming lessons on Saturdays. She enjoyed them straight away and as we reached the close of the year, she had just earnt her first certificate! The ‘birthday season’ also kicked-off amongst her friends with the first of the 4th birthday parties. We finally took the decision to get the conservatory re-done – something we’d been mulling over since the summer months. So, the company we selected came along to measure-up. Then on a blog front, I finally took the plunge and purchased a theme to refresh my look and give me the flexibility I wanted but couldn’t manage with my self-built theme anymore! Now able to focus more on content, I started a new site category on ‘Sustainable Life‘ to follow the changes I’m trying to make our home and lives more eco-friendly and waste-free.
Favourite personal blog post: Four go to Norfolk
We realised that we hadn’t been out on a proper day trip for ages so we took advantage of a Saturday off swimming and headed over to Whipsnade. We’d had an expensive week paying for a whole new set of tyres for the Peugeot, so Little H and I got our aprons on and made a nice picnic. Unfortunately it was incredibly windy so not the nicest experience when we found the indoor picnic area was full!
The following weekend we headed to Surrey to meet our friends Brad and Carly for a day-out at RHS Wisley. We love it there and Little H enjoyed running about and climbing the rock garden; until the heavens opened and it chucked it down. We had to seek shelter in the cafe with cake and then make a dash to the car to head home!
Back at home, we had a few family visits. Swimming continued as usual. Sam and I celebrated out EIGHTH wedding anniversay (where did that time go?!) with a lovely family meal. And Sam b*ggered off away for 4 days again to a work conference in Mallorca. It went fairly smoothly until the last bedtime when it all just went a bit wrong. (Check out What we’ve been doing lately #5 if you’re interested!). We also went to our first school viewing and, the biggest news, got out new conservatory. Which is AWESOME!
Favourite personal blog post: Little Z and the cloth bum conversion
Then suddenly we were in December and thoughts had to turn to Christmas preparations. We took Little H to meet the big FC at John Lewis. I think she was a little nervous but she did sit and talk to him unlike last year. Sam also took Little H to the cinema to watch the CBeebies Christmas panto, Thumbelina, which she enjoyed but in her words found “a bit long” because of the preamble. She watched it again several times afterwards in iPlayer!
Christmas itself was a wonderfully ‘quiet’ affair (as much as is possible with two children under 4!). It was just the four of us together and we had a quiet start to the morning with Little H opening her stocking from Father Christmas – he brought her an apron with her name on it. Then we had breakfast before opening other presents. Little H’s main present was a scooter, but her favourite by far was ‘The Incredibles 2’ on Bluray because, again in her words, she’d been “waiting ages for that”. It was watched before Christmas lunch and again on Boxing Day morning!
For lunch we avoided the usual turkey as Sam isn’t a massive fan and I don’t eat it. So he had steak and the girls and I had salmon. Then we went for a walk / scoot to get some fresh air before Little Z needed her afternoon nap. Boxing Day followed a similar pattern so when Little H went to nursery as normal on 27th, Sam and I relished having a little bit of quiet and rest from children’s demands whilst Little Z slept. We needed it as 4 days of family and friend gatherings to take us through to the end of the year. A wonderful way to bid 2018 farewell!
I have loved this last year. Those early couple of months where I genuinely enjoyed the end of my pregnancy and my alone time with Little H before her sister arrived. The birth of Little Z – a weird thing to have loved but I did. It vanquished my demons from Little H’s birth; left me feeling empowered and in awe of my own mind and body. Then relishing watching our family learn how to become a four and enjoy Little Z growing and changing. I haven’t wished away any moments of this year, determined to savour these precious days with my girls so young. There is nothing about this year I would change and I only hope 2019 proves to be as good!
Happy New Year everyone!
Favourite personal blog post: Nine months in. Nine months out.