As 2011 reached it’s end, I decided to write an end of year post which reflected back on the highs and lows of the last 12 months. Since then, it has become a personal tradition to write and publish my “That was the year that was” post on 31 December every year. More than anything, this post is a personal opportunity to look back as a year a draws to a close. 2016 has been another life changing year with my Maternity Leave reaching it’s an end, seeing me become a working mum. Little H has changed beyond belief in the last 12 months and is rapidly approaching the big 2. It’s been a whirlwind of a year but a fantastic one.
Thank-you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on my blog. I have loved hearing your thoughts and feedback on what I’ve written. I am extremely grateful that you all spare your valuable time to stop by. I have also enjoyed reading all of the wonderful posts you have written this year! I can’t wait for some more fantastic reads throughout 2017. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!
But 2016 isn’t over until it’s over. So let’s dive right in…
‘Best of the Year’ awards
Song of the Year
‘This is what you came for’ by Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna. I love this song. Little H loves this song. There is something about the intro I really enjoy. And when it comes on to the radio, I ask Little H who it is and she replies “It’s An-nana!”. So cute
Film of the Year
Without a doubt, Rogue One! Sam and I went to see it just before Christmas whilst Little H was at nursery. I was completely absorbed throughout the entire film. I can’t wait until it comes out on BluRay!
Somehow my entire of year of Maternity Leave came to an end at the start of this new year. As we entered the first working week of 2016, Little H started nursery full time. I’ll be honest, I was a bit lost without her for the first few days and kept myself busy doing household tasks. The second week was a little easier but the anxiety of my return to work set in. It was a relief in a way to get back to the office on 18 January, 13 months to the date since leaving. It was a shock to the system though and I found a lot of comfort in getting back to my ‘mum normal’ on Fridays and Mondays!
But the biggest event of the month was my Little H turning 1! It was astonishing to think she’d been with us for so long and yet it also felt like she’d always been with us. We had a joint birthday party mid-Jan with our NCT group which was wonderful fun. Then for Little H’s actual birthday we were just at home; Sam had to go to work but surprised us by coming home at lunch time which was lovely!
Favourite personal blog post (or in this case a twin pair of posts): Top 5 reasons why going back to work is great and Top 5 reasons why I am anxious about going back to work
I settled back into my work routine and went through a mix of highs and lows. Whilst in SAHM life, the reality of my baby transitioning to a toddler was starting to hit home – Little H was becoming very hard work! Whilst sleep deprivation in those early baby days is a killer, I was completely ignorant of the running around that is needed for children who are ‘on the go’!
February is also a slightly uninspiring month weather wise, so our weekends were filled mainly with chilling out or visiting friends. The in-laws also came to stay for a few days because Grandad Watling had kindly agreed to build-out the inside of our wardrobe. After 3 days of graft, including some help from Sam, we had an awesome new 2-tiered wardrobe space which fits all our clothes!
Favourite personal blog post: The untimely demise of the baby monitor
I love March because it is usually when the first signs of spring start to appear. This is when I try to get out into the garden and start getting it ready for the new season ahead. It felt really strange this year because our garden didn’t feel like my garden. We’d only moved in towards the end of autumn so I hadn’t done anything to it. In our old house the garden had really matured and I was missing that. So I just got out there and started making our new garden how I wanted it to be. I knew it would take some effort but it felt good to start.
Sam and I also took a day off at the end of March. Little H was at nursery so we went into London to see the ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ exhibition at the National History museum. It felt really strange for us to both be out together without our little sidekick. But it was nice to do what we wanted without worrying about buggies, changing facilities or nap times!
Favourite personal blog post: Why I kinda like the night wake-ups
Little H finally started walking properly this month. She’d been cruising around or walking holding our hand since her birthday. But she’s never had the confidence to let go. Then suddenly, one afternoon after nursery, she struck out on her own! From there she never looked back!
We had our upstairs windows replaced this month, The double glazing previously fitted was really old. It’s wonderful have new windows which are really well installed. We also got the front door replaced; the old white one has been replaced by an awesome little black number. We decided not to get a letter box so also installed a brilliant little post box on the wall outside!
Favourite personal blog post: Things to consider if you work with a part-timer
I can’t really say why, but in my memory it felt like we really hit our stride in May. I had been back at work for over 3 months and Little H was without a doubt settled at nursery. I found myself blogging more regularly and after musing on it for months I decided to rebrand my blog. So after a few hours of work, ‘angelajwatling’ became ‘Life, Motherhood and Everything’. I also introduced a couple of monthly features: Five Favourite Finds and My Top 10 Online Reads.
Little H seemed to make another developmental step change! She stopped taking a bottle and that seemed to be a trigger for a burst of independent behaviour. It was a bit of a shock to behold really as I felt my baby was finally gone; but in place of a baby I had a glorious little toddler and that was exciting.
At the end of the month, we took H on her first holiday abroad. Sam and I, along with my sister, had arranged a holiday for us all to take my Dad to Lisbon. So we all backed our bags / stroller / travel cot and headed off to Luton airport. The flight went reasonably well, although the overall journey was long and tiring for us and Little H. That first night, my poor little one came down with a fever and from there she was unwell for the entire trip. I wrote a blog post about the experience so I shan’t recount it again. Safe to say it wasn’t the holiday we’d hoped for. I did get to try and single Portuguese Pastel de Nata though!
Favourite personal blog post: Is it true – am I actually a Mum?
After the stresses of Lisbon, Sam and I had the rest of the following week off work to rest and recover; Little H was fortunately well enough to go back to nursery and start getting active again. Her ‘conversion’ to full-blown toddler continued this month though as she tested more boundaries. I was actually relieved to get back into our normal routine and get back to work. We did use some of the time we were off work to refresh Little H’s bedroom though; We took the sofa bed out (previously I’d used it for feeding) and added her some little shelves and a reading area. She loved it instantly and still does!
My birthday is in June and I was looking forward to spending the day with Little H and Sam. However, I naively got my hopes up and the reality was quite stressful! It was a very real demonstration about how little it takes to throw a toddler’s mood. And how easily a toddler can turn a happy day into one of anxiety and stress. Lesson learnt! My sister took me to see ‘Aladdin’ on stage at the end of the month though, as my birthday present. That made up for it and it was great to have a day out!
I hit a bit of a low in June because I hadn’t found the time to do anything with the garden. This year has really highlighted how important it is for me to have a beautiful and full garden. So Little H and I took a trip to B&Q to stock-up on some beautiful blooms. They gave the garden a kickstart that it needed and inspired me to get out there more regularly.
Favourite personal blog post: How do you stop over-using the ‘N’ word?
We had such a great month! Not only was the weather aweseome but we also had a really fun long weekend in Center Parcs with Sam’s parents. H enjoyed the pool, the beach and a baby owl experience. Oh and she knocked back a lot of my pancakes!
We also had a wonderful weekend visit from one of my oldest friends, Helen, and her daughter (who I’ll refer to as Little I). Little I is 18 months older than Little H so Little H was obsessed with following her around and copying her! It was fascinating watching my normally dominant daughter being submissive to an older child.
We ended the month with a fun NCT picnic in the local park. It was so much fun watching all 6 of the little ones running around. One of the mums brought a bubble machine with her and they went crazy for it!
Life, Motherhood and Everything also got it’s third regular feature. After realising I was quickly forgetting how H developed and behaved each month. So I started tracking her development in a now monthly post ‘What Little H did‘ feature (originally named ‘What Mini H did’ but then she got so big so quickly!).
Favourite personal blog post: My experience keeping a Gratitude Journal
August was another great month weather wise. So we didn’t really do anything ‘big’ because we were just outside enjoying the sunshine whenever we weren’t at work. We did some more work out in the garden though; the biggest thing being getting our new fountain. Sam set it all up himself and Little H was obsessed with it!
We also took Little H to a local trampoline park for the first time on the Bank Holiday weekend. She thought it was amazing fun. I’d never seen her run around so much and she enjoyed being able to fall / throw herself over without risk of hurting herself!
Back on the blog, I started doing the ‘30 Days Blogging Challenge‘. It has proved really good fun to have some set themes and topics to blog about. I didn’t tackle them in just 30 days though and even at the end of the year I’m not half way through. So keep watching through 2017!
Favourite personal blog post: Look how far we’ve come…
At the end of August, Sam and I started our two week holiday until the middle of September. It was AWESOME! We spent the time in our favourite place…at home. You can read about the whole thing in my blog post, but the highlights included some nice meals out, a trip to the zoo and some wonderful garden enhancements!
I also used my Bullet Journal for its first full month. For something so simple and obvious, I’m surprised I had never done something similar myself. But I finally feel like I have found a journalling solution which really works for me! I would absolutely recommend it as an approach.
I also had a fun day out in London with my oldest friends Carol, Helen and Jenny. We went to Buckingham Palace (including a visit to the not-that-cheap garden cafe), ate amazing food for lunch and dinner and explored the shops! It was the very first time that I missed putting Little H to bed and I was a bit anxious about not being there; but true to form she was a little delight for her daddy and went straight to sleep!
September also saw the launch of my new Instagram account. I’ve never got into Instagram before but after some gentle encouragement from my sister I decided to give it another go. I now actually really enjoy it and use it more regularly than Twitter. You can see my latest pictures in the side menu!
Favourite personal blog post: 30 Days Blogging – Day 7: My plans, dreams and goals
After the wonderful time we had in September, October decided to bring back the balance. I think it would be fair to say it was a “challenging” month. Sam went on an overseas conference and I was all prepared to look after Little H solo whilst also working. Life had different plans and my poor lovely was struck down with tonsilitis; what was worse is that I only discovered this after she had a febrile convulsion and I had to take her to A&E. I shan’t relive the whole thing because I’ve done that, but needless to say it was not fun! I got so many kind and supportive messages from the blogging community though; it really emphasised how wonderful it can be to get out there and share your writing!
One success of the month though was we got Little H to kick her dummy habit for naps and bedtime. Whoop! She was mangling her dummies and I was worried that she would swallow some plastic. So she sort of forced my hand. It actually went quite smoothly!
We also had a lovely weekend visit from my friend Jenny and her partner Steve. And we finally made it up to Dad’s after far too long (bad daughter award to me) and enjoyed a weekend with him. My blog also saw the arrival of it’s fourth monthly feature post: Meal of the Month.
Favourite personal blog post: I really love being a mummy
After the escapades of November I was quite pleased to move into a new month. It was quite a quiet one overall which I definitely appreciated. On the first weekend we had a overnight visit from Nana and Grandad Watling which Little H enjoyed. Then the following week Sam went on the second of his international work trips leaving me in single parent mode. Fortunately this time there were no sudden medical dramas and I managed to have a day-off work completely to myself; I kick started it with a long and leisurely breakfast out and then had a day of pottering!
Little H continued to develop so fast which was both fun yet alarming. She’ll be off to school next year at this rate… To try and keep her amused, I ventured into the world of ‘Messy Play’ and made her some play dough. It went down pretty well!
Sam and I also celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary. Yep, 6 whole years! We enjoyed a meal at Brasserie Blanc in St Albans. It’s one of our fave ‘fancy’ restaurants for when we have a toddler-free day!
Favourite personal blog post: Do you look after your pelvic floor?
And so we reach the final part of the year. I always find Christmas a bit of a mixed time emotionally but it felt more exciting this year because Little H loved all of the lights appearing. I took part in ‘The Christmas Tag’ feature doing the rounds in the blogging community so check out what Christmas is like over in the ‘Life, Motherhood and Everything’ household!
We actually had three Christmas celebrations. The first was on Saturday 17 Dec when my Dad and Sis were over for the Cook family Christmas. I made a big roast and H enjoy seeing her Auntie and her Grandad. She got some new books and a few other little toys. After all the food and excitement on H’s part, we were very grateful for a sit with a film whilst she napped.
The second Christmas was on Christmas Day itself with just the three of us. Whilst it feels a little quiet in some respects, I actually really enjoy it. It’s one day where we don’t focus on any chores or admin and we just enjoy our time together. Little H was obsessed with opening presents – even more so that I thought she would be at almost-two. She’ll be a terror next year I think! We had a fab lunch and a couple of leisurely walks. It was a really relaxing day.
Our final Christmas celebration was on 27 December with the Watling clan. With 7 adults and a toddler, it was a rowdy and tiring day but it was lots of fun. Little H got some fantastic presents to add to her haul this year. The standout winner was her Happy Land London Bus. She spent a lot of time pushing that around the lounge and dining room whilst making it go beep! I made a huge Spanish-themed lunch including paella, tortilla and manchego. It all got gobbled up!
Little H continued to go to nursery for a few days over the Christmas period which gave Sam and I some time to ourselves. We went to the cinema to see ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Passengers’. We also had a couple of nice lunches out and enjoyed some time on our laptop! We’ve both been hit by the typical end of year tiredness so the rest was well appreciated.
Favourite personal blog post: The reality of being a working mum – 10 months in
I have loved 2016. It’s been challenging in so many ways but in complete contrast to 2015 where it was all about being a full time Mum. This year has been about learning to balance, compromise and prioritise. I feel like I have really grown into being a mum and that Little H is really becoming her own little person. I am so excited to see how 2017 goes down!