How l learnt to spend money.

I have known my husband for nine years. We have been acquaintances, friends, best friends, flatmates, boyfriend/girlfriend, exes, and, for better and worse, are now married and parents. Our relationship has taught me a lot: a dinner of sweets is not considered a healthy diet; how to cook an omelette with success; the joys of Biffy Clyro; that Pirate Metal is possibly the worst type of music; a love of ale and roast lamb; that bread knives should not be used for anything but bread; the relative merits of a Playstation versus an X-Box; how to lose without throwing a tantrum. Okay, l am still learning that last one.

A bigger lesson l have learnt, however, is how to spend money. Our differing attitudes to finances were clear when we first went grocery shopping together. I headed straight for the bargain bin (my Dad used to buy most of our food from this ‘almost out of date’ shelf – hence a lot of ‘Supper Surprise’) whilst The Husband would be in the ‘Organic Best’ section. This divide was echoed in most things – l would buy a bargain pair of hiking boots while he would spend enormous (to me) amounts of money on a high end pair. But then l would end up with wet feet and blisters whilst his feet were toasty warm and pain free. It has taken a few years, and l still struggle with ‘spend guilt’ but l now understand the wisdom of investing in “good kit” as my stepfather calls it.

Nowhere is this more clear than on my dressing table. A couple of weeks after giving birth, when The Husband had gone back to work and my Mum had returned back to the UK, l was desperate to get out of the house. I popped The Boy into the sling and hopped in a taxi to the nearest shopping mall. Whilst wandering around, bleary eyed, l was asked by one of the make-up assistants if l wanted a make-over. Well, milk-stained, rumpled, sleepless wreck that l was, l just plonked myself on the stool and let her do her worst. After about 20 minutes she showed me my reflection. I had expected to see some hideously over-made up face resembling a drag queen. Instead l looked human again. Like a much improved version of my current self. Well, that had me sold. My credit card was handed over and l have never looked back.

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The contents of my make-up bag.

Nine months on, wearing make-up on a daily basis, the only thing l have had to re-buy is the mascara. It seems that investing once and investing wisely is the way forward. And while l may never be frivolous with money, l have certainly learnt how to spend a little more.

A Life Less Lived

Like a lot of teachers l tend to mark my life in the number of weeks before the next break. 6 weeks to go before Christmas. 2 weeks to go before half term. 4 weeks to go before the end of the year. It is the same with a child – always looking for the next development, the next tooth, the crawling, the walking. Before you know it a year has passed.

But yesterday l was brought up short, quite literally.

I was listening to a Women’s Hour podcast from Radio 4 as l ran last night. It was an interview with a lady whose daughter had passed away from colon cancer on Christmas Day. aged only 36 and leaving behind twin 5 year old boys and a husband. The story was so poignant that l had to walk as l wiped away the tears. I couldn’t ever imagine leaving my family behind, not seeing The Boy grow up. The thought of it makes my stomach twist.

Later, when l returned from my run, l had a phone-call with my Dad. My stepmother was diagnosed with stomach cancer and ovarian cancer in December, and is supposed to be mid-way through chemotherapy. I was expecting to hear how the last session went, but instead the phrase “palliative care until the end of her life” echoed through the room.

As l sank into a whirlwind of negative “What If” thoughts, berating myself for wishing my life away and not mentally recording each day for posterity, l was reminded of something someone said at my Granny’s funeral: Life is for Living. I realised, then, that the reason l count the days and weeks is because those are the times l spend making memories with the people l love the most, because l get excited about new adventures, because every day is full of new experiences and l look forward to that.

I just hope these is never a time when someone tells me that the days l count are numbered.

Have Baby, Will Travel (Part 2).

Given that this blog has been silent for the past month, you may be forgiven for assuming that we were indeed hoisted off our plane somewhere in the Middle East and forced to find our way home on camels. Thankfully, this did not happen, and we have had a lovely month of friends, families, food and festivities. Sadly, this all has come to an end and we are back into the normal routine with a teething baby, workloads piling ever higher, and bank balances that are woefully low. It does mean, however, that l can return to the land of blogging, and update you on our plane adventures with The Boy.2015/01/img_5975.jpg

These are the basics of our journeys:

Flight One
Departure time: 13.30 (local). Arrival time: 20.00 (local). Flight Duration: 14 hours.
Baby slept: 4 broken hours. I slept: 2 broken hours.

Flight Two
Departure time: 22.30 (local). Arrival time: 16.30 (local). Flight Duration: 10.5 hours.
Baby slept: 8 solid hours. I slept: 7 solid (ish) hours.

These are the things that l have discovered (and can l say here, many thanks for all the advice l was given – we were certainly more prepared than we would have been).

1.) The Boy LOVES travel.
 He seriously loves it, spending most of our time in transit staring at/ yelping at/ waving at/ dribbling at/ smiling at anyone who looked in his direction, and many who did not. Apologies to the man in Starbucks who was clearly trying to enjoy a pre-flight coffee in peace; to the couple sat behind us on the plane who had to stare at a his face poking through the gap in the seats; to the flight staff who had to keep stopping and playing with him even in the middle of the meal service (and thanks for the toy, by the way); to the airline counter staff who put up with him attempting to eat our tickets/baggage labels and dribbling on the weight counter; to the security staff as he crawled his way through the body scanner, thinking it was a game; and to the passengers on our flight who were woken by a small child standing in his bassinet and waving his arms/toys excitedly at them.

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Distracting The Boy before he disturbed anyone else.

2.) The Boy HATES bassinets.
For a baby that hated being swaddled, and spends his sleeping life either star-fishing or wriggling around his cot, l was sceptical about strapping him in a bassinet to sleep. I was right, he hated it. Even when he was soundly asleep in our arms and we ever-so-carefully- transferred him over, he would wake in the space of minutes, indignantly screeching and waving his arms about in a bid to escape. In fact, the only time he liked it was when he realised that if he sat/stood up in it he got a good view of the rest of the cabin. See above.

3.) You can’t take enough food.
Whoever told me to take more food than normal, l thank you. The Boy became an eating machine, putting away bottles of milk, snacks, whole food and most of my meals at an astonishing rate. Luckily we had also taken a sterilising bag on board as l had to make up a handful of new bottles so he could survive until we got back to the in-laws house. The airline staff (again) were very accommodating as we depleted their water supplies quite substantially. On that note, you can’t take enough water either.

4.) Babies do not understand jet lag.
Babies with jet lag are much like having a child in the first place. Whether it is horrific morning sickness, fatigue, swollen ankles, stretch marks or painful births, the thought of doing it again is accompanied by a lot of trepidation. If you had asked me a week ago, l would have said l would never fly long-haul with Boy ever again. Now we are booking flights for both June and December this year. Somehow we have forgotten about the 2am playtimes and the confused and pretty grumpy child who could not understand why he was in his cot at midnight when he was awake, and then not allowed to sleep at 10am when he was actually tired.

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What do you mean, 2am is not an acceptable time to play?

5.) You will all look as if you haven’t bathed for months.
Within an hour of the first flight, The Husband’s hoodie was covered in baby rice, the boy’s jumper and trousers were covered in vomit stains and l was picking half masticated biscuit out of my hair. Cue 12 hours later with little sleep or time to visit the toilet, let alone pass a comb through my dishevelled hair. The Beckhams (how do they always look so glamorous after a flight?)  we are not.

6.) I will never travel with The Boy alone.
I am often thankful for The Husband, never more so 10 hours into a 14 hour flight with no sleep, an excited baby, tired arms and legs, and a head that felt like cotton wool. He felt like that too and still willingly took charge of The Boy for a while so l could have a rest. It was amazing, as was the beer that one of the flight staff handed me.

Roll on the summer!