Sometimes the Internet has as uncanny knack of throwing things into your path just when we need them. I’m not talking about the endless adverts for fridges when you’ve just bought one or googling whatever is on your mind, because believe me I’ve googled everything about babies in the last six years and really I’m still a novice. I mean when the right articles, comments and blogs just happen to pop up into your feed when you need a reminder of the right path or a hand on your shoulder.

Last week I read an article about what to say to people who disagree with breastfeeding past the first six months, a blog about a Velcro baby/child and had a comment on Instagram telling me that someone has to be in the room with their three year old in order for her to fall asleep. All in the week where I’ve felt conscious of the fact that Lady Mck mostly, feeds to sleep, wants only me and still feeds in the day.

The odd comment about feeding or question about how she’s sleeping, together with the comparison with her brothers and when they self-weaned had me doubting myself and her. She has come so far in terms of sleep. I see Twitter mamas who are a few months behind us and still waking many times in the night and I want to hold their hand and tell them it will get better. Lady Mck now sleeps all night, most of the time in her cot, sometimes in her pushchair, but she still has to be fed to sleep or cuddled to sleep before I can put her down.

She still feeds in the day though and this has been bothering me. Once to have a nap and once before dinner, when the school run is finished. I know I could use other ways to get her to nap, but feeding means no crying and I get to sit and drink a coffee. The late afternoon feed I  thought , maybe, she could drop. Replace it with a snack and a drink. This resulted in two days where she followed me around, crying at me and so I gave her what she needed at totally the wrong time, resulting in burnt fish fingers one night and over cooked pasta the next. So, I went back to sitting for ten minutes, often less and offering milk. I have my happy girl back. This feed has nothing to do with hunger, it is her having a brief period of downtime, connecting with the person she is most attached to and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. She has let me know she is not ready to give up and I am not ready or prepared to make her.

I sure that part of my wobble is because, still feeding in the day has the potential to be much more visible. The boys used to feed maybe in the morning and eventually just at bedtime. Lady Mck could potentially ask for milk at anytime and feeding a walking, eating toddler doesn’t look the same as feeding a babe in arms.  (I’m never quite sure when to start using the word toddler. To my mind they’re a baby until they’re two and don’t really deserve the moniker of toddler until they do a good line in tantrums)

Seventeen months isn’t even that old, but I am comparing and reading things into this that aren’t there. Comparing to others experience and to my own with my older children, but I know enough to know, that each one is so very different. She is far more attached to me than the others were. They were always happy to take a bottle or to go to Daddy. She isn’t. Sometimes it has to be me. People saying she is my last and so I will feed as long as possible, for my own reasons, make me doubt myself. I shouldn’t. I know I will be a little sad when this job I’ve done for all my children is done, but I will stop in the knowledge that I did it well, I stopped when they were ready and I should have nothing to regret. It can often be tough going to, there are lots of times when I think I would like to stop. Moments when I want to be less needed, have less responsibility and to be blunt, not have someone on my body so much. This post I read sums those feeling up perfectly.

As I read this post back, I notice that what is really bothering me isn’t what I think or what Mckdad thinks, but what others may think and that makes me cross, with them, but also with myself. In the past I have always been very confident about my feeding choices. Never one to feel the need to hide away, cover up or explain my decisions. Where has this sudden crisis of confidence come from? So, I must push away the comments and the doubts and go with what I know. I accept that this will be a longer journey for she and I, than it was for the other two. How long? I really have no idea. She can change at any time. Drop a day feed. Start to fall asleep without help. Give up totally. Who knows? What I do know is, for now at least, things are fine. There is no need to change. I am continuing to feed on demand and do what needs to be done to make sure everyone is as happy as possible and gets as much sleep as possible. This is the way I have always done it and this is the way I shall continue.

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I am really delighted to welcome Kate from A Playful Day to my blog today. We’ve been talking about our blogs and how we change and they change with us, that is, they do if we let them. I am going to let her take over from here, but please make her very welcome. 

Sometimes we talk ourselves into doing things because we know that we will be better for doing them. Sometimes we ask a friend to help us because we have something that we really want to do but just feel we can’t on our own.

That’s me right now, sitting slightly precariously on Emily’s page. I’m a mother. I’m a blogger. I’m a creative business owner and I am a champion tea drinker. I suspect many of these things make me just like you and I know they make me very similar to Emily. I’m fairly sure we struck up a friendship based on nearly all of these things (almost certainly the tea part). However, my footing feels shaky as I prepare this post for you and I’m finding it hard to find the words to explain why.

Let me track back a little and hopefully I’ll get there.

For many years now I’ve watched articles and campaigns aimed at being a better parent come and go. I was told I was doing sleep ALL wrong, making myself a slave to my child but then also not indulging her whenever she truly needed it. I can still remember my stunned reaction to one article explaining that I was simply not caring enough about her tantrums (oh dear writer, you have the patience of a saint is my only conclusion on THAT one). There have been many times that I’ve longed to join in the conversation but each time I came across these articles, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing. Alongside the never ending queue of unmentioned fathers in campaigns like ‘National Unplugging Day’, I can’t help but notice that I’m not there either. Me, the single mum who doesn’t have half of these support systems you seem to think that I do.

As a blogger, I knew I had the right to respond, to make my voice known and to speak to other women (and fathers) who were solo parenting too. I could have written many responses to the National Unplugging Day about the fact that quite frankly, my iphone is the best second parent my child has ever had. My iphone tells me what to do when her temperature is too high and I’m scared of how very alone I am in that moment of crisis. My iphone reminds me to pick up milk on the way home because if I forget, I can’t pop out while she’s asleep and it will mean a tired schlep to the garage at dawn while she wails from the comfort of her sling. My iphone has also never forgotten Mother’s Day, ditched us for a weekend with its mates or expected me to have all the answers to why she is crying at 2am. Thus far it has also done a great job of connecting me to other mums and other people who understand my isolation and who check in at just the right moment with ‘hang in there girl, you’re going to be just fine’. When I’m texting at the park, that’s the solidarity moment that is otherwise completely missing in my single mother’s life.

So why didn’t I write? Why didn’t I rise up and ask the constant shaming of motherhood to stop? Honestly? I think I only really just discovered the answer in writing this. I’ve realised that I haven’t been feeling like I can convey the full experience of motherhood. I don’t have a great deal of time to reflect and I often feel that I’m really lacking the powerful insight that comes from raising a child as a team. Look at any blog written by a mother and you will see beautiful pictures of her and her children. She is able to pepper them through her narrative as she weaves her maternal identity online. Me? I don’t even have someone to hold the camera.

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on holding hands online

So here I sit, precariously, waiting for my dear friend to press publish and tell the world what I couldn’t find the bravery to say on my own blog.

I’m here. I’m single and I really, really need to be online.

Tea anyone?

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Kate’s online home is ‘A Playful Day’ where she blogs and podcasts about her quest to find a playful moment in every day. She regularly drinks gin and likes to knit. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest as aplayfulday. Kate would like it if you would send her cake after reading this. 

I have been loving The Everyday Spruce posts from Heather at Growing Spaces and Sarah-Lou at Lapinblu. They are so inspiring and I adore the idea that sprucing can refer to, not only your home, but your body and wellbeing as well. I was so excited when they decided to open it up to their readers for everyday sprucing ideas. Their first prompt of “Get set for summer” had me bursting with ideas, but I settled on this one because I knew Heather would love it.

Heather and I have lots of things in common and our love of good coffee is definitely one of them. I don’t do instant anymore and even though I need a little sweetness, it has to be brown sugar. Coffee snob? Me? Totally. I am a full on caffeine addict and I can’t contemplate sprucing anything unless I am sufficiently caffeinated. That does prove to be a challenge in summer. I love a refreshing, citrusy iced tea in the afternoon and have a perfected recipe here, but to me, mid morning means coffee and when it’s so hot no-one wants a piping hot brew. I make an acceptable iced latte, but I don’t always want, what is effectively a coffee milkshake! So, I decided to try a cold press coffee, which can be taken with just a little milk or black. Perfect for those of you who are dairy free. IMG_7639 You will need:

Coffee Beans

Water

A coffee grinder

A large sealed jar

A sieve Muslim cloth

Coffee papers or kitchen roll

First grind your beans roughly. You want them to be breadcrumb like. I made mine even coarser as I’m fussy about muddy coffee. If you don’t have a coffee grinder (seriously? Why not? Get one immediately) I’m sure your local independent coffee shop would be happy to grind them coarsely for you. Add your ground beans to your jar and add cold water. You need a ratio of 1 part coffee to 8 parts water. IMG_7578 IMG_7588 IMG_7617 Stir, seal and leave for 24 hours. I actually left mine longer because I wanted to take photos. Now, it’s just a matter of straining the coffee. Start with a sieve to get the large grounds out, then sieve again, but this time through a muslin. Finally strain through kitchen paper or even better coffee filters. I use these to make my hot coffee, so always have a stock.

That’s it! The coffee should keep fine in the fridge for several week, apparently. Serve over ice, white or black and sweeten as you normally would. I’m not sure Heather’s favoured sugar lumps would work, as they’d take an age to dissolve, but I used loose Demerara sugar and it worked fine.  I’m sure I’ve seen this served with a splash of condensed milk, which I think sounds rather decadent but oh, so good. The flavour of the cold pressed coffee is really fresh and fragrant and less bitter than hot brewed coffee. I have my hot coffee white, but can take this black with no trouble. It’s a real hit and I urge you to give it a try.

Go visit Heather and Sarah-Lou for more ideas to spruce your everyday and also their beautiful Instagram hashtag #theeverydayspruce and Pinterest board for loads more ideas.

 

Last weekend I went to Blogtacular. I had been looking forward to it for months, actually since last year’s conference, which I couldn’t attend as Lady Mck was just too little. Recently I’ve been feeling a bit ‘meh’ about my blog and this was the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in it, really think about what I want it to be and where I want it to go, as well as catch up with old friends, meet new people that I find so inspiring and finally meet some bloggers that I feel I’ve known for ever, but have never actually met in full colour, Imax quality, surround sound 3D.

I did all of those things and more. I started the day with the totally inspiring and more importantly buckets of fun, photowalk with Xanthe Berkeley. Oh, how we moaned about the 5:30 get up and no coffee until we got to Waterloo and how wrong we were. Every Saturday should start with a photowalk with this bunch of women. To have people that ‘get it’ is just the most life affirming thing. People who will pose, not be offended that you are walking and talking while Instagramming and just embrace the fun of taking great photos was better than any caffeine, although the coffee from Pret was pretty good too.

I got myself a new girl crush on Marte Marie Fosberg who spoke so brilliantly on inspriration and creativity. She seems at first like someone who has always had her plan, always had it all together, but she so lucidly communicated how this hasn’t always been the case and that her road to living the life she always wanted was full of bumps and twists and times where she was just floating, but through it all her need to be creative pulled her in the right direction. Her food photography workshop was also amazing. Such a different style to the white background, light Instagram fare that we see. It was so refreshing and will certainly make me think about my photos differently.

The keynote speakers were fabulous too. Grace Bonney admitting that she still can’t quite come to terms with the death of blog comments and that the pace of change in our digital world scares her too was so reassuring and I want to write in more detail about what I took from Anthony Peters closing keynote, which was hilarious and moving and just wonderful, even thought he didn’t have me on his side for the whole thing.

It was busy of course. I didn’t speak to everyone I wanted to, didn’t speak to enough brands or use the Genius Bar (Kats – please have this again next year. I promise I will be armed with a list of questions x) but I left feeling full of positivity and enthusiasm.

Which brings me to why I called this post ‘The Aftermath’ because today this is how it felt. Today all the positivity seem to flip itself around. Suddenly I went back to the endless comparisons, the regret that I didn’t speak to enough people, the questioning myself about where I fit, where this is all going, what I want from it and how I feel I will come up short. It even crossed my mind to give it all up. Not quite the result I expected from Blogtacular.

Of course I won’t. I love my Internet, my space here and maybe it needs to change, grow with me. Maybe, I need to evolve. After wallowing self-indulgently for a while and a much needed and hughtly appreciated chat with a good bloggy friend who put me straight, I am going back to the positivity and inspiration that I felt on Saturday. I want this space to be here, to continue to grow it’s readership. I want to write more at The Mudpie Diaries, a project I am really passionate about that I haven’t been able to give the time to. All day on Saturday, as I listened to the amazing speakers, The Mudpie Diaries kept knocking on my sub-conscious, whispering “I am here. This is about me” So, watch this space, or actually that space.

As far as Mummy Limited is concerned I want to write more of the stuff that I feel strongly about, which incidentally is also the stuff that you like reading, but also I want to try some new stuff, be brave, do something out of my comfort zone and on that note, it feels that maybe being ‘mummylimited’ all over the internet doesn’t quite feel right anymore. Mummy Limited, the blog will always be here, but on other sites and apps I’d like to just be me, even my kids don’t call me Mummy anymore (yes, huge SOB about that). So, if you see emilyandmore, well, that’s me. I know to any normal person, this seems crazy to feel scared about this, but I have also been Mummylimited online and that’s now over five years. It’s part of my identity, so it’s going to feel a bit weird for a while.

Blogtacular was all kinds of amazing and to every person that I met and spoke to, or anyone who commented and liked my photowalk photos, thank you. I hope the aftermath brings even more amazing.

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I currently seem to be having a bit of a blogging confidence crisis, which is ironic because my last post got more exposure than anything I’ve ever written, so thank you to anyone who shared or commented on it and incidentally there’s a little update for you on that subject. I think that I got freaked out that all the new readers would be a little disappointed with my usual fare of kids and crochet and moaning about being tired. So, what’s the best thing to do when the confidence goes? You have to just write, even if only a little. So, that’s what I’m doing.

I’m off to Blogtacular next week and I’m hoping that it will inject some much needed inspiration into my little corner of the Internet and me in general really. At the moment I think it’s probably contributing to my blog crisis. So much great content out there. So many amazing, creative people to meet. It’s scary. I also had my first wibble about leaving Lady Mck this morning. It’ll be the first time I’ve been away from her overnight and whilst she may fifteen months old, she has always been very much attached to me, above all others. Added to that the fact that I am still feeding her and she will not take a bottle, I am more than a little nervous. Actually, I am not really sure if I am nervous about her needing me and me not being there or nervous that she won’t need me at all.

As ever, through all the manic rushing around and the obvious, ‘being in my head too much’ worries, I am crocheting. For me, there is nothing as calming as feeling yarn wound through my fingers and the methodical working of it to make something that seems to grow out of nowhere. I have a few projects to show you that have been on the hook and finished since Lady Mck was born and today’s is one I finished quite recently.

After crocheting for five years I decided it was time to stop being scared and make something to wear. I am currently working on something for myself, which is the most challenging and most exciting project I have started for ages, more of that another day. However, I thought it was best to start on the nursery slopes, so to speak and so something for Lady Mck was a great way to practice, without wasting too much yarn or time.

I chose a wonderful, fairly simple in it’s construction, cable cardigan. I love cables and had recently learnt how to knit them when my allegiances switched from knitting to crochet. I was desperate to try the crochet version of them and I wasn’t disappointed. What is it about cables that makes them such fun to work. I think perhaps it’s the way they seem to magically appear out of, what seems like, a mess of stitches. The pattern is from Kat Goldin’s first book Crochet at Play and it was a lovely project to push my skills, without being totally overwhelming. Worked in one piece, it cuts down on the finishing, which as I’ve mentioned before I find laborious

When I first started this I decided to totally ignore the instructions in the book and use a different yarn. I blame impulsive yarn purchases and lovely ladies in yarn shops. It wasn’t long that I realised it was all wrong. The stitch definition wasn’t good enough and it just made the whole piece look far too chunky. So, I did the right thing and pulled it all out, ordered the wool from the pattern, which happened to come in the most gorgeous colours and started again. There is something quite satisfying about realising a project isn’t working out and changing tack I find.

I absolutely love the results, particularly the gorgeous cabled yoke and the detail on the sleeves and at the bottom. Amazingly, seeing as it was my first ever garment it came out the size it should, albeit a tiny bit small for Lady Mck, but this is entirely due to how long it took me and not the pattern or my working of it.

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I fully expect to hook another one of these for her in a bigger size as it was a joy to make and I am so pleased with the finished result. You see, crochet, totally good for the soul, starting something, finishing something, no worries in between about what people think. Blogging should be more like that….

Update: After writing this the founder of National Unplugging Day commented and listened to all your fabulous feedback. A few days later the website was dramatically re-written and is now much less judgemental. Gone are the stories of children literally begging for attention and getting NO eye contact from their parents, to the detriment of their emotional well being. My thoughts on the subject haven’t changed, but it is fantastic to see that changes can be made just my saying what you think and if that means that a strung out parent who is concerned about their technology usage visits the page and doesn’t feel worse then I feel as if I and you have done a good thing. 

I have read countless blog posts over the years telling me that I should unplug more, switch off my phone, not use social media, preaching about how much better my life would be if I did so. The irony that these posts are written by bloggers who work very hard to keep an online presence is not lost on me. Now, it seems a website (again irony metre off the scale) is getting in on the act by encouraging parents to take part in National Unplugging Day. To put our technology away for the day, for the sake of the children. They are asking us to do something different instead, like go on a bike ride or go to the park or simply a walk in the woods. It all smacks of making us feel guilty for being too interested in what we are reading and sharing on the Internet, rather than spending ‘quality time’ with our children. Well, you can unplug if you want to, but I shan’t be, because I know that social media and the internet in general, makes me a better parent.

Firstly, let’s deal with this myth that using our phones prevents us from doing things with our children. I take my children on bike rides and to the park. (Ok, so I pretty much loathe going to the park, but they don’t know that) I bake with them, play with them, craft with them, go the allotment with them, play board games with them, talk with them. I read. I laugh. I listen. I walk. I run. I do all this and still send tweets and share pictures on social media. I do it and still find time to read blogs and the news and yes, waste time reading gossip about One Direction and Bradley Cooper. My children don’t beg me to put my phone down, they hardly notice it. There are many times in the day when they are otherwise engaged. These times are often short lived, but there are definitely little pockets of time. They don’t need and nor should they have my undivided attention all day, every day. They wouldn’t want it!

I get the idea that we should be ‘present’ with them when we spend time with them and I won’t pretend I always am, but it’s not social media that is making my mind wander. It’s the fact that my house is messy, or I haven’t had the chance to put any bread in the breadmaker, because I haven’t had a moment when they’ve left me alone for five minutes. It’s the nagging feeling that I need to look at my credit card bill or renew mine and the children’s library books that makes me not want to sing ‘Wind the Bobbin up’ for the 20th time. All of this though is really about how the internet doesn’t make me a worse parent and I have stated that it makes me a better parent and it does.

Sharing on social media makes me notice things more and record things. I notice my children and what they are doing, I record it and I share it. The last part of that process isn’t necessary, I know, it’s just fun, but the first two bits are vital. I have a brilliant record of our life, the trivial, minute bits of it and I love that. I love looking back on it already and so do they. Inspired by someone I follow on Instagram, I recently made some mini videos of our day. We didn’t do anything special or different. Nano biked to school, we played, we visited the allotment, but it made such a special snippet of our day that I can look at for many years. In fact, yesterday after school Mini Mck asked if we could make a family video on Saturday. I love sharing this creativity with them and technology is going to part of their lives, why not show them what it can do.

Most of what I read and search out online is inspiring. I defy you to read this post and not become more patient the next time you feel more needed than you think you can handle. I can name at least three things I have done with my three year old, just in the last couple of weeks, that have come from Pinterest ideas. I know that when I am having a bad moment I can turn to social media and find a heap of support, delivered in a non-smug, totally understanding way, that will both make me feel better and make me pull my socks up and be a better parent. From other parents that I communicate with on-line I learn about places to take my children and things to do with them. I learn how to handle situations better, to be more patient, to laugh at a bad day, or nod knowingly at someone else’s. My world is bigger because of the internet, not smaller.

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The parents that I know and follow on-line and basically I am talking about you, the people who read this blog, are some of the best parents I have ever come across. They are creative and hard-working, they notice the details, they treasure the everyday, they want to be the best they can for themselves and their community and their kids and they inspire me every day.

So ‘National Unplugged Day’ can try it’s best to make plugged in parents feel as bad as possible on June 28th as it preaches to us to frolic through the woods on our  bikes. I may partake in some good old fashioned fun myself, but I’ll probably have a nice photo to go along with it and I refuse to feel guilty or lesser because of that.

NB – No children were neglected in the writing of this blog ;)

This week seems to have been packed to bursting, in fact every week seems to be packed to bursting. I guess that’s how it is in a family of five, with five people’s appointments, birthdays, friends, interests and needs to take into account. I like to think we are pretty good at not over-scheduling the kids, but we still seem to be fitting it all in with precision planning. Today is another juggle, as I help out at the School Fair and Mckdaddy’s football team have reached the play offs. Oh, how I long for this football season to be over. Of course, no sooner will it be over, than it will begin again, while we are still wearing shorts and suncream and sunglasses.

No matter how busy I am it is unusual for my crochet hook to be left idle for more than a few days. There have been times since Lady Mck was born, a year that I only just feel I emerging from, that I have literally hooked only three stitches before she has woken and needed me, but the intention is always there. So, since the last thing I shared with you, finished only a few hours before she was born, I have finished many other projects and learnt new skills. I am going to try and share them here. A project never feels quite finished until it has been blogged.

One of the things that often holds some of my projects back from being finished is my fear of and laziness around sewing. The crochet part comes naturally and sewing seams together with wool I can do without much thought, but actual sewing hurts my brain and so I need uninterrupted time, preferably in the day and that is hard to come by. A few weeks before Lady Mck was born, Mckdaddy took the boys away for the so I could have a weekend of ‘maternity leave’. He kept two small children in a rainy, cold and windy North Norfolk resort and I had time to rest, eat all my favourite foods, fold baby clothes and get the sewing machine out.

Some of the scatter cushions on our bed were looking a little tired and so I altered the size of standard pillowcases, that I then wanted to embellish a little. I love that being able to make things myself means when I am searching the shops for the perfect cushion and can’t find it, I can actually make something that suits perfectly. This project was made even easier when I realised that I had some IKEA crochet shapes that could be hand stitched onto the pillowcase and I’m not sure whether to be proud or ashamed that I had all the right colour yarn in my stash to make applique shapes for the second cushion.

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For what looks like such an easy little project it has taken me ages to finish this one. The hand stitching took me ages and I designed the shapes as I went along so it needed brain power, not something that is in abundance when you are pregnant or have a tiny baby and so this often spent months in the project bag. However, I finally retrieved it recently and finished it off and I am so happy with the results. Such a simple way to upcycle plain pillowcases and as it uses up small scraps of yarn it’s really good for the budget too.

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Mine is the one on the right and the IKEA shapes are on the left. See, scary colour matching, my yarn stash is too big!

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