I am a total sleep nerd. Any article about getting more sleep or better sleep is guaranteed to make me read it. I love an eye mask, a relaxing room spray and ear plugs, especially when combined with fresh, clean linen and an early night. However, ironically I’m always tired. My bedtime routine had slipped and the addition of a baby just about finished off my good sleep habits.

As I was wading through yet another treacly day, caused by too little sleep and too many wake ups, I wondered to myself just how much better I would feel if I went to bed really early for a whole working week. I mentioned it to a blogging friend and it seems she’d been having similar thoughts. We decided we would do a little experiment and encourage each other. Perhaps it would be easier to get ourselves organised and turn off the Internet earlier if we had someone watching over us. So, of course being bloggers, we automatically needed a hashtag and #5earlynights was born.

My aim was to be in bed and screen free by 9pm from Monday to Friday and have lights out by 9:30 and I was really interested to see if I would notice any differences with a decent run of early nights. So, how was it?

Firstly I did pretty well at sticking to a lights out time and I was definitely always asleep by 9:45. I was disturbed after only 30 mins of sleep by Lady M a couple of times, but only briefly as Mckdaddy took over. Obviously I knew that this could be an issue, but to my mind if I was ready for bed and winding down with a book while feeding her, then that would still be an improvement. Being strict with that half an hour of wind down time was more of a challenge. Often it is 8pm before Lady Mck is asleep and out of my arms and I still have niggly chores that need doing. That only leaves me with maybe an hour before having to go to bed. That isn’t really enough for me, but I wanted to know if the extra sleep would be more beneficial than longer evenings.

 

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As the week went on I did find many differences in the day. I was more productive and the usual 4pm slump was definitely better. This, despite, Lady Mck having quite a tricky week on the sleep front. Mckdaddy noticed that I was up in the morning and was more helpful, rather than the usual grunting. I would be offended by this, if it wasn’t absolutely true. So, I would say that five early nights in a row really did make a difference, although I’m not sure if it was the extra sleep, which was sometimes only 45 minutes earlier than usual or simply that I was observing better bedtime habits, such as a longer screen free wind down time. I definitely came away from my little experiment, realising that perhaps my ‘early nights’ need to become my normal bed time, at least for now, the thought of which I find a little dull.

I also found that once the five nights were over, I slipped straight back to my bad habits and so I plan to resurrect #5earlynights from Monday or even Sunday night. If you think you could do with a little replenishment or your sleep habits could do with a shake up and you need some encouragement to turn off the TV/laptop/phone, then feel free to join me and see if you notice any difference. I realise that my times are super early, remember I’m still getting woken in the night. Your target early bedtime may be quite different, but we can still chivvy each other along. Let me know you’re joining in by tagging your tweets and Instagram pictures with #5earlynights. We can be boring and yet refreshed, together.

It’s amazing how giving yourself a break can instantly return the joy of something. Since deciding that I was going to stop being so pompous about my current reading choices I’ve found myself reading more and loving it. One of the side effects of this is wanting to go bed earlier so that I can manage more than two paragraphs of my book and so I am joining Circle of Pines The Year in Books again this month.

I managed to finish my February book before the end of the month and am excited to start my March choice. One book a month, that’s the plan, slow and steady. I loved How to be a Husband and I mean really LOVED it. The kind of love, that makes you not only recommend to everyone, but read big chunks out to your long suffering partner. (I know he won’t read it. He never reads the books I recommend) It made me laugh out loud, but I found myself smiling through most of it. Such a sweet, accurate portrayal of a long term relationship. Just delightful.

I seem to have a real appetite for memoirs this year. My boom for March is Love Nina by Nina Stibbe. A collection of letters to her sister from when she was a nanny in London in her youth. I heard parts of this last year on Radio 4’s Book of the Week and have wanted to read it ever since. I took a solo trip to the library during half term and as well as a heap of camping books, to start planning our summer escape, I picked up a copy and am excited to start it. I’m interested, through these posts, to see if I read more when the book is on my kindle. I love the feel of real books but I have to admit that using the kindle is easier when I am rocking a pushchair or feeding or cuddling the baby. Last month’s was an electronic book, so let’s see how I do with real paper and ink.

 

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When Appleyard London contacted me to ask if I’d like one of their Mother’s Day bouquets to review, I didn’t have to think very long. Fresh flowers are such a treat, particularly at this time of year. I love all the spring colours and even though I am usually drawn to bright colours, I find that as soon as March arrives I want everything to be pastel pretty. Lilac, yellow and pale pink.

The flowers arrived on Monday morning, the day after Lady Mck’s birthday and were the perfect way to chase away the blues. The Liberty bouquet is crammed full of lilac memory lane roses, with bold purple eustoma and country garden blue veronica, there are oriental lilies ready to burst open and scatterings of lilac, a particular favourite of mine, I just adore the heady scent that they give off. My bouquet was tied beautifully, which meant I didn’t have to do too much rearranging and I was delighted to see a really good mix of open and closed blooms. I suspect they will last much longer than the 7 days that they are guaranteed for. Thank you Appleyard for my lovely early Mother’s Day treat.

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I always struggle with ideas for Mother’s Day for both mine and Mckdaddy’s Mum. It falls pretty close to both their birthdays and so it is a relief that Mother’s Day Flowers are always a winner with both of them. There is something about a beautifully arranged flower delivery that feels like such an indulgence. My mother in law lives many miles away and Mckdaddy isn’t known for his organisational abilities, so Appleyard’s next day flowers option is absolutely vital for us.

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I am delighted to be able to pass on a bit of the flower love to you and hopefully your Mum’s too, as Appleyard are offering my readers a 40% discount on their luxury bouquets in the run up to Mother’s Day. Just use BLOG40 at the checkout and give your mum an extra special treat this Spring…..or maybe just treat yourself.*

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*please note that this generous offer isn’t available on the Flowers by post range

I was sent a complimentary bouquet to review. All words, pictures and opinions are as always, mine. 

An unashamedly positive post for my girl’s first birthday, because if you can’t be told how fabulous you are on your birthday, when can you?

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I love the way you were born, at home, quickly, safely and with no fuss. Arriving overnight to greet your brothers when they woke. I love how you took to breastfeeding like a pro. I love how your oldest brother fell in love with you instantly and how that hasn’t waned, only become stronger as you’ve started to give back. I love how your younger brother has slowly become more interested in you and you him and how much you enjoy his boisterousness and craziness. I love that you are a girl.

I love that your hair doesn’t know what colour it wants to be and it has curls at the back, the rest of us all have straight hair. I love how beautifully you sit, a relaxed straight back and long neck. We should all look at a baby’s posture for tips. I love that you look like Nano did at the same age, except when you’re asleep, when you look just like Mini Mck.

I love that you love to fling yourself around. Backwards to see the world upside down, forwards off the bed into your Dad’s arms. All the way over if I tip you upside down. I love how a bath never fails to cheer you up and that you already love books, even if that does involve a mostly eating them. I love how you light up when you hear music and that your favourite song is “All about the base” (the radio edit. Obv)

I love that you still need me but I also love that you are much happier with others, especially your Dad. I love that you want to sleep close to us and that you somehow manage to take up most of the bed. I love that you have a comforter. Felix Bear gets cuddles and kisses when you’re awake and soothes you when you need to sleep. I love your big, smacky kisses, right on my lips and that you save them only for me. I also love that you refuse to let me video them. You do not perform on demand and nor should you. I love that you can be soothed and drift to sleep with a back rub or a stroke of the head.

I love that you do so much. Waving, clapping, wiggling, sitting down when asked, slow blinking, making car noises, saying na’night, passing things, emptying EVERYTHING and that you delight in it all. Discovering and living life with such zeal.

This last year has been very hard in lots of ways, but I love how you are absolutely, completely worth the hard work.

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I love a newborn. That bunched up little bundle who fits neatly in the crook of your arm and weighs nothing. Snuffly, yawny little creature who smell like milk and sleep most of the day. That time is just a heartbeat in the scheme of thugs and it rushes by so fast it’s hard to grasp hold of. It makes me a little sad, but as I’m mourned those precious days as they zoomed by I forgot what was to come. I forgot how delightful older babies are.

Lady Mck is in that delicious older baby time now. All my babies have been happy souls, even the ones that didn’t sleep so well. At this lovely age she is just so delighted with the world and everybody in it. She gives out smiles and twinkles freely and I often find her giggling at something that has taken her fancy, often when we are all laughing but sometimes just because she thinks it’s funny. They are suddenly doing so much, changing so much. Waving, crawling, standing, working out how the world works and emptying boxes, bags and baskets is the extent of their naughtiness.

I don’t want to overstate this blissful time. She is still a girl who likes to be held and particularly likes to be near me, but when she isn’t tired or hungry or poorly, she’s quite happy to charm everyone around her and show off her latest tricks.

I’ve seen people in the past thinking their baby is no longer a baby once they reach one, but they still are absolutely 100% baby, just an older, different kind of baby. None of the head banging frustration that parenting a toddler brings. Like the newborn stage it lasts such a short time though. It’s over in a blink. Before we know it, she’ll be starting to walk and the baby will start to be replaced by a toddler, so I’m marking this time and holding on to the delightfulness of the older baby.

 

Please excuse Nano spitting out food purely for the entertainment of his sister, BUT she finds it so entertaining, I just couldn’t resist.

I have become rather addicted to making a monthly Instagram collage, but I am really a words person and I feel they need words. I’m not promising myself that this will be a regular feature, but I like the idea of reflecting on a month. I find memory such a subjective and moveable thing and I only get a true recollection of things when they are written at the time.

So many people say they find January grim and depressing. It is dark and dank and long. In fact I think I have felt the school runs more than ever this month. Turfing everyone out twice a day when it’s cold and not properly light is rather miserable. However, I’ve found January has sped and I’ve felt better than I have for months.

As much as I love Christmas, it all felt too much last year. The addition of a huge building project abandoned for the festive season half finished just left me feeling squeezed, emotionally, physically and mentally. In January we waved goodbye (kind of) to our lovely builders and started the mammoth painting and finishing task. It felt good to be able to crack on with it, at last and I’m so proud of how much we’ve achieved in such a short space of time.

I seemed to spend a lot of time alone with the children in January. We accepted that the quickest and least stressful way to get all the work needed in the house done was for Mckdaddy to get on with it, while I kept the tribe entertained. It’s forced me to make plans. We have been to the cinema, for long (too long) walks and had Lego afternoons. Crazily I’d often feel a little nervous of taking all three of them out for long periods on my own and January really helped with that.

I have such a long list of crochet projects that are want to do or have already started that I need a whole blog post on it’s own, but this month I really motored along with a project that I’d been struggling with. I did something I never usually do and unravelled a cardigan that I was making for Lady Mck. The yarn was just all wrong and since changing to the yarn that the pattern specified in a gorgeous peacock blue I’ve nearly finished it and luckily the rejected yarn is perfect for Nano’s blanket for his new room.

We finished January getting a little more sleep than we had been. Basically we’ve almost completely given up on the small cot in our room. It turns out that Lady Mck will sleep for hours and hours in her pushchair, so a combination of that and our bed has given us our evenings back and me the opportunity of early nights. I cannot wait for her to have her own room, although remain unconvinced that she’ll spend much time there.

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Two of my absolute favourite bloggers share the books they are reading. Laura has even turned her aim to read one book a month into a fabulous hashtag for others to share also. I really tried to join in with #ayearinbooks last year but could never quite manage it. I think that perhaps I felt the books I managed to read were not worthy or challenging enough.

However, recently, Sarah wrote about how her appetite for reading has returned now that her children are no longer babies and it hit me that mine are still tiny and the fact that I am reading anything is an achievement. When MM was a baby I don’t think I finished a book in a year, let alone a month and so I shouldn’t judge my choices so harshly. There are many years ahead for Hilary Mantel and Donna Tartt. For now I need something a little lighter, a little easier and that is perfectly fine too.

So, what have I been reading so far in 2015? I started with a lovely, familiar, seasonal novel. I adore Jenny Colgan, she’s funny, romantic and her novels are more than just boy meets girl. She writes about food so vividly, I am always delighted when she publishes something new. Christmas at Rosie Hopkins Sweetshop was no exception. Perfect for the Christmas period.

My second January book was on my Christmas list. Everything about Sali Hughes’ Pretty Honest is urging you to own the real, tangible book, rather than an electronic version, from the perfect shade of the pink cover, to the lovely photos and even the feel of the thick pages. The contents don’t disappoint either. Already I have totally changed my skincare habits and am covering my tiredness with make up.

I haven’t finished it yet so shall carry it into February together with my other book, this time on my kindle, bought in the sale. How to be a Husband by Tim Dowling has been another book I’ve been wanting to read for a while. It seems February is the month of the Guardian columnist and the month of non-fiction.

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For lots of other book recommendations have a look at Laura’s linky at Circle of Pine Trees. It’s a great source of ideas.

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