“So what do you do all day?”

Someone asked me this question yesterday, but it was more along the lines of, “Are you enjoying maternity leave? I would love to be a lady of leisure.”

My face said, “Yes, I enjoy it, but it’s hard work,” but my brain said, “&@£)(;!!!” I just had to write a post about real maternity leave…

So whilst some people may think I laze around with the baby, enjoying cuddles, going out for lunch, binge-watching Netflix and catching up with friends, the reality is very different.

I have tried to do some of those things, but the majority of the time, I’m kinda responsible for a tiny human, so any ‘lady of leisure’ comments are not needed, thank you very much.

0-3 months:

I remember them fondly. It was a blur of nappies, feeding, pumping, midwife / doctor / health visitor appointments and not to mention the ‘wake up every 2 hours to feed.’ Your body is recovering, you’re learning to care for your baby, so no ‘leisurely’ activities here!

3-6 months:

By 3 months, it was getting a little bit easier and there were a few days out and shopping trips here and there. I think this was the ‘golden’ period for me- where you can still put the baby down for a bit while you wash up, prepare dinner, etc, knowing they won’t be sticking their fingers into electric sockets. (And also before weaning when you have to think about an extra million things). But the reality is you still feel rubbish / exhausted (I don’t think that feeling will go away!) and everyone you know is busy or at work. And don’t remind me about the 4 month sleep recession!

6-9 months:

Just when you think you’re finally getting into the swing of things, there’s extra tasks to add to the list. I now spend my days preparing meals for baby (weaning time!), but this is extra to bottles, nappies, playtime, etc… you know, looking after a baby! So when a friend asks to meet up, it’s still a military operation to leave the house and it has to be at precisely the right time (There’s no point planning a time!)

However, during my maternity leave, I have made some lovely, supportive friends, I have spent more time with my parents, I have laughed a lot, cried a lot and of course, I am helping to develop a tiny human. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So, yes, being a ‘lady of leisure’ is wonderful, but for many different reasons. I’m not selfish in the slightest. But I call it being a mom.

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Edinburgh: Top Family Attractions

Edinburgh is, by far, my favourite city in the UK. I’ve only visited twice, but the mix of the old and new town, the budget-friendly attractions (and of course, the links to Harry Potter) make me want to return again and again.

‘Auld Reekie’ really has transformed into a vibrant modern city, but still maintains many historical links. So why would you want to take your children to a town known for Burke and Hare, dead dogs (Greyfriar’s Bobby) and ghostly graveyards? Because there are lots of fascinating things to do, of course, for children (and adults!) of all ages. Feast your eyes on this lot:

Edinburgh Castle

www.edinburghcastle.scot

It’s an obvious choice, but the castle has a family-friendly itinerary, including hundreds of stone steps to tire out the little ones! Get them to count the steps, explore the armour in the Great Hall, watch the one o’clock cannon fire and if you get fed up of them, you can always lock them up in the castle prison!

low angle view of fort against cloudy sky
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Camera Obscura

www.camera-obscura.co.uk

For a unique way to see the city and a highly interactive experience, check out Camera Obscura, located on the Royal Mile next to the Castle. Both children and adults alike will have fun here – there are plenty of optical illusions and mind-bending discoveries in the museum itself. You can also use the camera obscura to have a nose around Edinburgh, using the original Victorian technology.

The Museum of Childhood

www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk

For a trip down memory lane, head to the Museum of Childhood. It is totally free to enter and the kids will enjoy the musical stairs and retro favourites. Perhaps point out your favourite toys from your own childhood and see the look of confusion when you explain that mobile phones and the Internet didn’t even exist! Watch out for the creepy dolls though.

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Edinburgh Dungeons

www.thedungeons.com/edinburgh

For something a bit more macabre (maybe for the older children or fans of ‘Horrible Histories‘), head to the Dungeons (perfect for a Scottish rainy day). The live actors will bring to life the ghoulish side of Scottish history, but beware – you may be selected to take part in some of the re-enactments!

Edinburgh Zoo

www.edinburghzoo.org.uk

For animal lovers, Edinburgh Zoo is home to Europe’s largest outdoor penguin pool and the UK’s only pandas and koala bears! The zoo is just a short bus ride away from the city centre, but there are over 80 acres of parkland to explore and lots of animals to see, including lions, tigers and bears (oh my!). Don’t miss the daily penguin parade!

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Real Mary King’s Close

www.realmarykingsclose.com

Below the streets of Edinburgh lies a real 17th Century Close, home to lots of characters from Edinburgh’s gruesome history. Learn about the lives of these characters as they take you on a tour of Edinburgh’s hidden streets. The tour lasts approximately one hour and is more suitable for children aged 5 and over. It is quite dark down there (and has lots of cobbled roads, of course), but it is truly a fascinating experience.

Harry Potter and the Potter Trail

www.pottertrail.com

Despite all the attractions Edinburgh has to offer, this is, by far, my favourite. Harry Potter fans will appreciate this free award-winning walking tour of Edinburgh, taking in key locations, including the graveyard (where familiar names such as McGonagal and Tom Riddle will appear), the locations where JK Rowling wrote the book and the road that inspired Diagon Alley. Meet at the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue (see website for times) and have a magical time!

Also, whilst you’re in that area, head to ‘The Elephant Cafe’. There are many cafes and coffee shops that claim JK Rowling wrote the book (this is one of them), but you really need to check out the toilets in this place…

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Scott Monument, Princes Street Gardens and Calton Hill

www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk

If you want the little ones to burn off some energy, challenge them to climb the 287 steps of the Scott Monument (Situated in Princes Street Gardens), or let them run around on Calton Hill, while you explore the monuments and take in the stunning views of the city.

 

Baby Showers

Ahh, the ‘baby shower’. Another American invention that’s made it across the pond, alongside viral ‘gender reveal’ videos and crazy baby announcements. But I think the baby shower is actually a really nice one!

I ended up having 3 baby showers- with different people, of course. And whilst they were all lovely, we had baby clothes over-spilling the chest of drawers, which is so sad when your baby doesn’t actually get chance to wear them all. (It’s a cliche, but they do grow so fast!)

So you could say, I should know what to get other moms-to-be when it’s their baby shower, so here is Mamasaurus’ guide to unconventional gift-buying!

My friend’s baby is due soon and I’m so excited about buying baby items again! She’s bound to get millions of baby clothes and whilst they are all cute as hell, I am hoping to get her some useful items that every new mom needs… along with a few baby clothes, of course!

What to buy for a new Mom:

  • Maternity pads, breast pads, nipple cream even! Obviously it depends on how well you know the mom-to-be and sure, they don’t look as nice as that gorgeous little baby gro that Sandra got her, but she will thank you after the birth.
  • Baby first aid kit. You know, things like nail clippers, thermometer, flannel cloth… and one of those squishy pipette things that gets the baby’s snot out! Perfect! You can guarantee no one else would have got this.
  • Nappies, baby wipes or cotton wool. She will never have enough!
  • Room or bath thermometer. Very useful- and you can get some cute designs.
  • Towels or muslin squares. Again not a typical gift, but one of the most practical!
  • Baby clothes. It’s inevitable you will end up buying clothes- just look at them! But maybe get different sizes and things like a snowsuit (for winter). I was very grateful for ‘first size’ clothing too! Oh and please make sure they have poppers down the front!

What to not buy a new Mom:

  • Baby shoes. I don’t know any baby that wears them. They are always too big and the baby isn’t even walking. Whilst a keepsake pair are nice to have, they will end up being outgrown before they are even worn.
  • Equipment, such as Moses basket, chair, playmat etc. Unless the mom-to-be has specifically asked for them, avoid at all costs. I think equipment is a very personal thing that the parents-to-be will enjoy buying themselves to suit their own needs and tastes.
  • Annoying clothes. You know the ones I mean. Whilst they look great, they are just not practical for a small baby- stupid buttons that are too fiddly to do up; tops you have to pull down over their head and constantly ride up; leggings that you have to pull up because they constantly ride down. Stick to baby gros with poppers and you can’t go wrong! If you’re going to get an outfit, get an older size when the parents-to-be are more confident at dressing their baby.

And don’t forget mom or dad! A little gift for them will go a long way, even if it’s just a bar of chocolate.

Whatever you’re planning on getting for a mom-to-be, enjoy looking at all the baby items again and maybe reminisce about how small your own children used to be!

Birmingham. It’s Bostin’.

10 Things for Families to do in Birmingham

When people think of Birmingham, they may think of it as a concrete jungle, the centre of the Industrial Revolution and the home of Ozzy Osbourne’s metal band Black Sabbath.

Whilst this is all true, it is also what a lot of Brummie locals would call ‘bostin” (Brummie dialect for ‘very good’!) Brum has one of the biggest green spaces in Europe, a real-life chocolate factory that would make Willy Wonka jealous and is a vibrant multi-cultural city, full of exciting things to do with your family, whether your little ones are explorers, historians or animal mad! (It’s not just a shopping centre with a bull statue!)

Here are my top attractions and suggestions for fun-filled days out with the family, all found in ‘land-locked’ Birmingham:

For the animal-mad:

Located on a beautiful stretch of canal in the city centre (we have more canals than Venice, don’t you know?), Sea Life is perfect for kids of any age. Learn about the sea horse breeding programme, get hands-on with the starfish, goggle at the sting rays and try and ‘find’ Nemo and Dory, but don’t believe the rumours that the sharks live in the canal (like I used to when I was a kid!) Oh and there’s penguins too!

Not far from the city centre is an array of exotic animals, set in the grounds of a 13th century castle. So while you’re here exploring the lemurs and lions, book yourself in for a ghost tour around the castle ruins (once featured on TV’s Most Haunted). It’s worth checking if there’s an event on before you go, because sometimes the spooky castle crypt is used for interactive shows and talks, perfect for little ones to learn all about the animals.

Just on the outskirts of the city centre, this is a little smaller than Dudley Zoo, but still has a vast collection of species on show, including red pandas, lemurs, reptiles and monkeys. Follow the map to explore all of what there is to offer, but don’t miss out on the massive play area to finish off your day. You can even picnic with the pigs! It is right next door to Cannon Hill Park and the Mac centre, so you may need a couple of days to fully appreciate what this area of Brum has to offer!

For the explorers:

Just six miles out of the city centre will bring you to the suburb of Sutton Coldfield, home to one of the biggest green spaces in Europe (apparently!). Here you can grab an ice cream, feed the ducks, ride a bike, fly a kite, have a kick-about, play on the swings and even visit the Donkey Sanctuary (small fee applies). Just watch out for the free-roaming cows- I nearly got injured by one once!

  • Sandwell Park Farm, Forge Mill Farm and RSPB Nature Reserve-
    sandwell.gov.uk

Located in Sandwell Valley, where you can also find many outdoor activities such as, mini golf, high ropes and mini boat racing, you will find Sandwell Park Farm. The farm is a restored Victorian farm, complete with kitchen gardens and a tea room. There’s plenty for the kids to do and see here and you can also pop across to Forge Mill Farm to admire their herd of dairy cows, before strolling around the RSPB Nature Centre, as they are all close-by and pocket-money-friendly.

Opening Summer 2018, Birmingham is welcoming this new Lego-tastic attraction. Just a stone’s throw across the canal from the Sea Life Centre, you find Arena Birmingham, which will house this exciting attraction for ages 3-300. Kids (and adults) can get hands-on with the famous bricks and let their imaginations run wild in the interactive discovery zones and mini village.

In the village of Bournville, lies a chocoholic’s dream. Feast your eyes upon the infamous chocolate factory, explore how it all began, learn about the brand and even ride through a chocolate wonderland (I promise there are no oompa-lumpas!) Pre-booking is essential, so don’t miss out. Did I mention there was free chocolate?

For historians:

From the Egyptians to the Pre-Raphelites (the most important collection of pre-Raphelite art in the world), indulge in a free day out for the family at BMAG. Explore the free exhibitions and learn all about the Staffordshire Hoard and the history of Birmingham in the interactive galleries. A visit to the Edwardian tea-room is essential.

Even though a lot of locals were sad to see the old library demolished, it has paved the way for this brand-new state-of-the-art multi-purpose library- and it’s another free day out for families. Explore the vibrant children’s zone downstairs, but there are many floors for the adults to explore too. The Shakespeare room at the top of the library is a must.

  • Theatres:

Catch a show at one of the many theatres Brum has to offer. For opera, ballet and West-end musicals on tour, try the Hippodrome in the vibrant ‘China-town’ of Birmingham. The Rep is located next to the library and Symphony Hall, whilst the Alexandra Theatre is near the newly-rejuvenated Grand Central train station and John Bright Street. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle, The Crescent is near the canal off Broad Street and Brindley Place. There is always something on, so check the websites of all theatres to book a show!

These are just a few of the attractions on offer in Birmingham. I haven’t even mentioned ThinkTank science museum and the historical Jewellery Quarter or creative Custard Factory area of Digbeth, but there are also many neighbouring attractions, set in the Midlands. Try the quaint market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of Shakespeare, and visit his family homes and Mary Arden’s farm nearby. Or if you like a bit of history, Birmingham is surrounded by castles and Kenilworth, Warwick and Ludlow are again a short drive away, with plenty for kids to see and do. Just make sure you don’t run out of time!

@Mamasaurus87 has lived in Birmingham for all thirty years of her life. Follow her blog or on Instagram and Twitter for an honest account of parenting through the eyes of first-time mother.

Going Out Guilt

So you’ve mastered leaving the house with a baby, but what about leaving the house without them? Whether it be an outing with your partner or a catch up with friends, you will know that this takes precise planning, months well in advance of the day! But even if everything is fine-tuned, you also need to hope that on the day itself the stars align and you can actually go!

Getting ready is strange. You don’t need to pack nappies, milk, spare clothes, bibs, etc and you don’t need to get the baby ready, yet you still can’t shake the feeling that you’ve forgotten something. The babysitter arrives and you’re all set, except that as soon as it’s time for you to leave, this is the moment that the baby begins to cry… nooo!

Even when you’re finally out the door, your brain is still working hard at making you feel guilty…

Going out in the day-time:

This isn’t as bad as the night-time outing, but worries still like to make an appearance. Some of these may include- has baby slept enough? Have they been fed at right time? What will bedtime be like now?

You look around- guilt-free people laughing over lunch in a restaurant, or maybe watching a film at the cinema. You’re lucky if you can stay awake for it.

Why can you hear a baby cry?! Oh, it’s just the family on the next table / row of seats. They’ve took their children with them. You haven’t. Now you feel guilty for enjoying an adult hour or two.

Going out at night:

This is where the guilt may feel worse, because this will inevitably be the night that the baby wakes every hour. This time, worries may include- whether routine has been done, what time they went to sleep, whether they’ve woken up after that, how you’re going to stay awake to do night feeds or deal with wakings, how you will feel tomorrow and how you can even possibly enjoy yourself when it’s all worry!

But it’s not all doom and gloom, because when you return home, you can guarantee a big smile upon your return. Turns out that even though you needed that time with your partner or friends, you’ve missed them a lot. You’ve only been gone an hour!

Unsocial Media

Blame hormones, sleep deprivation or whatever, but some things on social media annoy me… particularly myself. Yep, I annoy myself. Mainly because I promised myself that I would never be one of these people that posts endless photos of their child, expecting others to feel the same way about them. But then I became a parent myself and posted more photos than I thought I would. Not endless ones, but probably enough baby spam to annoy someone out there. Oh well, there’s worse things on social media!

Also, when did social media become so unsocial? Perhaps hypocritically, I am a little unsocial on social media and picky when it comes to what I post. I do have a personal Facebook and Instagram account (as well as Mamasaurus87 on Twitter and Instagram), but I am careful when it comes to sharing photos of my family.

Social media: the good, the bad and the downright mad

Yep, it’s good to share photos with family and friends, share lighthearted stories and humorous anecdotes, etc, but not all parents are careful enough when it comes to security and child protection issues.

Just look at all the parenting bloggers out there sharing images of their family and details of their lives to thousands of strangers. You can’t be too careful!

However, my other argument is that people have free will and are entitled to share what they want. Some people do take this too far though! My theory is if I don’t want my child to see it in the future (for example, unnecessary pictures of poonamis) then I won’t post it. Plus, I only post personal photos on my personal accounts, where only people I know will see them.

Having said that, I have also come across quite a few ‘types’ on social media. Which one are you?

  • The ‘Tell Me I’m Pretty’ Mom:

Here’s an image of my super-flat (and filtered to death) stomach and here is a caption stating how ‘real’ my body is after having a baby and that I really should workout/eat healthily. Also, I literally just threw on ‘this old thing’ and haven’t washed my hair in weeks, but look how amazing I look.

  • The ‘Housewife Award’ Mom:

I have had so much time to bake these perfect cookies and here is a photo of my spotless living room, where my photoshopped child is reading, whilst enjoying my perfect cookies. By the way, there’s avocado and beetroot in them. And they’re gluten-free, even though I don’t even suffer from coeliac disease.

  • The ‘F*** This S***’ Mom:

Gah, I woke up late and shoved the kids in the car to take them to school… late. Now I’m sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle, enjoying this bottle of gin, but I need to do the ironing. I’m such a self-deprecating, ‘terrible’ mom, but you’re all going to tell me that it’s normal and that I’m doing a great job. Truth is, I only make it look like I’m this bad for the likes.

Ok, so maybe they are slightly exaggerated, but truth be told, there’s probably a little bit of them in all of us.

Despite the weirdos out there, social media can actually be a very positive thing if used carefully. For a start, Mamasaurus87 and other parenting bloggers/pages wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for social media; it really is lovely to see cute baby photos and ideas for activities and days out. It provides a platform for parents to interact, share advice (in a non-alpha mom way!) and perhaps is the only outlet some people have.

However, there is one type of social media mom I missed out. One that we can all relate to…

  • The ‘Proud’ Mom:

Sometimes I share too many photos of my kids, but it’s only because I love them. I may not be Insta-perfect, but I am perfect for my kids and they are perfect for me.

…Come on, you can’t argue with that one!

Sleeping Beauty

They say that when you leave the house with a baby it’s a ‘military operation’, but with all the equipment out there, I would say that bedtime is!

From swaddles to sleeping bags, thermometers to talking teddies (or a very famous sheep), there’s a crap load of stuff to buy for bedtime, but do you really need it all? The best thing we ever bought for bedtime was a 2-in-1 Grosnug (0-3 months), so our newborn could be swaddled and the right temperature, but then that was outgrown, so we bought a Grobag (0-6 months). We then discovered that they still needed to be swaddled to get a good night’s sleep, so we ended up buying a Swaddly arm swaddle as well! It really is a mine-field out there, with loads of companies claiming that their product can help your baby sleep, but these products, along with a Gro-egg (because the owl shell couldn’t be resisted) were the best things we bought. But don’t get me started on that bloody sheep.

It’s a fact of life that some babies sleep well and some don’t. Many mothers will queue up to ask you when your baby has ‘slept through the night’ and then go on to claim that theirs ‘slept through at 6 weeks old’. I have never heard such rubbish in my life (mainly because the baby must be starving!) By ‘sleep through’, do they literally mean their newborn baby (who is fed every 2-3 hours) slept from 7pm-7am? I doubt it! Do they actually mean one stretch of 5 or 7 hours? Or 20 minutes even?! So if anyone tells you this nonsense, just nod along… if a baby does sleep for a 7 hour stretch, there’s no guarantee they will the next night anyway!

First of all, when your baby is a newborn, you can forget ‘bedtime’ as they will pretty much fall asleep anytime, anywhere (except in the Moses basket at night, of course!) As the months go by, you can then begin to establish a bedtime routine. And this is when you find out that your calling in life is to become a ninja spy for MI6.

The reality is that there will be nights when baby is ready to go to bed at 5pm and falls asleep before you even get to the bedtime story! Other nights may include half an hour of rocking and shushing, until baby is fast asleep, but wide awake as soon as their head touches the mattress. And then there’s every single night, when you do ninja moves across the creaky floorboards, as if you are a contestant on The Crystal Maze… and end up brushing your teeth in the kitchen sink.

Whatever your baby does at bedtime, when they are (finally) lying there asleep, it’s certainly a moment to cherish.