Books, Books, (Boons) Books!

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If you follow me on Instagram (if not you’re missing out on a whole heap of baby spam! Scroll down on your phone or peek to the left on your laptop to find me) you’ll have seen that last weekend we made a trip to Lewes where we stocked up on even more books for Little Ored.

It’s funny how Ored and I won’t buy LO any more toys, truly believing that he has more than enough (which he does). But when it comes to books it seems that all three of us just can’t get enough!  Reading was the first “activity” we introduced to LO when he was just weeks old. It was a great way of getting Ored more involved with the bedtime routine, which has (and still does) largely revolved around breastfeeding. It also gave me a chance to share my love of books, gleefully strolling down memory lane to relive the books I used to read as a child. But above all it gives us the opportunity to connect as a family. To switch off and completely immerse ourselves in a world full of imagination.

Needless to say we love books, but they can be pricey, so I’ve started scouting charity shops. This is one tip I’d really recommend to other parents as I’ve found some great bargains including a Roald Dahl treasury, along with copies of The Midnight Library and The Haunted House by the relatively unknown Kazuno Kohara, who is without a doubt my favourite discovery in the world of children’s illustration.

But charity shops don’t always stock newer titles and by and large you end up seeing the same books again and again, so I gave myself a HUGE pat on the back when I first discovered Boons Books. Located in Lewes, East Sussex, Boons sell discounted books that are either remainders or overstocked titles. All of which are in new/near perfect condition yet sold for a fraction of the price compared to the RRP!

Their selection of children’s books is vast, stocking a huge range to suit every age including activity, learning and picture books. Best part? They stock the more cooler, current titles on their shelves! More The Bear and the Piano and less Meg and Mog (although I have to admit that in our house their both loved equally).

The stock rotates regularly so you’ll always come across new covers sitting pretty on the shelves. Likewise, be sure to snap up anything that takes your fancy as it might not be there on your next visit.

Annoyingly Boons don’t have a website but they are well worth the visit, as is Lewes. We’ve discovered some real gems- books that we probably wouldn’t have come across in somewhere like Waterstones- and for next to nothing!

Here are three of mine and LO’s favourites.

  1. Four Seasons In One Day- The Story Orchestra (£7, RRP £14.99)

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons are reimagined in this magical storybook, complete with ‘press me’ buttons which play a small sample of each piece. The pages are beautifully illustrated, with so much for your eyes to explore. LO absolutely loves this so it’s become a firm favourite of ours, and not just at bedtimes!

2. One Day On Our Blue Planet, In The Artctic – Ella Bailey (£4, RRP £11.99)

Teaming vivid and imaginative illustration with engaging non-fiction, this book follows an Adelie penguin chick as she navigates her way through the magnificent if dangerous Antarctic Ocean. This is a great way of bringing wildlife and animal species into the home in a way that is both fun and educational. LO is obviously too young to appreciate the latter part but I love that he points to all the different types of Antarctic animals at the beginning and end of the book.

3. The 50 States  – Gabrielle Balken (£10, RRP £20)

Ok so this is one of my favourites as LO is far too young for this at the moment. But WOW, what an incredible compendium of facts (ranging from statehood dates and capitals, famous faces to key moments in history) about all fifty states of America. Presented in quirky, colourful illustrations that make the knowledge within its pages and engaging, not boring.

As someone who knows only a basic level of American history, I’m looking forward to discovering new things with a curious young mind beside me.

 

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The (Im)Possibility Of Being A Present Parent

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A few weeks ago Little Ored and I were travelling by bus en route to our Monday morning baby class when I was approached by an elderly woman. “It’s so nice to see a young Mum playing with her child instead of staring down at her phone.”

I was taken aback. Firstly by the apparent compliment on my parenting skills and secondly by how old she actually thought I was (I’m a few months shy of 30 and let’s face it that’s not that young).

All joking aside, I’ve always made a point of putting away my phone when I’m with Little Ored but even more so when we’re out and about. What would be the point of taking him to soft play, for a walk along the beach or out to lunch if I then spent the entire time ignoring him? We treat Little Ored as we would any adult, and if I wouldn’t sit on my phone for the duration of dinner with a friend then I’m not going to start doing it with my son.

Of course I’m no saint. There are occasions when I reply to a text, listen to a voicemail or check Google to find out when the next train is due. Or the more obvious and frequent reason I reach for the phone- to take photos. But I’d honestly say that for about 80% of the time when Little Ored is awake my phone is either hiding in a coat pocket or buried underneath a mountain of toys and baby wipes on a tabletop/kitchen counter.

Having a one year old means that for the most part, I’m too busy to even have my phone in hand but of course there are occasions when I have to remind myself to put it down, and that’s because I’m actively choosing (and trying) to be present in my son’s life. Screen time- specifically social media- is a BIG distraction from real life relationships and I don’t want my son or any future children growing up with the feeling that Mama isn’t really listening. I don’t want them ever feeling as if they have to compete for my attention. Likewise I don’t want to miss out on the funny/cute/ new things Little Ored does because I was too busy thumbing through Instagram.

And Little Ored loves that I’m right there with him, building blocks just so he can knock them down later. Chasing him into the tipi as he squeals with delight or dancing with abandon when his favourite song comes on the radio. Or, as is always the game of choice on any form of public transport, playing ‘ticket inspector’ on the bus.

But I can’t help but wonder how fully present any parent can really be when it’s almost impossible to shake off our responsibilities, be it work, running a household or both? So whilst my phone may lay untouched for hours on end, that doesn’t mean I haven’t found myself promising repeatedly that “I won’t be long,” whilst unpacking the third machine load of the day.

I always thought my phone was the enemy but now I realise it plays just a small part in the day to day demands on my time. For there will always be dirty dishes in the sink. Clean clothes that need folding. Errands to run. It’s a juggling act for any parent and I’d argue that no parent can be 100% present, 100% of the time.

Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t strive to be the best I can be, but it’s all about finding the right balance that works for me and my child and that’s all anyone can do as a parent. I guarantee they’ll be moments when sitting in front of the TV for an hour or two is the only way to appease a grumpy one year old. Other times I’ll need to hoover or cook lunch leaving Little Ored to amuse himself for longer than I’d like.

But if I can eliminate the unnecessary distractions (I finally deleted my Facebook account two weeks ago and I’m still basking in the glow of freedom) then at least I know that for the most part, Little Ored is getting the very best of me.

 

A Letter To My One Year Old

I wish I could tell you to slow down. To pause for a moment whilst I catch my breath (and catch up). But your endless energy, knowing grin and curiosity wouldn’t let you even if time would.

So here we are, basking in the afterglow of what was your first birthday this time last week. How has it already been a week since your birthday? How has it already been a year? The past 365 days have been an absolute whirlwind, and they have been the best I have ever known. In that time you’ve morphed from a helpless yet content baby into an olive eating, book loving, shrieking and pointing toddler- seemingly in the blink of an eye.

I remember holding  you for the first time, surprised by how small and how light you were in my arms. I remember not being able to sleep the night you were born as you lay next to me, for the sheer adrenaline coursing through my tired body. I was excited but most of all I was completely and utterly in love.

And so with those memories so clearly etched, despite sometimes feeling like a dream, I can’t quite believe that we are now here. Encouraging you to take your first steps. Deciphering yells whilst eagerly awaiting the day you start to say your first real words.

I had no idea whether Motherhood would suit me. I was never maternal but I’d like to think of myself as caring and loving, and as it turns out that’s all that really matters. Still, I was nervous. Imagine starting a new job without any kind of training! But I had nothing to fear. Motherhood has unequivocally been the making of me and that’s all down to you.

Thank you for making the last year as stress free as possible. Even in the womb you were chilled (I will always remember the sonographer asking me to shake my belly to try to get you to move) and along with your sweet nature, you’ve eased me into motherhood without ever making me feel overwhelmed. Not everyone gets to be so lucky.

That’s not to say I didn’t use Google every time you had a temperature or refluxed after a feed, but there’s a lot to be said for trusting your own instinct even when your instinct as a first time parent is practically non-existent at the start.

I look at you now- strong-willed, determined with an unapologetic mischievousness – and I can’t quite believe you are the same person whose head I was worried I wasn’t supporting properly, or who spent his nights sleeping in a baby box. Now you wake me up in the mornings by crazily crawling around in your cot as if to say “Come on Mama, it’s a new day!”

But it’s bittersweet. I already feel you becoming more independent and self-assured, quick to get cross if either of us tries to help you  because you’re adamant to learn on your own. And even though you are still very much a boob man, I know there probably isn’t long left on our breastfeeding journey (I’m letting you decide when you’re done) not to mention the preparations we’re making to move your cot into your own room in time for the summer.

No one told me that a birthday could be so emotional. But also full of promise. What wonderful, exciting adventures lay ahead of you…

Every day you surprise me with something new. Like when you blew raspberries against Papa Bear’s shoulder (for a solid 5 minutes) or when you problem solve a new toy super quick. Not to mention how impressive your dexterity is. And with that comes an overwhelming pride and joy in watching you grow.

Of course it’s not only you that’s grown in the past year. I no longer fumble with nappies and become flustered when undressing you at the Doctor’s. I’m a pro at navigating public transport with a pram and somehow we’ve created our own language in which I know from a look, cry or shout what it is you want (a good 90% of the time anyway).

I had always thought of myself as patient and empathetic but these are qualities you’ve only heightened. I no longer have time for negativity or anger or to let tiredness dominate the day. And when I see it written down like that, I’m kind of blown away by how much you really have changed my life.

In you I see the best we can be. And I see an already kind, bright and beautiful baby whose future hangs above us like the night sky. What stars you’ll map and align we’ll have to  wait and see, but oh how they’ll be lots and oh how they’ll shine brighter than we could ever have imagined!

And that fills me with more excitement for the future than sadness for the year that has now been and gone.

To you our loving, ever-smiling, head-bopping, beautiful son. How lucky we are.

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