Meet the family

Welcome back!

I have been retrieving things I have written over the past years and starting to pen other things which have been floating around in my mind.

I thought it would probably be more sensible to introduce myself and our family.

So… I amHazel Ann, Christian, wife, mother to four. I have a lot of different interests, I often struggle to feel like I “fit in” with different groups. I run a sling library with my friend Louise , serve as chair person of a voluntary organisation promoting cloth nappies, enjoy jazzercise and getting outside. I love clothes and beauty and spend a lot (too much) time on Instagram.

My husband is an engineer, and crofter. The croft is something he was brought up with and he is so passionate about it. Self sufficiency is a long term goal of his.  He is a private person, has no social media outlets! He’s got a really good eye for photography. He is a very good egg. (Sorry for that vom fest of sop!)

Then there are our four children! Basically the reason I breathe. They are loud, loving, wild… free range. Living where we do, in the middle of no where, they have a lot of freedom to roam. They do also watch TV and beg me to go on YouTube. I won’t pretend to be some kind of amazing mother who can survive without a bit of TV babysitting while I get things done. Maybe those mothers exist somewhere but not in my house..

Add in all of our animals – a cat, a dog, some hens, a few cows and then the oooooodles of sheep.

I started this blog a long time ago and then neglected it. I find it very therapeutic to turn my brain soup into words and then save them away. Anyone reading this I hope some of my rambles make you smile, feel less alone and give you an insight into what our little life is like.

Down, up and down again

I have always been a “planner”. I like to know what is happening when, I like to be in control as much as possible. I can go with the flow so long as that is what I have planned. 

Throw in motherhood. Genuinely I had imagined being someone who was ruled by routine, however I turned out not to be quite what I foresaw and my version of routine was going to the same things every week rather than my actual baby being on a “schedule”.

I found something in motherhood that clicked and gave me confidence rather than take it away. Prior to being a Mam I guess I was not really confident in much, I am one of those people who doesn’t always naturally fit in anywhere. There was a moment while I was at university that I stopped caring about what people thought of me, didn’t overthink to as crazy a degree, I guess you could call it a turning point. I felt clearer and it was freeing not to constantly try to guess what other people were thinking of me all the time. Then a few years later, becoming a Mam I was happy just fitting in with my own family. My husband, baby and I were “us”, and belonging there was more important than belonging anywhere else.

When my first two children were baby and toddler, other mothers would make comments to me about how together I always seemed, which is really hilarious as I am not a “together” kind of person in my own eyes. I liked being out and about, meeting people, talking to other parents, getting involved in things. I would get nervous before I went somewhere new, but the draw of it was always enough to get me out of my house and then out of the car and into whatever it was. And that must have seemed “together”. It did not always feel like that, spending the whole drive talking myself in and out of it.

After our third child was born I was much more governed by nursery runs, and so my exploring of new things lessened. We were in a routine, with the same activities from week to week, this is what suits me and how I thrive best.

While pregnant with our fourth child I never really imagined life being hugely different. I was “experienced” now, wasn’t I? People would ask how many children I had and when I pointed at my belly and said this was number 4, I got lots of different reactions. In my head I knew what was coming. Turns out I was pretty wrong about a lot of it..

There is a debate that I have in my head often about what terms to use to describe how I have felt over the last 10 months. Have I had post natal depression? Have I just been dealing with harder circumstances?

I posted about Henrie’s birth before, about how we had an “elective c section” – that I didn’t want.  Looking back, it seems like it took me a long time to come to terms, in my mind, with what happened. My body basically refused to accept what had happened too and took months to heal. That was not a good start. For a person who loves to be out and about being confined to barracks was hard.

Being negative is not something I enjoy, so while I don’t want this to be really doom and gloom, the truth is that a lot of the last months have felt like that. It has felt like a big black storm cloud has just been following me around.

Last week I hosted our second fourth trimester group, we had a play therapist visiting and she was talking about mindfulness for parents. I really enjoyed her talk, so much of what she was saying resonated with me. I was able to talk about how I have felt since Henrie was born without becoming really emotional, seeing it as a period which I have moved out of rather than being stuck in.

I want to talk more about all of this because I feel like it is so helpful for processing. Birth trauma is something which I am learning more and more about all the time. I want to leave this link here for anyone who is feeling like they want to get help after having a baby and everything not feeling rosy.

A bumpy ride, that is how to describe how it’s been. At the moment things feel almost normal, but now I have learned that could change tomorrow. The good days well out number the bad ones which is great. Bad days are still a thing, and they are no fun for anyone. I love that I have friends who I can just say “I am having a rubbish day” and not worry that they are judging me or think they need to say something magic to make it better. It does get better, it might take a while, but there is always hope.

Hazel-Ann x

The little things

My husband and I were talking the other week about little things that have made life as a family much easier.

I thought I would write up the ones that we came up with – let me know what yours are!

  1. Tesco grocery home delivery. This is a service I used as a student in Edinburgh, but it wasn’t available here in Shetland until 5.5  years ago.  From the week it launched until now I have been a very frequent customer and a VERY grateful one. Gone are the days of dragging my children around the store, having driven 30 minutes to get there! Every week when they come into my kitchen and leave my shopping right there on the table, I am grateful!
  2. Dyson cordless vacuum. I got this as a Christmas gift (to me, from me) 2 years ago. It is used daily, multiple times! Ours is no longer the most recent version, but it works great for us. We have a small house and it can zip around the whole thing on one charge, and then it has all the attachments you need for the couch (worst job!), skirting boards, all those fiddly areas and THE CAR!
  3. Sliding doors on the car. We got our car almost 3 years ago, it is a VW Sharan and the door slide, no more worrying about the children bashing their doors, getting them in and out is so easy, as was the infant car seat (aka the baby bucket seat). I used to have a Golf, and found it harder to park than I do this , well basically it is a bus.
  4. Following on the car theme is the parking sensors! I am not a really confident driver, but with where we live I do have to drive a lot. Since we got a car with parking sensors I feel much more able to try parking in spaces I perviously would have never attempted.
  5. ParentPay. Now this is brand new to us. No more writing cheques to the school! If your school doesn’t use this, it is an online platform you use to pay for milk money and dinner money. I am sure that this will become more and more useful as our children get older and move up though the school. So far, so good.

So those are 5 of my top modern life hacks which made my days simpler, speed up cleaning and free up brain space.

Hazel-Ann x

No so Mrs Hinch

For the last couple of months the world has witnessed the birth of a new army, they call themselves the Hinch Army, and they are everywhere. There will be members all around you..

Now this army is fighting dirt. And they are using nuclear weapons to do so.

Sales of certain products endorsed by Mrs Hinch have SOARED. Things have sold out and been auctioned off on ebay for crazy money.

I think cleaning can be a great form of therapy. I certainly enjoy it and from what I have seen of Mrs H, she seems to want to help other people. What is the cost though?

Before I had children I didn’t really believe you could clean without bleach and other, what I now consider to be, toxic products. 225302_502681368750_4551_n

(This is when I worked at a cafe all summer and bleached the sink and cleaned the HUGE windows every day.)

So as I was saying, after having children, I changed my mind. Where I live there was a company everyone went wild for that sold chemical free cleaning products. I bought a load of those, and I looked for low chemical and non toxic alternatives to everything. I learned that a lot of antibacterial cleaning sprays are harmful to our lungs and we are inhaling more and more of them all the time. The idea of this at the time terrified me. I was also worried about my children finding cleaning products and getting into them, they are the exploring type so nothing ever really feels safe when they are around.

I have now gone on to be a “rep” for another company selling chemical free/low chemical alternatives. This is not a sales post. 

Since I moved away from harsh products I don’t have to worry so much about having as many dangerous chemicals in my home. That alone is the best part for me.

I really love how easy to use they are too, having a cloth which does all the work is exactly what I need in my life as a busy Mam.

One thing I wondered about was germs, would we get ill more without bleach?

The answer is a no! I am very confident that we are getting rid of the bad germs.

So, that’s all I really wanted to say. I think Mrs Hinch is doing a great job at inspiring people. But her methods feel toxic to me.

Hazel x

https://hazelannjohnson.norwex.co.uk

Nursing in style

img_4609Hello again,

This post is about breast feeding fashion, I have been either pregnant and/or breastfeeding for the last 8 years, I am 29 so that is almost a third of my life  :O

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Breastfeeding is something that I hoped to do when I was pregnant with my first baby. I mentally set myself up that I would give it my best shot, if it didn’t work out it didn’t matter.

It did work out, and it is something that I really treasure. I have gone on to be able to feed, and enjoy feeding all our 4 babies.

After Henrie was born I logged onto my facebook and had a few tags from friends in a post by Chico Jack’s. They were looking for brand reps so I entered…. and they picked me, along with a few other lovely ladies. I had heard of them before but had not made any purchases, I now have several pieces from them – the twinning sets won a LovedByParents award this year too.

(How cute does Henrie look here!)

My usual “go to” clothes style in winter is a wrap dress, tights and boots. I wear a vest top underneath for warmth and because I am not a fan of lots of cleavage on show. Shirts and jeans, or two tops to do the “one up, one down method” which is literally just pulling up your tshirt and down your vest for feeding access.

Often I hear people saying how “annoying” it must be to have to wear “feeding clothes”, that is not how I view it myself. There are some items of clothing that just don’t work (high neck dresses, non stretch dresses are the main things I don’t even look at) otherwise I feel like most things you can work around. I have lots of thin vests which I wear tucked into my trousers, this allows you to pull up your t-shirt without exposing flesh (side note – I don’t feel comfortable showing a lot of flesh, this is not me saying you shouldn’t) .

The Chico Jacks tops have a zip across the front which means that you can zip across when you are feeding, and then zip back up again after, without pulling your top up.

These skater dresses have sneaky little zippers. (My legs… they are in winter mode now – if you know… you know 🙈 – so someone maybe pass me some fake tan..

I wore this maxi dress for a wedding we went to in the summer. I had lots of compliments on it which is a confidence boost when you are at a wedding with your baby. I always feel really exposed and sometimes some people feel like they need to make an assessment of how you look!? I’m sure they don’t mean it like that.

Another fab thing I have found is the website Silk Fred who have a section for breastfeeding dresses and a few jumpsuits. I wish more websites did this filter.

Some of my favourite places to shop are Boden (best for wrap dresses and tops), H&M (great for button tops and dresses), Zara and Joules. Because of where I live, there are next to no “real” shops, I have to shop online. When I go away to the “big smoke” and can go into actual shops I do go to Primark and have a few things from there, my sister sends me odd things I see online that I want from there too (she lives in civilisation!)

If you are over on instagram there are some really great people you can follow @dresslikeamum @feedinstyle and then there is the hashtag whatmamaworemonday which @heyitsromeca and @stylemotherbeat host weekly.

Nursing clothes DO NOT have to be frumpy or ugly. They don’t even have to look like nursing clothes, I haven’t even mentioned places like JojoMamanBebe and Mamas and Papas who do nursing clothes because I don’t really shop there, and I find that a lot of their items are maternity/nursing clothes which can be super unflattering when you don’t want to look pregnant anymore..! If you are on facebook there is a great group “can I breastfeed in it uk” which people post finds and inspiration on all the time.

Thanks for reading, please leave comments with your tips and favourite shops for breastfeeding friendly clothes below.

Hazel-Ann x

Bathroom Update

Welcome back!

We began renovating our bathroom in 2013, at the time I was very pregnant with our second child. Around 3 weeks before my due date we started to knock down walls and rip the bath out… I went and stayed at my parents house with our eldest. I’m not sure why we thought that was a good idea… but it was one of those intense nesting things that you decide is a *really* good idea and SO important that it simply cannot wait.

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As with everything we undertake, progress is slow. Having a husband who can turn his hand to almost anything is brilliant, but he has to spin so many plates, it can feel like he’s forgotten about some of the projects I am more excited about, and he is rather forgetful..

When I plan out projects I think it will take X number of days or weeks, usually turn one of my days into a month, and one of my weeks into a year!

I started to get ideas from Pinterest, I made a board which I showed to Paul every 5 minutes until he started to give me “the look” when I brought it up… But I would say my style is “country house”. Classic rather than trendy? I struggle to put myself into a box.

We tore out that gorgeous blue bathroom suite, and put in a white one, knocked down a wall, installed a shower – which was a last minute decision and not in my original plan- built units, put in underfloor heating, tiled the floor, made a bath panel, and some panelling behind the bath, built the huge shelves, more tiling and did lots of painting. Thats it in a nutshell, as I said it’s taken years and we have done it all ourselves. Each time we reached a new stage, especially getting rid of the blue bath and toilet, I would update my social media saying good riddance!

My father in law helped us a lot, he is a diamond, and as our house is very old there aren’t many right angles, for that reason “bespoke” is the only option. I loved the colour Pigeon from Farrow and Ball, so that inspired my paint choice. I really love shaker style cabinets and carried that look through to the bath panel and the wall panelling.

We ordered underfloor heating mats and wire, and installed that all ourselves.  This was a learning curve as we hadn’t done anything like this before! However the instructions were really easy to follow. We got prices for this from local shops but they were three times as expensive. We do always try to buy locally and got the floor tiles and work top along with the suite from a Shetland supplier. Sometimes getting things sent here can be a nightmare!

I did most of the painting, in-between feeding babies and everything else, when we were trying to get all the units finished I spent a lot of the boys nap times in here with my paintbrush.

So here is the finished, well as finished as its probably going to be, article. I think with a few more shelves around the window, a mirror on the blank wall and a fake plant or two it would really be “complete”. I am so pleased, even if it has taken forever and a day!

Mega thanks to everyone who has listened to me moan.. and super huge thanks to my husband and my in-laws.

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Thanks for reading, Hazel-Ann x

What do you do all day?

I remember once telling someone that I was “just a Mam”, and their response being “so what do you do all day then?”

What do I do all day? As “just a Mam”…

I am intrigued by how society judges and treats people. How families have to defend their decisions.  Who earns the money, who does the “work”, is there an easy option, are some people making it harder for themselves??

I am a stay at home mother, I don’t have a “normal job” with a monthly wage, my work is not measured in an hourly rate. And that is fine. Another mother will be working full time,  maybe because she loves her job, maybe because she just wants to. Some mothers work part time, some work from home, some have their own businesses, squirrelling away during nap time and after bed time. I am talking here about mothers because I myself am a mother of young children. The exact same goes for anyone at any stage.

Your worth is not measured by this.

I believe that we are now so trained to think that our contribution to society is measured purely on how much tax we pay. I don’t see it that way. Whatever your “employment status”, it doesn’t change “how much” of a mother you are.

We all need money to survive. There is no arguing that point unfortunately.

I think of roles people take on as volunteers, how much that work adds to other peoples lives and to society as a whole. I have “side line” things I am involved in, some generate money, some don’t, none of them feel more or less worthy. I believe that my own “role” in this big world at the moment is to raise my little people. That is what I believe I am meant to be doing, it does not mean I think that everyone else needs to be the same as me. Really I am just tired of the competition and judgement that I feel is constantly pushed around. Everyone can feel the same sense of overwhelm whatever they are doing.

I have friends who fall all over the “working spectrum”, they all love and worry over their family the same.

Another time someone asked me when I was going back to work, I said that I was staying at home with my children, his reply “what a waste of a brain!”

A waste of a brain! I was so offended and wanted to shout or say something really clever.. instead I was too gob smacked to really say anything. I brooded over those words and then quote from Dr John Trainer came to mind “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” (This quote is often misattributed to C S Lewis.) I felt as though this man was saying that staying at home was somehow “beneath” some people. Maybe that there are some for whom its ok to stay home? Others need to go to work?

I bumped into this man again just a few days later while on my way to an appointment, child free, and had a moment to reply to him. He appeared to be a bit taken aback, assured me that it was “ok” to stay home for a while. There wasn’t time to expand on the point then, I still wonder what he really thinks.

It was a clear example of how I am sometimes made to feel, for staying home. And I can only imagine that mothers who work suffer even more judgement. When I have an appointment and need child care,  I am particular about who I leave my children with. Anyone who is leaving their children for longer periods while working, obviously puts a huge amount of thought, time and very careful consideration into where they choose.

But really, this post is just about the way culture has made us all feel as though we have to constantly justify our choices on this, casting this judgmental shadow over things.

I was at a seminar last year where the speaker talked about how our society has changed over the last one hundred years, the impact the war had on family set ups. It was the beginning of a lot of change and I am fascinated by that history.

Part of human nature is to judge, if I have ever come across as making someone else feel less for their choice I am so sorry, I really believe that everyone makes the choice that is the best fit for their own family and circumstances. I am starting to ramble now, so I am going to sign this off.

Hazel Ann x