what I’ve read in 2017 so far

I know we’re now far past the mid-point of the year, but when Emma-Louise from Read, Write, Inspire tagged me in the Mid Year Freak Out tag I had to join in.  It’s a book tag, about what I’ve read in 2017 so far.  The only thing I love more than reading books is talking about them, so lets get cracking!

My prized possession is my book collection which dominates a corner of our living room. I keep most of the books I’ve read, unless I really hated them.  I also have well over one hundred books still waiting patiently on the shelves to be read, and that’s after a bit of a clear out earlier in the year where I got rid of unread books that no longer suit my tastes.  I have a serious obsession, and have had to ban myself from buying any new books as I have nowhere else to put them (or time to read them!).

But reading is my safe haven, my sanity saver and the way I switch off at night.  Through books I learn more about others, the world and myself.  You’re never alone when you have a book.  I don’t see me getting over my obsession any time soon.

I decided to use the Pop Sugar reading challenge to help me chose which books to read in 2017.  Forty books which fit into categories such as “set in war time” or “has a red spine.”  With a newborn thrown in to the mix since June, I know I’ll not get close to the target.  But I’ve made a good try, and am currently sitting at 23/40.  Hopefully I’ll get to at least 30 before the year is out, so look out for a post about the challenge then.

Without further ado though, here’s a bit of a summary of what I’ve read in 2017 so far.

read in 2017

 

Best books you’ve read in 2017 so far

read in 2017 - the handmaid's tale

I’ve been lucky, I’ve had quite a lot of good reads.  I don’t usually re-read books, but because the challenge asked for a book from childhood I re-read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aitken.  I also re-read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale after watching the tv adaptaion.  Both were just as good as I remembered.  But the best new (to me) books have been Life of Pi by Yann Mantel, Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love and Chocolat by Joanne Harris.

read in 2017 - go set a watchman

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017

I don’t usually read series of books, but this year I read the second book in the Miss Pereguin’s series.  It was ok, though I preferred the first book.  If it counts, I’d actually say Go Set a Watchman was a good sequal to To Kill a Mockingbird, although I think Harper Lee actually wrote it first.  It was cool to revisit Scout as a grown up, and to see Atticus in a different light.

New release you haven’t read yet but want to

I try not to look at other books, as I have so many of my own still to read!  But I did like the sound of See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt.

Most anticipated release in the 2nd half of the year.

I don’t tend to keep an eye on what’s coming out, for the reason I mentioned above.  I don’t even check if my favourite authors have got anything in the pipeline, the temptation would be too strong.

Biggest disappointment

Speaking of favourite authors…maybe not knowing what they’re up to isn’t awlays a bad thing.  I read Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last and was really underwhelmed.  I was a bit gutted, as she is one of my favourites and this story sounded like it was going to be so intriguing.  But there just seemed to be something missing in this book, it lacked soul. I really didn’t like how current it was either.  I know that sounds funny but I don’t mean current as in finger-on-the-pulse.  More like current in a way that was going to date it very quickly.

read in 2017 - the history of love

Biggest surprise

Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love.  This was given to me by a friend who was having a clear out, and he’s pretty hip so I couldn’t understand why he had such a chick-lit sounding book in his stash.  I only read it because it ticked one of the reading challenge categories.  But I’m so glad I did, I was under its spell from the first page.  It was not chick-lit at all, but raw and human and heartbreaking.

Fav new author

In line with my favourite books of the year it would be Nicole Krauss, Yann Mantel and Joanne Harris.  They were all new to me, and when I lift the ban on buying new books I’ll be looking to see if they have any others I can add to my collection.

Fav new crush

No character in the books I’ve read this year has made me think “I want to be loved the way he loves her.”  I was curious about Reuben in Clare Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days but the ending made me reassess that.

read in 2017 - the book thief

Fav new characters

Who doesn’t root for Pi, cast adrift in a lifeboat with a tiger?  Or Christopher as he tries to solve Mark Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time? Probably the one I’ll remember the most is Liesal Meminger from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, because even though I hated the ending of that story I rooted for her the whole way through.

Book that made you cry

The History of Love actually had me in tears by page 10.  And Toni Morrison’s Beloved had me crying at various points for various characters.  That book is full of pain.

Book that made you happy

Chocolat, and not just because of all the delicious images it put in my mind.  It showed that “good” can come in a whole range of guises, and I quite liked its feminist leanings too!

read in 2017 - our endless numbered days

Most beautiful book you’ve bought this year

I’ve not bought any books this year…at least not for myself!  But at the end of last year I changed jobs and my leaving gift was a very generous Waterstone’s voucher.  I bought about eight new books (a treat for me as I usually go second hand).  So if by beautiful we mean cover design, then Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller wins that.

What books do you need to read before the end of the year.

Like I said, it’s unlikely I’ll manage the 17 I need to hit the target of 40 books read in 2017.  But I’m at least hoping to get the following under my belt – Hotel World by Ali Smith, Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Francaise and The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor.  I might also give Mark Twain’s  The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula a go too.

 

So that’s my thoughts on some of what I’ve read in 2017 so far.  I’m excited about the books that are waiting for me!  Have you read any good books this year?  Feel free to tag yourself in this, and let me know if you post about it.  I love to see what other people are reading.  Let me know if you’ve read any of the books I’ve mentioned here, I’d like to know what you thought of them.

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weight loss wardrobe limbo (or, why I’ve been wearing the same jeans for 11 weeks)

Writing about the five essentials you need on a weight loss journey last week lit a fire under me.  I feel unstoppable with my weight loss right now, because considering each of those five things really focused me.  My results on the scale were better than I’d hoped.  And I’m so glad, because I am sick of being in weight loss wardrobe limbo. Confession?  I only have one pair of jeans that fit me…and I wear them every damn day.

weight loss wardrobe limbo

 

I wear my jeans for two (ok…three) days, then have to wash and dry them strategically so I don’t end up doing the school run in my pants.  Right now they have mud on the bottom of the right leg, so I’m going to have to baby wipe that away because I can’t fit in a wash and dry before the school pick up.

I’m aware I sound like a tramp.

 

how did it come to this?

I’m not sure how I ended up with only one pair of jeans to wear.  Pre-pregnancy I had a few pairs I could rotate.  I can only assume that in my one attempt to Konmari my life (which even nesting couldn’t force me to sustain), I binned all the jeans that didn’t “spark joy.”  Let me tell you, being left with only one pair of jeans that fit ain’t exactly sparking the joy right now either.

weight update

this week’s result

I lost 2.5lb, which takes my total to 7lbs.  But best of all…it means the pregnancy weight is gone!

I also got Slimmer of the Week at SlimmingWorld.

moving forward

I have finally channeled the motivation that I had been struggling to find.  I’ve seen that weight loss is possible and I have my sights firmly set on seeing that number drop each week.  I’ve been keeping track of everything I’ve eaten, and even though I’ve not been on plan all the time I’m confident that the scales will make me smile this week!

Why don’t I just buy more pairs?  Because I do not plan on staying this size long enough to make that a worthwhile investment.  I find it very difficult to justify spending money on clothes, and when I do it’s because I know I will wear those items to death.

The other issue is this.  I’m a size 14, and I have at least two other size 14 jeans in my wardrobe.  I honestly thought once the pregnancy weight was gone I’d fit back in to all the 14’s.  But I forgot that clothing companies are fucking crazy.  So whilst this current pair of size 14’s (Primark) fit me and have done since a week after giving birth, my other two (New Look and George…I know, I’m the style queen) don’t.  I’m not even looking at my 12’s.

 

there are no other options

And I do have leggings, and dresses, and skirts.  But I’m a jeans girl.  If I did the school run or Baby Sensory in a dress I’d feel a bit overdone.  And wearing leggings in public makes me feel as if I forgot to get dressed.

I scoured the charity shops at the weekend, but it would appear that size 14 jeans that fit are something no woman wants to part with.  Even for cancer research or homeless people or heart conditions.  Though I did get a cute little knitted skirt with snowflakes on it for Christmas.  Priorities.

 

the weight loss wardrobe

When you’ve yo-yo dieted the way I have, you can end up with a weight loss wardrobe.  A closet that covers all bases.  Mine has ranged from size 22 down to size 8.  When I lost weight the first time I gleefully chucked away all my “big” clothes as the weight came off.  But I had to replace items all the way back up to a 16 after gaining weight in pregnancy.  When I lost the weight again, I was too scared to chuck away too much in case I needed them again.  But at the same time, I couldn’t bring myself to chuck out my “skinny” clothes either, as I hoped I would one day wear them again.

A few years ago I wondered whether part of my yo-yoing was because of my weight loss wardrobe.  Every time I opened the doors I simultaneously felt guilty for not being slimmer and reassured at still having clothes to wear. I’d diet to slim down, get disheartened at still not fitting in to my old clothes, and gain weight again with clothes waiting which provided a crash pad.  My weight loss wardrobe was not helping me at all.

So I decided to take some action.  I sent all my size 8, 10 and 16 clothes to charity shops – I didn’t want to be a 16 again, and the smaller sizes were unrealistic.  The size 14 clothes were what fit me and I decided that a size 12 was my ideal, so I kept those.

So that’s why I’m now in weight loss wardrobe limbo.  Too stubborn to buy bigger clothes, too big to wear the clothes I’ve got.  But it’s serving as a motivator.

And at least it takes the decision making out of getting dressed in the mornings…

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home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies

Before our youngest son was born, I blogged about my plans to give birth at home.  It had been my hope all along to have a home birth, and I was very lucky that my dreams became a reality.  Now that our baby is nearly three months old, I wanted to reflect on our incredible experience…and the bullshit that comes with wanting to give birth in the comfort of your own home.

I thought I’d turn this in to a mini-series. In this first post I talk about why home birth isn’t just for crazy hippies.  Look out for future posts about my own experience, and why I think every woman should consider a home birth.

home birth - not just for crazy hippies

 

only hippies home birth

Thanks to stellar “news” sources such as Channel5 documentaries and the Daily Fail, we know that childbirth is a traumatic and dangerous experience.  So it stands to reason that only crazy hippies who care more about their birth experience than the safety of their unborn child would plan to give birth beyond the safety net of a hospital.

It may come as some surprise to you that I shave my armpits.  Or that I vaccinate my kids.  Or that I don’t breastfeed, I’m not vegan, I send my sons to mainstream school and I have never eaten/drank/planted any of my placentas*.  I also most certainly don’t think I know more than any midwives or obstetricians. Have I forgotten any stereotypes of your typical home birthing woman?  No?  Good.

 

what kind of weirdo are you?

I trained as a midwife many moons ago, so know that most of the time birth isn’t traumatic and it isn’t dangerous.  I also didn’t think that only deluded eccentrics gave birth outside the confines of the labour ward. But I’ll admit, home birth was something that was never on my personal radar.

Until I gave birth in a car park.

Trust me, that will change your perspective on most things.  An unattended delivery in my husband’s car with an audience of strangers was not on my birth plan. It made me certain that next time around I would do all I could to have a calm, positive experience.  It made sense that being in my own home would be the best way to ensure that happened.

 

announcing our home birth plans

I was embarrassed to tell people about my plans though, out of fear of what they might think.  I’m lucky that I don’t have many people in my life who are straight up arseholes, so I was never treated to some of the choice comments I know other home birth mums have received.  Like being accused of wanting a home birth purely to have a dramatic story to tell when it all went wrong.  Can you imagine saying that to someone?

But what I did experience a lot was The Look.  That split second where a person’s thoughts are displayed on their face before they remember to rearrange their features.  The Look is usually followed by “oh really?”  And about nine times out of ten the person then goes on to tell you they would never have a home birth because they/their partner/someone they met once on the bus had a horrible 5 day labour which ended up with failed forceps and an emergency Cesarean under general anaesthetic with a three week stay in hospital for an infection.  Thanks Belinda, for sharing your experience.

It took me a while to feel confident enough to state our plans.  I had a store of responses for the comments I was likely to get.  Most of the reactions focused on pain relief, so the fact I’d had a drug-free labour previously made it easier for me to prove to others that I was just fine on that front, thanks.  My midwifery experience also came in handy to bat off those who tried to scare me about safety aspects.  I was able to stop them in their tracks with the fact that in a healthy pregnancy with a history of uncomplicated previous deliveries, giving birth at home with a midwife was just as safe as delivering in a hospital1.

 

getting midwife support

I was still scared to tell people that I wanted to give birth at home, in case it didn’t happen.  I didn’t want to build up an image of the birth only for people to say “I told you so” if plans had to change.  Not just for my own self-preservation, but on behalf of home birthers everywhere.  I didn’t want to let the side down.

When a hospital birth doesn’t go the way the parents hope for, there is (quite rightly) sympathy and morale bolstering.  But when a home birth has to be abandoned or transferred to hospital, there is a lot of tutting and “well what did she expect” type comments.  Not always, not from all, but audible enough.

I was even nervous to ask the midwife if it would be possible.  As if I had to ask permission. I was worried that she’d see me as a trouble patient.  Someone who was going to be difficult or demanding or who would refuse all advice.  Because that’s what a typical home birth mum is like – tv tells us so.  Home birthers only believe in alternative therapies, and if they don’t agree with their care providers they’re liable to go rogue and freebirth in a forest somewhere.

I didn’t have the most supportive of midwives, either. The one I saw most frequently made a point at each appointment of up-selling the birthing unit.  She always cheerfully reminded me that if someone else went in to labour at the same time I’d have to go to hospital because there would be no staff.  Her argument was that I might want to save myself the worry and just go for a hospital birth anyway.  She sent me for growth scans, and started pushing for induction as soon as I went past my due dates2.

Thankfully I did also have some supportive midwives, as well as a close friend who is a midwife passionate about home birth.  I also joined various Facebook groups to get advice and reassurance from some incredibly knowledgeable women.  I was able to counteract the lack of professional support, but I don’t think it’s always so easy.

 

support women’s birth choices

Women – all types of women – deserve to have their birth options open. For some, a medical condition or a complication with their pregnancy means that hospital is absolutely the safest place to give birth.  But for so many other women, a home birth can be perfect.  It reduces their risk of medical intervention3, can help them cope better with labour and is ultimately more relaxing than being in a medicalised environment4.

Stereotyping those who chose home birth as weird or selfish means that so many women who might chose a home birth just wont even consider it.  We live in a society which is obsessed with negative birth experiences.  Many times I’ve seen people claim that women who share their positive experiences are showing off.  That they’re rubbing it in the faces of those who had more traumatic routes into motherhood.  But focusing on what can go wrong blinds so many to what goes right, the majority of the time.

Why perpetuate a myth which cheats a woman out of a positive birth experience?

If someone tells you that they’re planning to birth at home, the correct response is “good for you.”  Not “wow, I couldn’t do that…but good for you” or “you’re brave…but good for you.”  Just “good for you.”  Because after all, home birth is good for her.  Whether she’s a hippie or not.

 

 

* I’m not bashing any of these things, they’re all valid life choices.**  Except not vaccinating your kids…that just makes you dangerous.

** Whilst I shave my armpits, I have been known to leave it a very long time between shaves…

 

1 NCT – home birth
2 Home Birth Reference Site – you can’t have a home birth because…
3 “Planned home birth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician.”
4
AIMS – benefits of home birth

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weight loss journey essentials

Last week, I wrote about how I was struggling to get motivated to lose weight and get healthy.  I’m still lacking that vital spark to kick start my efforts, so I thought this week I’d remind myself about what it takes to lose weight.  If losing weight is a quest, then I thought I’d share my weight loss journey essentials.

weight loss journey essentials - the five things you need

When people say weight loss is a journey, they’re on to something.   And I don’t mean in a hippy-dippy-gonna-cleanse-your-aura way, or even an X-Factor-reality-tv-cheese sort of a way.  I mean a journey in its truest sense – there is no magic teleporter taking you from A to B in split second time.

It stands to reason then that, like any journey, you wouldn’t set out without even just a little bit of planning and preparation.  After all, even if you’re only nipping to the shops you at least know how you’re going to get there!  Like any good traveler though, you should be focusing on making the journey almost as rewarding as getting to your final destination! Enjoying the process is the best way to get to where you want to be, and key to staying there too.

 

 

my weight loss journey essentials

 

a destination

You need to know where you’re going – what is your goal?  More importantly is it realistic, is it healthy? Is it going to motivate you, or just make you feel as if you have too far to go? You could maybe give yourself other places to stop off at along the way – set yourself mini-goals, to break the journey up.

 

weight update

this week’s result

I lost 0.5lb, which takes my total to 4.5lbs.

I know some people freak out about “just” half a pound, but I hadn’t had a great week and so anything less than a gain was a win for me!  I’d started the week off badly and was only mindful of what I was eating in the last few days before weigh-in, so I was expecting worse.  It also meant I finally broke through the barrier of the 2lbs I kept losing and putting back on, and a weight loss two weeks in a row was something I hadn’t had since July!

moving forward

This week, again, has been a bit crappy.  Like I said, I’m struggling to find my motivation.  And because I’m not focused, I’m more inclined to let myself indulge when the opportunity comes up.  Which it did a lot this weekend, with cakes and a meal out for our son’s fifth birthday.  I’ve tried to reign it in again, but it may be too little too late!

a mode of transport

This is probably the most important of the weight loss journey essentials.  What way of eating and what way of being active are going to get you to your destination?

Diet is obviously vital. It’s important to chose comfort and safety over speed, especially on a long journey.   A crash diet may get you there faster, but it isn’t safe and can take you back where you started just as quickly.

And what about exercise? This all comes down to being honest about your fitness levels, the time you have to hand and what interests you most.  Then you can find activities to match.

Remember though, you can do all the exercise classes your gym offers, but if your diet is crap you wont get the best results.  After all, you can’t outrun a bad diet1!

 

a route planner

Planning and organisation are the biggest tools when it comes to weight loss. You can follow a miracle diet that has helped a million people lose weight before you, but if you aren’t organised and don’t have a plan then it isn’t going to work as well for you.

This is my favourite of the weight loss journey essentials, I love being organised.  Shopping lists, meal plans and tracking your nutrition will all help you map your route, and help steer you back on track when you get lost.

 

a weather forecast

Your environment impacts on the progress you make. You need a good mindset, to approach weight loss from a positive place.  A clear field of vision and positive people to support you are really important too.  The more of these things you have, the more likely you are to reach your destination.

But life doesn’t always work that way. You should  look ahead to any saboteurs or things which may knock you off course. Do you have a time of the month where things may be a struggle? Do all your social occasions revolve around food? Think ahead and have ideas of how to get through each patch of bad weather before it hits.

 

mementos

Mark your journey with postcards of your progress, snapshots of your changing body and rewards for every milestone you hit. They will keep you motivated as you go, showing you how far you’ve come.  They’re also incredible to look back on once you get to your final destination.

 

 

what that means to me…

I’ve looked at each of the weight loss journey essentials to try and get more focused.

My ultimate destination is a body in a healthy weight range for my height and a healthy body fat percentage.  A body which fits into size 12 clothing and is fit and strong.  That means a 10% body fat reduction and 24lb weight loss, dropping a dress size (and a half!), and making noticeable charted strength and fitness progress.

I honestly believe that a diet of high quality, nutritious food in the right amount is the way to go.  I’m going to focus on a diet based on as few processed foods as possible, with quantity kept in check by tracking.

Fitness-wise, I’m going to work through my maternity leave fitness bucket list.  I’m on the final level of my postnatal recovery DVD, then I’m going to focus on strength and flexibility with yoga.  Cardio is covered by Zumba and walking over 5 miles four times a week.

I need to work on my mindset, and be more mindful of situations that can throw me off.  Weekends and times out of my routine are danger zones for me.  Unfortunately I haven’t quite figured out how to get through those times without coming out of them a little weather beaten.

I have taken before pictures, and will be taking some progress ones as I go.  I’m also logging my changing measurements and body fat on MyFitnessPal which presents it in a graph. I am a sufferer of the “fat day” which can make me feel as if I’m getting nowhere. A record to look back on can keep me motivated.

I have a plan.  I have my weight loss journey essentials.  Now lets just see if I can put it all into action!

 

 

1 – British Journal of Sports Medicine

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Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens – an honest review

Today our four year old turns five. What with him starting school a few weeks ago I’m fresh out of emotions at milestones, so I’m coping just fine! Five suits him, and I remember from the teen that five is a good year. Less tantrums, more personality. Though this kid has personality by the bucketful already, I’m not sure I could handle any more! We didn’t throw him a party this year, as he doesn’t know all the kids in his class yet, so instead we took him to Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

It’s a dreary Monday and I’m the bad (good?) sort of mum who makes her kids go to school on their birthdays. He opened all his gifts before school – a street sweeper, mini bus, log lorry, crane and sea plane in a variety of Lego, Playmobile and Sika…he’s a total vehicle geek. Another thing he geeks out over is dinosaurs. He geeks out over those hard.  We’ve seen every dinosaur movie possible, our house is over run with books and toys, and the little dude can tell you facts about the most obscure dinos (as well as pronounce their names).

So when I first heard about the Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens I knew we had to take him. Animatronic dinosaurs would blow his little mind.  I had the tab open on my browser for months until the tickets went on sale, and yesterday it was finally our time to experience the magic.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

getting there, getting in

I’ll get the bad bits over with first.  The tickets for Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens weren’t cheap – for a family of four it was over £10 per perso. The customer service is poor to non-existent too.  I raised a request via Eventbrite and got no response, and on Facebook had to chase for a reply which was curt to say the least.

I also didn’t like the booking process.  If you’re thinking of going when the tour moves on to other areas of the country, don’t book as soon as the tickets go on sale.  I did that, only to find that a discount code was released the next day.  Not a nice way to treat your most keen customers.  The tickets are also non-refundable, which isn’t great when you’re buying in advance for children. Better hope they don’t come down with chicken pox or something on the day!*

Obviously if you catch the tour somewhere else this one may not be an issue, but specific to Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens there is no dedicated parking.  We didn’t see that as a problem but I thought it was worth a mention here.  We got parked on Byres Road, which was free and unrestricted as it was a Sunday. There are also a couple of car parks nearby.  But I would guess the car parks would fill up quickly, and they aren’t free.  On-street parking is restricted and most of it is residents only, so I’d recommend public transport if at all possible. Our friends got public transport, which is great to that part of the city.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

the dinosaur experience

The dinosaurs are laid out at points along a route through the Botanic Gardens.  The route was well sign-posted and was fine for pushing a pram along, though due to where it is there were hills and part of the route does take you out on to a road.

We were greeted by a colossal Brachiosaurus as we made our way up to the start of the route. The wee guy was a bit nervous at first!  The dinosaurs make noises, and he wasn’t too sure about that.  He soon warmed up though, when he saw some Pterodactyls in the trees. After that he excitedly ran from dino to dino, getting up close and really enjoying himself.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

The models themselves were really good, and there were facts about each one.  A lot of them moved and made sound so it was a lot of fun being roared at!  It was really busy when we were there, but the models are spaced out well enough that there’s plenty of room to see them and pose for photos.

We were lucky enough to get a typical Scottish summer day for our visit. The heavens ripped open and torrential rain pelted us before we even got halfway round the route.  We’d worn our trusty waterproofs, which was lucky as there is very little shelter.  Feeding the baby under a bridge while rain thundered down and a T-Rex growled menacingly at us is a memory I wont forget.  It was like being in our own version of Jurassic Park. We just needed an upturned car to complete the scene.  Make sure you check the weather and dress appropriately so your trip isn’t spoiled by soggy socks!

Highlights of Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens for us were the Raptors snacking on another dinosaur, the Euoplocephalus and of course the enormous Tyrannosaurus Rex!  It was also nice to see the Botanic Gardens, which I haven’t been so since I was a kid.  We’ll definitely be visiting there again once the dinosaurs have moved on.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

facilities and extras

There were portaloos and catering facilities at the mid-point, although we didn’t need to use them.  There was also a merch trailer selling all things dinosaur.  Our little guy chose a plastic model Pachycephalosaurus (he can pronounce it, I can’t) which was £9.  I actually didn’t think the toys on sale were too badly priced.

There were ride-on dinosaurs and a VR experience, both which cost extra.  The wee guy wasn’t interested, so I don’t know if they were worth the money.

There are also an egg and a dinosaur’s jaws near the entrance, to use as photo props.  They are free, but the queue for these was pretty long so we didn’t use them.  As you can tell from his pained expression in the photos, the birthday boy wasn’t in the mood to pose!

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

 

overall – is jurassic kingdom at glasgow botanic gardens worth it?

Given the bad experience with booking, I was really worried that Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens was going to disappoint.  I’d read some less than positive reviews from other stops on the tour, especially about the condition of the models.  Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised.  The models were all working and all looked great.

In terms of value for money…are these things ever value for money?  But I didn’t feel ripped off as we walked around.  Sadly the weather was pretty awful for us yesterday. But we were waterproofed up enough to still enjoy it and see everything there was to see.  We could have easily made a day of it, with a picnic and going round the route more than once, had the weather been at least dry.  We’d love to do it again for that reason, though not at the current price.

Jurassic Kingdom at Glasgow Botanic Gardens

The tour still has some places in the UK to visit. I’d recommend it if you have a little dinosaur nerd like ours,  particularly if they’re under the age of ten. Though I did see childless adults enjoying it just as much as our crowd!

 

 

*They say they’re non-exchangeable too, but Eventbrite do let you change the names on the tickets.  So if you are unable to go you could always sell your tickets to someone else.

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motivation for improving my health – kick starting my weight loss

I wrote last week about my plans to lose the baby weight (and then some).  I put on 7lbs in pregnancy and said that I would update weekly until I’d lost that before tackling the rest of my weight loss journey.  This week, I’m trying to find some motivation for improving my health and losing the weight.

motivation for improving my health - kick starting my weight loss

 

weight update

this week’s result

I lost 2lbs, which takes my total to 4lbs.

If I’m honest, I was actually surprised by that result.  After a bit of a mixed week, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  It hadn’t got off to a great start food-wise, and it was only in the second half that I started being more mindful.  I think what saved me was upping my activity levels.  I’ve started a Zumba class, and I’ve been walking over 5 miles a day on the school run.  At 9 weeks postnatal, that’s the most active I’ve been in quite a while!

moving forward

I’ve been flip-flopping on these 2lbs for the past four weeks though, and this week has again got off to a rubbish start food-wise.  A cake sale at the school, a choice of burger or hot dog when out on Saturday, a curry and a big Sunday dinner have all gone under my belt already!  I’ll not be surprised if I see that 2lb back on again.

 

i need motivation

For some reason I’m struggling to find motivation for improving my health.  I’m getting frustrated with myself.  I really want to start seeing evidence of fat loss but I’m not motivated to put the effort in.  Especially with food.  I know the healthy choices I need to make, but somehow I just can’t be bothered.

Sure I want to be slimmer and more toned, but that want isn’t strong enough to light a fire under me.  It pales in comparison with the want to veg on the sofa with a bar of Dairy Milk right now.  I need to find a stronger motivator than just what I look like.

 

finding motivation for improving my health

People often say they want to be healthy so that they can live longer or be around for their kids.  And those are great reasons to aim for better health.  But as a motivator for right now, those reasons are too out there for me.  They seem too far away to really get me focused.

I need to look at the here and now.  What changes to I want to see this time next week or next month?  What does better health look like to me in the short term?  Two things come to mind – feeling more comfortable with daily activity, and improving my mood.

 

not letting sweat get in the way

Activity is the area I’m doing best in right now, but I’m a long way from my fittest.  That means I’m finding daily activity a bit tougher, and not working out at the level I want to.

The school run is on a hill, so by the time I get home I’m a sweaty puddle.  I cannot stand the feeling of being sticky and damp.  I know there are a lot of things that contribute to my hot mess-ness, like the temperature and what I’m wearing.  But carrying extra weight contributes to sweating, so losing weight and not having to work so hard to get up the hill can but help.  The thought of feeling a bit more comfortable with daily activity is motivation for improving my health.

When it comes to exercise though, I know it’s unrealistic to expect not to break a sweat.  Especially when in any given fitness class I am always the sweatiest in the room.  I like to work at the top end of my ability and tend to really go for it. When I’m fit I don’t really mind people seeing me all red and shiny, because I’m proud of putting in the effort.  But when I’m soaked and puce even from the warm up, I feel really self conscious.  I’ve noticed in my Zumba class that I don’t go quite as hard as I could, because I’m embarrassed at looking so unfit.  I know it shouldn’t matter, but for me it does.  So improving my health will help me enjoy exercise more, and to get more from it.

 

improving my mental health

In order to get the weight loss that’s going to help me get more from my activity, I have to start eating better.

With being up each night with a young baby, not to mention all the effort it takes to keep him and the rest of the family alive each day, I’m knackered.  When I’m knackered I feel stressed, angry and down.  That just leaves me feeling awful, and triggers a mental health slump.  My motivation to get anything done disappears and then I end up feeling even worse because not only am I tired but the mountain of stuff I have to do is looming over me in piles.

Eating crap is not going to help any of that.  It’s not going to fill me up and it’s not going to give me energy.  It just makes me feel worse because I’m either starving or drained. When I feel bad I turn to food, which will make me feel even worse…lather, rinse, repeat.  I need to focus on the fact that I do enjoy healthy food and I do feel good when I nourish my body.  Improving my diet is going to boost my mood because I’ll feel productive and energised, and that is great motivation for improving my health.

 

so what now?

My plan of action is to keep up the level of activity I’m doing and to really examine my diet.  Hopefully together they’ll start to help the weight come off, make me feel more positive and help me feel more comfortable when I’m exercising.

Diet-wise, I’m considering stripping it right back.  Just focusing on nutrients and not being too concerned with counting calories or Syns or points just now.  Maybe if I start feeling better by eating better, I’ll be more motivated to then knuckle down with trying to stay within a certain allowance to try and get some weight loss happening.

 

I’d love to hear what inspires you to improve your health or motivates you to lose weight – what keeps you going?

 

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first day of school – how we prepared for our baby starting primary

It’s that time of year. Summer holidays are over and the schools are back.  I’ve seen the Dear Teacher poem doing the rounds on social media, read blogs by mothers distraught at the thought of their little one walking through the doors of “big school” and clicked past countless adverts for iron-on name tags.  Parents all over the country are packing their babies off for their first day of school.

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby starting primary

This year we joined them, watching our four year old toddle off for his first day of school.  It’s a rite of passage, for parents as much as for the kids.  One which is meant to come with tears and bittersweet longing for the baby you were holding only yesterday.

But actually, I wasn’t one of the sobbing mums having to be peeled off her child and bodily removed from the classroom.  I found this next adventure exciting. I couldn’t wait to see him in his uniform and to share in his first day with him.  Hubs and I walked out of the school that first morning beaming.  Not distraught, but proud.

 

the build up to the first day of school

I hadn’t always expected to feel so positive on his first day of school.  When school sign-up time came around he still seemed far too small for that to be looming already.  I worried that school would be a scary and difficult place for our little guy who still needed us so much.

But there have been many steps up to the school gates.  With each of those steps we’ve felt a bit more ready. When we signed him up, he and I were given a tour of the school.  The nursery also took him to spend some time there, and the teachers visited the nursery.  Then came a couple of sessions where the kids spent a few hours in the classroom without parents or nursery staff.  The end of nursery was signalled by an adorable graduation day, and folders of all his work to bring home.

This all brought nursery to a gentle close, and opened the school gates to welcome our little man.  It meant I could happily watch him disappear into the classroom with a herd of other tiny little people without wanting to break down.  He was happy to go too, and has loved it every day since.  He’s become a bit of a role model, taking kids who aren’t so happy to be dropped off each morning under his wing.  He comes out of school grinning at 3pm, with his shoes all scuffed, shirt untucked and tie skew-whiff as if he’s been on the go all day!

first day of school - how we prepared for our baby's first day of primary

 

help prepare your little one (and you) for the first day of school

I know we’re quite lucky that our transition from pre-schooler to primary school kid has been so smooth.  And I know that not every child will find it so easy to make that leap.  Even children that have been through the exact same settling in process as our boy struggled on the first day of school.  A week later some are still crying and having to be coaxed through the gates.

I thought I would share some of the things we did to prepare our son for school. I hope it will help even one other parent avoid the school gate heartbreak:

  • Talk about school
    We talked about school every day over the summer.  Sometimes it was just a comment – “you’ll get to do that at school.”  At other times we read books about school, or just had a chat about how he was feeling.  We also pointed out some things that would change too, like having to wipe his own bum!
    I took his lead – if he wasn’t interested I didn’t push it. I wanted school to be a positive topic.
  • Make school familiar
    We drove past the school whenever we could, and pointed out children in the uniform.  To give him ownership we referred to it as “your school” and we didn’t call it “big school” either, to avoid it seeming intimidating.
  • Try on the uniform
    I bought my son’s uniform way back at the start of the summer. We tried it on at the time, but it then lived in his wardrobe for weeks.  I tried it on him again the week before school started, more to make sure the trousers didn’t need taken up, but I think this made him more comfortable.  I wasn’t sure how he’d cope with a shirt and tie (he refused to wear one even for our wedding!), but he’d got used to it by the time the first day rolled around.
  • Build independence
    As a full time working mum trying to get two kids out the house by 7.15am each day, sometimes it was just easier to do certain things. But in the run-up to the first day of school I made an effort to encourage more responsibility.  Things such as dressing himself, carrying his own bag, finding his own belongings at the end of the nursery day and yes, wiping his own bum.  I also encouraged him to carry his own plate to the table. I even got him to use toilet cubicles on his own when we were out in public (I think that was scarier for me than him!).  This all built him up, and made me more confident that he’d be ok doing these things at school.
  • Get used to other kids
    Having been in childcare since he was a baby, our son is well used to other kids.  But they’re the same kids he’s been with for most of his life. The move to school meant new faces and personalities to get used to.
    Soft play was really helpful in teaching him how to deal with strangers, either turning them into friends or coping with behaviour that he didn’t like.  So far at school he sticks with his nursery friends, but they are very close so I’d expect that.  He is learning new names and getting to know other children too though, and is confident enough to say hi when we see them outside of school too.
  • Routine, routine, routine
    I think this is key to any aspect of a young child’s life, they thrive on routine. Again, we had it easy with this one.  We’ve been in a routine of getting up, fed, dressed and out the house for 7.15 every day since our son was tiny. But over the summer (and with a newborn) this routine slipped. In the weeks before school started I made an effort to impose structure to our day again.  That has helped our mornings run smoothly – we haven’t been late once so far!
    Routine also goes for what happens after school too. We use the walk home to unpack his day, get some fresh air and have a snack. Then we get homework out the way and make sure everything is ready for the next day when we get home.  That means the evening is his to play as he wants.

 

new school kid on the block

I’ve gone from thinking he wasn’t ready, to wondering if the teachers are ready for him!  Our son is a vibrant little boy who is always talking and wanting to know everything. We frequently describe him as “full on” because he doesn’t seem to have an off switch.  He is confident, articulate and picks things up quickly, and school hasn’t intimidated or unsettled him. He has big ideas and the vocabulary to match.  But  he can be stubborn and determined, even in the face of adult opposition, so I wonder how he’ll get on having to sit quietly or do the prescribed work if there’s something he’d rather be doing!

I guess we’ll find out when parents’ evening rolls around!

 

Good luck to any other parents about to send their little one off to primary school.  Each milestone takes them further away from the tiny babies they were, but see it as an exciting adventure. Think of all that they’ve got to look forward to!

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lose the baby weight [ & then some ] – my plans to get back in shape

It’s taken me a little longer than I thought it would to get round to writing about my plans to “lose the baby weight.” And that’s because it’s taking me a little longer than I thought it would to get round to actually try to lose the baby weight.

lose the baby weight & then some

 

pregnancy weight gain

You may know that I’ve just had baby number three.  He is now eight weeks old, and my pregnancy with him was my healthiest ever.  Ordinarily I put on about three stone in pregnancy, but this time around I was determined not to do that.  So I joined SlimmingWorldexercised until 38 weeks and prioritised sleep.  The result?  I gained just 7lbs.

I can’t put in to words how good it felt to be pleased rather than devastated when I weighed myself after birth.  That helped incredibly when it came to how I viewed my postpartum self and for the first time in three pregnancies I loved my postnatal body.

 

my body now

But that isn’t to say I’m happy.  I’m proud of my body, and as postnatal bodies go (at least, my previous postnatal bodies) it’s pretty awesome.  But the reality is that I’m still overweight and I’m not as healthy as I could or should be.  I’m not as slim or toned or strong as I was this time last year.  And I want to be.  It’s time to lose the baby weight…and then some.

Currently I’m sitting at 5lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight, and 27lbs over the BMI prescribed healthy weight for my height.  I want all of that gone.

Last year I had finally gained some (slight) definition in my upper arms and shape to my usually flat bum.  Those have disappeared, so I want them back.  I also want to be able to fit my calves into knee-high boots again.

I want to be able to run a 5k again, to lift a decent amount of weight again, and to make it through a dance class without wanting to quit.

 

my attempt so far

I went back to SlimmingWorld three weeks after giving birth, but in five weeks I’ve only managed to lose 2lbs.  I keep gaining and losing the same couple of pounds.  My head isn’t really in it.  I’ll have an ok week, and then a week where I just don’t try at all.

I’m too tired and busy to find the drive to lose the baby weight, let alone face the further weight loss journey.  But I need to find that drive, because without it I could easily fall in to the trap of putting more weight on.  I don’t want to undo all the body positivity I’ve felt from having a healthy pregnancy with minimal weight gain.

I’m struggling to find my approach.  As I’ve said before, there is a lot I don’t like about SlimmingWorld and so I mainly go to have someone weigh me.  I need that, to be held accountable.  If I just rely on weighing myself I’ve got even less drive to try.  As far as “dieting” goes, I’m using MyFitnessPal to track calories.  But I’m keen to do some sort of mix of the two, just to see what happens.

I also need to get active.  I’m struggling to find the time to workout at home because baby boy feeds every two hours and only sleeps for 20 minutes (if I’m lucky) at a time!  Thankfully, with the four year old starting school I have the perfect reason to walk 3.5 miles per day on the school run, so that’s something.  But I was heartbroken to hear that my beloved Clubbercise class has been cancelled.  Getting out to a class is the only way to guarantee I’ll get some exercise in, so I’m having to revert to Zumba…not as much fun but at least it gets me sweaty!

 

my goal – lose the baby weight & then some

The first step in finding the drive is to set myself some targets.  First I want to lose the baby weight – 5lbs off in the next 3 weeks (so by 7th September).

Next, I want to lose the rest.  It’s a fair amount I want to lose, and I don’t want to punish myself doing it.  So I’ll aim for 1lb off a week.  My goal is to be at my healthy weight by the end of February, which builds in a little wriggle room to account for Christmas!

I know BMI and weight aren’t always the best way to judge a body, but I find I am motivated by the change on the scales more than any other form of tracking.  However, I will also be taking measurements and photos to show my progress, as I think together these will all tell the full story of my journey.

 

my weight loss journey

I’m hoping to bring this blog back more to what I had pictured it being when I started it – a place to chart my journey to health, sharing my tips and struggles along the way.  Until I reach my first goal, I’ll update weekly on my progress.  After that, probably monthly will be enough.  But along the way I’m hoping to blog about recipes, workouts, tools and the reality of getting myself into shape.  I’d love it if you would join me!

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interview with a teenager – my son’s hopes, fears + thoughts

I’ve not had the chance to blog this week, we’ve been really busy.  Here in Scotland the summer holidays are over, and school starts back tomorrow.  I’ve been trying to cram a whole summer’s worth of days out into the last ten days, to make up to the teenager and the four year old for being busy with a new born for most of the holidays.

I feel sad that the end of the holidays has come around so soon.  Not least because the four year old will be starting primary school.  But that’s a whole other blog post of its own…which I’m not quite ready to process.  I thought I’d focus on my teenager today instead.

interview with a teenager

 

 

Old House In The Shires tagged me (a long while back!) in her “Questions For My Teens” tag, and I think that the start of the school year is a great time to interview my son.  I’m interested in what his answers will be, and to see what he thinks come the end of the school year.

 

back to school worries

The teenager is 15 now, and heading into fourth year at school.  That means his first exams are waiting for him in the shape of his National 5’s.  Does that worry me?  Not in the slightest.  He’s an incredibly smart kid who knows where he wants his studies to take him.  It’s what the school year holds for him that worries me.  As I mentioned before in my good, bad & ugly of parenting a teen, he has experienced bullying since high school started.

My son is a great kid. He’s kind and polite, clever and sporty. He gets on with adults.  He’s even helpful around the house (when he’s nagged!).  But these traits make him the subject of jealousy and a “soft target”, especially for one little shit in particular.  A little shit who unfortunately has a lot of cronies who blindly accept his opinion as their own. Things did start to get better towards the end of the last term, mainly because my son finally let me speak to the school.  Some of the perpetrators seem to have grown a conscience too, with one apologising for what he’d done.  But although I am hopeful that he can put it behind him, I can’t help but be concerned that it isn’t over yet.

I wonder if exams and bullying are on his mind too.  Will they come out in his answers, or is he less concerned about these things than me?

 

questions for my teenager

  1. What are your greatest fears at the moment?
    His first answer was that he was scared of the dark, which surprised me.  He also doesn’t like spiders but I knew that, as I’m the resident spider catcher in our house!  But when I asked him about bigger fears he said “I’m scared of not succeeding.  About not getting a good job or having a good life.”  I said that was pretty big stuff, and asked him if he was worried about exams – not at all!

  2. What do you see yourself doing in 5 years time?
    He said he sees himself either travelling the world or at university.  He wants to travel before studying though, doing volunteer work in the third world but also going to places like New York.  He’s always wanted to study technology, and for the longest time wanted to be a games or software designer. So his answer surprised me when he said “I want to do something with music tech.”  This is a new subject that has opened up to him this year, which brings his love of tech to his natural talent for music (he’s been playing the piano for four years).  He said as soon as he started the subject he found it fascinating and so really wants to follow it.

  3. If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be and why?
    He said he was torn between John Logie Baird (inventor of the television, and famous son of our town) and Einstein.  Why?  “Because both made massive changes to the world. If I could meet one of them I’d like to see them going through all their work to the end.”

  4. What makes you angry and why?
    “Not getting to spend a lot of time on my computers and stuff. And sometimes I have to turn them off right in the middle of something as well.”  This makes me laugh so much, he really is obsessed with computers.  Oh to be 15 again. Imagine your biggest stressor being how much time you got (or didn’t get) to play computer games!

  5. Do you believe in having a soul-mate and true love?
    “Yes. Some people are meant to be with each other.” When I asked him if he thinks there is just the one person for each of us he said “there could be multiple people for different people.”  I’m glad of that. I think it’s a dangerous mind set to think there is only one person out there.  I’m happy my son will hopefully be less inclined to stay with someone bad for him in the misguided belief that they’re the one.

  6. What is the best and worst part of being a teenager?
    “Probably the worst part is always being tired. The best part is probably seeing yourself going through all these changes.” And yes, he meant puberty. I guess it’s nice to know he’s not scared or uncomfortable in his changing body!

  7. What would be your perfect day?
    Jeez, this one was like blood from a stone and his response was typically geeky.  You can count me out of joining him!  “Winning an eSports tournament (which is apparently gaming, but the best in the world). And getting to meet all the famous YouTubers and gamers.”

  8. If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?
    “I would build a nice big house abroad, buy a nice car and then send a huge chunk to a charity, like Water Aid.”  Thankfully no computers!
This was quite a cool thing to do, I got the chance to speak to him about his ideas about travelling and his thoughts on other things which may not have come up in normal conversation. I think I’m meant to tag other bloggers with teens, but actually I don’t know any!  I’ll be linking up with the Tweens, Teens & Beyond linky with this though, so I’d love it if anyone from there wants to carry this on with their own interview with their teenager!

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my postnatal body after baby number three

 

Following on from my recent post about how to love your postnatal body, I thought now would be a good time to talk about my postnatal body following the birth of baby number three.  I don’t think we talk enough about what those first few weeks and days following birth are like.  I know after my first baby I was clueless about what was going to hit me!

By baby number three I knew what to expect, but with each pregnancy the postnatal changes and symptoms get stronger.  I can safely say that the initial postpartum period after this baby was the toughest of the three.  Considering this was the only time I’ve not had stitches after birth, that’s really saying something!

 

after pains and maternity pads

Why had no one warned me that the after pains this time around were going to be an absolute bitch?!  It seemed crazy that I was popping so many pain killers to cope with the cramps, when I’d had a drug-free labour.  And the bleeding that went along with the cramps…jeez.  Lets just say I didn’t know you could have lightning reflexes when sleep deprived, until I had to make the transition from shower to maternity nappy pad without making the bathroom look like the scene from Psycho.

 

boobs after birth

Considering I was slowed down by the lumps of concrete which had replaced my boobs, my shower time ninja stylings are even more impressive. For over a week after my milk came in, I had tits of steel.  Painful tits of steel. The slightest wobble made them ache, so I ended up wearing two bras to keep them steady.  As I’ve mentioned before, I formula feed for various reasons, including a previous breast reduction which has left me unable to breastfeed, so the engorgement with no way to get that milk to my baby was a bit of a kicker.  I’m glad I’d already been through the disappointment of not being able to breastfeed and made my peace with it.  Otherwise, hauling those useless uber boobs around could have really got to me.  As it was, I quite enjoyed the big postnatal cleavage but remembered why I’d had a reduction in the first place!

 

the mummy tummy

While my boobs were swelling, my belly shrank.  I feel that this time around, my bump disappeared almost as soon as I’d given birth.  My belly went back to normal within a matter of days.  This isn’t quite as miraculous as that sounds. I’ve never had a flat or toned stomach, so “normal” for me is a bit rounded and wobbly anyway! But I was back in pre-pregnancy jeans just over a week after giving birth.  I always thought that was the holy grail of postnatal statements, but actually I was upset to see my bump go.  I loved my pregnant body this time around.  As Hubs is still adamant that we’re done having babies, the end of pregnancy was quite a sad point for me.

 

symphysis pubis dysfunction and diastasis recti

Despite not suffering from SPD in this pregnancy, I ended up with a case of it after birth.  I could barely walk up the stairs at times, and my pelvis felt like it was grinding when I moved.  But it resolved itself, and was gone by the time I got a physio appointment.

I still went to the appointment though, and it was useful.  We talked about postnatal exercise and she checked me for any abdominal separation.  I was convinced I’d have some sort of diastasis recti.  Especially considering my midwife insisted on mentioning my “loose abdominal muscles” at every opportunity.  But if I did have any separation, it was gone by the time she examined me at four weeks postpartum.  We talked about the importance of starting with low impact exercise, and only introducing weight training gradually to avoid putting pressure on my weakened pelvis.

 

postnatal sweating and hair loss

I’m now six weeks after birth, and feel basically back to normal.  Albeit a very sweaty version of normal – I had forgotten about the post-baby sweats, especially at night.  I’ve got a permanent sheen on during the day, and am often soaked when I wake up for night feeds.  I feel constantly grotty, which is a cruel trick of nature when a limpet-like newborn makes it that fucking difficult to jump in the shower.

And speaking of washing, I’ve noticed changes to my hair already.  During pregnancy I only needed to wash it every three to four days (and even then just for cleanliness, as opposed to it being oily).  Now I’m back to needing to wash it almost every other day.  I’m just biding my time before the inevitable postnatal hair loss kicks in, to make me feel really sexy.

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