New Decade’s Eve

I’m sure, like mine, your newsfeed is full of the decade challenge, photos from the beginning and end of the decade.

What’s your decade been like?

Mine has been, and probably will be, the most eventful of my life. The 2010s were the decade I fell in love with Sam, finished university, got married, became a mum and moved to Bristol for Sam to start his training to be a vicar. It was also the decade I was unemployed for several seasons, was made redundant, struggled to fall pregnant, struggled with anxiety and was diagnosed with postnatal depression. The most wonderful times (like becoming a mum, fulfilling a life long dream) were also some of the most difficult.

My faith has gone on a journey of its own, from the highs at university to several years in the “wilderness”, which, if I’m honest, I’m not totally out of.

I’ve gained some amazing, lifelong friends and drifted from friends I was really close to.

I’ve lost my grandmum and grandad but gained a father in law, sister in law, brother in law and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins. And a husband and son!

The next decade will also encompass a lot of change with college, a curacy and a vicar job! We will move again, at least once, and we have no idea where that will be. We hope to expand our family more, but we don’t know if that’s in God’s plan.

We also face the frightening reality of the effects of climate change affecting more and more people, as it has already begun to with the most vulnerable.

I have many hopes and quite a few fears about the coming decade. I’m sure you do too. In the last few hours of this one, why don’t you have a think of what they are? Dream about your hopes and face your fears.

I am grateful that I have faith in the God of the universe who loves me with an unending love and has all the days of my life in His hands. May I encourage you that He loves you as well and you can trust Him with your future. If your life just feels really dark right now, He is the light of the world and even darkness is light to Him.

As we enter this new decade, I hope it brings health, happiness, laughter, fun and joy for you. In the times of sadness and darkness (and they will come), I pray for hope, comfort and community. May you love deeper, play more, read more, wonder more, walk more and dream more.

These are my hopes and I have them for you too.

New Year Challenges

A couple of New Years ago, I set myself the challenge of reading 50 books that year. I prefer the idea of New Year Challenges to Resolutions as with resolutions you resolve to do something; with a challenge, you’re attempting something. Maybe I like the idea of a get out clause 🤷🏻‍♀️.

My main challenge for 2020 is to not buy any new clothes. Many, many people have done this challenge and, whilst I don’t buy that many clothes, I really want to get off the consumerism treadmill and make the most of what I already have. The most sustainable clothes are, after all, the ones you already own. So that’s the challenge I’ve set myself. I’m going to try to include charity shop shopping in that (my new favourite hobby), for at least the first six months, hopefully the whole year! This is going to mean taking out all my clothes, seeing what I have, trying new combinations and hopefully giving away some that I don’t ever wear. I’m hoping to have some fun with it and will probably make some fashion faux pas but I’m ok with that.

In the light of the recent election, there are also some other changes I am hoping to make in the new year. The result, which I found shocking and saddening, made me realise two things:

  1. My social media feeds (and, arguably, most of my relationships) are echo chambers. Looking at my feeds, it seemed that the whole country was voting Labour or voting tactically to get the Conservatives out. So then, when the Tories achieved their biggest election win for 30 years, I was shocked with the result.
  2. Sometimes, we have to do the work. As the director of Time for God, Dave Magill, articulated so beautifully on Facebook, “Unhappy with the #electionresults2019? Feed the hungry, protect the poor, include the excluded and defend the oppressed until the government of the day does. Do things you voted for a government to do until you don’t have to do those things anymore.”

But what do I do with this? There are a few things I’ve been thinking about, but I’d love to hear any suggestions any of you reading might have.

  • Get to know and follow people with different opinions and beliefs to me. I might not like or agree with what they say but it would open up my mind and, hopefully, heart, to people different to me
  • Use my time to help the vulnerable. I’m not working whilst we’re in Bristol and from January Caleb will be in nursery two mornings a week. So I will have some glorious child-free time to: do chores, hang out with people and volunteer. Hopefully I won’t spend the whole time vegging in front of the TV eating my weight in giant chocolate buttons, but I’m going to allow a bit of that as well. This side of the new year, I’m going to research places I can help, like food banks or with charities like Home Start. I have the luxury of time so I want to use it well on the behalf of others.

What are you feeling about the election result? What are you doing about it? I’d love to hear your ideas, your convictions, your worries and your encouragements. I’ve realised my immense privilege that, even though the result upset me, it is not BAD news for me. I am not living in poverty, I do not require care, I am not an immigrant struggling to fit in to my new country. There are people for whom it was BAD news and, as we are a global community, I believe in using my privilege to speak up for and support them. What a challenge, but we must.

Our attempts at sustainable living

The term “sustainable living” is a bit vague and nondescript so I want to clarify that I mean “how we create less waste”.

I’ve been challenged by some things I’ve read on some eco-living blogs and Instagram accounts recently that argue that the zero waste movement is privileged and detracts from more important things. I would agree that it can be more expensive to choose the less-waste option and it is not accessible to everyone. However, I think that it’s important for those of us who can afford to create less waste to do so because we, as humanity, are a team so we should do what we can do, especially if there are others who can’t do that things. On the other hand, I would also agree that it can detract from more important things. Whilst creating less waste is hugely important, fighting injustice and standing up for the oppressed are more important. One thing I read said that if you only have time to either wash up the peanut butter jar so it can go in the recycling or sign a petition (firstly, maybe think about how you’re spending your time 😂), then sign the petition. Putting less things in landfill hugely helps our world, but you could do more good by using your voice to fight for those who have none.

That said, here are some of the things that we have been using to help us create less waste. I will link to a few websites so I should clarify that none of them are #ads or affiliate links so I’m not getting any moola from them!

Reusable nappies

Nearly 8 million nappies are thrown out a day in the UK and those lovely, stinky nappies will be sitting in landfill until the world is run by robots because most of them don’t biodegrade.

So when Caleb was about ten months old, we started to put him in reusable nappies. I will say right at the start that we do not do this full time, I would say we are part time reusable. He will end up in disposables if: all the nappies are in the wash/drying, we forgot to bring a reusable out with us or if life is overwhelming and the extra load of washing nappies is too much.

The reusable nappies we use most often are the Bambino Miosolos. They are one of the cheaper options because they are made from microfiber. I love the designs on them, they are really easy to use and they dry quickly once washed. Now that Caleb is older we pop in a booster as he is weeing more and we were getting occasional leaks. As long as the nappy is boosted and we remember to change it every couple of hours, we’re good. As they are microfiber, they are technically plastic so, like all clothes with polyester etc in, release plastic microfibers into the water system when washed. So if you’re aiming for plastic-free, they probably wouldn’t be your choice. I decided that, as you can’t fight every battle, the ease and enjoyment we get from using them means we actually use them so they’re a winner for us.

We also use Little Lambs two-piece nappies which are really absorbent but take forever to dry because of that.

If you’re considering making the switch to reusable nappies, either part time or full time, I would really recommend it. Once you get into the routine, it’s really not much more work. Plus some of them are so pretty!!

Before you take the leap, I would suggest trying some from a nappy library or maybe buying a few different brands/types before splashing out on lots. Then you can find which works for you.

Reusable sanitary products

One for the ladies! I couldn’t really get behind a moon cup, but I know some people really get on with them.

I use these cloth sanitary pads from Cheeky Wipes. They come in some gorgeous patterns and are really comfortable. You do have to be happy to wash them out which isn’t great if you’re squeamish, but I got used to it very quickly. They are quite pricey so I don’t have enough for a full period so do end up in disposables towards the end. However, I’m hoping to buy more with Christmas gift money, because I know how to treat myself!

Reusable wipes

We use the cotton Cheeky Wipes for Caleb’s bum and the microfiber ones for face and hands. Mainly got the different colours so we would know which was which when they were in the wash!

We get on well with them but I need to remember to wash and prepare them more often as I can forget and we end up using disposables. We also use disposables when out and about but I am trying to use reusables out more often.

Shampoo and body wash bars

I use Conchus bars, this one on my hair and this on my body. We also use this on Caleb which leaves his skin lovely and soft.

I did try Lush beforehand but I didn’t like the way they made my hair feel.

Conchus bars smell amazing, are reasonably priced and a small business. I would recommend using the hair rinse they recommend, either the one they sell or the recipe they provide, especially if you live in a hard water area. This prevents the yucky waxy feeling you can get with the bars.

This swap has been one of my favourites to make, one of the easiest and one where I can see the waste we’re saving. Try it, even if you try nothing else.

Other things

Since we are very blessed in Bristol with charity shops, we have been buying clothes for us and Caleb secondhand which is saving us money and also the planet! This Christmas we have also tried to source all presents secondhand, which has been pretty successful.

We are with Bulb for our gas and electricity because it’s 100% renewable and I’ve found their customer service brilliant and everything really easy to use. They’re also the cheapest tariff for us.

Meal plans! Since moving to Bristol and being on quite a limited budget, we have been writing a meal plan each week which is helping us create less food waste. However, Caleb is still just chucking a load of his food on the floor so he’s not really helping…

Bulk buying. I haven’t made it to a zero waste store yet but we buy bulk when we can, like huge 3kg bags of pasta and big washing up liquid bottles. I am going to try zero waste options, it’s just tricky to remember containers and find convenient times to go.

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Well done for making it to the end of this essay! I hope you’ve found some tips that are useful, or inspiration for what you can do. If we all just do what we can, when we can, then we can each help to add less waste to landfill and protect our precious planet.

Hello again…

I haven’t written on here in a very long time! I’ve missed writing but have not been in the right headspace and also not had much opportunity (or not made use of opportunities).

However, recently I was at an event when someone talked about their blog and it sparked something in me, “oh yes, I used to do that!”

So I’m keen to restart it again. Life is pretty different to when I last wrote 10 months ago! We now have a gorgeous toddler, we’re living in Bristol as Sam trains to be a vicar and we’ve implemented things to help us live more sustainably.

We’re finally in the place, doing the thing we’ve felt for a long while we were meant to do. But, as this is real life, it hasn’t been without its challenges. I was diagnosed with postnatal depression about a month ago and put on antidepressants which have really helped me. We’re still not getting much sleep and recently Caleb has been waking up hourly, so we’re tired! That plus each of us having a number of illnesses has made our start in Bristol quite tricky and stressful, but now we are feeling much more settled.

What on Earth am I going to write about as a stay at home mum in Bristol? To be honest, probably nothing you’ve not read before, but I’ll touch on parenting, vicar school, trying to live sustainably (and failing frequently) and life as a follower of Jesus.

I’ve always had such lovely feedback from readers so I really hope you can find something for you here.

I’m looking forward to it!

Dear New Mum

I know there are millions of lists very similar to this one floating around the interweb. This is just my contribution to the noise, it may not say anything different but it’s been my experience. I hope it can speak to at least one person.

Dear New Mum

Congratulations! You’ve done it! You’ve achieved the seemingly impossible by getting that thing that was inside you out. Now, you’re sore, you’re more tired than you’ve ever been and now you are responsible for a tiny human when you could really do with a 2 week holiday. Here are a few things I’d like to tell you:

  • Just in case no one has ever told you, being a parent is freaking HARD. So don’t give yourself grief if you’re finding it difficult.
  • A lot of the challenges you’re facing now are because your baby is tiny. Try not to wish this time away because your baby will never be this small again (I wish I’d soaked it up just a little more)
  • Sleep deprivation makes everything 100 times harder, try to sleep as much as you can, even if visitors come over. Leave the dishes and leave them with the baby!
  • Get your girl gang. Other mums are your lifeline so try to make some mummy friends! NCT, baby classes, bumps and babies groups; you will need other people who “get” it. Plus you need other people to tell your baby poo explosions stories to who won’t just think you’re really gross.
  • Breastfeeding can be really difficult. It took me about ten weeks to get to the stage where I was comfortable and not stressed. Get as much support as you can and persevere! But also don’t listen to the haters if they judge you for switching to bottle. Getting your baby FED is the most important thing.
  • If someone offers help in any way, swallow your pride and take it! Especially if it involves cleaning your kitchen (shout out to my wonderful friend Lucy who did this for me!)
  • Don’t take anything you read online as gospel, apart from the actual gospel. Where one article says something is good and even essential for your baby, another will say it is hugely damaging and must NEVER EVER be done. It’s taking me a long time to learn to go with my gut and what works for us instead of what the internet says.
  • On that, you will find yourself googling the most bizarre things, sometimes in the middle of the night. Again, don’t always believe what the internet says as sometimes it’s just scary! And stay away from the forums (in my opinion, but if you find them helpful, great!)
  • You may end up doing things you said you wouldn’t do before you had the baby and not going things you said you will do. Give yourself grace and forgive yourself, you have no idea what it’s like until you actually have a baby. On this, you may have decided to do/not to do something and other people will be trying to persuade you not to do it/to do it. Stick to your guns, this is your baby!
  • This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass.
  • You are a superwoman, you have grown and birthed a tiny human, you are a walking/waddling miracle-maker. Eat the damn cake.

Enjoy your baby, they really are the most beautiful thing in the world, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Any other new mums, what would you add to this?

10 weeks on

A little bit of me wishes I had carried on writing my feelings once Caleb had arrived, maybe it would have helped me navigate the mix of emotions that overwhelmed me. But I felt in no state of mind to do any writing at all. I was not prepared for the kick to the gut of those early weeks of parenthood. Sleep deprivation, physical pain, hormones flooding in, the challenge of breastfeeding… The photos made it look magical but I can’t explain adequately how hard I found it, and how distraught I was at finding it so hard. I had genuine thoughts and feelings of wanting to give him back, then feeling distressed that there was no one to give him back to! Now as I hold him, I can’t believe I ever wanted to not have my beautiful boy, but I remember the thoughts and feelings being very real. I am immensely grateful for the wonderful friends who I reached out to in those first weeks, who were open and honest in how they felt when they had their babies. I never felt judged for my scary thoughts, apart from how I judged myself. 10 weeks on, I have only felt supported, encouraged and celebrated by the community of mums I have been welcomed into with open arms. You can hear bad things about how mothers treat and judge each other, but I have not seen that at all. Even online (when you look in the right places!) I have seen such comradeship and warmth.

God has blessed us abundantly with our little boy, who brings such joy to us and so many others. But, there is no doubt about it, parenting is HARD and occasionally scary. Whenever Caleb seems ill, my mind catastrophises (not a word) and I just want to hold him and magically make him better. I doubt that will go away. It’s really opened my eyes to how my parents must have felt, and how terrified they must have been whenever my brother and I were ill or injured. Remember to thank your parents for all they’ve done for you!

New mums, be gentle with yourselves and everyone else, be gentle with new mums. Make them meals, offer to clean their house, hold their babies while they rest, leave them alone if that’s what they need. Those meals that were brought to us in the first couple of weeks were so gratefully received as they meant we didn’t have to bother with cooking and also we were well nourished when all I wanted to eat was junk (or nothing at all)! Oh we were fed SO well.

I am still very new to this and our world has been completely turned upside down, but, amongst the rubble, I have experienced such beauty, wonder and joy in becoming a mummy and I thank God for making this dream come true.

40+4/the day before induction

All of my darkest fears and anxieties have surfaced
I am suddenly questioning whether I want a baby at all
Mourning the loss of it being just Sam and I.
So I breathe, I pray, I visualise positive things and remind myself that of course I want a baby. I always have wanted to be a mummy and that day is closing in.
We are expanding our family and everyone is so excited and happy for us.
We are not in this on our own. We have God, we have our friends/framily and our families.
We have people who want the best for us surrounding us and they hold us up in their prayers.
We have arms already itching to hold our little boy.
My arms will no longer be empty.
I can’t wait to see Sam be a dad and to fall even more in love with him.
We are in this together and our boy is going to bring us so much joy.
Caleb Dinsmore, it’s nearly your time.