Little frequent flyers. Activities and advice for surviving long haul flights with toddlers.

There is nothing more humbling than a screaming child at 37,000 feet. As you “shh” them desperately through gritted teeth and offer them everything from stickers to your kidney if they just cooperate all you can think of is “why the fresh heck did I put myself through this?” Pretty much anyone who has ever flown with a child has been through this and if they say that they haven’t then they are either lying or actually have an angel for a child.

Flying Alone With A Baby

I remember going on my first flight with a baby ALONE. That’s right, in the throws of postpartum fog (not to mention the postpartum anxiety I was feeling) I thought it would be a great idea to head back home to the UK. Honestly, I was so homesick after having a baby I didn’t care. I needed to get out of Canada and to my parents’ house to lounge around in my tracksuit bottoms and be fed wine. So armed with a 4 month old baby and an arsenal of things I was told by numerous online resources that I MUST have, I started the 7 + hour journey to Cardiff. Oh did I mention I threw a stop over in there? Lay overs are not ideal with kids. However we made it and so began a lifetime of flying with kids.

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This is HONEST TO GOD what I thought I needed for a flight with a baby. This is what Pinterest tips tell you to pack when you are flying with a baby. Life hack – you definitely do NOT need all these things. Why did I think I’d need 5000 breast milk storage bags?

Navigating the airport with a million different things and a baby

Getting through security was my first challenge of flying with a baby alone. I had so much stuff, a baby and just two hands. It is unreal how unhelpful people actually are when you’re flying alone. I definitely made a mental note to offer my assistance to others more readily at the airport in the future as a business man pushed past me and dumped his crap into the tray I had put out for myself (I made some other mental notes but I wont go into that). As I struggled to collapse my stroller and get it onto the x-ray machine all while holding my baby I was slowly regretting what I had gotten myself into. We made it to departures, Mummy had a nice BIG glass of wine and snapped the obligatory “we’re going on holidays” passport Instagram photo. Next thing I know we’re walking down the walkway to the plane and I take up my residence in the tiny seat that would be my prison home for the next several hours. Emerson was asleep pretty much as soon as I sat down and I optimistically got out my headphones and book and settled down to smugly spend the flight with a sleeping baby. That lasted until the cabin pressurized and her eyes popped open and she screamed until we were up in the sky and there was no escape. I frantically apologized to all those around me “she’s usually so good”, “she wont scream long” as beads of sweat appeared on my brow. Finally she did stop screaming after what seemed like hours but was in actuality about 15 minutes and she did indeed sleep all the way home.

What I wish I knew before heading on a long haul flight with kids solo

  1. Peeing with a baby in a plane toilet involves Gwyneth Paltrow yogi level flexibility. You have to hold your demon you don’t want to wake sweet sleeping child while pulling down your pants, doing your business, flushing that crazy loud flush that makes you feel like you’ll get sucked out, wash up and leave the bathroom. Trust me, this is no easy feat.
  2. You can’t wear your baby for the whole flight. For take off and landing they must be out of the carrier and on your lap. Fun times if you just got your child to sleep.
  3. If you lucked out and got a bassinet seat, you can’t use this during turbulence. I guarantee this will happen several times when crossing the Atlantic. Cue screaming baby who has been woken up.
  4. If you are in these bassinet seats that you upgraded to people will use your extra leg room to walk through, stand in, do stretches in, .
  5. Collapsing your stroller and car seat combo will be the hardest thing you have ever done when you have a line on antsy people behind you and a baby in your arms. Start practicing now if your flight is in a year.
  6. Your stroller and car seat will likely get lost/broken/look like it survived a tornado.

There’s a lot to learn and I’m sure I haven’t mastered it all but I do have some tips to help you get through what will feel like the longest flight of your life

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Emmy is a little frequent flyer. This Christmas will be her 8th flight at 3.5 years old. Better get her an Airmiles card.

Advice for getting through a long haul flight with kids

  1. Don’t pay attention to all those packing lists, they are totally crazy. For a baby you literally need milk, bottles (pack 2/3 so you don’t have to wash on the plane), a change of clothes, diapers, wipes, antibac wipes, a blanket, a dummy, one toy.
  2. Make a busy bag for your toddler (blog post to follow) with colouring books, stickers (PACK LOTS OF THESE), a small toy, water painting books.
  3. Get to the airport EARLY. I used to stroll through security without a care in the world 90 minutes before my flight but that’s not going to fly with kids (get it?!) You’ll need a lot of time for diaper changes, bathroom breaks etc. Rushing will not help your stress levels which are probably a little higher than usual. Sit and have a beer before the flight and relax!
  4. Take the stroller and check it at the gate. It is a great way to lug all of your duty free items baby crap around the airport.
  5. You will want to get a stroller bag and car seat bag if you value these items at all NO offence to ground staff at the airport but sometimes it looks like they’re practicing for log throwing when they load your items on to the plane. I saw my car seat sitting in the pouring rain on the tarmac at Cardiff and I was really happy I had it in a bag to keep the water off it. I got mine off Amazon and they survived loads of flights. I actually just got new ones for this flight and this time they’re a pretty grey colour! They actually seem a little sturdier than the last bright red ones I had. If you click on the picture it will take you straight to Amazon.
  6. Take advantage of priority boarding. I know it seems crazy to sit on the plane longer but this way you guarantee that you can put your diaper bag or purse above where you are sitting rather than having to fight with the people in row 43 who have thoughtfully filled your overhead bin space with their full sized case.
  7. Your technology rules are going to have to go out of the window here. Take an iPad if you have one for the love of God, it will save you. My husband actually forgot to pack ours last time we flew and I think we set a new world record for how long you can be salty.
  8. Do not pack toys that are loud, roll, bounce, rattle, squeak, are valuable. It’s not fair to those around you if your child is playing with something that is bleating in the middle of the overnight red eye flight. Also planes are black holes and I guarantee you that you will lose something. Honestly my kids played with plastic cups and the headphone wires last time we flew.
  9. Those pacifier clips make great toy clips and stop your child lobbing Sophie at unsuspecting passengers’ heads.
  10. Get some nice big headphones for your kid so they can easily listen to the TV. Earbuds are not nice for littles.
  11. If you’re alone then take your carrier so you can wear your baby as you board the plane and you can strap them to you when they fall asleep. I have also gone to the bathroom with a baby strapped on me but that wasn’t easy or sanitary.
  12. Wear leggings or sweatpants. Yeah like I need to tell you twice. If you are alone with a baby you will probably only have one hand and buttons aren’t your friend in this scenario.
  13. Pack ALL THE SNACKS. Whatever your kid likes, pack it. Favourites are Goldfish, gummies, chips, crackers and granola bars.
  14. Lollipops are your friend. They’re great to pop ears and I am yet to meet a kid that wont step into line at the promise of a lollipop.
  15. Take water or juice for your kids so they don’t have to wait for the drinks cart to come around.
  16. If you have room, pack an extra blanket. Planes are cold overnight and those static polyblend monstrosities the airline provides have the tog factor of toilet paper.
  17. Accept the help of strangers. You will be so surprised with how many people are happy to lend a hand if you just ask. You will also be surprised at how clueless other people can be but focus on the positives!
  18. Know that you might not get a lot of sleep so try to have someone pick you up at the airport if possible or arrange to stay over night at an airport hotel.

Flying with kids can be done!

I’m not going to lie and say that it’s easy but for lots of us travelling with kids is a fact of life. Don’t ever apologize for taking your child on a plane. I’ve yet to experience a flight with a kid (mine or someone else’s) screaming the entire time and honestly people aren’t as bothered by a kid on board as you might think. Even if they are, you bought a ticket just like them and you’re entitled to travel.

Do you have any amazing tips or tricks for surviving a long haul flight with kids?

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Tips and Advice For Surviving The Colic Storm From A Mum Who’s Been There

“It’s just colic sorry”, my doctor said to me with a casual shrug as I sat in his office with red rimmed eyes, wearing leggings that I had worn for more days than I care to mention and unkempt hair bouncing my crying baby around. “But she won’t stop screaming, please diagnose her with something so we can make it better” I pleaded with him. I listed off what Google told me might be the reasons my baby was crying nonstop (top tip, this is probably not the best idea when talking to a MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. Newsflash, Google does not make you a Doctor)

Why is my baby crying all the time? (according to Dr.Google)

  1. Dairy allergy
  2. Reflux
  3. Silent reflux
  4. Soy allergy
  5. Allergy to some other unspecified things
  6. The baby is broken
  7. Your baby hates you and you are an awful parent

He turned to look at me like he probably looks at so many frazzled mums and told me first of all to stay off Google and that she was just colic and she would get better by three months. THREE EFFING MONTHS I almost screamed at him. Aria was 6 weeks old at this point and I was slowly but surely losing what remained of my marbles from my first child. This was NOT what I wanted to hear after hardly sleeping and listening to the not so mellow sound of my baby screeching for 3 hours a day.  Let me tell you, that noise is hardly whale music and would probably be suited to CIA torture techniques. That’s right 3 HOURS A DAY.

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So what is colic?

For a colic diagnosis you have to follow the rule of 3. Uncontrollable crying for 3 hours a day, appearing at or after 3 weeks, occurring at least 3 days of the week for 3 weeks. 3 is not such a magic number after all.

I wasn’t having it. I was a second time parent. I was a smug baby rearing expert seeing as I had managed to keep my first born alive for over 3 years. Everyone knows the second time around is meant to be easier. IT WASN’T FAIR. THIS ISN’T WHAT I ORDERED. As I went to reel off my Google list again he finally suggested I cut out everything and anything that might be allergenic from my diet and to test over the next few weeks to see what made her colic worse.

Could an allergy be causing the colic crying? Allergens included but were not limited to:

  1. dairy
  2. soy
  3. ANYTHING that contains milk protein (crackers even have this sneaky bugger in it)
  4. broccoli
  5. beans
  6. tomatoes
  7. peppers
  8. spicy food
  9. red meat
  10. nuts
  11. any food that you might currently enjoy

Yet again he told me that it was “just colic” (at this point I searched the office for something to hurl at him but my arms were full with a screaming baby and I didn’t think throwing the tongue depressors that were at arms reach would make much of an impact) and it would probably just go away on its own. Sensing that I wasn’t going to get much further and conceding (begrudgingly) that perhaps I wasn’t as smart or experienced as the Doctor (despite what Google told me) I set off home with my list that would suck every ounce of fun out of life of what I couldn’t eat and headed home. After a very fun week or so of partaking in the “what will make my baby scream like a banshee for hours on end?” experiment I gave in and gave her hypoallergenic formula (side note, can we talk about how I felt like I “gave in” by giving her formula? I truly believe that fed is best but my Mum guilt prevailed yet again). It was like a different baby had taken Aria’s place within two days. I was cautiously optimistic as I had two nights in a row without the piercing colic cries reverberating around the house from 5-8pm. After a week of no colic crying I decided to try her on my milk again, just for kicks. Well that was a gas as the screaming returned. My dear Watson, I think we found the culprit. So back to the formula it was and I’ve never looked back. Aria is happy and thriving, she is sleeping through the night and she is happy to be awake whereas before it seemed like she was in pain constantly. Moreover, my husband and I are happier. We are getting more sleep, I can take Aria out of the house without worrying about a colic episode and we can play together happily for hours on end. It feels so indulgent to be able to bathe her, give her a baby massage and settle down with a bottle without her screaming. I also am getting to the point where I can take a shower without suffering colic PTSD (when I think I hear the baby crying even when she is not).

What can I do if I think my baby has colic?

Research into colic hasn’t produced any definitive answers and what has been produced is conflicting. What seems to be overlooked is the impact colic can have on mum’s mental health and this is perhaps the most important consideration of all. Merely telling a mum who is clearly distressed that it is “just” colic isn’t helpful. Maybe the child does have this weird affliction that no one knows much about but we need to be more mindful of using the term “just”. When this mum has agonized for hours about what on earth she is doing wrong, sometimes she needs someone to truly hear her and understand (or at least empathize) with her struggle. Because let me tell you, the struggle is REAL.

So mums of colic babies, I promise you it gets better. We made it through the colic trenches and whilst I am positive I have aged at least 15 years and have taken to bouncing bags of potatoes and other produce in the supermarket like a strange tick the crying has stopped.

Surviving the colic storm

    1. Take all the help you can.
    1. Know it’s OK to put the baby in their cot for a few moments so you can take a breather. Come back when you’re calm and try again.
    1. Also know that you aren’t doing anything wrong. Colic is strange and unpredictable and until it vanishes as quickly as your dignity in the birthing room you just have to roll with it.
    1. Try talking to your doctor about a possible milk protein allergy.
    1. Try the anti-colic bottles from Avent. I only just stopped using them for Aria and you could see the air bubbles dissipating. They’re on sale on amazon!

  1. Have your partner do the night shift so you can sleep. You are much better equipped to deal with screaming when you’re rested.
  2. Take time for you when you can. Do your nails, get out of the house, have a bath.
  3. Know that it will end and colic will go away.
  4. Drink all the wine you want.

You’ve got this

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This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and buy the product it wont cost you a penny more but I get a little something to help keep the lights on. Thanks friends!

How to add a little farmhouse flair this Christmas. Using black & white plaid, natural wood and whimsical elements to create a laid back festive style.

“And you need more ribbon why?” my husband groans as he struggles with the giant Rubbermaid containers that hold my relics of Christmases past. I will admit it, I am fickle when it comes to my Christmas decor. I love the thrill of heading to Michaels and looking at the abundance of ribbons and trimmings […]

“And you need more ribbon why?” my husband groans as he struggles with the giant Rubbermaid containers that hold my relics of Christmases past. I will admit it, I am fickle when it comes to my Christmas decor. I love the thrill of heading to Michaels and looking at the abundance of ribbons and trimmings and needlessly spending my hard earned cash on things I don’t need   picturing my family smiling around the tree. I can’t help myself. Surely there must be a support group for people who hoard decorations?

Trees of Christmas past

Growing up we had a very classical Christmas tree. My mum always decked it out in beautiful shades of gold. I remember BEGGING her to buy tacky trinkets and red decorations but she was steadfast in her Christmas decorating ideals. At the time I didn’t understand her and I promised myself that I would allow my children to go nuts with the tree and decorate it however they wish. I wasn’t going to be that Christmas mum. I was going to let me kids adorn the tree in all the tack they wanted.

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via Giphy

Trees of Christmas present

Flash forward 20 years or so and what do you know, I am that mum. I like my tree how I like it but I’ve come up with some compromises along the way that fit in with my control freak tendencies my aesthetic whilst speaking to the 10 year old child inside me who wants ALL THE THINGS on the tree. Living on the farm, I was inspired by the rustic Christmas decor I found at the local country stores. Think metal stars, checked ribbon and mismatched whimsical ornaments.  Over the years I’ve refined my style into one that I would call put together rustic. This year, I experimented with buffalo plaid and wood to create a chic farmhouse feel.

My Farmhouse style Christmas tips

It doesn’t just have to be red, green and gold

Think outside of the box when  it comes to your colour scheme. Black and white plaid adds a classic touch to your decor theme and mixes well with a white farmhouse pallette.

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Get a little touchy feely

Mix textures. Fuzzy, soft ribbon mixed with weathered wood gives laid back feel to your tree

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Showcase international finds

Add little nods to family with cute ornaments that you have collected from your travels. Don’t be afraid to add things you might consider tacky. You’re dressing your tree for your family and it should reflect who you are. Not everyone needs an instagram perfect tree!

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Bring the outside in with touches of green 

I am obsessed with my white kitchen but it can look a little clinical sometimes. Christmas is all about warmth to me. I create this in my kitchen with twinkling fairy lights and greenery. Honestly, I wish I could leave the wreath up all year but I think it looks a little too festive for the 30 plus degree days of summer.

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Add a little kitsch fun to your apothecary jars

If you follow any farmhouse decor blog you know that these bad boys are everywhere. Usually filled with grains that no one eats or faux fruit, they look polished but for Christmas it’s nice to try something a little different.

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So there you have it friends. My farmhouse decor tips for Christmas. So how do you decorate for the holidays? Are you a full on festive control freak, Clark Griswold (BIGGER IS BETTER) or a go with the flow kind of person?

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How to get your toddler out of the house in 38 easy steps

Congratulations, now that you’re a mum you will perpetually be running a little late. Tardiness is a fact of parenting like how you will lovingly prepare your child’s favourite food for dinner only to be met by gagging, tears and the revelation that it is no longer their favourite food and you are a disgrace to motherhood for even thinking that they would eat it. I don’t know about you but no matter how good my intentions are to leave 10  minutes early or how organized I am, I am always running around yelling “GET YOUR SHOES ON, NO NOT THE FLIP FLOPS IT’S MINUS 20, SWEET LORD LOOK AT THE TIME, MOOOOVE” pretty much every time I need to leave the house. There really is no easy way to get your toddler out of the house quickly.

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“Sure honey wear what you want just for the love of all that is holy get out of the house.”

If you somehow reached this post through a search engine I’m going to applaud you for being realistic enough to bypass the posts that promise that you will be able to get your toddler ready and out of the house in 10 easy steps with minimal tears. I’m calling BS on those posts, there is no way on God’s green earth that Emmy is going to get into that car and let me get onto the road in anything close to 10 steps. Whenever we leave the house she packs like a middle aged mother going for a two week holiday to Greece. None of what she takes is of any use but for some reason she feels like if it doesn’t come with us to the supermarket then something dreadful might happen. I guess there might be a time when she might need a plastic onion and an old receipt? So let me share with you my ultimate guide to getting your child out of the house in a realistic number of steps.

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An example of the “essentials” Emmy packs.

38 easy and simple steps to get your child out of the house

  1. Chase the olympic 100 metre sprinter  your toddler around the house while pleading with them to just go into their room so you can begin the process of getting them dressed.
  2. After much coercion and a negotiation battle comparable to what I imagine goes on during a multi-country trade deal get your child up the stairs and into their room. You now owe your child a puppy, a Kinder egg and a trip to one of those intolerable indoor play places.
  3. Chase child around the upstairs for 15 minutes. I guess you welcome the exercise and now your fitbit can stop telling you that you’re a sloth.
  4. Catch child, put them under your arm and march to their room in a most authoritative manner.
  5. Wrestle child to the ground, be sure to pin each limb down or you will get sucker punched in the throat, head, stomach, genitals or boob.
  6. Pick out clothes for your child to wear.
  7. Wrong choice.
  8. Ask them what they want to wear. The answer will be totally inappropriate for whatever season you might be in and will almost certainly include an item of clothing that is sat in the washing machine.
  9. After more negotiating, dress child in something that is somewhat appropriate (or you can at least live with). This is the tricky part as dressing a toddler is akin to trying to dress an angry octopus (watch out again for those limbs).
  10. Now move into the bathroom to brush teeth and wash their face.
  11. Put toothpaste on toothbrush, have child eat toothpaste off brush and demand more.
  12. Tell them tough luck and turn attention to something else for a millisecond during which time child has turned into a ninja and is eating toothpaste directly out of the tube.
  13. Shove toothbrush in child’s mouth to keep them occupied so you can turn attention to their hair.
  14. Arrange hair into some type of pony tail and gather the strange short bit of your kid’s hair with a clip haphazardly.
  15. Rub washcloth over your toddler’s face as they streak out of the room towards the stairs (you notice that you didn’t close the baby gate during the battle to get them upstairs so you probably have a small heart attack, die for a moment and then realize that you’re a mum and don’t have time to be dead).
  16. Ask your child nicely to use the potty so they wont pee in the car seat (that’s a gas) or scream that they need to use the potty while you are out and then refuse to use a public toilet.
  17. Ask your child to use the potty again with a little more force.
  18. Morph into The Beast and shout at your child to use the potty because you’re now late which will make them cry (ego depletion strikes again). You feel bad and promise them you’ll buy some sort of toy when you’re out.
  19. Give up on the potty. Maybe they don’t really need to go? Right what’s next? shoes.
  20. Go to put on your child’s shoes.
  21. Wrong choice. How could you not know they wanted to wear one rubber boot and one ballet shoe? GOD MUM.
  22. Finally squash their incredibly rigid foot into their shoe. When did their bones turn to cement?
  23. Coat time. Put it on backwards first. Then put the wrong arm in the hole. Finally get it on.
  24. Toddler takes off coat. Your head explodes.
  25. Get coat back on. No time for mittens and hat. You are now officially late.
  26. Throw snacks into a bag and get your child to the door.
  27. Your toddler says they just want to take one thing with them. You concede and let them choose ONE toy. They come back looking like a Sherpa. Whatever.
  28. Your toddler says they just need one more thing. You refuse and they start to scream again.
  29. Your patience is totally thinned out now so you tell your toddler that you’re going to put the Roomba on and it will suck them up if they don’t leave the house IMMEDIATELY (just me?).
  30. Get out of the door FINALLY.
  31. Just kidding, you need to back inside because your kid has decided they actually do want to use the potty. Is it too late to leave them on the church steps?
  32. False alarm.
  33. Get child into car seat. Go to do up buckles and child suddenly decides that they are auditioning for Cirque Du Soleil.
  34. After folding them in half, quickly do up buckles tight enough to constitute as a straight jacket. They will complain it’s too tight, don’t fall for it, they want some slack to escape when you’re driving at 100kms/hr on the motorway. “Look mummy, I’ve climbed into the trunk!”.
  35. You did it, everyone is in the car and you’re on your way!
  36. Realise that you’re wearing your slippers, run back inside.
  37. Toddler screams that they need to use the potty.
  38. Give up, you’re a week late anyway.

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Take the Timbits, my soul, whatever, just get into the car seat PLEASE.

So as you can see with my easy 38 step plan getting your child out is a cinch! Once you’ve mastered this you might want to consider adding another child into the mix for kicks.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

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Create a personalized Santa Gift Sack (like the ones you see on Etsy) On A Budget.

Easy craft tutorials are my jam

Full disclosure I SUCK at sewing and anything to do with textiles. I honestly CANNOT cut a straight line (it bodes well for rustic look crafts but not for things that I would actually want to see the light of day). I’m sure there are hacks and tips on Pinterest that promise to help even the most remedial of cutters but I fear I am past saving and more to the point, I just don’t have the time. I did start out an ill-fated at home business during my last mat leave making headbands after complaints of cutting off the circulation to children’s brains (OK that might be a slight exaggeration from me) I put my Singer into the basement where it has not seen the light of day since.

Despite my ineptitude, I do love a good craft. I’m actually a semi-decent artist and I really enjoy tapping into that creative side that yearns to wear a beret and walk around in dungarees with paint artfully smudged on my cheek. I usually stick to wood and painting activities but for whatever reason, I sometimes like to take on a challenge. Maybe there is a part of me that desires to be on a Pinterest fail website.

You don’t have to spend a lot to create a personalized gift sack

A few years ago I got a personalized Santa gift sack for my eldest daughter and I paid a small fortune for it (much to my husband’s lament). I thought it was the cutest sack I’d ever seen and I was waxing lyrical to anyone who would listen about this mom’s skills with the silk screen printer. I loved my little Santa sack and it looked just PERFECT under our tree. Fast forward 3 years later and it is my second daughter’s first Christmas. Always weary to avoid second child syndrome, I want to make sure sweet Aria has everything her sister has. I couldn’t remember the name of the place where I got my first beloved sack so I did a quick Google search and lo and behold a PLETHORA of the same sacks came up. “Wow, she’s done well with her little print press” I thought to myself and then I looked closer and noticed multiple sellers offering the same sacks. Well knock me down with a feather, I paid for handmade when I could easily have made it myself. I am an Etsy mug (non-Brits I don’t mean the type you drink out of, I mean someone who has been fooled). Now I’m not knocking Etsy sellers AT ALL. I just wanted to share with you a cheaper way if you’re on a budget like most of us are. With a cheap sack ofF Amazon, my hardly used iron (another relic of my business past) and some heat transfer letters I set about making my very own Santa sack.  Just because I like you so much, here are the instructions so you can too!

You can create a personalized Santa gift sack that looks like this…

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In the amount of time that your baby will nap (about 20 minutes max if your kid is anything like mine). If you click on the pictures it will link you to where I bought my materials.

What you need

    1. Santa sack – here is the one I got off amazon
    1. Iron transfer letters – You can be as creative as you want but here are some suggestions of ones that I found on Amazon (click to shop). Please think carefully about what size you want to use. Emerson’s sack uses 3 inch letters and Aria’s uses 1.5 inch.


    1. An Iron
    1. Ironing board
    1. Pressing cloth (I used an old napkin
    1. Thick carboard
    1. Glass of wine (optional but it really does add to the experience)

Instructions to make a personalized Santa Gift Sack

  1. This goes without saying but order the sack you want off Amazon. If you have Prime it will be with you in a couple of days!
  2. Once the sack arrives you’ll want to press it. I didn’t wash it like the instructions said on the heat transfer paper (whoops, but it worked perfectly) but if more laundry is your thing, go ahead!
  3. Put the thick cardboard in the sack to separate the front and back.
  4. Cut out the letters you want and place them on your fabric. Follow the pressing times for the brand that you use (it’s usually a few minutes front and back of each letter – MAKE SURE YOU USE A PRESSING CLOTH UNLESS YOU WANT A HOT MESS ON YOUR IRON).
  5. Bask in the glory that you have crafted. Sip your wine and admire your work.
  6. Tell your husband all about how much money you saved.

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Happy crafting!

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Reasons Why It’s OK To Take Time To Yourself As A Mum

I hear “MUMMMMMYY” echoing through the house just as I sit down to spend a quiet few minutes checking the backlog of messages from my friends back home (my lifeline to my old life in the UK). I do the best I can to plaster on my mum smile, leave what I was doing and push my “me time” to the back burner yet again. Turns out Emmy needed me to put a sticker on her foot. I can see how that was a life or death situation. Fast forward to nap time. No one is more full of false hope than a parent who wants to achieve something during nap time. For me, I just want five minutes to drink a hot (or even lukewarm) cup of tea and watch something that doesn’t have an animated pig in it. I think Emmy is in her room taking and nap and I just get Aria down to sleep (which is no easy task, the girl is the energizer bunny) and I feel like super mum. I can practically taste the indulgence of hot caffeine running down my throat. My heart is pounding at the thought of watching some grown up TV. It’s finally happening, my five minutes is coming. I turn to leave the room and I spy Emmy standing in the doorway with her extremely loud roaring dinosaur toy, her little finger poised on the button that will emit a noise level comparable only to the launch of a space rocket into the room. I look at her pleadingly but this is where I make my first mistake. Toddlers can sense when you don’t want them to do something like a shark sensing blood and something in their DNA prompts them to do exactly what it is that you don’t want them to. As the deafening noise fills the room waking my little sleeping grenade I think to myself “I just want five minutes”. Then I feel guilty. All those Mom blogs tell us to cherish each and every moment with our littles. “Hold them as long as you can”, “you’re a mom now”, “they grow up so fast” they preach. It is true, my children are growing at an alarming rate and I want to soak up every sticky, paint covered messy moment with them. However, these blogs designed to show us we’re not alone in parenting sometimes do more to perpetuate the cycle of Mom guilt than they do good. As much as my cold heart is melted by poems about “letting them be little” and “holding them longer” I can’t help but feel like they make those of us who need to put a sleeping child down to do menial things like pee or shower feel like they’re committing some heinous mum crime. It’s not fair and just because you want five minutes alone does not make you a bad mum and does not mean that you’ll miss out on the important moments. It means you’re a human, you’re exhausted and you are an entity apart from your children. That’s OK.

Guilt is a terrible thing and it is something that we all battle with on an almost daily basis. As an expat, I feel crippling guilt pretty much all the time. I know that sounds dramatic and maybe I do have a penchant for hyperbole but I really do struggle with guilt. When I moved here I felt guilty that I missed out on birthdays and Christmases and other things that were important to the ones I loved. When I got married I felt guilty that most of my husband’s friends and family couldn’t make it to Wales to celebrate with us. When I’m in the throws of homesickness I feel guilty that I’m short with my husband and resentful that I live here.  But nothing compares to mom guilt. I didn’t think it was possible to feel so guilty about so much until I had children.

Things I feel guilty about as a mum

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  1. The fact that my child has too much screen time. I try to do pinteresty parent things like painting, crafts, playdoh and drawing but when you’re in the depths of a Canadian winter and you’ve exhausted your energy reserves for pretending to be a dinosaur sometimes you need the throw the TV on and watch a movie. Full disclosure, my child is on the Ipad now while she uses the potty and while I take five minutes to write this post.
  2. The fact that I spend too much time on my phone . I am CONSTANTLY worrying about whether I am looking at my phone too much. The truth is, as many of my friends live far away, I message them daily to maintain contact and it’s an important coping mechanism for me. I feel so guilty when I sneak a look at my messages when my daughter is occupied with something else only to be greeted with her eyeballs burning into my hunched back as I look through my messages like an addict.
  3. My daughter’s diet. Emmy LOVES fruit, vegetables and dairy and will pretty much eat anything from those food groups. Sounds like the dream right? Well not quite. She refuses most meats apart from chicken nuggets. Put your pitchfork away Susan, I feed my kid McDonalds from time to time because it is pretty much the only form of meat she’ll eat and at a tiny 31lbs, I worry that she’s too light. She also wont eat most carbs. I feel guilty when I am firm and refuse to give her anything else to eat after throwing another plate of uneaten food away. I also feel guilty when I let her eat crackers for dinner to try and get calories into her.
  4. Second child guilt. Now this one was a doozy.  From the minute my eldest cried that she wanted a baby dinosaur and not a baby sister when we told her our happy news I felt guilty about adding a second child to the mix. We were so happy as a family of three I agonized whether I making the right decision. In those first dark few months when Aria’s colic meant she needed my full attention almost 24 hours a day I felt awful when I saw my first born playing alone or when she would ask me to play and I had to say no as I manically rocked, bounced and shushed her screaming little sister. I would burst into tears about it all the time.
  5. feeling guilty about second child guilt . Now we’re through the colic and we’re rocking our new normal I feel guilty that I ever felt guilty about having a second child. Aria is the sweetest little thing and when I look at her squishy cheeks and gummy smile I feel guilty that I ever for a moment questioned my decision to have another child. This is mum guilt at its finest.
  6. Not being able to breastfeed my second child. Aria would scream bloody murder pretty much all day and was diagnosed as colic. Every time she ate the screaming got worse and her gas and reflux were causing her so much pain. After crying to my doctor and begging for a diagnosis of something to prove I wasn’t crazy he suggested going dairy, wheat, soy free. In my fragile mental state after zero sleep and a lot of screaming I made the decision not to test the waters by eliminating food from my diet and switched to a hypoallergenic formula. I cried for days about not breastfeeding and I convinced myself that I was ruining Aria’s life. I would justify my decision to anyone that would listen. “Oh hi checkout lady, yes I’m buying formula but it is only because my child has colic and I feel like I’m going to pull my hair out by the roots if the screaming goes on much longer. Breast is best!”. This guilt wasn’t made better by nosy dental hygienists that told me I should be breastfeeding. Why does everyone feel like they can comment on your life as a mum?
  7. The fact that my kids don’t see much of my parents  This is more of expat guilt than mum guilt but it keeps me up at night. I feel bad that my children only get half of the grandparent experience. I grew up so close to my maternal grandparents and it was such a wonderful upbringing. My children see my parents a few times a year and it is hard to accept that.
  8. The fact that my fitbit keeps telling me to get off my arse and move. I don’t know why I thought that buying a fitbit was a good idea as it only adds to my guilt. I’m only 5670 steps away from my daily goal? Grand, I’ll just go out for a run with all the extra time I have. Oh great, now I feel guilty that I’ll die young and leave my husband as an attractive widower with two gorgeous children who will struggle at to call the glamorous American “mummy”  at first but soon will forget about me and they’ll have glamorous new years eve parties with their glamorous new friends. Wait, this is the plot of “The Holiday”, I’m clearly spiraling here.

These are just a few things that I feel guilty about and I’m sure if I opened up my anxiety and things that I can’t control but still feel guilty about vault I could come up with more. But you know what? No matter what you do you will still feel guilty because as a mum we are constantly bombarded with images of perfect families and blogs with perfectly put together houses and women who have it all together. I bet these women need five minutes now and then. We all do.

Three reasons why taking time for yourself every day to yourself is important

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  1. Ego depletion is real. What is this fancy science term of which I speak? Well basically, we only have so much willpower and once it runs out we struggle to make good decisions. As a mum, you are constantly at battle with your willpower. It is the thing that stops us screaming “GO THE F&^K TO SLEEP” or “WHAT THE ACTUAL F%$K?” every second of the day. If you have toddlers, you will know that you are constantly shoving these urges down as your little dictators do charming things such as pee on the floor, poke their sleeping sibling, magic marker your quartz counter top, colour on your couch, cry because you did the thing they asked you to do etc. I’m a teacher by day so let me tell you I am fresh out of ego by the end of the day. Taking five minutes to yourself helps you reset and gives you time to not have to make decisions and to just do something you truly want to do. You want to eat that candy bar? Go for it girl! You want to watch Gossip Girl? Get on it! You can read more about ego depletion here.
  2. Dedicating every waking moment to other people is exhausting and will make you feel bitter. Just because you are a mum doesn’t mean you don’t have other interests outside of wiping bums and watching Peppa Pig. If you enjoy reading celebrity gossip the news and have did it every day before you had kids you really should try to carve out five minutes to do it still. If you enjoy long baths and you find them good for your mental health then this is important to your well being. If you are a yogi and get peace from twisting your body into strange shapes then this is part of who you are and you must make space in your life for it. Taking time to yourself helps you reconnect with the person you were before kids (and she’s still in there I promise).
  3. YOU DESERVE IT. I get it, keeping other humans alive is exhausting. You deserve to take time to yourself every day whether it be for 5 minutes to read an article or for an hour to work out.

So mums, what I’m trying to say is just because I feel like you need five minutes away sometimes doesn’t make you a bad mum. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t soaking in every minute and it doesn’t mean that you will magically push the fast forward button on time and miss out on the important stuff. You are important, remember that. Some days all you’ll need is a five minute breather, some days you just need to go to the store alone and other days you need a night away in a luxury hotel. It’s OK to feel that way. It’s normal and it’s nothing to feel guilty about.

Now I’ve got to go because I feel guilty that my laundry has been sat in the dryer for 4 days.

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So you want to be a farmer? Things you really need to know from a farmer’s wife before moving to the country.

The sun rising above a dew covered field, the sound of cows mooing and roosters crowing, your children sitting around a scrubbed pine table. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it? This is the image most people have in their mind when they think of the farmer’s life. In reality it isn’t all fresh eggs and tractor rides (well OK, there are a lot of those). Living and working on a farm is tough and time consuming and it really is a way of life. It is like the third person in your marriage, the thing that is constantly in the back of your mind and can be the main strain on your finances.

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In the zeitgeist of “homesteading” moving to a farm is something that many people dream of and more and more often, people are packing up their “corporate” lives to head to the country in the search of a simpler existence. It seems like the perfect investment doesn’t it? With the move towards whole foods you would think that people would be demanding fresh food from their smiling local farmer in a flat cap (what, don’t all farmers wear a flat cap in your mind too?), However, farming is a very cliquey business where you need serious cash flow, connections and grit to make it.

Here are the top things you need to consider before moving to your dream life in the country.

Do you know what you’re doing?

I know this sounds silly but do you honestly, truly know what you’re doing? Have you researched your industry? So many people have the big dream to raise chickens to sell eggs or to buy 100 acres to live off but in reality, that isn’t a big enough operation to support your family. You’ll be able to make lots of omlettes sure but probably wont make enough to quit your day job (maybe unless you run an omlette blog or Instagram and in that case good for you and your weird niche). If you’re thinking of keeping animals do you know welfare laws, how to properly look after them and slaughter laws? There is a lot of red tape when it comes to selling meat in Ontario. Is there truly a demand for your product?

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The isolation

This was the biggest issue for me as a city girl. It is likely that you will have to move very far away from the city (and perhaps your family) in order to afford a plot big enough to carve out some type of living. If only one spouse is farming then the other is left alone for long periods of time and this can put a strain on even the strongest of marriages.  Being a harvest widow is no joke! I genuinely think it would be easier if both partners were to work side by side (which puts another set of strain on a marriage I guess!) building a business together. I have always felt a little removed from the farm and like it is a very separate sphere that belongs to my husband and I sort of slot in alongside it.

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The time 

Following on from the above point, farming takes A LOT OF TIME. You can’t just stroll in with your Starbucks at 9am and clock out at 5pm. Things break, animals die, people need your services around the clock. If you want a set schedule then this lifestyle is not for you. However, there is some degree of flexibility when there is rain or if your operation is big enough to have multiple employees. Moreover, you have to accept that vacationing will be very difficult if you have animals that need tending (unless you have some awesome family that will take on the farm when you’re gone). It is hard to plan your life around the farm and it is definitely something I myself am learning (albeit a little unsuccessfully sometimes) to be gracious about.

The dollar dollar bills

Farming is a money pit. It is estimated that 80% of new farms will fail in the first two years with that number growing into the 90s at the 5 year mark. Add this in with higher lending costs, weaker farm income and land prices cooling and the picture for new farmers isn’t all that rosy. The reality is that big farms are getting bigger and small farms are struggling to get a slice of the pie. You will need a lot of money for your start up and will probably have to look at a dwindling bank account until your farm gets established. This is hard for many people to deal with and is the leading reason why so many throw in the towel after such a short period of time.

The take away

Farming offers many opportunities for a wonderful life. You can be your own boss, work outdoors in the fresh air and see the (literal) fruits of your labour. If you do well then the reward is handsome and some farmers are lucky enough to sell their farms to developers for a significant wad of cash. Your family can be self sufficient and live a wonderful life away from the hustle and bustle of the city. My children love playing at the farm and going for tractor rides, it really is the best place to grow up. But farming is grueling and embeds itself deep in your soul. Those of us who weren’t raised on one baffle at how much heart goes into running a farm. My husband is a third generation farmer and his day to day life on the farm is still full of problems and complications despite being pretty established in our community. I know that market prices of livestock and crops play on his mind a lot. Even if you’re happy to take the monetary risk for your new business (ad)venture, there is the loneliness that farming brings. I moved from the city in Wales to the country in Ontario and for me the biggest adjustment was spending so much time alone on the farm. It got so much for me that we moved into a small rural town so I could at least see another human on a daily basis.

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Lately I have been looking at farms in Wales and trying to feel out whether my husband would be game to try. His answer as a fairly successful farmer, “you must be nuts. There’s no way we can start out again and be successful”.  Now if someone who has done well and has the expertise necessary thinks this way then maybe starting a farm is not a decision that should be taken lightly. However, if you think you’ve got what is takes go forth and farm my friend! I hope to see you at the farmers market in your flat cap in the summer!

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Top 5 things that only a British Expat misses at Christmas

Does the sound of Noddy Holder yelling “It’s CHRRRIIIISTMAAASSSS” ring in your ears every time you think of the festive season? Do coloured Christmas lights and tinsel (the proper kind, not that lamenta shite. If you know what lamenta is extra points) adorn your tree? Are your cupboards stocked with minced pies? Is Christmas Eve best spent in the pub with your mates resulting in the cruel and unusual punishment of having a hangover with young children on Christmas morning? Do you like sprouts? Does your mother shout “not a sausage pricked, not a pot washed?” If you answered yes to many or all of these, you are indeed British. If you spend a lot of your Christmas explaining these things to others, you are probably a British expat.

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Top 5 things a British Expat misses at Christmas

  1. Truly British Christmas songs.
    Cliff, Slade, Wizard, The Darkness to name a few. I just don’t hear these festive classics in Canada and they are one of my favourite things about going home for the holidays. Turning BBC radio 2 on in the car and belting these bad boys out. British festive culture 101.
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  2. The food.
    Good minced pies are hard to come by in Canada and I wont even try to make them after the penis  unicorn cake debacle at my daughter’s second birthday (that’s another blog post).
    Pickled onions. They cost an arm and a bloody leg here ($8.99 for a jar of sweet skins? Pisstake) and they’re quite hard to find.
    Selection boxes don’t exist and that my friends is a SHAME. Remember the joy of a selection box for breakfast followed by lamenting the cost of a freddo?
    Brandy cream is something I’ve never seen here. I’m beginning to think Canadian’s don’t douse everything in booze the same way we do.
    Cadbury’s minature heros. Enough said on that matter.
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  3. The pub on Christmas Eve. Now maybe this is just a Swansea thing but we go to the pub every Christmas Eve, drink too much and then go home for my parents’ annual Christmas gathering. I know at least several other people who silent sob into their stockings and knock back the buckfizz hair of the dog on a Christmas morning while putting on a brave face as their kids push screaming toys into their faces.
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  4. The anticipation of a white Christmas. If you’re from most of the UK, Wales in particular, the papers go into a frenzy leading up to Christmas about “Snowmaggedon” and the chances of a “white Christmas”. It never happens but we don’t give up hope each year. That my friends is the British optimism that I love so much.
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  5. British Christmas TV specials.
    -The Vicar of Dibley when she eats all those dinners. Still laugh every time.
    – The Royle Family – Classic.
    – Nigella. She’s just so saucy in her black nightie scoffing food from her fridge with her plummy accent.
    – Bo’selecta. Now I might be dating myself here but who remembers that show. HILARITY!
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I go back home soon and I am SOOOOO excited for a British Christmas.

So fellow Brits, what am I missing? What do you yearn for the most at Christmas? Other expats join in, what do you miss?

Love,

Jo xxx

P.s I’m holding out for a white Christmas in Wales this year!

Giving up everything for love. The truth about becoming an expat wife and mother.

She’s crying in the British food aisle again

A few days ago I found myself staring wistfully at a jar of pickled onions on the shelf at my local supermarket grocery store. I had an ache inside me that I hadn’t really felt for a long time. It was back again, homesickness. It all sounds a bit crazy doesn’t it, to be tearing up over a British delicacy? However, when I’m in the trenches of homesickness anything can set me off. I moved to Canada almost a decade ago after meeting my husband on a trip in Australia. My husband tried unsuccessfully to move to Wales shortly after we met but the recession and lack of agricultural opportunities meant that he quickly ran out of money and patience from sitting in our flat all day with no car and no where to go. So I stepped up and offered to move to Canada to allow him to return to his dream job farming as I was a bright eyed 23 year old who was eager for adventure and a way out of the omnipresent rain that plagued Wales. So I booked my ticket, got my working holiday visa and after a tearful farewell at Heathrow to my mum I boarded my flight to Canada, not really believing that I would truly become an expat.

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I’m going on an adventure!

When I got to Canada it was the blazing heat of summer and I had a wonderful century farm house to decorate as I pleased. My husband got me a puggle puppy we named Darwin (after where we met) and I quickly got a job at a local gym where I met a few friends to keep me occupied. We got engaged a few months later and married less than a year after that. After returning from honeymoon I eagerly applied for my permanent residency and was excited at the life that lay ahead in Canada. I got my PR (permanent resident) status fairly quickly and decided it was time to set down some roots and a career. I wanted to be a lawyer in Wales but it became apparent that wouldn’t fit with the amount of travel I would need to do and getting into law school here is about as easy as getting a toddler to eat anything that you provide them with for dinner. I decided to head to teachers college and after a few years I got a permanent contract. Sounds like everything went perfectly for me doesn’t it? Honestly, on paper everything is perfect. I have a wonderful job, a beautiful family, a husband who I apparently love so much I’ll move across the world for and a gorgeous home that I could only dream about in the UK. However, I would be lying if I said that late at night when my husband in harvesting late, when I’m shoveling a foot of snow off my car, when I yearn to meet my mum for a coffee and a chat, when I see my friends going out back home that I don’t feel the sledgehammer blow of homesickness. It has been a decade and it is still as strong as when I first came here at times and it takes me by surprise.

 

The harsh reality of being the “trailing spouse” 

Life is hard as the “trailing spouse” (a kind of brutal term for the person in the relationship that moves for love). I miss home a lot, I have found it hard to make meaningful friendships with people that I have things in common with, my British humor is quite often lost on people and I have to repeat myself several times at the drive thru at Tims when people don’t understand my accent (“can I have a croissant please?” “a what sorry m’am, do you mean a chocolate donut?” repeat ad nauseam). Another thing I have struggled with intermittently is finding purpose in my new life. Having children gave me purpose as a mum but I don’t find myself completely comfortable in my new life in Canada all the time. Sometimes there is a feeling of being shoved into someone else’s life and you just have to carve out a little space for yourself.

Here are a few things that I wish I knew before I moved here:

  1. The honeymoon period will end at some point and no matter how grim life was, you will miss some aspect of it at some point.
  2. You will miss your family more than you can put into words and no amount of Facetime will make up for it.
  3. If you have children, you will have to deal with the guilt of them missing out on grandparent time.
  4. Homesickness will strike you hard at random moments. Teary at the pickled onions? Weeping at the sound of a British accent on a commercial? Sobbing over a pound you found in your wallet? Standing out in the rain because it feels like Wales? Watching any old shite that was made in Britain? YUP, you’re homesick.
  5. Snow for almost half the year SUCKS. Invest in a good jacket, boots and a shovel (OK so I don’t shovel too much snow so maybe work on being REALLY busy whenever your spouse walks out of the door to clear the driveway. Kind of like he does when you pick up the hoover or talk about going shopping).But there are positives..
  1. Your children will be international travelers before they are one. What a rich life they will lead.
  2. You get more than one passport which makes you look interesting and important at the airport.
    You will meet awesome people who you would never have crossed lives with otherwise.
  3. You get to enrich yourself and grow as a person by immersing yourself in another culture. I really think meeting people from different parts of the world and living amongst people different to me (you’d be surprised how many cultural differences I encounter) has helped me grow as a person.
  4. Your relationship with your spouse is stronger than most as you rely on each other so much.
  5. You realize how much you truly love your family and make every second count when you’re with them (WOW that sounded like a Disney movie).

So hang in there expat wives, mums and dads. It is a hard journey and maybe not the life you always wanted in some respects but you can do it. Try to remember why you moved to your current country and at the same time honour and celebrate your roots. You beautiful, multicultural global unicorn you.

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P.s in case you have never had the pleasure of a pickled onion I’ll show you what I’m banging on about. Brits, you’re welcome for the food porn.