Are You Truly Listening? 6 Steps To Become A Great Listener

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” Stephen Covey

Hands up, who loves to give advice? Guillltttttttyyyyy! We all love to be the hero sometimes. OK, another quiz, hands up who loves to be right in an argument? Guilllllttttyyy as charged again. I mean come on, who doesn’t love to throw down an amazing point in an argument that silences your opponent? It’s human nature to fluff our feathers in conflict. It’s also in our nature to take on the role of savior and sage adviser. But did you know that being the agony aunt or the victor actually makes you a less successful communicator? I came across this quote a couple of years ago and it was one of those things that has stuck with me ever since. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. It’s a simple concept isn’t it, listening to someone? We all do it throughout our every day life and many of us give ourselves the title of “great listener” without giving much thought to what is actually means to listen. When I talk about listening I don’t mean merely switching your lugholes on. I mean REALLY listening and not just say “yeah” while you’re painting your nails on the phone or sitting there waiting for a gap in the conversation to offer some groundbreaking advice that will also award you with the title of “wise one”. So few of us genuinely practice active listening yet we believe whole heatedly that we are “great listeners”. It seems to me that we all have our two cents that we want to add to a conversation and part of being human is a desire, no matter how small, to help and if we’re really honest a small part of us that wants to be right. How many times have you had an argument with someone and sat there poised to respond? Mouth slightly open waiting for your chance to butt in. How many times have you thought that you know just what to say to your friend who is in crisis? You’ve got the perfect anecdote of a time you experienced a similar problem and want to tell them how you overcame your challenge and how they can too. Now I’m not saying that it’s wrong to give advice. Sometimes our experiences that we share with others help them exponentially and sometimes people genuinely want to hear what to do. However, sometimes people just want to spill their guts and not hear what you would do in their position. Because it’s just that, it’s not you in their position, it’s them.

This concept of actually listening opened my eyes (or should I say ears) to a new way of understanding people and managing conflict. When we’re in a heated debate or argument we naturally think one, two or three steps ahead, eager to get our point across. We aren’t actually listening to the person offering an alternative point of view and therefore our arguments never go anywhere apart from shouting territory as we’re only listening to our own internal monologue. I often tell my students that they need to turn off their own minds and fully listen to the person they are having trouble with. It is only when we stop and truly, honestly listen that we gain a new perspective.

Sympathy V.S Empathy

Many people think that two two words mean the same thing when in actual fact they’re very different. To sympathize with someone means to feel sorry for their situation and feel sad for their sorrow. This is a very superficial response to someone’s problems. Of course you will feel bad when your friend is in a bad place but pitying them doesn’t equal understanding them. Instead of sympathizing we want to aim to EMPATHIZE. When we empathize with someone we truly listen to their perspective and understand their struggle from their point of view. We put ourselves in their shoes.

How can you become a great listener?

  1. Give the speaker your full attention

    This means putting your phone down or sitting in a quiet place if you’re talking on the phone. If you’re face to face, turn your body towards the speaker and look them in the eye. Show that you’re giving them your full attention.

  2. Clear your mind of your own thoughts

    Yes, I know you have a to do list that is huge and your own problems but try and put that to one side and just listen to the speaker. Give them space in your mind and let their words sink in. Don’t think what you would do in the situation or how you would react. Remember this isn’t you, it’s them.

  3. Don’t interrupt

    This is simple etiquette when you’re having a conversation but I still cannot believe how many people jump in before you’re done talking with their own quip. This is classic listening to respond rather than listening to understand. We’re all guilty of this type of listening, especially in an argument. You need to take pause and think about what the person said and how to respond. See my 5 second rule to stop the interrupting habit.

  4. Repeat what they said

    You know when you meet someone and it’s recommended that you repeat their name so you remember it? Well this falls along the same line as that (full disclosure I am awful at names so any tips please leave them below). If you repeat what the other person has said to you then you can fully take it on board and internalize it as if it was your own thought. It also lets the other person know that you’ve listened to what they’ve said as you are able to repeat it back.

  5. Count to 5 before you respond

    This is something I picked up to help me not snap back at people when things get heated. It is also a power play if you’re trying to get more information out of a person as people like to fill silences (but this is not what we’re aiming for here). I sit and count to 5 in my head. This gives the other person’s words time to wash over me and helps stop an automated response. You’ll be amazed at how you see things more clearly when you give yourself time to digest the other person’s thoughts.

  6. Just listen and don’t give advice

    Unless you are asked directly for help, just listen to the other person and tell them that you understand how they feel. Offer support but not advice. There is nothing worse than unsolicited advice (am I right mums?) but support is always welcomed.

These tips for listening can be applied in many contexts from debates, to lending an ear to a friend to conflict. So next time that you’re in a position to listen to someone, try truly and actively listening. Put your own ego aside and actually take on board what they’re saying and I guarantee you’ll be amazed by the results. The world would be a better place if we listened more and talked less. Wow, all this yoga I’ve been doing is really rubbing off on me. I’ll be scrubbing floors at an Ashram and taking a vow of silence before you know it.

So, are you an active listener?

Love,

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What The Heck Do You Wear In Your 30s?

Dressing well in your 30s is tough. Read my advice and tips to make 30 your most fashionable decade yet.

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Full closet, full heart, nothing to wear

Sometimes I feel like your 30s is the forgotten decade of life. Forget the awkward teenage years, nothing compares to that strange, uncomfortable feeling you get when you are called “ma’am” when you definitely feel like a “miss”. I feel out of place in Forever 21 (not to mention the fact that I don’t really fit in any of their clothes) and I’m definitely not ready for the Sears collection (well that’s gone now in Canada but you know what I mean). I feel stuck in between. In my head I’m 18 and carefree wearing whatever I want and looking fantastic but in reality I’m 32 and struggling to find my style again. I used to be obsessed with fashion so much so that I wanted to be a fashion buyer. I actually went to interviews for TK Maxx and Next to be a part of their graduate buyer program but apparently being a buyer a LOT more statistics and complicated maths and a lot less Rachel from Friends minimal work an fantastic wardrobe. However, as time has marched on I found that my love for fashion has kind of faded. Now I chose my stores based on budget and whether the clothes have the ability to cover my slightly squishy tummy. Most days I reach for jeans or leggings and a jumper. My 20 year old self would sneer at the state of me now. I PROMISED I would never wear sweatpants out in public, well, that rule has been out the window for several years now. I wore pants with an unidentified stain on them all day last week and didn’t notice. I need an intervention.

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Why has this happened? Where is that girl who loved the latest trends? I know you’re in there somewhere Jo, you can come out now!

DISCLOSURE: This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you purchase a product I get a little something from the retailers at no extra cost to you.

When did I become retro?

I love American Eagle clothes and I shop there often but lately even my trusty AE is moving in a worryingly young direction (or maybe I’m moving in a worryingly old direction). When I saw a distressed band t shirt with a band from my teenage years on display on it I almost lost my damn mind. When did 2000s music warrant a retro t shirt? More to the point when did I become retro? What is happening? Stop the world I want to get off. I’ve bought a lot in Forever 21 but needing to size up 4 sizes is somewhat depressing when you’re already not feeling great about your postpartum shape. What we need is a Forever 30. Somewhere that has beautiful, affordable, fashion forward clothes with a little more Lycra and a slightly longer hemline.  Tell me why someone has not invented this mecca yet?

You can still be fashionable and fabulous in your 30s

I know for many of you this goes without saying. I see so many people who are always immaculate that are my age and maybe I just got lazy somewhere between kid one and kid 2, but for a lot of women, the 30s is a weird transitional decade. You’re coming out of your 20s and the skin tight polyblends in the younger stores but you’re far too young for that wolf print turtle neck. It’s hard to know just where you fit and what fits you. A quick Google search for “what to wear in your 30s” brings up few results. It seems that most fashion blogs and websites focus on fashion hungry 20 somethings who crave fast fashion or more mature 40+ year olds who have the money to invest in high end fashion. “What about us lot in our 30s?” I want to shout at the computer. Does no one care about us because it is assumed that many of us are working hard at climbing the career ladder and/or having kids? We’re relevant too fashion world! Notice us! The few pages I have found offer somewhat outdated advice and seem to put us in sweater sets and pearls long before our time. I think it’s high time women in their 30s take back fashion.

Tips for finding your style in your 30s

Tip 1 – It’s time to invest girl

As I tried to dive back into fashion I made the mistake of going super low end because I just wasn’t sure what I should be wearing and well, I’m just too old for cheap clothes. I don’t want to wear fabric that sparks every time I pull it over my head. I gasp at seams that don’t sit just right on my new body shape. Now I love a bargain don’t get me wrong. I often head straight to the sale rail at most stores to snap up a deal. When I get back to the UK I love to hit Primark to snap up a cute party dress. However, I just don’t have the patience anymore for tat and I think my everyday wardrobe and the key pieces in it need to reflect the fact that I have, despite my protestations, grown up.

We all have to budget, I get that and I’m not saying to hit Chanel and spend your mortgage but now is the time to invest in some key pieces that will last. You’ve done the hard time of crappy fake leather bags and shoes that rub your feet. You’re a grown up now and you can invest in a little bit of luxe. Besides, fast disposable fashion is a false economy. Can you honestly see you wearing those furry slip on shoes next season? No I thought not and more to the point if you didn’t shell out enough for them, they probably wont last. Things that you should really invest in are

  1. A great leather handbag
  2. A killer pair of leather ankle boots
  3. An amazing pair of heels that give you legs for days
  4. A leather jacket
  5. A dressy wool coat to take you from work to a night out
  6. THE jeans
  7. THE white T-shirt (I’m still searching for this one but my cheap ones haven’t cut the mustard)
  8. Tailored trousers that give you all the bum peachy-ness
  9. A well cut suit if you work in an office environment
  10. A classic cocktail dress that you can accessorize with lots of different things
  11. A well tailored shirt

Tip 2 – Play with fashion trends but don’t be a slave to them

It’s often said that your 20s are for experimenting with fashion but it is in your 30s that you really find your personal style. The fashion oracle that is Coco Chanel once said “Fashion fades, only style remains the same” and I believe that this should be your mantra for dressing in your 30s. I’m not saying that you have to be boring, but perhaps you need to think twice before shimmying into that pvc dress because it is THE RAGE. Like I said above, invest in some amazing day to day pieces that will see you through a few seasons but the fast fashion pieces are where you can go budget as you probably wont be wearing them more than a season. Have fun with them and use them to accentuate your own personal style. Look at textures, colours and accessories that are on trend and bring your own personal style to them.

Lets take a few of next years projected trends and see how to make them fit your style.

  1. Hats are slated to be THE fashion trend. This is an easy way to accentuate your own style without overhauling your entire wardrobe because you read somewhere that neon orange is the last word in style (yes my friends, neon is coming back). Adding a hat is a pretty risk free way to spice up your outfit and is very 30s appropriate. I mean, how many of you have watched period TV shows with immaculate women and wished that you could rock a hat like that?
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    Some of my faves



  2. Pleats – When I first saw this one I kind of thought of my old school skirt. However, pleats this season are set to have a fresh makeover. Think tight pleats, not wide netball skirt ones. A great way to wear this trend is a midi skirt with a tshirt for a casual office look. You can also wear pleats on sleeves to add some extra chic flair to your outfit.
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    Some Of My Faves

    Nordstrom pleated midi skirt 
    Nordstrom sequin pleated midi skirt  (two trends in one!)

    Abercrombie & Fitch pleated shirt (VERY LIMITED SIZES AVAILABLE -SALE ALERT)

  3. Sequins and sparkle – Let me put it out there, I LOVE SPARKLY CLOTHES. I have amazing Old Navy slippers that are covered in glitter and I feel like Beyonce strutting around the house in them. However, sequins can look dated and like you’re trying to hard. 30s style tip – stick to classic designs with a modern cut or only wear one sequined piece and pair it with a very plain piece. For example, a sequin shirt with black tailored pants. Not feeling so brave? Try an accessory like a sequined purse or shoes. The feel of sequins can also be recreated with intricate, sparkly beading.
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Some of my faves

Abercrombie & Fitch Sequin Cami (SALE ALERT- UNDER $30!!!)
Abercrombie & Fitch sequin booties (I’m dying over these, all sizes available)
Nordstrom embellished Sheath Dress 

4. (Not so short) shorts – A few years ago city shorts were EVERYWHERE. I loved them as they made a fresh change to my work skirt but were still totally appropriate. Last season was all about lycra cycling shorts (thanks but no thanks Kim Kardashian-West. My two kid bum looks like a sad pancake when jammed into those high-waisted, skin tight monstrosities). This season’s short is a little looser, more tailored and has an overall more classy vibe. Plus, shorts

shorts

Some of my Faves

Abercrombie & Fitch Blue belted pleat shorts
Abercrombie & Fitch Tie Front Shorts – stripes
American Eagle High Waisted Short
All the above are in limited supply so make sure you snap them up if you LOVE them. I’m getting the belted pleat shorts for sure!!!

5. Fringe – Be still my boho beating heart, fringe is back in fashion. I absolutely adore boho style. Sienna Miller in her Jude Law years is my ultimate fashion icon. There’s something so carefree about fringe. Before you go out and purchase a pair of cowboy chaps let us think how fringe can be stylish in our 30s. A fringe bag is the ultimate easy way to add this style to your wardrobe. Think cute cross body satchels and FABULOUS clutches. Sometimes fringe can be worn in unexpected ways like Abercrombie & Fitches fringe sweater and American Eagle’s fringe poncho duster. Fringe doesn’t need to be costume-y, it can be bang on trend if worn right.
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Some of my faves

Abercrombie & Fitch grey fringe sweater – AS SEEN ABOVE on sale and in high demand buy it quickly before it sells out

American Eagle fringe cardigan On sale – RUN to pick this up while it’s in stock.

Tip 3 – Break some fashion rules

I am a grown up, I have a mortgage and I mostly remember to pay my bills on time.

When researching this post I came across so many articles with “rules to follow in your 30s”. Well excuse me,  I’m not sure who invented these rules but I don’t agree with the sweeping statements about what is not OK to wear in your 30s. We’ve followed rules our whole lives and now here we are as grown ups with a fresh set of restrictions placed on us. Not today Satan. I am a grown up, I have a mortgage and I mostly remember to pay my bills on time. Here are a few pearls of wisdom I came across.

No miniskirts – Come on, how outdated is this? If you want to show off your legs then you go for it. I personally like my legs best (more so when the old varicose isn’t acting up but age doesn’t come alone) and love showing them off. I’m not talking about a bum grazing mini but a 30s appropriate one. Slightly longer, maybe a little A line and definitely paired with something more modest on top. I am not ready to hang up the short skirts yet!

No leather skirts – whatever. I just bought one this past season and paired with a turtleneck, tights and ankle booties it is the cutest outfit. It isn’t pretty woman style but a softer, more expensive looking leather that hits just above the knee.

Stick to blouses not shirts – This one is going right out of the window. Look at Meghan Markle in her gorgeous crisp white oxford. Just take a look around Ralph Lauren and its abundance of shirts. I don’t think a beautiful shirt ever goes out of style and whilst I like the soft vibe of a blouse, I feel like sometimes they age you. A shirt and jeans is a fresh, downs to earth style that anyone can wear.

Tip 4 – Have fun and remember who you used to be

That 20 something girl is still in there. She might be hiding under sleep deprivation induced eye bags and layers of dry shampoo but she is in there. Fashion is meant to be fun and a way to express ourselves and just because we’re 30 doesn’t mean that we have to step into some little box and stay there. Sure we’re not 20 anymore but that’s OK. Life is meant to go forwards and not backwards. We’re older, so much wiser and are honing a sense of self that will see us through the next chapter in our life. It’s high time we used this confidence to capture a sense of style that tells the world who we are and that we’re not afraid to own it.

Stores for your 30s

Aritzia

H&M

Topshop

J Crew

ZaraZara

ASOS

Old Navy

Banana Republic 

So ladies, there you have it. You 30s don’t have to be a decade of embarrassing fashion mistakes and you certainly don’t have to resign yourself to frumpy, ageing clothes. The stores and fashion industry might have forgotten about us but we sure as hell haven’t forgotten who we are.

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Stay fashionable, stay beautiful and for goodness sake take off the mumu.

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A Day Trip To London With A Baby and Dino-Mad Toddler

On December 14th 2018 we braved the transatlantic red eye with the girls to go and visit my family and friends back in the UK. It was Aria’s first flight and to say we were a little nervous was an understatement. Back in October in the deep trenches of her colic when we booked the flight I wasn’t feeling overly confident in our chances of her NOT screaming bloody murder for the entirety on the 6+ hour flight. But it was Christmas, I needed my Britain fix and we were going. So off we went to Toronto Pearson airport in the midst of the Christmas travel rush with our arsenal of luggage and we began our journey to Wales.

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Disclosure – this post contains affiliate links which means that if you purchase anything through the post you wont get charged a penny more but I get a little something to keep the lights on.

Get that bassinet seat whatever it takes

Surprisingly, the flight itself went really well. When we first got on board and the temperature in the cabin soared to what can only be described as Sahara level, Aria started to cry and would only stop when someone stood up with her (not idea when you have to be sat down to take off). But then, something magic happened, she fell asleep. I couldn’t believe my luck as I gingerly sat down (why is it that children know when you switch from standing to sitting?) and attempted to buckle my seat belt without waking her. Emmy was set up with her Ipad and neck pillow and happy as a clam. This wasn’t her first rodeo so I knew she would be a pro. Before I knew it we were up in the sky hurtling in a tiny tin can across the Atlantic to the motherland. The flight passed quickly (thank you flight attendant for the extra bottle of red wine) and I really believe that upgrading to the bassinet seats was a lifesaver. If you didn’t already know, parents with infants (under 25 lbs) can opt to sit in the bulkhead and get a little bassinet that clips onto the wall. One parent gets to sit in the extra legroom seat free of charge with Air Canada and we paid to upgrade Emmy and my husband. Not only could Aria sleep in the bassinet, but Emmy could play on the floor. Travel hack – put your paraphernalia on the floor so people don’t use your legroom as a walk way. It also seemed that the bassinet metered people from walking in front of us which was great as we were right behind the toilets and people seem to think that pacing between them makes the occupant move faster (side note, what the heck are people doing in there??).

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Reading For The Night

We arrived in Heathrow with red eyes and some what muzzy heads to crisp air and glorious sunshine. My parents came to pick us up and took us to Reading where we would spend the weekend before heading onto Wales. I love Reading, it’s a beautiful city with lots of history, great restaurants and bars. We took a much needed restorative nap and then headed out for some drinks to get the Christmas period started. We found The Fisherman’s Cottage pub on the river a short walk from my family’s flat.

The next morning we got up bright and early and headed into London. I know, it was a bold move the day after a transatlantic flight with two jet lagged children but with a packed Christmas schedule we had to get it done. My daughter is OBSESSED with dinosaurs and I knew that she would just love the exhibit at the Natural history museum so off we went on the train to London (somewhat) bright eyed and bushy tailed.

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Navigating the Tube with an infant and toddler

Before we left for London I umm’d and ahhh’d about taking the pushchair for Aria.

Pros – I could put my crap in the basket at the bottom and not have to strap 15lbs of baby onto my body for the day.

Cons – I’d have to push a pretty bulky travel system around central London and the Tube for the day.

Something else to consider is that we’d have to carry Emmy a lot as she doesn’t “do” walking and has been spoiled with a double pushchair. Times are a changing toots.

You’re going to want a great carrier

My pushchair is not made for the city, it is made for the snow and massive North American cars so I decided to whip out the Lillebaby and wear Aria. I got the Lillebaby complete all seasons as the big ticket item for our second baby. Emmy categorically refused to be worn so I never really splurged on a carrier for her. I had a couple of cheap soft carriers that I got on sale at Winners but neither were comfortable and honestly trying to put her in there was akin to putting a cat into a bathtub. Also I got hot, real hot wearing my little furnace. I knew that with baby number 2 having my hands free to wrestle baby number 1 would be clutch so after much research I landed on the Lillebaby Complete All Seasons. I could not be happier with my purchase! It is so comfortable and you can adjust it pretty much everywhere. You don’t need an infant insert and it’s good from birth so you just plop babe in and go. There’s a zipper panel on the front that exposes mesh so you can get some air into that sucker and keep somewhat cool. It is also ADORABLE and I don’t feel all crunchy and granola eating wearing it. I got mine in black and white stripe which is just about masculine enough for my husband to wear but the gold details are pretty enough for me. If you need a baby carrier I honestly cannot recommend it enough. The Lillebaby is hands down the best thing I’ve bought for my kids.

I get that it is a bit spendy but I cannot rave about this carrier enough. If you want to baby wear you’re going to want comfort and you’re going to want your baby to be comfortable too. Aria was in the carrier pretty much all day (apart from lunch and coffee breaks for a stretch) and she was so happy and comfortable. She falls asleep almost instantly in it. It is MAGIC.

The Natural History Museum – Nirvana For The Little Paleontologist

We arrived at the Natural History Museum by tube at around 11 am. It was super busy outside because of Winter Wonderland. We picked up some mulled wine from the little van selling drinks and cakes and walked up the museum (they even let us bring it in which was brill seeing as it was scalding and I didn’t feel much like chugging a big cup mulled wine, not very responsible). As always, admission was free which was great as we only intended on staying an hour or so to see the dinosaurs. Britain is awesome for free things. We headed to the dino exhibit straight away and it took about 45 minutes to walk around it with a very slow and very easily distracted toddler. She LOVED the massive robotic T-Rex. It was really well done and for a little paleontologist it was just the best thing ever. All good adventures end in a gift shop as we all know and I was dreading it but we escaped the gift shop with one dinosaur egg toy which was nothing short of a miracle. After we sat in the cafe for a drink and a potty break (well coercing Emmy to go but that child’s bladder is a vault in public places. That’s a whole other blog post). It was really busy and I’d say avoid it if you can on a weekend but it was good to sit down and get a snack into the dino lover.

Zizzis for lunch

We got the tube to Covent Garden which is my least favourite stop. It is so busy and there are loads of steps to climb if you can’t get into the lift. I was a little salty that we had to stop there but I was pretty surprised that we got straight into the lift and up to street level. It was packed so I was glad I wore Aria in the Lillebaby. She was still asleep at this point and had been for the whole day. Her first trip to London and she slept the whole time! I know people can be a bit reluctant to go to a chain when London has so many fabulous eateries to offer but we had 2 kids with us and I don’t know how well we would have fared at a white table place. Emmy would have definitely been crawling between chairs and you can guarantee that is the time Aria would decide to scream her bonce off. So we booked a table ahead of time in Zizzis to save walking around trying to get a seat somewhere the week before Christmas. We sat in the window which was perfect for distracting the toddler and Aria could lie down on the bench seat. The meal was delicious and the service was awesome. Definitely the fuel we needed after a morning full of exploring.

Covent Garden and 7 dials for a stroll

We decided to take a walk after lunch to Covent Garden to see the tree and the lights. It was absolute magic. I don’t think there is anything more gorgeous than London at Christmas and it did not disappoint. I managed to get lots of Instagramable shots which my husband absolutely hates loves me doing . We walked up to 7 dials and it was chocolate box beautiful with the twinkling lights and people bundled up with their Christmas shopping. I actually felt like I was in a Hollywood christmas movie that I always scoff at as “unrealistic”. I mean honestly where does Kate Winslet live in The Holiday to have a cottage like that outside of London? and how did Cameron Diaz’s character fit all those coats into that tiny case? I call B.S. Anyway I seem to have gone off on a “The Holiday” tangent again.  We got some nice pics and then dropped back down to Covent Garden to get the tube to Paddington. I let my brother wear Aria at this point and he looked like quite the modern dad about town.

Pro Parent tip – make sure the baby and the nappy bag aren’t in different carriages on the train.

When we arrived at Paddington I was bursting for a pee. However the train was on the platform and if we had any hope of getting a seat we had to hustle and get on board. Not being a hardened commuter I jumped on the first carriage I came across with the nappy bag attached to my back and told my brother that I would run down the train once I’d gone to the toilet to give him the baby supplies. So I jumped on with my Mum and husband and off went everyone else towards the end of the train. We got a table seat which was a bit of a unicorn moment and I went off to the toilet. I got back to my seat and told my mum I would run a bottle down to my brother for Aria in case she was hungry. I pushed my way down the rapidly filling train through endless carriages. As I entered first and jogged to the end I realized the door would not open to the next carriage. Perplexed, I looked out of the window and saw the nose of another train facing me. Oh. No. We were on one of those massive trains that are two smaller trains stuck together. I was standing there with a bottle in hand staring helplessly at the other train that held my brother and my probably screaming 3 month old. I didn’t have my purse or wallet on me so I figured if I jumped off and ran up the platform I would risk being left behind with no way back to Reading so I went back to my seat and frantically messaged the rest of our party. When I heard nothing back I assumed Aria was all good and would be fine until we got to Reading in half hour or so.

I was wrong…

Upon disembarking the train at Reading station we were greeted by a very red faced, sweaty and frazzled bunch. The resembled the scene in Twister when they strap themselves onto those posts and survive the F5 “hand of God”. As my brother thrust the sweaty carrier, straps loosened haphazardly into my hands it became clear a struggle had ensued. Apparently Aria decided she wanted out of the carrier shortly after leaving London and broke out her best screams until her wish was granted. My brother had no idea how to release her from her canvas prison carrier and the buckles and adjustable straps that make the Lillebaby so great also make it a bit tricky for novices or people who have never strapped a baby to themselves. A struggle ensued to get Aria off his increasingly overheating body (if only he knew about the handy dandy front mesh panel) quickly. Thankfully, between the three of them they finally liberated her before my brother passed out. Once free the challenge of removing her coat began. My brother, his girlfriend and my stepfather wrestled her tiny, yet surprisingly rigid, arms out of the coat to the increasingly curious passengers on carriage B. Aria was in a right mood now and refused to settle unless being walked around the train. A problem on the evening Sunday service from Paddington to Swansea as anyone who has been on it will tell you. You are like sardines. If you enjoy getting up close and personal with random people who usually have eaten a tuna sandwich or garlic then this is the train for you. My Stepfather had to kind of waddle within a 1 foot radius to maintain some movement to appease my darling daughter. What people must have thought on that carriage? A young couple and middle aged man with a baby with absolutely NO supplies. Reckless! Stolen baby! Thoughtless! I feel bad that I was sat scrolling Instagram in carriage N without a care in the world.

So that was our day in London. My little dino lover had the time of her life, we got to experience the magic of Covent Garden at Christmas and we learned the hard way that the baby should never be separated from the nappy bag no matter how perilously full your bladder is. Parenting is an adventure.

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Have you got any tips for navigating London with two kids in tow or any recommendations for cool dinosaur attractions?

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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.

colic

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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