Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Old photos...

This weekend I took down my most favourite photo of Thomas. This one:

... and replaced it with this one:

It made me start thinking about where I was then and where I am now. This photo was taken by my wonderful PhD student Ice just before I went back to work after maternity leave. He sent me a message one day asking if he could come and take some photos of Thomas as he had a new camera lens. Sure! When he sent me the photos I was so excited!

"Ice - can you take photos like this because you're a good photographer, or because you've got a good camera?"

"It's just the camera" he replied.

Now, three years later, I know he was kind of half telling the truth. Yes the lens matters but there is more to it than that!

These photos are the ones which made me go out and spend a small fortune on a dSLR. I figured in the long run, if I could take photos as good as these, then I would never have to get professional photos done!

My beautiful new (refurbished) camera arrived. And I took some photos. Fully automatic. Maybe just a bit clearer than a point and shoot.

"Oh no", I thought... "have I wasted my money?!" [don't tell my husband!]

I messed around with the camera a bit for the next year, taking 'OK' photos some of the time and pretty rubbish ones the rest of the time.  The one day I read a blog post on beginner basics [it doesn't exist any more or I would link it] and decided to try and go manual.

It didn't work so well to start with. I even wrote a blog post about it!

Then I started to get a bit better...

Practice practice practice...

And then of course, along comes the perfect subject to practice on:

And now I get it. I can know what settings I need before I take a photo. I can almost always focus on a moving object (as long as it isn't too fast). I don't over-edit and I try desperately to capture Thomas without him saying 'cheese'.

I'm moving forward and upward with my photography, both with the images I capture, and the photography business I've set up...

All because of that one set of photos taken three years ago!

Thanks Ice!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer fun

We played, we laughed, we loved, we had a lot of fun.

We visited the lakes and went swimming and climbed on bridges and got tanned.

We had a potluck lunch and playdates in the park.

We rode bikes and ran for miles and ate mountains of fresh fruit and vegetables.

We made lemonade and played on the slip n slide and visited the zoo and watched the baseball.

Thank you Maryland. What a great summer we had!

This photo was submitted to the I Heart Faces photo challenge –

Photo Challenge Submission

Friday, August 10, 2012

20 questions for a three year old...

I saw this post over at Mummy Mishaps and it made me laugh so much so I decided I would ask Thomas the 20 questions and see how he answered.

This is long and probably not so interesting but I'm posting so I can bribe him in 13 years time... :)


One year on. Really?!

In five days I will have been here in the US for one whole year. I can’t really believe that so much time has passed. I vividly remember that last morning in the UK, not being able to move from the bed, not wanting to have to say goodbye to my Mum. Even now as I sit here writing this, my eyes glisten with tears as the feelings of despair and sadness wash over me.

I do miss my Mum. I really do. I miss all of my family. I can’t dwell on it because if I did, I would be unhappy and really, I don’t have a right to be unhappy when I am living such a nice life!

Life here is good. I am doing things I love, bringing up my boys, training to be a Childbirth Educator, setting up my photography business. I have met some fabulous people, and some not so fabulous people. I have been to some amazing places, visited six states, found beautiful parks, and my home feels like a home (albeit messier than I would like…). I have struggled with cultural differences, and laughed at cultural differences. I’ve experienced Fall and Thanksgiving and American Hallowe’en. I’ve discovered that there are hundreds of reasons to celebrate with candy during the school year. I’m figuring out the supermarkets and CSAs and farmers markets. I’m running - a lot! I passed my driving test. I had an American baby! I discovered groups like Frederick Mommies, Mombook, API of Frederick, La Leche League of Frederick, and I joined them all! You could never accuse me of being cliquey :)

The first three months were the loneliest I have ever had. I didn’t know how it ‘worked’ out here. I thought I would never make any friends or be able to have a normal conversation with anyone. I was sad. Then it all started coming together…

So, one year on. I feel lucky. Lucky to have a husband who supports me in all the crazy things I’ve decided to take on; who doesn’t complain when I spend all day looking after children and all night working on photos or coursework. I am lucky to have made some good friends who have seen me laugh and seen me cry. I wish I could move my home nearer to my family. Better still, I wish I could move my family nearer to me!

Spurred on by a Facebook conversation, I decided to start making a list of all the language differences I’ve come across this year. Bear with me, I’m sure I’m missing hundreds of others, but these are the ones that stick in my head!

(In no particular order)

Garden = Yard
Vegetable patch = garden
Boot = trunk
Bonnet = hood
Rubber = eraser
Condom = rubber
Pram = carriage
Buggy = stroller
Pushchair = stroller
Travel cot = pack n play
Activity centre = Excersaucer
Nappies = diapers
Aubergine = eggplant
Coriander = cilantro
Courgette = green squash / zucchini
BBQ = grill
Clothes pegs = clothes pins
Post = mail (people think I’m talking about the Washington Post newspaper if I mention post)
Football = soccer
American football = football (who’d have known!)
Cordial = doesn’t exist!
Zed = zee
Bottom = tush
Bum = butt
Biscuit = Cookie
Dumpling-type thing = biscuit, as in “chicken and biscuit”. I haven’t had it…

The completely different pronunciation of certain herbs, with herb itself being ‘erb:
oregano = o-ray-ganno
basil = bay-zle
quinoa = key-noir (had a very puzzled look from a shop assistant when I asked for ki-noah…)
Zebra = zee-bra
Nauseous = Naw-shus
Awesome ONLY sounds cool with an American accent. Fact.

Random musings:

When we first arrived I mentioned to David that there were a LOT of deaf people here. There really are! It took me ten months to realise that the Maryland School for the Deaf is in Frederick… so not just some kind of Martha’s Vineyard then…

Go to the shops / dentist / haircut etc = ‘running errands’

The addition of ‘of’ to a sentence: “take that off of there” “you get off of route 70”

The Lube Center. No matter how many times I drive past it, I still snigger to myself like an adolescent schoolboy. It just sounds so rude. It’s a car shop!

What is the thing with milk? In the UK you have whole milk, semi-skimmed milk and skimmed milk.  Here you have whole milk, 2% milk, 1% milk, some places have skimmed milk, raw milk (illegal in MD). Which one is the same as UK skimmed milk? Probably none of them, I’ve not worked it out yet…

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Photography business!

Yes, I went and did it! Now I have four sessions lined up and other possibilities coming together. Exciting times!

Monday, July 23, 2012


Fireflies! What an amazing thing to have discovered in the garden this summer! I proclaimed such a thing on Facebook and a friend sent me a poem she had written about them. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Breastfeeding preparation

I thought I'd post some coursework from the Childbirth Educator course I am currently studying through Birthworks. This is my essay on breastfeeding preparation, focusing on the La Leche League International meetings I regularly attend. Enjoy! :)

There are three main breastfeeding classes running in the Frederick MD area – two La Leche League (LLL) classes (one daytime monthly meeting and one evening monthly meeting) and a weekly class provided by Frederick Memorial Hospital.  I attended all three classes on more than one occasion over the course of six months, both for personal reasons and for research purposes for this assignment.  I would recommend the LLL meetings to all expectant mothers.  The meetings are open to all - expectant women, nursing mothers, mothers who have finished nursing, mothers of nursing mothers, partners.  In keeping with the BirthWorks philosophy, the group believes that breastmilk is the optimum nutrition for a newborn baby and it works hard to help and support women who want to breastfeed, through education, phone support, group meetings and one-on-one help.  They also put a lot of emphasis on the birth and early postnatal period, again agreeing with the BirthWorks philosophy that birth is one of the greatest challenges life has to offer.  They offer an understanding of how birth can affect breastfeeding and they help women who prenatally may be worrying, and postnatally may be suffering the effects of a bad birth experience.

Each meeting started with an overview of the philosophies of the LLL group, before introductions were made. This was a chance to bring up any problems that people wanted to discuss during the meeting.  I enjoyed this way of introducing the group, as everyone got to speak, and the less vocal members of the group had an opportunity to speak out if they wanted to discuss a particular issue or wanted to request help.  Sometimes it is difficult to ask for help, especially in a group situation, and I appreciated the way the leader allowed everyone to have a voice.  These introductions always paved the way for the rest of the meeting.  There was always an issue to discuss, from giving formula under duress in hospital, to low supply, to pumping when going back to work, to struggling with weight gain on a vegan diet.  Every month I learnt something new.  The advice and information given was always easy to understand and people came back to the meeting month after month, including me!

There are so many advantages of breastfeeding including mother-baby bonding; psychological recovery after a difficult birth; boosting the immune system of a newborn; feeding baby with the perfect balance of nutrients, especially made just for them; and ease of use.  Breastfeeding also benefits both the mother and the baby, with rates of certain cancers being significantly reduced in mothers who breastfed their young.  However, even though the ‘breast is best’ motto rings true in most cases, sometimes circumstances prove too difficult for breastfeeding to be established.  Difficulty to establish breastfeeding may come from physical problems in the early days, pressure from doctors to supplement with formula in the hospital after birth, latching issues, and a general lack of education about the ‘norm’ of breastfeeding.  Ailments such as mastitis, blocked ducts and thrush (on baby and/or mother) can deter the breastfeeding relationship and frequent growth spurts in the first six months can become wearing on the mother.  Aside from physical issues, mothers may come across obstacles further down the breastfeeding path, when work beckons, or when partners start to put pressure on them.

According to recent statistics, in 2011 the percentage of babies initially breastfed was 74.6%.  This percentage had dropped to just 44.3% continuing to breastfeed at six months and only 23.8% of babies were still breastfed at 12 months.  I think the three main reasons why breastfeeding rates are so low are: 1. Women are nervous about public reaction, and in some states, probably rightly so. 2. Breastfeeding can be difficult to establish at the beginning. 3. Women go back to work and are unable to pump / have difficulty in pumping and keeping up supply.

During different meetings a common theme that has been explored as an obstacle to breastfeeding has been C-sections.  The separation of mother and baby can have a significant impact on the early breastfeeding relationship and it is important to let women know that they can request to be kept close to their baby, even if they end up in surgery.  Skin-to-skin contact is still possible and every opportunity should be provided to both the mother and baby to allow release of the hormones required for bonding to be established.  The physiology of breastfeeding was also covered in detail.  I learnt a lot about nipples (!) and how the different shapes can affect the latch of the baby, and how different positions can work better depending on your breast size and nipple shape; I also learnt about dietary intolerances, such as lactose intolerance and sensitivities to spices and caffeine; reflux was a common problem experienced by a lot of the mothers at the start of their breastfeeding journeys, some had resolved issues through diet, whilst others nursed their babies sitting upright, all were relieved to hear that reflux tends to diminish by six months and by attending the meetings over this period, I was happy to see this was true!

Another phenomenon, which I hadn’t heard of, was the fact that most breastfeeding latch issues will decrease when the baby’s head grows bigger than the mother’s breast.  As a mother with larger breasts, I’m glad I didn’t have any unresolved issues!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guest post!

I did a guest post for the lovely Rachel at MaƱana Mama!

You can find it here.  Along with others from the Strangers in Strange Lands series she is running. Thanks Rachel!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer bucket list 2012!

Inspired by the fabulous Danielle, I decided to write a bucket list for the summer!

The true 'list' will be written on the blackboard wall which we're going to paint in Thomas's playroom (one of the things on the list!), inspired by Jack at Chicken and Custard who did one last year... Thanks Jack :)

Photos to follow...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Welcome to the Summer

I don't find much time to post right now. Two babies, coursework, reviewing papers, checking PhD chapters, visits from family, breaking air conditioning, growing vegetables (attempting)...

Anyway, here are my photo selections from May!  We came back from the UK and then went away on a mini-break for a week.  We went to Deep Creek Lake in West Maryland and had the best time!  We came back and then I seemed to be rushing round preparing for my brother Nick arriving with his family at the start of June.  They have just left, David has gone to Japan, and I can finally breathe... albeit very hotly as the A/C unit is bust.

The weather here is AMAZING.  I would love it a little bit more if I wasn't so hot today.  It's a proper summer, with the swimming pool at Spring Ridge open and washing drying outside in about half an hour.  The best thing?  It won't only last a week!  It'll be like this for the next couple of months!  Wow.  If only the mosquitos would leave me alone...

Tyler turned six months this weekend.  Six months!  I remember that time flew with Thomas. By this time I knew I was going back to work in another couple of months and every moment was precious.  This time I don't have to leave and go to work!  Every moment is still precious to me.  The boys get on so great together.  Tyler loves Thomas so much.  Sometimes you can hear Tyler laughing, just so happy if Thomas is paying him some attention.  I hope they are always friends.

Love love love being a mum of two.  Life is pretty good right now...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Where did April go?!

Oh that's right, I went to the UK! We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced. I met old friends and very old friends, and took my baby to Sweden. I spent a LOT of time with my Mummy, Thomas spent a lot of time with his cousins, Tyler just got immersed in the Dixon family and came out of it smiling and happy as usual.

I went to the ENFSI DNA working group meeting and tested out my brain for a couple of days. I sadly missed the incredibly successful MAMA conference in Scotland which took place at the same time.

It was a brilliant three weeks and I was sad to leave my family at the end of it. I have to say though, coming back to my beautiful house and weather over 30 degrees was a pretty nice thing to do! Roll on Memorial weekend when the pool opens for the summer. I think we're going to have a pretty good time... And my brother and his family are coming in June, followed by Mum & Dad in September, before we head home for Christmas.

The world is small these days! Here are my favourite photos from April!

Monday, April 2, 2012

A brief update!

Happy April!  I don't know where the year is going to! Next week we leave for a visit to the UK. Three whole weeks!!  Well, with three days in Sweden for the ENFSI DNA working group meeting.

Life is good, filled with playdates and gardening and studying for my Childbirth Educator course, helping out with the Maryland Families for Safe Birth campaign, breastfeeding (four months and counting!), taking photos and making new friends.

Anyway, here are my favourite photos from March. Most from my 366 project. Some which didn't make the cut :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Slowing down

Life is slower. It's been an adjustment to appreciate that there isn't always a need to rush from one thing to another.  Today I spent time talking. I talked to my Mum via Skype. Tyler was at his cutest and smiled and showed her how he could wave his arms around and generally look cute.  I talked to my neighbour over a cup of tea. I learnt more about her in two hours than I had learnt over the last six months. Then I had some mummy friend time. We chilled out and sat around and talked about jobs and babies and weaning and nannying. We sat outside amidst the washing - washing drying outside which fills my heart with happiness and emits a smell which throws me back into another simpler life when I lived at home with my Mum and Dad. I picked up Thomas from preschool and went back outside, playing on the deck, breathing in the fresh air, generally enjoying my day. That's when I realise that life is slower.  I didn't 'do' much, but I kept my baby close to me, I fed him and changed him, held him when he dozed, kissed his perfect face and made him feel safe. If my life needs to be slower right now to make my children whole and happy, then so be it. There will be plenty of years when the pace picks up again, and I'll be ready for it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A 'me' hour...

An hour! I’ve got at least one hour to myself! What shall I do? So many things to do!

I’ll call my Mum and tell her I’ve got a WHOLE HOUR to myself! Then I’ll think of what I can do…

I’ll finish that cake I’d started. Then I can sit down, watch mindless TV, maybe have a snooze, maybe read some more of my new book “Beyond the Sling” by Mayim Bialik, maybe start some coursework

Well the oven is a bit dirty, I’ll just wipe that down.

And wash the dishes. Then I’ll sit down.

After I’ve cleaned the kitchen floor.

Well, I might as well do the bathroom as well while I’m at it.

Oh, the nappies are dry. I’ll just stuff them so they’re ready to use. Then I’ll sit down.

And write this blog post…

Then I’ll make a cup of tea.

Oh. Hello! You’re back! Great…

I guess it was productive ‘me’ time at least.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Photoblog - February selection!

Here are my favourite photos from February. I didn't use all of them on the photoblog, a couple are just photos I love :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Where are we now...

Nearly three months on, wow!! I know that time passes in an instant with a newborn, but really? Three months?! I was determined to relish every second this time round, and still it passed in an instant.

We've survived the one week, two week, three week, four week, six week, seven week, eight week and nine week growth spurts - some would say Tyler's whole little life has been one big growth spurt! 15 pounds and counting...

We made it through David spending ten days in Japan.

We got through Tyler's first cold.

Thomas has been amazing. I am constantly amazed by how well he adapted to having a little brother. They share this mutual affection which makes everyone smile.

And me?  Well, I feel like I'm coming out of the fog.  I think to myself "I can do this, it's actually pretty fun!". I've found some friends and like the constant activity which fills my world.  I've signed up to become a Childbirth Educator with BirthWorks. We've booked flights to the UK in April, hooray, it's been TOO long since I had a Mummy cuddle of my own. I'm going to the European DNA working group meeting in Sweden. I've finished a journal article. Life is getting back to normal, a new normal, and I love it.

I am very very lucky :)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hooray for boobies - a breastfeeding meme

I've been tagged by the lovely Jenny at Mummy Mishaps on this breastfeeding meme. I would never have thought I'd be able to write about this! Yay me! :)

1. Why did you choose boob over bottle?
I didn't manage to breastfeed Thomas. There were many factors involved, a lot of naivety and a ton of physical issues, and I felt guilty for a long time afterwards.  Training as a doula allowed me to explore the world of breastfeeding more and I learnt a lot! I come from a formula feeding family and I honestly had no idea what was really involved in breastfeeding. This time round I tried again because a) I'm stubborn (!), b) breast is best IF you can do it, and c) I really wanted to give it a go, knowing so much more than I did first time round.

2. How long did you breastfeed or are you planning to breastfeed?
Until Tyler wants to stop!

3. What is the best thing about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding Tyler has healed me of the regret and guilt I felt over not managing to do it with Thomas. I haven't bonded better with Tyler and I definitely don't love Thomas any less for bottle feeding him. Breastfeeding has been really hard for me to establish and with the naivety and lack of family / friends / support system in place when I had Thomas, I'm not surprised it didn't work!

4. Did you have to overcome challenges on your breastfeeding journey?
Yes! It hurt a lot and he fed constantly for the first eight weeks. I needed a support pillow, two hands, Soothies, breast shields, Lansinoh, Motherlove nipple cream and Netflix to get me through!  Now he's only ten weeks and he still feeds a LOT. I'm just used to it now and it stopped hurting so it isn't so bad. Plus I think I've had it lucky really. Fingers crossed, I haven't had over-supply or under-supply (bar my milk not kicking in for four days), or anything like thrush or mastitis or blocked ducts, and Tyler isn't sensitive to anything I eat or drink. Some people have a really hard time!

5. Who supported you the most with breastfeeding?
My husband. He was, and still is, a rock. He tells me how brilliantly I'm doing and in those early weeks he gave me the boost I needed every time I got emotional and pissed off with the whole thing! I've also been really lucky to meet some lovely people here who I've been able to moan at / cry in front of when things have been tough.

6. How did you feel when you first breastfed in public?
Awkward and brilliant at the same time!

7. Have you been questioned for breastfeeding?
Not yet. Let someone try! I know my rights!

8. Has breastfeeding made you feel different about your body?
Not really, although my flat nipples are pretty impressive now! :D I'm still in the early days though and need to get over the postpartum wobbly phase before I really know what my body will look like!

9. What do you wish you had known before making the decision to breastfeed your baby?
That it's really really tough to find nice clothes which are amenable to breastfeeding without showing tons of saggy belly or masses of boob!

If anyone else wants to join in, click on the photo below! :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My favourite January photos

For those not following my 366 photoblog, I thought I'd post my favourite photos of the month here! So here is my selection of favourite pictures from January. If you want to see them all, head on over to my other blog here!

Monday, January 9, 2012

One month on...

Tyler is one month old tomorrow! How time flies.
I could make this post all about breastfeeding. I am hugely proud of the fact that I have managed to establish breastfeeding this time round. Some of you know I really struggled with Thomas (as I spoke about here), and I then struggled with the guilt of not having breastfed him… I can honestly say that now I have managed to breastfeed, I am totally over any residual guilt I felt about Thomas! Tyler had a great latch from the outset (unlike Thomas) and I still really struggled in the first few weeks. The first week was hell as my milk didn't truly kick in until day 4 and this 10lb 3oz baby jumped out of the womb screaming for milk! I hibernated and stayed in bed with Tyler for three days (thank you wonderful midwives for insisting I must!), breastfeeding hurt and it was constant. It is still pretty constant but it doesn't hurt any more. My nipples were cracked and sore but never bled like they did with Thomas. This time round I had a lot of people to talk to and I was psychologically prepared for it being hard and constant, and still, it was harder than I had ever imagined, and I'd already been through it once! I think without Soothies, breast shields, Lansinoh and My Brest Friend, I would have given up. But I didn't! Go me :)
This time round I didn't get the 'baby blues' like I had with Thomas. I was very fortunate for my Mum & Dad to be around for the first week as well as David. My Mum did everything for me; washing, cooking, cleaning, and helped in so many ways that I will be eternally grateful for. Dad was around to entertain Thomas, which was great, especially when David went out. I was so sad when they had to leave but thankfully this time round I had recovered from the birth and felt I could manage (with Thomas she left after three days as Christmas was fast approaching and I was so unprepared for her leaving!). David made me breakfast in bed every day and looked after Thomas. Antonette took my placenta and made it into capsules for me to take each day to balance the hormones… I was completely cared for and had a brilliant babymoon. [except for the painful boobs!]
It seems my hormonal surges come in the form of feeling extreme guilt towards Thomas. So much time is spent nursing and I struggled with how little time I had left for Thomas. He has adapted so well and loves his baby brother so much. I am incredibly lucky to have such a loving son and his reaction to Tyler has made the transition to a family of four so much easier. I just have my moments where I feel guilty that he didn't ask for his world to be changed so completely. He was quite happy to be the centre of attention for his Mummy and Daddy! I know he wouldn't change it for the world and I am the one who feels guilty, not because of anything Thomas has said or done, just because it's my way of dealing with the shock of introducing another person to our family!
The actual part about having a new baby is easy! Been there, done that. Cloth nappies are back in action, the Ergo is out, the exercise ball is getting used more now than during pregnancy, the Tummy Tub is in use. Tyler is like a mini-Thomas and freakily looks so similar sometimes. I still find myself calling him Thomas occasionally!
So, one month on… David has gone back to work, my boobs finally don't hurt, Tyler is thriving, Thomas is beautiful, I'm very tired from 4pm until bedtime, and then through the night if Tyler doesn't sleep! We're getting out a bit more and I'm feeling more confident about being a mummy of two…

If I'm being completely honest, I love it. This is what I was born to do :)

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