Man vs machine

I managed to spring a free ticket to Imagine London, Automation Anywhere’s flagship conference on artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation. It was a pretty cool couple of days which culminated in a keynote from the legend Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster who went head to head with (chess computer) Deep Blue.

A few thoughts and learnings:

  • I built my first bot! It’s not as hard as it looks, especially with Automation Anywhere’s workbench. (I promise I’m not sponsored by them!) Took me back to my coding years and was pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s more about logic than hard coding. They have an online university where you can learn RPA (robotic process automation, the industry’s buzzword). For the sake of fairness, UiPath and BluePrism (competitors) also have training and I’m told UiPath’s is completely free.
  • Did you know Kasparov was only defeated once by Deep Blue, and that was in a rematch after he’d already defeated it? (He was at pains to let us know that!) What’s interesting is that he doesn’t see machines as a threat. He said machines can only do (very well) what we teach them to do. Humans have the imaginative thought. Deep Blue was good because it could process hundreds of thousands of possible moves in minutes. Kasparov could do it intuitively. He said machines are amazing because they free us up from the repetitive tasks to push the boundaries further!
  • I got a taste of machine learning when we went through a learning cycle with AA’s iQbot – you get it to process data, teach it where it went wrong and it learns how to be more right. It was only invoice processing but it was really satisfying! Traditional RPA will take structured data and process it. Intelligent process automation can take unstructured data (eg lots of different formats of invoices) and pull out the salient data to structure a data set. That’s pretty cool! (If you like that sort of thing!)
  • I still find it strange to “network” at work things, but I realised that there are some ways to make it easier. Like look for another female on her own. I tend to approach women at these events as they tend to be in the minority and it’s easier to stick together! I ended up speaking with quite a few people and finding some random connections, so that was nice.
  • I think it’s important to step out of day to day work stuff now and again and take some time to learn something new. Which I did! It’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and I like being reminded that there are so many education opportunities and cool things to learn. Sometimes I forget that.

Some photos from the conference:

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Afternoon tea at Cadbury World

It was always a childhood wish of mine to go to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory so I was pleasantly surprised to discover T had booked for us to go to Cadbury World for afternoon tea for my birthday. (It took a while. I had a voucher.)

We took the day off work and went for a loooong drive (it’s in the Midlands) and popped out at the chocolate factory. Or more accurately, the mini education / amusement centre by the factory. It was strangely educational and of course entertaining (and we ate plenty of chocolate). As it was a weekday, it was also pleasantly quiet.

Some pics…

We all got to try out tempering chocolate. There is a knack. You have to cool it down on the marble slab and sort of chop it about with the scraper and spatula. It wasn’t my forté!

There is a ride in a chocolate themed car which is kind of like the Cadbury chocolate version of It’s A Small World from Disney. Being Disney fans we started singing the theme tune on the way round. The little egg things are cocoa beans who are going about their daily lives whilst humans in chocolate cars drive past.

“You’re about as much use as a chocolate teapot!”

In the factory area you can watch people making the bespoke chocolates like the chocolate teapot. During this time you also get a little pot of melted chocolate with a choice of sprinkles. I had crunchie (honeycomb) and it was delicious.

Demo showing how they traditionally made filled chocolates. Of course nowadays they do it on a factory line. (We got to see various videos but not the actual factory, sadly, but I suppose given the number of school kids it may not be a wise idea.) I didn’t realise for hollow chocolates they basically just pour it in then pour it out!

Giant chocolate footballs! We saw the process for these where they hold the moulds in a sort of machine and wave it around for a while so it gets coated on all sides. Decided to get one for my football mad nephew. If only for the novelty giant size.

We then had the “chocolate afternoon tea”. Thankfully the scones weren’t chocolate. I had hot chocolate for my hot drink, naturally.

All in all, a grand day out.

Disclaimer: You probably need to like chocolate.

Breaking the habit

I put myself on a week to start with. Wasn’t sure if I’d get that far. It was a decision I made in the middle of the night when I was up late thinking about it and I suddenly thought, what am I doing? Why am I awake worrying about this when everyone else in my family is asleep?

It’s hard because it’s just a part of our everyday lives. Everyone does it and they think you’re a bit weird if you don’t. And there are lots of good reasons to partake. It’s fun, and it’s sociable and it helps you relax outside of work.

But when it’s getting a bit too tempting and it’s in the back of your mind all the time, and you start thinking if only I could do something else with my time… if only I could do something a bit more wholesome

Of course, it’s hard to have a long break from it. I mean, I’d hardly see my friends the amount I do if I just stopped it forever. But I think for starters, a week will help me break the habit.

Yes folks… I deactivated Facebook.

(*Temporarily)

(*I can go back any time)

(*I had to delete the app from my phone)

(Will I crack before a week?!)

Vegan cake challenge

It was my uncle’s 80th birthday last week. Let me start by saying that this seems absolutely insane because Uncle D looks younger than a lot of people in their fifties and pretty much everyone in their sixties or seventies. I work with a sixty year old and he looks way older than my uncle!

Contrary to what this blog post title would suggest, it’s not veganism that’s keeping him young. In fact, it’s a family joke that he will never eat fruit, and his mother used to make him a special trifle just for him, without fruit in. Still, it’s got him in fine fettle at the age of eighty so he must be doing something right!

Anyway, we were invited to a family gathering and of course we said yes. Afternoon tea, my favourite meal (that and breakfast is where it’s at for me). And my aunt asked me if I could make a cake.

I’m still working full time and with a toddler I hardly get time to bake but it’s not every day that your family member turns 80 so how could I refuse?

One of the grandchildren is vegan. Now, I’d never made a vegan cake before. My aunt said don’t bother but I was up for the challenge!

I decided as it would be in a fairly posh hotel that I should make an effort. So I planned a bit and I experimented a bit and I decided to do my first decorate cake board. I had a bit of fondant left over from the Blippi cake so I used that. And I decorated the edges with some metallic flakes I found in Hobbycraft and I think it looked cool! I was really pleased about learning something new.

I did a marble effect though in hindsight didn’t really show up, but I learned a new thing and used up some icing so it was all good!

I searched for vegan cake recipes and a lot of people said “the Tesco one” and it seemed to have easily available ingredients so I went for that and adapted it slightly. T actually asked me if I was going to do a trial run and I said nah, I’ll just give it a go. (Turns out T has immense wisdom!)

So I’ll let you in on a secret – this was actually my second vegan cake, made after the first turned into the cake incarnation of the leaning tower of Pisa. Turns out vegan buttercream lacks the structural integrity of normal buttercream! Anyway. It was a steep learning curve but we got there in the end.

And this is the finished result!

Without further ado… a recipe!

Vegan Victoria sponge recipe

Ingredients

  • 400g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 115ml sunflower oil
  • 400ml almond milk (or soya milk)
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 500g Sugar and Crumbs salted caramel flavour icing sugar
  • 200-250g vegan spread (I used Pure, which is made with sustainable palm oil)
  • 150g vegan dark chocolate
  • 75ml warm water
  • Selection of fruit – I used strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
  • Cake topper / stand / cake round to serve
  • Cake board – decorated with fondant if desired
  • Method

      Prep cake board a day or two before. Roll out fondant and stick it to the board and trim it. (Wonder if you’ve done it correctly, if you’re me. Don’t worry… It hardens up!) Add some optional decoration round the side. Most bakers do ribbon but I like to shake it up so I glued a load of gilt flakes on it. They’re inedible but hey, I figured nobody eats the cake board.
      Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Grease and flour the sides and line the base of 2 x 6in loose-bottomed cake tins.
      Mix flour, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the sunflower oil, milk, syrup and vanilla in a jug and pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, then whisk using a food mixer for 2 mins until thick and creamy. (Note: For cake #2 I actually ran out of self raising flour so I made my own with plain flour and baking powder. You can look up the quantities but it is basically around 6 teaspoons baking powder to 450g plain flour, so scale as you need.)
      Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tins and bake for 35–45 mins until risen and cooked through. (Mine took 45.) Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 mins in the tin, then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
      While the cakes are cooling, make the filling: beat together the spread and icing sugar in a mixing bowl, cover and leave to firm up in the fridge until needed. You may need to add more or less icing sugar to achieve a good stable consistency. (When you poke your finger in, it should come away clear… I read somewhere this is a good test!)
      Place the bottom cake onto a cake round. Stack and ice the cakes with a layer of strawberry jam. Do not be tempted to split the cakes to make more layers (my mistake on cake #1) as this cake lacks the structural integrity of eg Madeira and you can expect it to be more akin to a soft cake like carrot cake. (Still, it’s delightfully moist!)
      To achieve the “naked” look, use a cake scraper to remove most of the outside icing. Kind of like a crumb coat. (You won’t need most of the icing so you could probably get away with about half the quantity but I always end up with too much icing and the S&C flavoured icing sugar (really great flavour and vegan!) comes in 500g bags anyway. So you can use the leftovers for cupcakes or something!)
      To make the ganache, break the chocolate into a bowl and add the warm water. Microwave for a few seconds at a time and keep checking and stirring. It will turn into a silky ganache. Apply “artistically” to the cake with a small offset palette knife. I just put it on the top part and left part of the naked cake sticking out at the bottom.
      Place the cake on the prepared cake board. (I added some edible glue before placing the cake round onto the board, to keep it in place.) Panic! Chill the cake in the fridge until needed. If you’re transporting it elsewhere like we were, box up the cake and take the fruit / topper separately.
      When setting up the cake, place it onto a cake stand and arrange fruit on top and around the base. Add the topper. Voilà! You made a vegan cake!

    I think that’s about it. I learned a lot making this cake and although it was a bit stressful when the first one decided to turn rogue, I did manage it in the end and felt quite pleased with the result.

    PSA for heavy periods

    Monday morning TMI post (periods):

    I know there are some of you who suffer from really heavy periods.

    I have a history of endo and fibroids and I usually have horrendous periods, like the type that a super plus tampon plus night time pad won’t work for longer than an hour. Plus debilitating cramps.

    Some of you will have seen my previous post about the pretty CSPs (peacocks!) – I also mentioned I bought a new menstrual cup to try.

    It was the Merula XL.

    Game. Changer.

    (Now, I have to confess that nobody really wants to think of anything relating to their vagina as XL. So you have to look beyond that nomenclature!)

    If you have heavy periods and have tried something like the Mooncup or Diva cup (the most popular menstrual cups) and you have to empty it too often / it leaks due to the heaviness of your period, then I urge you to give the Merula XL a go.

    It does look slightly alarmingly large when you compare it to the Mooncup (the cup I’d previously been using). I decided to try it and was pleasantly surprised.

    I always struggled with the Mooncup stem and had to trim it all off as it felt horrible hanging out of me. But for some reason the Merula stem didn’t bother me at all. This also makes it really easy to remove as you just pull on the stem.

    Inserting it took some practice. If you’re used to a cup then you will probably be fine but if you’re only used to tampons then you’ll probably have to give it a few tries. Even for a seasoned Mooncup user like I am, I still had to fiddle about a bit to get the best fit. But it was worth it.

    The trick I found was to do the fold (c fold or punch fold, can be found on YouTube!) and place it downwards rather than upwards. For some reason this worked best for me. Then turn the cup around a bit to get it to open up. Or just jab it in the side a bit. Either way you need to make it open up or you can imagine it scrunched up inside you and the blood not going into the cup! I did place it wrongly once and got leaks.

    But… I used this cup throughout my last period, in combination with the new peacock CSPs (cloth pads). And I had the best period in a long time! Not only did I barely leak at all (and I mean I went overnight), it was more comfortable and seemed to really help with my usual cramps.

    I did leak a couple of times. Once because I hadn’t placed it correctly (but I imagine that will get easier as it already has) and once because I went overnight and had a long lie in (it was the weekend!) and it was my heaviest day. So usually I would have to be emptying the mooncup multiple times overnight. I’d say with the Merula on my heaviest day I probably need to empty it before I go to sleep and then not have a huge lie in and I’ll be fine.

    The best thing is I had no significant leaks when out and about as I was worried about dealing with CSPs when I wasn’t in the house. The CSPs are much more comfortable and not “sweaty” like disposable sanitary pads can be. But I’m not sure about dealing with heavy bleeding onto them and having to carry a wet bag or something. Luckily didn’t have to deal with it and they just gave me added peace of mind. But really I can see myself not needing much backup once I’m used to the Merula.

    In terms of comparison I believe it holds 50ml rather than the mooncup 30ml. It really does make a difference. And I found it aesthetically more pleasant to look at, if that makes any difference. With that and the pretty peacock pads, it’s time to pretty up periods! Haha.

    Oh and the CSPs… I haven’t washed them yet so we shall see. I have them soaking in some cold water until my period is finished. You can rinse off the blood really easily I found, and then I folded them up into a little package (so it doesn’t look icky at all) and put them in a little container in the bathroom. My partner hasn’t even noticed so I don’t think it’s a big issue! (He does say he finds it funny that I sometimes leave my cup to dry!)

    So there we have it… a possible solution to heavy periods. I even did a Zumba class with no leaks! And bonus: it’s green! If you are really suffering I’d suggest you give it a shot. It worked for me!

    Having a “green” period

    Content warning: If you aren’t interested in periods and/or are squeamish about descriptions of periods, then this probably isn’t the post for you!

    Going green is a slow process but seems to be inextricably linked to motherhood. Maybe before as a childless person I was more carefree with the idea of disposing of my daily trash all over the planet. Maybe I was selfish. Maybe I just didn’t think. But anyway, as I’ve grown into motherhood I’ve become more environmentally aware. (I’m sure there are people who come to this realisation without having kids – I’m just a bit slow.)

    It started small and it starts with stuff that is encouraged in our country by law or by policy. For example, a charge for plastic bags came in a while ago and suddenly we became more thoughtful about reusing bags. I bought various tote bags and I’ve managed to do this with some success, although I still forget to carry shopping bags with me half the time. At least I make an effort to reuse any plastic bags we’ve bought, as bin bags etc. And it’s a nice excuse to get cute cloth bags.

    One of the huge wastes I’ve become more aware of is the waste to do with periods. And I have awful periods, due to my history of endometriosis and fibroids. I looked up the definition of “heavy period”.

    Apparently a heavy period is one where you bleed more than 80ml per cycle, or soaking through a pad/tampon in two hours or less.

    Sorry, wut?!

    Obviously you can only measure the amount you lose if you’re using a menstrual cup. A few cycles ago, I decided to try a cup again (I’d used one years ago pre kid) and I went for the mooncup as it’s the easiest available one in shops here.

    Aside: If you’ve never tried a menstrual cup, I’d really suggest you give it a go. You have to be okay with knowing your body but I don’t think that’s a bad thing! Used correctly they are far less invasive than tampons (no fibres being shed inside of you, so they don’t irritate you or make you feel “dry”) and you shouldn’t need to change them as often if you have “normal” periods. You do have to be okay with seeing your own bodily fluids but I’m the kind of person who isn’t squeamish – I find it keeps me in touch with my body a lot more.

    A mooncup capacity is 30ml and I was having to empty it about every hour, and that was just on my heavy day! I estimated that during my last period I lost more like 300ml or more (probably 400+, I mean I was half delirious getting up so many times a night). A “heavy period” would be a light one for me! I’m amazed others seem to lose so little!

    Not only that but I’d have to wear a pad as well to catch any overflow spills, plus at night time I would lie on a towel and I’d wear a few pairs of shorts in case… It was awful.

    I’ve been spending plenty of time hanging out on some fairly crunchy mom groups and one of the things I kept hearing about was “CSPs” or cloth sanitary pads.

    (Hear me out here. I thought it was gross too!)

    But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be something to try.

    The reason is, I really lose a lot of blood. So I end up using so many sanitary products, and that is all waste that goes into landfill and isn’t recycled. The cup did reduce the number of tampons and I prefer a cup to tampons, but I still had a big fear of leaks. I would still leak a lot with the mooncup simply because my periods are so heavy. I did some research and I decided to try a different cup. But I also felt like I needed some other protection and I wanted to try something more sustainable so was looking at period pants, CSPs etc.

    There is a great site called Put A Cup In It which talks you through all the different options. You can even do a quiz to find out your ideal cup! For me I’d already come round to the idea of a cup so it wasn’t a huge mental leap, but the mooncup could be quite fiddly with having to change it so often, so I realised I’d probably have to try and find a larger capacity cup. The one recommended for me based on the quiz was the Super Jennie.

    However I’m in the UK and they’re not so into cups here, although they are into CSPs. I couldn’t find the Super Jennie for sale here. But Put A Cup In It has an affiliate link to another site called Feminine Wear (awful name!) where you can get 10% off with the code PUTACUPINIT. So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.

    They didn’t have the Super Jennie but they did have the Merula XL, which has a large capacity for heavy bleeding. Also, it comes in a range of different colours so for those of you who are excited by things like that (ha!) it’s an idea. I always didn’t love the fact that the mooncup comes in a kind of yucky transparentish colour. So I went for the Merula XL. At the time they only had it in black but they have a lot of cute designs…

    And then I saw these…

    Honestly, who knew cloth pads could be so pretty?! For those of you in the US, you can get these from Mimi’s Dreams Etsy store. She has lots of different designs. I was glad someone had decided to import them to Europe!

    With that and the 10% off voucher I was a sitting duck for pretty period shopping. And – bonus – it’s a much greener idea than having a tonne of disposable tampons, pads and pantyliners.

    I was actually looking forward to getting my period!

    My last period was kind of uncomfortable. Mainly because we went to visit my friend so we were staying at her house. Even without all the stuff you have to throw away for periods, it is still kind of awkward emptying a menstrual cup.

    TMI warning: Sometimes when you empty a menstrual cup and you have a lot of blood, it kind of sits at the bottom of the toilet and it doesn’t shift even when you flush it. My tip is to empty it onto some toilet roll you’ve put down in the loo beforehand. Or empty it into the sink (but some people are icky about this).

    Anyway, it does mean you end up doing a bit more toilet cleaning than usual. Also, we had a photo shoot planned and of course I had my period so I felt all bloated and spotty. (It was a family and motherhood photo shoot so I guess it was at least true to life, although I’d have preferred to be less bloated and spotty!)

    So now I am on day two of my period, which started last night. I wore the new Merula cup overnight and – woohoo! – no leaks! Not even a drip! It was amazing. Although usually it doesn’t get super heavy until day two.

    This morning after emptying the cup and replacing it, I had a leak but I think it was because I hadn’t placed the cup correctly, because when I extracted it, it was only about half full. So the next time I replaced it I took extra care in placing and turning it to make sure it was fully open. I also decided to brave the peacocks! (I still have a load of disposable pads I was using up.)

    So my first experience with CSPs is… well, I don’t like the idea of bleeding onto the pretty peacocks! But actually they’re pretty comfortable. They do feel a bit “bunchier” but that probably just takes a bit of getting used to as you’re used to super thin disposable waterproof stuff and now you essentially just have a bit of cloth in your knickers (albeit pretty cloth!). Actually had to write to the maker to find out what side to bleed onto! (She was very nice and said it’s a very common question and yes, it’s the pretty peacocks!)

    In terms of using them, they are shaped like winged pads and you just place them in your pants and they have little poppers to do up, rather than adhesive which you get on disposable ones. The pretty material is face up and it’s backed with fleece and has some padding inside.

    When you are done, you are just supposed to rinse or soak them in cold water to get the initial blood off and then you wash them in a cool wash. (Also if you’re out and about you can kind of fold them up into a little package with the poppers which appeals to my sense of satisfaction and portability!)

    I really feel like they are a great investment so far as I like that I’m not dumping a tonne of disposable paper and plastic for my period, but we shall see how the washing goes.

    So… It’s Day 2 and usually by now I’d have leaked through onto a pad with the mooncup but I haven’t leaked at all with the Merula. Long may it continue! Maybe I’ll have no need for added protection with the new cup? That would be the dream!

    F*** cancer

    My friend has just been diagnosed with cancer for the third time. The first time was years ago, before I knew her. The second time was about two years ago, or maybe three. It was before B was born and we were trying to have a baby.

    Back in those days we were positive, because we thought she’d beaten it once and it was just a lump in her breast that needed to be removed. She went through months of gruelling chemo followed by radiotherapy that burned her skin and left her with open wounds.

    But she beat it again. And we had about a year of being in recovery and being cautiously optimistic. Waiting for the big op to reconstruct her boobs and make her feel whole again after so much else had been taken for her.

    Aside: I think people don’t realise how much cancer can take. Not just the danger of life which is devastating in itself but the dream of parenthood. My friend had to deal with knowing she would never have a child as they removed her ovaries and womb. She was newly married at the time. But at least she felt that they’d managed to save her life.

    Until now. Only a year or so since she finished radiotherapy and she has to go through it all again.

    I think life is unfair. It saddens me to see my friend having to gear herself up to fight another fight. I don’t know what you can do as a friend, other than be there.

    I sent her these chocolates. She’s northern and so it sounds like a northern pronunciation! She loved them. But I wish I hadn’t needed to send them.

    Thought for the day: bullies and self esteem

    I saw this cartoon last week and really liked it. I hated school. Was bullied pretty much every day for nine years. Around the seventh-eighth year I got a (male) best friend, started hanging out mainly with the boys (they didn’t have girl dramas and fallouts) and stopped caring.

    The best way to deal with them is to not care what they think. Easier said than done, I know. But by the time I left school at 18 I’d gone from lonely weirdo to weirdo with a massive gang of other weirdos, because our gang was inclusive and everyone was welcome.

    One of the things you realise eventually is the “popular” bullies are very fragile and rule by fear, so they don’t really have true friends. When you start measuring friendship differently, you realise one good friend is worth much more than ten fickle ones.

    As an adult in my (eek) early 40s, I think I’ve gotten to a stage where I have a much higher level of self acceptance. I recognise I’m a pretty flawed human being, but that I’m also a pretty awesome human being (though not to everyone’s taste! And that’s okay!).

    And honestly, I’ve spent too much of my life beating myself up and not enough of it just enjoying it. I’m too old for that s***. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to the people who matter, I’m exactly what they wanted. (*Hot chocolate / milk / gin / bubbly / wine / latte – delete as appropriate)

    This is what two looks like

    I can scarcely believe the time has gone so quickly, but our little B is two!

    It has been the best two years of my life. (And his! Haha.)

    We have had good times, fun, love and joy. My life feels infinitely more wonderful, even though it was pretty wonderful to start off with and I’m very lucky.

    It’s hard to believe that the dark days of infertility consumed so many years. I definitely feel like so much of me has healed.

    Two years of us being parents. (Who knew we could actually be grown ups?!) We are still the same people and yet we are completely different. Two adoptees who now have a genetic relative. It’s been pretty huge. And a blast.

    Every mother probably thinks her kid is the best in the world. B is, to me. I mean, there are some cool kids about, but he’s my one.

    If I had to summarise him at two I would say he’s active, mischievous, funny, musical, loving, and definitely not a morning person!

    This year his favourite things have changed from Dog and Teletubbies to Dog and Blippi. If you don’t know who Blippi is, he’s a YouTube star who makes educational videos for kids. I actually feel quite blessed as they are a whole lot more entertaining than Teletubbies (or – horror of horrors – In The Night Garden). He has a quite… idiosyncratic way of dressing (see below) – apparently he decided on blue for trustworthiness and orange for creativity!

    This year I was marginally more organised so I made B a birthday cake. I did make one last year too but it was far less planned and a bit of a disaster, so I was determined to up my game this year. I spent about 60 quid in Hobbycraft on ridiculous amounts of icing and tools. I’ve never done fondant before because I’m a buttercream cake maker really. But I didn’t think what I had in mind would work in buttercream. It turns out I do not like working with fondant!

    Behold my first attempt at fondant cake decorating!

    It was tricky, but I was pleased with how it turned out. Mainly because our little Blippi was super pleased with it. I also cobbled together a Blippi outfit for him that was just super cute. We had managed to find the Blippi official trainers (sneakers!) that he absolutely loved. It was so cute… He said, “Bippi! Me!”

    On the day of his birthday we took the day off work and took him on a trip to a soft play centre and the Natural History Museum. It was great, mainly because most people were at work so it wasn’t so busy. And two is such a fun age where they can walk and talk (a bit, mainly babbling) and really enjoy stuff.

    B’s birthday also marked two years of breastfeeding! Which really isn’t something I ever planned to do. I was going to aim for six months, and then six months became a year and a year became two. And it seems unlikely to stop at two. We decided to go for natural term weaning – although if he ends up being seven and breastfeeding then there might be some weaning involved!

    I don’t think I’m a militant breastfeeder or anything. I don’t aim to be, anyway. It works for us, but I was prepared for it not to. I kind of thought that we’d end up formula feeding and I wasn’t too worried about it. I was formula fed and I turned okay (although did have some serious health problems as a baby, probably as a result of being separated from my mother at such a young age). I thought I’d give it a go but expected that like most other baby related stuff (conception, birth!) it wouldn’t work well for me.

    But work it did – B never really had much of an issue and it turns out if there’s one thing my body can do naturally, it’s breastfeeding. But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I had to go back to work at four months because I didn’t get maternity pay. And that sucked. I had to pump so that B could continue to be EBF. He has always been a bit of a milk monster so that was a lot of pumping. I realised I’d been pumping for 1 and 2/3 years! I had committed to pumping until he turned two.

    After the Christmas break I decided that enough was enough. Pumping is difficult and not fun. I totally didn’t do it for the love of it. The love of B, sure. But pumping was quite frankly a bitch. And there didn’t seem much point in B rejoining nursery/daycare after two weeks off and me re-starting pumping just to stop it again a few weeks later when he turned two. He was down to one milk a day after his midday nap, and I thought now he’s older he could probably forego it without any issues. (He still has milk at home.)

    So just like that, my pumping days are over. Although not quite. I’ve been pumping a few times just to make a freezer stash. It’s actually been really liberating not to have to pump in the work bathrooms or rush home early to pump. I just have done it since new year if it was convenient and if I felt like it.

    I won’t miss the hanging out in the disabled loos, carrying an extra large bag to fit pump parts, wearing bf/pumping clothes to work, and constantly having to figure out how to make the time to pump.

    I will miss that feeling of doing something for my child, because he’s the only child I’ll have, and that part of his babyhood is now over.

    I don’t yearn for babyhood again because he’s awesome now. I enjoyed it at the time but I feel immensely privileged I get to go on this journey and nurture my own child and watch him grow.

    So… the end of an era. But just the beginning of the rest of his life.

    Just the two of us…

    On Wednesday, B’s nursery was closed for an inset day and T had to go back to work, so I took the day off and we had a little one on one time.

    We went to the Museum of London Docklands where he had a great time wandering around the exhibits, and playing in the children’s area. It’s amazing to find out about the city we live in, and it’s all free!

    The children’s area is fantastic with lots of interactive play areas and we didn’t do the half of it because he spent the entire allotted time in soft play!

    We went next door and shared a pizza and garlic bread at Pizza Pilgrims, where they give kids some stickers to keep them occupied. He enjoyed sticking them all over the place whilst swigging water and munching garlic bread, and the staff made a fuss of him whilst mama had a cheeky rosé. He loved it!

    And we went to the Crossrail gardens where he enjoyed running about and shouting “Hello!” at a bird in a tree for half an hour.

    We had a wonderful day. It’s so much fun to see the world through a child’s eyes. And it was all free apart from the pizza! It was lovely to spend time together and he still had a great time playing, even though it was just the two of us most of the time.

    I don’t doubt there will be times in his life where he asks why he doesn’t have a sibling and maybe even asks if we can have one. But for now, he loves his dog brother and he loves his parents, and this mama enjoyed the fact that we could spend a precious day together, just the two of us. 💕