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How to get a toddler to sleep better

two words:

or maybe, two words, one of which is hyphenated:

or is it, three words, two of which are hyphenated? ANYWAY:


This photo makes my face ache. Love that boy. (Hate that blind; anyone want to make me a cool one?)

This photo makes my face ache. Love that boy. (Hate that blind; anyone want to make me a cool one?)

Honestly, I can’t tell you how worried I was about putting him in a child’s bed from a cot. It was much earlier than I would ever have considered it if we hadn’t needed the room. So I also felt guilty about moving him on to a stage he possibly wasn’t ready for. He’s a climber, this boy. He doesn’t sit still unless he absolutely has to, and he only stayed in bed because the bars kept him there.

However, it turns out that when you sleep under a duvet, you sleep in a warm, embracing cocoon that keeps you unconscious loooong after your grateful mother thought was possible (7.30am, he wakes up these days. WHAT?).

It also turns out that when said duvet is car-printed, you always get excited about going to bed, and will spend the time before sleep pointing out motorbikes and trucks to your wooden mouse.

Without getting all child-psychology about it, I think the fact that he now chooses to stay in bed, rather than having sleep forced upon him, makes him sleep sounder. Now all I need to know is whether you can buy car-printed sandwiches, because that would solve another pressing problem.

How to get a pregnant woman to sleep better

No idea, guys. Seriously.

(Has anyone tried a proper pregnancy bump pillow? They’re expensive, but I’m just tossing between normal pillows right now, and am far too familiar with 3am. This only leads to more daytime naps than I can really afford, and a Bon Jovi fringe once I wake up.)

Quiet living in a little space

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Did I tell you about our flat? I love our flat. It’s true that cream carpets get OLD with a baby and a muddy cyclist leaving their mark on the floor. But I ran home to a new husband here, and brought my baby back to this room. This house has seen the best of me, as well as everything else.

So I’m not trying to make it feel bad for being small. Even though it was definitely made for two people, and it’s about to house five. Chin up, little house, we love you anyway. And we’ve just worked MEGA hard to make the very most of this space for as long as we can.

The idea of my doing a home decoration post is the sort of thing that makes me belly laugh – hello, I have enough belly to go around everyone at the moment – so I feel like a bit of a dork, writing this. On the other hand, I’m sure we’re not the only ones trying to fit more into less without choking on the claustrophobia. Here’s what I’ve found helpful over the past couple of weeks. If you’ve hit on anything that worked in your little space, give me some pointers!

big fish, little fish, basket, box

I live with a wires man. Timothy trails wires like a weird AI version of Edward Scissorhands. He’s the chap to ask if you need an audio cable, a tiny screwdriver, seven kinds of battery or a phone that went out of circulation five years ago. Most of this seemed to be living on the bookcases.

(Kidding, husband! I am just affronted when things go on the bookcases that aren’t my books. That space is at a PREMIUM, DO NOT TOUCH IT.)

Timothy threw away everything he didn’t need, then we ravaged the basket section of IKEA. He now has baskets that are categorised with titles such as Audio and Video, Flash Drives and Storage, Misc and Useful Misc. He decided not to use a whole basket just for different types of glue, in the end, but it was a close thing. We ended up with an entirely clear cupboard – that we’ll desperately need for other things – and a serenely uncluttered bookcase, with a row of baskets on top that look rather nice. Now I can stroke Wolf Hall in peace, thank you very much.

Also, thanks to Tim’s parents, we just inherited this beeeeeaaaaautiful family chest belonging to a Jeffcoat of Yore. It now sits in our living room where the coffee table used to go, and you wouldn’t believe how much we’ve put inside it. I’m so excited about having a piece of family history in our house that’s a century old at least that I keep wanting to embrace it. Furniture that’s actually a giant box: now there’s something I can get behind. 

clear, and clear, and clear

This one was hard. We let go of knick-knacks, clothes we never wore, shoes that were too battered to be seen in public, and lots of old bits-and-bobs we’d been hanging on to for no reason. I like the philosophy of minimalism-with-prettiness: clear out as much as you can, then add little touches you really love. On top of the little bookcase in the corner – just to the left of the old Tube map I adore – I keep an old, glazed jug, a painting by Tim’s brother, and a Piet-Mondrian-patterned tissue box. They make me happy whenever I look at them.

ups and downs

Without much obvious floor space, we had to think creatively about what would go where. So we stacked, high and low. We lined cupboard walls with shelves and free corners with tall shelving units, and used yet more baskets to keep little things out of sight. Henry’s toys now live in two large boxes under his bed, which means we have a place to put toys away, instead of just having them out all the time.

We did the same when it came to beds: we were lucky enough to be given a brilliant high-rise contraption (again, a family hand-me-down), and bought a child’s bed to slot underneath it, to replace Henry’s cot. I cannot tell you how much I panicked about this. Henry, free to roam the house at night, ingesting interesting pills and climbing into dangerous places. Imagine the possibilities.

We’ve only had to chase him back inside three times a night, so far. Ahem. No, he’s doing really well. Making up a proper bed with a car-printed duvet for this tiny boy just about broke my heart, but he was so excited. After his naps I fling open the blinds, he stands up to survey the scene out of his window, and lets out a great, satisfied ‘ahhhhhh’.

King of the world. It was worth it just for that.

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PS: thanks to generous parents, we’ve been able to reuse a lot of family furniture, which has saved us a heck of a lot of money. Otherwise, though, we’d be all over Ebay like a rash. Go second-hand or go home.

PPS: Sadly, Henricus discovered yesterday that he could climb onto the high-rise, which happens to have a VERY bouncy mattress. For our next project, we’ll be covering everything in bubble wrap. 

Superboy and the new bed from Rachel Jeffcoat on Vimeo.


We are home.


Henry was asleep in the car when Timothy’s dad came to pick us up last night. I had imagined some kind of delirious reunion scene with little arms around necks and lots of ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ – but of course he’s not really old enough to appreciate a good train station moment. Instead he woke up mildly peeved, made sure we still knew what sound a train makes, then had to be bribed with Smarties and a dummy to go into our house instead of home with Papa.

A night in our own beds and a quiet Sunday of General Conference (mormon worldwide-broadcast-and-snacks day) has done us all the world of good. Tomorrow we’re finally saying goodbye to that sucker in his mouth. That stage they talk about where the pacifier is obviously a hindrance rather than a help? We are five miles past that, and unrolling sleeping bags. I’m done with I-want-the-dummy tantrums. I am so, so done. My plan is to put them all in an envelope and get him excited about putting them in the post so that other babies can have them. Don’t know what the Post Office will make of a stamp-less envelope addressed to The Dummy Fairy, but if you’re reading this, postman, don’t actually send them to any other babies. They’ve seen a lot of life. They shouldn’t see any more.

I am, as one expression goes, crapping my pants. Pray for me.

(Next up this week, a BILLION Paris photographs. Of course. It was beyond lovely.)

It’s my birthday, and I wished for this

This, being…

one insomniac coughing fit so energetic I blew out an eardrum (brills)

two naps, three boxes of chocolate, four new books (better)

one cafe breakfast and a bottle of the best French lemonade we ever had

one birthday cake made from piled-up scones-and-cream-and-jam

and one boy in tractor wellies, one boy popping the buttons off my coat, and one boy holding my hand under the table.

I’ve never had a birthday where I felt worse and enjoyed myself more. Seriously, these boys. They make my twenty-eight.

(I would also really like to be in bed at this point, but I’ve got another fifteen minutes till my next bout of cold medicine. So, like, a million photos? Yep, good idea.)

SAM_8738v2 SAM_8751 SAM_8755 SAM_8775 SAM_8815 SAM_8828 SAM_8838 SAM_8843 SAM_8850 SAM_8851 SAM_8860 SAM_8871 SAM_8863

This Is Where We Are: A letter to my son on Mother’s Day (2)

Having read about it here, I wanted to write about how I mother my babies day-to-day, every Mother’s Day. The first was here. Here goes the second. 

Dear Future Version of Henry,

Today is my second Mothering Sunday, and you are eighteen months old. We are sat side-by-side in the big bed, you tucked under my arm and watching your third episode of ‘Sarah and Duck’. You’ve got a dribbly cold, which is the reason we’re at home on a Sunday morning, and also the only reason you’re happy to be tucked anywhere. I’m making the most of it. Usually you’ve got too much to do.

Oh, I am in love with you, little boisterous boy. You sprint through a world of vivid colour where every last thing is so interesting it’s worth climbing a bookcase for. You should exhaust me completely – our energy levels are not, at the moment, on a par – and sometimes you do. Mostly I marvel at how keenly you feel everything: you’re always astonished or powerfully curious or hilariously excited or heartbreakingly sad. I mean, I never considered how interesting a cake fork was, before you insisted on inspecting all twelve of them in the cutlery drawer. You do not believe in sitting still, not for a second. You sleep like a champ, but only because you’ve knocked yourself out all day wrestling with chairs and sofas and me.

After much trial and error, we’ve found a routine that works for us both at the moment. Daddy fetches you from your cot in the morning, and you lie between us for an hour, hiding under the covers and tweaking our noses, until we’re ready to get up. You take long morning naps while I work, then I fetch you lunch and the rest of the afternoon is ours. You love books, red peppers, your pull-along doggy, the fluffy side of your monkey blanket, other people’s breakfasts, jumping from high places, and Daddy, always Daddy. You would give up ten strawberry yoghurts to have that man chase you around the kitchen. You hate having your teeth brushed, being made to eat when you don’t want to (often), broccoli under any circumstances, and being told ‘no’. We are working on the time-out thing, at the moment. Thus far, not an astoundingly successful experiment. Neither do any of my warning faces have any effect whatsoever. I’ll keep trying.

I feel a great deal more pressure now you not only need to be fed and clean and rested, but also stimulated and taught: given good habits, trained out of bad ones, exposed to people and principles that will open your eyes and make you everything you could be. It’s a lot to do in an afternoon, and I am no great paragon of any of it myself. But somehow, despite all that, I feel more secure now in mothering you than I ever have before. This has been my favourite age so far. You are good company. I can see so much of what you are, and it gives me hope. I want you to keep forging new paths. I want you to be graceful, and grateful, and kind. I want you to read the whole of Roald Dahl’s back catalogue, but that’s probably a goal for another year.

I can’t tell you how much being your mother has changed me for the better. You have my heart and soul and everything in between. I hope you can feel it. I finally begin to understand that the glory of motherhood is this: no matter how far you move away from me, some part of you, for me, will always be that little boy lying between us and kicking his legs in the bed, babbling secrets into the half-darkness. I’ll have that forever. What a gift, my dearest boy. What an inexpressible gift.

With love,

Your mother.


Dear Future Version of Henry, my hair doesn’t always look like an insane person’s wig. Promise.


Dear self,

Please don’t forget (even if the next thirty years are very busy)

that this boy won’t get out of the bath until he’s handed you two ducks and a frog to dry off first

that ‘nana’ seems to mean ‘banana’ or ‘mummy’ or ‘COME NOW PLEASE’, depending on who-knows-what

that he’s going through a phase of signing ‘thankyouplease’ when he wants something, just to cover all the bases

that he requests Bob the Builder (‘DEE DEE DEE DEE’: translation – ‘can we fix it’) or Alphablocks (‘ha-HA!’: from the theme tune) to watch while you get ready, and doesn’t seem to mind when you hair-dryer all over the sound

but that sooner or later he ends up here

and he finds the taste of hairspray weirdly appealing

and you haven’t put mascara on with both hands for about eleven months.


(Happiness is this, my wrinkly old-person self; please remember that happiness is this.)

Boys in boxes

Before I had a baby I thought I was a girl’s girl. Here are some things I do not like: climbing trees, wearing trainers, kicking balls, throwing or catching balls, having to hit balls with a bat and missing, pretty much anything to do with balls, let’s leave it at that. And so when I thought about having babies, I imagined myself with a girl’s girl: covered in glitter glue, playing dolls’ houses, brushing hair, watching Cinderella.

Then I had a boy. He happens to be the most boyish boy you can imagine. No one would look at that face and think otherwise. It’s always covered in biro, for a start. And I can’t get enough of it. His bustly fearlessness, and the way he sprints everywhere with his arms in the air, and the gap-toothed beam that takes over his whole face, and the fact that no puddle goes unsplashed, no pile of mud unstirred, no high and sharp-cornered piece of furniture unclimbed-upon. His first word – apart from ‘Daddy’ – was ‘car’. He likes dogs and lions and electronics. He wears chunky jumpers like no one I’ve ever seen. It slays me. And somehow, it wasn’t an adjustment at all.

He’s a boy’s boy, my boy, but now I know he didn’t need to be. I watched him today, running around and doing dangerous things with his cousin, and thought about how we box up our expectations for our children, and hand it to them over a lifetime. But I might have a girl who hates Cinderella. Or a boy who loves to bake. Or has any one of a hundred surprising dreams and loves, none of which may be in my plans for him.

But it’s ok. What I’m realising, the further I get into this mothering lark, is that babies come as their own selves, and it’s only my job to teach them how to use it well. My loves, you must be compassionate, do right and try hard, but the rest is yours. I can’t stop myself constructing boxes for you, but I’ll make them whatever shape you come in.

Oh, but you must get a decent education, or there is a SMACKDOWN COMING. (Some things are non-negotiable.)

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P to the S: I’ll be doing the Year in Instagram round-up on Monday. If you want to do it but haven’t yet, do it quick! And for those who’ve done it: I LOVED it. Thanks for being as blurry-photo-obsessed as I am! (Though I have to say, your photos were a good bit better than mine.)

Its name is Sprucey


Our Christmas tree experience this year got off to an inauspicious start.

We all had colds. And we took forever to get going because we went to Sainsbury’s first to get some wellingtons for Henry, and they didn’t have any but they did have a lady giving away Lindt chocolate samples, so we hung around her for far too long looking casual, and then we tracked down some wellies at Next, and then we got going to Yattendon Christmas Tree farm.

It’s at the end of a fifteen minute drive through twisty, woodland roads and little villages. Trees stacked up in every direction in size order. You wander around picking up likely candidates, and bear off your favourite to be wrapped. Afterwards I browse through the ornaments section and pick up our special ornaments for the year. I love it. It’s the most Christmassy start to December I can think of.

Henry, though: Henry had no idea about Christmas trees. All he knew was that we were very cold and surrounded by spiky things for a long time. So he cried, and tripped over his new wellies into piles of mud and cried some more, while we picked up tree after tree that wasn’t quite right. In the end we found one with two heads (we are siamese if you please) and took it away out of sheer desperation.

But then we got it home. And with the extra head facing the wall to watch for burglars it turned out to be the loveliest tree imaginable. We decorated it in the evening, all together – by which I mean that Timothy and I put ornaments on and Henry took them off – and had Christmas music on for the first time this year, and it was delicious. We still haven’t worked out how to stop Henry from stripping the bottom two branches – once he found out they bounced, it was all over, and he kept taking them away to a spot in the corner he thought we couldn’t see – but I am sat upstairs with the smell of Christmas pine drifting over the balcony, and feeling pretty spiffy about it.

Oh, and we made this.  Not that we were keeping count.

The Christmas Ornament Face-Off from Rachel Jeffcoat on Vimeo.

(it needs maximising to watch properly.)

And now I’ve worn the hat, I’m excited. Merry Christmas all! And if you happen to have two heads, then Merry Christmas twice.

watch-listen-read: Friday treats for your eyes and ears

Tomorrow, when you read this, I’ll be making bacon sandwiches in a tent overlooking Corfe Castle. It will almost certainly be raining, so we will not speak about the likely state of my hair, nor the number of bacon pieces Henry will have rubbed all over his face, nor indeed the tonnage of Cadbury’s chocolate I will have consumed on the journey down. Tonight, let’s talk about some of the fine and wonderful things I have met this week, the things that have made my washing up worth washing, my Henry nap times more meaningful and my evenings under a blanket more cozy. I give you: your Friday watch-listen-read.

(drum roll)

watch: The Best of Men

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The BBC does this sort of thing superlatively: a feature-length drama about the German doctor who revolutionised British spinal-injury treatment during the Second World War, in the process founding the Paralympic Games. Until Dr Guttman, paralysed servicemen were sedated in a darkened room and left to die. It took a tenacious, ferocious Jewish refugee to work out that life could be lived fully and completely from a wheelchair. I was enthralled until the closing credits, at which point I cried like a big girl’s blouse.

On iPlayer, here. Repeated on Sunday 2nd September, 10pm, BBC2.

listen: Fry’s English Delight

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All hail the great and wonderful Stephen Fry. This is his new radio series on language, and is an absolute joy. The episode I listened to last night was on the curiosities and unspoken rules of intonation. We learned why Asian speakers used to get their wires crossed in call centres, how you can accidentally call your mother a linen-horse in Mandarin, and why some questions go up and others go down. LOVE.

On BBC Radio 4, here.

read: Bill Bryson, ‘Home’

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I had been reading Bill Bryson’s history of private life for five minutes, and I’d already learned the difference between sheet glass and plate glass, and who invented the Christmas card. It’s that sort of book, and Bryson is that sort of chap. He devotes a bulging chapter to every room in the house, making every fact and history into an exciting anecdote. What I wouldn’t give to sit next to him at a dinner party. I’m enjoying this enormously, and we’re only in the dining room.

Hope you enjoy. Happy quiet times to you!

I’m going to make this a regular post, so check back on Fridays for watch-listen-read suggestions. And, non-UK readers, it won’t usually be all from the BBC – though I think there are ways of getting at least the radio overseas, and I’d be surprised if they don’t release The Best of Men on DVD at some point.


You know how, sometimes, baby legs don’t thin down from the calves, so they end up with cankles? In this house, we feel like Henry’s thighs call the shots. Say hello to this boy’s thankles.

I wished and wished for a roly-poly baby. He was always such a tiny wisp of a thing. And now at ten months he has suddenly, gloriously chubbed up into fatness. Sturdy legs and a proud pot belly. Oh, I love it. But talk about a late bloomer.

I confess, sometimes I leave his trousers off just to watch the rolls in action.

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