Saturday, 1 October 2016

Confessions of a modern parent: My home is never tidy!

“I’ll pop round through the week!”

I don’t know about you but this off the cuff remark, from a friend I bumped in to at the supermarket, struck the fear of god into me. “Through the week, when’s that exactly? I need specifics!” Laughs hysterically.

I’m going to be brutally honest with you dear reader, my home is never what one might call ‘guest ready’ during the week. It starts off well enough on a Monday, post weekend clean the place is gleaming and ready for anyone. But, around mid-week the washing basket begins to swell and I find myself desperately trying to divide the three hours I’m not at work (and not asleep) between tidying my home and spending time with my boys – lest they forever be emotionally scarred by a mother who didn’t have enough time to play with them. By the time Friday rolls in, it’s best not to turn the lights on in our house.

Now, don’t get me wrong it’s hardly war torn Syria up in here but if you do decide to ‘pop by’ unannounced don’t be surprised to find yourself negotiating the safest route through the sea of throw pillows and toy soldiers scattered across the floor. Take care not to sit near the upturned Sippy cup on the couch, and don’t even get me started on the dining room table – the toddler thinks of snack time more as target practice than an actual time to eat.

If you’re after a less perilous reception, refreshments and all, I’ll need at least 48 hours advanced notice, and what a 48 hours!  Two days of pure stress, reuniting wayward shoes with their owners, wondering when every item of clothing we own decided to migrate downstairs, and generally removing all traces of children having lived here.

So, for all you last minute guests remember, it’s rude to stare! For those who chose to book in advance, welcome. Please make yourselves at home, ignore the throbbing vein in my temple and the tears in my eyes. It was worth it for a few hours of normality, however short-lived they may be.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

I wish my child would pick a bloody hobby!

We're firmly back in September, the kids have returned to school (thank god), the teachers are back at work (ditto, nobody needs that kind of smugness on their news feed) and the games have well and truly begun. 

No, not the Olympics, Paralympics for that matter, or anything to do with those pampered princes afraid to break a nail as they (fail to) kick a ball around a pitch. This game is much more complicated, with even less chance of success. 

Every September, come rain or shine, for the past half decade, my son decides to find a new sport. You see, he's never really been a football fan. He hates it, if i'm brutally honest. In the early days my husband and I were sure that we could find some other sport to keep him busy and occupy those weekends most boys his age spend kicking a ball around a field.

So far we've had little success. Swimming didn't agree with his grommets, he thew in his white belt after only a few weeks at Karate and (as my windows know only too well) he doesn't have the co-ordination for Tennis. With every sport we try the collections in the attic grows bigger, belts, balls and instruments (just in case sport ins't his thing) lay untouched and hardly used in the darkness upstairs. 

We've even tried him with our own favorite sports, he's jogged with mum and rode with dad quite happily, but never quite finds his stride. 

Last week I was growing desperate, 'Ok son, you have to pick a sport and stick with it, no going back!' I was hoping to encourage him to commit but then I took a look in the mirror and had a serious word with myself. 

As with many of my parenting conundrums, I thought about my own childhood at this point. When I was younger, in similar fashion to my son, I didn't have a hobby so I tried Ballet. It was a terrible decision and anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I have two left feet. I was hopeless and gave up quickly. My mother wasn't very happy, she'd been out and bought me a pretty little leotard and ballet shoes, 'money down the drain,' she said. After that point, whenever I showed an interest in a sport, she did not. My mum was unwilling to commit any more money to my extra curricular activities and all future hobbies were shelved.

  It wasn't until adulthood that I was able to fund my own kits and 'have a go' at different things again. It took a while but I found my favorites and stuck with them for almost 10 years. My own experience has taught me that not all children find their niche straight away. My boy might have to dip his toe in many sporty waters until he finds one that suits him and until he does, I'll make sure there's plenty of space in the attic. 

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Camping: The life hack to family therapy

With a month passed since my official return to work I can safely refer to myself as a working mum again. But, while the 9-5 stuff came flooding back the second I stepped into the office, every Friday evening I find myself flinging my life sucking lanyard across the room and wailing “was it always this hard!” to the mountain of laundry eagerly awaiting my return.

In truth no, being a full-time working mum didn’t seem hard at the time, but I suppose a year out in the real world would dramatically change anyone’s outlook on life. And, while I adore my job, I find myself yearning for the other stuff too. I want the hours at the gym back and I need another day out at the museum!  *sobs hysterically*. When will I ever find the time for life (I think that's what all the kids are calling it?) my wonderful free life, now that I’m a work drone once more.

Life doesn’t fit into the sleepwalking hours, you know that mentally exhausted stupor after work and before bed where I am simultaneously expected to cook, clean and catch up with my family. Doctors, dentists and schools aren’t open weekends so I can’t catch up on life there either. By the time the weekend does roll in there’s hardly a spare minute to do any of the fun stuff and the steady treacle of weekday tasks have flooded over into my free time like a burst pipe. Of course sacrifices have had to be made, I’ve sacrificed sleep for laundry, friends for sleep, bath time for time with my husband  (hello date night with swampy) and have wanted to scream at the injustice of it all!

Something had to give and it did, my husband gave me the best gift of all. Time. Time away in a tent of all places! No flashing phone or monsoon of tasks threatening to sweep me away. Just hours with the people I love - working as a team to assemble our pop up holiday home without it blowing away! - and it was just what I needed.

In the mad dash back to work, making sure childcare was organised, lunches packed and uniforms ironed, I hadn’t given a second thought to how I would feel or the all-consuming guilt that would accompany the time away from my babies. Somewhere in the wilderness, between cooking outdoors and playing chess under torchlight, I re-connect with my guys. I now realise that it’s the quality, and what I do with my time that counts, not how much of it I have to spare. Now that’s what I call a breakthrough!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Time to banish the mum pouch: update

I said I’d post an update after 8 weeks – it’s more like 10 because the 2 weeks I fell off the exercise wagon totally don’t count.  I’m at the halfway point and honestly, I’m starting to see some improvements. The mum pouch is slightly less; I’ve rediscovered my collarbone and the tiny dents in my arms (under a certain light) could pass as biceps. Progress! I’ve lost 4lb and 8 inches, 4 each from my hips and waist.  A result is a result (even if this is less than I hoped, nay, prayed for) and this one is largely down to a combination of weight training, running and cycling. I’ve been mixing it up by doing whatever I feel like on the day but have made sure to fit in at least 4, hour long sessions a week.

 I have to be completely transparent though, whilst I am happy with these teeny results I know I can do better. Exercising alone won’t bring about the changes I’m after. If I want a toned tum and arms that make Davina weep, I can’t come home from a weights session only to sit down for a session twice as long with sky box sets and a yard stick’s worth of Toblerone.  It’s time for me to address the cake shaped elephant in the room. I have to hold my hands up and admit that, while I’ve made every effort to get active, my diet is like that of a toddler let loose in Cadbury’s factory. I don’t really ‘do’ the whole diet thing, no will power I’m afraid. I have to have my treats! 

Now things are going to be different, I can’t bring myself to use the D word but for the second half of my battle to banish the mum pouch I will be making some, let’s call them adjustments, to my eating habits. More water, less caffeine, more fruit less Fruitella, that sort of thing. Locking the cupboards and removing the light from the fridge will help with the evening snacking, slash suppers, too.
Here’s hoping that the key to washboard abs is not in the kitchen.  I will update in another 8ish weeks.

If you have any belly blasting tips remember to tweet them over.

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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Surviving a nursing (breastfeeding) strike.

A month before my son’s 1st birthday I was thinking about the dreaded return to work and wondered - with him starting nursery and us being apart for most of the day - if it was time to bring our breastfeeding journey to a close. I didn’t dream that my baby would take the decision out of my hands completely but he did. A few days later the little man staged a strike that struck our booby world apart with apocalyptic force.

As with all of the breastfeeding problems we’ve faced in the past, this one was down to teething. Usually when those pesky white buds are about to make an appearance I can’t get him to stop feeding (or biting) but this was different. I was faced with a baby who refused to feed. Every time I brought him to my breast or tried to feed him in any way he would clench his little jaw and pull back. The only liquids he accepted were tiny sips of milk or water from his cup.

Frantic, I had him checked over by a medical professional. When the nurse confirmed it was just his teeth I turned to Dr Google and quickly discovered that my baby was staging a nursing strike. According to the millions of articles I trawled through; a nursing strike differs from self-weaning because it’s sudden, an abrupt 'NO' as opposed to a gradual 'no booby thank you mummy'. Most babies don’t wean until around 18 months but the suggestion on some websites was that it might not be so easy to persuade a striking baby to feed again. Apparently this was the reason many mothers chose to wean their children early.

I must admit, I toyed with the idea of embracing the strike as a weaning opportunity. I had been considering it after all – and the idea of having a few glasses of wine without doing all the milky arithmetic was appealing - but it just didn’t feel right. I envisioned weaning as a gradual process, one we both felt ready for, but the suddenness of the strike, the angst from my baby and the pain in my boobs told me that this was all wrong and now was definitely not the time to stop breastfeeding.  So I went on the offensive, determined to put the smile on my baby's face. I took it back to basics with skin to skin, warm baths together and milk on the mouth but nothing worked. We were both miserable and I couldn’t leave the house because I was attached to the breast pump.

On the third day of the strike I resigned myself to fate, my baba did not want to feed and I was delusional for trying to carry on.  The websites said not to take it personally though, ha! I’d never felt so rejected in my life, booby was everything to my boy, a comfort, a drink, a teething ring and most of all a bond, something which tied the two of us together in our little milky bubble. That night I went to bed feeling heartbroken. I couldn’t even bring myself to have the wine that I was suddenly allowed to drink. I knew there and then I would have gone teetotal for another 10 years if it meant being able to feed my baby.

Miraculously the lil guy woke up the next morning looking for one thing, booby! To say that I was overjoyed is an understatement - I was cartwheeling around the house and haven’t stopped since.  All thoughts of weaning are out of the window too. I’m so happy to have my baby back, he can feed until he’s fifteen.

Just kidding!

If you have any nursing strike tips tweet me or comment below.

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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The 5 stresses of throwing a children's party

It’s been a few years since I last threw a party - a creepy crawly themed affair for my eldest in the local church hall - and I looked back at that memory with fuzzy fondness. I thought, heck why not do the same for the tiny man's birthday. We’ll have a little garden party, invite a few of his nappy wearing chums and it’ll be so much easier because we’re at home, right? Wrong!

I seemed to have developed some kind of party planning amnesia but the second I clicked send on the e-vites it all came flooding back to me...

The 5 stresses of party planning.

Have I booked enough, have I booked too much?

Gone are the days when a Spice Girl’s album on repeat and a McDonald’s toy wrapped in 15 layers of newspaper were enough to entertain the kiddies. The party industry is big business and there’s choice, choice, oh so much choice when planning entertainment for the wee ones. In hindsight I’m not sure a 5ft bell tent was necessary but I’m glad I drew the line at a party pony.

Who did I forget to invite?

So it’s a few days before the party and everything is running smoothly, all is under control, I’m not panicking (honest). Then it hits, like a bolt from the blue, I forgot to invite somebody! Several bodies in truth.
There are two options here, super short notice invite – and pray they haven’t spoken to the crowd I invited three weeks ago - or accept the mistake, hope they don’t see the pictures on Facebook and know that we won’t be invited to their child’s birthday party again, ever.

What if nobody shows up!

Ok, we all have a little bit of anxiety the night before a party but the usual worries of an empty garden and a lone child blowing out his candle were made a reality for me when not one, not two but 7 people messaged to cancel. I blame Mother Nature, spoiler of plans with little regard for outdoor birthday celebrations, she decided to throw down several (million) buckets of rain on the eve of the little guy’s big day.
On the day of the party I had resigned myself to our fate and sobbed under the hastily erected marquee. “Who’s going to eat all of this food!” I wailed to my husband, who was busy answering the door.
In my helium filled hysteria I had forgotten just how many people I had invited. Needless to say the bell tent was fit to burst when he blew out his candle, meanwhile I had found something else to panic about… 

Do we have enough?

Like a bipolar jack in the box, having experienced the soaring highs of a garden full of happy guests I quickly moved on to my next worry; do we have enough food? and for god sake how many party bags did we make! There were people everywhere, did I invite them all? Had I just counted him twice? Whatever the reason I was convinced we didn’t have enough. Thankfully there was plenty to go around, I even managed to sneak a few slices of leftover cake to go with my post-party cuppa, winner.

Am I being a good host?

Are the children happy? Are the parents happy? Does everyone have a drink? Have I spoken to everybody? Do my neighbours really like me? Argh! Have a slice of cake and chill.

What did I forget?

It was only after we had waved goodbye to the last guest that I noticed the health conscious pinnacle of my buffet lay unopened in the fridge. Two exotic fruit platters never saw the light of day, and I will forever be remembered as the mum who hosted a party with a sweet buffet and no fruit (sobs hysterically) the horror!

A few hours later, after the four of us had filled our faces with kiwi and mango. We had a jump on the castle and went to relax in the bell tent. I was suddenly filled with a happy glow. The children had fun, we saw the people we love and got together to celebrate a happy occasion,  and that is what it's all about.

Children’s parties are not dissimilar to childbirth, stressful before, frantic during and once it’s all over you can’t wait to do it again!

If you have any party planning tips tweet me

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Time to turn it off and stop comparing...

The irony of writing a negative post about social media on social media is not lost on me, but I have a Facebook hiatus coming up and I am ridiculously excited.

The highlight of our family vacation (apart from spending endless time with my three darlings obvs) has to be the turning off of my mobile phone.  The house is safe, thanks to the in-laws, and the people I generally worry about 24/7 are with me, so off it goes in my case until our holiday is over.
Without the tiny blue flashing device to distract me the change is instant:  I’m more aware of the conversations happening around me (as opposed to muffled background noise), I care less about what other people are doing and I realise that right here, right now, the life I’m living - while not perfect - is pretty freaking awesome.

The new buzzword being thrown around is mindfulness, feel the moment, be at one with the moment (blah, blah, blah) but it really does pay to take the time out to just be. To experience things fully and not snap them, not share them, not hold them up for everybody else’s approval, is actually quite refreshing.

Now don’t get me wrong I love social media – heaven knows how I’d still have friends without it and I have family on the other side of the world who wouldn't know what my boys look like if not for the connecting powers of the web – but there’s no getting away from the evidence. Too much time spent on sites like Facebook and Twitter has direct links to poorer mental health and depression. I know myself that a few hours on Facebook can leave me feeling like the worlds worst mother with a home that looks like Shrek’s swamp in comparison to the infinitely better groomed, more glamorous mothers on my timeline.
Equally, I’m aware that all is very rarely as it seems on a well filtered snapshot of someone’s life. People only put their best face online and comparisons don’t benefit anybody.

So I’m going to enjoy my switched off time and no doubt I’ll come back vowing to stay away from the nasty web forever.
All things in moderation is probably a more realistic goal and I can start practicing my mindfulness while we’re away.

See you soon!