Category Archives: Thoughts

The new you: seven things that become the norm after kids

Norm after kidsAs I was devouring my sandwich at 12.01pm, it struck me that my standard lunchtime is now at least an hour earlier than it used to be. I didn’t even have my children with me at the time so had no excuse. They’ve just left an indelible imprint on my routine in so many ways. And it’s not only premature lunches, the new me is all about:

  1. The supermarket sweep – I’m not blessed with time (who is?) but even when it’s just me and my Morrison’s shopping basket, I still seem to find myself rushing around the aisles, grabbing packets like a big timer’s about to go off. I’m just not able to browse anymore.
  2. Same with clothes shopping. Once a procrastinator, now I enter, scan the shop floor and leave in 60 seconds flat. What happened to the days of leisurely trying on armfuls of clothes?
  3. The yawn and stretch at 9pm – you could set my FitBit by it. Somehow the bedtime of my childhood (remember the bongs of the 9 o’clock news?) has come back to haunt me and I definitely see 9pm as some kind of watershed. It’s a firm reminder that sleep is near.
  4. The tissue stuffing – I can’t leave the house without tucking a couple of tissues into my pockets, my handbag or my coat. Even if I’m going to a business meeting.
  5. Taking my own water everywhere – it’s not as if it’s not readily available, but I can’t cross the threshold here without clutching a Highland Spring bottle hastily refilled from the tap. It’s obviously much more eco-friendly to re-use and not buy a new one but I also think the kids’ obsession with their colourful water bottles has rubbed off on me.
  6. The National Trust car sticker – once the preserve of those at least a few decades older, suddenly it’s an indispensable accessory and I’m not alone. People my age seem to out number pensioners by 20 to 1 at any given property, come rain or shine.
  7. And how much more preferable is a day in a country park ticking off 50 things before you’re 11 3/4 than a simple night out? When did a drink down the pub start to feel like a military operation rather than an enjoyable way to pass the time?

It goes without saying that I wouldn’t change a thing (apart from maybe embracing the odd night out a bit more readily).

How to get back on track when it all becomes a struggle

Toddler on wallOn Friday D and I had a leisurely walk back from dropping off Scrip at school. We stopped to notice frogspawn in the pond on the way. He sat on the wall and looked at the black and white pigs as they snored gently in their trailer home and we talked about the daffodils emerging which are his favourite colour, ‘lellow’.

It was a nice moment. I’ve talked about the little moments with children before and the importance of enjoying them. That’s what having a family often boils down to for me – having lovely moments in the day or the week.

It was really important because I’ve been finding things a struggle recently. Having flu set me back by days – particularly with my work. I had to stay in bed and I could hardly do anything. And I seem to be running my life at capacity at the moment – trying to fit everything in, rushing from one thing to another. I know I’m not alone in that. So when something sets you back it feels like everything starts to dissolve.

I love my work and I find it really rewarding. I’m ambitious and I’m pleased with the fact I’ve started to grow with my first hire. But I’m also trying to protect the two days off a week I have with D and ringfence them so that work doesn’t intrude. But I know that’s not always possible. All I can do is try my best with it and if I have to do bits and pieces in the evenings and weekends, so be it.

For me getting back on track was about tipping the balance in favour of work for a while and then setting aside some specific time to spend with the children. So we went into town to buy some clothes for the Scarecrow we’re doing for the PTA and then had a pizza together. I barely checked my phone and I really enjoyed the time we took.

Likewise, on Friday I tried to do very little work. D watched some TV because that’s actually OK. But he also helped me with some things around the house, we played together and we read together. And then we got his sister and they did some playing, too.

And work will adapt. I’m only human and the main pressure I’m feeling is coming from me, myself. The nature of what I do in PR means I can work from home – brilliant – and do much of it myself. But it also means there are lots of things that are actually out of my control and even if I work flat out, things still might not come off. I work hard and I’m experienced and get results. I need to remind myself of that a bit more.

It’s OK to have low points and it’s OK to change your daily routine to adapt. Sometimes the scales tip one way and sometimes they tip another, but I know the best thing for my family is that I’m OK and I can cope with what comes along. And if I have to make some adjustments to do that, I know I will.

If I behaved like my children when I went to friends’ houses

If I behaved like my childrenMy husband and I have a giggle sometimes about ways not to behave in certain situations (especially good to do at stressful times when we need a bit of light relief). So, what we should never do when staying with the in-laws, at a work meeting or at a dinner party. I only hope I won’t have a moment of madness and behave like that one day.

Something we were amusing ourselves with the other day is the thought of us behaving like our children when they go for playdates when we went to see our friends. If we did, we’d be:

  • Hiding behind each other when we went in, avoiding eye contact and giving monosyllabic answers to questions.
  • Shyly following my friends into the kitchen, asking for a drink in a small voice and drinking it quietly in the corner.
  • Within ten minutes, bouncing around jumping on their sofas, pulling out everything I could play with.
  • Going to the toilet with the door wide open and forgetting to flush.
  • Raiding their wardrobe, dressing up in their clothes, putting strange, mis-matched outfits together using old swimming costumes and summer sandals.
  • Pulling all their pens out and drawing lots of family portraits, leaving pens lidless.
  • And sobbing and being generally inconsolable when it was time to go – even if they promise to invite me again soon.

😉

My 2017 alternative parenting achievements

2017 alternative parentingIt’s Christmas Eve-Eve and in between picking up toys, pine needles and toys covered in pine needles I’ve been trying to think about what 2017’s brought. Not just the big milestones like toddler potty training (tick) or first school project completed and in on time (tick) but the smaller parenting wins, which are just as satisfying. Here are my picks of 2017:

  • We got through an entire year with a tub of Play Doh remaining unopened and so unmixed. Even better, it’s the white one.
  • We can get through two hair washes weekly without any tears (most of the time).
  • Both children can now get around on four wheels, one with a little bit of help from me but the end of the pushchair’s in sight.
  • D is still a napper and there’s no sign of that wonderous hour or so being dropped.
  • And he still loves his cot.
  • My colour coordinated shelves are still in order.
  • I’ve learnt how to cut curly hair courtesy of D.
  • And I’ve stopped saving the curls, finally.
  • I’ve managed to convince everyone that a trip to Ikea is actually something to relish.
  • And we built our first snowman together. Complete with crab apple eyes.

Here’s to an even better, and more fruitful, 2018.

Helping someone through baby loss – what to say and do

It’s #BabyLossAwarenessWeek which culminates in a wave of light on 15th October to mark all the lives lost far too early.

I’ve been working with the incredible Caz Taylor from present concierge service Taylor’d Bundles for a few months and baby loss is a subject particularly close to her heart. In fact, it was a present she received as she was going through her darkest days that was the inspiration for her to start her own business.

She’s just published a piece on Huff Post with some ideas on what helps and doesn’t help when you’re going through such a terrible time. I’ve certainly learnt a lot from this piece and hopefully it will help others too.

She’s also giving away a lovely ‘I’ve got your back’ angel wings top through her Instagram, which is a beautifully curated account.

Sending love to all those who need it most.

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Five inventions the world is definitely missing

InventionsIt’s 8.14pm. I’m lying on the bed gently overheating in my new furry slippers, laptop optimistically open and my work emails up but I’m actually starting to daydream because I’m tired. A day in London does that now – packing in five meetings, a snatched lunch and a rush to and from the station. But I enjoy it, punctuating my month with a slice of the capital.

Now late September, school is officially underway and half term discos, books at bedtime and Trick or Treating are already hovering on the horizon. I’m not quite sure where the last few weeks have gone but they’ve hopped, skipped and jumped past me, leaving behind only vague memories of Facebooked school uniform photos and the name tag ironing frenzy.

My work emails are still open (it’s 8.22pm now) and instead of following up with my meeting notes I’m thinking about inventions that would help improve my life. Here are a few that spring to mind:

  • Non-colour-mixing playdoh – no more inevitable green, sludgy mess – playdoh yellow is always bright and fresh and the special edition pink sparkle version stays forever pink and sparkly
  • A wearable hair dryer – so I can wander around upstairs hands-free in the morning supervising the children as they hide and refuse to get dressed
  • The school uniform folder-upper and hanger-upper (because Scrip clearly doesn’t understand the concept) which doubles as a clean clothes sorter and distributor (there’s a theme here)
  • Never-ending cereal – to avoid the endless squabbles over the last three Shreddies
  • The shoe auto-organiser (why is there always one child’s shoe missing?)

It’s 8.32pm and I think my curfew might be 9pm tonight. I’ll be dreaming of hairdryers, cereal and playdoh.

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Wednesday wisdom: why writing with a pen is better for learning

I thought this was interesting – apparently writing is better for your brain than typing. I suppose I thought that might be the case, and I know how important it is for Scrip to master her loopy whoosh-in, whoosh-outs, but now it’s been proven. I write blogs, emails (obviously) and documents straight onto my computer, but if I need to plan something out I always reach for a big blank sheet and a biro. Here’s why it’s better:

  • Research has shown a positive correlation between better handwriting skills and increased performance in reading and writing. In a report, having good fine motor skills like those you use writing often helped a child outperform their classmates in both English and Maths.
  • More parts of the brain are stimulated when we put pen to paper than using a keyboard. It is a mindful activity that helps focus attention and hones the fine motor skills. MRI scans of 5 year-olds have shown a reading circuit being created in a child’s mind during letter perception only after handwriting.
  • Then there were university students who took part in a study to see if there was a difference between those taking notes longhand and those using keyboard related devices. The findings demonstrated that note taking with a pen has a clear effect on a student’s learning. Note takers edit the information when they write it down where as those who took notes on a laptop typed verbatim. When it came to recalling information from the lecture and answering conceptual questions, the writers had a better recall and understanding.

So next time the windows steam-up in yet another traffic jam on route to Cornwall, write words on the windows and get the kids to trace letters with their fingers. Passing time and growing the brain, traffic can sometimes be good for your health…

The pen is not just mightier than the sword, but mightier than the keyboard. And here’s an infographic from National Pen with more (just a shame it’s not hand-written).

handwriting_infographic

I wasn’t sent anything in return for this – it just caught my eye.

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Building from the bottom up: extending

Building an extensionI feel like life here has been like the weather – sunny and bright one minute, dark, grey and raining hard the next. We’ve had good news and terrible news in quick succession and although we’ve still got a lot to be grateful for, it’s been a difficult time.

It’s good to have something mundane to look forward to, and in our case that’s our building work finishing. Even if it has taken a while.

I’ve actually had lovely builders which is particularly important when you work from home and have small children running around half-naked, tripping over breeze blocks. In fact, D thinks (hopes) that our two main builders, Lionel and Nick, are moving into our house with us. Namely into the new office space. Well, we are planning to put a daybed in there so it’s not totally out of the question.

We’ve had delays and some unexpected costs, discontinued blocks, screed breaching (it’s a new thing), and a lot of dust everywhere that settles just as quickly as we can hoover, but I’m not losing sight of the fact that at the end of it we’ll have more space, an area for children’s toys (hooray!), a guest room and a dedicated office. My kitchen table working will be no more.

We’re very lucky to be able to do this and we’re thankful for that. Sometimes you need something solid to focus on and this is it. Cheers to bricks and mortar.

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A poem for my children: You’re always everywhere

 always everywhereYou’re my painted nail, sparkly and bright
With childish varnish that peels and curls
You’re the school bells ringing when I drop you at school
And you rush to the other blue-checked girls

You’re the plastic knife and fork and melamine plate
The chocolate buttons and hidden sweets
Which you sometimes remember, with a doe-eyed smile
And list the reasons you deserve some treats

And you, my youngest, you’re the tractor book
The plastic digger that sits on the chair
You’re the paddling pool, the bucket and spade
The tiny shoes, the panda bear

You’re the dried apricots, the strawberry jam
The crackers and the rice cakes (pleeease)
You’re the big chair, not high chair anymore
The plum tomatoes, the special cheese

You’re both the sofa without your shoes
The shared rainbow rug at the end of the day
The swings in tandem, the sprinkly hose
The squeals of laughter as you play

You’re the cartoon pen, the star-shaped rubber
You’re the family picture, neatly drawn
You’re both a part of me and us
You’ve been firmly there since the day you were born.

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Remember what we teach our kids – a poem on election day

RememberWe teach our children from early on
That although they are our number one
There are others around – so share your toys
You’re one of many girls and boys
Be helpful and patient, gentle and kind
No matter what response you find
And if a child in front trips and falls
Don’t walk straight past and ignore the calls
Stop and help, check they’re OK
Even if others turn away
And if a new boy or girl joins the class that day
Find out their name, see if they want to play
And we hope these manners, this way to behave
Will stay with them always, make them good and brave

But it occurred to me this election day
That this doesn’t seem to be the way
That our country’s run – it’s not about sharing
It’s not about loving, supporting and caring
The current agenda doesn’t fit
With these kind of morals, not one little bit
I have no time for those that say
That investing in people isn’t the way
And that really to benefit you and me
We need five more years of austerity
It’s not only unjust, it hasn’t worked
Although that truth has been conveniently shirked

So let’s remember what we learnt when we were small
Not to think only of ourselves but of us all

It’s not strong or stable and it’s not at all funny
When morals are abandoned for the sake of making money

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