Sun, sand, sea and snot: The simple things

30 Nov

Today we bundled the children and dog into the car and headed off to West Wittering. We always seem to end up at the seaside when there’s a chill in the air, but it’s a beautiful setting to exhaust the children, blow away the cobwebs and exercise the dog.

What more could you want for on a winter’s Saturday morning.

Swallow the dog enjoying the seaside

Swallow the dog enjoying the seaside

At the beach

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How to entertain a toddler on a long car journey

1 Aug

Last year – as a four month old baby – Toby took a strong dislike to long journeys in the campervan. As we drove across Europe, from North Spain to Norway, this became a serious problem and a source of car sickness for me. There was simply nothing that could be done other than close your eyes and pray for it to be over soon.

As we set off on our 1000 km campervan trip this year, memories of frantic wailing came flooding back – and I’m not talking about Toby’s tears. And I wondered, what am I doing to myself again? This year – against all odds of Toby now walking and not being able to sit still for more than  a second, things have seemed slightly (though not much) easier than last year. I’ve developed a few skills to ward off the crying:

  • When you see a tracter, act as though utterly amazed. It’s the first tractor you’ve seen in your life and it’s a miracle. Nothing beats the size of its wheels and the cow s*** on its windscreen.
  • If there’s no tractor to save you, point and shout with a tone of uber exctement: ‘Look [insert child’s name]’. This is often enough for them to forget thoughts of tears and look around in wonder as to what all the commotion is about. And once they’ve realised there is actually nothing to look at, they are so consumed with thoughts of what a loon their mother is that tears are the furthest thing from their mind.
  • Once the confusion has worn off, turn the radio on and dance and sing at the top of your voice. This re-ignites the confusion and haults the tears.
  • Repeat as required.

We saw Wiggins, Cav and Thomas

11 Jul

On day two of our holiday we packed up the van and bumbled over to the Team Time Trial stage of the Tour de France. France is great for its little villages and as we drove to our destination, we went through rustic village after pretty village. One Frenchman we met watches the Tour de France only to view the villages they pass though, and with such beauty, I don’t blame him.

We found a car park next to the Tour de France route, made a cup of coffee (one of the best things about being in a campervan is the ability to stop in the middle of nowhere for a coffee) and headed down to our front row seats for the Tour.

We turned up with a little bit of time to spare, so I took the opportunity to leave the boys, don my trainers and hit some of the country roads (not the ones the tour took). Running around rural France gives you a different perspective on the country – dirt tracks, open agricultural land, but it also makes me feel slightly nervous about getting lost. I usually just run in a straight line out, and then follow the same straight line back.

I got back to Tom and Toby (a sweaty and horrible state) just in time to see the first team pass. Our first contact with the Tour de France 2011; how very exciting.

Toby, as usual, needed lots of distracting while waiting for the lycra clad cyclists and their entourage. But as each team approached, along with the numerous motorbikes and support cars, Toby’s excitement levels peaked. He got an absolute kick out of the buzz and the colours the Tour brings and his waves were often returned by the lovely folks in the passing support cars, making our day extra special.

Viva le Tour

On tour with Toby

9 Jul

Last Saturday Tom, Toby and I set sail for our holiday in Don the campervan. We plan to follow a bit of the Tour de France and get some colour in our cheeks by sampling the local plonk and living life outdoors for ten days.

We’re four nights in and it’s been a riot so far. The French truly know how to make a good campsite, often having hedges between pitches, fabulous swimming lakes, great restaurants/bars and really clean facilities.  I love camping in France, and so does Toby. Being outdoors all days gives you an extreme sense of satisfaction and nothing comes close to letting Toby run wild.

However, now Toby is walking (or perhaps a more appropropriate verb is running) everywhere, holidaying has become slightly less relaxing. Last year, when Toby was a wee baby, we spent a lot of time in the campervan. At the time, I thought campervanning with a baby was difficult. As the moths have passed (could they have gone any quicker), our cute, adorable, peaceful baby has turned into a hyperactive, feral toddler.

One thing is for sure, I don’t need to worry too much about going for a run, or cycle or swimming up and down a pool. Toby is all the exercise I need (and more). The child just can’t sit still… not even for a second. You only have to turn your back for three seconds and he’s shot off the the other side of the field, found the most disgusting spot, with mud round his chops as he samples some of the local soil (why does he feel the need to eat dirt at every opportunity?).

We’ve had comments from other parents on the campsite about his inability to just walk. He has to run EVERYWHERE, and he hasn’t quite got control of his little stubby legs yet. At points, he builds up so much speed he has to fall to stop himself! His day starts at 6am and continues until about 8.30pm each night. I need a trip to the hairdressers – the grey hairs, like Toby, are getting out of control.

Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My brown bag

28 Jun

The writing workshop theme over at Sleep is for the weaks blog is ‘Personality catwalk’. Here’s my attempt:

I’m not a handbag kind of girl. Give me a rucksack any day of the week, but there are just some days that call for a handbag. I’ve only really got one that I use (though during attempts to be more feminine, I’ve collected a few). It is a bag made from lots of brown leather patches. My dad bought it for a birthday one year and I loved it instantly.

It’s been through some of the hardest moments with me (though it didn’t make it to the hospital when I had Toby). It’s sat in interviews and watched me stutter. It’s been in new business pitches and watched me succeed. It’s been to yummy restaurants and it’ll definitely make an appearance at Cybermummy. I will continue to take it to important events (when I cant get away with a rucksack) and I hope we see in many more successes – and not failures – together.

The brown leather is rather worn and quite shabby in places; probably a lot like me. If I had the time to get it treated it would probably look a thousand times better; probably a lot like me with make-up. Its leather patches are all just slightly different And it’s two straps allow me to revert to my preferred bag of choice – a rucksack – when cycling through london to meetings.

What lurks inside is a great analogy for my life. It is utter chaos and (while Tom, my partner would disagree) what makes up this chaos is vitally important and represents every aspect of my being. There’s always a nappy, baby wipes and a small toy or two. That’s the mum in me. There’s my book of to-do, which is the mum, the house partner and the career girl in me. There’s usually an iPad or laptop (not to be confused as a toy as Toby often does). There’s always half a dozen pens, which shows the paranoid side of me – what if they all were to run out of ink?! There’s old sweet wrappers – I have a terrible sweet tooth and my purse (which holds a whole host of other rubbish). There’s lipgloss and mascara, which is usually used en route and shows the disorganized side to me. And of course my phone, of which I have a serious addiction and helps me navigate my way – sometimes unsuccessfully – through life.

I love this bag and everything it represents, even if its contents can become a little overwhelming at times.

Cybermummy 2011: Oh what a day…

27 Jun

The big, hugely anticipated day came and now it’s over and I’m still trying to piece together my thoughts on just how fantastic it was. Here’s just a few snippets of the highlights for me:

1. I got to meet the #Mumentum ladies and other gorgeous bloggers: After many emails, tweets, blog posts, comments I finally got to meet the fabulous ladies I speak to so regularly on the internet.  This. EXCEEDED. MY. EXPECTATIONS. I’ve always felt a bit out of place around other mums I meet at music class and swimming lessons. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason for this, and nor do I care to dig to understand, but all the ladies I met at Cybermummy were on my wavelength. I wonder if there’s a certain type of mum who takes to the blog as a way to muddle through? Anyway, big, enormous bear hugs to everyone I met because you were all awesome.

2. Inspirational Women: Sarah Brown, Erica Douglas, Sian To, Kate Cannard what can I say? You’re juggling it all and doing so well. Being a mum and trying to keep on top of things is HARD and you guys have certainly given me an inspirational boost. However, it’s not only you guys. It’s the other bloggers I got chatting to that made me feel slightly less conscious of my failings as a mum, a self-employed person, a partner, a person who does housework and the guilt of that enormous washing pile began to lift. I came across some great advice –  ‘we can’t hold onto the things that we feel we’re failing at, we just have to go with the successes’. The modern mother has a bloody tough job on their hands and I give a big, virtual high-five to every single mother out there.

3. Why do I blog? This question was posed several times and each time, my thoughts were reinforced. For me, my blog is a catalogue of disasters, successes, fears, insecurities and happy times during my attempt to be successful as a mother, partner, family member, house dweller, friend, hobby triathlete, career person. It acts as an outlet and a way to chat with others in my position, keeping me from the straight jacket. That is all.

4. A good excuse to let my hair down: Where’s the child? Oh, he’s at home with daddy, which means Mummy can sit still and concentrate on a conversation, really taste that coffee and breath without fearing that said child will run around the room creating utter devastation. It was a break from the snot and the dirty nappies (though there was an attempted poo throwing before I left the house) and I could wear a nice dress in the comfort that it would not end up with food thrown down it or my breasts exposed to the world with Toby grabbing at the straps.

5. Toilet talk: I was able to go to the loo alone and in peace. This is the thing I miss most from my single years. I also gleaned a bit of advice on potty training, which has been bugging me for some time. The outcome: It’s not time to start just yet.

So, there’s some immediate thoughts (not quite so immediate, but the day was too beautiful yesterday to lift the laptop lid). Fingers crossed I’ll get to see you Cybermummiers again soon. x

Toby’s resistance to the bottle nearly had me on the bottle…

19 Jun

This post started out as a post about food fights with the toddler, but as I wrote, memories of our weaning journey flooded back. It’s strange the things you forget – and then remember – and it’s crazy how fast life moves and how far we’ve come. I can’t believe my little toddling monster was ever a wee baby.

Our weaning and eating journey with Toby has been interesting, challenging and plain messy.

When Toby was three months old, we moved into a camper van and set off on a three and a bit month journey around Europe. At this point, sterilising and preparing bottles became an unbelivably difficult task and so not one bottle was handed to Toby. Instead I opted for the easy breastfeeding option. This was a fatal mistake. I couldn’t drink, I couldn’t leave him for more than three hours and I was exhausted.

At five months we gave weaning a try. It was a daunting task; reading labels on the baby food jars was hard – I don’t excel at Foreign languages – and feeling confident that our plates and cutlery were as sparkly clean as they needed to be was not easy. I never feel hygiene standards are up to scratch while camping and had no idea how strong Toby’s stomach was yet. However, we gave it a shot with some stomach-turning bland foods like baby rice and mashed banana. It didn’t go quite to plan – does anything with a child? Though it’s hardly surprising – have you tried baby rice?!? Preparing bottles was incredibly time-consuming in a small camper van kitchen and I was too lazy to make a concerted effort. So, Toby continued to get Mother’s Best and he was happy, but my patience was on its way out.

He got so used to having the red top milk that when I finally put my foot down, Toby had other ideas. He rejected the bottle and I came close to taking to it. With the pressure of having to feed him every three hours I couldn’t have a proper break and after many, many dry months I was getting rather desperate to kick back and have a bottle of wine – especially as we were travelling around the vin yards of France. There is nothing like the feeling of being trapped by breastfeeding. Every way you turn guilt hits you in the face: guilt that I resented Toby for not taking the bottle, guilt when I did just *sod it* and have a glass of wine. Fear was also a prominent emotion: what if he never took the bottle?!? He might be walking before!

People tell you how hard motherhood is, but you never quite believe it. It’s fraught with emotion – lows and highs. Thankfully, the highs are THE. BEST. EVER and Toby gives me at least a dozen fixes a day.

Anyway, on my quest to get Toby to the bottle, I turned to every internet site going and tried everything. EVERYTHING. Then finally! We had friends over for Sunday lunch. They have a gorgeous four year old and while eating Toby clocked the other child drinking by himself.  We gave him a bottle and bang – he took it! Tears filled my eyes, relief pulsated around my body and the weight that had sat so heavily on my shoulders began to lift. Toby seems to take to things when he sees other children doing them (good and bad things!).

After that, things got a lot easier and now Toby loves his bottle… can’t get enough of his bottle…

Life is funny. I spent a great deal of time cursing life for Toby’s insistence on sticking to me like glue. Once he was fully weaned, I found myself missing the closeness. Nothing quite beats the bond you feel when your child is being sustained by something your body is producing. He would stare at me and play with my hair while eating and it was warming. Now Toby takes his bottle, totters around the room, finds things to throw at me, grabs my phont, throws his bottle at me and goes to bed. Thanks Toby!