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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.

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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

Monday MuMenTum – why is it so hard to fit in exercise?

6 Jun

It’s MuMenTum Monday again, which means some hopping and skipping over at Liska’s (New Mum Online).

My mission in joining in on this fabulous blog hop is to reach the required level of motivation to get my fitness back and shift that last stone of ‘baby weight’. But I have a question for you: Can I really call it baby weight still? Toby’s 16 months old! Who am I kidding, it’s just weight.

This week I am going to use this blog post as a virtual couch in a psychologists office. It’s been a bad week and there are so many reasons why getting your fitness back – and maintaining it – is so darn difficult.  Following a major high point after completing a day of the dreaded Tour of Wessex, I failed to squeeze in no more than a couple of runs and a spinning session last week. I have let myself down – failed.  The problem is, there are too many things that take priority over and above exercise these days. When I was single and baby-less, I had no distractions. Since having Toby, I’ve started down the road of WAHMing (working from home mummying) and this new venture is more time consuming than the full-time office job.

With the office just upstairs, I’m finding it difficult to switch off – even on the weekends. Then there’s Toby; when I’m not working (or blogging) I really should be spending time with my little monkey. And if I don’t he’s taken to punishing me – like a rabid dog – with bites. The whole point to me working from home was to have more time to spend with him and though this goal has been met from a physical perspective I could do better with paying him attention. Why did no one point out how guilty you are left feeling – no matter what you do?

Then there’s the housework, the cooking, the garden, trying to find time for friends and family. Working from home and having Toby running around the house like the tazmanian devil creates the biggest amount of chaos. The house constantly looks like we’ve been burgled and no matter how hard I try, I just can’t make it tidy. I need some elves.  Since Toby turned up, I’ve had to shift things up three gears just to fit things in… And I’m still only treading water. Once that’s all done, I am shattered. So, how do these amazingly fit mums do it? I have so much respect for Paula Radcliffe, who months after giving birth won the New York marathon – amazing.

I used to get a lot of my exercise done before work, so I’ve tried this tactic, but Toby seems to beat my alarm every morning. I’ve never been great at evening exercise and frankly, once I’ve fed, bathed, read a story, given bottle, brushed teeth and got Toby into bed, I simply haven’t got the energy to spare.

Anyone got any tips on how to squeeze exercise into a hectic day with a toddler?

Save the Children: All children should be allowed to grow up

27 May

Save the Children has launched a very worthy campaign ‘No Child Born to Die’ and it aims to save 4 million lives in 4 hours at the global vaccines summit, London on June 13th. The objective of the campaign is to secure the shortfall in funding from donor countries (4.7 billion) for vaccinations for all children. You can help them achieve this by signing their petition.

As Red Ted Art points out ‘Every year 8 million children under five die from illnesses we know how to treat or prevent, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.’ Now I don’t know about you, but since becoming a mummy I find reading sentences like this even more unbearable. Having a little toddler running around the house brings it all a bit too close to home. In the week’s that followed Toby’s birth my tired mind contemplated life issues in great detail. Bringing new life into the world makes you question everything so much more (either that or I was suffering from some sort of post traumatic stress disorder. And the long, lonely nights of breastfeeding a newborn gives you far too much time to think).

So, during these weeks, possibly months, I began an inner dialogue: What made Toby so lucky to be born a healthy 9 Ibs 1 with no major problems when other babies are born into poverty, undernourished and don’t survive? What made him so lucky to be born into a loving family (that’s not to say that poverty and lack of love are synonymous, just that there are a lot of unloved babies in the world). What made him so fortunate to be born with all the medical care he could want for? Not to mention the food and warmth? And I questioned how I would deal with things if they were in any way different. I was lucky too.

Now don’t get me wrong. Toby deserves it all, but every baby born into this world – indiscriminately – deserves the same.  So when Multiple Mummy tagged me into Red Ted Art’s meme, I began thinking about all those questions again. To help raise awareness of this campaign, Red Ted has devised ‘crafty challenge’. Our mission, should we wish to accept is to discuss what our children want to be when they grow up and get them to draw about it, teaching them about the sadder side of life through play.

So I began the impossible and sat Toby, 15 months, down and asked him: What do you want to do when you grow up? This question was met with silence, but a look of serious contemplation crossed his face. My tone was fairly serious, so I wonder if he thought I was telling him off. I repeated the question with a kinder tone. Still nothing. One final attempt and I got the response ‘tea’ (which, as of Tuesday, takes ‘first word’ status). So Toby wants to be tea when he grows up. Fair enough – I like tea, hence its place as word number 1. I then took the time to explain to him the Save the Children campaign and let him know that he is a lucky little boy and there are many little boys in the world just like him who don’t get to go to the doctor. I’m not sure he quite understood, but it was worth a shot.

Now for step two of the task. Toby had to draw his future job – tea! I gathered up his big crayons – which he prefers to eat rather than use to draw with – and sat him down with two pieces of white card. He looked at it for a while with a puzzled expression. Then – result – he picked up the yellow crayon and scribbled a very faint line. He has scribbled more in the past, but today he was not going to and I could read his mind: ‘I’m not a performing monkey, mummy’ and with that he put the pen down got on his choo choo ride along and was off, picking up a book on the way. Perhaps a sign that he has decided being tea is no longer a suitable career option, replaced by train driver or novelist.

I tried again, but he then got distracted by the bikes sat in our conservatory. So on to the next job – a professional cyclist. I’ll take that!

To conclude, I have no artwork to share, but I do have the memories and a few pics to show the process. I also hope that this blog post goes a very small way to helping raise awareness of Save the Childrens’ great campaign. Please take the time to sign the petition. If suffering is preventable, we should bloody well do something about it.

And now the final part of the task. I must tag eight others wonderful mummy bloggers to take part. Here goes, and sorry if you’ve aready been tagged!

The Gallery – April

4 May

April

In April it’s my birthday. In April the sun shines more. In April a sigh of relief is had over the end of the cold winter. In April the country turns green. In April I eat lots of chocolate eggs. In April the ‘grow your own’ begins… with a little help from a mucky monster. April is much better shared with Toby.

A sickly-sausage and a to-do list

17 Apr

Working with a poorly toddler

Last week Toby and I came down with ‘Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease’. No, I am not making it up and it’s not the same disease sheep get. It is an unbearable illness. My hands and feet itched like hell and my mouth was so full of ulcers it hurt to drink water (helped the diet along a bit). Poor Toby didn’t seem to have the same symptoms, but he had some serious D&V. I wouldn’t wish the illness on anyone and I’m cursing whichever nursery kid passed it on to us.

Any mum who sends their child to nursery is only too aware of the stress when your little one gets ill. Tom and I have juggled Toby and his nursery germs quite well and my manager has been surprisingly understanding at my last minute holiday requests to look after a poorly boy, but it’s not ideal. I tried my best not to let this virus interrupt our routine. In day two of the illness – before knowing what it was- I guiltily sent Toby off to nursery topped up on Calpol [face has gone red with shame]. However, day three was the start of Toby’s vomiting and I finally had to submit to the germs and arranged to work from home.

Working from home is usually quite productive, but comforting Toby between his projectile vomiting sessions proved a full-time job in itself and I felt absolute guilt; Guilt that I wasn’t working to full capacity and guilt that my full attention wasn’t on Toby. He soon paid me back my inattentiveness. He joined in on my first conference call and probably made more sense than me. Have you ever tried being coherent while entertaining a toddler, trying to prevent them screaming? It’s not an experiment in multi-tasking I would recommend. The conference call ended and it seemed to go as well as can be expected.

On the second conference call of the day I was not so lucky. When it started, Toby was asleep in our bed. I had everything crossed that he would sleep through. Wishful thinking! Two minutes into the call there was an almighty thud followed by screaming. He had fallen out of bed. I quickly made my excuses and said I would be back as soon as possible. Managing to calm him down quite quickly I sat him on my lap and redialed. He seemed quiet and I thought he might stay that way. This unusally restrained behaviour should have set alarm bells ringing. As soon as I reintroduced myself to the call, he vomited violently all over me and my phone. After a few squeals of disgust from me and some sobs of self-pity from Toby, I promptly apologised and hung-up again. I sat for a few minutes wondering what to do next. Toby and I were covered. It was like something out of ‘The Exorcist’ and I now looked like a total idiot. Not only did I seem unprofessional and girly due to the noises I had made, but I also looked like a terrible mother.

The lesson: working mums with ill children cannot win.

Travel in stress

3 Apr

Last weekend Tom, Toby and I took ourselves off to Norway to visit family and play in the last of the season’s snow. We flew back on Sunday and on Monday morning I headed back to the airport to catch my flight to Copenhagen for the Passenger Terminal Expo, without Tom and Toby. The contrast between the two flights was incredible.

Toby got his passport only a few week’s after his birth and we’ve been travelling regularly with him ever since. Our first flight with him had me in sweats of terror, but it was so easy; he just slept the whole way.

Before Toby rocked into my World, I had always been the most impatient person and lacked the ability to sympathise with babies on flights. I would scan my fellow passengers for any hint of child – sniffing them out like Blunderbore from Jack and the Beanstalk and made every effort to sit as far away as possible. I shamelessly confess that when travelling with my sister and my nephew, Gregory, when he was a little six month bundle, I sat away from them and completely disowned them when Gregory started piercing everyone’s eardrums with his screaming. I can safely say karma is now catching up.

Toby’s activity levels have been rapidly increasing and forcing him to sit still for even two minutes is hell. So, this last flight was the total opposite of a treat. I turned into one of those mums walking their child up and down the aisle, annoying anyone trying to get to the loo and having to stop the hyper toddler launching himself at those innocently reading books, listening to music or sleeping. Freud was on the money when he said we are all born with a degree of narcissism – if someone isn’t paying attention to Toby he gets very confused and jumps them.

The whole thing gave me an enormous headache and even pushed me into thinking that holidaying with a family should be a no-go zone.  I can’t imagine having two to deal with more than one child in a confined space… Food flew everywhere, water was spilt – which embarrassingly soaked someone’s shoes and bag (they were very nice about it, I would not have been so forgiving) – and screams penetrated the cabin. Not a great deal of fun.

Conversely, my flight to Copenhagen was a dream. Being completely out of contact with the World and childless created a little piece of heaven in my day. I kicked back, listened to music and read a book. These are things I used to take for granted. The only downside is that I didn’t have Toby at the other end.