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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.


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!

Fitness with a baby: MoMenTum

24 May

I’m joining in with the lovely MoMenTum girls in an effort to shift my baby weight. My quest isn’t so much about shifting the weight – though I’m still a disappointing 13 Ibs heavier than I once was – but more about getting back some kind of fitness. I’ve stepped into the MoMenTum gang on a hard week as there is no theme, so I thought I’d write about my struggles getting momentum and motivation back after the birth of lil’ Toby.

Throughout my pregnancy I found exercise harder and harder – which I guess is normal. By the end, I’d given up and having gone through the arduous task of pushing another human being out of you, I couldn’t be bothered to even contemplate exercise. I was once a huge endorphin junky, but that addiction had been kicked and replaced with chocolate and an overwhelming desire to sit on the sofa when Toby was running me ragged.

I was told that breastfeeding would see me fight off the extra pounds gained during pregnancy. I think that might be an exageration… the weight did not fall off. If anything, I gained as I had the excuse of sustaining another life through my produce. A few months after Toby’s birth I plodded round Blenheim Triathlon. It was an embarrassing pace and I probably should have pulled out as I had done NO training. The horrific pain I went through left me with a fear of exercise. Over the summer I can list the runs and cycles I did and avoided swimming due to my horrid shape. I consistently used Toby as my excuse to avoid the sweat and tears of exercise – things I once so loved.

This year, I decided was going to be the year I get fit again. Things are on track. I’ve been doing a handful of runs each week (though missed one this morning due to work) and have upped the activity on the bike with a couple of spinning sessions a week and a long bike each weekend. The bike is by far my favourite and I managed a 60 mile sportive (road bike race – race being used lightly here) two weekend’s ago and a hilly 53 miles during The King of the Downs sportive. It’s amazing how quickly you can get back into things. The first ride was hard. It really hurt and I was ridiculously slow, but while last weekend’s 53 miler started out slow and hard, by the end I was on fire and I suddenly remembered what it was like to push myself as hard as possible. I’m not sure how long the last 15 miles took my friend and I, but we paced it and I LOVED it.

So that’s the story of my battle so far. Exercise has never been a big problem to me and I think I’ve found my refound my mojo. It’s an amazing feeling and definitely worth remembering that there is hope after pregnancy and early motherhood. You just need give yourself a chance. Eating is a whole other story. Perhaps next time I’ll share my disgusting eating habits….

Running buggy: Am I bugging you?

23 May

Toby sleeping soundly on a run. Wish I could get in sometimes.

My partner – Tom – is quite into his gadgets and when I fell pregnant, not only did he tell me that ‘having a baby was going to be like having the best gadget ever… ‘ (read that as you like), he also took the view that buggies were gadgets and began his diligent search for the best buggy. My only request was that I could run with it – I sound utterly horrid and selfish now, don’t I?! (Those of you that read this blog regularly might be starting to pick up the vibe that my pregnancy was in fact a massive shock to me. It took me pretty much the whole nine months to get used to the idea.)

Anyway, Tom had reviewed every buggy going before the bump had even started to show and he decided the Chariot Cougar was our best option. I had managed to get away with not even the flicker of a thought or the turn of a baby related magazine page and thank goodness; shopping for buggies was not my idea of fun.

I LOVE OUR BUGGY. Toby loves our buggy, Tom loves our buggy. The reaction outside of this house is slightly more mixed. After pushing it to the top of the Eiffel Tower, my sister and I had a big falling out over the buggy. You see, it’s ENORMOUS. Designed for running, cycling, strolling and even skiing (yes you can buy ski attachments) it is robust, comfortable and gigantic.

It’s like a motorcycle side-cart and it’s been great for pulling on the back of the bikes and running with. It’s even pretty handy when trying to get off the train; the big wheels can’t get stuck between the train and platform. However – if you’re talking about taking the bus, or a trip to the shops, or even a trip up the Eiffel Tower – this is not the buggy. Bus drivers take immediate offense. I’ve been told to get off the bus before and there was plenty of room.

It’s not only bus drivers that sneer at me as I approach. Normal people on the street look at me with a twinkle of outrage in their eyes. Walking this gargantuan buggy around the streets of London – and being on the receiving end of such hate – must be what the drivers of Land Rovers in London  must feel.

This morning, I went to music class with Toby. I had planned to run home after so I attached the big wheel at the front. This makes the buggy even bigger and one mum at the class, in a very rude tone, said ‘what a ridiculously big buggy’. She wasn’t saying it to me, but she definitely wanted me to hear. Now, I can cope with the bus drivers, but I cannot tolerate the judgement of other mums. As a mum you quickly come to realise that every other mother has opinions. Some are kind and keep them to themselves, others are not so timid and it can leave you feeling a bit fed-up. Why would another mum – who understands the pressures of parenting – want to make a sister feel rubbish?

On the flipside, Toby’s buggy gets a lot of good attention too. Mainly when we’re outside of London or come across runners and cyclists. It’s been a fantastic conversation starter and regardless of all the haters, the lovers make up for it. I wouldn’t choose differently. Toby is always so happy being pushed, run and cycled in it and uptight Londoners need to get over themselves sometimes.

How, when and where I found out I was pregnant

20 May

Celebrating Mums is doing a linky-up to share stories about the ‘reality of motherhood’. This is the first (I think) and its looks at how mums found out they were ‘up the duff’.

My story is simple. I wasn’t trying, nor was I even considering trying. I was on the pill and putting in at least 12 hours of running, swimming and cycling a week for a half ironman (mid-distance Triathlon). I was putting so much strain on my body I should have been pretty much incapable of conceiving, even without the pill.

The weekend before I realised, I completed the Tour of Wessex sportive (a very long and hilly road bike race). On the last day, I threw up on my handlebars. I put this down to either overdoing it, or consuming one to many energy gels. That evening, my body felt very odd. I put this down to the cycling. The thought that I was pregnant hadn’t even entered my mind.

The next few days were pretty normal. I went to work, but felt knackered and wanted to ingest copious amounts of full-fat coke. Very odd for me as I generally hate coke, but I put both the fatigue and the craving down to the miles I’d spent in the saddle and carried on as normal.

On the Thursday of that week, I headed to the changing rooms at work to kit myself up for a run home. When I stood up I caught sight of myself in the mirror and overnight I’d turned into Katie Price – without going under the knife. My flat chest has been on the receiving end of jokes from my friends. One birthday I was even made a breast cake to make up for my lack thereof. At that moment there was a very loud pop and the idea I may be pregnant entered my head.

Panic and fear started pulsing through my body. Regardless, I pushed the thought to the back of my mind and began my run home. Of course, trying to forget something like this is impossible and with every strike of my foot on the pavement, my heart beat faster – and not because of the running. My body turned to wibbly jelly and I could think of nothing else than how awful it would be if I really was.

En route, I picked up a pregnancy test. When I got home, I ran up to my bathroom and did the deed. 1 second, 2 second, 3 second…. The wait took an eternity, but when it was over, I faced the biggest fear of my life – a positive result. Deep breaths, it was one test. I had two more and this one has got to be wrong. I went to the kitchen and began knocking back the pints (of water) like a woman possessed. Thank goodness my housemates weren’t around.

Second test – positive, must be wrong. Third test – positive. I must have brought a dud pack. I threw my trainers back on and ran down to the shop and brought two more packs. Back home, more water and four more tests. I spent a small fortune on pregnancy tests that day and the result remained defiant. I was pregnant.

I sat on my bed and began to process the news. Thoughts of all the training I’d been doing ran through my head. It would be wasted. What about work – how would I tell my manager? I couldn’t possibly tell my dad I was pregnant – I was too young (I wasn’t, I was 29). How could I tell Tom?

None of my feelings were positive, but after a week, Tom and I had both decided we’d probably end up moving in together and having kids anyway, so why not now. Over the previous months, we’d become very close and had begun planning some time out from work for some travelling. I’d been spending more and more time at his house and, while moving in together was incredibly daunting, it only meant a few more nights a week there.

Since the week I found out, I’ve not looked back. Having Toby was the best thing I’ve ever done. Motherhood is hard work, but the rewards, love and happiness it brings to your life are endless.

Getting fit after pregnancy – no more excuses

16 May

Final running race at six months pregnant

When I fell pregnant with Toby, I was super-keen on triathlon and in training for a Half Ironman. My weeks consisted of working, eating, sleeping, cycling, running and swimming and that was all there was to my life for a bit. I’d eat like a pig that had been starved for a year and it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to my weight.

Now, it must be said, this routine was at my most extreme and was in preparation for a half ironman. On the final few weekends before I found out I was pregnant, I completed the Tour of Wessex cycle, had a rather traumatic King of the Downs cycle experience and took part in the Duncton cycle ride. After throwing up on my handle bars, I realised that either I was overdoing it, or something wasn’t quite right. I was pregnant.

I started my pregnancy with the attitude that I could still exercise to the extreme, that I wouldn’t put on weight and that I could maintain my fitness. As the weeks and months passed, I realised my view was hugely unrealistic. I was in bed by 7.30pm some nights, could barely move by the end and as for getting up early for a spinning class – FORGET IT. Needless to say, the weight closed in on me and my fitness left.

All my crazy exercising ended just under two years ago and since then I find myself making excuses for not getting back into it. The problem is, I’m starting from scratch. During my pregnancy my stomach muscles split, which left me with a stark warning from the physio to let things heal before I start running again. I tried to get back into it after a while, but (and I can’t believe I am going to say this) I ended up wetting myself – I’m certainly not the first and I won’t be the last, but that just puts a girl off. The breastfeeding, especially at night, left me exhausted and finding the motivation to get up and get back into a fitness routine was beyond impossible.

Last summer, when Toby was around 4 months, I got on my bike each week and did a few rides. We spent the summer in our VW Campervan driving around France and I got the chance to do some amazing cycling. I climbed 2/3 of Mont Ventoux, but had to turn around to get back for Toby’s breastfeed… well, that was my excuse. This is the first time I am admitting to this; the real reason I turned around was because it was just too painful. I was a lot heavier than before and I simply couldn’t get to the top. I was weak! I did, however, make it at a snail’s pace up Alp D’Huez. At the top, I remembered why I loved cycling. BUT ON EACH OCCASION I FELT HORRID. I just didn’t have the fitness to enjoy it and with a baby you can make excuses.

Last week the excuses ended. Toby is now 15 months, my body has recovered from labour and he’s sleeping okay (ish). I’m now working from home and there is time. No more crap excuses. I have a buggy I can both run and cycle with and I live next door to Richmond Park.

I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end with the cycling. Yesterday – with a little help from my friends – I cycled 60 miles in the Duncton sportive. I was slow and it hurt, but it’s meant to hurt and I’ll get faster. Next week I’m signed up to the King of the Downs bike ride, which should be interesting. It’ll be slow and it’ll hurt and there will be times I will doubt my post-pregnancy self. The week after we’re heading to the Tour of Wessex for a 76 mile ride. I have legitimate doubts about finishing this one, but nothing ventured, nothing gained and I can’t keep hiding behind a wall of nappies. Wish me luck.

I like to ride my tricycle; I like to ride my trike

5 May

IM Trike takes gold

Toby’s first Christmas present was a tricycle, an IM Trike to be exact. Aimed at newbies to the cycling world, it provides pedal free speed for the adventurous 12 month+. A pedal-less model, the trike is giving Toby the chance to master the art of balance before taking to two wheels, lycra and cleated pedals (watch out Armstrong).

Its wooden frame and rubber wheels give it a simple, clean (until food or dirt is thrown on it) design and the wide wheels allow Toby to remain upright at least 95 per cent of the time. When he does fall, the bike generally stays standing, allowing Toby to hold on and tumble slowly. This gives a quick footed adult time to rush to his rescue. Its handling isn’t something Jeremy Clarkson would write home about, but I’m not sure this is an issue for a small person.

Not only is it a dream for Toby to use, but it is rather aesthetically pleasing. The bright colours (blue, go-fast red and yellow) add to the fun of this trike. When Toby opened it on Christmas day (or rather pulled the bow off it; we are lazy, couldn’t be bothered to wrap it and figured he’d not remember anyway), he was a little bit too young and small for it, but as soon as he turned 1 the adjustable seat allowed him to get his stubby legs over the bar and gave him a real chance to get in the saddle. He’s hardly been off it since. Come rain or shine – indoors or out – this trike provides hours of activity, allowing me to drink my tea in peace… and for under £30… 10/10 I’d say.