Black and White Photography Project: paper birds

B&W paper birds

This is an old one – I took it the last time we visited the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon and I was left to admire all the innovative kid-friendly decorations, book corner, dressing up corner, colouring corner… One ceiling had the bottom of a rocket disappearing into the ceiling as if into space. This was the corridor which had twinkly fairy lights above and lots of little framed doorways down below, which, when opened, revealed various scenes from Alice in Wonderland – one of their productions.

Anyway, I just thought these little birds lent themselves to b&w!

Linking up to the B&W Photography project over at Podcast Dove.


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Love the Little Things 26.09.14

READ

It’s been one of those weeks where I haven’t picked up a book or magazine at all. Best blog posts: What random searchy things people bring to my blog over on Hurrah for Gin. This one made me literally laugh out loud which is exactly what you need after the bedtime bunfight (that and a large glass of gin?).
I also loved Lucy’s Shine on you Crazy Diamond over on Put up With Rain. It’s a really lovely exploration of her daughter’s character (which sounds irrepressible!) and a heartfelt plea to her not to be ground down by the world – to retain her shine.
I’ve also read a lot of posts dissecting the MAD Blog Award experiences (as well as enjoying the Instagram pics on the night!) and I almost feel like I was there too so thanks to all who took the time to share and congratulations to everyone who was even nominated because you are all fabulous!

WATCHED

I’ve been catching the odd little bit of this and that – a few X factor hopefuls (sadly no Ella Hendersons this year) the absolutely hilarious Ofsted inspection episode of Big School and Jo Brand’s Great British Bake Off: An Extra Slice which always makes me chuckle. I began watching a programme about men who have many wives one night which looked quite fascinating but then the hubster came in and switched over! I think I’d quite like to be one of many wives – especially if the other wives were a good laugh!

HEARD

The new tune from Wilkinson (loving it!):

MADE

As Google informed me that it was officially the first day of Autumn earlier in the week I thought now would be as good a time as any to cook up a big batch of beef casserole. I cooked this one slowly on the hob for about 5 hours.

Beef stew

AND LASTLY…

Some of the lovely moments in my week include eating lots of cake at the weekend over at my dad’s allotment where he won first prize for his tomatoes at the Autumn Social before being treated to a lovely Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall inspired marmalade gammon roast with the family (thanks Mum!); having a coffee and catch up with my cousin and her adorable 17 week old baby (who proceeded to puke down my top – one of the only situations in life where it is acceptable for a man to vomit down your cleavage); and last night (after a somewhat frantic school run/in-law drop off) whipping over to Kingston to meet up with the lovely Elfa from Californian Mum in London for John Lewis’s Autumn blogging event promoting their beauty and fashion ranges (where I also met the lovely Steph from Sisterhood and All That who is frankly, beautiful and looks great in bright red lippy 🙂 ). All in all, not a bad week!

Happy Friday Little Loves!

 

butwhymummywhy

Cbeebies – it’s a love/hate thing…

From the sublime:

Sarah and Duck

To the ridiculous:

kate and mim mim

I know a lot of people have had some pretty harsh things to say about Postman Pat. The man is clearly an incompetent nerd. However as a piece of programming, the commissioners have gone right somewhere (see: my five year old glued to back to back episodes on the iPlayer). I know all about the secret chucklings at the mere mention of Mr Tumble’s spotty bag, – love him or hate him, he gets bums on seats. And when it comes to Topsy and Tim – well, just read this post and you’ll see that not everyone is as forgiving as me when it comes to annoyingly perky twins banging on about their big house move for SIX YEARS*.

But the latest addition to the schedule is a step too far even for me. I’m thinking of starting a petition to get Kate and Mim Mim banned from the box for good. I have not spoken about this to a single person but I know I can’t be alone in finding this the freakiest, most badly conceived idea ever. It follows the adventures of ‘feisty’ five year old Kate and her favourite toy bunny Mim Mim – essentially a cute teddy right up until the moment he morphs into a giant fricking weirdo with an accent which appears to be half Australian, half Dick Van Dyke circa Mary Poppins. Meanwhile her imaginary world (Mimiloo) appears to be housed by Pixar’s scariest alien rejects.

Take this example of a typical episode: “A Case of the Giggles” – in which the dynamic duo are tasked with finding a “Merry Berry Bush” in order to make it laugh (I kid you not – and this, my friends, is surely a prime candidate for Scott Mills’ Innuendo Bingo – poor old Mary Berry, it’s just a bit personal really, isn’t it?). (For anyone not familiar with Innuendo Bingo try this clip with Gerard Butler – you can thank me later):

But you know, it’s irrelevant what I think about it (or any of you discerning parents either for that matter). As long as the kids love it, it doesn’t matter if Mimiloo is actually my personal ‘Event Horizon’. Oh, but here’s the thing: my kids LOATHE it from the sincerest bottom of  their Postman Pat-, Peppa Pig-, Thomas the Tank-loving hearts. Respect to the munchkins.

On the other end of the Cbeebies spectrum, one of my all-time favourites has to be Sarah and Duck. What is not to love, I ask you, about a small girl who hangs with a duck, bakes a cake and gets baking tips from the cake itself, doesn’t appear to have parents but seems quite pally with a woman known only as ‘scarf lady’ (whose bag is pretty friendly too) and gets to know an animate umbrella who doesn’t like getting wet and has to borrow one of her wellies to get home? Christmas this year will be all about the Sarah and Duck merchandise – BBC Shop? I’ll be your bitch.

*that might possibly have been six months…

 

Having a vocation

old typewriter

I recently read this post by Sara over at Mum turned Mom. She discusses her difficulties with pronouncing to the world that she is a ‘writer’. I understand. I haven’t thought much about how I label myself in recent years, preferring to just live out each day and fulfil each role necessary (you know the score: care-giver, cook, cleaner, employee, nurse, driver, decision maker, party planner, and on, and on…) but nowadays I manage to squeeze in ‘blogger’ and ‘reader’ and ‘commentator’ too.

The problem Sara has is that she loves to write, she lives to write, but she isn’t a paid and published author. I’m the same and it got me thinking about vocation. I believe this word, this concept, has been commandeered by the careers police – those who would seek to define each person by what they do to earn their money.

I knew from an early age that I was in love with words, reading voraciously and writing for pleasure. I was steered through otherwise murky career waters by my Mum who could see what I had in me, even while I was floundering and being seduced by the idea of a Media Studies degree (pah ha ha!). I studied journalism ‘vocationally’ (at HND level) and then, disillusioned with mass market periodicals, I turned back to education and stuck my head firmly back into a *lot* more books in the shape of a four year literature degree which I loved and which I will never regret despite it doing absolutely sod all to show me which way to face as the subject of career choice once again loomed large. For me, delving into literature was like lifting a dark curtain on the rich cultural fabric of life.

At this point, I’ll throw my hands up and admit it – I’ve been a bit lazy OK? I could have done more with my life career-wise. I happen to believe that I’m as good a writer as plenty of people out there who get paid handsomely for the privilege of wearing ‘writer’ as their no.1 hat. The difference is in the drive but I still see ‘writer’ as my true vocation in life as defined in the dictionary thusly:
“an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified”. If you want (or are able or inclined) to earn money from this occupation then great, but if you don’t, why should that make it any less a part of who you are and for that matter, who you claim to be?

Because I was timid, crippled by self-doubt and woefully lacking in useful contacts as a very young woman, then lost in the detritus of everyday life, I never thought too long and hard about ‘making it happen’. Since that time I have been overtaken by munchkins intent on gathering up my rolling marbles, lost through a combination of childbirth and enforced custody in the padded cells of soft play, and they’ve been demanding a ransom of Peppa Pig ice lollies and Actimels in order to return them.

But finally some kind of fog is clearing. Reading and engaging with others who are pushing themselves forwards into a brave new world in which they embody their true vocation – well its opening my eyes to the possibilities.

And despite everything I have said about being a bit lazy and lacking a bit of drive, I know I can achieve great things – after all I completed a 20,000 word post-graduate dissertation on the subject of Information Overload (!) so just imagine what I could do with a subject I was truly engaged in…

 

Mama and Mored

Word of the week: unsettled

Unsettled

It’s been JJ’s second full week at big school. He seems to be taking it in his stride but just at the point where you think a new routine is bedding in, it seems that the dust is once again un-settling as tiredness creeps in. What started off as a pretty chaotic madcap pre-bed ‘routine’ has rapidly descended into the ninth circle of hell as JJ not only encourages his little brother to ignore me and defy my every wish but also seems to be possessed by the devil a little himself, kicking, screaming and seeming to relish this new found naughtiness.

This has not been helped by the fact that their father has been working late shifts and I’ve been flying solo, although the threat of ‘telling Daddy’ has been enough to kickstart the first hints of obedience. As always, once EJ is in his cot, JJ’s defiant behaviour suddenly ebbs away as quickly as it washed in. Last night he even turned to me and said, ‘sorry for being naughty earlier Mummy’ and then ‘are you sorry too?’ to which I replied ‘yes, I’m sorry for getting cross’ and that was enough.

In the meantime EJ’s nice settled routine of going down to bed like a little lamb is also a bit off the rails as he has begun climbing out of his cot and then repeatedly climbing out every time he is deposited back in, screaming at the stair gate demanding to be released. My policy is always to ignore this kind of thing. I’ll only put him back twice – I’m not playing that game! If they have to cry themselves up into a fury then that’s what happens. It happened with JJ for a couple of nights when the gate first went up too. This time it’s different though because, whilst I studiously ignore the screaming and get on with my chores (we’re talking maybe 15 minutes here – and always with the intention of going back to soothe, comfort and reassess once the mood has changed from defiant to just plain tired and upset), JJ can’t in good conscience let EJ sit and stew, preferring to talk to him calmly and kindly through the gate which is actually really sweet and, last night at any rate, left EJ a lot more docile, just wishing for some milk before allowing me to put him back to bed once and for all.

I have to say though, every evening I get more and more on edge in the run up to 6pm when I know I will be chewed up into a mangled shadow of my former self before being spat back out at 7, grasping desperately for the G&T!

As far as the transition into autumn routine goes though, it’s starting to come together. The madness of party planning is over thanks to two birthdays that bookend the holiday period and I’ve actually taken my foot off the pedal and relaxed a bit, even treating myself to a small shopping spree, before I begin to formulate my master plan for the run up to Christmas. This breather has left me with the space to think about me again, as selfish as that might sound. I guess the summer period is always going to be a time filled with wall to wall kidstuff, but once term kicks in and they are back in the capable hands of their educators, it seems like the right time to start thinking about personal goals and dreams outside of motherhood.

So, whilst certain events of the past week have been very unsettling, I look forward to shaking myself out of whatever comfortable furrow life seems to have settled into lately and come a bit more alive with a challenge more demanding than just baking a cake or joining a linky. Watch this space…

 

The Reading Residence

Love the Little Things 19.09.14

READ

Over the weekend, in snatches and flashes, I managed to finish reading my current book on my iPhone (thanks Kindle App! Loving it!). I mentioned A Landing on the Sun last week, a somewhat eery ghost of a life, played out through reports read and old reels of tape discovered in a dusty loft room deep in the heart of Whitehall. But don’t worry, it’s nothing to do with politics, more with the politics of happiness, and the overall answer seems to be that happiness can only ever be truly experienced in microcosm. So stick that in yer pipe and smoke it!

I’ve contemplated starting another of Frayn’s novel’s on my reading list, Skios, but also been toying with some of the less aerodite ones from the Booker shortlist, particularly We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (who wrote The Jane Austen Book Club). Oh and I also absolutely snorted in the optician’s waiting room this morning when I read this catalogue of disasters over at Secret Divorcee HQ: Last Night Was Like a Miranda Sketch… bless Lottie she really did manage to get herself in a bit of a pickle over at Wagamama’s the other day!

 

We are all completely beside ourselves

WATCHED

After catching part of my Twitter feed on Saturday night I couldn’t help but tune into the repeat of the X Factor this week to see what Katie from Hurrah for Gin was on about when she said ‘Bit slutty, Cheryl’! I have to admit that the guy breaking into a perfect rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On did lead to an utterly cringe-making display!

HEARD

Other than the above, I discovered Ten Walls this week. I’m not sure everything this guy does is instrumental, or worth labelling ‘house’ (personally I’m still not sure what the difference is between house and garage and still wondering when someone’s going to come out with something from the Carport (cutting edge…). But I digress – I defy you not to agree that this is the perfect background music – try it out, leave it playing while you read the rest of this post… I’m also loving dipping in and out of some new and old Live Lounges from Radio 1 – particularly liking Foxes covering Pharrell’s Happy. Nice.

WORE

I couldn’t resist any longer, I had to go and have a little look at some of what’s out there in the new autumn ranges and ended up buying myself this little flippy skirt from M&S Indigo to wear with boots and a denim jacket on the school run:

New flippy skirt

MADE

I didn’t really have time to try my hand at any fancy baking or recipe wrangling this week so I returned to an old favourite that I haven’t cooked in ages: my version of a cassoulet. I thought I’d make this as I’d bought some chorizo style pork chipolatas from Tesco recently in a BOGOF and they needed using up. I have to preface this picture (which is also self explanatory 😉 ) by saying that although this looks very much like beans with mini sausages, it is in fact, a million miles away in flavour, being so very yummy and delicious which I’m afraid I just couldn’t convey in the medium of photography!

Cassoulet

AND LASTLY…

It’s been a bit of a challenging week – particularly with bedtimes round here! – but I’m so looking forward to spending a day with my littlest boy and enjoying some time all together at the weekend. Colds seem to be kicking in and we all need to recharge our batteries.

Happy Friday Little Loves!

Are women better parents than men?…

…is the topic of Sara’s Prompt this week over at Mum turned Mom. The answer is no, of course we’re not. But what I would say is that, as women, we are hard-wired to fulfill a certain role for our children. Gender roles exist, largely springing from what are still marked biological differences despite the leaps forward in evolution since the era of the caveman. If they didn’t, then there would be no difference in the way we parented but as it is, women will always have the first physical bond with a child (through pregnancy) and they are very much the primary care-givers for a newborn in the majority of cases. I think women can be a lot more in tune emotionally and childhood can be a pretty emotional time.

male vs. female

Because of the way society tends to run, women are gifted with maternity leave whilst men are expected to return to full time jobs, and again, spending that amount of dedicated time in the company of your rapidly growing and developing child leads to a knock on effect of imprinted need and reliance on the mother by the child which, in turn, leads to a mother who has that much touted ‘instinct’ and an ability to pick her own child’s cry out of a room of crying toddlers, or understand half-grunted, half-signed language which might baffle another person.

Although it may be entirely unfair to men who would like to devote more of their time to their children and do a wonderful, nurturing job in the evenings and on weekends, any true comparison is never going to be forthcoming unless every single one of us does exactly the same share of the money-making and the child-rearing. For every example of a friend of a friend who reversed roles with her husband and found that she was returning from work to discover piles of laundry and washing crusting from breakfast in the sink (or worse, not in the sink), there will be someone who can produce the perfect SAHD – but any perfect SAHD must surely rely heavily on the feminine side of his make-up, if you will; the side that knows the difference between Sudocrem and Metanium, the difference a well-timed nap can make, and the part which is happy to succumb to domesticity and routine. It isn’t easy for dads to fulfill that role simply because they are in the minority and it takes a brave man to face down the all-female Toddler Group Clique who may eye him suspiciously across the squash and biccies.

And what of the judgement from male friends, or that sneaking feeling that the role itself is somehow shamefully emasculating? Maybe I’m not giving enough men credit for being enlightened souls who don’t actually give a toss about what their peer group might have to say.

When it comes right down to it what exactly is the ‘best’ parent anyway? The one who the child turns to first when they fall and hurt themselves, or the one who works long hours to pay for the roof over all their heads? Making it into a competition is not helpful – I say as long as both parents are pulling together in their different ways to ensure the health, happiness and security of their children, mentally, emotionally, financially, then everyone is a winner.

 

mumturnedmom

The meaning of life…

meaningoflife

On Monday afternoon when I returned from work, the hubster was home on a day off and EJ was having a nap. I started to notice that my vision was going a bit blurry at the edges. I don’t normally get headaches but this one was rapidly going from bad to worse. I managed the school run and agreed to take the boys down to the local swing park but fortunately the hubster returned from the gym and kindly offered to take them for me while I went to lay in a darkened room. Before I had a chance to get myself horizontal I glanced out of the window and saw a strange scene. We live right on a main road and one of the cars driving past our row of parked cars had slowed down and stopped, holding up traffic behind him. He was looking over at where my husband was crouching down between the parked cars. I hadn’t heard a shout or screech of brakes and so I wondered what was going on. Thirty seconds later they came back into the house and the husband informed that two year old EJ had just run out into the road whilst he himself had been grappling with the five year old’s hefty bike (complete with stabilisers) and EJ’s own scooter. Fortunately (extremely fortunately) he had had enough time to grab EJ a foot out into the road and haul him back unharmed, but he was completely shaken up and shouting about not taking bikes or scooters anywhere ever again.

Both boys collapsed in tears on me and we all had a bit of a cry. It’s times like this that you think to yourself ‘what if?’ and ‘there, for the grace of God, go I’. And in the moments, and hours and days afterwards you hold your children, drink them in with your eyes as they are sleeping, breathe in the scent of their fluffy heads, and try not to imagine what life would be like without them.

Another day I was walking through town on my lunch break from work and I passed an old lady on a crossing. She was old enough and frail enough to make me think that she was in her twilight years and also to feel almost a motherly instinct to help her and make sure she reached her destination unharmed. It got me thinking about life, where I’m at in the process and what that means. I actually had tears in my eyes when I put myself in that old lady’s place – looking back on my own life from far in the future, knowing that I will never have this much daily love and affection in my life once my children are grown and flown. I felt lonliness flood in, I felt the alienation of a modern world which was moving too fast for my ever decreasing grey matter. And more than that I just felt that there was this voice urging me to appreciate every single second and even in what seem like the ‘bad’ times, take that with a pinch of salt because before you know it, this special, infuriating, limiting, expanding time will be gone and it will feel like the blink of an eye.