Word of the Week: Bedtime

New bunkbeds!

Anyone who read my Flat Pack! post on Wednesday will know it’s been all about the new bunk beds this week! Although it felt like a big move – and frankly, a huge transition particularly for EJ who has now gone straight from his cot to a full size single bottom bunk at the tender age of two, I’m glad that we’ve done it. Having said that it hasn’t all been plain sailing. On night one EJ climbed in and went out like a light no problem, but night two he wasn’t quite so docile and cried when I tried to tuck him in and leave. I climbed in with him, sang a lullaby, let him have his milk, tried to leave again but he was having none of it. JJ tried to take over for me bless him, but EJ just wanted his mummy! Eventually I told him I was going to go and have my shower and come straight back and, to my amazement, he agreed! Needless to say he was sparko by the time I returned and we went through the same thing last night too so I’m hoping a routine of sorts is forming and he’ll be comfortable with his new bedtime views very soon ( especially as I’m on my own with them for the next few nights while the hubster works).

It was the hubster’s birthday this week but unfortunately we didn’t have much of a chance to celebrate. In the past we have used this week to take a little holiday (this time last year we had a lovely week in Cornwall) but now JJ is at big school we can’t do that any more sadly. I will have to make a better effort next year – particularly because it will be a bit of a milestone for him!

I’ve certainly been falling into bed each night exhausted myself and feeling as though things I normally stay on top of have slid a bit – not least the cleaning this week as my cleaning day was cancelled out by flat pack hell! I am also still trying to find some kind of blogging flow to my week but right now I am writing posts at random times like 5am in the morning – and just can’t seem to get a routine to it, so it seems that most of my posting is happening in the latter part of the week. I find it such a solitary activity that I prefer to do it when I’m on my own. Unfortunately the hubster’s shift pattern is all over the place and often changes at the last minute so I rarely know where I stand.

Other than that, it’s all good and we are enjoying the absolutely glorious autumn colours ( and finally getting to wear some new layered outfits and boots!) but not so much all these squally rain showers!

How was your week?

 

The Reading Residence

Why be smug?

Every once in a while I read a post written deep within this parenting niche and it really resonates. When a post is open, honest and true and touches upon experiences which are obviously so commonly recognised it feels bonding, it feels inclusive and supportive – there’s a real sense of all being in this thing together.

No one ever said that being a mother and a wife was going to be all plain sailing and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea in life, but why, I ask you, why, do some people, who have chosen a different path, feel the need to stick their oar in with a smug comment, essentially boasting that their life choices are better than yours?

When I look at people who have chosen to stick with one child I sometimes think, ‘you’ve got it so easy’, but when I look at someone with three children, my first thought is not ‘ha ha! Look at the merry-go-round you’ve opted for, you fool!’. No, I look up and wonder what I’m missing, how much more fun a family of five might have in years to come (not that I would, in any way, want to have another child myself mind you!). I would certainly never in a million years dump a smug mother-of-two comment onto a post which had opened up about how tough a mother of three was finding the challenge some days.

What these smug ‘single, child-free by choice and living it up’ commentators don’t admit to is that no-one gets away with a life which is a series of ups and no downs. Like the economy, life, by it’s very nature, is all about the peaks and troughs.

I get the feeling that single people who trawl the parenting niche must be there for a reason. Personally, I suspect that they are searching for affirmation of their own life choices and ready to leap on a post which is brave enough to explore some of the less shiny happy moments of the parenting experience.

One recent example, on a brilliant blog I follow (Sisterhood and All That), states “ No kids and no husband means I can lie in bed all day if I want without anyone messing up my kitchen counters. Bliss. Feel free to take this opportunity to tell me what I’m missing out on and how you wouldn’t swap it for the world. Go on. You know you want to…it will make you go all warm and gooey inside” which is essentially the written equivalent of a sharp angry poke in the eye attempting to negate any potential comebacks which might seek to point out that actually, getting married and having children isn’t just a series of screaming, hair-pulling, anxiety inducing misery. (Steph, I apologise if this was genuinely written in jest by your sister or something!).

But you know, whoever you are, just keep searching out the negative bits and we’ll keep dishing ‘em up, but remember to shut your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and sing ‘la la la’ if you happen to stumble across anything that looks anything like this:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Word of the Week: Inconsistent

inconsistent

In the last week and a half I have had the opportunity to meet up with two lovely new friends I’ve made through blogging – Elfa from Californian Mum in London (who invited me along to a fab beauty promo event at John Lewis) and Hannah from First Time Mummy who lives ten minutes from me and invited me over for tea and a chat. Talking to other bloggers has made me realise that I’m ready to stretch myself a bit more – I’m ready to go self-hosted, make a bit more of an effort with promotion and appearance (which is not to say that I’m not still a little bit in love with the Wizard of Oz header that I designed and Helen from Ellie Illustrates created months and months ago now), and potentially take on a few review gigs.

The problem I have right now, though, is time. Just as I’m thinking all these thoughts, I find myself in a position which, for reasons I can’t really go into, the time to blog is just not there. And by ‘blog’ I mean not just write, but have the headspace to get inspired.

I’m also starting to wonder if the things I choose to blog about aren’t just a bit too eclectic. On the one hand I love to attempt light-hearted, amusing posts with a soupçon of wit; on the other hand I yearn for the opportunity to test my writing skills with – well, not exactly hard-hitting journalism, but something a little bit more meaningful which might, some day allow me to cross the divide between amateur and professional writer.

At the same time I take note that the blogs which seem to remain consistently popular do tend to have a niche and stick to it (Eeh Bah Mum for example – although she does occasionally branch into recipe posts; and Mummy Daddy Me who focuses on the beautiful photo story of her little family and sticks with straight up, consistent musings of a wife and mum).

On the other hand, within a week I have swung from a ‘funny’ (silly) post about my love/hate relationship with Cbeebies (which, by the way, I had great fun writing) and an examination of what ‘feminism’ means in 2014. I might also throw in a recipe or a photo-post.

As a personal blogger this is no biggie, you can write what you want, when you want, but the second you begin to think of your blog as a ‘brand’ it feels as though you need to pick an audience and stick to it or risk alienating one reader or another at any given moment. I’d love to know other peoples’ thoughts on this…

 

The Reading Residence

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: Non-Stop!!

Non-stop

Anyone who read my Week so far… post on Tuesday will know that I was on track for a busy one! What with outings and sightseeing and shopping it was a rest to go back to work on Wednesday! As I mentioned before the hubster has the week off so he is getting more than his share of munchkin time and as I write this they are currently somewhere down in the New Forest for the day with my father in law and the girl. We were thinking of taking them down to Brighton for the day on Friday but I don’t think the hubster is up to another long car journey so we’ll probably stay local and let them recuperate!

My thoughts have been going non-stop lately too. It has been very difficult to maintain the usual routines including the kind of pattern of blogging I’ve fallen into. I find that as soon as I let one thing go I’m drifting a bit rootlessly, making the odd stab at normality but still watching others thrive and go from strength to strength while I feel like I’ve completely lost my focus and my objective. I want to be in the thick of the blogging community but it’s hard to do when something external comes along to burst your bubble.

Some dust needs to settle in my life right now. Maybe everything will always feel outside of the norm at this time of year because of the school holidays too. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take me too long to feel like I’m back on the bus and not just clinging onto the side as it whizzes along!

 

The Reading Residence

Out of the Loop: What my ‘Blog Break’ taught me

I’ve been having this feeling. You know those clever stop motion films where one person stands still while everything going on around them flashes past in such high speed that it’s literally a blur? That.

I went to Devon with my family for a week and although I had my Kindle tablet with me I didn’t either write, post or even really read any blog posts for over 7 days. It doesn’t sound that much but I came back to nearly 100 unread emails from the blogs I follow. It’s a bit overwhelming because the posts never stop coming and I’d love to be able to read each and every one which leaves little time for anything else!

I know other bloggers have decided to switch off for the entire summer so I can’t imagine how they will feel come September, but this little blog break has taught me a few things: a) once a blogger, always a blogger; b) taking a break from regular blogging is as important as taking a break from work life – it allows you to switch off completely and engage more fully with the people around you; and c) it’s good therapy to talk using your vocal chords once in a while!

Even after I’d returned from Devon I found it difficult to pick up where I’d left off, but gradually, with a couple of photo posts and delving into the ‘missing’ 100 (apologies to anyone for what may seem like incredibly out of date comments!) I’m finally getting back into the swing of it, and it’s now that I really understand the true meaning of blogging to me at this point in my life: it’s what ‘normal’ feels like now – and by ‘normal’ I mean balanced, centred, focussed, positive. Even if bad things happen, blogging is a way of cleaving to everything that is right, and connecting with others socially on a daily basis.

As I don’t get to spend any significant amounts of time with my mum and dad and my sister’s family, last week was a chance to re-connect, and get up to speed with their busy lives too which is so lovely, and justified a significant amount of time away from technology, but a holiday is a holiday, and I’m so glad to have my blog to return to.

*Not* a BritMums Live round-up

Not BML 2014 logo

So I’m sure by now anyone who knows me and my blog knows that I didn’t make it to BML this year, despite having bought a ticket, months in advance. I know I’m not the only one to have missed out and regretted it (to some extent – I did have a lovely* family holiday instead to compensate!). I know this because during significant chunks of Friday and Saturday I was obsessively scanning the Twitter, searching for updates, descriptions, photos… I wasn’t disappointed, there was plenty going on – I got to salivate over pictures of free cake, drool over shots of free Lindemans, wonder at pretty outfits in toilet selfies, and rest assured that no one was left like a lemon sitting all alone in All Bar One!

Friendships made over t’internet were solidified, there was hugging, there was laughter, there were a lot of mums looking very much like low-security prisoners who had been released overnight for good behaviour (not that I’m comparing the mothering of small children to a prison sentence, but some days, you know? 😉 )

And now I’m sure there will be a lot of fellow bloggers who will be doing their round-up/dissection of where it all went right, what they have taken away and how it will help them to improve their SEO, improve their layout, write better blog posts and engage with the people who matter. And I’m sure a lot of tips and advice will be shared (because bloggers are like that – we like to spread the love) but unfortunately reading a list of tips online is never going to have the same impact as watching an inspirational speaker or being able to discuss the successes or the hard won lessons of others over a bucket of Pimms…

What is the upshot of all this? I will be going to BML next year – and maybe its for the best because at least my children will be that much older (although having said that there will still be a two year old involved!). I wait with baited breath for Mumsnet to release the dates of BlogFest and make their tickets available.

I congratulate all those who won BiB awards (for all those non-bloggers out there – anyone? Anyone? – that stands for Brilliance in Blogging, and has absolutely nothing to do with the correct use of pelican, neoprene or any other kind of laughable division between the food/drink/clothing interface on a small child).

And I will continue to write, engage and enjoy blogging as one of the most satisfying hobbies I’ve ever stumbled into.

*involving two full on little boys covered head to foot in the pox!

 

All About You Link & Pin Party

A blogging holiday

Relaxing under a palm tree on remote beach

My blog is pretty much a year old this month and, particularly in the past six months, I have become more and more invested in it – both time and even money wise. I tend to find myself binning off other activities (of an evening) in favour of concentrating on either writing, reading or commenting on other peoples’ blogs. And that’s without even factoring in partaking of a little tweet here or there or fiddling about with picture editing.

I enjoy it. I like writing; sometimes I even love writing if the muse has really struck me and I am 100% invested in my subject. But sometimes my commentary and involvement with others suffers because I have set myself these high writing and posting targets and it has felt like I am ‘failing’ in some way if I’ve missed out on a regular linky or the stats have dropped off because I haven’t written and then promoted a post properly.

I am currently on holiday for a week (physically, with the family!) and I told myself I would attempt to have a bit of a blogging holiday too. All I have done is write and draft a few ‘easy’ posts and scheduled them in advance so that things don’t lay dormant for too long. I know that this is a good thing. I know that I will benefit from this headspace. Sometimes these blog targets we impose on ourselves become so all encompassing that we can’t see the wood for the trees (and for me – why? Its not even like I’ve attempted to monetise my little corner of cyberspace or even engaged with PRs).

I recently read The Blog Lowdown on the lovely Reading Residence courtesy of Hurrah for Gin this week and took a lot of notice, for here is a blogger who appears to post relatively sporadically, but who is well known within the circles I blog in, receiving twice, three times or even four times more comments on a post than I have had on even my most popular posts and nominated for recent prestigious blogging awards (rightly so and nominated by myself too I might add!). And she doesn’t appear to do it for money or stuff or any kind of gain really. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing or questioning – the fact of the matter is that she writes very funny, dry, honest and heartfelt pieces very well and is clearly a lovely person who others warm to – one of those people who you think, “yeah, I’d want you to be my friend” after five minutes familiarising yourself with her witty, beautifully self-illustrated, charming blog.

So I was interested to read her take on what makes her blog tick and her list of tips on blogging in general. The one that struck me the most was the advice to avoid blogging too much to the linky schedule. She says ‘It’s your blog, nobody else’s so you should be in the driving seat’. This one really resonated with me because nowadays, I find it hard to be bothered with a post unless it’s attached to a linky (this being a case in point I guess although Jocelyn & Iona’s theme for The Theme Game this week happens to fit in perfectly with things I have been thinking about a lot lately anyway!).

I suddenly feel like I am getting it all wrong; that I am missing out on more relaxed personal space of an evening, more variety of entertainment and more time to actually engage with my family rather than getting increasingly frustrated if their neediness delightful and continual interruptions jar my blog flow. Its just not good karma – it feels like my cosmic microcosm of life is out of balance somehow. I need to write less, read and engage more. Its probably as simple as that. You take the pressure off yourself and you focus on doing what you love (whether it be writing, socialising/cyber-socialising, reading, cinematic pursuits, baking, knitting, singing, ukelele or skydiving).

So watch this space (but not too closely, I’m on holiday, remember 🙂 )

PS the picture above is less a true representation of my current holiday than a picture of a toddler with chicken pox crying at a very large adventure playground would be… :-/

 

The Reading Residence

Baby brain has a lot to answer for!

Disappointed polar bear

I’m not in the habit of using this blog as a diary of my feelings and emotions but tonight I’m feeling really sad and disappointed having discovered that the blog conference BritMums Live 2014 which I have been so looking forward to, having booked my ticket up back in April is now a distant memory due to my ineptitude at any kind of organisational skills – I’ve only gone and booked our family holiday over the top of those dates! This is something that can’t be changed – we’ve managed to coordinate time off (which is not always easy considering staffing demands within our organisation), paid in full and arranged to meet up with one of my best friends and her family both the week before and the day of BML. Of course this will be amazing in itself but I can’t help but feeling like I have had this magic carpet whipped out from under my feet.

I’ve been reading all the excited updates on my Twitter timeline concerning the two recent blog conferences, Tots100 Blog Camp and then Blog On in Manchester and letting go those feelings of being a face pressed up to the glass, on the outside looking in, knowing that BML is just around the corner – a place to meet some faces in person who I have made friends with over the past 11 months of blogging, gather some really useful advice, information and tips on how to improve my blog and just a chance to unwind childfree and actually go out in the world representing myself and my ‘brand’, perhaps a cheeky prosecco and a cupcake? But no, I feel like I’ve been turned away at the gate, fallen at the final hurdle, and all because of the insane juggling act that is motherhood. Alright I admit there are plenty of mothers out there who haven’t made this classic schoolgirl error – a double-booking can sometimes be a rare thing (unless it involves a play-date and a pirate party) so it seems doubly cruel to fall foul of such witchery.

In the cold light of day I suppose there will be other blog conferences – I’m sure Mumsnet (which I admittedly haven’t been very involved with) runs BlogFest round about October time – and so onwards and upwards.

Any kind words will be gratefully received! Sob!

We’re not in Kansas anymore! Or, “the one where I got my blog re-designed”…

Well you might have noticed that things have changed a bit around here! That’s because the blog’s had a bit of a face-lift by the wonderfully talented Helen at Ellie Illustrates. I had been noticing Helen’s unique talents popping up all over the blogosphere and I had a little theme in mind that I wanted to work into my blog but I have zero artistic talent myself (and little idea of how to migrate a self-drawn picture onto a blog either!) so I thought I’d go professional!

As I think I might have mentioned before I love my Dorothy shoes:

228

And as it happens, I also love The Wizard of Oz. The story is such a lovely allegory with such vivid characters and memorable themes. It really speaks of those angst filled teenage years when we don’t really know where we’re going, who we’re going to be or how we’re going to get there.

Here is my initial sketch which I sent Helen:

075

For the purposes of this blog, I’ve adapted the theme – essentially I’m a mummy who found parenthood a bit of a shock to the senses, I was whisked into a whirlwind of breastfeeding, dummies, bibs and bouncers and its only my trusty Costa lattes that have seen me safely through the baby years!

I love the bold, unmistakably Ozian (?) colour palate – YELLOW brick road, RUBY slippers and EMERALD city. I will no longer be referring to my children as monkeys but munchkins henceforth.

I feel like I’ve finally found my online identity!

 

Creative Challenge