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

In the beginning came the “holiday” blues…

Five month baby bump

Ever since I gave birth to JJ in September 2009 certain things I took for granted before have changed radically and this has led to a major mental gear change. The first instance of this phenomena came as JJ’s first Christmas approached. I remember the Health Visitor’s survey asking “do you still look forward to things?”. I thought about Christmas and my heart sank. The only things really keeping me afloat back then were baby groups at the Surestart Centre, the Library, my NCT get togethers, and the thought of all those lifelines being whipped away for the best part of three weeks (at a time when every day seemed like a year!) was too depressing to contemplate.

Since the beginnings of parenthood I have noticed that days that I used to look forward to the most – Saturdays, Bank Holidays – are now approached with a sense of impending doom.

I’m sure this phenomena is probably understood by about 50% of other parents depending on the personalities of both you and your children, and how much support and adult company you can expect on any normal “day off”. My children tend to be very demanding and expect my constant input into whatever they are doing. Right now, for example, I’m managing to write this whilst ostensibly being very involved in a particularly noisy episode of Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, interspersed with fielding questions and demands to help JJ colour in his toe-nails with a biro. Guess what? Its Bank Holiday Monday and the hubster is having a nice lie-in. Normally a Monday morning involves an early start for me – leaving the house before the children wake and taking my packed breakfast (coffee and a banana) to a little spot I know where I can read, write and contemplate my naval in peace before my work day kicks in.

Since the beginnings of working part time and having a completely re-arranged week, I have found that, when other people are slogging up the wrong side of that weekly hump (Monday and Tuesday) I am at my most productive and those few child-free hours have been invaluable. Thursday is the new Friday because, despite the fact that I know Friday is ‘Mummy Day’, we have places to go, people to meet and things to do.

As this particular Half Term approached I had already decided to cut back a bit on ‘blog hours’, join a couple less linkies, and thereby give myself a bit of a chance at crowbarring in a few different forms of entertainment and relaxation (I’ve so far managed another couple of chapters of my book and the first three episodes of a gripping BBC thriller/drama almost back to back!). But since the beginnings of my blogging journey I have become aware that when I have trouble finding the time and headspace to blog I am left feeling decidedly flat. When you don’t post a new entry for a few days it is sooo noticeable, it almost feels lonely, like an animated conversation has suddenly dried up and you’ve been left alone in a vast empty room. I guess this is why blogging is so addictive.

Yes, since the beginnings of parenthood, my working life has changed and my attitude has adjusted. Blogging has certainly added to the mix! Maybe towards the middle or maybe not til close to the end of this story, will those attitudes slowly revert as life gradually re-aligns itself with ‘normality’.

Linking up to this week’s theme game from The Reading Residence and Red Peffer with this week’s theme of ‘Beginnings’.

 

The Reading Residence

Childhood

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What does childhood mean to me?
Sandpits, mud pies, dandilion clocks,
A time which is stress and worry free
Teddy bear’s picnics and party frocks
and getting over the chicken pox

Endless summers on the beach
or games of tag at the local park
love and loss far out of reach
Imagination easily sparked
everything colourful, nothing stark

Party games like musical chairs
skipping and hopscotch and nursery rhymes
winning a goldfish at the local fair
ducks to feed and trees to climb
the world turning slowly, a magical time.

This poem was inspired by this week’s theme for The Theme Game as proposed by Jocelyn at The Reading Residence and Iona at Red Peffer.

The Reading Residence
Prose for Thought

Mindful Saturday…

This Saturday the hubster was working so I took the munchkins over to my mum and dad’s for the weekend. I have to admit that normally, when we go over there I have been guilty of taking the opportunity to pop into town unencumbered by either of them to mooch about a bit and buy the odd birthday pressie or other necessity. This is normally while EJ is napping and therefore I tend to miss out on spending quality time with JJ. He adores his Grandma and she is fabulous with him, patiently playing games and letting him help her with the dinner preparations whether I’m there or not. However this week, for whatever reason, I decided not to go out. I had taken a couple of things over which I thought JJ might enjoy – an Usborne Appletree Farm ABCs sticker book and this  pack of colour and create headresses:

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which came as part of a lovely pack of stationary, cards and wrapping paper which I won in the month of March for writing four posts on four different themes, my favourite of which is probably this one for The Theme Game devised and administered by Jocelyn of The Reading Residence and Iona of Red Peffer (great fun!).

We never really touched on the stickering this weekend but JJ was well up for the colouring in and he definitely wanted me to help him (read – do most of the work!).

Strangely enough I actually quite enjoyed this activity. It turns out colouring is really quite therapeutic! JJ spent most of the task looking over at Grandma (who was enjoying a well deserved sit down with a cup of tea and a magazine) and trying to recruit her to the task!

Finally we finished the mammoth colouring task and I popped the head-dress out and glued the crown together. This is the end result:

As my Dad pointed out this is possibly a bit at the Elton John end of the spectrum, but I think you can pretty much tell from the look on his face how happy he was about this entire project!

I pretty much spent all day giving both boys as much attention as I could, attempting to cut down on my phone blogging and resisting the draw to pick up my book or Kindle Fire. I don’t really know if this made their behaviour better (it was pretty good) but it made me feel more on top of things – I was trying to pre-empt their needs and give them lots of positive attention all the way up to bedtime and I think that mindfulness paid off one way or the other. Happy children: happy mummy = magic ordinary moments ❤


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My family

If there is one place I know I can always go and be myself, amongst like-minded people who will never judge me, will always have my back, but who aren’t afraid to criticise, its my mum and dad’s house. Take the past weekend – myself and the boys stayed the night Saturday and my sister, brother in law and nieces came over to join us for a Sunday roast the following day. It was Mother’s Day and it had also been my brother in law’s birthday during the week so there were extra reasons to be cheerful and celebrate.

It has been a tradition that, ever since my sister had her first baby, I have included her in my Mother’s Day celebrations, usually buying her flowers and a card. When your children are very little it seems unlikely that they themselves will make a fuss over you, but you are still a mother after all, so unless you have one of those superdad/super-husbands it helps to have a sister! This year she bought me a card and a lovely Body Shop set and I was also lucky enough to get handmade cards from both my boys which they created themselves at nursery/pre-school. It is also lovely to make Mum, mother-in law and sister smile with the pretty flowers, cards and more importantly thanks and heartfelt appreciation for all they do for us.

I love the time we all spend together on Sundays, being able to share the highs and lows of our separate lives, seeing the children having fun together (despite the ten year age gap between cousins!), hearing my niece Carmen booking us all in for The Lion King in five years time when she will be 20 (!!) (she loves a musical!) everyone chattering away as we all reach across the table, swapping the sprouts for the carrots, the mustard or the horse radish. There is irreverance and silliness, music and heart to hearts over the washing up. Occasionally we are treated to an impromptu guitar solo from niece the younger, or a song from the elder, accompanied by her flourishing talents on the ukelele (!).

We share music, book and film recommendations, DVD box sets, and my dad has even ordered himself a camera like mine as I really sold it to him apparently (although he’s managed to get his for £80 cheaper – grump!)

Hopefully we will all manage to have a family holiday together this summer in Devon. My mum has now booked accomodation for early August. The last time we did this was 2012 when EJ was just five weeks old!

Yes it is fair to say there is never a dull moment, time always flies by far too quicky when we’re all together and sometimes I wish we could all club together and buy a huge house where we could share more than just the occasional Sunday. Until that day I just want them all to know how much they mean to me.

The Reading Residence
#AllAboutYou Link & Pin Party Mama and More

Childhood pets

Seal-point Siamese kitten

This week’s Theme Game is on the topic of ‘animals’ and those who know me well know that I’m not much into the non-humans but that wasn’t always the case…

When I was about 11 my parents decided to get a family pet. It turns out that there was only ever going to be one type of animal for our family given our feline surname and off we went to the breeder of pedigree cats in Catford (I know, you couldn’t make it up, right?!) to pick up our adorable little Siamese Seal point kitten, Ginny (named after my Mum’s grandma who I never met).

It seems absurdly quickly that the folks were whipping the poor girl off to the stud (I think they had it in mind to make some money themselves from the breeding process) and, hey presto, one very pregnant pusscat was suddenly waddling around the house, looking for places to nest and prepare for the birth of her own kittens.

One morning before school, we found her giving birth under the kitchen table, making some unearthly noises. We relocated her somewhere more appropriate and she went on to give birth to four little kittens that day, one of which didn’t survive. The other three very soon made their personalities known. The two girls were named Flora (the Explorer) and Fauna, and the boy was (Timid) Timmy. They were the cutest little darlings, and gave us many hours of entertainment with their antics which included scaling the living room curtains (spider-cat, spider-cat…) and equally scaling my poor Nana’s dressing gown (with her in it!). Timmy also bonded with my dad (outnumbered by girls 6-3 if you include my grandfather), and loved to jump up on his shoulders while he ate his breakfast like some sort of fur stole which would occasionally spring to life by trying to nick a spoonful of Shredded Wheat before it reached his mouth. He also loved it when I would share a packet of Hula Hoops with him after school.

Of course my parents never got around to selling any of them on – my sister and I begged them not to!

From the beginning I knew that my favourite of the kittens was Flora – she was so intrepid, such a character and she had the most amazing 90 degree kink to the end of her tail. Sadly, her little life was cut short at the age of about 16 months when she ventured out onto the main road and got hit by a car. This was a true life lesson in grief for me. When my Nana broke the news to us as we returned from school, I’ll never forget the anguish. I locked myself in the bathroom for what seemed like hours and wept.

Fauna was the one who was the least interesting, personality-wise – the most like a bog-standard mog. She was abnormally chubby for a slinky Siamese (workmen used to shout “when are the kitten’s due?”) and she tended to annoy her own family by coming along and sitting on their heads (the most comfortable spot apparently!) or eating their food. Ironically she went on to outlive them all, making it to the ripe old age of about 17 or 18 if I remember rightly.

I’ve never had a pet since and the very thought of it sends shivers down my spine – The mess! The expense! The responsibility! Sometimes I feel guilty that my children are growing up without being given the opportunity to bond with a little furry being, but the hubster hates cats and I am certainly no big fan of dogs. I was always scared of dogs – and to this day I’m still nervous of big dogs or those breeds with a bad reputation. JJ is also very nervous around dogs. On the other hand I’m really quite happy to be pet free and there is always time later in the kids’ childhood for them to express an interest of their own. For now I get my fix from visiting my sister’s household where her two Tonkinese, Suky and Beany, bring the love!

 

The Reading Residence

And it was all yellow…

This week’s Theme Game theme from Jocelyn and Iona is “Yellow”.

In pondering the colour yellow I happened upon a few descriptions of what the colour symbolises. It is interesting to note that the colour yellow in heraldry used to symbolise honour and courage and yet nowadays its more likely to be used as a descriptive for cowardice.

Bright yellow is almost always cheerful, symbolising joy and happiness but can also be considered frivolous (you don’t see men dressed in bright yellow business suits or driving bright yellow BMWs)…
And then there are the daffodils… Spring!

Actually my first thought when I saw that this week’s theme was ‘yellow’ (and given the fact that this is a parenting blog) was that when I was first pregnant with JJ I went on to the Baby Centre website (as you do) to see what it was all about and did a bit of forum lurking. Not only did I notice the plethora of unneccessary acronyms (see this recent post by one of my favourite radical parenting bloggers Renegade Mothering) but that quite a lot of people had some quite cutesy message signatures including announcing whether they were ‘Team Blue’, ‘Team Pink’ or ‘Team Yellow’. I’m not quite sure how yellow (and not green/purple etc.) came to symbolise unknown gender in this context but either way it seemed to me a funny way of looking at the situation. I chose to find out the gender of both my babies at the 20 week scans – I could never have batted for Team Yellow. On the other hand I am no great fan of the blue/pink divide either and I bought lots of neutral colours for my baby’s bed and accessories anyway.

For want of anything more insightful to say on the subject I’ve knocked up a quick poem – please excuse the quality – its been years since I tried my hand at this!

Yellow

Yellow is a ray of sunshine
Yellow is a fireman’s hat
Yellow is a stretch of golden sand
Or a smiley face like that 🙂

Yellow is a saffron curry
Yellow is a tart citroen
Yellow is a ripe banana
or a sponge with custard on

Yellow pages give you answers
Yellow jewellery gives you bling
Rubber duckies join you in the bath
Daffodils herald spring

A meadowful of dandilions and buttercups
Fireworks as they explode
And no journey of discovery would be complete
without the help of a Yellow Brick Road.

And just to completely give you the full on yellow sensation overload here are some of the predominantly yellow pics I’ve posted on my blog up to this date!:

The Reading Residence

The Theme Game: White

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What ‘white’ means to me:

Snow: I first went skiing when I was a tween and, whilst I wasn’t too sure about it initially, once I’d got into the swing of it I began to love it. I was extremely fortunate to be taken on several skiing holidays to Italy , France, Switzerland and Austria by my parents, went on two school skiing trips and a couple as an adult with friends to Andorra.

Nowadays there is very little chance of seeing a snow-topped peak or a chocolate box Alpine village, but I’m hoping that when the kids are a bit older we might get the chance to introduce them to the joys of hurtling down a slick white mountain on a couple of metal planks – so exhilarating!

White Noise: I never really thought about this until I had a newborn. Its not until you’ve been for a long drive, introduced a dummy, played/sung hours of lullabies, and swung 12 lb of baby and car seat until your arm dropped off (almost) that you would actually consider sitting your child in front of the spin cycle or tuning the radio in to static fuzz. Anything’s worth a try right?

White Lies: We tell them to our children all the time: Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Monsters Under The Bed (OK, not that last one!). Is it OK? Some say no, your children will grow up to feel betrayed or worse, they will think its OK to lie. I think the main point here is the adjective ‘white’ is there for a reason – the intent is good, the intent is to create magic, or instil some sort of discipline, or assuage a fear. The ends justify the means.

The colour of my skin: At the age of 21 in my first year at Sussex University I met one of my lifelong best friends who just happens to be a black American. Through getting to know her I found myself one evening attending and ACS (African and Caribbean Society) cultural event and this may have been the first and last time that I have been so aware of being in a racial minority. Whilst there wasn’t any fear or worry in the situation (we were all educated, or wannabe educated young people after all) it gave me the briefest glimpse into that feeling that those of other races must sometimes experience when their whole lives are played out as an ‘ethnic minority’. It’s a sad indictiment on society that despite reaching an era in which a black man can become the president of the USA, in some ways racism is as rife as ever. The best every one of us can do as a a parent is to bring our children up to be ‘colour blind’.

Linking up to Week One of February’s Theme Game over at The Reading Residence and Red Peffer

 

The Reading Residence

New brother!

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Looking at the photo above I’m reminded of the day when JJ went from being an only child (at almost three years of age) to a big brother. He seemed to take it in his stride and never seemed jealous or tried to hurt EJ, and yet at the same time his behaviour went completely haywire – he became an extremely fussy eater, had some horrendous tantrums and began pushing the boundaries further and further.

Fortunately things settled down in the end and now, 18 months later, they play together, JJ refers to EJ as his best friend and delights in being the first to wake his brother and say Good Morning EJ!

When you have a newborn second child and find your family once again renewed  its so difficult to project into the future and imagine what kind of bond and relationship your children will have with one another. And now, even though EJ is not a new baby any more, the situation is still new and renewing all the time as these two little boys discover and inspire each other’s developing personalities.

This post is inspired by The Theme Game week 3 on the topic “New” as developed by The Reading Residence and Red Peffer.

The Reading Residence