When babies become big boys

This week Arthur moved up into Rainbow Room at nursery. – an insignificant little move next door, barely a stride past his old room.

But it made my heart break just a little bit. It didn’t happen when he moved from the baby room to the toddler one, but this feels bigger. Like he’s really becoming a little boy and there’s nothing I can do about it. He’s been at nursery since he was a year and really loves it – there’s honestly never been a day when he’s been sad or I have to go and pick him up (unless he’s ill of course).

I’m so thankful for this because it does make life easier and I don’t know what I would have done about work if he hadn’t been happy. But when I dropped him off in his new room and he peered in and saw all the ‘big’ boys and girls there was a moment when he clung to my hand for a little longer and had a little look of uncertainty in his eyes. I took him in and handed him over but for a moment I wanted to pick him up and take him home – or even just back to his old room.

By the end of the day he’d made googly-eyed Easter chicks, chocolate bird’s nests and had a thoroughly lovely time. He chatted about his day and mentioned a few new names I’d not heard before. It’s my issue and I really don’t want to be one of those mother’s who smothers their child and stops them doing things for their own benefit.

I guess it made me think they’ll be loads of moments like this through our journey together. Times when I just want to do things for him, wrap him in cotton wool and keep him safe. Kids can be brutal and I’m sure they’ll be times when I have to resist the urge to go into school and reprimand some little tike for upsetting my boy. It’s that dichotomy of wanting to mother them and knowing you have to gradually let them go – not totally, just enough to know they can.

I read a very interesting article recently – ‘Please don’t help me child’ it talked about how as a mother, she often leaves her child to make it to the top of the slide on their own, doesn’t always pick them up when they fall and sometimes leaves them to cry with frustration when they’re trying to work something out. Some of the parents who watched this tutted and even went to help her child.

She talked about how she fights her maternal urge to run over and do the task in question, to ‘make it better’. She does this because in life you have to stand alone sometimes, achieve things for yourself and not rely on others. It promotes independence, confidence in your own ability.

When I dropped Arthur off in Rainbow room he was fine, I knew he would be and in the scheme of things it’s not particularly massive but it made me realise how easy it is try to make everything ok and is this really the best thing to do.

I might wait until he’s three and a big boy before I decide.

Mothers pay a high price in the economic war for votes.

When I get up in the morning and go to work I don’t make a mental note to thank Emily Pankhurst. I’m usually too busy picking bits of drying porridge off my top and drinking cold coffee. But thanks Em – you rock.

This week we’ve been swamped in budget news and, for me, the provision of tax relief on childcare. David Cameron has given a nod to working mothers and it will be welcome, when it eventually comes in in 2015. This news, however, raised a far more interesting question for me.

Have we, in our aim to be all things to all man, ended up pitting woman against woman? Would Emily be turning in her grave as our labels of ‘working mum’ vs ‘stay-at-home-mum’, become the very weapons with which we fight? Anyone who tuned in to hear Nick Clegg mauled by ex-barrister, Laura Perrins , who made the decision to be a stay-at-home mum, will have been all to aware of her outrage.

Outrage that a working mum will be getting a tax break to which she feels she should be entitled. Her anger, which was rational and understandable, could easily spill over into a sense of them versus us. When our backs are against the wall it is human nature to defend and attack. We’re all shoring up an ailing economy, closing ranks and protecting our own. If any of you remember the famous blue eyes brown eyes experiment, you’ll know how easy it is to do.

She was angry with the Government’s decision not the working woman, just as many have been angry with our immigration policy – not the immigrant. See what I mean? Others sense that anger, change it, turn it, run with it and our titles become our reality far more than it ever should. The phrase, “I’ve nothing against….but” is ringing in our ears.

It’s a dangerous situation and one that frightens me. I work part-time and for me it works. I work three days and Arthur is in nursery two days with the third spent with his daddy. I wouldn’t want to work anymore and while I love the idea of not working I’m not 100% sure I’m ready to stop – perhaps if baby number two comes along this might change. Do I think I should get a tax break – yes of course I do. I also think mums who don’t go out to work should get economic recognition.

Others I know don’t go out to work they choose, in the words of Laura Perrins , to work from within the home – and without sounding like I’m spouting platitudes, we all know it really is hardwork! I think I’ve come to the conclusion we can’t have it all – but we have a hell of a lot. Our children have a free education, women work without a raised eyebrow or being told it’s for ‘pin’ money. Glass ceilings have been smashed but there’s still some smashing to do.

But what I really want to say is let’s not make this about home versus work but about protecting our choices. Let’s not hold them up as a mirror to the enemy. We are here because we won the war on choice, a precious commodity we should be so proud of. Democracy without emotion is hard because our choices reflect our values but choice is not clean cut or perfectly balanced but it is ours and we should stand together to protect it. Laura for example is a highly intelligent ex-barrister with a husband whose earnings fall into the 40% tax bracket.

She chooses not to work, her choice but very different from a woman working to buy gas and electricity. Is she right to be outraged – absolutely, she’s earned that right – the other woman chose to have children. Laura also said woman who stay at home should be celebrated. I think they should simply be recognised, we have the luxury of choice and no need to celebrate it further, any more than we should celebrate women who work.  And before people tell me we don’t really have choice I would ask you to think about the global picture.

We should be calling for tax breaks for families, with enough common sense to reflect our economic climate. Times are hard, we have to accept that but we mustn’t accept a damaging show-down between working women and those who stay at home.

“I do not agree with what you say but I defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire

Easter bunny battles

This week I’ve been mostly eating air. Monday through to Friday afternoon I steel myself for a breakfast of yogurt, a lunch of nothing much but coffee and dinner which laughs in the face of potatoes.

This diet business drives me crazy but I do have an ulterier motive – less luggage in the trunk when trying for baby number 2. It makes sense but my god, it’s hard work. So walking around the shops in the lead up to Easter has indeed brought me out in a cold sweat. Hundreds of chocolate bunnies and chicks face me at every turn. Their layout like a military assault on my senses, I think I’ve made it but then realise they’ve radioed to their mates who’ve formed a new battle line.

I’ve bought a few eggs already for Arthur and I’m playing some sick game of hide and seek with them. I know where they are, they know I know but I’m not finding them. The need to rid myself of chaffing thighs seems to be winning at the moment. I’ve also bought some new trainers and obviously this means I’ve lost another half a stone, when I get my new jogging bottoms that’ll be another ten pounds off.
 
On a serious note it’s hard, really hard to keep motivated and to stay ahead of the food game so a big shout out to all of you struggling to lose those pounds. I love food, I love cake, and potatoes and cheese and pasta. They make me feel happy and warm and comforted but the time has come to shed my comfort blanket and start getting this somewhat oversized bum in gear – wish me luck!

EASTER

While I’m going to try to be good there is Easter and I will have a day off when I indulge a little. I’ve found some Easter bits in Poundland, lovely little easter bun cases with mini bunting and some pretty hanging eggs.

We’ll definitely be having an Easter egg hunt in the garden and I’ll be baking some Easter goodies with Arthur; hopefully Spring will have sprung and we can  make the most of the long weekend.

Over at Asda HQ they’ve teamed up with Zapper, leaders in augmented reality and will be holding the most amazing virtual Easter egg hunt at 400 of their stores across the country. Get down to one of the stores and you can be part of an in-store Easter Egg Hunt, guided by an augmented reality Easter Bunny powered by Zappar.

The fun will be taking place from 10am – 4.30pm on Saturday 23rd March. Special Easter Egg points will be hidden and when zapped using the Asda app, which you can download for free,, each egg will transform into virtual 3D Easter Eggs revealing an Easter Bunny hidden inside that will display a secret letter. At the end you’ll get a free gift.

If you haven’t got a Smartphone you can still join in as there will be events people on hand with iPads so everyone can enjoy the fun.

You’ll also be able to take home a face mask from stores that when zapped, replaces the wearer’s head with that of the Easter Bunny. This exclusive experience has been made all the more possible with the recent installation of Wi-Fi in all Asda stores.
It’s a bit fo Easter fun for free – worth doing if you’re near a store with the kids.

Jellyegg review and discount code for 15% off

When buying shoes for two-year-olds there are really only two options. Those you pick because they’re sensible and good for his growing little feet and those he picks. Ones with lights, vile colours and materials that last about a week.

So it’s nice to get sent something to review that he’s keen on and something I ‘m pretty happy with too. The children’s crocs from Jellyegg are really cute! Arthur’s are the Crocs Kids Chameleons Alien Clog and quite honestly he loves them. To be fair they’re not really going to be worn much with the weather we’ve been having but last weekend when the sun was shining (blink and you may have missed it), he wore them in the garden and helped me do some digging. They also live up to their name and just like a cameleon they change colour in the sunlight!

Arthur's funky Crocs

Arthur’s funky Crocs

They are robust enough to keep his feet safe and I would say are perfect for beach days and pottering around outside when he doesn’t want ‘proper’ shoes on. They are really hardy and far better than other options like the old jelly shoes. They are also very comfortable – I know this because it took ages for me to persuade Arthur to take them off! They are also easy for him to get on and off which means he doesn’t get frustrated when he wants to get out in the garden quickly. I also found them easy to clean and far more practical that I first thought they’d be.

There’s loads of kids colours and styles to choose from and if you fancy indulging then here’s a discount code so you can bag yourself 15% discount too. Just use WORKIT15 – happy shopping!

I was sent the shoes in return for an honest review

Party season top tips

This month we’re completely in the grip of party season. Arthur and all his little friends seem to have turned two within a couple of weeks of each other and this has meant parties – lots of them.

Sadly we can’t rely on the great British weather to help oil the wheels and free us from a house full of mini hurricanes wreaking havoc – fuelled by cake and crisps. So it’s indoors and to hell with the consequences!

It’s never an easy feat to host a birthday party or any kind of party come to think of it. There are carpets to consider, random food allergies to deal with and then fact you are opening your door to lots of people who don’t live there and who simply won’t understand there’s a reason you keep the potatoes in the downstairs loo – just me?

I’m through the other end after a relatively successful party so here are the things that got me through and my tips for making sure your party is a big hit.

  • Make sure you have a manageable amount of people. Don’t do aspirational party inviting. If you live in a terrace house remember that or you’ll be overrun and unable to enjoy any of it.
  • Give yourself plenty of time – panicked invites and little prep mean you could be left with too much to do.
  • Simple always works best with small children – kids love cakes, bright colours and things to play with. The temptation is to go crazy but remember little people don’t have huge attention spans
  • Have a theme – it makes life so much easier – Arthur had pirates which meant cake idea was sorted, as were decorations, we had pirate dress-up and all the children had a pirate themed party bag
  • Party bags – there’s loads of pressure to produce something amazing but I made it very simple. Yummy cakes, a mini pirate book, and a thank you from Arthur we’d made before hand and printed
  • Make sure you have enough lighting – might sound crazy but the british weather means we’re often left with little natural light and this doesn’t make for a very good party atmosphere. Think about where the action will be and brighten it up with ceiling lights or have a few spotlights on hand. It helps keep the mood bright until you need to do the dramatic ‘dim’ for the cake!
  • Finally the cake – I had Arthur’s made and while it was an extra cost it saved me time and energy and meant I knew it would like like a pirate rather than some dodgy stick man weilding a sword.

These are my reflections and the things I will definitely be thinking about for next year. Oh, hiring somewhere else and letting them do all the hard work – that’s my last tip!

Shelving my plans for a good book

March 7 was World Book Day and it made two things abundantly clear to me. The first is the importance of reading to your children, sparking their imagination and making the words on the pages come to life. The second is far more practical, that my insatiable urge to buy more and more books means I will soon be lost under an avalanche of paperbacks unless I address my lack of storage soon!

I’ve always wanted a library room, ceiling to floor wooden shelves filled with all my cherished books. But when you live in a city terrace house this is about as likely as me giving up the real thing and heading to the dark side with a Kindle – I know they’re great and it’s my issue.

I’ve been looking at my options and there are lots out there from funky plastic coloured shelves to a traditional book case in wood – more my style I think.

My own mini library

My own mini library

I want them to be sturdy and child-friendly as far as possible while looking stylish and classic. John Lewis really do hit the mark with some great options for our sitting room and Arthur’s room – it seems his collection is growing at an equally alarming rate.  This one on the left also means I get to indulge in my library fantasy. You can also get an L-shaped one which also sent shivers of excitement down my spine! I’m just glad the only books Jonathan reads are gadget-related manuals!

Perfet for Arthur's room

Perfect for Arthur’s room

They’ve also got some more modern options in plastics and practical options with cupboard and shelve combos so you can store stuff you don’t really want to be seen and close the doors on it.

So while others may be looking for a new outfit or buying some tunes I’ll be spending a very happy few hours on their site, choosing the best bookcases and storage for my precious reads -  and loving every minute of it.

A right old song and dance!

There are very few if us who haven’t accidentally on purpose ‘lost’ the batteries to a particularly annoying toy or ‘forgotten’ one of those relentless children’s songs cds that have echoed through my nightmares after a particularly repetitive day.

So I was so chuffed when Megson’s new cd dropped through my letter box. ‘When I was a lad…’ is a collection of children’s folk songs and I was keen to see if the world of children’s music ventured beyond pychotic episodes of repetitive glee and animal noises I’d encountered so far.

Megon ticks the box with this cd – it’s actually cool and I loved listening to it with Arthur. But more importantly than that he loved listening to it and we’ve spent several happy saturday mornings baking cakes while wiggling our bottoms to ‘All the shops have fallen down’.

I think it’s a clever mix of interesting songs and lyrics which hold enough repitition and fun to hold a little person’s attention. I love their version of Five Little Ducks and the lyrics in ‘All the Shops..’ really make me giggle and we’re always singing along to ‘ fleas and mites’ and Arthur has a quick check to make sure they’re not in my tights.

It has a sense of history I really love, like families for generations could have been lsitening and yet it’s the freshest children’s music I’ve come across – very clever! A simple mix of great songs, beautiful played and a strong sense of story-telling that really works for us. And because I don’t find it annoying and like to have it playing it means Arthur and I have been able to enjoy it properly, together, without duress. If you’re looking for some new music to enjoy together I would highly recommend this for all ages. Well done Megson, I’m looking forward to the next one.

ohyo collapsabottle – space squashing brilliance!

 Since Arthur’s been born I’ve accumulated a vast array of plastic stuff. Stuff for his bath, stuff to change him on, eat off and most prominently of all – stuff out of which he can drink.
There are so many bottles to choose from, ones with straws, sippy cups, it’s mind-blowing. But one flaw they all have is their size! It’s not easy to store several large bottles, they don’t stack like plates and I’m always taking them apart to make more room.
So I was so pleased to be sent the new Ohyo collapsabottle. It’s utterly ingenious and you know something’s good when you think: “I can’t believe no one’s done that before”.

ohyo collapseabottle

ohyo collapseabottle

The cup comes in blue, pink, white and green and is concertina shaped so basically it folds down into a disc. Perfect for packing away if you’re off on holiday or for storing in the cupboard. This brilliant design doesn’t detract from the usage either, it’s pretty non-spill and Arthur happily took in on a long journey and chucked it on the floor several times without damage.

The cups are BPA-free and carbon neutral so help quell my growing sense of environmental guilt.The colours are plain so I’d happily take it out with me for the day too or to the gym (I’m sure I’ll return one day). It also has a wide neck so it’s really easy to wash up or bung in the dishwasher.

There are so many cups on the market but this hits the spot for me because it addresses storage as well as being easy to use for little hands – I actually think the concertina shape makes it easier for them to grip on to.

For £4.99 they are a brilliant design and definitely worth a look if you’re on the hunt for a new cup for little people.

Spring cleaning my shoes

Its’ that time of year again when I’m still suffering a financial hangover from Christmas but my wardrobe is screaming to be dragged into Spring. I found, once my son came along, and I went back to work, clothes and shoes fell into two distinct categories: Ones I don’t mind getting porridge on and ones I do. It’s a simple equation but it works for me.
I’m really conscious that I don’t want to spend a fortune on outfits but I want to look good, we all do. So my favourite place to drop in for a rummage is New Look. I have always been a huge fan of their shoes and often stock up in summer when you seem to need 100 pairs of pumps, sandals and suitable work shoes. Winter seems a lot easier with a couple of pairs of reliable boots my staple until March comes knocking on my door.
So I thought I’d share a few of my favourite pairs of women’s shoes that I think tick the style, budget and work boxes.
Oh and I love the fact you don’t have to wait for a shop assistant to bring you the other shoe – so much easier when you have a small person in tow or a short lunch hour to get things done.

Love these pumps that I can wear for work and at home – they look great with capri pants and far more expensive than their £29.99 price tag.

bargain flats for work or home

bargain flats for work or home

These sandals just make me smile and I think for £24.99 they will really brighten up my summer dresses

wedges for sunny days ahead

wedges for sunny days ahead

Perfect work shoes, they go with black, navy, cream – everything! Just £19.99 – I bought the peep-toe ones too!

Perfect workday staple

Perfect workday staple

For just £19.99 these gladiator sandals are my favourite weekend shoe – just so easy to wear and make your feet look pretty!

Gladiator appeal

Gladiator appeal

Brogues – so comfortable and look great with trousers for work or at home, nice neutral colour and I can walk for miles with a buggy too! They come in at an incredible £14.99.

Classic style

Classic style

When I buy shoes it cheers me up, partly that’s because it doesn’t matter if you’ve put on weight or just not feeling your best – shoes don’t let you down! New Look’s collections means I can indulge is some summer sandals, classic work shoes or my ever-faithful flats, without breaking the bank – that’s a win in my book.