Monday, 16 November 2015

Keeping It Real

I do have a rather annoying habit of looking through Facebook and jumping on bandwagons. Someone is cutting up sandwiches into rockets with stars, planets and asteroids flying about the lunchbox, panic sets in, I need to be doing this! I am failing in my duties as a mother by providing my boys with a boring old tuna sarnie cut into rectangles. How dare I shelter them from a life filled with more exciting ways of cutting bread. Kids at school will laugh at them if they don't have a lunch box worthy of a Nobel prize for innovation.

I scroll through my newsfeed and I read shared news articles about how mothers who use their phones too much are psychologically damaging their kids because they are unavailable for eye contact and connection at every possible minute of the day. Shit, that is me. They are talking about me. Call me paranoid but they must know that I can't go longer than 10 minutes without checking my phone to see what all the more connected families are getting up too. Baking cakes, making puppets out of old socks, creating tornados in jars and generally not sitting on the couch, phone in hand while their kids tear each other apart due to the lack of continuous social interaction from their mother.

These are just a few examples. There are many, many more. Yes I am being a little dramatic and a bit tongue in cheek but it is quite a lot of pressure when the world of Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest can make you feel inadequate.

A dear friend of mine has posted a few beautiful family pictures on Facebook recently and alongside the photos, which on their own, could risk making a person feel inferior in the Pinterest Mummy stakes, she refreshingly wrote 'what the picture doesn't tell you is...' followed by a description of how I could imagine a cutting and sticking activity would play out in my own house alongside the hashtag #realparenting.

I've seen a lot of judginess on Facebook recently alongside quite a bit of unashamed bragging! What my friend wrote was a glimpse into the reality of life with kids and I found myself relating to the fact that the pictures that we post not only give others the (sometimes false) impression that our lives are rosy but also set extremely high and unachievable expectations for parents. Don't get me wrong, I partake in this 'let me show you how good I was today' photo posting as much as the next mum and what people post is their business, no judgement intended from here. What I do think is more concerning is what we or possibly just me, reads into that. It probably says more about my insecurities about my abilities as a parent than it does about what the intentions are of the person sharing their rocket sandwiches.

So I thought I'd share a few of our photo moments recently and shine the torchlight of reality on what was really going on behind the lens.

The 'They Just Love Each Other' shot - yeah they do BUT they will also step on tiny baby bunnies to be first in the sheet for a swing. The tears and snotters which preceded this picture was really something.

Yep, I take my kids to the park and just look at them. They love the chute, they adore the swings and you should see their little delighted faces as they are pushed round and round on the roundabout. Leaving is not fun. Leaving the park is the moment I dread from the moment I enter through those colourful gates of doom. I just know what's ahead of me. "5 minute warning darling, we are going to get John from school" I'm preparing him for the inevitable departure. "Time to go Jamie, lets go have fun in the playground!" NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Followed by dropping to the ground and grasping his little tiny fingers around the metal bannister of the stairs in a vice like grip. Removing him physically from the park is like removing a member of Greenpeace from a sit in. It's not pretty. It's always loud and there's usually a 'head shaker' from the school walking past at the time.

As a teacher as well as a mother, I often feel a heightened sense of pressure when it comes to the education aspects of parenting. Before JC started school in August I had daydreams about sitting at the kitchen table with my son, bonding over homework. rejoicing over the completing the word wall and laughing about the antics of Floppy and Kipper. Oh, My, Days. It's been nothing like that. It has been the hardest hour of the day since he started school in August. "It's boring!!" he screams "I'm not doing it!" he protests. "Yes you are, sit on your butt! I shout back. Why am I shouting? Why isn't bribery working? Why is this so bloody hard? I had to do something. I had to make an effort. I turned to my friend that is Pinterest and I searched for fun and active ways to teach sight words. The photos look great! Words on balloons, treasure hunts for key words, making words out of playdoh, writing them in shaving foam, creating a words car park for him to park his toy cars in. All of these are great and stimulating for a little livewire like JC but behind the photos, it's still a hard time of night, there are nights I can't be bothered being a teacher, I just want to be a mum.

Mutley Snaps
We recently had a photoshoot with a friend of mine who takes amazing photos of animals (Mutley Snaps). Ewan doesn't normally work with humans but thankfully made an exception for me. He had the privilege of seeing first hand the level of craziness that goes on behind great photos. My boys (in my very biased opinion) are very photogenic and beautiful but getting them to stay still long enough, look in the right direction and to make it through a photoshoot without tears is a real challenge. During the hour photo shoot, Jamie managed to fall into THE biggest mud puddle he could find. He was determined to run everywhere and was tantruming, refusing to hold hands when he took off, running like a mini Wallace towards his freedom. As we turned the corner,we found him.   He was lying, face first, flat out, in the mud. This wouldn't have bothered me if he was happy about it. He cried and cried and wailed and cried until I couldn't take it anymore. We had to abandon the walk and make our way back to the car for a clothes change. As it happens, I absolutely love the photos and you would never know by looking at these adorable snaps what sort of carnage had gone on behind the scenes.

Being a parent is tough. The photos tell you nothing about the heartaches, tantrums and failures but it's not all bad. We have a hell of a lot of fun, even when it doesn't go to plan and I wouldn't change our crazy little rockets for the world. I do think it is important to keep it real though and realise that if I'm finding that it is rather crazy behind the lens, I'm sure I'm not alone.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Letting Go

It's been about 7 months since I wrote my last blog post. I had got to the point where closing down the blog seemed to be the right thing to do. After much deliberation I have decided to stick with it but the plan is to refresh the look and revamp the writing. Letting go of the past is something I have been working on for the last 2 years. When I started this blog 5 years ago I started it because I wasn't happy. I needed to feel connected and it felt easier to connect to people online who were feeling the same as me. I recently decided to end my counselling sessions as I felt I had learned so much about myself and where I was going that I needed time to consolidate it all in the context of my life. I'm happy to report that I am doing fine. The need to blog lessened as the contentment grew until it got to the point that I really felt I had nothing to say but was enjoying being in my life rather than reporting on it. I've been glad of the break but I have missed the writing. So there will be changes happening over the next few months but I am excited to be back.

There is another aspect of change and letting go that I haven't discussed.

Our little Grumpinator started school. I can't quite believe it. The night before his first day I lingered a little longer at bedtime, stroking his head, kissing his cheeks and thinking with a heavy heart that I wish I'd embraced the early years more. I wish I had enjoyed him more as a baby. I wish I hadn't been in such a rush to see him meet his milestones. It's bittersweet of course because I am extremely proud of the young boy he has become and I am excited for him embarking on this next challenging stage of life.

As I dressed him in the morning before school the lump in my throat was almost visible. I held it together because I felt his anxiety and didn't want to add to it. A thousand thoughts travelled through my head that morning. Will he have friends? Will he know where the toilets are? Who will remind him to flush the toilet? How will he sit still for longer than 5 minutes? Will he drink the milk? Who will comfort him if he is sad or hurts himself? Will the teacher understand his little idiosyncrasies? Will he be polite and remember his manners? A thousand thoughts but the main one was really more about me than him. How will I manage when I miss him?

His loud screeching voice echoing through the house (usually when Jamie is napping) will become silent. The endless lego sets which are strewn across the floor will remain tidied away in their boxes. The fridge will no longer be raided and half empty by lunchtime. So many changes at home now that he is gone for six hours a day. Left in his place is JBoy who is moving into his next stage from baby to toddler. I'm sure he will keep me busy but at the moment the house is emptier and the conversation is only really centered around Fireman Sam and Octonauts.

Nevertheless, I have to let go. I have to let him become who he is going to be and accept that this stage is a beautiful one. Where the roots that we have sewn push through the surface and begin to grow. Where we catch a glimpse of that greenery of life beginning and marvel at its growth. It is the first of many growth stages. The first of many silent tears and lumps in throat and the first of many moments of pride for my baby who is now my boy.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

365 Happy Days 6,7,8/52

I think the exhaustion of being ill just took over me the past fortnight when I went back to work. I didn't post my 365 photos or link up. So apologies but you are getting a 3 week run down! 3 more days will see an end to my first year in photos. I started my 100 happy days project a year ago and then extended it after the first 100 days to 365. I didn't think I would ever see it through. Possibly the fact that I didn't put any rules and regulations on myself has helped. I post to Instagram as it is easier and I settle for phone photos most of the time. As long as I take photos every day I am doing fine and when I get time to post I play catch up.

Here are my past 3 weeks...

Week 6

February 2nd
A photo posted by @grumpinator on

February 3rd

February 4th

February 5th

February 6th

February 7th 

February 8th

Week 7

February 9th

February 10th
A photo posted by @grumpinator on

February 11th

February 12th

February 13th

February 14th

February 15th

Week 8 

February 16th
A photo posted by @grumpinator on

February 17th

February 18th
A photo posted by @grumpinator on

February 19th

February 20th

February 21st
A video posted by @grumpinator on

February 22nd 
A photo posted by @grumpinator on

I'm linking up with The Boy and Me
TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Friday, 6 February 2015

Are You Ready for Unexpected Guests?

My Shiny Sink

I am no domestic goddess. It is a well known fact that I have struggled over the years with my lack of care and attention to housework. The thing is, there are 2 breeds of people. Ones who are organised and  great at running a house. They naturally run a well oiled machine of a household. Everything has a place and everything is in it's place. Then there is my breed. I am the type of person who can be sitting on an average Tuesday and see a relative coming to the door uninvited and feel the blood draining from me. You see I'm not comfortable with my lack of cleaning prowess. I want to have a drop in friendly home it's just that it's not my nature to think about cleaning and tidying in a planned way. I am a creative, free spirited person who is often out and about and using my home as a crash pad between adventures.

As I see that uninvited guest approaching or as I get the phone call to say I'll be round in 5 minutes, I find myself scrambling to hide dishes in the oven and ironing in car. Since becoming a mum 4 years ago, I knew things had to change. I couldn't continue my hide my mess lifestyle like a shameful overeater who eats in the wardrobe then hides sweetie wrappers in their knicker drawer (ahem, I mean, who does that?)

Last year I read a blog article by a woman who calls herself FLY Lady. I liked her ideas around creating schedules and thought that this was someone I could relate to. I got a bit sidetracked and ended up forgetting about the website. Over Christmas this year I started reading again and I now find myself transformed and amazed but how easy it can be. I thought I would share with you some of the little changes I have made in the past 4 weeks which led me to the wow moment today. I opened my door at 9am on my day off to an unexpected health visitor who had come to my house to give my youngest son a visual assessment. I hadn't followed my morning routine to the letter as Fridays are our lazy days but my house was clean and tidy enough for me to open my door in my dressing gown to a complete stranger and invite them in. I didn't have to hide anything and I wasn't embarrassed. What a feeling!

It is the key for me to have a set routine. A time to do things in a day rather than firefighting every corner of the house or dedicating full days to catch up cleaning. Fly lady suggests that you have a morning and evening routine. There are certain things she insists you include but the rest of the routine is decided by you. What I find is that by going through these routines, my kitchen, livingroom, dining area and bathrooms are always tidy and clean. My washing and ironing is kept up to date and I am (excluding Fridays) dressed and ready to start the day. The main take home message is to do as much as you can the night before to prepare for the next day.
Here is my evening routine . . .

  • Clean up dinner dishes straight after dinner
  • Kitchen - Shine my sink, clean surfaces, put out a fresh dish towel for tomorrow, switch on dishwasher, dash round the livingroom with the hoover (we have a dog and 2 boys so daily hoovering is a must for us.)
  • If Steven is home one of us will bath the boys and give the bathroom upstairs a Swish and Swipe round after the boys are out then collect the washing from upstairs and bring it downstairs. The other is doing the pick up and put away anything lying around the livingroom, dining room, conservatory, 
  • Clear any hotspots (bottom of our stairs, dining table)
  • Put a load of washing on (set the timer to come on so the washing is finished for getting up in the morning). Take washing off the screens or from the dryer and iron if needed (I practice not ironing if I don't think it really needs it)
Tomorrow, Tomorrow . . .
  • Check the diary for tomorrow, write a to do list for tomorrow, make tomorrows lunch. 
  • Layout clothes, bag, shoes and keys for tomorrow. Think about tomorrow's dinner (do I need to get anything from the shop or take anything out of the freezer?)
  • I like to have my shower at night as it's hard to fit this in with the boys in the morning. 
  • Have some chill out/downtime then get an early night (in bed no later than 10.30pm)
This takes me about an hour at a leisurely pace to complete this but I go to bed knowing that my house is ready for tomorrow and so am I. My morning routine is shorter as I am organised from the night before. 

My Morning Routine

  • Get up before the kids (this isn't always possible but I try and get up at least 15 mins before them) 
  • Make bed, this usually means with the dog still in it!
  • Go to the bathroom downstairs, get washed, brush teeth, fix hair and make up, give the bathroom a Swish and Swipe, check towels and replace with fresh towel if needed. 
  • Get dressed, put shoes on. 
  • Fetch washing from the machine, hang it up.
  • Empty dishwasher (while the kettle is boiling for my morning cuppa)
  • Feed the dog, Sort my breakfast and cup of tea. 
  • Get the boys up and let the chaos begin.
From here on the house will become messy with toys and I don't get hung up on that. I am a mother first and always before a housewife. Mess from toys is fine in my book. I know that underneath the toys my house is clean and a 15 mins pick up and put away will clear my floor from the toys madness that my 2 boys create. When/if I get time in a day I set my alarm for 15 mins and tackle a cupboard/drawer to declutter in the current zone I am working on. Over the course of the month the zones rotate around. So it is a little and often approach to decluttering. I have completely decluttered my livingroom and hall as these areas were pretty uncluttered anyway. My next mission is my kitchen and that is going to take more time. I am confident that even if I could squeeze in 15mins, 3 or 4 times a week I could still make a huge difference over time. 

At the weekend I give my house a 1 Hour Blessing where I properly clean my bathrooms, give a big hoover round, clean the floors, dust all rooms, polish my glass doors (although I don't know why I even bother) and change the sheets in the bedrooms. 

I am trying to build in routines to my week like always cleaning out my car on a Friday afternoon when I come back from Nursery and cleaning my fridge on a Thursday when I get my food delivery. I like that you can take baby steps and you can just start where you are. You don't need to over think it too much. 

There is much more than this on The FLY Lady website. I am only getting started. If you are interested in finding out more about Shining you sink, Dressing to your shoes, Swishing and Swiping and House Blessing then check out the links. I can honestly say it is making a huge difference to my wellbeing. I have been off sick from work for 2 weeks and even through illness I have managed to keep on top of things with my hubby following the routines when I was really unwell. I am now on the mend thankfully and looking forward to keeping up the Fly Lady Lifestyle. 

Keep me posted if you try out anything or have any further tips. 

Thanks for stopping by!
This is not a sponsored post. I am writing about this from personal experience and have not been paid for my endorsement of Fly Lady.   

Sunday, 1 February 2015

365 Happy Days 5/52

I'd love to tell you that it has been a better week but it hasn't. I've been off work ill all weekand I still don't feel much better. I am not going to dwell on it or moan so lets move on. I have struggled with my lack of phone this week (it's still away getting fixed from it's plummet to the bottom of the toilet U-bend). Instagram doesn't work great on the old brick phone and that is how I prefer to share my 365 photos. I took some nice photos on my camera but Instagram doesn't seem to like them and kept kicking me out. So I apologise in advance for the grainy images below and the fact that the photos are all in my house/of the kids but we were housebound all week so it has been very samey!

January 26th

January 27th 

January 28th

(Please ignore the stickers on the furniture, we are waiting on a part coming so it still has the tape on and we are waiting to get trunking fitted to hide all unsightly cables!)

January 29th

Instagram hates me and missed off my description for this photo. I haven't left the house this week to go shopping but my Hello Fresh box was my saviour. Lets be honest, ill or not, if I'm not cooking, nobody is eating! This is Hoisin Pork and Rice. It looked lovely, just wish I could've swallowed it!

A photo posted by @grumpinator on

January 30th 
A photo posted by @grumpinator on

January 31st

A photo posted by @grumpinator on

February 1st

Here are some of the photos I wanted to use but Instagram was being a pain . . .

Here is a wee treat for you . . .

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Sunday, 25 January 2015

365 Happy Day 4/52

I am sitting typing this whilst tucked up in bed with a Lemsip and feeling extremely sorry for myself. It feels like we haven't had a week without illness since October. I have been soldiering on, nursing the boys and trying my best to slap a smile on it but to be honest it is starting to take it's toll. I started to feel fluey and was suffering with a sore throat last night. I've been in bed all day trying to recover whilst hubby and my mother in law nurse the boys; Jamie has diarrhoea and John has a viral infection. There was little in the way of happiness today but tomorrow is another day, onwards and upwards.

Here is my round up of the week

January 19th 

A photo posted by @grumpinator on

January 20th 

A photo posted by @grumpinator on

January 21st

A photo posted by @grumpinator on

January 22nd

A photo posted by @grumpinator on

January 23rd

January 24th

January 25th
My favourite photo of the week . . . 

January 26th

A photo posted by @grumpinator on

I hope I have much more healthy photos to share with you all next week. I'm off to finish my Lemsip and hope for a good nights sleep. 

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky

Sunday, 18 January 2015

365 Happy Days 3/52

At the start of the week I was sure that the universe was conspiring against my 365 project when my mobile phone (which is the most convenient way I find to take photos daily) was dropped down the toilet and went to mobile phone heaven. However, I managed a few grainy photos on the old Nokia I am using while my phone gets fixed and it inspired me to take the DSLR out when I probably would've just opted for the camera phone. Here is the run down of the week ...
January 12th 

January 13th 

January 14th 
A photo posted by @grumpinator on
January 15th
A photo posted by @grumpinator on
January 16th 
January 17th 
A photo posted by @grumpinator on
January 18th

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky