Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Getting a green workout before the Easter carnage begins !

At the weekend we were hoping for good weather. With the start of the school holidays we didn't want to be stuck indoors with bored children and chores to do, so it was great that the sun made an appearance on Saturday morning and we were able to take the boys to the park for a play.

Playing with shadows
All the boys love football so when they spotted a group of young men having a kick around it captured their attention. At this point they had their backs to the swings, slide, climbing frame and roundabout. Ah the magic of the beautiful game eh ? 

Watching the footie
In a lot of our local parks we are lucky enough to have 'green gyms' provided by the local authority. They offer gym equipment in local parks for community use and my big boy loves them. He asked when we arrived at the park if he could go on the gym machines and we told him he could before we left.

In the early days he was too small for most of the kit, but now as he is much taller he can actually reach the handles.

Ski training
His legs are pretty long too, but they need to grow a little bit more before he will be able to properly use this one.

I just need slightly longer legs
Finally he found this tree trunk and insisted on climbing it. I can't believe how much energy he has, but I'm glad we found a place to run it off. He certainly slept well afterwards.

Tree climbing made easy
I'm not for a minute saying that any of this activity will in any way counteract the sheer gluttony that typifies Easter, but at least we made an effort :) 

This post is being shared as part of the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill.

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Sharing is caring

My funny family 

This morning I had one of those experiences of shared parenting that reminded me how unequal it really can be at times. I came back from my early swim and we had a small window of time for me to get ready then take the boy to pre-school while Hubbie did some attic stuff at home. I got home and Hubbie assured me that the boy was ready to go. I asked if he would make sure that the boy had shoes and a coat on while I did a few things.

So, in the following 20 minutes I:
  • Put the kettle on for a cup of green tea and cracked eggs into a bowl for scrambled egg
  • While the kettle boiled I put out the recycling into three separate bins
  • Hung up my wet swimming kit 
  • Went upstairs to sort out some washing - realised the trousers I was wearing needed a wash 
  • Tried on three different pairs of jeans before deciding on the ones to wear
  • Came back downstairs, put on the washing machine, stirred scrambled egg 
  • Put washing into machine, followed by washing liquid, conditioner and water softener tablet
  • Ate the egg and poured tea into hot mug to take with me as I didn't have time to drink it 
What did the boys get done in this time ?:
  • I asked if the boy had socks on - he did not
I mention this because sometimes however much you want to share parenting it's unequal. Up until now the arrangements for parental leave to care for children has been unequal. When our boy was born I was entitled to a year off work, but Hubbie was only entitled to two weeks. With annual leave he was able to take long weekends to be with us for the first few months, but that was exceptional compared with most of our friends. The leave allowances for families have been pretty unevenly weighed in favour of one partner, usually the mother. I don't even know how this works for same sex couples with families, but I guess one partner would take the full leave allowance and the other would get the same two weeks as my Hubbie had. What it meant was that Hubbie was not there when he wanted to be as his work did not allow for him to spend as much time with our new son as he would have liked.

All that is about to change as parents will now have greater flexibility in how they share the care of their child in the first year after birth. New regulations regarding Shared Parental Leave (SPL) will come into force from April 2015, when parents will have greater choice over how they share time off work to care for their child. Shared Parental Leave allows working couples to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay in a way that suits their work and family needs. This would have meant that me and Hubbie could have shared the leave between us instead of it being only one of us who was allowed to take it. The new regulations mean that parents can take time off together or they can tag team, stopping and starting leave and returning to work in between if they wish. It also applies to adoption leave which is great news. 

Having the option to spend time with your children should not be only given to one parent. Not everyone has the Brad and Angelina option of taking their kids along with them wherever in the world they are working. It also helps that they have the resources to hire a gaggle of nannies and private tutors too. Most of us have to rely on family or childminders and nurseries to support our parenting. We genuinely co-parent and have from the very beginning. We don't have any family nearby and had to do all the work ourselves. These changes will hopefully enable parents to share the time and enjoy that first year when so many exciting things happen in our children's lives.

Marking a milestone with my boy 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Oh you know, mustn't grumble...

I went for my first swim in a week this evening. Having been poorly for so long I've missed it so much even though my hair and skin have enjoyed a break from being doused in chlorine. As a bonus the lovely manicure I had last Wednesday has lasted a week which never happens due to almost daily dips. Even better I had the pool to myself and it was so nice to be able to go at my own pace and not rush while I was able to steadily reintroduce my body to the exercise while supporting my aching muscles.

I'm rubbish at being ill. I don't sit still or go to bed early, or rest. Hubbie tells me to get to bed and sleep to feel better and I just don't. This evening I got in from work and my legs were all wobbly from being hungry, tired and just generally panicking about the state of the house. I haven't cooked properly in a week. The house is a mess. I've been too tired to vacuum the cat hair off the stairs. The washing has been piling up in the laundry basket and I looked at my wardrobe in despair this morning as every item of clothing looked like the cat had slept on it. To be fair he probably has.

It's hardly surprising that I've been knocked out like this really. I've been flat out since this year started. There's been something big going on almost every weekend. Either taking our boy to a kid's party o preparing for and taking part in the danceathon, then the pamper day the other week. Finally all this was behind me and I had a few days to catch up with things at home. The problem with days off is that I fill every waking moment with things to do. A typical day might include an early morning swim, picking up some furniture for the boy's room then coming home to build it. Shopping for the week and putting it all away. Sorting those boxes that have been taking up all the space in the spare room. Preparing dinner, folding the washing and finding time to write.

It's hardly surprising that my body has given in and packed up for a week really. I knew there was something wrong when it took me 4 days to fold a basket of laundry. Then I fell asleep on the sofa before 9 in the evening. I went to bed and woke up feeling like I'd been hit in the face with a large frying pan. Instead of taking a few days off work I carried on going in as I knew there was a lot to do and I even delivered training yesterday and today despite the risk of losing my voice at any moment. And now ?

Well, I'm not going into work for a while now so I hope to get round to sorting out the boxes. To folding the washing. To making a meal from scratch for a change. Maybe even getting out to the garden if the weather is good. More than anything I'm looking forward to my boy being off school so I can spend some time with him. So long as I'm not too tired to do that, that's all that matters.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The one where my boy has a wand lesson

Until last week my boy had never heard of Harry Potter. It's hardly surprising as he's only 4 so he's not quite at the reading level required for the books and he's a bit too young for the films too. His first response was pure joy as we arrived at Warner Bros Studio Tour and he spotted the flying car. We were making our first visit there to see the latest attraction, the Hogwarts Express. We started off in the Great Hall which gave Hubbie an opportunity to do his Harry Potter impersonation.

What is it grown up Harry ?
I think one of my favourite moments was when the boys had a wand lesson. My boy started off then Hubbie grew a bit jealous so he joined him. It was great and they really got the hang of it - as you can see.

Daddy and Son wizard training
Of course we couldn't resist a visit to platform 9 3/4 and me and the boy had a good go at getting this trolley through the wall. This was just a precursor to the main event though...
I'm an old hand at trolley management son
Yes, it's the actual Hogwarts Express. It really is very impressive with the realistic steam and the carriages that appear to have been only just occupied by the students. A lovely touch is the seats were you can have a go at being in a scene from the movie too.
"Oh my goodness is it real ?"
Despite the excitement of seeing the train there was yet more squealing of joy when we spotted the Knight Bus (and that was just Hubbie). My boy asked if we could go home by Knight Bus and we explained that as he isn't a wizard yet it wouldn't be possible this time. He has been telling everyone that Harry Potter sleeps on the bus at night so I know he was paying attention.

"Can we take this bus home Mummy ?"
"It's the flying car !" was yelled so loudly that I swear it was heard all the way back in Croydon and that's some feat as the studio tour is miles away in Watford. We had expected that as this was an after school treat trip he'd fall asleep in the car going home, but he was far too excited. He kept saying, "When I'm a big boy I can watch Harry Potter can't I Mummy and Daddy ?"

Daddy indicating 
Driving with Daddy 
We loved the Warner Bros Studio Tour a lot and considering that only one of us has actually read the books and watched the films it really made an impression on all of us. We'd definitely go again and spend a lot longer visiting and taking in all of the things to see. I haven't even mentioned the Quidditch tutorial, the real life Diagonalley or the fantastic model of Hogwarts at the end.

You can book tickets here: http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk

Disclosure: the lovely folks at Warner Bros Studio Tour invited us to a preview evening to see the Hogwarts Express 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Ooh look, orange nails. So pretty.

In case you were wondering where I've been for a few days, firstly, bless you for noticing. Secondly I'm not really here so please don't treat this as a real post. It's a place holder. I'm poorly sick and as a result far too feak and weeble to type, never mind to finely craft and hone a post for your delectation.

For now please enjoy the gorgeous orange nails my friend Yasmin painted for me this week.

Normal service will resume as soon as I regain the capacity to multi-task *cough* *splutter*

Sunday, 15 March 2015

It's not my job, it's who I am

I went to my boy's school assembly on Fri and it was a special service for Mothering Sunday. There were lovely readings by the children and the nursery class sang the song I've been hearing all week. His tuneful solo rendition was mangled by the 35+ voices of under fives who seemed awestruck in front of an audience of parents. At the end all the mums were presented with daffodils by our children. My boy was delighted that my bunch weren't open yet and so was I as I explained, "that's lovely, they will last longer."

The readings were about the 'job of a mum' with the classic about children demanding a drink, a hug, an answer, etc from Mum and asking Dad, 'where's Mum ?" There was recognition that mums do so much for us and that "a mother's love is blind because she loved you before she met you." I can vouch for this. My love for my boy was forged long before I saw his face. Or held him in my arms. It's not just the act of giving birth that made me his mother though. Yes that's a huge thing. Carrying, growing and birthing a child is a huge thing. It's not the only way to be a mum though. I honestly think that for me being a mum is about how I feel. Of course there's the reality of caring for a child, but many people do this who didn't carry the person they love in exactly the same way a parent loves their offspring. 

Origami flower and a lovely breakfast in bed
The idea that being a mum is my job is one that suggests I do it under duress. Believe me there are days when it feels that way, but it's not true. Parenting was in my bones even before I was old enough to have children. I grew up with a motherly attitude and I always felt it was my responsibility to be in charge and take care of others. Not in a resentful way by any means. More in a needing to know that everyone was looked after way. I'm not really comfortable with others doing things for me though. It's partly a control thing - I know how I want things done - and partly an, "I'm not worth it," thing. I will make sure my boys have eaten and will fuss about them being warm enough then go out of the house without a coat and as angry as a bear who hasn't eaten, because... well I haven't eaten. 

This morning my boys brought me breakfast in bed. It was lovely. I didn't complain about it or tut about how I'd have done it differently. I ate it with the cat sitting next to me and the boys went downstairs to leave me in peace. 

I think I could get used to being taken care of - sometimes :)

Cat in a (paper) hat 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

One, Two, Three, Four... reasons to be cheerful :)

OYou know how sometimes you need to remind yourself of the nice things in life ?

Well this week I really need that so here goes:

Not that I'm going to ask for chocolate of course

I popped into M&S earlier this week and spotted this little beauty. I loved it so much a took a photo to show Hubbie what to get me for Easter. Yep, it's a caramelised walnut swirl egg !!

Me and Hubbie posing with the famous pigeon

We first saw the Mel Brooks musical The Producers when we were on honeymoon in New York. It is everything we love; irreverent, camp as you like and very, very silly. This week we went on a date night and saw the latest touring production starring Jason Manford and the wonderful Cory English (who we've seen before in the West End production). As Miranda's mother would say, "Such fun !"

Arty shot of me at the Danceathon

Of course you know I took part in the Comic Relief 6 hour Danceathon last weekend. It was such an amazing thing to be part of and I'm delighted to managed to keep dancing for the entire 6 hours and am overwhelmed by how very generous my sponsors have been - thank you all so much xx

And finally we can resume our normal lives

After weeks of popping every Red Nose Day item into my trolley when I go shopping I finally did an audit of what we have so far. At last count I have a Lulu Guinness shopper, T-shirts for me and my boy, one china mug, red nose day sippy cups (x2) and red noses (x15). The good news here is that we finally managed to get the snortel nose that our boy has been searching for. Thank goodness !

*** STOP PRESS ***

We now have two Snortel noses thanks to lovely Ems who bought my boy another one :) 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Everything is awesome... oh so very awesome

An epic finale to an amazing day
Yesterday I was in Wembley with 2000 other people - mostly women - dancing non-stop to raise money for good causes and whenI returned home I was tired, but with such a feeling of having done something that was both great fun and had achieved some good. Today I felt disbelief that it was over already. This event that I had been thinking about for so many weeks and that is now done. We did it !

Next week I will be a stallholder for the first time at my lovely friend Yasmin's Mother's Day Pamper Event. It's one of my favourite events of the year with so many wonderful therapists offering treatments to pamper and relax as well as lovely stalls selling wonderful gifts and treats. I've been preparing for months now, buying stock and photographing the gifts I'll have for sale. This is my first attempt at being a saleswoman and I'm hoping it goes well, but I'll be honest I'm nervous. I'm not averse to trying new things, but it doesn't come without some cost to my well being.

I don't deal well with change. Whenever I've moved house I've at some point been crying in a heap over the sheer enormity of it all. This was not good when I moved house about ten times over a period of five years. I was actually becoming convinced I'd never find a place to call home. When I did buy my flat I was still all over the place - mentally - and my friend Neil observed that I was living surrounded by boxes and that I was becoming distressed by the temporariness of it all. Once I unpacked - he surmised - I would feel better. I did, he was right and it was ok, but you get the point. I don't do change.

When a big change is coming I keep busy and I make lists and I set myself an impossible amount of work to do before everything will be ready. This is what I do. Not because I want to, but because it's how I deal with change. Well, I don't deal with change actually, I try to control how things will change and that's not always within my control.

We have a big change coming soon - a good thing - and I'm a bit of a mess. I have stumbled on for months knowing this might happen and not letting myself believe it will. I've tried to organise and plan myself into being ok with waiting when I really am nothing of the sort. Slowly I've become more and more unbearable so that now I am virtually incoherent when I'm around Hubbie and our boy. I am so easily thrown into a state of exasperation at that pencil not being in the right place or those tomatoes being the wrong shade of red or - heaven forbid - someone not reading my mind and doing that thing I didn't say I wanted done.

I can't explain anything right now. It's all a bit too awesome. If I was a creative sort I'd make a movie out of lego about it, but I'm a mere scribe tapping my random thoughts into this space and hoping that it makes sense to someone. It surely doesn't to me right now.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

My thank you dance for sponsoring me to dance non-stop for 6 hours :)

I promised to video a dance to say thanks for sponsoring me - so here it is :) 

Wish me luck with tomorrow. It's just struck me that 6 hours is a very long time to dance and I'm going to be pushing myself to my limit !

If you haven't sponsored me yet it's not too late: www.my.rednoseday.com/sponsor/swazirodgers

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The road less travelled: for those of us who really had to work at becoming a Mum.

Mothers Day is one of the biggest days of the year for florists and restaurants do pretty well out of it too. We've always made a big deal about it for my Mother and Hubbie's Mum too. Then after we had our son it took a while for me to realise that it was my day now too. I recall how hard it was before then when we were trying for so long and being reminded of what we didn't have was just so painful. A card from the cat is lovely, but the feeling that you will always be congratulating everyone else on their pregnancy and never celebrating your own can become very wearing.

When people know you're trying to conceive it is amazing what they say to be helpful. I was told to try hypnotherapy, acupuncture, reflexology and my personal favourite Shamanic healing. We did actually try yoga, hypnotherapy and reflexology and when I did finally fall pregnant with our son I called him the baby that yoga built.

In trying again I did the same things I had before. Stopped eating rubbish food, cut back on alcohol increased my fitness and made time to look after myself better. The hardest part was trying not to be upset at everyone else becoming pregnant easily while we struggled month after month. A friend suggested trying an ovulation monitoring kit and I was already using an app to track ovulation. When it still didn't happen I figured we were probably just unlucky. Then the lovely folks at Ovusense asked if we'd try their new fertility monitor. It's completely different from the kit I'd used before and is new to the UK. Here is what OvuSense say about the system.

"OvuSense is a new, highly accurate fertility monitor.  OvuSense consists of a personal sensor and a data reader. The sensor is placed in the vagina (similar to a tampon) overnight – the only place where accurate readings of core body temperature can be made.  OvuSense uses patented technology to measure core body temperature every 5 minutes, inside the vagina, while you sleep, providing you a complete picture of your personal cycle. OvuSense predicts ovulation in real time in each cycle, and detects the exact day of ovulation with 99% accuracy.  In just two weeks, OvuSense can tell you when you are going to ovulate, and then calculate the exact day for you with 99% accuracy. Only OvuSense can calculate this much personal information about your cycle with this much accuracy."

It does take some getting used to and the first couple of months the system is getting baseline readings on which to base future predictions. You do get a reading daily and it does say when your fertile window is coming up which is similar to the existing systems I've used before. Where this differs is that you will then get a much more accurate reading telling you when you actually did ovulate and all the information is recorded so that you can compare one month with another.

I found out that I ovulate later than I thought I did and that is really helpful to know. It is also really good for women who have PCOS or unpredictable cycles so they have no way of working out when they are ovulating. If you have an accurate window for ovulation you have a better chance of succeeding in becoming pregnant. The great thing about Ovusense is there is an online support community on Facebook that is a great place to ask questions and to find out more.

The hardest part of trying to conceive for me was the feeling of being alone and not being able to talk to anyone about it. When those around you can just decide to have another baby and it happens for them and you're trying month after month without success it's pretty disheartening. Ovusense answer questions and offer online support as well as sharing success stories from women who have used the system. For a woman who has no idea why she's not conceiving it's a good way to feel a bit more in control of at least part of the process.

I would definitely recommend using the Ovusense fertility monitor as it's really been an eye opener for me. It is not the cheapest fertility monitoring kit, but it's a lot more scientific than anything I've tried before and the data it collects is far more accurate. The online support is a great resource and for anyone trying to conceive it makes what can be a lonely and long road feel less so.

Disclosure: We were sent the Ovusense fertility monitor to review and to give honest opinions.
You can find out more about the product here: www.ovusense.com

Monday, 2 March 2015

I'm no Supermum, but I do have a Superboy

Sometimes being a parent feels like really hard work. Like when I woke up at last night at 3am with a snoring (but thankfully sleeping) 4 year old to my left and an unmoving cat to my right. After two nights of broken sleep and with Hubbie away it was a reminder of the early days. We've been doing this parenting lark for over 4 years now and at times it's overwhelming, exhausting and head-shakingly confusing.

Today I needed to remind myself that it's not all about being a mega-multi-tasking-Mum. You see I don't want to spend my days not being with my boy. I love him and he makes me laugh and he is my joy. Why would I want to look at my work email when I can spend the day sharing in his magical, imaginative and hilarious world ? I'll show you what I mean: 

We went to a party where the theme was pirates and princesses. My boy said he wanted to go as a fire officer - presumably as every pirate ship must have a fire safety professional on board. When we got there he accessorised his outfit with a sparkly pom pom and a cutlass. That is one badass fire officer !!

Fierce Fire Officer 

Then at half term we went to a storytelling event where there were dressing up costumes. My boy didn't want me to feel left out so he chose some pink wings for me and this mask so we could match. I thought we looked like a sinister woodland gang, but he insists we didn't.

I wouldn't want to meet these two in a forest ! 

We do our best to 'keep it real' for our boy. He doesn't watch too much TV and we limit his screen time as well as ensuring he plays outside and runs off all his excess energy. In keeping with this retro parenting attitude we've changed from our wireless hi-tech house phone to this old school dial phone which I was teaching him to use at the weekend. He wanted to use it to call the fire brigade, but thankfully his fingers are too small to turn the dial round fully. Instead we rang my Mum and he said, "Nani-mummy, I'm testing the new phone," then walked off to play outside. I think that's pretty healthy. 

It's the bat phone Mummy 

At this weekend's birthday party he was one of five kids dressed as Spiderman. He also got 'married' to the birthday girl and was the magician's assistant. Watching how confidently he stood at the front and performed I can honestly say it was the most fun I've had at a kids party in a long time. He came home with a balloon sword and some new dance moves. A win all round I'd say. 

That's magic !!
And finally tonight. My boy - who has been poorly all day and last night - came into the bathroom to brush his teeth like this. It made me laugh so much I had to take a photo. Who is this masked hero fighting the menace of tooth decay ?

That plaque doesn't stand a chance !! 

Best of all, earlier today he looked at me and said, "Mummy I love you because you feed me chips."

That'll do son, that'll do :)