Thursday, 30 June 2016

Me and Mine - June 16

This month I didn’t manage to get the tripod out to take any nice pictures of us as a family and the selfie attempts all made me look rather large of arm. Fortunately there were a few pictures taken this month by others.

On Father’s Day we all went to a Baby Sensory session. M and I watched while all the Daddies and their small offspring banged drums, were tickled by feathers and watched balloons and bubbles. There was a professional photographer there so I took the opportunity to see if we could grab a quick picture. I really love the result.
credit Sophie Oldhamstead Photography
The other pictures of the 4 of us were from an amazing trip we took to Legoland Windsor Resort. We had such an amazing 2 days going on lots of rides and spending time together as a family. I love the official pictures as they aren’t very well posed, but they make me laugh and smile at the memory of our holiday.
official Legoland Windsor picture of a laser shooting game

official Legoland Windsor picture of heartlake city weather reporting

We had a family party in June which was lovely and where I planned to get lots of lovely photographs, unfortunately Little wasn’t in a very happy mood and only wanted to be held by me so I didn’t get to take very many photographs. This lovely shot was taken by my Auntie of me and my sisters.
a black and white picture of 3 sisters posing on a sofa
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The last big exciting event which happened this month was BML16, you may have heard me say a thing or two about that! There were a lot of quick snaps taken of me and Little on my phone, but this one is my favourite even though it’s not great quality. The lovely lady sitting next to us thought Little was being cute so she quickly grabbed by phone and snapped it (I think it was Swazi, but apologies if I have misremembered).

small baby holding her mother's face and smiling
June has been a great month. It has been really busy with a lot of time with friends and family. Little has been poorly much of the time, but that just meant we spent a lot of time cuddling. I’m not going to complain about the weather or the mass reduction in vegetables and plants in my garden due to slugs. lucky, happy slugs.

Tomorrow I’ll start working on making July great.

I'm linking up this post with Dear Beautiful's Me and Mine Project which encourages people to get in front of the camera with their family. Check out everyone else's pictures on the Linky.
The Me and Mine Project

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

My thoughts on #BML16 - a blogging conference

It was an interesting day which involved me getting poo on my top (downside of baby wearing), screaming in the toilet (they were very narrow and the tissue holder attacked me) and telling Carol Smillie that there was no way I was going to jump on a trampoline (she was promoting DiaryDoll pants). I also spoke to the Johnson's European Head of R&D, made an oiled up man pose for me and ate lots of cake. 

(For anyone who hasn’t been to Britmums Live it is an annual conference for bloggers which combines the opportunity to chat with brands with how to improve your blogging, meeting other bloggers and generally providing inspiration.)

This was my second time at the event and my first time with a baby. I went with Little which meant that I always had someone to talk to and having a baby on my chest was a great ice breaker, but it did mean that I left one of the sessions as she was starting to get noisy. 

So what did I think of my day? Let’s start with the low points:

There were a number of bloggers who I’m not entirely sure why they were there. At an event where a lot of people go on their own most people are open and friendly and will talk to anyone, but there were a number of people who only seemed interested in speaking to and supporting their friends. In the first session which included an ice breaker I sat at a table on my own, 4 ladies joined me at the table, all people who I follow on Twitter. I made several attempts to talk to them, but they didn’t make any effort to talk back even though I was on my own (other than the baby). One of them also held on to the pass the parcel on the final layer so she could win, meaning that I missed out on the prize. It was all a great joke, but it still felt rude that they had joined me at the table, weren’t interested in talking to me and then didn’t even apologise for grabbing a rather nice necklace by Merci Maman.

I was also really disappointed that during the awards not everyone showed the support for the finalists. Yes it was the end of a long day, but everyone in that room should have been clapping for every single name which was read out. 

The new one day format meant that it was a full on and very busy day where you had to choose whether you wanted to miss out on developing your skills, socialising or talking to brands in detail. I remember feeling the same when the format was a day and a half though. There is just too much to cram in to the event however long it is.

So there were some disappointments, but overall I had a fantastic day. Here are 10 great things about the event:

Meeting people that I have only previously met online. There are lots of bloggers that I regularly interact with on Twitter or Instagram, some of them for years. It was lovely to meet some of these lovelies face to face such as Donna, Liska, Sharon and Sarah.

Meeting new people. There are 100s of bloggers at BML each year (about 500 apparently) and there is no way you are going to know everyone who is there. This makes it a great opportunity to meet new people and find new blogs. People I met for the first time include Ann from Rainbows are too beautiful, Clarina from Clarina's Contemplations  and Rachel from Vintage Folly whose youngest daughter was born the same day as mine. Apologies to anyone I have currently forgotten.

Freebies. I’ll admit it I love getting things for free. I also love discovering and playing with new things, if I can do this with no cost to me so much the better (I am more than happy to then buy if they are worth it). I’m not alone in loving freebies and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who waited all of 2.5 seconds before going through the goody bag.

The food. From the birthday cake by Konditor & Cook (my all time favourite cake and brownie makers) to ice cream to cup cakes and biscuits and lunch and pastries and breakfast muffins to tapas to crepes, you could easily eat your way through the day. There was also smoothies, cordial, prosecco, coffee, squash’d, iced latte and spritzers to wash the food down with.

Brands. When I am talking to a brand I want to know about them, what makes them special and what new products they have. I also want to know what they want from bloggers and how we can work together. I really enjoyed chatting with some of the companies especially: Mam, Munchkin, Fellowes, DC Thomson, Bollox, Johnson's, Touchnote, Sultan and Coca-cola who all took time to talk to me in depth. 

Photo opportunities. These included in a tent with the Big Little Tent Festival (after reversing into it minus dignity), with an inflated Clanger, the new Noddy and a super sized Mim mim (from Kate and Mim mim). Oh and with actual people!

The break out sessions. I chose to not attend talks in every session because I wanted to spend more time chatting with people, but I picked up some useful tips in the sessions on Understanding SEO (by the VERY knowledgeable Judith Lewis), How to work smart with PRs and the Instagram session.

The talks. From the moving Keynote session by Anne-Marie Cockburn who tragically lost her 15 year old daughter, to Julie Creffield’s Inspirational talk on big fat stupid goals and the typical blogger over sharing as encouraged by Cherry Healey. The talks by these strong women this year encouraged us to find our voice.

The Blogger’s Keynote. While the majority of the blogger attendees are mum’s and an ever growing Dad contingent the style of post and topics are very different. The Blogger’s keynote each year provides an opportunity to hear examples of some of the most amusing and poignant posts. Awards for bravery should go to Tim of Slouching Towards Thatcham for singing his post and Oana from Mama’s Haven for reading her post on What really happens when you lose a child. Most entertaining for me was the incredibly cute video where Al from The Dad Network was interviewed by his son for the position of stay at home Dad.

The awards. With so many amazing bloggers around and so many people achieving great things through their blogging it is great that there are a number of awards ceremonies which aim to recognise some of the best. The Brilliance in Blogging Awards by BritMums use both voting and judges to decide the best of the best and it was lovely that so many of the winners were shocked and humble at their well deserved achievement. Well done to everyone.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Getting ready for school - Part 3 Advice from other mums

In my Getting Ready For School series I have talked to a more experienced mum about everything from when and where to buy school uniform, what to do in the school holidays if you are a working parent and is there really a playground mafia. This post is the last in the series and I have asked other parents for their advice on what to do when your child is about to start school.

You might also want to read the earlier posts about what to buy for school and how to prepare your child for school.

Text saying: Starting school soon? Advice from other mums. Above a photo of school uniform

Water, water everywhere, but how much do you drink?

Every summer I end up with heat stroke a couple of times and I frequently get headaches. I suspect this is due to me finding the taste of water boring and really disliking the flavour of water when I am away from home. I just don't drink enough. Have you noticed tap water tastes differently throughout the UK and very differently abroad? There are even some bottled waters I don't like the taste of.

A 4 year old girl in a Wonderwoman cape and minnie mouse dress standing in front of a yellow and green Little Tikes play house

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Why won't my 4 year old sleep?

I really enjoy the company of my eldest daughter. She is funny, clever, loving and creative. She is full of energy and can be so much fun to be around. The exception to this bedtime.

I hate her bedtime. I end up shouting most nights, I frequently leave the room to calm myself down and I silently beg her to go to sleep. Other nights I actually beg her to go to sleep, but just like shouting, bribes and crying it doesn’t work. Those same traits which make her such a strong, independent and fun person all combine at bedtime to make her a horror. 

“Mummy, hug!” she demands whilst doing headstands on the sofa and kicking me in the face. “Mummy, kiss” she says as she jumps on me. “Lie next to me”, I agree, but rather than go to sleep she wiggles her legs, turns upside down, does puppet shows with her arms, sings songs, tries to crawl under my legs or makes a den with the duvet.

Please poke me in the eye instead of going to sleep
They say that the key to getting your children to bed is a good consistent routine. I suspect “they” have very different children to my eldest. Routines rely on the child in question doing what you ask. Bedtimes are now complicated by having a baby, but before she was on the scene I would pick M up from nursery at 6 (as a working mum I had no choice other than picking her up as late). I would then have an hour to get her home, cook and eat dinner, try and spend some quality time and ideally have a bath before aiming to get her to her room by 7.

From 7 o clock onwards I would spend my time trying to get M to wind down and get ready to switch off. Some days she would be asleep soon after 8, bad nights she finally gave in after 9.30. In between I would get her changed, read her stories, attempt to dim the lights (often refused) and attempt to get her to lie in bed next to me, stop talking, close her eyes and be still. I know once she manages to lie there quietly for 5 minutes she will fall asleep, but instead she will jump up and down complaining “I can’t get to sleep”.

Delaying tactics include needing the toilet, being starving hungry (despite refusing to eat any more food less than an hour before), needing a favourite toy, just one more story, wanting a lullaby, needing more water, another hug. I will tell her that I’m going away until she is ready to sleep, but often she will cling on to me and not let me leave. I’ve even tried those child hypnosis sleep video’s on youtube, M is wide awake at the end.

By the time M is asleep I am lucky to get any time with my partner or by myself before I collapse from exhaustion.

Little girl falling asleep holding her mothers hand
A sleeping child, one of the most beautiful sights there is.
Since the baby has arrived bedtimes have become even more fun. Little is comparatively a good sleeper, but evenings are now spent between two bedrooms trying to meet the needs of both of my daughters. Nearly every night M will wake Little up with her loud playing or her tantrums. This means I have to stop spending time with M further pushing back what time she will give in to sleep. 

A major deterioration in M’s bedtimes recently is the introduction of TV. After many evenings where M would come in the room just as I was getting Little to sleep I discovered the most effective way to get the baby to sleep was to allow M to watch TV. This works wonders in keeping her quiet, but has a negative effect once I turn the TV off. It can take anywhere between 15 minutes and an hour to get Little to sleep. That’s a lot of TV just before bed. It often means M isn’t in her room by 7 either, pushing back her ultimate sleep time.

I have discussed M’s sleep challenges with friends as well as a local attachment parenting group. So many people giving advice (none has worked yet), but there are also a number of other mums like me who dread bedtime. Those of us who have tried everything, but still have children who fight sleep for as long as they can. M was like it as a baby and I suspect she will be the same for years to come. I would love to believe those parents who say that she will be better when she starts school, but I struggle to see how school will tire her much more than the long days she spends at nursery.  She has been going 5 days a week for the last 4 years. Even if it does make her more tired, being tired has never equalled going to sleep earlier or easier, it normally equals hyperactivity and more tantrums.

To all you parents who share my pain just know that I am there for you if you ever need to talk, don't feel alone in your battle. And if you ever find a solution which works please let me know. To everyone else you are welcome to come babysit and get M to bed, you can stand by and offer me a beer/ shot of strong drink every time I manage to leave the room, but please don’t offer advice, I’m confident it won’t work and I’ve probably already tried it. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Getting Ready for school - Part 2 Getting me and my child ready

So you have know what uniform to buy and where from, but how do you prepare your child (and you as the parent) for starting school? In the second post in my Getting Ready For School series Lauren from answers my questions on the practical things to know and how to prepare emotionally.

If you missed it you can read the first part of this blog post here

Text saying: Starting school soon? How to prepare your child (and you) above a photo of school uniform

Monday, 13 June 2016

Getting Ready for School - Part 1 What do you need to get?

With M starting school in September I realised I needed some help to get ready so I asked Lauren from Mummy is a Gadget Geek for help. Mum of 3 Lauren's oldest is in Year 2 and her middliest just completing reception. Over the course of 2 blog posts she answers my questions on everything from when and where to buy uniform to how to get M ready for school, what happens if you are late for school and things to consider as a working mum. Most state schools operate in the same way so her advice and tips should help anyone who is about to become a school mum/ dad.

A image of school uniform for a boy and girl ready to wear on a bed with the caption "starting school soon? What to get for your child"

Sunday, 5 June 2016

#MySundayPhoto Sleep

The theme of the last week has definitely been sleep, or lack of it. Little is going through the 4 month sleep regression so we have all been getting less sleep. It's affecting how easily she will get to sleep, staying as asleep and naps. I've been going to bed early to get all the sleep I can and doing anything other than look after the girls and trying to sleep has taken the back seat. Friday night she woke up every few hours, but last night she slept brilliantly with only one wake up in 12 hours. Slightly less caffeine needed this morning.

Last week we bought new duvet covers (my 'thing' for white continues), I just wish I was getting to spend more time in it.