Jelly Play - Dream or Disaster?

I love doing different sensory play with Lily and Ollie. I like to think it offers them new experiences and different ways to explore. But I'm not keen on mess. At all. You wouldn't think it if you looked at my pigsty house, or if you looked at all the messy play and art activities I do with the kids. Yet I hate it with a passion and often have to work hard to suppress my desire to hover over the table with antibacterial spray and a few baby wipes.

Today was a perfect example. I knew that playing with jelly could be fun. I did it with Lily when she was a baby and she absolutely loved it. It's easy to prepare. It covers all five sensory bases. She was occupied for ages.

It sounded like a fabulous idea in my head.

January To Do List - Progress Report

Last week I came up with a to-do list for the rest of January. At the time it felt like the first month of the year was endless, now we're in the last week I thought I better crack on with anything I haven't ticked off yet!

We have been baking which was an all round success. Not so much our artwork, which I think was more about the process, than our finished product. It was a lot of fun but we created more mess than works of art!

Dear Ollie

I can't quite believe that the time has come to plan your first birthday party! The last 11 months of having you in our lives has been so amazing, I don't really want it to come to an end. But the days are rolling by, flying by, and each day you grow more. Which is obvious. It's just that it feels so quick!

This week you've started sleeping through. I'm not sure if it is more by luck than design but you have been going straight to sleep after your night time feed. We have the same routine each night - a bath, some nursery rhymes and some stories with Lily. Then you and I snuggle in the chair in your little room for a feed and a cuddle. Although I'm grateful for more sleep I am already missing the night feeds. Just a little bit.

Easy Baking Fun

It's no secret. I love cake. All cake. Lot's of cake. I love making it and I love eating it. I'm not that great when it comes to presentation but  I certainly think they taste good!

When it comes to baking with Lily, I started early. She was 9 months old and I remember feeling bored and a bit lost about what to do and so I turned to making cupcakes. She loved it and it went much better than I ever expected. Since then it has been one of my favourite activities to do with her, and one of her most requested.

I included baking on Our January To Do List because I knew it would be an easy one to tick off and it went down just as well with Ollie (also 10 months) who threw a proper temper fit when I moved the bowl to Lily for her turn at stirring.

Our January To Do List

It's hard sometimes juggling everything. Looking after two young children. Organising our home. It often feels like I just don't have enough arms to do everything I need to. It's especially hard now that Ollie is at an age where he wants to do more and I can't just pop him down on a playmat to keep him entertained whilst I concentrate on doing older activities with Lily.

I'm sure I did a lot more with Lily at this age, I know we certainly did more sensory activities and messy play. So my aim in the next couple of months is to find more activities that are suitable for a baby whilst also being fun and challenging for a three year old.

Easier said than done perhaps, but I'm up for a challenge.

Luckily, it's a good time of year for staying in a little bit more. I usually like to get out every morning, but I'm anticipating the S-word in the next week and I'm not dragging myself, two kids and pram far in the wet slushy stuff for long. Playing in the snow does, however, appear in my list!

1. Winter Mixed-Media Art
I particularly like the idea of this project that I found at the Stay at Home Educator via Pinterest. The colours and glitter will appeal to Lily, and because there isn't too much skill involved, I'm hoping it will be a fun, messy activity for Ollie too. I may even make my own edible finger paints as I haven't done that since Lily was a teeny baby. I like the idea of using greek yoghurt rather than various flour-concoctions as it seems a lot easier.

What are my 'mum skills'?

Yesterday, an impending school reunion left me lamenting my lack of exciting career and questioning my life choices. Since every work-related decision I have made in the last ten years has not been about status, progression, or even salary, but about balancing work and family, I worried that I had not made full use of my education and as such, would be deemed a failure.

Amidst my frantic scramble to think of what I could say to make my role as an executive assistant sound more interesting, and justify my desire for a family above a career, I found myself listing the valuable life skills I’ve gained from being ‘just a mum’.

I used to get frustrated with chasing people for work to deadline and explaining the same thing over and over to difficult members of staff. Now I spend all day repeating myself. At least my colleagues listened. I can't say the same for my kids...

Multi tasking
At work I thought I was damn good at multi-tasking. I'd pat myself on the back for answering emails and calls at the same time as making tea and dealing with daft queries about the photocopier or binding machine.
That was nothing compared to what I do now. Last week I cooked dinner from scratch (Chinese chicken and egg fried rice), prepared a bolognese for meals later in the week, fed my baby and entertained Lily with a drawing and craft activity. Simultaneously. Whilst also having a conversation with my sister on FaceTime. 

Risk Management
When planning a project or event it was always an essential part of my job to prepare for every eventuality and mitigate risks. I still do that on a daily basis. From remembering to pack a truck full of nappies, spare underwear, clothing, plasters, creams, wipes, muslins, medicines and whatever else I can fit in the bottom of the pram; to the bigger, scarier stuff like keeping an eye out for traffic and possible dangers. You name it. I've thought it through.

I don't care if you manage corporate accounts worth billions or oversee hundreds of employees. Nothing compares with the responsibility of having a tiny human being rely on you for every single thing. It's pretty overwhelming. But so much more fun (most of the time) than making money for your boss.

I can't lie. I completely fail at this in my home life. Not through choice, but because when you're on the go constantly, something has to give. I have a tight routine and do the same sort of thing most weeks. It keeps me sane. I like to know when I'm leaving the house and when I'll be back. I get to work on time and I pay my bills. But I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to getting back to people, remembering forms for the nursery and booking doctors and dentists appointments (and then remembering to keep them). I guess if it got to this bit in a review with the kids, I'd gloss it over as an area for improvement...

Time Management
In the workplace, I automatically assess and prioritise my workload as it comes in. I know how to manage expectations. This is impossible with a toddler. Their only expectation is that you obey their every whim on pain of death, or worse, a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket. But I manage. On the whole. I'm able to get through the majority of tasks in the day, ensuring that the important bits (like feeding and changing) whilst also seeing to the needs of my two small wannabe-dictators. This means that sometimes things have to give. The washing might not get done that day. I might not dust for a few weeks days. As long as no-one dies and it all gets done in the end, that's a success.

Fitness is important in the workforce. You need to rely on your staff and it's not great when they're sick or out of office. Honestly, I'm not really into this fitness thing. I'm exhausted by the time I get to the end of the day and struggle to find time in to pee, let alone implement a structured fitness plan. But. Every day I end up carrying the pram, laden with all the shite necessities mentioned above, down and up the mountainous, uneven steps at the front of our home. At those times I'm like She-Ra, Princess of Power. Except fatter. With brown hair and more clothing.

I'm pretty sure there are more, and that they will all come in useful once the kids are at school and I can hopefully up the hours in my working week. In the meantime, I need to remind myself that I do have skills and expertise, and that I apply them on a daily basis. Even when I don't realise that I'm doing it.

'Just' a Mummy

On Saturday I will put on a dress, some (low) heeled shoes and some make-up (!) and head into London for the annual old boys reunion for my school.

And I'm nervous, anxious, scared. I know that there would be people there who were clever and successful. Those who have exciting jobs, worldwide travels and grand job titles.

And the tiny teenage part of myself that never quite fitted in, feels ashamed that my life isn't anywhere near as exciting.

What on earth will I talk about?

My career? How I ended up dropping out of uni after my dad died?

How I was just a PA?

How I'm just a Mum?

I'm worried that my old classmates and friends will judge my life choices and see someone distinctly uninteresting (and fat, but let's not go there).

But yesterday, I built a house.

OK, it was out of cardboard, and came with instructions. 

But that house made a three year old with an intermittent attitude problem so happy they sat in it exclaiming "I love it! I love it! I just love it!" and I realised that I don't particularly want an exciting, jet setting role. Every career decision I have made in the last ten years has not been about status, progression, or even salary, but about balancing work and family.

I love my current job as a part-time school receptionist and I loved my last job as a PA. I have met and worked with great people and inspiring leaders. I have project managed and launched some interesting products and have planned and organised fun events.

But my job also meant I could cut down my hours after having Lily and spend valuable time at home, watching and helping her grow.

So, I'm not a journalist. My life hasn't worked out the way my naive 16 year old self thought it would. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I'll be the sad, slightly frumpy but very happy woman there on Saturday night, boring everyone else with photos of my kids and telling anyone who will listen that the best part of my career is when Lily takes my hand and says "I love you mummy, you're a hero".

Review - Wycombe Leisure Centre Soft Play

Last week the new leisure centre opened in town and I've been keen to try it out. In addition to a huge 50m swimming pool, a modern gym and climbing wall, they also offer a child-friendly training pool, 'splash zone' and toddler soft play sessions - plenty of potential activities for our little family to get stuck into!

So today, a friend and I packed the kids in the car and went to try out the soft play. The sessions run from 9:30-11:30 on Mondays and Wednesdays and also 10:30-12:30 on a Saturday. We spoke with a nice member of staff who advised that the layout on a Saturday is slightly different and a bit smaller, due to the other activities also running at the same time.

This morning there was tons of space for running around, a large bouncy castle area with a slide, a baby space and lots of soft equipment for jumping on. I was also pleasantly surprised to see they had some trampolines set up - the description on their website isn't comprehensive and I think they sell themselves a bit short.

We got there as it opened and were some of the first in. Lily loved it and couldn't wait to be rid of her shoes so she could go charging in. Ollie was keen to explore too, he's finally getting the hang of crawling and so enjoyed it more than he would have done a month or so ago. Still, it is definitely more fun for older babies and toddlers.

Porky-Pies on Pinterest

I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest.

On the surface, and in principle, I love it. The inspiration, the sharing of ideas, the ability to create mood boards and curate collections. All fab.

But. There are other times when it leaves me feeling disappointed. Inadequate. Lied to.

Because a lot of those pins claiming to be 'easy' or 'toddler friendly' or 'quick' just aren't any of those things. At least not for me.

Exhibit A - 'One Pot' Meals
My gripe with these is that they lead you to think that you cut down on time spent on both preparation and cleaning. Win win right?


I don't think it is fair to call something 'one pot' if you have to keep cooking ingredients and then temporarily 'placing them to one side'. It's probably fairer to claim that these meals are 'One Big Pot But Many Small Bowls and Plates Meals'. I can't see that catching on...

Review - Bobux

I'm not great when it comes to fashion, and I'm not particularly adventurous when it comes to choosing clothes for the kids. That said, both Lily and Ollie have far more extensive wardrobes than my own and I take far more pleasure in choosing their outfits than I do for myself. I think it comes with the territory when you're a Mum.

I'm happy to shop around for kids clothes - I love shops like Zara, H&M and Mothercare, usually waiting for a sale to stock up on what's needed. I'm not snobby when it comes to buying things second-hand at nearly new sales or using clothes handed down from friends with children and I happily shop at Primark and supermarket clothing ranges.

However, one area I struggle to get value for money is shoes. It is so important for children to have decent footwear, they need to fit properly, support the foot and last longer than five minutes. It seems like a lot of responsibility for me as a parent to choose something that is just right whilst also balancing the books.

I don't mind buying from slightly cheaper shops when it comes to footwear, as long as the fit is right and they are made from quality materials with decent support. I'll often buy from Mothercare and Next although it's impossible to judge sizing online. During the sales I head straight to start-rite or New Zealand company Bobux.

I first found Bobux when I was looking for Lily's second pair of shoes. They have different ranges depending on the age and skill of the child which I found really helpful and they had some fab reviews. I was impressed and have bought a few pairs since, so imagine how happy I was before Christmas to find out that I'd won a pair in an Instagram competition!

There was so much choice on their website and it was hard to narrow down my choice but in the end I went for the 'Empire' trainer in pink. They usually ship from the UK and are very quick, but on this occasion the pair I picked was shipped from New Zealand along with some other goodies from Kiwi brands Ashley & Co. and Antipodes. The parcel arrived this week and I was really excited - like receiving an extra Christmas present!


I was again impressed by the quality of the shoe. I chose trainers because Lily loves to run around and can easily scuff smart shoes but this pair is really smart and I feel like I could easily pair them up with some slightly smarter outfits. I know they'll also go down well at the nursery, because they're easy for Lily to put on and take off herself.

According to Lily they're very comfortable and they obviously passed her style testing because she put them on first thing this morning and was loathe to take them off again!

Snapshot Saturday

OK, so it's Sunday but I was really excited to discover this brand new linky hosted by Super Busy Mum all about photography.

I've always had an interest in photography and have taken some pride in capturing a few lovely family moments over the last few years. I particularly enjoy taking photos of my kids and would really like to be able to take much better photos of my home and the things Lily, Ollie and I often make. I'd also like to understand photography more, and get more use out of Matt's DSLR camera.

For Christmas, my Mummy bought me "The Busy Girl's Guide to Digital Photography" and I ran through it on the long journey home from Exeter to High Wycombe this weekend. There's an awful lot of content covered, and although I felt like I knew a lot already, I was pretty shocked by how much I didn't understand. At all. It felt like reading a whole other language at points and I had to re-read parts before I got the point. I think the only way I'm going to really 'get it' is to do it.

That's why the Snapshot Saturday linky is really good for me, as I plan to work hard on my photography this year and like the idea of learning and sharing with other keen bloggers and budding photographers.

Ideally, I'd like to step completely away from my lazy approach of snapping away with my iphone, but realistically I know that it won't happen. Capturing a moment with my iphone is far to easy to do away with completely and so you should expect to see a fair few amateur pics as I share my favourites and the reason why.

So... onto my first contribution.

The view of the sea from Teignmouth seafront.

I took this on New Year's Eve as Matt, Lily, Ollie and I went for a walk with some friends we were staying with. The weather soon turned stormy and we had to run for the car amidst a downpour of rain and hail. I was wet through by the time we got the kids all sorted and jumped in ourselves. We had a giggle about our bad timing on the way home - the weather had been bright and sunny until the moment we stepped out of the house. It's one of those memories that makes me smile - even though it was pretty uncomfortable being hailed upon!

Super Busy Mum