Saturday, 3 August 2013

The blog is moving!

I am finally pleased to say that I've found just about enough time and am moving my little blog to a new site. 

I won't be deleting but I won't be using it anymore so come on...follow me over on the new site:! 

It's still me, it's the same type of content and I'm just a little bit proud of my growing blogging skills (growing I said...not grown!).

So come on....join me. You just need to click .... HERE!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Grumpy - me not the children!

Today I feel grumpy and whilst I'm sure I'm not supposed to say so, sometimes sharing really does, I'm sharing. Forgive me for being quite so self indulgent but that said, I simply refuse to believe that I'm the only one who feels like this some times?

Why am I so grumpy you ask - it's summer, it's sunny, it's the school holidays, I have a wonderful family and my vegetable patch is looking good. Well here's the thing - I'm not a super mum and just occasionally I do feel a bit stressed and I do feel grumpy. This is one of those occasions and here's why. (Please note the only things the following list have in common is a) they relate to me and b) they are things which I feel grumpy about.)

  • This week is the first week of our school holidays, but for me it's a normal working week. That alone is enough to make me feel a little grumpy, but it's compounded by the fact that it's a week of early starts dropping Ellie to my amazing family who are helping out and long days trying to get on top of work. Yes i am like a child, if i'm tired I'm generally grumpy. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.

  • The traffic generally at the moment is horrendous and I really mean horrendous. This means that my long enough days are now even longer queuing in traffic. For anyone in the Birmingham area the closure of the A38 tunnels is quite simply disastrous for traffic and it's set to continue for the entire summer holidays - what a joy. This makes me grumpy.

  • This post isn't the one I was supposed to be publishing next - my big plan had been to launch my new blog site ... sadly I can't do that because I haven't had time to finish it. That's made me grumpy. (It's on it's way folks...just as soon as I have the time!)

  • I was supposed to finish my next post by now too - all about the fact that Ellie has now finished her reception year at school and that's got me quite emotional. It's only half done and I'm grumpy about that. (Yes I managed to write this one, but somehow my fingers just wrote this one without the rest of me!)

  • I love the summer but quite frankly I am fed up of the fly that is buzzing around my head right now. Yes right now. It must be the brother, cousin or other relative of the one that flew around my head whilst I was trying to relax last night, and a similar relative to the one that was in the kitchen when I was cooking the other day. It sounds like a small thing but it's incessant and my love for all of gods creatures is not stretching to the flies in my house - they are making me grumpy.

  • Tonight I heard myself constantly hurrying Ellie to bed because 'she was tired'. The thing is, she is tired, but I know deep down that the hurrying is really because I'm tired. I haven't seen her all day but my sole input to my 5 year old daughter today has turned out to be rushing her through the bedtime routine to get her into bed as soon as possible. This is not from the good parenting guide and definitely makes me grumpy.

  • We've been in our new house since January but have not, as yet, done any of the real work we wanted to do in terms of DIY and decorating. Life generally has got in the way and normally it wouldn't bother me but this week - I'm grumpy about that too.

ooo that feels better - getting it all off my chest. No idea if I should publish this really as I fear I'm in danger of sounding like a right miserable cow, but you know what - this is real life and I've always promised to blog with Honesty and Humour. This is definitely more of the honesty than the humour but, we can't always have everything now can we. That reminds me - I really shouldn't complain too much - I'm off work soon, my partner has been uber amazing and tonight my little girl gave me a big hug at bedtime and whispered how much she loved me in my ear.

So there it is - please can someone reassure me that I'm not the only grumpy mum around?!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Ellie's family - a magic moment

Last weekend Ellie had some homework to do. The instruction was simply to write some sentences about your family and 'try to work on your own and remember to include finger spaces and full stops.'

This is what Ellie produced: 

Just in case you can't read it, it says:

My mum works very hard. 
My dad lives at London. 
My family is silly. 
I love my family lots. 
I love my mum lots. xx

The smile and pride on her face as she showed me her work was quite simply beautiful to behold. The fact that she'd put that she loved me, without any prompting, was also pretty damn special. What topped it off though is that to me this simple bit of writing spoke volumes about her acceptance of our family situation.

There is nothing like the uncertainty you feel when you separate from your child's other parent - the questions and worries about whether they will be okay aren't something which, in my experience so far, ever disappear. I don't think about it often now but it is something I will always be conscious of. As I saw what Ellie had written I couldn't help but feel overjoyed at how clearly at ease she seemed with the situation. I feel certain that Ellie knows how much both her Dad and I, and our respective families, love her and most importantly - Ellie really is just fine with it.

Before I go, just to say that I am linking my #magicmoments post up with others on the fantastic linky from The Olivers Madhouse - click below to find out more. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

End of term tired

Everyone warns you that the first year of school is exhausting for every child and there's no doubt that I've learned why schools have half term and term breaks. Nothing however had prepared for me for the very last part of Ellie's reception year. This for example is Ellie's second most common pose at the moment, the other is standing screaming at me:

Shouting, arguing, answering back, screaming, crying and...a lot more stropping are currently behaviours exhibited with far too much frequency. Where has my gorgeous little happy girl gone? Don't get me wrong Ellie has always been a strong willed girl and she definitely lets you know what she's thinking, but right now she is always on the edge of a meltdown. 

When Ellie was a baby I always referred to the 6.00 to 7.00pm slot as witching hour because this was when she was at her worst. That's not a shock to any parent but now I have a witching day and it's Friday. She's super tired from the week and so am I - clearly a tired mummy and a tired Ellie isn't a good combination.

The other morning I made a special effort to prevent a meltdown. When she asked me to help her dress because she was tired, I did half and she did half - good negotiation skills. When she couldn't decide what she wanted for breakfast I was patient and smiley until she chose. When she said she didn't want to clean her teeth I told her that I loved her smile and wanted her to keep it and she eventually undertook a half hearted attempt which i accepted. Then just as we were about to leave this happened...

'Ellie can you put your cardigan and coat on please, we've got to go'
'I don't want it on'
'Ellie it's cold outside and raining - put them on'
Ellie starts to cry
Ellie you're being ridiculous - put them on or I'll leave you here

Suffices to say that the situation escalated and eventually we ended up with one loudly sobbing child in the car, whilst older step brother just looked like he couldn't possibly get far enough away. I don't blame him. 

When we arrived at school and were getting out of the car the fuss continued. I was literally about to scream in her face to 'pack it in' when another mum walked by, smiled and me and said 'princesses eh'. I couldn't help but smile and it reminded me that this screechy crying, argumentative little girl was my little girl. My very tired little girl. 

I completed and utterly caved - letting her choose what she wanted to wear cardigan or coat wise for the total 60 second walk to the school. After all - what harm was it really going to do and quite frankly, I just wanted to get her to school. It seems that Ellie's older step brother felt similarly as he walked several steps ahead of us the entire way and couldn't say bye quickly enough at the gate, disappearing at considerable speed - more speed than usual I might add.

Ellie and I walked the next few paces to her playground and before we'd even arrived she was back to her chatty little self and 'didn't want to talk about it'. Do you know what - this time - neither did I. 

So with two weeks to go all I can say is - roll on the summer. This week we get school reports - I really hope Ellie isn't quite so melodramatic at school?! 

Saturday, 29 June 2013

The new kind of tidy

So it turns out that for the last five years Ellie has been carefully lulling me into a false sense of security when it comes to tidying up. She's always been a child who likes to tidy and I've always appreciated this fact. It was only when I came home from work one night to a scene of utter chaos and found myself automatically going about tidying it; that I suddenly saw that times had changed, without me even realising. 

Ellie's belongings were literally strewn around the entire house. Bits of paper and the ends of those bits she'd cut were left on the table, together with pens, scissors and cellotape. Her doll and accessories were on the living room floor, her box of 'things' (aka crap) spread across her room and her dirty school clothes strung along the hall, stairs and landing between the front door and the washing basket. I note the fact that it headed towards the basket as if to make the point that she knew where it should be.

I stopped myself mid tidy and realised that Ellie had me - she'd been really subtle in moving from always keeping her things tidy, to leaving everything for me to sort.  During my subsequent discussion with Ellie, she seemed to understand what I was saying and told me she would tidy her room and her things. 

Sadly, as is so often the case my sense of satisfaction was a little premature. Whilst I thought Ellie was saying 'I'm sorry mummy, I'll tidy it from now on', what she was actually saying was 'phase one complete - she won't see this coming' and the next day Ellie introduced me to the new kind of tidy.

The new kind of tidy is a modern twist on actually being tidy - it seems to involve one large area of what can only be described as orderly mess with three key rules:

Rule 1: items must spread across the floor in 'sorted piles' so that you can find what you are looking for.

Rule 2: You must use copious amounts of cellotape to 'fix' everything up so you can 'see it properly'

and finally rule 3: a killer look of pride which means you can't possibly get told off.

Just in case anyone else finds themselves facing the new kind of tidy please be warned that whilst it is hard work, it is well worth persevering to negotiate two further rules.

Rule 4: the new kind of tidy is absolutely fine in your bedroom, not in any (or indeed every) other room in the house.

Rule 5: It must be physically possible to open and close your bedroom door, walk to the curtains and bed, aka the sacred bedtime must not be affected.

So there you have it - Ellie and I have found a suitable middle ground, agreed our terms and peace is again restored. When i think about it though it does feel a little bit like Ellie has moved me from requiring a traditionally tidy room to something slightly less tidy. Alas, I must move with the times and after all, it's the new kind of tidy don't you know.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

I'm going to BritMums Live!

This Friday I’m going to the Britmums live event. I’m super excited and with my train tickets ready, hotel for me and my roomy @shutterflies_uk booked, agenda printed and case almost packed the final bit of preparation is to join the BritMums live linky to introduce myself to everyone.

If you’re going too and haven’t linked up yet…go on…say hello! 

Name: Sharon

Blog: A great deal of honesty and a pinch of humour

Twitter ID@sharonmsmyth

Height: 5ft 4ish

Hair: Medium length brown hair – my plan is to have it down on Friday and then up (as a result of the early start) on Saturday. Apologies in advance for any confusion!

Eyes: blue

Is this your first blogging conference? 

Yes and I’m excited and nervous all at once!

Are you attending both days? 

Oh yes I am.

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2013?

I want to meet other bloggers and learn about how they do it. I’m still very much a beginner so I’m looking forward to picking up tips and encouragement.

I’m hoping to overcome my self-doubt about claiming to be a blogger when I’m only able to blog about once a fortnight, have no sponsors or links to brands. 

What are you wearing?

There’s been quite some debate about this (in my head!) and there’s a theme to my choices – let me know if you spot it:  

  • My favourite comfy jeans albeit I have snook out and bought a new version they are in fact identical in brand, style and colour to my old favourites...just less frayed!
  •  My flat comfortable shoes (again for comfort)
  • I have a couple of top options so this is still up for discussion but all choices are lightweight and require a cardigan or something like layer just in case

The theme of course is comfortable – all these items are things I’m going to feel relaxed, confident and myself in. so whilst I may not be the most fashionable or score yummy mummy points I will be comfortable and having fun.

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2013? 

I want to meet other bloggers and learn about how they do it. I’m still very much a beginner so I’m looking forward to picking up tips and encouragement.

I’m hoping to overcome my self-doubt about claiming to be a blogger when I’m only able to blog about once a fortnight, have no sponsors or links to brands.

Tell us one thing about you that not everyone knows 

I’m a full time working mum and I wrote and self-published a book called ‘The things they never tell you about becoming mum’. As a thirty-something career woman who was used to being in control of my life, I was astounded by the number of things I truly wished I’d known before I had my daughter and it’s these things which I’ve put into my book. Remember those things no one told you…well I’m telling!

(If you want to know more about my book click here!) 

See you at BritMums Live! 2013

Friday, 7 June 2013

Sharing the past

On Sunday, Ellie came home from her Dad's talking about all the things her baby sister was now learning to do. This very quickly led to a conversation about what Ellie was like as a baby, and Ellie wanted to know when she'd started to do things like sitting up, rolling over and so on. 

There was a look of challenge in her eye which told me that she thought I wouldn't know.Forgive me for feeling just a little smug then as I told her that I had written it all down and would love to show her. I should have said ‘at some point’ because the next 24 hours (except when at work/school) consisted of Ellie asking me when she could see my ‘list’ and me hunting down the box with everything in it. That will teach me to feel smug.

Fortunately, I located the box (not without stress I might add) and the time came where we were both sat down next to my rather excessively large box full of ‘Ellie memories’. I should point out that this is just the things I've kept from pregnancy to age 4. I wonder if I should be classed as a hoarder?!

We both carefully unfolded the cardboard to peer inside the box. I watched Ellie’s eyes widen with anticipation…as though she’d found a treasure trove. I found myself feeling incredibly excited to be sharing this time and these memories with her.

The first thing she saw was her christening dress (on the top so as not to get totally squashed). I had to give an explanation of what it was and answer the more challenging question - what does being blessed mean? Suffices to say I kept my answer pretty simple and swiftly dived back into the box.

As we moved on we discovered pictures and art work from the two nursery’s Ellie had gone to, gifts received for her christening and birthday cards from every one of her years. The pictures got the most interest from Ellie who I could see wracking her brains trying to remember these things, places and people. At one point, she seemed genuinely frustrated that she couldn't remember all the names of the children from her nursery.

Clearly though by far the most interesting pictures to Ellie were the following…..

Me 38 weeks pregnant with Ellie:

Ellie just after she was born, when she was in Special Care Baby Unit at Ipswich hospital:

She glared at both of these pictures for some time – I could literally see the smoke coming out of her ears. Eventually she simply turned to me and gave me her conclusion: she looked just like her baby step sister.

Finally, I revealed my messy but pretty complete note pad which I’d used to write down all the key moments from Ellie’s early development. It also seemed to include a number of things which in hindsight don’t seem so key – but that I think is a sign of life moving on. We quickly found when she first sat up, when she first rolled and when she got her first tooth. At that Ellie was clearly satisfied. She promptly took the one picture she’d decided to claim and walked off, marking the end of a very enjoyable shared mum and daughter moment.

There are of course things I didn't show her this time – pictures when her Dad and I got married, my pregnancy diary and indeed the book I wrote and published about having Ellie. These are things I will share with her when she’s older of course and might appreciate them fully. 

And so there we are - Ellie got her answers and I got...well a clear reminder about how important it is to take pictures and keep memories. I also can’t hide my smile when I think how much fun it was to share the past with Ellie.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Learning at half term!

So this week was half term and as it’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, I decided that I would write about our half term holiday. As I started to write though, I realised that rather than a witty post about our half term antics, I was instead creating a list of things I’d learned this week, and in some cases re-learned, about being a mum. As it turns out half term means school is out for the kids but clearly, not for me.

So here are my learning points from the week:

1.     When the sun shines everything is easier. Ellie is less challenging, I’m a lot calmer and generally everyone smiles more.  Conversely, as discovered in the latter part of the week, when it’s raining things tend to move in the other direction. Roll on the summer!

2.     Being at home with the children is physically more exhausting than being at work. Fact. I did know this but it’s funny how quickly you forget.

3.     My daughter has an amazing ability to fall, trip, bang and generally hurt herself at every opportunity. Sometimes it is a complete mystery to her and the rest of us how she manages it. Quite frankly Forever Living’s Aloe Vera Gelly* has been my companion of the week - soothing bruises gained via jumping on the sofa, healing cuts gained from gardening and so on.

4.     Despite the attitude frequently displayed, my daughter is a big softie – she can’t watch the results of Britain’s got Talent because it’s too upsetting when people go out and she still cries when she has to go to the doctors. To clarify, she even cries at the prospect of going to the doctors. She is still my little girl.

5.     Even though at age five Ellie is now incredibly stubborn I can still convince and bribe her. For example, for the cost of a 99p watering can Ellie managed to not sob uncontrollably at the doctors. I also impressed myself immensely by convincing both Ellie and her Step brother to help me prepare the new vegetable patch for well over an hour. (I note the latter was only of course achieved on a sunny day.)

6.     It’s been a busy week with a trip to a country park, swimming, painting, playdoh, gardening, games on the iPhone, playing miniature football (including one game with cars as players no less), playing mums and dads, seeing family and so on. Unbelievably, despite all of this however, it is apparently possible for children to be bored. Go figure.

So in conclusion, it’s been a busy family half term. We've had lots of fun and as always, I’m still learning about being a mum.

(*Please note that this post is in no way sponsored, i just really like the product which I discovered through my sister.)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

School is boring...apparently

When I got home last night I asked Ellie my usual, very simple, question. ‘What did you do today then?’ Ellie’s response was the one that I now regularly hear in relation to school, ‘boring stuff’. Normally, I simply have a wry smile to myself, shrug off the fact that I genuinely have no idea when and how she learned that word, and I let it go. Yesterday however was different.

Yesterday, I’d received a call from school saying that in the process of making crispie cakes Ellie had had an accident. Yes, you read that right - she’d made crispie cakes – that couldn't possibly be classed as boring could it?! I found myself unable to resist the urge to tackle this boring shenanigans once and for all, and so I continued our conversation with a gentle nudge:

Me: Like what boring stuff?
Ellie: Learning oa in my phonics group and words that have oa in them. I had to write a sentence with an oa word in it. Words like boat and road. [Ellie quickly grabbed a pen and paper to show me her writing.] I did so well I got to bring the doggy home for the night (see below the dog which suddenly appeared).

I duly acknowledged the dog (as well as Ellie's big smile) and without prompting, Ellie then continued.

Ellie: Oh and I made a mobile. I get to take it home tomorrow so you can see.
Me: What else?
Ellie: We made crispie cakes, and I did some other stuff – I played mums and dads with some of my friends.

My eagle eye then spotted another key sign of fun at school – a pen stained dress and scruffy hair!

I pressed on further although intuitively avoided the historically sensitive subject of the hair:

Me: and you've got pen down your dress – how did that happen?
Ellie: I don’t know, I don’t remember.
Me: Well that doesn't sound at all boring
Ellie: It’s hard work.

I just managed to hold back my guffaw of laughter, but hey presto maybe we were getting somewhere. Maybe she doesn't mean boring, maybe she means she has to concentrate (although that being a problem in reception is a bit of a worry). With steely determination I decided to move to a direct challenge.

Me: So Ellie, what does boring mean?
Ellie: You have to do stuff that is a bit boring
Me: It means you have to do something that isn't interesting
Ellie: (nodding) yep

At that point, I can only assume that Ellie sensed my impending win in the conversation and she clearly decided she'd had enough. She wandered off and changed the subject to what more she might have to eat. 

As I write this I do of course realise that Ellie's sharp exit from our conversation means I failed to provide that final winning line of ‘so there you are Ellie, school isn't boring’. This means that whilst there is quite frankly overwhelming evidence to contradict Ellie's assertion that school is boring, I think that Ellie might not yet have totally accepted my view. Is it me, or have I been foiled again by a 5 year old.

To be continued...

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A tale of two bags

I regularly find myself fascinated, amazed and frequently speechless about the differences between Ellie and her step brother. There are lots of differences but for once, I’m not going to tell you what I’m talking about, I'm going to show you...because one simple, seemingly innocuous object perfectly demonstrates my point.

This is the contents of Ellie’s school bag this evening:

This is the contents of her Step brother’s school bag this evening:

Shall we play spot the difference? Well, you get the point. 

What’s interesting is what this says about their different approaches to school and to life generally. Neither one of them is a better approach than the other, but they are just fascinating in their difference.

Ellie is very ordered about her school work, school bag and pretty much everything in her life. She likes to know where her things are, what she’s going to be doing and she likes things in their place. This makes her keen to do her school work, keen to help tidy and a touch over the top when things aren't quite right - enter tantrum stage left. 

Ellie’s step brother is much more relaxed about life in general, and whilst that can be frustrating because he won’t volunteer to do school work and usually can’t find his stuff…he worries less and is generally more relaxed about what’s going on around him.

What this reminds me is that no single style of parenting can ever be seen as the ‘right’ style – because different children need different things. There is no doubting the fact that Ellie and her step brother need totally different styles of parenting input. Of course knowing this is the easy part, but doing it…well, I’m learning.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

I miss you

By virtue of the fact that I’m no longer with Ellie’s Dad she obviously goes to stay with him regularly – every other weekend and then for longer holidays two or three times a year. This Easter, Ellie was away at her Dad’s for a week and a half, it was her 5th birthday and, I really missed her. The house was quiet and her room was empty.

Normally, when Ellie’s away I don’t write about it, primarily because it’s usually Ellie stuff I write about and I clearly can’t do that when she isn't here. This time though I found myself wanting to write about how it feels when she’s away because it’s something I think people often don’t talk about and because, as always, there’s an element of self-therapy in writing about it.

The emotions involved are quite honestly complicated and it’s really difficult to describe. In the day before Ellie goes away it’s not unusual for me to look forward to it – it is after all a chance for me to sort stuff, have time to myself and time to spend with my partner.

Then when the time comes to wave goodbye, I get this feeling in the pit of my stomach, a kind of lurch, a kind of empty space. It’s particularly strong when, like on this occasion, she’s going away for longer than a weekend. It’s a feeling unique to dropping Ellie off and it’s a heady mix of sadness, happiness, excitement and guilt. I feel sadness because she’s going and I will miss her. Happiness because her excitement to see her Dad, step mum and new baby sister is as it should be and I love that she’s so settled with it all. I feel excitement because as I've already said I do make the most of the time and often appreciate the break and finally, guilt (the ever present parenting emotion) because I enjoy the time.

Whilst she’s away for longer periods of time I inevitably miss her more than usual and I have what I can only describe as a compulsion to make the most of the time. I fill my head with lists of things to do and achieve before she gets back – whether it’s relaxing, doing some jobs or whatever.

There are then some entirely new emotions which surface when it’s finally time to collect Ellie again. There’s always excitement and anticipation, but what you might not expect, is that after a longer holiday away I always feel a little anxious. Crazy as it sounds I worry that she might not want to come home, I worry that she’ll be inconsolably upset at saying bye to her Dad or that somehow our closeness will be affected. Now I’m not new to all this and I know in my sane head that the anxiety is not valid, but somehow it doesn't stop me feeling it! Then again as always my little girl provides the balance and as I see her running up to me, any worries are forgotten and the only emotion I feel is simply love for her. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Party rhyme - celebrating as Ellie turns 5

My shock at how quickly time flies, I simply cannot hide
My baby has gone and now what I see, is a 5 year old girl who fills me with pride
And so on Sunday I watched my angel, all confident and filled with glee
As she played with her friends and ran around, no longer the shy child on my knee

Now we were just slightly early, as her birthday isn’t for another week
But Easter weekend won’t do for a party, so an alternative we simply had to seek
It’s not actually my birthday mummy Ellie would continuously stress
But as she saw the balloons, the cake and the fuss, she excitedly put on her new dress

Despite the snow and the mayhem caused, we got everything to the venue on time
With a flurry of work the room was prepared and it looked quite frankly just fine
And so with relief the party began and every one of Ellie’s guests arrived
As they came through the door Ellie ran to say hi and her face simply came alive

Ellie had asked for a party of craft, I mean create make and do
and so it was that all the guests had a go and went home with something new
Everyone had their own canvas painting, a sun catcher and a clay animal too
So busy they were that it has to be said, the time simply flew

So it’s fair to say that I genuinely think this was my favourite of Ellie’s parties so far
The reason for this is simply because of the smiles and giggles and laughs
But most of all, what topped it off was the cuddle and hug that I got
which came to me all packaged up with a thank you mum on top

Now it’s only right that I end this poem with just a little word to the wise
I’m not a mum who did it all myself and that shouldn't be a surprise
The cake came from Sainsbury’s the day before, the homemade cupcakes not suitable to eat
I hired some experts for create make and do and yet I was still rushed off my feet

So it’s thanks to the help from family and friends and a little bit of good luck
That when push came to shove it all went well and I didn't come unstuck
The key message to take from all of this is to make sure you have time
To stop and remember just what’s the point and watch your little one’s face shine.

Prose for Thought
I'm linking up with 'Prose for Thought' this week, so if you liked my little poem then why not have a look here for some other poems you just might like! 

Thursday, 21 March 2013

School dinners and cooking healthy

For some time now the news has been full of things about healthy eating in general and specifically school dinners. I’ve viewed this whole discussion with a certain level of interest, but it’s been something well...over there. You know, the place where things go when they are nothing to do with you, and are not sufficiently important to you right now to warrant your limited time or attention.

In the last 5 months however things have significantly changed. Ellie is, as previous readers of my blog will know, now in school and she has school dinners. My interest in the whole school lunch debate has therefore somewhat peaked. In addition, Ellie has very clearly decided she doesn’t like vegetables, any apparently except cucumber! So I’ve found myself regularly putting on my private investigator mummy hat to find out more about what Ellie’s eaten each day at school, how much she’s eaten and so on. Today however, I was finally going to get an insight as I went back to school and I joined Ellie for her Easter school dinner.  

Within a couple of minutes of arriving I saw Ellie’s class walking over and child by child ran to greet their family member. Ellie waved frantically from a distance and then grabbed my hand when she was close, shouting ‘come on then’ and literally dragging me into the dinner hall. Ellie next showed me where to hang my coat and then where to queue for our food. She was clearly enjoying showing me the ropes and I have to admit a sense of pride watching my little girl who was uber confident and chatty with her friends. 

My plate was gradually filled with my chosen lamb, roast potato, mashed potato, sprouts, sweet corn and carrots. Once I’d squeezed myself and my plate onto the teeny table and chair, I saw there were jugs of water and plates of fresh bread laid out as well. The meal itself was quite honestly lovely – both in the fact that I shared it with Ellie and in that the food tasted just great. In all too quick a time lunch was over and, with a kiss and wave, I was watching Ellie run off into the playground to play with her friends.

What I did note though was that Ellie's keenness to show me the ropes didn't extend to what she ate. Ellie only got meat, mash and sweet corn for her plate and then announced she'd finished with 99% of her sweet corn still on her plate. It was neither the time nor the place so i let it go and instead congratulated myself on my patience and relaxed attitude. Bravo to me for holding back on the nagging.

What I’ve learned from today is that I’m in no doubt that the school lunch was actually pretty damn good. I’m also acutely aware that Ellie isn’t a great lover of vegetables and whilst I don’t need to panic, I probably should do something to encourage her since she doesn’t seem to eat them anywhere anymore.

It is a happy coincidence then that this morning I just happened to be listening to the radio. I heard Henry Dimbleby on Woman’s Hour on radio 4 talking about getting children to cook healthy and the competition called ‘Cook 5’. It's designed to encourage children across the UK to learn to cook 5 savoury dishes before the age of 16. There are some lovely prizes to be won by individual children and a prize for the school that encourages the most children to cook 5 dishes.

Now I think Ellie is, at almost 5, a little younger than the target audience for the competition, but today’s events in their entirety have got me thinking. First, we do cook at home together but it’s almost always cakes and sweet stuff and I always do the majority of the key bits. Second, Ellie is actually growing up fast and showed me her confidence and competence in many ways today at school. Third, whilst she may be a bit young for the competition there is no reason why we can’t join in (in our own way) and so I’ve hatched a plan.

I’m going to make some of the Cook 5 savoury recipes with Ellie and I’m going to try to get Ellie to do more of the work than I do. It won’t happen on a working day as there simply isn’t time, but the next free weekend we have we’re going to start. I will of course let you know how we get on and in the meantime, do let me know about your cooking and healthy eating successes. I'd also totally recommend that you have a look at the Cook 5 website and go on...why not have a go?

As always please do get in touch either via the comments below, or @sharonmsmyth I really do love to hear from you. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Settling but still searching for that balance

As any previous readers of this blog will know the last 6 months have been a pretty busy time for Ellie and I. Right now, for the first time in quite some time, I’m not planning, doing or recovering from a huge life change. I know that sounds a little melodramatic (and I’m never melodramatic…well not too often) but in the last 6 months: Ellie started school, we moved in with my boyfriend and his son in a totally new area, Ellie changed school, I published my book and finally, a few weeks ago we moved house again into our new family home. You get the point?

Well finally, after all of that, (my fingers are firmly crossed as I say this,) it looks like life might just be settling down and we are settling in.

Ellie has been invited to a number of birthday parties from friends at her new school and crucially, was desperate to go to them. She was also ridiculously excited when we wrote the invites for her birthday party and handed them out in the playground herself (at her insistence). She’s now had several play dates outside of school and is looking forward to going to one on her own later this week.

For my part, I now know the names of a number of the other mums from school and have their mobile numbers. We are in the process of organising a night out and a pamper night is forthcoming! I’ve met several of the neighbours at our new house and actually know their names ... oh yes I do.

I am no longer anxious about how to drive to the places I need to get to in the area. Okay okay so I know it sounds sad, but no longer needing my sat nav for every single journey has to count as an indicator that we’re settling doesn’t it?

We also had parents evening this week and there’s no doubting the fact that Ellie has settled at school. I felt immensely proud as I was told that she was doing really well in all areas, learning well and being kind to others. They also mentioned she was very tidy minded so that’s noted! The fact that Ellie joined the school slightly later than everyone else is now clearly insignificant.

So it’s fair to say that by and large everything’s going pretty well which is why I can’t help feeling utterly frustrated that once again I’ve found myself struggling to get the balance right...that is the utopia of being as great a mum as I can be whilst also satisfying the desire/need to work and to deliver in my work. I’ve had tears (mine not Ellie’s), I’ve felt down and I’ve felt like a bad mum.

I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve needed to literally beg and borrow family and friends to look after Ellie, I’ve had a lot of nights where I’ve been tired and bad tempered and there have been several things at the school which I’ve been unable to do.

On the other side I’ve got a number of key things to get done for work and quite frankly, not enough time…I simply can’t work late in the office because I have to come home for Ellie but I do want to achieve. I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve been able to work from home regularly for a few months now, but that isn’t something I can do for much longer.

If I’m honest though, what I think makes this all particularly frustrating is that, rightly or wrongly, I really do feel that I should just be able to deal with this, get over it and well…get the hell on with it! My inner voice is loud in its annoyance with me, not least because as I’ve already said life is actually settling nicely at the moment, but also telling me to quite frankly give it up because this is real life…millions of other working parents manage it and quite frankly you can’t have it all.

Well I’m sorry…but when it comes to this I want it all. That is when ‘all’ is working and also being able to be Ellie’s mum in an active, every day part of her life way. Surely this isn’t too much to ask?

So come on guys help me out here…I’m dying to know what you think. Is it possible to balance it right? Have you managed it and if so, can you share your secret? Also of course, I’d love to know that I’m not the only one who feels this frustration. 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Growing up fast...another mummy challenge

The other day when I collected Ellie from her weekend with Daddy I found myself engaged in a rather grown up conversation with my little girl. It went like this:

  • Ellie ‘I feel a little bit sad'
  • Me ‘why Ellie?’
  • Ellie ‘because I want to be with Daddy’
  • Me ‘oh, I know’
  • Ellie ‘I’m a little bit happy too, because I’m with you’
  • Me ‘oh I see’ (pause whilst I thought what to say…) ‘well we both love you very much’

It wasn't the most constructive answer…but it was quite frankly the best I could muster in the moment. Whilst the conversation inevitably prompted a range of thoughts (material for several posts I feel!), but one thing it did remind me of yet again was that my little girl is growing up.

As we move towards Ellie’s 5th birthday I realise just how grown up she’s getting, most specifically how much she’s changed since starting school. I remember lots of people saying that they grow up suddenly when they start school and they aren't wrong, although I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

There are many things about Ellie growing up which I love. I love her growing independence like getting herself dressed and doing her hair. I love that we can have a proper conversation and that she’s growing into a little girl who is keen to learn and knows her own mind. It’s fair to say that I do want to encourage her to grow up and help her navigate that journey.

On the other hand I can’t deny that I do love the fact she isn't all grown up quite yet and I don’t want it to happen too fast. I love that she still watches cbeebies, that she still wants cuddles from her mum and that she still goes to bed at 7.00pm.

Of course if I could pick and choose then she’d grow out of any and all tantrums, be able to get her own school bag ready and choose to eat vegetables every time I cook them. Alongside that however she would continue to want bedtime stories, need magic kisses from mummy when she bumps something and still occasionally let me do her hair and choose her clothes for her (ones that match!).

Joking aside, watching my beautiful girl grow up is amazing but I don’t think I’m the only mummy that also feels just a little sad that, as exciting as it is, I’m losing my baby.

The biggest challenge for me in all of this though has to be making sure that I balance the demands of life so that I get to enjoy Ellie growing up and remember to savour each and every moment.

So I’m making three promises to help me do just that:

1.      Make sure that we aren’t always in a rush for story time and cuddles before bed
2.      Try not to say ‘hang on a minute’ more than 75% of the time when Ellie asks me for something (it’s important to be realistic!)
3.      Sometimes just take a minute to simply stop and watch Ellie…literally a moment to see her growing up

As always, I’d love to know what you think so please do get in touch either via the comments below or on twitter (@sharonmsmyth)