Yay for the summer!

Yay for the summer holidays!  On some days you will detect sarcasm in my voice when saying those words, and on others you will hear genuine excitement.  We’re a few weeks into the summer holiday stretch, and so far it’s been pretty good, but there are already hints of the struggle that may begin to appear over the next month!

The Weather

What is going on?  Did August not get the summer weather memo?  Does this month not realise that there are children and parents all over the country itching to get outside.  No, not to jump in muddy puddles and wear jumpers (I kid you not, Lylah was in a knitted jumper whilst on a walk recently!), but to play on a sandy beach, visit the outdoor pool and play in the garden!  This weather even makes the walk from the front door to the car hard work!  Clothes freshly on become drenched and covered in splashy mud patches, and mummy’s hair expands in an instant!  The rain leads to puddles and we all know kids just love jumping in a puddle.  Which I don’t mind when they’re in wellies and waterproofs, but not when they’re sporting their newest pair of Clarks!

Rain also leads to indoor activities.  Who can tell me what the most stressful indoor activity for children of all time is?  Bowling?  No.  Cinema?  Far from it.  Softplay?  Yep, that’s the one.

Softplay

I don’t understand why soft play centres have coffee shops in them, I have yet to fully take advantage of them.  We get to a soft play centre and immediately the 2 year old runs right into the centre of it, coats and shoes still on.  I then try and extract him whilst he tantrums a bit, and the 4 year old disappears into the mass of children, chatting mums, shoes, socks and dangerously placed toys.  We find a table (rarely), and unload the mound of bags we’ve brought with us.  The kids get released into the wild of the soft play land, and I try to relax.  But I can’t!  Who can truly relax when you can’t see your child because they’re buried in the ballpit?  For me, every soft play trip comes with at least one moment where I get the dreaded panic in the pit of my stomach when I can’t find my children.  They always pop up out of somewhere, they’ve normally been wedged in a  tunnel or stuck in the netting, but those few seconds aren’t fun.  I normally take food to avoid soft play prices, only to be met with disappointment because actually they would rather have a soft play lunchbox.  This, by the way, contains exactly the same food items I’ve packed for us, only I don’t have the Happy Meal style box, therefore mine’s not as good.  A couple of hours at soft play is normally enough and I’m ready to leave, but dragging those kids out isn’t easy!  So at least when the sun’s out, soft play doesn’t enter your mind.

Finding activities

I have spent an awful lot of time so far finding things on the internet for us to do.  Googling local children’s activities at National Trust and the like, planning days out and desperately looking for things to entertain the little ones to avoid too much DVD watching and the dreaded aforementioned softplay!

Planning

The summer holidays requires some planning.  I have had playdate requests, dates to meet up and days out for the diary thrown at me by lots of people, and it took me a few days to digest it all and actually work out when we are going to fit it all in.  I sat down with my calendar and phone, and  went through the entire 6 weeks, putting everything I could possibly plan ahead in so we all know what’s going on.  The scary thing is, only a couple of weeks in, we are running out of free dates!  I had visions back in June of a long drawn out summer, playing on the bikes and doing spontaneous activities when the mood takes us, but in fact it’s quite the military operation.

The Cost

I have come to realise that the older the children get, they like doing things that cost a bit more money.  I’m pretty lucky as I can still just about get away with free walks and making the most out of our National Trust membership, but I feel for the parents taking trips to Theme parks, paying for regular cinema and bowling outings, and having to pay much more for it as their children aren’t under 3 anymore.  The attractions know how to make their money out of the summer holidays, and the desperate parents looking for things to do to fill the days, don’t mind spending it.

Fighting the boredom

Unfortunately, when the weather is as bad as it has been, you tend to stay at home, which can lead to boredom for everyone involved.  The children may be surrounded by the entire contents of the Argos catalogue, but those toys just aren’t interesting enough to actually play with.   So far, we’ve done painting, magnet making, cooking, and my favourite, helping mummy tidy the house!  I’m planning pizza making, biscuit baking, den building…the list goes on, all with the aim of not putting the TV on too much when we’re at home!

I’ll update you at the end of the holidays with how its gone, let’s keep our fingers crossed the weather improves, and we can all enjoy a great summer with the kids!

The end of an era – phase 1

Lylah – first day – 24/02/2015

“Separates from mum and dad well…explores different activities and resources in the pre-school independently”

Lylah’s first day at pre-school, just under 2 1/2 years ago.  I remember it so well, and couldn’t believe how grow up my baby had become.  I was worried about her, and wondered how she’d cope on this brand new adventure, but I was also excited about the next few years and eager to see how she’d develop during this next stage of her life.

I recall feeling nervous as Chris and I dropped her off, and then feeling relieved when she’d had a great time!  A few weeks in, and she began to feel more wobbly.  This soon passed though, and pre-school became a second home to her.  She is so comfortable there and her pre-school life crossed over easily into her home life, like an extended family.

She really flourished during her time there, but as a parent, you only get a small insight into their sessions.  How I’d love to be a fly on the wall and hear all of the conversations first hand.  For the last few years however, all I’ve had is the feedback from her key worker and the odd snippet from Lylah on the car journey home.  Then yesterday, I took the time to read her full folder after it was given to me on her last day.  A thorough record of Lylah’s activities, abilities and conversations from the past couple of years.

Reading through the folder, I literally saw my little girl grow before my eyes.  In pictures and words, I can see Lylah go from the shy 2 year old little girl who could just about manage a basic conversation, to a confident bubbly 4 year old who can hold her own in most adult chats.  It’s amazing how you forget how your child was, just 2 years ago, so to have this record is amazing.

Not long after Lylah started pre-school, Malachy was born.  On the 5th May 2015 she said “Got new Baby, it called Malachy, it tiny”.  How adorable?  So innocent and wonderful, little did she know just how much of an impact that “tiny Malachy” would have on her little life.  What is really evident throughout the entire pre-school account is her mentioning us, her family, during conversations with her keyworker, and it’s amazing to know she’s always thinking of us, even when she’s not with us.

There were some real crackers in there.  Throughout the process of me reading out the captions, and Chris and I muttering “Awwww” and “Ahhhhh”, there were also quite a few LOLS.

It’s the simplest things that got me…”Alison, I’ve got hiccups…Oh dear”

And the things I never hear her say at home “Hey presto!  That’s the biggest sand castle ever!”

Hearing how Chris has forced Liverpool FC on our children “I want red.  Daddy likes red for Liverpool.”

Hearing her recollection of our family holiday to Cornwall:  “We went in a caravan.  I had my own bed, it was really snuggly.  We went to the beach”  I mean, it’s the simple things.

And the beauty in hearing how imaginative she is “Suggests blue play dough could be Elsa’s cape, then a mermaid’s tail, then finally decided to put it on a doll’s head – Look it’s a hat!”

And just how wonderfully funny our little princess is “Helps other’s to dress up.  Joins others in fast space where music is being played and says Look, let’s get this party started, come on everybody!”  That’s my girl!

Her last day at pre-school was filled with mixed emotions.  Reading the last entry from her key worker into her record book brought a lump to my throat and I couldn’t read it.  When Chris read it out to me, tears stung my eyes and I could’ve burst with pride at the complimentary words written about our little girl.

The presentation should have been wonderful, but as I have a 2 year old boy who won’t sit still and thinks its okay to shout “SHUSSSHHHH” through the pre-schoolers final rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle” (fellow parents, I am SO sorry), it was a little more fraught than I would have liked.  But that’s life.  He’s part of our family and he was there to see his big sis end this phase of her life and start the next one.  It’s not the end of pre-school for us, Malachy will be back there in September, and I still have that to look forward to, but it was the first of many lasts that I know I will experience as a parent.  That’s something parents have to get used to.  They aren’t little forever, and their early years are filled with milestones that come and go.  Cry tears of joy though, and be proud of them.  Support them in their next stage and cheer them on to success.  And just like Lylah has, they’ll make you proud.

Me and the RSVP

RSVP’S and me just don’t get on okay?  I simply can’t seem to reply to any kind of invitation on time, even after initial good intentions to do so.  I believe there are 2 types of people; those who RSVP on time and those who don’t.  Before you read on, if you fall into the ‘on-time’ category, please please don’t judge me.  I’m not a bad person, I don’t like being intentionally rude and I’m always really organised in my head about these things, it just never seems to go anywhere from that point!

It was bad enough before children when there were only wedding invitations and the occasional birthday or anniversary party to attend, but when you have children, the kid’s parties start, and my word there are a lot of them.  Every time you open a school bag, something falls out, and the RSVP to-do list mounts up.

What’s so funny about it is that I believe myself to be a relatively organised person, or at least I used to be until this chaos called Jugglehood began.  In my professional life I am meticulous.  My work is thorough, well-organised and I can manage my time and jobs well.  This used to cross over into my personal life, and I would often be relied upon to arrange nights out, day trips and holidays.  I’m also the household organiser when it comes to bills and paperwork, so you’d think I’d be all over this RSVP business.  But I’m not.

Facebook has helped; at least with an event invite you can to do everything the organiser needs to know with one click.  In fact it’s too easy, making the old fashioned way seem like an awful lot of effort.  Yes I blame Facebook for making the original RSVP process far too time consuming and taxing!

I compare it to when you read a text message, have every good intention of replying, but then remember to reply three days later whilst bathing the kids, go to do it straight after bath-time, but get distracted by burning sausages, then revisit it 2 days later at 3 in the morning when you’ve got to get up a for a wee.  It’s like that, only with paper invites and forgetting to do anything about them.

It goes like this for me.  1) Receive invite. 2) Get excited about invite. 3) Loosely work out whether we can attend in my head. 4) Pin invite to noticeboard in kitchen.  Side note: I’ve come to realise that this is the point it all goes wrong.  5) Wait 3 weeks then wake in a panic in the early hours, actually blushing over the embarrassment of forgetting to reply and hoping the person in question doesn’t hate me / isn’t talking about me and how rude I am.

That’s the bit I hate.  The fact that I know it is really rude to not respond on time.  It is actually quite insulting.  Someone has spent time, energy and money on inviting me somewhere, and I can’t do the same back?   Why is this not incentive enough for me get it done?

A friend and I were having a conversation about this recently as a few weeks before she had sent out the invites to her child’s birthday party.  The RSVP date was still a couple of weeks off, but she was still frustrated that some people hadn’t responded yet.  Her argument was that they must know what they are doing by now, and if they don’t, then they must be waiting for a better offer!  I imagine they are just other people like me who haven’t got their arses in gear and would love to come, but have just failed to mention it to anyone yet!

I’ve been pretty bad at replying to party invites on time this year, and I’m publicly sorry to the mum at pre-school drop off the other morning who had to ask me if my kids were coming to her son’s birthday party.  She was so lovely about it, but I felt so awful.  The ridiculous thing was I read that invite when we’d first received it in the car, and was going to respond immediately because I had my phone in my hand.  But I didn’t, I muttered those immortal words “I’ll do it when I get in…”

The worst thing about all of this is that I am a complete hypocrite.  When organising Lylah’s birthday party last year, I chased people to see if they were coming.  I actually chased people.  Me, who never RSVP’s on time, had the audacity to ask people if they could come.  I had party bags to do you know?  Once again, don’t judge.

Occasionally, I cross over to the dark side, get myself weirdly organised and actually get a response to someone on-time.  It’s rare, so if you’re ever at the receiving end of this, then feel very privileged.

I’ll try harder, I promise, but in return, promise me you won’t be too hard on the mums like me who forget to respond.  Be gentle with them, they’re probably in Jugglehood too.

Not the mummy I thought I’d be…

Not the mummy I thought I’d be…

Everyday, for at least one moment, I give myself a hard time for not being the mum I always thought I’d be.  I think I always knew I would like to have children, but I had a completely unrealistic view on it as a twenty-something with no real insight to the life of a mummy.  I remember thinking that I’d enter motherhood completely relaxed about it all, and I’d be the sort of mum that would take everything in her stride, letting my children play all day, make messes, stay up late, whilst I’d cook, clean and play with them all at the same time.  I had this vision of how I’d thought I’d be, but 4 1/2 years and I’m scarily nowhere near.

With one child I was fairly relaxed.  I wasn’t too strict about sleep routines and Lylah slotted into most aspects of our life, but naturally, it’s a massive change and your focus shifts to your child and what their needs are.  I started maternity leave imagining how beautifully clean my house would be and how I would be the mum who had it together.  I have fast learned that I hardly ever “have it together”, and that most time of the time I’m keeping my head above water whilst frantically paddling away under the surface.

Since I’ve had two children, a lot has changed.  I struggle with something every single day, and before I go on, I do want to note that I know there are so many more parents out there who deal with more than two children, as well as many other difficult aspects of parenthood, but I am experiencing a whirlwind of emotions daily, and this is my account of them.

Things have escalated since having Malachy, not only because there are 2 small humans to look after, but because he is a much more active and boisterous child than Lylah ever was, something I’m really struggling to get used to!  He is equally adorable, sensitive and cuddly, but when he is hanging off me by my hair for the twentieth time in a day, I find it hard to remember that!

When I put the children to bed in the evening, I take a deep breath, sit down and enjoy the freedom of my own body, i.e. not being sat/jumped/climbed on, and I also enjoy a few moments of quiet and sanity.

At the moment, the minute I hear Malachy shout my name in the morning, (and I mean shout, he literally starts the day shouting), I brace myself for the rest of the day.  Ahead of me lies the daily struggles.  He cries when I get him dressed, he hits my face, he races around the house threatening to run into everything, he tears every piece of paper in his path, he destroys toys the instant he touches them, he pulls Lylah’s hair ALL THE TIME, he won’t let me put him in the car seat (he has to climb up himself), and this goes on and on and on and on, until I put him to bed.  Even bedtime has become an ongoing struggle of throwing toys out of the cot, demanding his music, his blanket, actually no not his blanket, “turn my music off!”  – get my gist?  It’s a constant, exhausting battle of wills and I’m at my wit’s end.  Alongside this, I’ve got my beautiful 4 year old, who whilst is very well behaved and actually listens to me for the most part, is extremely demanding and bosses me around like she’s the mummy!

So contending with my two darling children, working part-time, running a makeup business, keeping a household together, keeping in touch with friends and family, catching up on my own interests, and oh yes, remembering to talk to my own husband, feels like a mountain of effort and it builds up to the point where I feel like I might explode.  And the mummy I always wanted to be feels like a million miles away.  I look around at my house, every room a chaotic mess, with my job list growing and growing, and I just want to cry.  I see other mummies cope with it all, why can’t I?  I feel constant guilt when I am home with the kids and they are asking me to play this, draw that, build this, and my constant response is “not right now sweetheart, mummy still has to do the washing”.  I just can’t seem to find a way for all the cogs to work together, and I’m always on catch up mode.

I’ve talked to some friends about this recently, about the constant chaos of everyday life, remembering kids parties, and birthday cards, and packed lunches, along with the work deadlines and cleaning your children, and it seems it’s not just me.  One fellow mum is getting through the school run with the help of rescue remedy – I tried it, it helps!  One thing is for certain, you should not put too much pressure on yourself.  Be the mum you actually are, rather than the one you think you should be.  Let your children see the real you, rather than a polished fake version of you.  Enjoy the motherhood experience for what it is, warts and all, and don’t try and pretend it’s anything else.  Let us help each other feel good about being mummies, rather than judging, and most importantly, look at your children.  Are they happy?  Well fed?  Clothed?  Clean?  If you can comfortably say yes to the above things, then even if they are lost beneath a mound of toys and you are panicking because you’ve run out of ham for their packed lunch again, then you’re doing a pretty amazing job.

 

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Glastonbury with a difference!

Glastonbury Festival was always something I’d experienced without any attachments.  We’d pack our car full with the camping, enough baked beans for a week, cash for cider, a few boxes of wine and off we’d go.  We’d normally work the festival, so we could work hard and play hard for a few days of fun in a Somerset field.

The last festival we went to was 2011, the year before I fell pregnant with Lylah.  Something happens when you fall pregnant; everything else goes out of your mind, well it did with me anyway.  I wouldn’t have considered going to Glastonbury pregnant, what’s the point when you can’t take advantage of the cider bus!  I didn’t miss it that year at all, my mind completely occupied with the bundle of joy cooking inside my tummy.  Which was good really, as it was cancelled anyway, so I wasn’t able to see the coverage and yearn to be there.  The year after was a no go as well; surely Glastonbury with a 6 month old would be too difficult?  I started to get jealousy pangs seeing everyone putting their pictures up on social media, and was hoping I might get lucky with a Sunday ticket and an all day babysitter, but it didn’t happen.

2014 was my sister’s wedding year, and with the hen party costs, Glastonbury wasn’t a priority.  I had to leave my little angel for 3 days already, I couldn’t do it twice!  2016 saw the birth of Malachy, so once again, an attached breastfeeding baby didn’t fit with my ideal vision of me enjoying a festival.  We got tickets in 2016, but decided not to go because of, you guessed it, the children.  Malachy was still too young to be left for that long in my eyes, and we couldn’t face it yet.  When I saw the mud I was a little smug!

But this year we did it.  2017 saw the return of The Boyds to Pilton, raring to go, after 6 years of missing the best party in the world.  However, this year we did it a little differently.

We worked again, and were lucky enough to have our shifts spread across the week from Tuesday to Saturday.  Childcare in place, we packed our bags ready to go.  This time though, it was just for the one night.  Just a light spell of camping for us this week, as we decided to use the luxury of our own homes and comfortable beds between shifts and visits to the site!  Oh what a feeling that was!  To get home and shower the dirt off before climbing into clean sheets!

After a bit of looking after our children on Thursday, we went in for our next shift.  Only to be faced with a dilemma: we weren’t needed!  What do we do?  Do we ring my parents and let them know, rush home and relieve them of their grandparent duties?  Or do we keep quiet, and enjoy the night and lie in the next morning in our bed without the two monkeys climbing in with us?  We settled on a compromise; we’d enjoy the festival for a few hours, and collect the children early and take them home, giving mum the night off.  After all, it was only Thursday!

We went home again for most of Friday, reprising parental duties, changing nappies, holding back toddler wrestling matches, the usual.

Friday night felt like a bit more freedom ahead of us.  We were going in for 2 whole nights away from the kids!  We have never done that before, and we sort of did it without thinking too much about it, otherwise it might have upset me too much.  The thought of Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters on Saturday night was on my mind, and Chris and I enjoyed an amazingly fun evening, meeting new people, dancing, watching music and eating & drinking.  We worked a great shift on Saturday, and enjoyed a raucous Saturday night, getting jumped on at the barrier for The Foo Fighters headlining set!  Throughout all these fun and frolics however, my mind often turned to the children, wondering what they were doing, and checking my phone for pictures and videos being sent through from my family.  I noticed another thing, everywhere I looked there were children all around us.  I’ve always known that Glastonbury is a very child friendly festival, but I never realised just how many children went.  I suppose I’d never been that interested before.  There were pregnant ladies, newborn babies, toddlers, right up to young children enjoying the festivities in the Kidzfield.

On Sunday morning, we went to collect Lylah to bring her on site for the day.  Imagine that, your first Glastonbury experience at 4 years old!  She had been so excited in the lead up to it, and I was intrigued about my first Glastonbury experience with a child in tow.  Chris had agreed to drive home that evening, so I was still able to drink, but swigging back on a can of Thatchers didn’t seem right in front of my little girl.  I still enjoyed the pre mixed G&T’s we’d carefully poured into water bottles after all, this was still my time to relax and enjoy myself, but I couldn’t let go like I had the otter days.  And that’s fine, because I want my daughter to feel safe, and most importantly I wanted it to be fun and exciting for her.

We managed to park close to gate A, and so didn’t have much walking to do to get on site, but after 5 minutes, the whines of “my legs are tired” began, and we started to wonder whether this was a good idea!  We managed to swiftly get her to the Kidzfield where we met some friends, and she excitedly wanted to go on a waltzer type ride – which she immediately cried at and wanted to get off!  After a few cuddles, we found solace in a storytelling tent, at which point Chris and I had to stop ourselves from falling asleep!  After meeting a CBeebies heart throb (which my friend and I were the most giddy about!) we went to the Big Top tent to watch some more CBeebies action.  As the kids viewed eagerly from the front, and the adults settled down on the floor, we realised at that moment just how much our lives have changed.  Out of all the amazing experiences we’d had that week, which there were quite a few of, seeing Lylah’s little face light up at rides, balloons and over enthusiastic TV presenters made our festival.

We had a few moments of distress, mainly surrounding toilet experiences and worrying I might lose her down the long drops, but thankfully the portable potty we’d sensibly packed saved the day.  I wonder whether Lylah will remember her wise words “I never ever want to use these toilets ever ever again” when she is enjoying her own festival experiences in her teens!

Seeing her sing along to Ed Sheeran on daddy’s shoulders, on the video I have watched again and again and will continue to watch, was the moment of the whole festival.  Her sleepy eyes struggled to stay open for the moment and song she had been waiting for all day, yet she still managed to give me some sass and a smile whilst I was filming her.

Our lives our different now, and the things we do have to change.  So we went to Glastonbury, we embraced everything it had to offer and enjoyed every minute, but we did it as a mummy and daddy.

 

My Race for Life 10k

I am writing this feeling really proud of myself.  Recently I ran and completed a 10K run at Sherborne Castle, a Race for life for Cancer Research UK.  I am not only proud of myself, but of everyone who gathered in the grounds of the castle on Father’s Day, coming together to fight cancer and raise lots of money for Cancer Research UK.

We arrived at the castle, and my nerves really kicked in as I saw the swarms of ladies dressed head to toe in pink, ready to run the 5 or 10k in 25 degree heat!  All of a sudden, I didn’t feel prepared.

In October last year, I could barely run 10 minutes on the treadmill.  I was unfit, lazy, and wanted to be better.  Going to gym to regularly and keeping it up made me excited to be getting fitter, and changed my attitude towards exercise.  It makes me feel good, healthier, happier and I’m proud of myself and my mini achievements so far.

Entering 2017, I said I wanted to set myself some challenges this year, so I decided to run a race.  I googled what there was around the 5/10k mark in the area around summer time, and I was pleased to see Sherborne was holding a 10k around the beautiful castle grounds.  That’s it, I thought, that’s the race I’ll do.  I roped in my sister and a group of wonderful ladies to join me, and we pencilled it in, at the back of our minds!

Cancer has been very close to home for my family recently.  A couple of years back, my beautiful mother-in-law was diagnosed with Lymphoma. For 6 months of last year, she underwent rigorous treatment for both the cancer via Chemotheraphy, and also went through treatment for her autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s Disease.  She has come out the other side of it, fit and well for the most part, but has suffered with infections and hospital stays as a result of her weak immune system.  We don’t know when she might next have to face treatment, hopefully not for a long time, but it is so wonderful to know that because of that treatment last year, which somebody researched and spent time developing, she is with us alive and well today.  Maura, this race was for you.

Also, I recently lost my elderly Nonno (grandad) who had suffered with prostate cancer, which had spread to his bones.  He was in a hospice and then a nursing home, making it to the impressive age of 90!  My nonna, his wife of 65 years, suffers from dementia, and their whole lives have been turned upside down.  Nonna & Nonna, this race was for you.

10 years ago, my husband’s Aunt Paula died after a short battle with cancer.  She was taken too suddenly at such a young age, because of this disease.  Paula and all the Boyd family, this run was for you.

A dear friend Lucy, who at the young age of 33 has discovered she has cancer for the 4th time in her life.  We all admire how strong she has been in her life, adventurous in travelling the world and making the most of every opportunity presented to her.  She is doing her own amazing things for cancer research, and was inspiring everyone at the event by talking, doing the warm up on stage, and standing in the heat cheering us on.  Lucy, this race was for you.

My mum has all too often seen cancer in her family.  She has lost aunties and her cousin, all too young and I am sad that I haven’t had a chance to get to know these amazing people.  Mum, this race was for you and our wonderful relatives gone too soon.

I have got to know a lovely lady, Franny, who I first met when she photographed Lylah when she was a baby.  We have family and friends in common, our girls do dance classes together and she has taken some amazing family photos I will treasure forever with her talent and her camera.  She is battling cancer as a woman and a mother and everyday I admire her strength and positivity.  Franny, this race was for you.

I could go on.  I know too many people with family and friends who havce been affected by cancer.  This race was for everyone touched by this awful disease.  The ones who know people and see it from afar, the ones who are living it every day, the ones who have come close with scares themselves, and the ones who will get it in the future.  This race was for all of us.

I had to set myself a goal for this race, which was to finish it in under an hour.  After 5k, my friend Sarah and I were on track, pacing well and thinking we could really do this!  Then came the steepest hill I’ve ever run on.  My legs turned to lead and the tears came as I struggled to move my body in the right direction.  I actually felt like I might give up, but Sarah encouraged me on, gave me her hot, sweaty hand and dragged my up that hill!  We walked half of it so I could recover, and then we continued on, running the remaining 4k in sweltering heat, and speeding up at the end for a big finish.  Seeing my husband and children at the finish line, along with my parents and sister’s family and my baby niece, meant everything to me.  My daughter’s little voice cheering me on and her proud smiles.  My son’s cries of “mummy mummy” as I ran past him.  My husband filming my last few metres and me crossing that finish line.

I didn’t do the time I wanted, in fact, because of that hill and the heat, it was the slowest 10K I’ve run, but in the days since, I’ve come to realise that it’s about doing it for this great cause.  It’s about the families gathered, laughing and crying, all to support everyone dealing with cancer.  It’s about the fact that I am improving my fitness and being better for my children and my family.

Please support me, and the wonderful work of Cancer Research UK, by donating (please see link below).  It would be wonderful to raise as much money as we can for to fight cancer.

https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/annmaries-fundraising-page-16

For more posts, please visit my blog at jugglehood.wordpress.com, follow me on facebook.com/Jugglehood, and follow me on Twitter @JugglehoodBlog

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P.G Warning

This one comes with a P.G. warning!

When you enter parenthood, you have no idea of what is ahead of you.  I’m not just talking about the emotional roller coaster you experience as your children grow from babies into young children, or even the daily challenges you face when it comes to lack of sleep and juggling a million things up in the air.  I’m talking about the side of it that no one prepares you for; the disgusting bodily functions of a young child.

This week’s piece comes with a warning.  I suppose it would be a PG.  Literally, Parental Guidance.  Or Potential of Goo.  Or Poo & Grossness.

Do not read on if you are squirmish and/or are thinking about having a baby.

Or do, because it would give you a heads up on a few things that people failed to tell me before became a mummy!

I remember back to when Lylah was around 14 months old.

One evening, at around 6:15, I watched as my beautiful, angelic faced, sweetheart of a daughter, squatted on her chubby little legs whilst fully naked in the bath, and squeezed out around 5 gobstopper sized balls of poo.  Into the bath water.  I then proceeded to watch my husband scoop each little ball out with his bare hands, scrabbling after them as they floated around the bath and Lylah’s bum, trying to escape his grasp.

That was the first time Lylah pooed in the bath, and it was hilarious!  I thought the whole thing was very funny, as did Chris, and we chuckled as we continued to bathe her and commented on how comical this little episode was.  Lylah looked rather pleased with herself and squealed with delight as the floaters (actually, they started to sink a bit) were extracted, and she splashed around with her bath toys.  We were both just so relieved that it was a rather solid form of poo, as opposed to some of her other nappy delights.

No one warns you about these moments.  No one tells you just how much poo and puke and saliva and goo and food that you are continuously up to your eyes in.

Your baby enters this world in a state of gooey delight, covered in blood and other stuff (ewww), and is quickly dried off with a blanket and given to you to cuddle, kiss and caress.  Which of course you do, because this is your baby, your own flesh and blood, and so it doesn’t matter how icky and sticky they are, you just don’t care about that stuff anymore.

In their first few weeks, to give them their credit, they do live up to the cute, sweet smelling stereotype that newborns have become famous for.  All of their new clothes smell of fresh linen after you’ve spent hours getting them all prepared in the last few weeks of maternity leave, the nursery is spotless, and there isn’t a yellow coloured poo stain in sight!  Oh how that changes.

Also, the content of adult conversation is taken to a whole different level. As new parents, there is a new, untouched layer of dialogue, where it is suddenly okay to talk about colours/textures/contents of poo, the pattern of today’s nappy changes and the ever-changing milk production of your boobs.  And, in a ground-breaking revelation to you all (I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this) my husband and I have been known to snap a picture of said nappy contents, and send it to each other, along with a comment like “third one of the morning, that was the big dinner she ate last night!”  Yes, we are those parents now, the ones who take delight in discussing their children’s toilet habits with each other/other people/anyone who will listen.

We have had too many disgusting baby poo/goo/puke/food incidents to write about them all, but here are a few of my favourites:

1 Projectile Poo (PP) – Lylah was amazing at these.  One lift of her legs during a nappy change and she took the opportunity to point and shoot, spraying anything in it’s line of fire with a mustardy coloured, milk infused shot of runny poo.  The best one was when my husband and I were once changing her nappy together.  It was almost like she wanted to put on a bit of a show for us, so she took it to the next level.  She aimed for the wall, and she got the bullseye!  Thank goodness for wipe over wallpaper and paint – it was quickly removed with no stain in sight, thank goodness!  We had a number of these incidents, and they normally resulted in either of us being covered in the stuff, or it would lead to another of her baby vests becoming victim of another PP episode.  Vanish became my new best friend, but sometimes, when the PP was just too much for me to handle, the vests just went to baby vest heaven, along with the other victims of PP attacks, including baby grows, trousers and tights.  Sad face.

2 Va Va Vom – Vomit/sick/puke/”spit up”.  Always gross, always smelly, and ALWAYS ON ME.  Lylah was a sicky baby.  She puked a lot.  In the early days (first six months or so) I was continually covered in baby sick, constantly covered in muslin cloths, and probably smelled pretty horrible all of the time.  It got to the point where I would leave the house knowingly covered in baby sick.  If it were pointed out by anyone I would laugh and say, “oops, I didn’t realise that was there!”  But I did realise, of course I knew, and the reason I didn’t get changed is because it would just have happened again, and again, and again.

3 Dribble – this one isn’t so bad.  Babies dribble…  It’s the dribbling on mummy’s face that is a bit grosser, and giving mummy kisses and dribbling on her mouth, and dribbling on her new shirt, and dribbling on anything and everything that they can get their squidgy little hands on!  As a mother, you get used to this.  You eat their saliva covered left over biscuit, because it doesn’t matter to you – they came out of you for goodness sake!  I used to laugh at Chris because he would never eat from Lylah’s spoon if it had her baby goo on it.  That has changed now, he’s got used to it, and he rightly states, “you can never see food go to waste”, and so polishing off her Weetabix in the mornings now isn’t a problem for him!

4 Food – Weaning is an amazing time.  You get excited about buying the necessary bits and bobs, you make up some purees, you give them some finger foods.  The natural thing is to eat when you’re hungry, so you imagine that your little munchkin will polish up whatever you put in front of them, leaving no trace in sight.  No no no.  This is the MESSIEST time.  Lylah’s high chair is constantly covered, I’m always finding food in places that I haven’t even given it to her, and once again, mummy’s clothes fall victim to the baby shot-put tryouts.

So new parents…enjoy the extremely short spell when your babies smell of babies, and the rare occasions that they are asleep, clean and dry all at the same time, because mostly, babies are smelly, messy and overall pretty gross!

For more posts, please visit my blog at jugglehood.wordpress.com, follow me on facebook.com/Jugglehood, and follow me on Twitter @JugglehoodBlog

Birthday Party Madness!

As featured in the Western Gazette 15th June 2017…

My youngest has just turned two, and to celebrate we threw him a nice little birthday party.  That was birthday party number 4 since I’ve had 2 children.  I mean the big type of party that involves lots of party food, a big cake, and all the added extras.  They seem to get bigger and more extravagant as the child gets older, and they cost the earth, but its all worth it to see their happy little faces.  That’s if they actually enjoy it.

As Lylah was about to turn two, a friend and i decided to have a joint party for our girls. My friend had already been extremely organised, and had ordered napkins, balloons etc all in the desired theme of Minnie Mouse for our Minnie crazy little beauties.

Looking at everything you can order for a birthday party can be overwhelming, and it all starts to add up rather quickly, and at 2 years of age, they just want to run around, eat a few cocktail sausages and stuff their face with cake! Mum was geared up to make the Minnie Mouse cakes, and we were going to dress our girls in Minnie inspired outfits for their big day.

Whilst having a peruse around the online pages of Amazon and eBay, I came across some Minnie and Mickey costumes. Not just the basic, plastic masked fancy dress type get ups, but full on, Disneyland style, mascot outfits, with the massive heads! Brilliant! What better thing to add to a Minnie themed party than the real (ish) thing appearing from behind some curtains and surprising our little ones. Of course they would be delighted, all smiles and cuddles for Minnie, and amazed to have met their favourite Disney character in ‘real life’!

We were both up for the idea, so I proceeded to find the best priced mascot on the internet. Unfortunately, the reasonably priced ones to buy would all have to travel from China and wouldn’t make it to us in time for the party. I then found some that you could hire. The faces weren’t quite as good as the China ones, but they were still pretty fab looking, and compared to some of the scary attempts at Disney mascots I’d already come across, these were looking like a winner. Seriously, whoever designs some of these things really don’t have the children in mind when doing so! I ordered the hire of Minnie, and shortly after, received an email from the supplier, who convinced me to take Mickey as well (I’m a sales person’s dream!)

The two enormous heads and their costumes arrived in the post a couple of days before the party. As we were having lots of work done on the house at the time, there was no where to store them, and it wasn’t long before Miss Lylah nosey pants had dug them out. I thought perhaps this was actually a good idea, it would get her used to them. Someone had already asked me wouldn’t she find the mascots scary (Lylah had cried at every Father Christmas she had seen so far in her life), but as she had quite a nice meet and greet with Peppa and George earlier in the year, I was pretty confident about this one. She cuddled those Minnie and Mickey heads all the time, threw them around, played with them, tried to put them on. This, I thought, was the best idea I’d had in a long time – the mascots were going to be a winner! I dragged my sister, a natural entertainer who loves the spotlight, in to perform as Minnie, and managed to persuade her husband to be Mickey! I told them it was their duty as Godparents to do things like this for Lylah.

The morning of the party, I stuck the heads and costumes in the car and took them to the hall. Lylah wasn’t amused by this, but we told her that she would see them at her party later, which kept her happy for while. So, a few hours later, the party is well under way, Lylah has had a good nap so isn’t to grumpy. All the kids are running around and playing like mad things, getting stuck into the food and having a great time.

We took to the mic to announce the arrival of two very special guests! My lovely assistants were behind a curtain, getting into their costumes, blinded by the misplaced eye holes, and off balance from the size of the heads. They made their grand entrance…Lylah was in my arms, I was proudly holding the birthday girl, excitedly anticipating her reaction. I looked at her face, exclaiming, “Look Lylah, it’s Minnie and Mickey”, eagerly awaiting her delighted expression, expecting her to struggle out of my arms in a race to run to them. But no. The grip to me got far tighter. Her face dropped and her lips quivered, and she let out a howl of upset and poured frightened tears. Her now bright purple face lit up with pure fear as Minnie and Mickey entertained the birthday crowd, and my heart sank. The next five minutes of trying to calm Lylah into at least looking in their direction didn’t work, so my husband and I resorted to taking her behind the curtain and explaining who the mascots in front of her actually were. My sister came back with us, head still in tact, which only frightened her more, as Lylah seemed convinced Minnie was going to come back behind the curtain and eat us all, and when she removed the head, Lylah’s screams grew even more hysterical, as if she couldn’t make out what weird decapitation had just occurred in front of her young and innocent eyes.

Meanwhile, the other birthday girl was loving every second, and gave Minnie and Mickey lots of hugs. Most of the other kids were fine, some tentative, some loving it, but none screaming like birthday girl Lylah! We gave up trying to convince her that these two monsters in front of her were actually the loveable Disney characters that she plays with every day, reads about, and watches on the TV.

Once my sister and her husband emerged as their true selves, Lylah calmed down and the party continued as it was before. She enjoyed some singing from her aunty, and loved the birthday cakes, as well as picking at the icing from the top when no one was looking.

We got home that night, and I brought in the Minnie and Mickey heads, diverting Lylah in an attempt to avoid upsetting her again. But no, she spotted them. This time however, instead of screaming the place down, she proceeded to play with and hug them. So, she likes the mascots in head only form, but not in full motion, human body like form.

The lesson learned from this? Don’t force your child to like something. Be prepared that anything will scare them. Avoid Minnie and Mickey mascots even though your toddler is obsessed with them on a normal daily basis. But always try to bring a smile to your children’s faces, even if you fail, and never stop trying to make their dreams come true.

Dream Big Little Ones

I remember when Lylah was much littler.  I was juggling work and being a mummy and something struck me one morning during my commute to work.

I heard a song that I hadn’t heard since I was about 13.  The song was Alicia’s Attic, “I Am, I Feel”, and it was released in 1996, so I was exactly right, I would have just become a teenager.  As it kicked in, my stomach did a flip. There I was, a 30-year old mother driving to work on a normal Tuesday morning, suddenly filled with the urge to sing at the top of my voice and pretend I was in the music video.

That song was massively overplayed in my bedroom at 13 years old.  It could have been any song from this time in my life that would have brought me back to long since forgotten moments of my childhood and teenage years.  It made my stomach churn with a nervous recollection of trying to discover my identity, as well as my independence.  It was a time of discovering boys and developing crushes, and realising that one day, I would be living a life as an adult, and what would that mean for me? As I continued my drive, I was overcome with such emotion that I felt my eyes filling up.  Not that I was sad.  It’s just that when I heard that song, it made me remember a time when I used to dream.  I used to dream I would be a performer, moodily singing my way through an MTV music video and touring the world.  That was a time when anything was a possibility.  Growing up I was always lucky enough to have supportive parents, who gave me the opportunity to do or try anything I wanted, and so an emerging talent in ballet meant I dreamed of becoming a ballet coach (I never had the frame to become a ballerina like Drina).  Then piano lessons meant that one day I could write songs and become a star.  My sister and I used to spend hours in our playroom, making up songs and entertaining mum and dad (and embarrassingly, all of their friends at every dinner party they ever had!).

As you grow older, your dreams become more realistic, although the world is still your oyster.  I did my exams, got good grades, went to college, all the while imagining what my life would be when I was ‘grown up’.  Little girls dream all day, they daydream, they plan their wedding days, they imagine how their life is going to pan out, if they would marry, have children, be famous…

I was 30 and a relatively new mother.  It was the start of a time of unknown for me.  For the last couple of years since I’ve had both children, I’ve become less working mum, more stay-at-home mum, juggling a part-time job and other small business ventures.  It has brought with it a time of wondering if I have fulfilled my childhood dreams, the many things I thought I was going to do and achieve.  Having children is amazing in so many ways, but when you become a mother, it’s sometimes hard to see beyond it and find moments where you remember the person you were before.  While you’re filled with joy as the dreams of your own little family are coming true and growing, your other dreams stop for a moment and take a back seat while you are the person your children need you to be.

Many of my friends are in their ‘turning 30’ moments.  I smile as I see ‘lists of things to do by the time I’m 30’ posts on Facebook, and various party’s being planned.  For many women, entry into their thirties is a time by which they feel they ought to have proved themselves.  Established their presence in the world in a positive way.  We all have different goals in life, and while I always wanted to be a mummy, I also wanted to achieve great things and be known for something.  My nearest and dearest remind me that I have achieved a great deal, what with my career and my family, but part of me is still that little girl, dreaming big, certain that my future holds something else beyond what I currently do.  Because I believe you should never stop dreaming.  And I will always make sure that my children dream, and dream big.

Becoming a mother has fulfilled a part of me that I never knew existed.  I knew I wanted children, but having children to share everything with has made everything just right.  That doesn’t mean however that now I stop.  I want my children to watch me as they grow, and learn that in life, you can achieve anything.

When I’m watching them play, explore, learn, during every moment that I watch their little hands discover something brand new and exciting, I wonder if they’ve already started dreaming?  Do their dreams now consist of wanting a certain toy to play with tomorrow, that they’ll see daddy before bed or that we go swimming?  Their dreams will grow, and I want them to believe that they can become whatever they want in life.

Whenever they do anything new and brilliant, I think of all of the opportunities that lie ahead for them.My children will become me; a young girl, 17 years ago, sitting in her bedroom and dreaming big dreams.  And I will be there every step of the way to support them in their own.

Welcome to Jugglehood

Welcome to Jugglehood!

When I was asked whether I’d like my parenting blog to be featured as a weekly column in the local press, a wave of excitement came over me! Me? I thought. Me? Boring old mum of two who’s been recording random thoughts about parenting over the past few years?

I suddenly felt like Carrie from Sex and the City! But let’s face it, it’s not going to be as juicy as that. It’ll be more potty training and toddler tantrums than talk of hot date nights and raucous girly nights out! Think thirty-something mum in Somerset, up to her eyes in nappies, washing, drool and food, rather than a glamorous singleton mingling in Manhattan!

Nonetheless, I am excited to be sharing my Blog with the local newpaper! I started writing Jugglehood when my little girl, Lylah, now 4, was around 10 months old. It started off being about how I was a working mum, juggling life, a job, children, play dates… you get the picture. As my family has grown and life has evolved, I now try and capture those moments you never want to forget. You know, the ones where the toddler has pooed in the bath, been sick on an aeroplane or thrown yet another wobbly over me picking the wrong pyjamas.

Why did I start to write a blog?  Especially one about being a mum…

You need only scroll down any new mum’s Facebook feed to see shared links to various blogs, forums, discussions and articles relating to this whole new chapter in their lives.
I knew one thing and that was that somehow, amidst my crazy busy working and being a mummy week, I had to do something to be a bit more creative.  Be it part New Year’s resolution and part an actual need to express myself, it was something I must do.  I thought long and hard about what my blog would represent, and I kept coming back to one thing – the one thing that I am experiencing every single day, and that’s being a mum . So, why try and be something I’m not?  I’m good at being a mum, and everyday, my children do something that is new and funny, so they naturally feed me with regular inspiration!

Now to the title – I wanted something different, not the same old mum blog clichés, and I could only think of one word – juggle.  Because that is all I do, juggle!  I juggle my time as a mummy/a wife/a career woman, with work commitments, family time, social events and play dates.  I also juggle shopping bags and changing bags, colourful toys with lunch trays, my laptop bag and the five bags that have to come anywhere with us! It’s a never ending, circus themed, juggling act in my house!
So roll up, roll up and welcome to my life!

I like to think of myself and my husband as the jugglers, the people in the household managing multiple elements, each like a juggling ball filled with endless to-do lists and tasks to complete, errands to run and places to be.

The children are the ringleaders. I can’t count the number of times I said when I was pregnant with Lylah, “she’ll fit into our lives, we won’t need to change things that much!”  How naive was I?  our children dictate everything we do, and do you know what? I wouldn’t change it for the world.  My every decision is now based around our children and their needs, and they come before everything else.

You can find me on Facebook at Facebook.com/Jugglehood or Follow me on Twitter @JugglehoodBlog