Goodbye pre-schooler

When you know, you know.

I’m ready. She’s ready.

Today was the last time I will take either of my ‘babies’ out for a day during term time.

It was odd. My baby was the tallest, oldest child at the miniature steam railway park (Yeh, we know how to roll).

Our last day before big school calls has come and gone.

We looked a bit out of place if I’m honest. Both of us walking hand in hand while Buggaboos fought for space in the icandy and Maclaren fast lane.

The lunch area resembled Heathrow bag drop. Travel light toddlers don’t. My ‘baby’ was the one having a conversation with me – and eating solids.

She’s grown up, and today I could see just how much.

But I didn’t pang for my empty buggy.

I didn’t lust over the shiny new Buffalo model next to the swings.

Dare I say I have reached a stage where the sight of a baby no longer floods me with tsunami-sized sleep-deprivation shudders. I simply smile and wave.

Appreciating their toothless balding cuteness.

And think, phew. With a sweet nostalgia rather than a sense of pity that the person before me chose to pro-create.

To top it all, I no longer have my pre-school mum gang.

We are all now back at work. The paid kind.

Today Lila and I were just two. Wading around in a sea of mum-squads doing what we used to, swapping weening tips, drinking coffee by the bucket load and playing ‘knackered Trumps’.

But.

I like it in our new place.

It’s comfortable.

Not in a ‘boring-Brenda’ way.

In a ‘I’ve-been-waiting-for-this-bit’ kind of way.

We are ready to hustle at the weekends for a piece of the park.

To compete for post-5pm Tesco delivery slots.

To juggle school trip permission slips and navigate the school’s innovative ‘parent-pay’ for the girls lunches.

However.

There is one thing I am absolutely not ready for.

Helping our youngest learn to read fills me with a dull dread.

Memories of the infamous book ‘Rat Naps’ or, ‘cat sleeps’ as Darcie used to say it (over and over and over), still haunt me.

I’ll be pouring a gin this evening and toasting the seven and a half years of pre-schooling we have had between our girls.

Here’s to the next chapter:

-Two kids at school.

-Two parents at work.

-One dog in desperate need of a walking service.

And one cat oblivious to the seismic shift that is upon us.

We are taught to question everything.

From why a council-run leisure club is spending hundreds of thousands of tax payers money on new equipment, whilst running at a loss. To why a homeless man living in a tent isn’t deemed ‘homeless enough’ by the people who have the power to secure him a roof over his head.

We are taught to recognise when a case switches to ‘active’. To not disclose that the man just arrested for allegedly burgeoned his mother to death with a spoon has a history of violent crime. Or that the green grocer saw a 6”2 dark haired male with a spliff-smoking rat tattoo on his neck, fleeing the scene with said spoon. It’s a little case of TMI.

We are taught to be fair. To give the council-tax dodging councillor the opportunity to reply. To defend himself. Despite the evidence on the magistrates charge street, despite the overwhelming urge to do the complete opposite.

We are taught to be reactive. To watch a situation unfold and instinctively understand that this is news worthy, and the public gotta know.

We are taught to have a thick skin. Even when a someone wants to throw you under a bus in a public Facebook group for ‘not doing your job’ when in fact, the shoe was steadfast on the other foot.

We are taught to understand the legal restrictions and allowances placed on journalists in a court of law. To understand that we cannot include in our report the heckling cousin of the alleged murderer in the public gallery, unless Mary-sue has given evidence. We must understand a section 45, and an 11. Never forget an 11. We cannot record, but we can tweet.

We are taught to observe-only. Keeping our opinionated brains on sleep-mode. Record the facts, but more importantly, record the balanced facts. Don’t judge the woman who stakes out abortion clinics with posters of unborn foetuses to ‘help’ pregnant women. Don’t judge, but listen. And tell her tale too.

We are taught that we are the voice of a community. And we must not take advantage of that position. We must be approachable, and take the time to listen to Barbara tell us her life story. And as we listen we discover Barbara climbed Everest, blindfolded, and won the Nobel peace prize. Because you just never know.

We are taught the mechanics of the country. From how the queen is funded, to which council organises grass verge cutting. Elections and by-elections. District, county, borough and parish. Committees and Select committees. Political parties and independents. We learn it, so that we can translate the minefield of bureaucracy.

We are taught to protect our source. M15 style. Don’t give up their identity, keep mum. Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights will back you, it backed the other guy.

We are taught that shorthand is gospel. A dictaphone can only do so much, and in court or caught out on the hop, it is useless. Teeline is gruelling. It takes dedication, and hundreds of hours of practice- just to get good enough for our CV not be ignored by potential editors. It is a mountain to climb.

We are taught accuracy, honesty and integrity. To maintain our reputation by recording the facts, just as they are. “It’s Mandy with an ‘ie’”

We are taught that donning a wig and specs combo to catch the taxi firm that has reportedly discriminated against blondes with aviators, is a last ditch resort only.

Above all we are taught to be brave. To have faith in our direction.

To tell people’s stories is a privilege, and we are taught never to loose site of that.

My girls, it’s not just the Daddies that bring home the bacon.

It has been a while since I have typed words that come from my heart and not words that include grim facts with attributed quotations. My NCTJ training, along with my love of The News has sent my blog into a downward spiral. The very thing that led me to discover a passion for telling stories in the first place.

I’m a bit late to the game (a sinking feeling I’m coming to be more familiar with than I would like to admit) but as we are still in the week that hosted International Women’s Day, and today is Daughter Day (apparently), with a bit of Mother’s day thrown in this weekend, I thought I might just about be able to squeeze a bit of sentimentality out of my keyboard.

This is what I want to say to my girls – if they sat still long enough without an ipad and / or TV and / or unicorn colouring book and / or baby Annabelle bemoaning her last bottle feed which was administered with slightly more force than I was comfortable to witness.

If they listened…

My girls, I’ve been a little distracted lately. I know it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Our army of babysitters filling the mummy-void in your lives will continue for quite a while to come, (along with salvaging your school jumpers out of the dirty wash bin and consuming odd mixes of carbohydrates for breakfast.)
I can’t promise that once I have finished this road-to-journalism, you will occasionally  be kissed goodnight, and taken to school, by someone other than Mummy.
But I want to show you so desperately that you, little cherubs, can be anything you want to be.
But you gotta work for it.
I want you to be proud that your body can have babies, but feel rest-assured that your brain can still function. And that society will have a place for you to use that brain and earn a crust even when you go by the Mum name.
I want to prove to you that the world you are growing up in embraces women on the payroll, and it’s not just the boys that get to flex that university degree, maths GCSE or Apprenticeship.
I don’t just want to tell you that the world’s your oyster, I want to show you.
I want to be a sodding flag bearer on your pathway to success. Whatever shape that success takes.
So, while I am busy and distracted, and fulfilling my dream, know that you are the powerhouses that keep me striving towards a career.
Practising shorthand. Learning libellous case law. Chasing interviews. Writing into the evening. Talking- a lot on the phone. Reciting the Editors Code in the bath. Searching for my next story.
It’s not just the daddies that bring home the bacon, and it’s not just Daddy that will show you what a days work looks like.
Somehow, I am going to prove to you that one day you’ll be able to do the school run, and follow your dreams.
That women are equals.
And that you are enough.

4,000 reasons not to ski with young kids.

Once upon a time there was a young girl who threw her salopettes and factor 50 lip balm into a case and gallivanted around the Alps on skis. She was always on the first lift up – keen as mustard. Trendy head band teamed with a minor headache just creeping into her consciousness- a satisfying memory of dancing until dawn because: Apres ski.

Not a run was left un-carved. Well perhaps the blacks and maybe most reds…

Ahem: Not a blue run was left un-ploughed.

Oh the crisp fresh air in ones lungs, mountain passes  chalked up.

***

Fast forward ten years: That young girl is now part of a knackered couple who decided to take their darling treasure-chests skiing…

“Won’t it be dreamy! Snugged up with hot choc, a roaring fire, snow capped mountains!” This Middle-age insta-porn swam around my head.

“The girls will build snowmen! They will learn to ski… Maybe they will be naturals” I mused. “And one day they will be ski-champions, all because we took them from such a young age!”

How clever we are being!

Clever is one word for it. If by clever we were infering ‘stable genius’.

Rounding up our kids to go to the supermarket is challenge enough; let along navigating our way around a mountain range in search of ski schools loaded up like abomanble snow-donkeys.

  • Four crash helmets.
  • Four (Razor sodding sharp) pairs of skis.
  • Four pairs of poles to go with those skis: That’s EIGHT meter long poles people.
  • Four jackets (it was 23+ degrees most days and jackets were redundant after 10am).
  • Two backpacks filled with enough snacks to fuel an Alaskan out-post for an entire season, possibly two.

All the while clapping one foot infront of the other in the worst creation imposed upon the human race: the snow boot.

We sweated and stumbled our way to the gondola each morning to a chorus of  “WE HATE SKI SCHOOL”.

Super.

Sounds clever so far?

Oh yes, we were feeling very clever as the sweaty panic swept over us when it became horrifyingly apparent that I was going to have to ski down four runs with a two-year-old between my legs to get to the damn-ski-school (God bless Ski-School).

At one point I had a back pack on, two helmets clipped and hanging from each hip, snow ploughing down a green. My non-toned, unprepared thighs burned quite unlike anything my gym-phobia being had experienced before.

Every fibre of my sorry-for-itself body was asking me W.H.Y was I straddling one child whilst dragging the other on the end of a pole, along a slushy white cold path… I was the very definition of a 

w i d e   l o a d.

Alpine-chic.

This was neither elegant or clever.

“At least the girls learnt a new skill – what fun!” friends asked.

The three-year-old tried to master skiing along a gradient of 2 degrees. And try she really did. With her helmet which sloped off the back of her head, a coat the swallowed her whole and my sunglasses. Because we forget hers.

She absolutely rocked those aviators.

This one time, in the eye-of-ski-hell, Dan and I took Darcie on a green slope. Easy! Just the three of us!

“Take a video! Take a photo!”

More like:

“Stay fucking upright and don’t loose the kid.”

It turns out a six-year-old needs a little more practice. Who knew!

Oh the fun we had uncrossing her skis and twisting her body back into a slightly more humane angle.

But, those child free moments, that 1.5 hours of ski time we carefully measured out each day were a joy.

I don’t want to go Karl Pilkington on you, I’m a positive person…

However our alpine-sprint to the lift from ski school was a hyperventilating shoop shoop of Michelin-man neon.

Cries of “Have we got time to go again?”

“That was over too quickly!”

And

“My legs! My fu*king legs!!”

What legs?! Apparently ten years makes quite a difference to ones flexibility, staminia and ability to control a ski at the end of each foot.

Fancy, we spent all of this wonga to make ourselves unimaginably, inexplicably exhausted. On top of the usual Parent eye-bags.

By the end of the ‘holiday’ my husband and I looked as though we had walked to the north pole.

Sill want to have a go?

  • Do ski in ski-out and save yourself the click-clack horror of juggling your ample equipment, equipment that doesn’t come with handy carry handles, and cannot be hung on the invisible snow-buggy.
  • Book with a company which collect the kids for ski club from your door. In my fantasies these exist… Mark Warner must have thought of this.
  • Be fully catered. We were, and it was blissful. My Hanger was kept well at bay and it was by far my favourite bit of each day!

Shut the front door: 2017

I’ve just sent off ToddlerMonster’s ‘big school’ application.

It’s the last thing I will do with any coherent sense this year.

I didn’t consciously leave it until the dying monuments of the year before I hit send, but now I come to think about it, it’s fairly fitting to be sailing out of the year with a school place on the horizon. *Wishes teaching profession Bon chance*

The school-app thing has given me a little nudge to pause my shorthand exam revision and tap away to you for the very last time this year.

It’s an odd thing studying as a Muma; I have my first shorthand exam next week, and revision passages and exercises are taking up as much of my time as I can parentally justify.

So far this morning I have had several study breaks.

And Not to watch Neighbours like the good old uni days.

-I’ve continued my good work as toilet assistant.

-Created a sylvanian village, most notably developed a nursery extension.

-Ordered 500,000 paw patrol plates, napkins, cups, balloons and party bag alternatives in blind panic for The 4th Birthday next week.

-Prayed it will arrive in time.

-Pinned several paw patrol cakes that I don’t have a hope in hell of replicating.

Before journo-school broke up for Christmas we all quizzed our tutor on shorthand exam scenarios:

“what if someone sneezes and we miss a bit of the audio?”

“What if a police car goes by and the sirens drown out the passage we are taking down?”

But at no time did anyone ask, “What if 2 under 7’s streak through the classroom screeching “IT’S MINE, IT’S MINE, DON’T BITE ME”.

No one asked that.

And I can tell you, if that happens during the exam, then I go this.

My kids have me prepped.

An atomic bomb could go off and I’m fairly confident I will not take a blind bit of notice.

2017 has been totally bonkers and for once it’s been that way not just because I am keeper of small people.

I set off the year hoping beyond hope that I might get my writing published somewhere, anywhere.

Hoping that this might be the year I try to make a path parallel to parenting.

ToddlerMonster’s school application was looming and I wanted to set myself up for a life of writing after the full-on full-time parenting was somewhat assisted by the 9am-3pm world.

I get a bit giddy, you know, that excited pukey-pit of your stomach feeling, when I consider that I might actually pull that off.

It’s becoming more believable that one day I may just be paid to write.

And have a J O B.

Doing something that I don’t resent.

Doing something that I… kind of love.

Signing up to start my NCTJ Diploma in Journalism was a total leap of faith.

It feels quite mad to write this but as I sit here in the dying hours of 2017 I can say that I now regularly write for a newspaper, host a news show on the radio, and help out at a flipping massive radio station along side a truly inspirational journalist.

I honestly have to pinch myself.

(However, I am also still a terrible cook. I offered my husband a ‘fresh’ pizza from the freezer last week. I set fire to my kitchen last month, and continue to be unable to drive in heels. – We can’t tick all of the boxes can we now…)

Lidl’s ‘random’ aisle used to be the most unpredictable, exciting part of my week.

It’s surreal and I’ll be honest, the juggling act between wannabe-journo and Muma is incredibly tough.

The logistics of child care, alone, are mind blowing.

I had no idea what working parents were going through until now.

But 2017 has shown me that one thing’s for sure: It’s ok to be a parent AND go after a dream.

There’s room for both.

Just about.

As long as you have an understanding nursery.

And fantastic family and friends.

God only knows what 2018 has in store:

I think I’m ready.

Hang on, I’m not sure…

I want to be the Mum that let’s them decorate the tree

The trouble is…

I love my perfectly perfect pastel themed Christmas tree.

With soft lighting- you know, the glowey yellowey kind.

Carefully chosen tree trinkets hang at equidistant intervals, the pale pink is never next to a pale gold, is never next to a pale silver.

You feel me?

Yup, I’m basically Monica Geller come December 1st.

This has become a problem since having the kiddliwinks.

Because

I want to be the Mum that lets them decorate the tree.

Honestly I do.

That Mum that endorses excessive use of Tinsel inbetween the homemade Santa hat and snowman masterpieces a la nursery school.

But I love my pastel hew.

I love clearing away the family photo frames on the top of the mantel piece and selecting which of my over-priced, over-sized wreathey long foliagey things should take pride of place that year.

I want to be the Mum who, as Sarah of Unmumsey famously put it, shouts: “The theme is Christmas!”

And it is.

-In the toy room, behind a nice big closed door.

I have learnt that Christmas is allowed to throw up its sickeningly tacky, heart wrenching sentimentality in this room.

We used to go over to ‘Granny’s’ as the girls came to call her, and Christmas-up her living room every year.

We loved it.

I think she loved it too.

Our toy room now has Granny’s tree in pride of place.

And on this tree goes all of the homemade offerings that have been painstakingly crafted, not at home, over the years.

Scraps of paper with stubby bits of cotton wool hanging on for dear life are shoved into the centre of the tree with all the precision and delicacy of a hammer-throw.

Constrictor style tinsel sucks the life blood from this psychedelic fire hazard, with baubles that spell out Harrods 2010 (how posh!) stick men Santas and too many clashing baubles for my brain to process:

Shiny Red next to sparkly red next to cracked red under red tinsel with some of that purple, foiley, whispy stuff statically-stuck to every.bloody.relic.

Lines and lines of coloured lights, some even in the shape of trees, struggle to shine through the offensive layers – wrapping Granny’s tree all up in a firefighter’s nightmare.

But.

I’ve grown to love letting the kids loose in this room.

Mostly because I can close the door on it.

But occasionally I gaze at it when the kids are in bed and think ‘this is what Christmas means to them.’

Colour, chaos, and no equidistance.

How it should be?

Probably.

But Christmas.

Unattainable ‘Magazine-shoot’ Christmas.

It doesn’t exist.

It’s happiness. It’s noise. It’s finding the green triangles have all been eaten when it’s finally your turn at the quality street.

It’s squeals of delight as hoards of Poundland tat slowly take over the lounge.

It’s cheap crackers and shoddy jokes. It’s queens speech and Slade.

It’s Merry December to us, the grow-ups: the overworked, knackered elves of Christmas.

What a beauty…

Pretty much the only review I will ever do for ‘stuff’

This is a one-off.

Which makes this a one-of-a-kind, if you will.

Because.

Christmas.

I like to get a head start on Christmas shopping. Which isn’t difficult seeing as you can sit a-la P.Jarm ‘n’ hot choc in hand, tap tapping away these days.

Ticking off those gifts one by one, without the threat of cold hands, rain-induced hair-frizz, and no moaning from my offspring as I drag them from shop to shop. Or worse – rushing around like a mother possessed to finish in time for school pick up.

No extortionate car park charges.

Need I go on about the merits of being a Sofa-Savvy-Shopper?

Probably not.

Mumas have all got this.

A few weeks ago I was approached by Personally Presented to choose something from their website and review it.

This couldn’t have been better timed.

You see, it was during my ‘list phase’ (everyone has a list phase, right?!).

Ordinarily I would have fired off a quick ‘Thanks but no thanks, I have zero time, I am training to be a journalist and am working many, many M A N Y hours for F R E E right now.’

But.

Oh the pretty things.

Oh… the one thing I desperately have been looking for. (‘Desperately’ might be a little OTT)

Was right there.

On their website.

(A really lovely, pretty and easy-to-use website.)

Jewellery boxes. Personalised jewellery boxes. Matching personalised jewellery boxes.

Anyone out there with daughters who share my pain if one of them should acquire an item (something important like, say, a jelly bean) and the other one doesn’t?

All hell lets loose.

They must have exactly.the.same Everything.

Or “It’s not F A I R” fills the air at grenade decibels.

I can’t handle that. So it’s matchy-matchy all round for us.

Anyway, back to the jewellery boxes…

Not twee. Not childish. But, not grown-up either.

My requirements were specific, but there were plenty of options to scroll through and choose from.

Glass ones. Painted ones. All could be personalised.

The website is a little like Not On The High Street actually, but it’s a family run business which I just think is rather nice.

There was free shipping, and as soon as my order was received I had a confirmation email, and then another when the boxes were dispatched.

I had them in my hand just two days later.

You can’t argue with that.

Beautiful quality, and matching – all but their names on the top.

A big tick for my gift list, and I really cannot wait to give them their special presents in a months time.

Keepsakes for their precious things.

Personally Presented have given me a code for you to get 10% off of your orders until the end of November, so put your (slouch-sock) feet up, cuppa in hand and add to cart a few personal gifties this Christmas.

Your10% off code: muma10 at Personally Presented

Enjoy!

Happy shopping! Xx

*This is a sponsored post and Muma on the Edge received goods in exchange for this review.

** If they had been awful goods I would have sent them back and not reviewed.

*** Therefore, this isn’t a load of BS.