The Last Post

Well. That’s a bit dramatic, isn’t it?

But I suppose it is a little (just a little). This will be the last ever post on Mothering Mushroom. I could have just drifted off silently, as many blogs do, but this has been such a blast that I didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye.

The decision to stop writing here has been a long time coming, and various things this year have made me rethink more and more both how much of Mushroom’s life I share online, and the amount of time and energy I can afford to invest in various parts of my life. The start of this year has been particularly challenging, and something (well, more than one thing but we’re talking about this, now…) had to give. Coupled with the fact that Mushroom is becoming an increasingly private person as he grows (he recently turned five) and more and more often tells me firmly “No”, when I ask whether I can share something he’s said, I decided it is time to press the stop button here.

I’ll continue to write Mushroom’s annual letters but these will be kept private from now on, only for me to look back on, and to share with Mushroom when he’s older. The rest – the reviews, the snippets of conversation, my personal parenting thoughts… All of this will stop, now. I’ll miss it. From my first ever post, I’ve always been warmed by the response to this little blog and I’m so grateful for the online mother sister friends I’ve made here, many of which I now even see in real life, too (you know who you are)!

If I feel on occasion to still write on my experience of parenthood, you will most likely find it in the form of more essays over at Raising Mothers. Otherwise, I do also write about writing, creativity and personal development (with an occasional ‘life lesson’ via my son) over on my business blog, Writing.People.Poetry.

So, maybe I will see you around? But from Mothering Mushroom, I’ll end with one of his favourite expressions… “We’re over & out”.

 Mushroom and Me

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For all my mother sister friends… Happy Mother’s Day!

My latest essay over at Raising Mothers reflects on the importance of female friendships and their evolution. I only touch on mother sister friends in the essay briefly, saying:

“While all my friends are wonderfully supportive of my parenting choices, there are just some things that you need to talk about with those who have been through, or are going through, the same. My son is highly sensitive, spirited and until he was almost two, he was a terrible sleeper (that reads like it’s a bad thing. It’s not, it’s just who he was. He didn’t sleep well. Neither did I until I had him). So I gravitated towards women with similar children, who also prefer a gentler parenting approach. In my circle I have a wide range of friends who use different parenting methods, all of which I respect but during the messier moments of motherhood, it’s those with the most similar approach I reach out to first. That’s just how it is.”

This doesn’t begin to describe the ways in which mother sister friends provide a specific sort of friendship often in both an emotional and practical way.

These friends:

  • Listen without judgement to the messier parenting stuff, that we may be reluctant to share with some
  • Offer their own experiences up as reminders that none of us are perfect
  • Don’t mind if we talk about our children all the time, but also (especially when the children are very young),
  • Remind us of who we are as individuals, rather than extensions of our children
  • And more. Much, much more.

As I mention in my essay, my sister friends are often taken for granted – I don’t thank them for being there often enough, because that’s sort of part of the deal… But I wanted to thank them all with these words.

And as for you, reading this… I hope you find all the sister friends you need in your life, just when you need them, and I wish you a wonderful Mother’s Day!

MummyduckandchicksMD_MotheringMushroom

Now I’m off to wish all my mother sister friends the same. :)

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Recipes for a happy half term – with a daily dash of honesty

I hadn’t planned to write a blog about our half-term but then I read a few blogs since and there were lots of lovely posts with kids doing various activities, which I enjoyed reading. I also read this post from Tinuke at Circus Mums, which really resonated as I was just about to launch my first Proudly Imperfect Parents e-course at the time – on the very subject of letting go of perfection and embracing ‘good enough’.

So I thought back to the break and what a good time we had, and decided that I actually would write a belated blog about our week – with, as the title suggests, a daily dose of honesty, because, well this is real life isn’t it?

So here’s my recipe for a happy half term:

Take one highly sensitive, reception-aged child and add…

Saturday

2016-02-13 15.59.55

with…

  • A dash of ‘I never want to leave this glorious place and no, 3 hours is NOT long enough!’ – complete with shouting in the street that took 20 minutes (ok probably about 5 but it felt like 20!) to diffuse.
  • A pinch of falling asleep on the bus so deeply he needed to be carried home, where he promptly woke up.

 

Sunday

I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t remember. Must have been a pretty average day then.

Monday

  • A day at a Fit for Sport holiday club, with a variety of sporting activity and kids ranging from 5 to around 11 (a guess)
  • Mushroom’s favourite coaches from last year: Bradley and Theo (hi guys!)
  • New friends
  • Packed lunch (super exciting when you’re used to school dinners).

with

  • A dash of ‘I never want to leave Mummy’s side for anything ever’ for 30 minutes the first morning
  • A pinch of ‘let’s stop at every playground on the way back to maximise Mummy time, get really overtired and meltdown before bedtime (should have seen that one coming).

Tuesday

  • Another day at Fit for Sport – with added swimming (a Mushroom favourite) and new friends
  • The super brave act (for Mushroom) of choosing and paying for his own drink in the cafe afterwards, while I watched from a distance.

with

  • A dash of the ever popular falling asleep on this bus (luckily it wasn’t such a deep sleep this time but he still wasn’t happy to be woken – would you be..?).

Wednesday

  • A lazy morning watching TV and eating pancakes (midweek! A real treat)
  • A little creative activity
  • A rather grown-up lunch at Pizza Express
  • Watching a movie (Alvin and the Chipmunks – Mushroom can’t get his head round the fact that Auntie L and I used to listen to them on a record player! as kids) and eating popcorn.

with

  • A dash of ‘I now need to run around like a crazy person and make a lot of noise after all that sitting and being quiet’, claiming, loudly, that he wanted to “walk all the way home!” just as we were about to board the bus and then once on the bus, promptly falling asleep. Again.

Thursday

  • Make and do, and activity day
  • The promise of silly string

with

  • The first time I’ve bought a can of silly string since uni years – and it doesn’t work. Cue tears. A lot of tears. I didn’t realise just how important this was to him.

Friday

  • Meeting up with nursery friends (not seen for a year) to go to the fair at the Olympic Park
  • Chips and candy floss.

with

  • A dash of over-excitement, too much sugar (did I mention the candy floss?) and needing to be ‘rescued’ from a playhouse that became just too much for him when the slide was too high up and he was left behind by braver friends.

Saturday

  • A very low-key, low-sugar day to recover from the excitement of Friday!

Sunday

  • A day at Fun DMC – A daytime block party for kids and parents (read: A family friendly hip-hop event. Yes!)

There were plenty more moments across this week… I loved discovering Goosebumps on Netflix and finding Mushroom loved it as much as I did as a kid, and held my hand in the scary bits, I loved snuggling in bed in the mornings after Daddy left for work and I loved when Mushroom picked up a ‘greatest mum’ Mother’s Day card in a newsagents and told me “It says Mummy so I want to give it to you”. I told him to have a word with Daddy about that!

Of course, there were plenty more imperfect moments but really, that’s just life and although I want to be honest I don’t want the focus to be on those. Now that Mushroom is back at school again he’s a little unsettled (he was just getting back into the routine last week when he was sick at school and and had to be picked up early) but he’ll be ok.

How was your half-term? Did you fill up all your days with activities or take some time to chill? And did the kids settle back to school easily or do you have sensitive ones too..?

 

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A new twist on the classic fairy tale book – A Parragon Book Buddies review

Our latest gift from the Parragon Books children’s range was yet another winner. Although it didn’t elicit quite so much excitement as the Fire Station Activity Book, I knew in advance Mushroom would love it as it brings together two of his favourite things – old-fashioned fairy tales (those I’ve been reading to him since he before he was born) and creative activities.

Giant Fairy Tale Activity Book

When he first opened it, he asked: “Is it a story or an activity book?” as he was unsure… I explained that it was both and suggested he look at the pictures on the front to see if he recognised any of the characters. “Three Little Pigs! Little Red Riding Hood!” Once the recognition came he was eager… “Can we do it now?” Yes son, that was the idea! 😉

So we got out his colouring pens and got to work…

This ‘Giant Fairy Tale Activity Book’ has a good mixture of directed activities and more creative options, which Mushroom loved. I’m no expert but am pretty sure the 100+ activities in the book support the EYFS framework, so it’s great educational fun for rainy days… We have had a few of these since we received the book and we’ve not yet finished it so it’s definitely worth £9.99 – Less than a tenner for a ton of fun. The book is retailing at £9.99 at Amazon but at the time of writing it’s available for just £4.82 at The Book Depository – so go grab yours now!

Disclosure: Mushroom and I are Parragon Book Buddies and receive a new book to read and review each month. All views are our own. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here.

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Before Birdsong: On writing, parenting and self-care

This year I am pleased to have become one of the contributors to a beautiful online parenting magazine, Raising Mothers. I first discovered Raising Mothers last year, through a friend who would often retweet posts. I’d find myself nodding along as I read these literary essays, and/or learning more about parenting through the lens of a diverse group of women with one thing in common: All are excellent writers, whose essays I save up and read when I want to feel emotionally ‘full’.

While it is a literary magazine for mothers, by mother writers, Raising Mothers is specifically about, as the name suggests, raising us as mothers (rather than raising our children), with a focus on sharing the collective voices of women of colour. So when I saw that Founding Editor Sherisa was seeking new writers for 2016,  I decide to get on board. Luckily, she welcomed me with open arms!

My first essay focuses on the theme of self-care, which is different for everyone. This piece touches on my morning routine, imperfect parenting (of course!) and my writing practice. It’s a departure from my usual blogging style here, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Before Birdsong

Before Birdsong

It’s 5.30am and I’m at my desk. If you had told me five years ago I’d willingly get up before 6am I would have struggled to believe you but here I am.

The birds are not yet singing but if I listen very carefully I can hear the distant hum of other early risers. Mostly cars already on their way to work. Not on our street though. Before 6am when my husband wakes up, it’s just me and the silence, until I fire up my laptop and add the tap of the keyboard to my morning music.
I sit for a moment, soaking up the silence. I reflect on the previous day, or week. Sometimes I allow myself to get caught up in an unhelpful train of thought but I usually leave that for the evening after a long day. In the morning I am kinder to myself. Today I am thinking about how I mothered in anger yesterday morning, storming off and refusing to listen to the reasons behind my four-year old’s challenging behaviour. Excuses I called them, and sent him away.

I reflect that the behavior needed addressing but wish I gave another response. That was yesterday though. That afternoon I listened and empathized and he felt heard. His behaviour that evening then reflected this and we were all much calmer.

Today is a new day.

I’ve only been sitting down for a few minutes and I notice how much my mind jumps around. I’m not a morning person and up until recently, I couldn’t rise even if I tried. I had regular wake up calls at around 2am, being up for the day at 5am most days. I used to wonder if we’d ever sleep through the night again. We do now. I think, this too shall pass, as I navigate his recently heightened anxiety, as I hope it is only temporary, as I remind myself to focus on the roots of the challenges and not react. This sensitivity will be a strength as he matures.

So much has changed this past year for us both. I am lucky I do work that I love every day. Sometimes doing what you love can still feel like work. A lot of work. It’s worth it. I was raised to always be the best, which I took to mean everything must be perfect. It took a while to let go of that one (and I’m still working on it) but a strong work ethic is not a bad thing to have when you work for yourself. My mum always said, “I just want you to be happy. You must do what makes you happy.” I suppose there is balance between those two messages and I am closer to the middle now, more than I ever have been… Read the rest over at Raising Mothers.

 

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Fire Station Activity Book: A Parragon Book Buddies review

Our December offering from Parragon Books arrived just before Christmas but as it was a busy time, I popped it in the back of my wardrobe and promptly forgot about it, until just before New Year!

Mushroom was very excited when I remembered, and told him we had a package to open… “I had so many books at Christmas Mummy I forgot about my letter book” (he loves to see that big white envelope each month!*). He was even more excited when we realised it was an activity set. “Can we do it right now?”

That's a lot of pieces!

Mr B had a friend round and we were all in the living room so building the fire station was the perfect activity for us to be around and part of the conversation without Mushroom getting bored. We opened up all the pieces and at first I thought it looked a bit too complicated! Then Mushroom showed me the instructions… I used to always read the instructions first. Now I live life a little closer to the edge, making stuff up as I go along 😉

Instructions: Making life less complicated

We put the fire engine together first but couldn’t fit it in the station so we parked it outside while the cat and dog were rescued from a burning fire engine and a tree!

Mr B’s friend was very impressed with the set and especially with all the fire fighters – great to see a diverse range of characters, especially as so many of these sets still come with only white male options.

Once Mr B’s friend had left and we tired of role play, we moved to the kitchen where Mushroom sat at the table and worked his way through the activity book while I prepared dinner. He often skips some pages in the activity books I buy him but with this one, he worked his way through every page, exclaiming at the end “I did the whole book so quickly! I’m sad now because I want to do it again…”

I want to do it all over again!

This is a great set as there is so much to do. I loved that we built the set together and then he was able to do the activity book with little supervision. I’m sure the fire engine will be played with until it falls apart too – lots of creative play with this one. I highly recommend it and in fact am already thinking of it as a birthday present for a certain fireman-mad little boy we know! If you know any budding firemen or women, you can get yours from The Book Depository for £7.58. Of course it’s also available from Amazon (at the same price).

*Disclosure: Mushroom and I are Parragon Book Buddies and receive a new book to read and review each month. All views are our own. Read my full PR and disclosure policy here.

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Conversations with Mushroom: What makes a good Mummy?

ConversationswithMushroom

Last week when I picked Mushroom up after school, he handed me a folded piece of paper with ‘Mummy’ on the front and told me he had ‘written’ a note for me. It was a child’s handwriting but Mushroom’s is not quite that legible yet so I asked if he really had written it. He said “A big boy helped me at teatime club, I told him my words.” When we got home, I opened up the note to read it. It said:

“I love you Mummy because you are a good Mummy and you are always kind to me.”

I melted.

Me: Mushroom, that is a beautiful, thoughtful note. I will keep it somewhere special.

Mushroom: *proud, slightly bemused* Mummy why is your voice all funny? Are you crying?

Me: No, I’m just full up of love for you. I always am but I’m really feeling it right now.

Mushroom: That’s good..?

Me: Yes, yes it is. Mushroom? What makes a good Mummy, do you think?

Mushroom: *shrugs* I don’t know. Good Mummies do good listening.

Me: All the time?

Mushroom: Yes, even when they are mean.

Me: Are good mummies mean then?

Mushroom: Yes. They have to be when the children are naughty. You were mean to me this morning…

Me: I told you off, yes…

Mushroom: See? But you do good listening. Some Mummies just don’t listen. You don’t listen very well when you do your phone…

Me: I know. That’s why I put my phone away more now.

Mushroom: *nods* Can we play now?

Me: You need to get changed first. And I want to ask you one more thing about good Mummies…

Mushroom: *sighs* Go on then.

Me: Do good Mummies play all the time, and let you eat sweets and watch TV whenever you want..?

Mushroom: *laughs* No! No no no no. Good mummies have to look after you and you can’t have too much sweeties and you need to be good children as well. I am good..?

Me: Most of the time, yes. I guess we are both good, most of the time…

Mushroom: It’s hard to be good all the time…

Me: I know…

Mushroom: Can we finish talking about being good now?

So there you have it. If you do good listening and are ‘mean’ in response to bad behaviour, then you’re a good enough Mummy – according to my four-year old. And it’s ok to be less than perfect*, because “it’s hard to be good all the time”!

What do your kids say about being a good Mummy…?

*If you’re still struggling to let go of your idea of perfection (because it is just that, an idea!), then you may be interested in my brand new four-week course, Proudly Imperfect Parents, which will help you to really let go and embrace all the positives of your perfectly imperfect parenting. The course starts on 22 February and is open for booking now.

Proudly Imperfect Parents_White2

 

 

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Hello 2016, Goodbye Mushroom’s Mouth*

Happy New Year Everyone!

It’s been a while since my last post, which was just after I started school! I’ve done a whole term now and there’s so much to tell you… So I’ll start at the beginning, shall I?

School

I am used to school now. I’d rather be at home with Mummy but then it was a bit boring during the holidays when we ran out of friends to play with. I think playing all day makes Mummy a bit tired, too. I’d be tired if I had to do computer work and talk to grown-ups all day though. Each to their own, I guess.

School doesn’t seem quite as big and scary as it did when I first started. I’ve made some good friends and learned lots of cool things. When I got sick and had to stay home for a few days, I was really annoyed that I was missing out! I’m still very quiet with the teachers but am learning to use a bigger voice when I’m in a small group. Mummy says she used to be very shy when she was little. She’s not shy now though (I actually think she’s a bit of a show off sometimes)! So maybe I’ll feel less scared when I am bigger.

Half term

Mummy had to work a bit in half-term so I went to a holiday club for two days. It was called Fit for Sport and I loved it! We did running, jumping, swimming and make and do activities. All my favourite things! The teachers were called ‘Coaches’ and I made a friend who is bigger than me. I wanted to stay all week but Mummy had plans for us. We had some nice days together but I missed my friend. I hope he is there when I go back again in February.

Christmas!

2015-12-24 18.28.03I have been excited for Christmas ALL YEAR! When it finally came I did my nativity at school (I was a chicken), and Mummy helped me choose Daddy’s present. I chose a chocolate tool! And I managed to keep it a surprise until Christmas Day. Daddy was very impressed.

On Christmas eve I suggested we make a cake for Father Christmas instead of mince pies. We made a chocolate mint cake (it looks like mint choc chip ice cream, see!) and Mummy said she thought it would go best with a chocolate Baileys. So that’s what we left out, along with a carrot for the reindeer (does he only feed one reindeer at each house, I wonder..?).

Of course, in the morning I got lots of presents! I enjoyed taking turns opening things with Mummy and Daddy and playing all morning while Daddy put together my best present – my new bike!

 

I eventually actually went outside on my bike and did so every day until I had to go back to school. Daddy was just tricking me. 😉

2016

On New Year’s day Mummy and Daddy took me out for a special lunch. I rode my new bike all the way to the next town and we had breakfast for lunch (I had scrambled eggs on toast)..! Then afterwards I got to play in a giant sandpit (In January. Yes, really) until I got cold. It was awesome. I then had a couple more days of lie-ins before it was time to go back to school…

As for school, well, Mummy’s told you how I felt about my first day back to school this year but actually, it was ok in the end. I enjoyed seeing my friends again and we had cake for dessert at lunchtime. That never happens at home! So far this term, I have been learning abut police, bad guys and the letter sound ‘kwa’ (Q).

2015OpenJoy_MoheringMushroomLast week we opened our Joy Jar from 2015 and read about all the things that made us happy last year. It made me really happy to remember having fun with my nursery friends (can you believe I was still at nursery last year? I can’t!) and all the fun things that Mummy and I did over the summer. We’ve started our 2016 Jar now and I can’t wait to fill it up – with my proper writing this time (last time I only drew pictures)!

Finally, while we were remembering our fun times from 2015, Mummy told me about New Year’s resolutions (although she says she prefers to have intentions and goals) and asked me if I have any. I told her that I intend to follow our updated rules (we updated these together over Christmas) all the time (well, I’ll try. That’s what intend means, right..?) and my goal is to be able to ride my bike without stabilisers this summer.

I hope you had a good Christmas break and, as I sign out of Mushroom’s mouth for the last time*, I wish you all the best for 2016!

Over and out (I like to say this into my walkie talkie, It sounds cool),

Mushroom. Xx

*Apart from his annual interview, which I’ll continue to share as long as I blog here, this will be the last post from Mushroom’s Mouth! I have been writing as Mushroom for a couple of years now and having given it some thought over the holidays, I decided to stop now that he has a much stronger voice of his own! Perhaps he’ll start blogging himself, in time. We’ll see. In the meantime, there will still be plenty of Conversations with Mushroom, and if you enjoyed this post you can always head back the archives for more from Mushroom’s Mouth.

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Conversations with Mushroom #10: Back to School

Mushroom and I are walking past his school on his last day off before term starts. It’s the end of an inset day and the teachers are in their classrooms no doubt preparing for today’s lessons.

Mushroom is curious about what he’ll be learning when he goes back and asks if I can see what Miss S (his teacher) is doing. She’s walking between her classroom and the nursery so that tells us nothing. I say I’m sure she has an interesting day planned (and am hoping it’ll be easy going as the kids transition back into their routines). I turn to Mushroom and, knowing that he’s not keen to go back, I think I’ll help him come up with reasons to be happy about returning to school.

Me: What are you most looking forward to about school? Seeing your friends? Your teachers? Learning new things? The mud kitchen in the playground *I’m thinking this one has to be a ‘win’*… Or something else..?

Mushroom: Hometime.

Me: What else?

Mushroom: Just hometime and Mummy.

Me: Ok. What will you enjoy until hometime..?

Mushroom: Waiting for hometime.

I think he’s made himself pretty clear! I wasn’t too excited about getting up before 6am today but it’s ok. I’m enjoying the silence…. So maybe he’ll find things to be happy about by the end of the day! Wish us luck 😉

Did you go back to school/work yesterday? I hope both you and your kids found something positive about it all!

ConversationswithMushroom

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The End (of 2015!)

once-upon-a-time_WritingPeoplePoetry

…it was the start of 2015.

2015 was a year of Big Things for Mushroom and his mum.

Mum (Rachael) had not long started working for herself and Mushroom was gearing up to start Big School. Sometimes these big things felt pretty scary – like ‘butterflies and bumblebees’, Mushroom would say. But butterflies can be exciting too, so mostly they chose to be excited.

Over the course of 2015, lots of lovely things happened. Mushroom discovered bowling, fell deeper in love with (and got even better at) swimming and started to get excited about learning letters. He even learned how to write his name. Rachael learned that being herself in business meant that she was much happier, much more of the time.

Happy_MotheringMushroom

Sad things happened this year but Mushroom and his Mum stayed focused on finding the joy they had wished for at the start of the year. Globally, some pretty big sad things were happening but Rachael felt that Mushroom didn’t need to have those on his mind until he is older and she did a little to direct the light to at least some of those who need it most.

At the start of 2015, Mushroom and his Mum put little slivers of light in a Joy jar. At first this was daily, then it slipped to weekly, then to occasionally. Despite this inconsistency, the jar is now full. And there is even more joy in their heads, should they choose to access it.

As the end of the year approached, Mushroom started to try and read for himself, bringing an extra dimension to the books he had been enjoying all year but he still loves for Mum to read old-fashioned fairy stories to him when he’s too tired to look at the pictures and just wants to lose himself in a beautiful story.*

In December, as Rachael (almost!) finished writing her first coached e-course for parents who really want to embrace their perfect imperfectness, Mushroom was ready for a break from learning. So it was just as well that it was almost time for the Christmas holidays!

2015-12-16 09.56.46Mushroom put up the tree (with a little help from Mummy!) and then he and Daddy surprised Mummy one day when she worked late, by putting up tinsel and other decorations all over the house for her to find when she got home. Mummy loved this little Santa_MotheringMushroompiece of family magic and rewarded them with magical hugs – enough to fill their tanks into 2016.

As it’s not quite the end of 2015 yet, we’ll leave our little story there… For now. However, it is time for Mushroom and Mum to take a Christmas blogging break, so I’ll let Mushroom have the last word on 2015, and he’ll be the one to start our new ‘once upon a time’ in 2016.

Mushroom says:

“I’ve had a nice year. The best bits have been PE, learning letter sounds at school, practising the nativity and having Christmas parties. With cracker hats! I also enjoyed watching the Tiger Who Came To Tea today. Next year I will be bigger and I want to do more swimming and more bowling. And have more parties”

The End

Christmas2015_MotheringMushroom

 

 

*Thanks to Parragon Books for this beautiful Hans Christian Anderson anthology, which I’m sure we’ll be enjoying for years to come!

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