Archives for August 2012

Helen – A Mummy Plus… interview

As some of you know, I write another blog besides this one. Honest Speaks has been going since 2009 and it’s where I keep some of my more creative writing exercises. The ‘strapline’ (if you will) is ‘Writing. People. Poetry.’ This pretty much sums up what interests me.  Some time ago, I did a series of interviews over at Honest Speaks, called Ordinary People (Read my  interview with extra-ordinary poet and playwright Inua Ellams). I have been thinking about resurrecting these interviews – I still might – and these thoughts led me back here.

I started this blog both as a record of Mushroom’s milestones and to share my experience of parenting. I have already made many friends through this blog and something I’ve noticed many of us don’t talk much about what we do besides being a parent. So, as I am nosy curious about people, I have decided to start a series of Mummy Plus interviews. I think all of us are Mummy plus something. For example, apart from my other family relationships (sister, wife, friend etc.) I am also a Creative Writer, Internal Communications Professional (these first two are obviously not mutually exclusive!) and NLP Master Practitioner/Life Coach. The purpose of these interviews is to speak to a wide range of parents, and find out who we are when we’re not being ‘Mummy.’

For my first interview, I spoke to my friend and neighbour, Helen. As well as being Mum to 18 month old Kieran, Helen also teaches English to foreign students and is currently working on a biography of Robert Boyle, an early British scientist usually remembered for
Boyle’s law (it’s ok, I had to look it up too!) but who deserves credit for so much more… So as you can imagine, Helen is rather busy. Despite this, she managed to find an extra 50+ hours to work as one of the 70,000 Games Makers who volunteered to work for free during the London Olympics.

How did you end up working as a Games Maker for London 2012?
I applied ages ago when I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Kieran. I was of course able to work out how old he would be by the time of the Games (even though I didn’t even know that he was a he at that stage!). However, I had no idea what I’d be doing work wise or in terms of childcare, having decided to leave the TV researcher job that I had back then because it just wasn’t compatible with family life. Despite the uncertainty, I knew that I really wanted to be involved with the London Olympics if I possibly could. After all it was going to be on my doorstep and opportunities like that really are once in a lifetime, it’s a cliché but it’s also true. Luckily I had a few willing babysitters up my sleeve who pushed me to go for it so I decided that I could figure out the details later… After a long but strangely enjoyable interview when Kieran was very small (one of the first times I left him on his own with Daddy), I found out that I was going to be a Games Maker in the Press Operations Team.

Did you have to do a lot of training?
The training consisted of three sessions. The first was with thousands of other Games Makers at Wembley Arena and was more like going to a concert than a training session.  I think the idea was to get us motivated and excited about our role in the Games and it certainly worked, everyone was buzzing by the end. After that I had two more sessions; one to train us in the specific role we’d been allocated – in my case this was looking after press photographers during the events – and one to introduce us to the particular venue that we’d be working in. Here I felt I’d been really lucky as I was going to work in the Photo Team at the main stadium. The training day at the stadium was rather daunting to be honest, it was just so huge and I had fears about having to direct photographers and others around a place that was so new to me – my sense of direction has always been a weakness!

What kind of things did you do during the Games?
Assisting the photographers as much as possible and also making sure they behaved themselves, not letting them stand in certain no go areas and that kind of thing. In the stadium we had Photo Team vests so that it was obvious what we were there for but walking across the Olympic park in just the Games Maker uniform meant that we were stopped by members of the public with all sorts of questions, some of which I’m afraid I had no clue about… Luckily there were always loads more Games Makers on hand to help with lots of info for the spectators so it all worked out.

What was your favourite part about being a Games Maker?
Simply that it allowed me to be involved with the Olympics in a practical way, that’s something I’ll never forget. There were lots of memorable moments in terms of the athletics that I was lucky enough to see for free as well. The best of these was definitely watching Mo Farah getting his second gold – the atmosphere was electric and I was right by the finish line – amazing!

…and your least favourite..?
We were told that we weren’t allowed to clap or show support for Team GB, we were there to do a job and be professional – fair enough – but it was extremely hard at times…

How did you manage childcare during the week?
He basically got passed around between Grandparents and Daddy, which was probably good for him – he tends to spend too much time with me as it is. He certainly didn’t seem to mind and by the end I think he understood that the funny purple and red t-shirt meant Mummy was off to work and he cheerfully waved me off each time.

You were at the closing ceremony. What was that like?
Fantastic. What can I say? I had a great spot at the front, close to the action. We did have to work, telling the photographers to sit down and keep the aisles clear etc., it wasn’t too tough though, really.

Now that it’s all over, how do you feel?
I felt extremely emotional when Seb Coe gave his speech at the closing ceremony and the flame went out. I couldn’t believe it was all over so soon but I was so pleased to have played my tiny part in such a monumental event. I think the UK should feel proud of what happened here. It’s easy to be cynical but I just think the hard work of so many should be recognised – London 2012 was surely a success by anyone’s standards.

Do you know whether any of the volunteers will be continuing to work during the Paralympic Games?
Yep. A number of the Games Makers in my team are back for more this weekend and I have to admit I’m really jealous of them. I decided against it because it’s not really just about me – I have to rely on lots of other people to make it work – but I’ll definitely be watching as much as I can and this time no one will stop me clapping!

If you enjoyed this interview and have any further questions for Helen, let me know by leaving a comment below and I’ll pass them on.

If you would like to take part in a Mummy Plus interview, either leave a comment below, email me or DM me on twitter, and complete the following sentence: ‘I’m a Mummy plus…’ If you’re a bit shy, but know of someone else you feel is a Mummy Plus, let me know why you think they should be interviewed and pass on their contact details so that I can get in touch.

I am also interested in doing some Daddy Plus interviews, but please note the person being interviewed must be responsible for at least half of the childcare responsibilities in order to take part. I am particularly interested in interviewing stay at home Dads.

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The Bottle Fairy

Kara, this is for you. Good luck for Sunday!

The Bottle Fairy (a short story)
One spring evening, after I had tucked Mushroom in to bed, I stood at the window watching twilight turn the sky a stunning blue/black and sprinkle the first stars across the sky. I walked down the stairs to wash the dishes and was stopped in my tracks by a dazzling light. Purple and blue stars fizzed across the hallway floor and stopped at my feet. I tried to touch them but as I bent down I heard a whispering… ‘Shhh… shh…’ There was a quick flash of light and a small boy appeared. He looked like any other small boy apart from the wings. Enormous purple wings that spanned the entire hallway. Oh, and the blue face. You know, like a smurf. He folded his wings and coughed. ‘Are you Mushroom’s Mum?’ he asked politely. I nodded. ‘Great. I’m in the right place then. Um, you see… I’ve noticed that Mushroom is a big boy now but he’s still having a bottle before his bath.’ He paused. ‘I know he really enjoys the cuddle time with you, but there are several little babies who live nearby, who need those bottles. He doesn’t really need it any more, does he?’ I shook my head no. I think a visit from a blue fairy would stun most of you into silence. He sensed my apprehension. ‘It’s ok Mum, I won’t leave you empty handed.’ He presented me with a brand new gold sippy cup and told me that Mushroom had been expecting him and wouldn’t be at all surprised by these events. Before I could recover enough to say anything, he took all of Mushroom’s bottles, bundled them into his backpack and vanished in a cloud of sparkling purple smoke.

Did you like the short story above? I have added in more detail to make it more interesting for the grown-ups but this is basically what I told Mushroom the day after I gave him his last bottle. I’d already brought a new (yellow – couldn’t actually find a gold one!) sippy cup. Then, once he was asleep, I hid all his bottles. The following evening before his bath, I sat him down and told him the above story. I then asked him if he wanted to use his new cup. I’m not sure how much of the story he understood but he was very excited about the new cup and couldn’t wait to use it. He jumped up and down when he saw it (he had no words at this point) and shouted animatedly. He then drank all of his milk and he hasn’t had (or shown any interest in) a bottle since.

This all happened in early May, when Mushroom was around 14 months old. I don’t know if he was just ready and would have happily given up the bottle anyway, but I am sure the story helped. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but just in case there are any copyright issues, I basically stole Jo Frost (Supernanny)’s dummy/paci fairy story and adapted it for my purposes. If any of you are weaning your toddlers from bottles to cups and you use a version of this story, please let me know whether it works for you by leaving a comment below! If you’ve already weaned your toddler (earlier or later), I’d be interested in how you did this too. Let’s all share our knowledge and help out Kara and anyone else who might find this information useful!


Don’t sweat the sleep stuff

This is the post I wish I had read when I was listening to everyone else and trying to ‘sleep train’ Mushroom.

Sleep has always been a big issue for us. One of my first posts was about Mushroom’s sleep and more recently I wrote about my attempts to sleep train him. With hindsight, I needn’t have bothered.

Like potty training for the previous generation (when Mothers were expected to potty train their children well before they turned two – far too early in my opinion), sleep is the current hot topic. A recent netmums report shows that most parents don’t get enough sleep until Junior is well into his/her first year. Despite this, a third of those questioned still feel the need to lie about how well their children sleep, as if it’s some kind of measure of thier mothering skills rather than a reflection of their child’s personality – which, take note all control freaks (me included) is beyond anyone’s control.

There’s a multi million pound industry cashing in on our paranoia about babies and sleep with some desperate sleep deprived parents spending up to £1,000 a week on sleep specialists. I was even tempted to do this myself at the beginning, having been told – by a health visitor – that Mushroom’s wakefulness was due to my failure to sleep train him. He wasn’t even 9 months old at the time. Since then I have relaxed about the whole sleep training issue, just trying to ensure I get enough sleep most days any which way I can. I have continued to rock/cuddle/pat Mushroom to sleep depending on his mood, and I still stay in his room until he’s asleep most nights. Over the past few weeks, I noticed that although he was still waking several times a night (I can hear him sit up and get a drink. Maybe I should turn the monitor down a bit more), he’d only call me maybe once – and this was when he was in a lot of pain with his teeth and/or struggling to breathe because of a rather nasty chest infection. If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that within the past few weeks, he has slept through the night at least once. Since that first time, he has slept through once more (from 7pm to 5am) and on the nights that he has woken up it’s actually worked out better, as he’s been awake around 11pm/12am, and then slept through until 6.30. Such late mornings are unheard of in our house and I am really enjoying these ‘lie-ins.’

So, my point is – although the sleep training did work, after a fashion, it was only temporary. This sleeping through the night business (and I think I can say, without jinxing anything, that we’re almost there) had happened organically, now that Mushroom is ready. If I had known this 12 months ago, it would have saved me a lot of time, worry and google searches! Every child is different. Maybe sleep training worked for you. If so, congratulations! If you’re in the middle of trying to sleep train a 14 month old, take heart that your child will eventually sleep through the night (or at least stop disturbing you when s/he wakes up). According to the Netmums report, more that 75% of children sleep through the night by the time they are two years old. Mushroom is currently 16 months old and only just on his way.

By the way, if you got here my frantically googling the sentence underlined above, or perhaps you typed ‘Will my child ever sleep through the night?’ – Hello! You are me, two months ago. I can’t say that my experience will match yours, perhaps your child will sleep through tonight, maybe not for another year. All I know is that letting go did wonders for how I feel… So all I can say is, if you’d like a moan to share your story, do leave a comment below. In the meantime… Don’t sweat the sleep stuff!

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Mushroom’s moon song

Me and Mushroom could see ‘Mr Moon’ this morning.

Ages ago, I saw a poem about the moon being out too soon. I didn’t have Mushroom then so didn’t have much opportunity to use it (it being a poem for kids) and I forgot it.

This morning, when we saw the moon, I took what I remembered from that poem and made up a new version, just for Mushroom.

Sorry, I know this is a rubbish photo. Look real close – the moon is there!

So from now on when we see the moon in the daytime, we’ll be singing:

‘Mr Moon, Mr Moon, you’re out too soon

No it’s Mr Sun’s time to play

Go back to bed

Rest your sleepy head

And come back out at the end of the day’

If anyone knows the ‘proper’ moon song, let me know so that I can add it to this post.

I also write more original children’s poems and stories, some of which I think I might start sharing here. Do come back and look out for them!

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No more Night Nurse

Thursday 5 July was the last time I nursed Mushroom. For all my worrying about how to night wean him, in the end he kind of did it himself.

Had I known that night would be the last time, I’d have done something different. What, I don’t know. It’s not as if we’d have had a ‘Mummy Milk’ (or ‘Nee’ as he liked to call it) party with a breast shaped cake to mark the occasion but I do feel as though the moment just kind of passed us by. On that Thursday night, he asked and I nursed. Friday night he didn’t ask – he didn’t even lift my t-shirt. This was a first. I put him down in his cot and he just turned over and went to sleep. I high fived the Mr and made us dinner. The next night Mushroom did ask. ‘Nee?’ he said hopefully. I thought ‘it’s now or never.’ So I said no. And he just went to sleep again. Just like that, no arguments. He did have a few biting episodes around this time so I introduced a dummy into the bedtime routine which seemed to solve this, however, I now think the biting had more to do with his teething than my refusal to nurse him.

At first I did get a little uncomfortable overnight but that settles down within a week and as it did, I realised what a massive milestone this was. Along with walking (check), talking (not quite) and sleeping through the night (Only once so far and that was recent. More on that to come in a later post!), I now feel that night weaning is a sign of emotional development that needs to be reached when both mother and baby are ready. I was ready months ago. Mushroom wasn’t. When he first caught up with me I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it. A week after his last night feeding I looked down at his contended little face and wondered if he even remembered… He certainly doesn’t now. But I do. It’s funny, most breastfeeding mums can tell you roughly when they last nursed their child, but it’s not something we write in the baby books along with their other milestones. I guess that’s why I’m writing this post. As Mushroom becomes more and more of a little boy (well, toddler – we’ve had the first few tantrums already) I’m feeling that his babyhood is slipping away almost unnoticed and I wanted to record this, which I feel is one of the biggest milestones for both of us.

Did you/Do you continue to nurse your child past  12 months? What kind of reactions do you get when you tell people? When did you/do you plan to wean? If you already have, how do you feel about it now, looking back? Please leave a comment below and share your stories!

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