Was I just trolled? It kinda hurt

I’ve mentioned before that I’m trying to challenge myself more this year. Saying ‘yes’ more often in a bid to finding the ‘new’ or ‘real’, post-baby me. Just starting this blog and more importantly, sharing it, has been quite a big step.

This week, I took a bigger step. A journalist asked me to post my most personal piece on the Huffington Post. VERY.BIG.DEAL. So in the shock and excitement, I posted it. People were happy for me. My mum said she was proud (sob!). It felt great.

Then I started to read the comments. Yeah, someone called it a load of tosh. Fine, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Someone on Twitter said I was perpetuating the issue – I don’t think they got what I was trying to do with the piece. Whatever. But one of them really stuck, suggesting ‘we return to my country of origin if I think the UK is so bad.’ Woah.

Do people really say that? And to complete strangers?! Isn’t it this kind of ignorance I’m trying to challenge? Was my piece so offensive, that a stranger took the time to type such a comment, rather than just click on the next article? If they’d read it in newspaper, would they have written a letter to respond? Probably not.

Whilst this was a faceless person, I’m very unlikely to ever come into contact with, it still hit me and it hurt. I’ve always just thought ‘ignore trolls’, ‘they have nothing better to do’, but my instinct was to reply, defend my opinion and put him in his place. I could have so easily given in to his provocation.

It’s really made me think about how powerful social media and the internet is. I consider myself to be quite a strong, confident person, but was quite surprised at how much one random comment hit me. What if I was a young, impressionable teen, whose taken months to build the confidence to post something online? The impact it could have had on me, could be so much worse.

Social media and the internet has made it so easy to react, insult, provoke people we do not know, without any thought of the consequences. Maybe I should be worried about my children going into a world where this is the ‘norm.’ I just  hope I can give them the confidence and resilience to ignore these faceless, and probably spineless, people.

xx

PS – you can read the piece in all its glory here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/claire-quansah/teaching-children-about-racism_b_11873270.html?utm_hp_ref=uk

 

Getting Crafty with ToucanBox

I’m not the ‘craftiest’ of mothers, I’ll be honest. I always liked the idea of spending rainy afternoons creating various pieces of art with my kids, with some music playing in the background, laughing and joking etc…

That rarely happens. I hate mess! We do have craft box and umpteen toilet role tubes, so every now and then we will get crafty, when Boy1 has some inspiration, because I can never think of anything.

So I got very excited when I heard about Toucan Box. It seems as though you can get everything through a regular subscription box these days, food, cosmetics, cocktails (yes, I know!!) and now crafts.

The blurb

ToucanBox is a flexible subscription service offering mini craft ‘projects’ for children aged 3-8 years. According to the site, the boxes mean parents ” can spend less time trawling through toy stores and more time making mini masterpieces with your budding masterminds.”

How it works

When you sign up, you are asked to privide your children’s names, ages etc and even answer a personality quiz, so that their boxes can be tailored. This is a great touch and gives you confidence they’ll like what arrives.

A fortnightly subscription costs from £3.95 + another £1 p&p. Bigger boxes cost more, of course.

The activity

The box arrived fairly quickly in a lovely turquoise box, addressed to Boy1, which instantly got him excited.

Eastern 100%
Inside our parcel

We opened it up to find our project was a dinosaur tail and mask. Lovely animated cards with clear instructions.

It came with enough tape and sticky bits. The only thing we needed was a pair of scissors. Thankfully, this particular activity needed very little adult supervision, which meant I could get on with the ironing.

Boy1 found the instructions fairly easy to follow and it took him about 20min to complete.

After a bit of peeling and sticking, followed by some cutting, we had our tail and mask.

 

The Verdict

I really do like the idea of ToucanBox. It provides the inspiration along with the materials. I believe in other boxes they even provide glue, so its very convenient. I like the fact my son was able to get on with it whilst I was ironing, rather than him being glued to a screen.

Boy 1 really enjoyed it. It’s not the kind of thing he would usually make (sword/marble-run/boardgame), so the surprise element was fun. Plus he felt a sense of achievement in completing it himself.

I’d say for £10 a month it is a bit pricey for me, because we aren’t that crafty. Part of me would rather spend £10 in B&M Bargains on lots of random craft items, which I know would last for ages. But it is a nice treat and for a child/family that struggles to come with ideas, this does provide some inspiration. I know Boy1 has already started to think of other things he could make.

Definitely worth giving it a try, so sign up for your free trial here: https://www.toucanbox.com/freesample

Remember summer holidays are just around the corner…

 

Rating: 4/5

Mind the Gap

There are nearly 7 years between my two boys. Not exactly how I would have planned it but it’s just right for team Mumsomnia. From the day Boy1 arrived we were constantly bombarded with the inevitable question of “when are you having another?”Believe me it gets tired after about 6 months, so 7 years of it drove me mad.

Having such a big gap does mean my mum friends really vary in their stages of motherhood. From first time mothers to well established, tween handling, forgotten how to change a nappy types. Most of my pals with more than one child have age gaps of just a couple of years between them, so I’ve really seen a difference between their experience of having multiple children and my own.

With such a big gap people constantly ask me what it’s like. Had I forgotten what it’s like to have a baby around? How does Boy1 feel after being an only child for sooo long?

Nearly one year in to being a ‘gap mum’ and I thought I should share my take on it.

Big gap ‘cons’

  • Sleep! I’d been used to getting a good night’s sleep for a few years, so the arrival of Boy2 really impacted me
  • Entertaining them together can be tough and will only get tougher. It’s quite difficult to find something they both enjoy. Boy1 is getting too old for soft play just as Boy2 is getting into it. When I have a 4 year old and 11 year old to deal with, who knows what I’ll do?!
  • No joint school photos. Ok this seems quite minor, but as a lover of nostalgia, I’ll never be able to pull out a photo of both my boys sitting awkwardly close to each other, gap toothed in perfectly ironed uniforms.
  • Childcare. I worked out that by the time Boy2 is 11, we would have been paying for childcare for 17 years. Yes 17 years!! Whereas those parents who decide to bang out kids within a couple of years of each other could wipe a good five years off that figure
  • Not as many hand-me-downs. We cleared out a lot of baby stuff when we moved ‘up North’, so have pretty much started from scratch with Boy2. Thankfully we’ve been given loads of things, but it means I don’t have a loft stuffed with old clothes and toys to drag out
  • Different starts – In the time between having the boys our life has changed a lot. Boy1 spent his early years in a first floor flat in south London, no garden and parents working all hours. He even had a cheeky cockney accent for a while! Boy2 arrives to a 4 bed house in Cheshire
  • Different childhood experiences – 7 years is a long time in the world of children. So much can change from TV programmes, popular music genres and even technology, I wonder if my boys will ever be able to reminisce about ‘old school’ stuff together or will they just be generations apart
  • What saddens me the most is that there will probably come a point when Boy1 is “too cool” to talk to his baby brother. Right now he adores him and the feeling is mutual. Boy1 walks into the room and Boy2’s face lights up. I know that once Boy1 becomes a teenager, just as his little brother is in school, he probably won’t want to listen to Biff, Chip and Kipper stories and I worry it will break Boy2’s heart.

Big gap pros:

  • I only have one set of nappies to deal with. Nappies are expensive and dirty. Thankfully I’m only having to clean one bottom each day
  • Continuing the nappy theme, our luggage for days out it much lighter. When I see parents with change bags, back packs, buggy boards and the like just to visit the corner shop, I shudder
  • Boy 1 is rather independent. He gets himself washed and dressed in the morning. Plus he can make his own breakfast! So, only one breakfast to make
  • Help on hand. With an old child that likes to feel like a big boy, it’s easy to give him tasks to do to make him feel responsible, which lightens the load on me. Whilst he’s not quite up to babysitting, I can leave him to entertain baby whilst I do other jobs safe int he knowledge the only thing he’ll smoother baby with is kisses and not a pillow
  • No jealousy! Toddlers don’t ‘get’ babies. They struggle to understand why a little screaming blob suddenly commands attention from all the big people. Not a problem with a 7 year old. He understands that babies can’t do anything for themselves and that they need mummy at certain times.
  • Protective – Even with a bout of teen angst in a few years, I know Boy1 will be his brother’s security guard. He’d never let anything happen to his little pal
  • They both get to grow into their own person. Of course all siblings become individuals but Boy1 spent the first 7 years of his life being him, not being compared to anyone else. And with such a big gap Boy2 won’t have to live under the shadow of his older brother because we can’t compare two people who will always be at different life stages

For us, this gap seems to work fine. I’m not sure I would have ever been able to handle having a toddler and baby at the same time! My boys love each other and we love them even more, so we wouldn’t change them, or the gap for the world. But what works for us, doesn’t work for others. I just don’t think there’s any such thing as a perfect gap. If and when the time is right, it will work out.

xx

Longing for lie-ins

I’ve always been a lover of sleep. Even before children, I was the kind of person that would count how many hours I’d be able to get each night, lusting after at least 8 hours. Since then I realised counting would just be like emotional  torture. Knowing I’m only going to get 3 hours would probably make me so upset I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. 

With newborns, you know the deal. They’ll wake up every few hours to feed or nappy change. It then takes you an hour to get back to sleep because you are worried something might happen to them or can’t remember if you put your leftovers in the fridge. You are prepared for it. And you know it will, in most cases, last a few months then they’ll be sleeping through. Bliss.

But it’s after the newborn stage that gets me. My boys both wake up by around 6am. Yes, 6am. Every. Single. Day. Regardless of what time they went to bed. Once they are awake, they are up. 

Boy 1 runs to our room (still at the age of seven) and climbs over me and into our bed with his cold hands and feet. Sometimes he’ll even have a random Lego construction to wave in our faces with pride. 

Then he hears his brother so climbs back over me to go and see him. Yes it’s lovely, they’ll have a ‘chat’ for a few minutes and giggle, but then Boy1 suddenly remembers “hmmm I want to go back to that warm big bed” and just abandons his brother. Climbs back over me, feet still cold. 

Cue screams from Boy2 for being suddenly abandon. So one of us goes to get him and brings him to our bed, where he suddenly decides it’s playtime.

So by about 620 there are four of us in the bed. Two of us trying to sleep, the other two chatting, giggling, wriggling and gradually pushing their parents closer to edge of the bed. 

I thought Boy1 might have grown out of this habit by now (is that wrong?). The bed just isn’t big enough. And all I want is a lie in! 

I want to wake up and see daylight creeping through the gap in the curtains, but know I can just close my eyes and go back to sleep. Or pop down stairs to make a cuppa to bring back to bed without the fear of being hassled for cereal/ toast/ pancakes/ juice/ board games/ Lego. Or even, heaven forbid, have a chat with the hubby. 

Yep I’m selfish. I know one day I’ll miss the fact they want cuddles and a chat when they first wake up. One day I’ll be dragging them out of bed and begging for the slightest bit of conversation I can squeeze out of them. But for now, all I want is one long, quiet, lie-in…

Why I don’t mind being the mum-chauffer

Today, like every Saturday,  we spent half the day focused on Boy1. Instead of a weekend lie-in  we are up and out taking him to sports practice, so our weekend doesn’t really start until 1pm.

Before parenthood,  I’d hear stories about how much time parents spend taxiing their offspring from one place to another. From clubs to lesson, in between parties and events. I always thought that was just for a certain kind of parent. I conjured up this image of pushy, middle class parents, prepping their children’s CVs or UCAS applications a decade  in advance by signing them up to various sports and music classes. Why else would a grown adult spend their limited free time ferrying their kids from one class to another?

Fast forward 7 and a half years and guess what, I’ve become the mother chauffer. Boy 1’s list of extra curricular activities currently includes football, swimming, tennis, guitar, clarinet and Minecraft club (don’t ask). Before I returned to work, we actually added Spanish and fencing into the mix (how very Cheshire), but they were cut short once working life resumed.

But my reasons for his endless list of activities has nothing to do with applications or impressing others. The only CV I’m focussing on is his CV of life experience.  Of the grand list of hobbies, the only ones we actively put him forward for were swimming (life skill) and football (exercise and teamwork) quite a few years ago and he still enjoys both. Everything else was all down to the boy himself.

You see, I have an active 7 year old. He’s interested in learning how things work, how he can acquire a skill, making new friends. I want him to try new things, discover his strengths, weaknesses, passions and dislikes. I don’t want to be the one to put out that fire of enthusiasm just yet – life will inevitably do that at some point.

Right now he loves the fact he can play James Bay’s Hold back the River, reaaaally slowly. Whilst they don’t win very often, the sense of camaraderie I’ve seen in his football team is simply magical. He’s enjoying life. He’s learning so many life lessons outside of classroom and it’s great.

He also has a ridiculous amount of energy to burn. If he wasn’t running around for 2 hours on a Saturday morning, he’d be driving us crazy come mid-afternoon.

Thankfully we can afford to fund all of these activities at the moment. I just wish it was the case for all under-10s. Just think how many Olympians, Oscar or Brit Award winners we might be able to nurture if all children had the chance to try new hobbies. How many miss out on discovering their talent because they were never given the chance.

Don’t get me wrong, we don’t just sign up for a new club as soon as he sees it on TV. There’s usually some kind ‘interview’ stage to gauge his level of genuine interest. Plus he knows he can’t just give up a hobby as soon as he decides he doesn’t like it or finds it hard, without putting any effort in. That’s another lesson right there!

I know at some point we’ll need to reduce the number of activities. He’ll have more homework or exams to deal with, or we’ll have to start allocating some activity budget to Boy2. Or he’ll just get bored.

But until then, it’s my job to encourage this zest for life and learning. And to do this I’ll need to keep on chauffeuring. Pass my keys…

 

I love books but World Book Day?! 

It’s the first Thursday in March, the day most parents dread, but most school children enjoy. Yes, it’s World Book Day.
I really try to encourage reading in our house. I’ve done bed time reading since the boys were tiny babies, and now that he’s confidently reading ‘chapter books’, Boy1 still enjoys reading for hours. In fact I often find myself telling him not to read after discovering he’s still at it 2 hours after he went to bed.

Given this growing squad of booklovers, you’d think I was a fan of World Book Day. In some regards you’d be correct. I’m a real fan of reading and the benefits it can bring. I love the idea of celebrating the joy of literacy. And the fact that every child in the country gets a £1 voucher is amazing. Especially because there are special £1 books for the event, meaning those on limited budgets can still get a new book. Fantastic!

But it seems as though over the years some schools (and let’s be honest, some parents) have let the literacy side of the scheme fall by the wayside. It has somehow become a fancy dress parade.

Some children aren’t even dressed as book characters, unless Spider-Man and Elsa were in Hans Christian Anderson’s earlier, Unknown work.

Parents stressing over what to dress their child in because they are a) unhealthily competitive b) rubbish at crafts or c) not a fan of fancy dress, is just not necessary. The only real need is for them to contribute to the flurry of (extremely cute) photos on Facebook.

Boy 1 is certainly in the latter camp. For three years running we’ve had to rummage through his clothes to create some kind of outfit that slightly resembles that of a character he likes. We’ve shoved a Wocket in his Pocket (thanks Dr Seuss) and pulled out a Thing 1 tshirt.

his Wocket, happily sitting in his pocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But whilst I would find it easier if my son enjoyed wearing silly costumes, I’d still want to focus on books.

Why not just encourage children to bring in their favourite book? Maybe even do a story swap so their fellow pupils can get to enjoy a new story. Figures show that children are reading less and less these days and this is our annual opportunity to capture their imaginations and encourage reading. Please please let’s not waste it.

I’m now off to pour away our Marvellous Medicine!

Saying goodbye to a special summer

Tomorrow Boy 1 goes back to school after 5 weeks of fun with me and Boy 2. Whilst he is ridiculously excited to be starting junior school and reuniting with his friends, I’m quietly mourning the loss of the summer. Not because of the blistering sunshine or an amazing foreign holiday (I live in Manchester remember), but the length of time we’ve had together. 

This has been the first and, as it has recently dawned on me, the last chance for me to spend an entire summer with both of my children. It’s usually a case of juggling a couple of weeks of annual leave, trying to find activities that my amazing childminder hasn’t already done, whilst wishing I could squeeze in a couple of hours’ rest so I don’t return to work feeling more tired than when I left.

Swimming, cycling, playing chess (he taught me!), museum trips, movie afternoons, afternoon tea, you name it – we’ve done it. The only restrictions being feeding and nappy changes. It has been so refreshing to see him enjoy himself and spend quality time with his new little brother and just be carefree. 

It seems almost unfair that with 52 weeks in a year, I’m only ‘allowed’ to spend 5 of those with my children. 

The only reason I’ve been able to have this special time is the arrival of Boy 2 and maternity leave. So I’ve been trapped between managing my tiny budget and trying to make this time as fun and special as possible.

Whilst we haven’t been able to do anything particularly expensive or extravagant, I’ve realised how fun it is to just have that time together. People always tell you to ‘enjoy every minute’ with your children and that phrase has never felt so true. 

We’ll never get this time again. Who knows when we’ll next be able to have a long summer together. And when we do, he’ll be older, cooler and (it breaks my heart to admit it) probably won’t want to hold my hand to cross the road or cuddle his little brother to the point of near suffocation. 

So, thank you boys. You’ve made my summer so special. 

Off to the seaside! 

Today I joined my sister and her two boys on a trip to Lytham St Anne’s. Only about an hour’s drive from Manchester, but feels like a world away. 

This was Boy 2’s first trip to the sea. Whilst I know it will be a few years before he really understands and appreciates the enormity of it, it was great to see him touch sand and sea for the first time. 

As a city living family we rarely get out of the hussle and bustle, but sometimes it’s nice to just get away for a few hours. 

So nice to go for a wander, eat fish and chips and build sandcastles! 

   

   
Obligatory ice cream. The sun might have been out but it was bloody freezing!