Put the phone down and look up.

I’m setting myself a challenge. To put the smart phone down and look up more. Live in the moment if you will. It sounds crazy that I even have to set myself this challenge, but what with my blog, the Facebook groups I run, my love of scrolling through Instagram and my self-diagnosed addiction to all things social, I need to nip it in the bud and focus on what is important.

 
My daughter.

 
A poll was recently taken by Digital Awareness UK of 2,000 11-18 year olds and, amongst many other upsetting stats, it showed that:

 

“36% of pupils asked their parents to put down their phone… [of these pupils]…46% said their parents took no notice while 44% felt upset and ignored.”

 
I don’t want to be in that 46%.

 
Everyone says it all goes so fast and I’m now worried that I’ll miss the bits I am lucky enough to be around for, when not at work and when she’s not at her dads, because either she or I or both of us have our noses buried in a tablet or a phone.

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It’s unnecessary. It’s antisocial and it’s not how I want to parent.

 
Mum guilt is a bitch and there’s so many things I feel guilty about but can’t change. This, however, I can.

 
So, from school pick up to bedtime, my phone is going away. The tablet is only being used for half an hours entertainment if needs be whilst I get dinner ready (my tv is currently kaput) and my thrilling social life (ha ha) will just have to wait.

 
Who else fancies joining me? Let me know in the comments so we can be strong together!

I’m sorry I’m the mum you hate. 

I’ve recently realised that I’m one of those mum’s. 

I sewed buttons and cuffs on one of Charlotte’s dresses and hunted down gold balloons so she could be Veruca Salt for Reading Week’s fancy dress day.  

Veruca Salt with Golden Egg and Golden Ticket of course.

I sent my daughter to school on Red Nose Day with her face painted. 

Just a quick face paint job before school.

And I have just spent the last weekend
and a couple of evenings
cultivating a floral masterpiece that is Charlotte’s Easter bonnet. 

She has had a hand in all these ideas, and is particularly fussy about what chicks and rabbits go where but, I realise, I’ve put too much effort in. 

Maybe the most over the top Easter Bonnet ever made?

This is not because I have oodles of spare time after I’ve been to the gym and had a manicure(I wish)

This is not because I want my daughter to win the
Easter bonnet competition I promise.

It’s because I actually love doing these things and there’s pretty much no other time I get to do this stuff! 

As a single parent who has 6/7 evenings stuck at home whilst Charlotte sleeps, it’s sometimes a choice between being creative and making something that Charlotte will be proud of or watch yet another box set on Netflix (If you haven’t watched Frankie and Grace yet, get on it)…or even more dangerous upload a dating app and chat to a variety of men who will all, I can guarantee, turn out to be knobheads at one point or another. 

Unfortunately my job doesn’t give me much room for manoeuvre when it comes to creativity either, unless I manage to sneak through a document typed in Calibri rather than Arial up the sign off chain. 

So, rather than pop to the supermarket to buy something ready done or not do something at all, I look like the ‘pain in the arse mum’ who has spent ages helping and curating something, has spent £100s on craft paraphernalia (I didn’t, I somehow already had everything in stock) and may even have her own glue gun (I do).

And for this, I’m sorry.

If it helps you to forgive me at all, I have not once baked cakes for the cake sale and Charlotte’s decided she now hates the Easter bonnet. Naturally.

An alternative Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day everyone, or Mothering Sunday if you’re the traditional type! I hope you’ve all managed to get a lie in (what that means with the clocks going forward I don’t actually know), some version of breakfast in bed and have been presented with multiple homemade cards and presents. 

This year I’m definitely getting a lie in as I don’t actually have Charlotte for most of the day. 

I heard the shocked gasps then but it’s ok, I  promise.

My ex and I have Charlotte alternate weekends (with me doing the bits in the middle too) and this year Mother’s Day fell on ‘his’ weekend.  I didn’t realise until quite late on in the proceedings and wondered if I should attempt to barter to keep her for myself or shorten his weekend with her so I could see her. But then I thought… 

What does Mother’s Day mean for me? 

…and thinking about it, for me as a mum it doesn’t mean very much right now.

The first Mother’s Day after I split with my ex I had three cards from friends and family and multiple presents and flowers. It was nice as I wasn’t expecting anything, especially as my ex and I were not in good terms, but the past two Mother’s Day’s have just been a bit, well, depressing. 

Mother’s Day isn’t just about Mother and Child bonding. It’s meant to be a full family experience and I remember it so fondly from when I was younger. The Father is meant to take the child(ren) out to carefully curate the best present/card combo. The breakfast is made with help from the Father so no fires ensue or coffee isn’t spilt down the stairs. The Sunday Lunch is a full family affair whether out or in but, for better or worse, that’s not how it works in our little family of two. 

Crazy curly haired lady!

But I realised that, where we are now, I don’t need presents or a soppy Hallmark cards from Charlotte. I definitely don’t want presents brought begrudgingly by my ex. It melts my heart when she brings me a drawing home from school with a lady with crazy hair in the middle surrounded by hearts and flowers and says ‘I made this for you mummy’, but I am lucky that they happen every week for me, not just on one day of the year. 

I don’t need a lie in because I generally get one every other weekend and, believe me, I usually make the most of it. I know I have got it good compared to a lot of mum’s in that respect so I take full advantage! 

Last years attempt at breakfast in bed – the wine wasnt part of it, promise!

I don’t need breakfast in bed. She’s five. That would be a disaster and I’d have to go downstairs to find out what the crash was and supervise at some point therefore defeating the point entirely.

Our day trip to London last summer
I do, however, need quality time with my daughter. Like playing a new card game with her that her grandma taught her, and listening to her cackle when she’s on a winning streak. Like having tickle fights on lazy Sunday mornings. Like going on road trips to see something a bit different or Film Night Fridays with pizza and a movie. Like cuddling up in bed every evening and reading books. Just the two of us. 

And I realised that I am ridiculously lucky that I get that most days of the year, not just the one. 

So Charlotte can have her Daddy weekend because she needs and wants quality time with him too, and we’ll just pick up where we left off when she gets back. 

NB: I also know I definitely have two homemade cards hiding in various conspicuous places, so all is not lost.

Road Trip to the National Space Centre


Charlotte and I had a well deserved day out yesterday.

We had nothing planned for the weekend and, because Charlotte’s theme at school is Space and because we’ve watched, what seems like 101 experiments with Tim Peake and Chris Hadfield on YouTube over the past couple of weeks, I’d decided we’d have an educational jaunt to the National Space Centre which is, handily, less than an hour away from us. Despite this, I’m pretty sure the last time I went was when I was doing ‘Space’ in school and we got to go on a field trip so it’s been a while!

To be honest it was surprising we actually made it there at all. I’d threatened to not go so many times during the multiple tantrums this week. If she didn’t get her shoes on, if she didn’t stop pulling the dogs collar or if she didn’t stop singing ‘oh my gosh, look at her butt’ on the walk home from school over and over again.  

Because of this, and the hilarious notion that I might, one day follow through with my threats, I didn’t book online. 


Tip No 1. Book online. 

The tickets are no cheaper granted, but the queues are definitely smaller!

At £14 for an adult and £11 for children 5-16 (under 5s go free) it’s cheaper than a theme park and way more interesting with loads to do and see. I thought it was good value anyway but you can also turn your day pass into an annual pass for £0 extra! Bargain! 

Tip no 2: Check the website to see what’s on before you go.

The centre have lots of special events on over weekends and holidays which is great but if you add the word ‘Lego’ to any event I think you are guaranteed to triple your normal visitor rate which is what had happened this weekend. 

There were a few interactive bits within the Lego area but there were also lots of amazing, intricate models with signs saying ‘Do Not Touch’ which is just calling out for a toddler to grab half of a Death Star or something don’t you think? 

The centre also have evening talks and film nights I found out whilst standing in the queue for tickets. I’m quite excited by the idea of Starship Troopers in the planetarium. The most cheesy space film ever and a very guilty pleasure of mine and my brother’s. 

Tip no 3: Take your own lunch if going at peak times.

Unfortunately, due to the Lego invasion, the small cafe was having trouble keeping up and sandwiches were being made in the back no quicker than they were disappearing off the shelves. However, after the queuing we asked whether they did any gluten free options (I did have some snacks just in case) and we were told they could make it fresh and we could have any of the non-gluten fillings. One fresh ham sandwich scoffed so quickly I had to ask what bread they used as Charlotte never eats sandwiches! 

So, after our first trip and after my mind was completely blown learning about just how many stars are in the Milky Way (approximately 200 billion) and just how ridiculously huge the known universe is in the amazing planetarium, we came home knackered but very happy and we will definitely be back soon. 

Ps. The National Space Centre has not paid me to review our day, we just had a good time! 

 

Dropping the F-bomb.

I’m holding my hands up…I’m a sweary mum. I TRY my hardest to keep it clean whilst Charlotte is around but if some knobhead (oops) cuts me up in traffic I am likely to call him (or her) out on it at high volume and it comes out of my mouth before I remember to censor it for my 5 year old’s ears.

My attention was brought to my effusive language after catching Charlotte dropping some form of F bomb whilst walking away from me not once, but twice this week. My heart sank. I’m a failure as a mum. 

“What a silly, naughty man” is sooo much less cathartic than “What a fucking dick” though, don’t you think? 

I hardly ever remember my parents swearing when I was younger. We would get reprimanded if we said ‘crap’ which seems to be a pre-watershed word nowadays. Bugger was ok, just. Bother was preferred. When pushed during my teen years my mother may have uttered the f word but sort of muted herself when she said it. Much like when your nanna has to say ‘lesbian’. 

I obviously did not inherit this restraint.

Nope, I’m the mum who swears and then wishes she hadn’t because she isn’t quite sure if the mum she’s talking to is a kindred spirit or one of those mum’s who suddenly look like you’ve hurt their delicate ears when you call someone a wanker.

I’ve also come to realise I’m the colleague who swears. Open plan offices are not ideal for this. My job makes me say ‘for fucks sake’ approximately 100 times a day so keeping that internalised would surely be bad for my health! Luckily my team mates are well aware of my colourful language but I’m sure not everyone approves. 

I wish I was more mild mannered and I have tried, but it’s too hard to keep all the effing and jeffing in and filter it to a more child friendly/ work friendly chiding and so I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not the end of the world. 

Telling someone ‘I fucking love you’ makes it seem all the more true and heartfelt (sniff), telling someone they have acted like a dick helps you get your point across more strongly and if Charlotte needs to try these words out at home then it’s not the end of the world. I would be a pretty massive hypocrite if I said she couldn’t use those words wouldn’t I?! 

It’s parents evening this week though so we’ll see if she’s been dropping them anywhere else as well. 😬

Walking on the tight rope.

Walking the tight rope

Mental health is a bitch. It is a reactive, sensitive balancing act that, for some, seems like no problem at all and for others can be a precarious tight rope walk, just waiting to fall and hoping there is a net somewhere deep below. 

I was on that tight rope for a long time. I suffered with depression for many months, if not years and I suffered from post natal depression (PND) and anxiety with maybe a bit of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) thrown in there after having my daughter. Every now and again I feel like I’m back on it, wobbling. Not very often thankfully but every now and again. Today is not one of those days but I can completely understand how someone feels up there. 

My blog name is theperfectjuggler, which, for the most part is a ‘tongue in cheek’ name but, sometimes that extra ball can be the difference between having good mental health and it all going down the pan very quickly. 

The government have, this week, said that they will be putting more funding into mental health care. Perfect timing as Monday 16 January is known as ‘Blue Monday’. The most depressing day of the year. 

They want to make workplaces more able to help and support those with mental health issues, they want schools to teach about how to maintain good mental health and for teachers to know how to be aware of children who may be developing mental health issues and how to deal with those who already have them. They are also upping the funding into mental health services for pregnant women and new mothers. All of which have been seriously lacking. I agree with this focus and hope that they actually see this initiative through. 

Ironically I have just had to tell the department I work for that I will no longer be able to lead their Wellbeing group as my own mental health was suffering. This one added responsibility which I was passionate about and enjoyed, was the ball I could no longer juggle, and before I dropped it I had to put it down voluntarily.

I know lots of people that are suffering with ‘bad’ mental health, 1 in 4 of us will suffer with a mental health issue in our life time and I just want to say, I get it. I get feeling so low that you want to hide. I get that you don’t want to talk about it. I get that sometimes, it seems like the best way for everyone would be if you weren’t around anymore. I get that you didn’t think you could cry anymore but you do and I get that some people don’t get it. 

I also get that it can get better by focusing on the good things in your life and removing some of the bad ones, by not letting yourself become insular and selfish, by helping yourself climb back up the ladder to the tightrope, even if it’s just one tiny step at a time. It can get better by seeking help, and support from professionals, from family and from friends. By developing resilience techniques like mindfulness, meditation and exercise, to use when you next have a wobble. And lastly to realise that you can’t necessarily change what happens to you but only you can change how you deal with it when it does. 

Things will get better, I promise, I’m proof that they do. 

To Elf or not to Elf, that is the question.

This time two years ago Amber the Elf started to visit us during advent and left little notes with little treats in the gorgeous advent bunting I had bought.  Nothing big. Just a little chocolate, a hair clip or something we could go and do that day. Coordinating that was bloody hard enough work!

Love having a fireplace I can hang these on.

This year, for some unknown reason…or the fact that I’m an overachiever who has a lot of time on her hands at the moment (still off work after surgery)…I was umming and ahhing about doing the full Elf on the Shelf experience.

I asked on forums, I asked on my Facebook page and after some mum’s admitting they got bored of it quite quickly and knowing that I can be quite a lazy mummy, especially at the end of the day (especially after a glass of wine), I asked myself why fix something that isn’t broken? 

During my internal debate and after approximately 1000 hours on Pinterest (ref. Time of work again) I did, however, find out about the Kindness Elves which is a cute, fluffy version of the slightly demonic looking, mischievious Elf on the Shelf but instead of being spied on to check whether the child is being good or bad, they spread kindness and suggest good deeds that help others which sits a lot better with me than the ethos of an elf spying on the child.

I have now amalgamated our original Amber the Elf with a splash of Kindness Elves and have found a concoction I’m happy with. So happy in fact that Amber has even written her first poem to say hello again. 

Amber the Elf’s first poem.

Let’s just hope I can keep this up for 24 days and Charlotte starts to sleep through the evening so I don’t have to hurriedly hide things that I have already set up at 10.30pm. 😬 

Happy December everyone! Would love to hear if you have your own traditions in the run up to Christmas.

10 reasons why having a messy car is a good thing.

A few weeks ago Charlotte and I went on a trip down to Devon to visit some friends. She said she had a tummy ache the night before but, unfortunately, because of her Coeliac Disease this can be a common occurrence so I have to say I kissed her goodnight and hoped it would go away by the morning.

 

It didn’t, she woke saying she was feeling sick, but, yet again I dismissed it especially as she ate a tub of yoghurt! So I gave her some calpol and packed her in the car along with our luggage.

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It started so well…

25 miles from home on a bypass with no lay-bys she began complaining of feeling sick again so I just said we’d stop for some food soon and she was probably hungry. Turns out she wasn’t hungry, she was actually sick and proceeded to vomit over herself and my car.

 

After driving another 4 miles before finding a lay-by, I pulled in and ran around to her side of the car. It was a massacre, she’d covered everything so I looked around for anything that could help me and, because I’m a lazy, messy mum and my car is an outpost of my kitchen, bathroom cabinet, wardrobe and toy cupboard combined I found everything I needed.

 

Multi suface cleaner wipes for the chair and car seat. Check.

 

Half a bottle of water for Charlotte to wash her mouth out with. Check.

 

Tesco carrier bag to put all contaminated items in. Check.

 

Change of clothes for her. Check.

 

Raincoat for me as it was also pissing it down. Check.

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My ingenious homemade sick bucket…craft bloggers will be quaking in their boots! 
This life event made me realise that actually a messy car isn’t so bad.  Yes, it can be embarrassing when you get tricked into having to give a non-parent a lift somewhere but I also came up with 10 reasons it’s actually essential that your car is messy.

 

  1. You will always have baby wipes somewhere in the car. This can clean sticky fingers, sticky faces, sticky dashboards, sticky steering wheels (hey, I’m not one to judge!)
  2. You can fashion a miniature sick bucket for a miniature human being because once bitten, twice shy.
  3. You will always have reading material. That time when you’re stuck on the M5, everyone’s turned their engines off and your phone battery dies. What’s better than Biff and Chips ‘Sit me up’ or an old cereal box that was an art project from nursery.
  4. You will also always have something to eat. Granted it may have been on the floor under the seat for an undetermined amount of time but, if it ever gets to the point where you’re contemplating a Bear Grylls type survival technique, fear not. That half pack of Wotsits will keep you alive for at least another half hour.
  5. You will always have a coat. It may not be for the right season or go with what you’re wearing but it’s another layer so stop whinging.
  6. Your child will also have a spare set of clothes should you need them. Maybe a ‘hold on, we’re just near the services’ accident, or a ‘just take a little sip and then put the lid back on’ accident…whichever you will definitely be able to change them. Ok, the tights might be a bit small but no one will know under the Tangled fancy dress outfit.
  7. And speaking of fancy dress outfits you will never be caught short at nursery’s Pirates and Princesses days that you heard nothing about until that morning. That blunt eyeliner rolling around your footwell is perfect to draw a couple of scars and an eyepatch! Voila!
  8. About to send your car for an MOT and realise you don’t have any windscreen wash? Rather than being charged £5 for them to fill it up for you so it passes just empty all the half drunk bottles of Evian into the water tank in the lay-by before you get to the garage (and then use a baby wipe to clean your hands).
  9. If you can’t stand to hear ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ one more time then have a feel down the side of your seat and you will definitely be able to find a CBeebies CD or a Greatest Hits of Bonnie Tyler CD there. Pick whichever will make your ears bleed least.
  10. Hair not quite sitting the way you want this morning? Dig down the back of the passenger seat and there will definitely be two Peppa Pig hair clips and, if you’re lucky, a headband with fluorescent pigtails protruding from the top. New look, sorted.

 

You’re welcome people!

Have I missed anything off? Let me know what you have found in your footwell recently in the comments below!

Out of the rabbit hole. 

Heading towards the light.

So I’ve apparently had some time off. I’m going to blame the summer but it was pretty much down to laziness and, yet again, some mega stress that sent me down a bit of a hole. 

But things have got remarkably better, remarkably quickly which I shall catch you up in due course but this is just me coming into the light and saying ‘I’m back!’. 

Next adventure…Charlotte starts school tomorrow!!! 

The cost of coeliac disease

There were lots of things I was completely ignorant to when it came to coeliac disease. My best friend has been diagnosed with it for about 10 years now but I still had no idea about the cross-contamination side of things until Charlotte was diagnosed.

Did you know that even a crumb of normal bread can actually harm someone with coeliac disease? This isn’t just an intolerance where you might get a bit bloated, gluten actually kills part of a sufferers intestines so that it can no longer absorb vital nutrients. 

Because of this it is suggested that you should change a number of things which you may never be able to say is completely gluten free. So the literal cost of coeliac disease for us so far is…

1 toaster £25

3 baking trays £7.50

3 chopping boards £5

2 non-stick frying pans £25

4 plastic spatulas £8

3 mixing bowls £14

Officially I shouldn’t use a dishwasher which has previously washed glutenend items but unfortunately my budget doesn’t stretch to a brand new dishwasher quite yet, although I am thinking its a very good excuse to bring my ‘new kitchen’ project forward a bit!

Carefully chosen gluten free picnic courteousy of M&S

This doesn’t even take into account the fact that gluten free products are SO much more expensive to buy that the gluten filled alternatives. Bread which tastes similar to normal bread can have a mark up of at least £2 more than your average white sliced loaf. 

Luckily, in most of the UK, diagnosed sufferers can get some items on prescription, however, this is a minefield and we’re currently trying out every option available to find out what is edible and what is definitely not! 

There is talk of the prescriptions being scrapped, especially adult ones and if they’re not scrapping them, they’re making the list of things you can have shorter by the day. Thankfully Warwickshire seems to be holding on to most items for now but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. 

Obviously the biggest cost is Charlotte’s health and this is the reason I am happy to pay for all these items…now just to work on friends, family, restaurants and schools to make sure they’re as precious about her health as I am. 

Healthy kid!