Happiness is… going to the playground

There is not a problem in Milin’s world that isn’t fixed by a visit to the playground. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like, it doesn’t matter what else we have done in a day, it doesn’t matter what time it is – it’s always the right time for a quick trip to the park.

Once there, he loves the swings the best. The slides, tunnel, bouncy animals and balancing logs all rate pretty highly though too. Jasmin still can’t make the most of much of the equipment, but she too adores the swings. The pair of them could spend hours upon hours being pushed ‘higher and higher, mummy, higher’.

Milin is just confident enough now to make it to the playground and back on his scooter. On our trip there this morning, we arrived to discover the tractor man cutting the grass all around us. It was possibly the best combination of events ever. Not only were we at the park, but we were watching the tractor in action. Milin couldn’t hold in his happiness, there was just so much of it. I wished Jasmin was there too, she would have loved it. I’m sure she was pretty happy at home though too – being watched by her daddy while she had a two and a half hour nap!

Walking back from the park, I couldn’t help but think how wonderful life is when you’re small. A morning at the playground, being silly with your bestie, and watching a tractor cut the grass makes for the best day. Happiness is, it would seem, made up of the simplest things. Here’s a little video of our morning at the park – complete with a scooter, a swing and a tractor.

Playground swings

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Fisher-Price laugh and learn smart stages train review

Reviewing the new Fisher-Price Smart Stages Train couldn’t have come at a better time for Jasmin. She’s just learnt to crawl!

Most of you will know that Jasmin is hypermobile – meaning her joints are very flexible and she isn’t very strong in her legs. While most babies crawl around nine months – Jasmin is now 13 months old and she has just reached this milestone. I’ll write a separate post with more detail about her crawling journey - but for now believe that she loves her newfound independence – but I also wanted to write a little about it in this review of Fisher-Price’s newest Baby Learning Toy - the Smart Stages Train.

The train is a lovely toy aimed at babies six months and older. In fact, two-and-a-half year old Milin is also getting plenty of fun out of it. It comes as three separate sections – a train and two carriages – and three cute animal figures who ride on board (puppy, monkey and froggy”. The animals all rattle slightly and are the perfect size for little hands – plus they are rather cute.

One of the features of the train is that you can set it to move. So once baby figures out where to press it to make it go - the motorised train toots off. Now that Jasmin has just mastered crawling, this is a feature she loves. She sets the train off on its way, and then crawls after it as fast as she can. She’s so pleased with herself when she catches up with it, and I love watching her finally mobile enough to get the most out of toys like this.

Jasmin is going through a phase of loving to place things in different compartments, take them out, and put them back in again. So, she’s been loving putting the puppy, monkey and froggy in the different sections of the train. With each movement, the train lights up or plays songs, sounds and phrases.

Shape buttons on the train introduce colours and numbers while pressing other features introduces opposites, phrases and more. There’s three levels of play – each activated by sliding a switch – so this really is a toy that grows with your baby. I love that it’s so adaptable. It’s a very clever toy, with something for every stage. Milin is enjoying the role play aspect and using his imagination, while Jasmin is still responding to it in a very simplistic way but loving the lights, sounds, colours and movement.

I love that there’s no cords or hassles with this train and that there is so much on it to keep the kids amused. It’s been released as part of the ‘Discover Your Way campaign from Fisher-Price. This is a celebration of all the different ways that children like to play. It’s also a campaign very much about helping children to develop at their own pace.

Jasmin truly has started crawling at her own pace. A toy like this lets her now celebrate that newfound skill. And, most importantly, it lets her celebrate in her own way and, again, at her own natural pace. This toy, like the others we have tried from Fisher-Price, encourages curiosity, stimulates the imagination, helps babies learn and grown in their own way, and lets them discover through play. These are all the things I believe toys should be doing.

*We were sent the Laugh and Learn Puppy’s smart stages learning train to review. All opinions and images are my own.

“I love you Mummy”

After reading Milin The Gruffalo and tucking him in, I sat on the floor next to his bed tonight.

“Mummy, I love you.”
“I love you too Milin.”
“I love you too. Are you happy Mummy? Are you happy because I love you too?”
“Yes Milin, you make me very happy.”
“Is it because I’m good you keep happy? If little boys are naughty then mummies are sad.”
“You’re very good Milin, and you make me very happy. I love you.”
“Mummy, I want a bowl.”
“Are you going to be sick?”
“Yes. I need a bowl.”

Upon which we rush to the bathroom and Milin leans over the toilet for a while.

“Do we do wees and poos in the toilet?”
“Yes Milin, but you can be sick here too if you don’t have a bowl.”
“And we eat our dinner from bowls.”
“Yes Milin. You’re not going to be sick are you?”
“No Mummy. I’m not. I need the potty.”

And so we get the potty. Milin sits down and does a large burp.

“Where did my bubble go? It was in my mouth. Where did it go?”
“You can’t see bubbles Milin.”
“Like farts. You can’t see farts. Because the Smurfs do them.”
“That’s right.”
“Wees live in my willy and poos live in my bum, Mummy.”
“Milin, you don’t need the potty so we’re going to go to bed.”
“OK Mummy.

I tuck him in.

“I love you too,” he says.

Toddler on swings

Thomas and Friends Tale of the Brave: review and giveaway

Milin is obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine and his love affair began when we went to the premier of the Tale of the Brave movie.

I’ve got one copy of the new movie DVD to give away – and it’s something I know Thomas fans will love. Just leave a comment below saying why you would like to win.

Milin was so excited when we arrived at Leicester Square for the premier earlier this month. It was his first time at the movies, and watching Thomas and Friends on the big screen was a big deal for him.

Thomas And Friends

The film starts with a huge storm on the Island of Sodor. It’s quite a full-on start and I could see that Milin was getting a little scared – but the storm was over quickly and Milin was quickly distracted by the plot. After the storm, a landslide unearths some giant footprints on the slopes of The Clay Pits.

Thomas and Percy are keen to find out what made the prints, and they seem to become transfixed on the idea of a monster being on the island. They see obstacles and danger around every bend, but, with the help of their friends the find out the real answer. They’re all incredibly brave along the way – hence the title.

Milin did get a bit scared towards the end of the movie, but he is only two. He quickly forgot his fears afterwards though and for the last two weeks he’s wanted to watch nothing but Thomas. He was lucky enough to be given a goody bag featuring die-cast engines and these are even going to bed with him at night!

Thomas And Friends

Fans of Thomas and Friends will love Tale of the Brave. It’s exciting, features some very sweet new characters, and of course follows the tried and tested formula that is so very popular with little ones. It’s available from high street retailer Cash Generator from September 1.

To win a copy of a Tale of the Brave DVD, just leave a comment below saying why you would like to win. The giveaway closes at 10pm on September 12. One entry per person and UK residents aged over 16 only please. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on the Mummy Says Facebook page, and contacted by email. Good luck!

*We were sent complementary tickets to the Tale of the Brave premier. The DVD will be available from high street retailers including Cash Generator from September 1.

Sofia Vergara on a pedestal at the Emmys: Not satire, not ironic, not funny

There is no question that putting Sofia Vergara on a literal pedestal at the Emmys objectified her in a manner that was blatantly sexist. It rightly raised the ire of viewers, setting off an almost immediate wave of wrath from those who voiced their disgust online.

What were people so angry about? Well, while Television Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum spoke about increasing diversity on our screens, one of the highest paid women in television stood on a revolving display stand before him. Vergara was eye candy. She was almost stumbling helplessly while trying to remain upright while Rosenblum told us this:

“What truly matters, is that we never forget that our success is based on always giving the viewers something compelling to look at.”

Ah, so this was meant to be ironic. This was meant to be funny, and we were apparently meant to be laughing at ourselves. We could, you see, recognise the joke in now having something before us that was compelling to look at. This revolting skit which looked like a scene from a 1950s awards show instead of something being filmed 60 years later was meant to be satire. Except for many viewers, it missed the mark.

On that pedestal, Sofia Vergara made depressingly clear that women are still little more than objects to be salivated over. The beautiful Columbian in a white dress, objectified before the whole world by a powerful white man, epitomised the position of women in an industry built on appearances. She had no voice, no control, no authority. (But she did make the man look rather successful by being quite compelling.)

Viewers who voiced their despair or even anger at the scene were greeted with the usual responses from a defiant audience who could see little to complain about. Vergara was a willing participant, it was pointed out. She was simply doing what most actresses did on the red carpet – and didn’t we all objectify them there too then? It was meant to be a joke… The excuses continued in this vein. Largely, those that saw nothing wrong with the skit were men. They blamed Feminists for getting out of control, for getting a bee in their bonnets about something that was just meant to be a bit of light-hearted fun.

Placing a woman in a position of helplessness – whether it be mock helplessness or not – is not funny. Dressing her in white, destabilising the ground beneath her feet, making her into a display object for ogling – this is not a joke. There is no irony at highlighting the blatant sexism which supports an entire industry. It is not satirical to draw attention to the oppression of minorities for entertainment’s sake.

Yes, we all watch the Emmys and enjoy looking at pretty dresses and sparkling jewels. Yes we like watching the stars, all dressed up, win awards. Yes, we like watching them arrive on the red carpet and do a twirl so we can admire what they’re wearing. Is it objectification then? Yes, I suppose it is. But there was surely a line that was crossed in the skit with Vergara. There was something too openly in-your-face about it.

In January, Cate Blanchet called out an E! News cameraman for lingering over her hips and breasts while she stood on the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. “Do you do that to the guys?” she asked? No. Nobody invites us to leer over men’s bodies at awards nights. Nobody puts men on revolving pedestals and tells us we’re being given something compelling to look at.

After her outburst, I wrote about my desire to one day watch red carpet events with my daughter. I wrote that I hoped to watch footage which didn’t ask us to leer over women, footage which celebrated women for the cleverness and their talents, not the shape of their busts in the gowns.

But nothing has changed.

We are still invited to view women as sex objects. Making a joke about them being a wonderful sight to behold, making light of how entertaining their beauty is – that’s not funny. It doesn’t make sexist objectification ok. It normalises behaviour which we should be calling out as wrong.

How do we change things? Perhaps we all start by refusing to laugh at the irony. Perhaps we stop repeating the jokes. Perhaps we stop looking the other way when things get uncomfortable. Perhaps we speak up. Because a beautiful woman is just that. And she deserves more.

Artists at Work

I love getting snapshots of my two artists at work. Tony is a brilliantly talented illustrator (I’m allowed to say that – I’m his wife), and watching his pictures take shape is amazing. Milin is entranced by the process too and loves to draw at his makeshift easel while his Daddy works away on bigger projects.

Tony’s drawings are incredibly detailed and slowly amble their way towards a final piece. Anyone familiar with his work will know he’s got a remarkable style – not like anything else I’d ever seen before meeting him. It’s something that appeals to children almost without fail – and of course, to the bigger kids amongst us. He’ll not thank me for posting this because it isn’t finished – but here is his most recent painting. I can picture it on a wall somewhere, sparking a child’s imagination and spurring them on to be creative.

Tony B Anderson painting

What I love about this isn’t the originality or the simple colour scheme or the way you could get lost in following the characters on a story. No, what I love is the way that Milin got so involved in the work. He’s been spending hour after hour hanging out with Tony in the shed – where much of the painting and screen printing takes place.

It seems like over this summer holiday, Milin and Tony have been a pair of ‘artists at work’. I’ve popped my head in numerous times, only to find them both at their pictures, drawing or painting, usually with Fat Boy Slim blaring out. Milin is often, in fact, found singing the line ‘Right about now, Check it out now,The funk soul brother.’ He was probably singing those words right when this was snapped.

artistsatwork

Whatever Milin does when he grows up, whatever he decides to be, I’m sure he’ll be creative like his Daddy. I hope so – watching his imagination take off, prompted by lines on a page, is a wonderful journey to be a part of. These are the ordinary but so special moments of our lives just now. These are my two artists, at work.

ordinary moments

Totseat portable highchair review

Baby Jasmin has been putting the Totseat portable highchair through its paces recently, and it’s definitely passed the test. It’s described as a ‘washable, squashable’ highchair designed for ‘babies who lunch’ and this description is spot on – the highchair does fold up incredibly small and all you need to do to clean it is put it in the washing machine.

The Totseat is incredibly adaptable, thanks to adjustable straps and cleverly designed fabric with well-placed buttons to fold the material in on smaller chairs. It comes with a cumberbund which straps around chairs which don’t have back supports. However, I tended to use this as an extra piece of fabric to secure the Totseat once it was in place – even on chairs with backs. This wasn’t necessary on chairs – but I felt happiest using it this way.

Squished up in a tiny bag, the Totseat really will go anywhere with you. It’s recommended for children who can sit upright and are about eight months or older. Jasmin has just turned one and is a perfect age for it. She’s happy to sit in it for meals and snacks and loves the idea of being on a big chair just like mummy or daddy.

Totseat highchair

We wouldn’t use the Totseat to replace the highchair we use at home. It’s definitely more of an item to keep in the car, buggy or your nappy bag so that if you stop somewhere you know you will be able to seat your baby for a meal without requiring a traditional highchair. All you need is an existing adult chair.

There’s loads of ways to adjust the Totseat so it works for your baby and the chair you have, and it’s really quick to get the hang of. It doesn’t take long to figure out how to make all the adjustments and the Totseat fits a range of chair sizes. We tried out the gorgeous apple print, but there are a range of fantastic design options.

I’d recommend the Totseat as a handy thing to carry with you. If you’re out on the go a lot or travelling a lot, it would be a useful addition to your baby gear.

Do take a little look at my video for how it works, and how easy it is to get baby sitting in it. As I said, I’ve used the cumberbund for extra security around the Totseat – but this isn’t really necessary and is just something I’ve found I like to do.

* We were sent the Totseat for the purpose of a fair and honest review. All images, video and opinions are my own.

Eating out with babies and toddlers – 12 easy steps

1. Choose a restaurant or cafe based on the food preferences of little people. For the child that only eats rice: Japanese is good. For the child that only eats bread on Tuesdays: Italian may work. If you have one of each of these children, take a contingency packed lunch for one of them. Pat yourself on the back for making it to said restaurant with both children in tow.

eating out with toddlers

2. Arrive well before anyone without children is likely to want their lunch. 11.30am is perfect, as you  shouldn’t, at that time, need to navigate a maze of chairs and diners to get your buggy and scooter-riding toddler to a table. Expect to be hidden in a corner. This is a good thing – as long as your baby can see the restaurant and therefore be distracted from waiting for her food.

3. Order quickly and don’t be too adventurous. For the child that only eats rice, don’t get sushi. A bowl of steamed rice, on it’s own, will be just fine. For the child that eats only bread before noon, beware of dough balls. They aren’t toast and they’re the wrong shape. Don’t think your small person won’t notice.

4. Cross your fingers and hope intensely for a short wait for the children’s food. If your baby gets hungry, she’ll rip up and then eat the paper napkins. Your toddler is smarter than that though, he’ll go straight for the sachets of sugar and tear them open with his teeth. When the food arrives, expect your young to protest loudly that they don’t want to eat it. They might not. Don’t worry, they’ll eat yours.

5. In the spirit of being adventurous, and if things are so far going well, don’t shy away from extending the cultural experience that is eating out. Give in to your toddler’s demands, for example, to eat with chopsticks. Don’t be surprised though when he sticks them up his nostrils and starts screaming.

toddler eating with chopsticks

6. If your baby is still in her high chair, well done. She will need to get out of it and sit on your lap as soon as your food arrives. She will then need to stick her hands in your meal, knock over any glasses on the table, and try to eat the colouring pencils put on your table by friendly teenage staff who have no idea that babies don’t do colouring and don’t differentiate between breadsticks and crayons.

7. By now, it’s about time your toddler stretched his legs. It is likely he will run into the knees of staff carrying plates of food. They’re not used to looking for moving objects in the shape of two-year-olds. Expect a dry cleaning sum to be added to your bill.

8. Order yourself a large glass of wine and bribe your children to sit down while you drink it. This may involve feeding them cake. Forget your usual ban on icing sugar and anything involving food colouring. If you want to drink your wine, you’re going to have to deal with the consequences of a sugar rush later.

Eating out with toddlers

9. “Mummy I need to do a poo NOW. NOW MUMMY NOW.”

10. Put down your wine. Survey the mess you have created – the food on the floor, the spilled drinks, the torn up fancy menus, the crayon on the chairs. Hope you make it to the toilet on time. Pray no-one is using the hand-dryer because your toddler is terrified of the noise.

11. Tip generously, negotiate with your baby until she is strapped into her buggy, hold your toddler’s hand while answering questions about the toilets, swig unceremoniously from your wine glass because you deserve it, and walk away like you do this every day.

12. Wait a couple of months, recover, and (having forgotten what happened in points 2-11 above), repeat.

 

 

Can working mums have it all?

It is the start of my second week as a working mum. My clothes for the morning are hanging up and my lunch is packed. The children’s clothes are laid out and their meals are in the fridge, ready to be heated up. (Not by me though.)

Last week, fresh from the shock of leaving my babies for the day while I got on the tube and went to the office, I wrote about how hard this is. But today, at the start of a new week and at the end of a weekend spent making the most of my precious time with them, I can write about the other side.

I don’t expect leaving my babies for the day to ever get any easier. But, there is much about returning to the office that I’m glad about.

Two months ago, on a ticket I’d won through Mumsnet, I went to Workfest - a one day careers conference for mothers. During the course of the day, I listened to a careers coach, to a headhunter, to a recruiter, to mums who held positions at the top of their field, and to other mothers like me, who were feeling a little lost. I went home at once excited and daunted. I loved working, and I was looking forward to going out to work again – but would anyone hire a woman who had spent the last two and a half years making babies?

In the month after Workfest, I rewrote my CV and spent hours asking myself what it was I really wanted. Workfest dared me to dream that it was possible to have the work and family life I wanted –  but first I needed to be clear about what that was. What did I want for my family, what did I want to do all day when at work, and how did I see the balance playing out?

I have always told myself I wanted to wait until Jasmin was at least one before going back to work. I also only wanted to work part time while the children were very young.

Workfest made me made me realise that in addition to this, I want to work for someone who values me as a mother. I want to work for someone who understands that if Milin has his summer performance on Tuesday afternoon, I need to be there. I want to work for someone who knows that my favourite part of the day is having cuddles with my children before they go to bed. Getting home past bedtime is not an option.

And so Workfest made me confront the realisation that I didn’t want to go back to the newsroom. Not now, not yet.

It hasn’t been an easy decision to come to terms with. Newsroom are what I know and love. The thrill of nailing a front page lead or an exclusive, the buzz of presenting a cracking news list for the next day’s paper. My career has been spent working at a manic pace against deadlines and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

But right now, with my two-year-old and one-year-old the most important people in my world, I don’t want the 12-hour days. I don’t want the stress of managing a team of reporters who are all going to file late. I don’t want the sleepless nights about how the front page will be received in the morning.

Workfest gave me the courage to look at the skills I have and to value them, and it made me seek out what I need for me and my family. The newsroom might be that thing I want again one day. If it is, I hope I’ll be able to work my way back in.

But now, I’ve started work at Wauwaa, an online retailer which also provides multi-media content for parents. It’s a community management role with scope for writing – and about a million miles away from a newsroom. I am working three days a week and once I’m settled, two of these will be from home. What that will mean in practice will be that I’ll save two hours of commuting time every day. Those two hours will be spent with my babies.

I’m going to keep freelancing too, because I’ve earned a small but steady income from writing since Milin was born and it’s something I love doing. That work will still be done once the little ones are in bed, and I’ll still be wishing there are more hours in the day.

Three years ago I would have scoffed at this departure from the newsroom, this stepping off of the ladder, this waving goodbye to a management role. I wanted, you see, to ‘have it all’.

But having it all, right now, means working for an employer who values my skills and experience as a mother. It means doing a job which I enjoy but which offers me flexibility. It means doing a job well, yes, because I won’t ever work any other way.

Am I annoyed that I’m leaving the newsroom to do this? Am I angry about not being able to find a way to progress my career in a male-dominated industry? No. Not at all. This is all my choice. I love the news industry for what it is, but right now, I’m turning my back on it because it can’t give me what I want. That’s ok.

Having it all means knowing my children are well looked after when I’m at work. It means having 90 minutes with them in the morning before I have to leave for the day. It means being back for stories and cuddles and bedtime every night. It means being there for all the things which are really important.

Having it all is about finding the things that matter, and then finding a way to make them happen. Now, more than ever, I get this.

Milin, six months, comes to the newsroom to see me, acting head of news

Milin, six months, comes to the newsroom to see me, acting head of news