The Tube Terror Threat, and our once simpler life

My usually packed tube to and from work was noticeably emptier on Monday morning and evening. A hoax tube terror threat, a rumour that the London Underground was going to be targeted by terrorists, was to blame. It started on Sunday night. Text messages were sent, forwarded en masse, circulated by well-meaning friends to commuters. Don’t get the tube to work, they urged, there’s a specific threat that’s been made, and extra police will be on duty. Don’t take the tube to work, they implored.

Social media was, of course, doing what it does – spreading hearsay, abuzz. Everyone knew it was a hoax. But what if it wasn’t, and they hadn’t told a friend not to take the tube? What if?

I believed the authorities. I believed the logical voice in my head.

Yet at 7.29am on Monday morning, as I went to kiss my children goodbye, I squeezed them a little tighter and held them a little longer. I sought out their eyes for a second, even though they were busy playing with trains and plastic kitchenware. I did not for one moment believe terrorists would attack the tube during my commute. But the hoax did make me want to savour my children for a few extra moments more before I left the house. It made me want to hold on to every second of ours together before we were apart for the day.

It’s probably not what terrorists intended – for a London mother to respond to a threat by reaffirming just how very, very much she loved her children, and that she would give them extra hugs and kisses one morning and promise anew to make the most of every moment. It’s probably not what they intended – for a mother before work to be struck quite vividly with just how innocent her children were, to appreciate how straightforward and primal their lives were, to understand suddenly how they knew nothing of the world’s troubles.

But that’s what happened.

(Although I went to work on Monday, I understand that fear of an attack is very real for many people. I understand completely why there were many commuters who chose not to take the tube. As I go to bed tonight, I don’t know what I will do tomorrow morning, and whether I will commute as I did today. Will thoughts of the hoax stay in my mind overnight, building up to more than a niggling apprehension? I half expect to wake up and choose to work from home because I can’t quieten the ‘what if’ voice in my mind.)

The hoax did something else for me too, in addition to making my hold my babies closer. It made me pine a little for the simpler life we once lived. In New Zealand, on the other end of the world, far away from the war-torn Middle East that overshadows every page of every newsprint in Britain, life seemed like it was lived at less of a risk.

Our existence there was less complicated. Our son was born in a country where airport staff still smiled and people travelled with ease. He would have grown up, had we not left, in a country far away from terror threats and war. He would have grown up travelling on buses and trains without having to push a fear of bombs to the back of his mind. He would have grown up in a place where parents didn’t question that they’d get home that evening to see their children. For although New Zealanders are serving at war, the country remains far, far away.

My children, however, will not grow up in a country untouched by conflict. They will grow up in a country where people are afraid to go about their morning commute. They will grow up in a country where British citizens are not allowed to return home. They will grow up in a country where families discuss raised terror threats around the dinner table. They will grow up in a country where people choose carefully the times and destinations of their holiday travel. They will grow up well versed in the categories of terror threats and what they might mean.

This is the existence I have chosen for my children and our family. This is the country, with its terrorism, its threats, its hoaxes and participation in war – this is our life.

Is it enough for me to teach my children about war as truthfully and fairly as I can? Is it enough for me to teach them also about kindness and love and compassion? They will, I fear, learn for themselves about evil. It is up to me, then, to teach them about goodness.

 

It does get better

‘It does get better.’

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard those four words.

They’ve been spoken by well-meaning strangers in the supermarket, by friends slightly afraid of what life with two under two looks like, by beloved family members genuinely feeling sad for me.

‘It does get better.’

People would tell me that as I breastfed my baby while also cuddling my toddler so he didn’t feel left out. People would tell me that in the weeks during which my baby woke every 40 minutes through the night, every night. People would tell me that after seeing me have to change my clothes again because my baby’s reflux had meant she was sick on her, me, the carpet and the sofa for the sixth time that day.

‘It does get better’.

I heard it over, and over, and over again.

And now, I’ve realised, every single person who told me those four words was right.

It is better.

Sometimes you don’t realise that life is getting easier. You don’t see yourself managing an outing alone with the kids which would have once seemed impossible. You don’t notice that it only takes you 20 minutes to leave the house instead of 90. You don’t register that you’ve started bathing your baby – something you were too petrified to do for nine months incase you dropped her. You only see the tantrum thrown at 7.07am because you turned the TV off. You only see the fact that your child hasn’t eaten a vegetable in nineteen days. You only see the endless squables over toys.

It does get better.

A little while ago, things were hard. Not because I lack support, not because my children are difficult, not because I’m incapable as a mother, not because I felt low. No, things were hard because there is 18 months between my children and bringing up two babies is difficult, tiring and relentless.

I was exhausted, I was breastfeeding, I was consumed by motherhood. On some days, it was hard to see out of the sleep-deprived haze.

I wrote a blog post, a kind of apology, to friends, family and loved ones. I wrote that I was sorry for not being ‘me’ – that carefree me that I once was. (In fact, I was apologising to myself more than anyone.)

Last week, that post was republished in America and the response was astounding. It was shared thousands and thousands and thousands of times. Reading it back made me realise how much better life has become. Life wasn’t bad then – it was always bloody brilliant because of Milin and Jasmin – but it was harder.

For those 127,000 people who read and shared that apology last week though, life is yet to feel brighter. And so, I wanted to say, somehow, to them – that ‘it does get better’.

I don’t want to sound like the stranger in the supermarket or the patronising in-law. But, I’m the mum who knows how tired you are, how fed up of the laundry you are, and how bored you are of serving up the same two meals because they’re the only ones that get eaten. I know that you feel like your body isn’t yours anymore, that you are tired of barking instructions at your toddler, that you are tired of small talk at playgroup. But, please know this: all of this will change.

It does get better.

it does get better

 

No ordinary day

There is no ‘just another day’. There is no ‘day like every other’. There is no ‘ordinary moment’.

There is no regular night, no groundhog morning.

With children, every day, night, lunchtime, afternoon, too-early morning is different. It might be imperceptibly so at first. It might be that they woke two minutes earlier than usual. It might be that they woke in the worst mood they have been in for a week. It might be that they talked about something they’d never mentioned before while they ate their porridge.

And, on that day, that day that they ask you who lives on the moon, or that day they want to walk very slowly to school, or that day they want their pasta cold instead of hot – on that day, life will be different. It will be different because every moment for them and with them is new.

no ordinary day

Every second of theirs is a departure from what they knew before. They are little, they are young, they are new.

Life with them is unbearably precious because they are showing us, with every action and every word, that nothing will ever stay fixed. Chance occurs every instance. And if we don’t grab these moments, no-one will, and they will be gone.

With young children by your side, life can feel like it is passing in monochrome. The sound is muted, the days are blurred, the hours are lost in a sleep-deprived haze.

But even when the world is blurred at the edges and the fog is almost too thick to walk through, there is no ‘ordinary day’.

Snatches of colour. Moments where all you hear is your child’s laughter. Seconds where the touch of their baby skin is the smoothest thing you have ever felt. Minutes where you realise nothing else matters more than them. When they look at you and are so damn happy. When they throw their arms around you. When they press their face into your shoulder.

You might be reading the same book for the hundredth time, but you will never have this reading again. You might be walking to the park along the same road again, but you will never do this journey in this way again. You will never feel them press their big open mouth to your cheek for a kiss in the same way again. You will never have another bedtime like this, another walk like this, another cuddle like this.

With you and yours, there is no ordinary day.

ordinary moments

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