Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Inspiring Kids ... and an Inspiring Kid! (Plus GIVEAWAY!!)

As I may have mentioned a few times before, my daughter is a confident type. But even confident kids have the occasional wobble. As we near the end of the school year I've noticed that, while she has developed in so many ways, there are also areas where she has become more doubtful.

She is more aware of differences between her and her friends - which of course is great, it shows she's seeing others as individuals! But it does mean she worries about the fact that she doesn't like 'Frozen' but her friend does, or she wears trousers when most girls wear dresses or skirts.

She's also becoming a bit of a perfectionist, getting upset if she makes a mistake in her work or if her work isn't as 'good' as somebody else's. I tell her mistakes are how we learn, and the important thing is she tries her best, but still she finds it hard.

I know how important it is for children to have a growth mindset - to believe that they can get better at things, that their abilities aren't fixed - and to value their own individuality. So I've been looking for ways to teach this to Eleanor.

I was contacted recently by the founders of Socky Wocky, a fab new company that specialises in funky kids' socks with positive affirmations written on. The story behind Socky Wocky itself is inspiring - it was set up by nine year old Safin, who is described on the website as a 'regular boy'. Yes, you read that right. He's NINE! And he's set up his own business! Pretty amazing, right?

Image courtesy of Socky Wocky

Safin set up the business with the intention of making people happy, encouraging and motivating other children to believe in themselves. With some help from his mum, he has created some fantastic designs and chosen some really inspiring affirmations. I think my favourite is 'Be Yourself - Everyone Else Is Taken!'
Image courtesy of Socky Wocky

Image courtesy of Socky Wocky

Image courtesy of Socky Wocky

Image courtesy of Socky Wocky

The socks are currently in production and due to go on sale later this year, but if you feel you and your child needs this positivity in your life sooner, Socky Wocky do have downloadable affirmation posters that you can purchase through their Etsy site. And I am really excited to be able to offer a set of three downloadable posters to two lucky readers! You will be able to choose which three posters you receive, and will be able to download them in a variety of sizes, even printing off extra copies to give as gifts to friends and family!

To enter this competition, go to the pinned post on my Facebook page, like the post and leave a comment with your favourite affirmation or positive motto. You can choose one from the Socky Wocky website, or one of your own! You don't have to like my page or share the post to enter, but it would be lovely if you did anyway!! The giveaway will close on Tuesday 25th July 2017 and the winners will be announced on the Facebook page the following day.

Good luck!

DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links. The prize for the giveaway is kindly provided by Socky Wocky, however this post is not sponsored by Socky Wocky and all words and opinions are my own.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions

To enter the giveaway, please go to The Ish Mother Facebook page, go to the pinned post (which will include a link to this blog post) and do BOTH of the following:

  • Like the post, and
  • Comment on the post with your favourite affirmation or positive motto.
Only one entry per person. Shares and page likes are appreciated but not required.

The giveaway is open to entrants aged over 16, excluding employees and relatives of The Ish Mother and Socky Wocky.

The giveaway will run until 11.59pm on Tuesday, 25th July 2017, and two winners will be randomly selected the following day. If successful, you will be contacted via Facebook and announced on the Facebook page. You will then have 28 days to confirm your e-mail address and choice of posters, and the digital downloads will then be e-mailed to your address within 7 days of confirmation. If the winners do not confirm this information within 28 days another winner will be randomly selected.

The winners' names will be announced on the Facebook page and will be made available by The Ish Mother on request.

By participating in this giveaway, entrants confirm that they have read, understood and agree to be bound by these terms and conditions.

This promotion is no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

5 Words Or Phrases I Irrationally HATE

I'm not going to lie to you, reader. This isn't going to be the most coherent, inspiring or thought-provoking post I'll ever write. But I just need to get this off my chest, OK?

We all have certain things that annoy us, don't we? Well, with me these things are often words or phrases. Ones that I hear once and think, "hmm, bit annoying but OK" but then over time become so overused that they set my teeth on edge. Here are the words and phrases that irritate me the most at present:

1. Hack

Everything's a flipping 'hack' nowadays. Writing hacks, parenting hacks, cleaning hacks, breathing hacks probably. People. Think about what a hack actually IS. It used to mean something dodgy or badly done. If someone was a 'hack writer' they were sensationalist, formulaic, even dishonest. Do you really want to call these handy tips you're sharing HACKS?

OK, so let's go with the idea that it's come to mean something that saves time, effort and/or money. But the hyperbole around these lists of 'hacks' is ridiculous. '16 Life Hacks That'll Change Your World'. '20 Cooking Hacks That'll Blow Your Mind'. Sorry, read them back. Are they really that mind-blowing or life-changing? Yeah it's handy knowing you can pull baby vests down to take them off, but it's hardly revolutionised my life. Calm down.

2. Bantz

This is another one that seems to be suddenly everywhere at the moment. I'm not even fully sure what it means but it provokes a visceral reaction in me. I loathe it. I avoid anything attached to the word. Besides, from what I gather it seems to cover everything from well-intended teasing to being plain obnoxious or worse. If you want to be rude, be honest about it. Or, y'know, think about what being rude will actually achieve and realise it's probably not worth it. Either way, don't hide behind 'bantz'.

3. Date Night

I don't even know why I hate this one so much. Perhaps it's nothing more than bitterness because my children are currently so rubbish at going to bed and/or staying asleep that inflicting them on a babysitter is out of the question. But it's just so twee. I'm not dating any more, I'm married, my dating days are well over. If we do ever get to go out again, I'll call it just that - going out. Going for a meal. Going to the cinema.

There's also the pressure that goes with it. 'Oh you must have date night', 'oh you should have a date night at least once a month'. I often wonder if our grandparents ever got 'date nights'. I doubt it. There are other ways of keeping a relationship healthy than having a monthly trip to a restaurant, I'm sure. Besides, if we do ever go out we'd probably just talk about the kids anyway.

4. Good Baby

Every parent knows this one. 'Is s/he a good baby?' Yep, we know what you're asking. You're asking if s/he sleeps. And you know the answer don't you? The answer is NO s/he doesn't sleep, s/he's a flipping BABY. Yes, some people get lucky with a good sleeper but by and large all babies suck at sleeping. Why put a value judgement on that? It's not that s/he's good or bad. It's just what babies do. Stop making mums worry that their baby is 'bad'!

5. Butter Wouldn't Melt

I've saved my most irrational til last. Ever since I first heard this phrase I've hated it. It actually makes me feel a little sick because it makes me imagine having a mouth full of butter. But the thing I think that bothers me most about the phrase is that it's meant to describe someone who's cool, but it's possibly the least cool phrase in existence. It's painfully old-fashioned. It's a bit like when people say 'the bee's knees'. It's an anachronism, an oxymoron, it has no place in modern society PLEASE STOP MAKING ME IMAGINE HAVING BUTTER IN MY MOUTH.

And breathe.

Do you agree with me on any of these? Or do you want to put up an impassioned defence for one of them? What words or phrases make your skin crawl? Do let me know!

Monday, 10 July 2017

Review: Hotmilk Nursing Bra

I have a confession to make. As much as I love breastfeeding, one thing I don't love so much is the restriction it places on what I wear. Every top or dress needs to be accessible for feeds, and as for underneath, I'm getting a bit fed up of shapeless nursing bras.

Or rather, I was. Until Hotmilk Lingerie offered me the chance to test one of their nursing bras. I was so excited - after nearly six years, I get to wear underwiring again!

Hotmilk have some gorgeous nursing bra designs, from 'everyday' T-shirt style bras to more lacy affairs, and even sports bras. I'm not really a lacy kind of girl, and do nothing even approaching sport, but I live in T-shirts so I went for the Forever Yours design in Nude.

I won't beat about the bush: I love this bra. I was worried that, after so long not wearing wires, it would be uncomfortable but it isn't at all. It's a great bra for everyday wear. The fabric is supersoft and the thick band adds extra support and comfort - and comes with six width options so it can be worn during pregnancy too.

The cup is very full - a bit fuller than I've worn before, which took a bit of getting used to. But it does mean that on days when, ahem, my supply is up I feel contained and comfortable! Getting the cup down to feed also took a bit of adjusting to but after a day I got it down to a fine art!!

And how does it look? I think it creates a great shape and sits nicely under the tops I've tried it with. I was surprised how much of a difference it made - suddenly I had a curvy silhouette I hadn't seen in years!!

Overall, I'm really impressed with the look, quality and comfort of this nursing bra, and I'm sure I'll be using it plenty from now on! You can find Hotmilk online here for the UK site and here for the US site.

DISCLAIMER: I was given the nursing bra featured for the purposes of this review, but all words, photos and opinions are my own.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Mudpies and Minibeasts: What We Did For #30DaysWild

If you follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (if you don't, it'd be lovely if you would!) you'll know that this month we've been completing the Wildlife Trusts' '30 Days Wild' challenge - making time each day for a Random Act of Wildness. This could be an outdoor activity, something inspired by nature like a craft activity or an environmentally friendly act.

I decided to take the challenge because I felt like Eleanor and I needed to re-engage with nature a bit. Eleanor was such a nature girl as a toddler, loving playing in the garden and even helping out, but when she started preschool all that seemed to change and she was more reluctant to get outdoors. I really believe in the importance of getting out in the fresh air and appreciating nature, and I thought this challenge would be a great way to kickstart that.

Day 1: Cloudspotting - seal or teddy bear?
At first I found it hard to think of ideas. The month started in the middle of half term so should have been a good time to do some more inventive activities but actually we were flagging by that point in the week and it was a bit too warm to go trekking about, especially with Ezra in tow. So we started out simple.

Day 3: Releasing what turned out to be a larder beetle. Glad it's not in the house any more!
In the end, I found that not overthinking it and letting Wild Things just 'happen' worked quite well. Rather than planning wild activities we just opened our eyes to the nature around us and took time to appreciate it. Eleanor rediscovered her love of minibeasts and I learned loads - I can now identify each stage of the ladybird life cycle which I couldn't before!

Day 5: "Look Mummy, it's like confetti!"

Day 7: Minibeast hunting
Day 12: Eleanor likes butter!
Day 21: A blurry red kite circling above our house
Day 17: Walking barefoot in the grass (yes I have weird feet)

We spend more time in the garden than usual too, finding new ways to enjoy nature. Eleanor developed a penchant for making mudpies - she made them on three different occasions in the month!

Day 4: Ezra loving the mud!
Day 16: Making a mud pie
Day 19: First fruit picking of the year
Day 22: Garden yoga!
We did do some more organised activities like rose perfume making and leaf pressing, but in retrospect I'm glad we didn't do more actually, crafts can be quite stressful for us so I much preferred our 'go with the flow' approach!

Day 8: Leaves and flowers ready for pressing
Day 11: Mashing rose petals to make perfume
Day 29: Making dubious nature 'art' with the pressed leaves and flowers
We only had one nature outing, which was a shame. I'd have liked to do at least one more but our weekends filled up fast and the weather kept swinging from blazing hot to pouring with rain! We actually chose a blazing hot day for seeking shade in our local forest which cooled us down a bit.

Day 18: A Father's Day walk/bike ride in the forest
We didn't always manage to put a lot of effort into our Random Acts Of Wildness. On busy days, or when I got ill and it was raining, we 'cheated' a little with nature webcams, bug drawing and even a game of Beetle. I felt weirdly guilty about this but we were still thinking about nature, however tenuously!

The thing I'll take away most from the month is that just slowing down a bit lets us notice and enjoy nature so much more. Yes, checking out that ladybird pupa may add 30 seconds to the school run but it's a small price to pay! And playing with nature doesn't have to be a well-planned mission, it doesn't even have to involve leaving the garden - I just need to be creative (or let the kids be creative) while we're there!

I'm not sure I'll keep up the daily Random Acts Of Wildness long-term, but I'm definitely hoping to keep finding regular moments to enjoy nature with the kids.

Day 30: This is NOT a mud pie apparently - it's a mud cake!!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

To A Friend, Who Unwittingly Helped Me To Breastfeed

This week is National Breastfeeding Celebration Week in England, this year the week has the theme of breastfeeding support. Unicef are encouraging mothers to share stories of our breastfeeding friends, the people who supported us with our breastfeeding journey.

It's got me thinking about the people who supported me when I first started breastfeeding five and a half years ago. My husband, my mum, midwives, health visitors, strangers on online advice forums all played their part. But there was someone else, someone who may not have directly helped me, but whose example gave me the determination to keep going. This post is to her.

We were in each others' day to day lives for just a few months. We worked together, but by the time I started working with you, you might already have been pregnant with your second child. I was childless but hopeful for the future. You talked to me about motherhood, my first real 'mum friend'. You shared your pregnancy woes with me, but talked about the joys of being a mum too.

You talked about breastfeeding. You didn't preach about it, just casually dropped it into our conversations. It was something normal, run-of-the-mill, alongside talk of nappies and toddler tantrums. No big deal.

You went on maternity leave and we stayed in touch via Facebook. And that's how I heard about what happened after your beautiful baby was born. You were ill. Very ill. Scary, hospitalised kind of ill. Then you posted thanking your friends for helping you to continue breastfeeding your child. A few months later you called into work and talked about how you'd had to argue with medics to be able to keep breastfeeding. It stuck with me.

Fast forward two and a half years and I had a newborn baby of my own. I'd always assumed I'd breastfeed, but then I'd always assumed it was easy. How wrong I was. Eleanor had a habit of flat refusing to latch on, and would go from asleep to screaming with what we thought was hunger (actually it was reflux) in seconds. I didn't know how I could keep feeding her, it felt impossible.

But I remembered you. And how you'd continued to breastfeed despite being so very ill. And I kept telling myself, "If she could do it, so can I." You were my proof that it could be done, no matter what the circumstances. And that thought kept me going and helped me to fight for support until, at eight weeks, it finally started to get easier.

You did actually visit me in those early weeks but I didn't talk much about how I was struggling with breastfeeding at the time. You told me your two had both had reflux and we exchanged a couple of texts about it after Eleanor had been diagnosed, but other than that you weren't really directly involved in my breastfeeding journey. And yet you were crucial to it. You were my model of a normal, regular, breastfeeding mum, carrying on despite adversity. Simply by doing what you felt was right by your children, you inspired me to keep doing what I felt was right for my child.

Now Eleanor is five and a half it seems bizarre to me to think how close I came to giving up. Breastfeeding is just part of family life now. It's normal, run-of-the-mill, just like nappies and toddler tantrums. And I have you to thank for that.

Thank you, my unknowing breastfeeding friend.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Review: 'Daisy And The Trouble With Chocolate' by Kes Gray

I haven't written about what Eleanor's reading in a while. This is mostly because, actually, I don't get to read with her very much any more. She's been able to read pretty much fluently for two years now but her growing attention span means she can happily sit with a chapter book and read to herself, rather than wanting to be read to. I still get to read bedtime stories every other day (husband and I alternate) but those are short stories from a Disney book and, to be frank, there isn't much to write about.

So with her reading independently most of the time, I don't often know what she's reading. I don't have time to sit and read a chapter book like I did with picture books. But last week I found a book in the library I thought she might enjoy, and it made her laugh so hard I had to read it myself!

Eleanor loved the Daisy picture books when she was younger. Daisy is a really fun character - witty, a bit rebellious, smart and curious. She doesn't scream 'girlie' at you either, which is refreshing. I thought the chapter books might be a bit too much for Eleanor at first - she tends to read shorter ones still - but she sat and read the whole thing cover to cover in about an hour! I'm not sure she took everything in the first time, but she's since reread it about five times so must have covered the whole story by now!

So what do I think to the book? It's good fun and I can see how it would appeal to kids. It combines two storylines - Daisy looking after the pet hamsters over the Easter holiday, and going to Chocolate Land, a chocolate theme park. The part that had Eleanor properly belly laughing was the hamster storyline and I could see why, there is lots of talk about hamster poo which is of course hilarious to a 5 year old! The Chocolate Land part is more far-fetched, but would be really exciting to a child: chocolate face painting, a rock band with chocolate guitars, chocolate magic shows etc. The whole thing made me feel a bit queasy but to a child it sounds like heaven! It's a very easy read - the text is broken up with lots of fun illustrations, and the repetition of 'the trouble with' throughout the story will help to keep children engaged.

More importantly,Eleanor thinks it's hilarious and says it's her favourite book ever! This week anyway ...
c Linking up with #ReadWithMe hosted by Mama Mummy Mum and Kids Like to Read #KLTR hosted by Laura's Lovely Blog and The Inspiration Edit.

Read With Me

Laura's Lovely Blog

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Things a Teetotal Mum Will Recognise

Just lemonade for me, ta
For all my talk about being this hippyish alternative mum, I generally blend in fairly easily with other mums. After all, we're all in the same boat and need to help each other out. But there is one area where I still feel like the odd one out. Drinking.

I don't drink.

To me it's not a big deal. I've never been massively into alcohol. I experimented with it a bit in uni but never got properly drunk. And as I got older I just, well, grew out of it. I was mostly teetotal when trying for my first baby then stopped altogether for pregnancy and ... never really started again. I think I could count the drinks I've had in the last six years on one hand.

People have always been a bit surprised and baffled by my lack of interest in alcohol, but I'm more aware of it now I'm a mum. It's hard to pinpoint why, but there are a few things I've noticed - things that I'm sure other teetotal/occasional drinking mums will relate to!

The Questions

So, I go on a night out (pahaha, yeah, when my kids will let me which is once a year at best) and I'll get a lemonade or something. And there'll often be a conversation like this.

"Oh, not drinking tonight?"
"No, I don't drink."
"Oh! Why's that?"

I'm still slightly flummoxed by this question. I mean, if we were out for a meal and everyone else was eating steak but I ordered the vegetarian, it's unlikely I'd be asked why I don't eat meat. People just seem to accept that I don't, and carry on as normal. But not drinking will often raise a question.

It's not that I mind the question, I just don't know how to answer it. There's no one reason why I don't drink. There are lots of little reasons, the main one being that I just don't like it. But if I answer with that, people are really confused. So I often say something vaguely related to health issues, because I've learnt that's more acceptable than just thinking alcohol tastes nasty!

Gin O'Clock

Social media is great, isn't it? When I've had a rough day with the kids, or when bedtime has been going on for three hours and I'm about to scream, I will often take to Twitter for a moan, where I am met with solidarity and gifs. And occasionally the suggestion of gin.

It seems that after 6pm, the answer to a mum's problems is in the bottom of a glass. I'm sure it's in jest - at least I hope so, you don't really all drink that much, do you??! But I never know how to respond. Do I pretend to agree? Do I say I don't drink and risk The Questions (see above)? Do I just click 'like' and hope that's a friendly enough way of dodging the conversation?

The Alternative Vice

Of course, I'm no angel. When situations like the one above arise, I don't get through them by deep breathing and mindful housework, or whatever a clean-living alpha mum would do. So how do I cope when the kids are driving me up the wall and I don't want to hit the bottle?

Chocolate. That's how. Lots and lots of chocolate. In various forms - bars, biscuits, cakes. I live on the stuff. And the advantage is you can eat it All Day Long. And, believe me, I do. If it weren't for breastfeeding and babywearing I'd be the size of a house by now. In fact I don't quite know how I'll cope when I'm no longer able to consume my own body weight in chocolate on a daily basis. But that's a problem for another day!

The Second Guessing

I think more difficult to deal with than people's reactions is wondering what the reaction will be. Or what people will think of me. Will they be shocked? Aghast? Suspicious? Will they think I'm judging them? Will they worry that I'm going to remember the daft things they do or say under the influence and hold it over them? Will they think I'm odd, boring, sanctimonious?

The truth is, I'm not judging. Some people drink, some don't. It doesn't bother me. I'm not teetotal through some high-minded moral choice. I'm not making a point. I just don't like the stuff. I can still go out and have a laugh with other mums, kids and energy permitting. And as for what happens on the night out, that stays on the night out. I've got enough to try and remember in my sleep-deprived state without filing away your tipsy antics to tease you with another day.

If you're a fellow non-drinking mum, can you relate to these? And if you're not, go on - what do you really think of the mum in the corner nursing an orange juice?!