Sunday, 29 April 2012

Project #366 - Week #17

I struggled this week, work definitely got in the way, but here we go:

Sunday- Squeaks likes playing with my phone, this app is 'Cartoon pictures'- photos guaranteed to make her giggle.
Cartoon pictures app

Monday- Supermarket shop- does it get better?
Johnson babies

Tuesday- 0530 Cardiff- whichever way you read it, I needed it.

Wednesday- 1830 Cardiff- returning home, despite the rain this sight always makes me happy.

Thursday- This really did make me smile when I was very stressed taking Squeaks to pre-school.

Friday- a bit of respite, taking the babes to soft play.
Johnson Babies

Saturday- the result of our baking session- heart shaped.

Johnson Babies baking

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Friday, 27 April 2012

A tale of two halves: the story of the working mum

I feel like I am ranting a lot lately... but if I can't do it here...

I am really proud of my work achievements this week.
Since January I have been working on a new project, and since February we knew our deadline was April 26th.

Government announced in the run up to Christmas a new fund.
I told my manager in my end-of-year review that I needed something new to challenge me.
The twain met.

Of course, government delayed the prospectus going live, and then delayed the release of the application form and guidance. And of course the date to submit proposals stayed the same.

We have been running workshops with construction employers, who now seem more or less agreed that I should have a NVQ in Herding Cats (I don't think they've twigged they're referring to themselves).
We've gone from a room full of people thinking this is impossible due to commercial sensitivities, to a proposal being submitted as a collective.
We ensured all of our directors are committed to what we were doing, and have approved each aspect of the proposal.

We met the deadline.
At 23.30 on Thursday 26th April 2012 we submitted our proposal (the deadline was midnight).
We had ten major companies collaborating, federations working together, 5 SMEs are raring to go, and the Union are on board.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have achieved something worthwhile.

The flip side- I have had more overnights with work this year than I have in a very long time. They have been worthwhile from a work perspective. I have missed my husband and children far too much.
It has put unbearable pressure on my marriage- end off.
This week, I finished work at midnight Sunday, 1am Monday, midnight Tuesday, 2am Wednesday and 23.30 Thursday.
I feel guilty because I could not bring myself to work today.
I could not bring myself to work today because I don't see why I should spent my weekend catching up on my sleep, missing out on my oh-so valuable family time because I have exhausted myself due to my work hours.

Next week I go back to my day job. A day job I have neglected for four months. A team, that despite my efforts not to neglect, are stale and bored.
Despite thinking the pressure was on getting to April 26th, the truth is I now have to catch up on four months work... in probably less than a month, if my team are not to completely lose motivation.

And then there is of course, the next consideration. If our proposal is successful, can I manage it?

If I were to manage it I think it would be a secondment.
I already have an 18mth secondment, and 2 six-month maternity leaves under my belt. I know how painful it is to go back to a job someone has been trying to cover in absence. Why would I want to do this again?
Because it's a fantastic proposal!
But it's highly unlikely to be a promotion. So why go through the pain?

I feel a bittersweet end to the last four months.
The sense of achievement from submitting the proposal is tinged.
The guilt of working rather than spending time with family is so impossible to describe.

And, this is me, this is our life.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Proving Seren and "White" do mix

Hot on the tail of "Ruby Red Tells Tales" was another fantastic production at Sherman Cymru by way of "White".

As abstract as "Ruby Red", the instant attraction to young people is clear.

A Catherine Wheels Production, "White" is described as "a beautifully strange world. Full of birdsong and birdhouses, it gleams and dazzles and shines in the night."

I'm not sure about strange, Seren and I felt right at home.

The performance was flawless. The two performers were engaging, comical and ensured the engagement of the audience.

Described as a performance for 2-4 year olds, I really am becoming aware of my mental age.
I would have happily taken the boys to this (at 15months) but definitely couldn't have controlled three little people, and it would be a 50:50 chance of them behaving.
But, it would have mesmerised them.
I love the idea that this was suitable for two years old- I can't wait for the boys to turn 2!

The themes in the play seemed unique to each child, there was clear messaging in the performance but Seren just amazed me again.
Happily questioning different things, from knitting hats for the babies, to mummy getting it wrong in terms of "birdhouses " Seren quite happily corrected me: "No mummy, they're egg houses". You can't question this logic, evidently there were only eggs living there!
As Seren is still in a world of  'special eggs' coming hot on the heels of Easter, I do wonder what she would have made of this aspect at any other time of the year, but I am glad to say we've gone from special eggs having to be chocolate, to special eggs being red- although I am finding it slightly more difficult to source red eggs!

To the performance itself, it really was tailored to its audience. Seren and I sat together on a mat, and although I don't think Seren understood the instructions as we entered, it was amazing that all the children respected the boundary of the stage, although I suspect it was the enchantment which stopped them crossing some magical line.

The two characters, "Wrinkle" and "Cotton" achieved the feat of being both mesmerising and engaging with the audience. The two kept the performance moving to a pace which kept the little people engaged whilst ensuring understanding of the story of the two friends.

I loved the magic, the story, and how much Seren enjoyed it.
I loved that the performance didn't actually end., that the audience became involved.
I loved the idea that whilst white is fine, colour makes everything whole.

Seren liked the glitter ball aka the stars, and Seren it transpired likes pink, almost to an OCD quality.
I will persevere with a love for blue.

I was really pleased to take Seren to the theatre again. I think there is an element of children having to become used to different environments.
I think Seren enjoyed the performance, judging by feedback to her dad and grandparents.
I know I loved the performance.

"White" is currently on a UK tour, and so to any adults reading this who need some timeout, who need reminding that life is so much more than the daily to-do list, I would get a ticket. It is so good just to lose yourself, and yes, if you happen to have a child you can take along with you- they'll probably enjoy it too!

For more information about the family programme at Sherman Cymru, check out this link.
Click the link to find out the venues and dates of White's UK tour.

This post has been written because we enjoyed the experience, it is not sponsored.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The downside of schedules

So, after beating myself up in my quarterly review for not seeing as much of my friends as I would have liked, I have once again been reminded that sometimes the best nights are the unplanned ones.

Following a chat with my mum I was surprised that she was volunteering for more babysitting duties, being aware of how little time Tony and I have together at the moment. Oh, and how would this Saturday night be?

Cue a text to 'the homies' and as if fate stepped in, all were free.

Tony offered to drive so I could share a few drinks with the girlies and we had a fab night at Cardiff Bay.
Admittedly, it was not the drinking antics of years gone by, it was a very enjoyable meal- good food, flowing drinks, and amazing company.

It is so good to laugh, to relax, and to catch up.

As always, it was good that it just doesn't matter how often we see each other- things are as they always have been.

We have all changed so much since the last time we were all together in Cardiff, but we are still the people we once were, just now with a few more dimensions.

I love my friends, I love the laughs, the honesty, and the timelessness.

And in creating new memories:
- Recommendation of the evening: Never ask a waiter for his wife's number.
- Unanswered conundrum: the benefits of chicken fillets.

Until the next time

Project #366 - Week #16

So, Picnik has gone! And whilst I clicked on the reminders forever I was still shocked to see I couldn't create my regular collages this week.
So this is me, and PicMonkey, and week 16:

Sunday: our latest car boot purchase! After pricing them in Ikea at £40+, our £3 purchase (minus the cover)

Monday: babes ready for bed

Tuesday: my regular 0655 spot- London bound

Wednesday: whilst I'm away a "treehouse" is built

Thursday: one happy child

Friday:  theatre trip

Saturday: after a couple of weeks of eyeing up "mummy's special egg", left to her own devices Squeaks tucks in!

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Work Project

Ok, so I'm just feeling a bit rejuvenated at the moment, the finish line is in sight.
Well, in continuing the athletes analogy, it's a bit like a relay, I get to pass the baton on, on April 26th!!
It's just there's a probability that I'm going to have to keep warming up in the background, and a chance the baton may be back in my hands in the Summer... but enough of that, for now...

April 26th!!

At midnight our proposal has to be submitted.
Since January we have achieved more than I thought possible.
Ok, so we're not there yet, and all the difficult, detail, technical, finance stuff- yep, still to be sorted.

We've managed to get lots of wonderful people, who at the first workshop in February agreed that they couldn't work together due to commercial advantage, all working together! All sharing and contributing to fantastic, new ideas.

We've got people working in one team within our business, all understanding the benefits they can get from joining in.

Last week I had to present our ideas to our directors, and in spite of not having the aforementioned detail, they were really positive about it.

It has been so good this year to have a new challenge, new things to learn and understand.

And it's been so good to have people sharing the journey, appreciating the knowns, the unknowns and even our new favourite 'the known unknowns'.

But, when I finish work on the 27th, those babes will be going straight to bed, I will be treating myself to a bottle of the bubbly stuff, and I will be waking up on the 28th with a sore head.

And then on the 30th, I will get back into the day job, and catch up on four months of outstanding work!

Monday, 16 April 2012

2012 Quarterly Review

How did this happen? It's April, what a stupidly fast year it's been already.
As I find myself at work getting told off for not getting my end of quarter reports done, having to schedule performance reviews, I recalled how optimistically I had set my new year's resolutions- I can no longer bring myself to capitalise these 'resolutions', I know how far away I am from achieving them.

So, realistically, how far off am I?

There was the weight loss. Well, that's a so-so one, Tony and I have a chart now, he's doing far better than me. I'm sort of doing ok. Although part of this was due to a horrible bug and the weight might not actually stay off, because, of course, children shouldn't eat chocolate- so I'm doing my bit by eating their Easter eggs.

Seeing my friends regularly, hand on heart, absolutely rubbish at this one. The drain of work, the ever decreasing circle of illness and bugs. I really do hope the summer helps this one.

Work- well I could say I'm doing really well at this one, but the idea was to do less. We are now being asked not to work before 0730 or after 1830. Apart from in exceptional circumstances, not sure which way to look at it, but my project is considered such a circumstance. So now, hopefully the light is in sight, proposal must be in my midnight on April 26th, things may just find an even keel.

Another one I think I'm doing dismal at, Seren's school place for September, I thought we had made our decision, I thought I had submitted all the forms. But a blank set turned up to be urgently returned today- so maybe I'm loosing it.

Family time is doing a lot better, we're having a lot more time together and trying to get out more as a family. So this is something I want to do more of but we're on the right track.

So, how have the first three months of the year been?
When it's good, it's really good.
And when it's bad, it's Pants.

I can't believe how much better life is when nobody's ill.
I can't believe how many bugs have done the rounds in only three months.

So, a new resolution: To keep the family healthy and happy. So easy to say- but what's a resolution is not a challenge!



Sunday, 15 April 2012

Project #366 - Week #15

So, week 15 in pictures:

Sunday: Happy Easter: mini eggs for all from Nana Windows-

Easter Monday: the arrival of a playhouse for the children from their Uncle Chris and Aunty Holly (a belated birthday present) and the rain :o(
Tuesday: weather brightens up so breakfast in the garden!

Wednesday: after wondering what the footsteps and doors opening and shutting are about, I find Seren and Miller asleep in my bed.
Friday: A night out in Cardiff Bay

Saturday: a trip into Cardiff on the bus, treasure map in hand!

And the favourite of the week, Thursday (we had babysitters twice this week)- and a walk around Cardiff Bay, followed by a chinese meal!

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Saturday is Caption Day

I couldn't resist this one from a moment of sunshine on Friday.
Everyone knows getting three to look at the camera is near impossible, but something was definitely preventing them this week!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Budgeting - Car Boot Sales

My husband loves car boot sales. We used to live in a market town and twice a week there would be flea markets. Tony loved them. It would be a frequent challenge to spend a pound on a Sunday morning.

I have to admit to a positive of this, I read more, of different authors. There were regular booksellers on the market and when it was only pound you didn't mind taking a punt on something you may not consider reading usually. I guess to some degree the Kindle has picked up from here, but I am a traditionalist, I love turning pages myself.

When we decided to sell the house we did a load of car boot sales. It was amazing- the time told truth of "one man's trash...", the proceeds of the car boots funded much needed cosmetic improvements on the house.

We often use Ebay but to be honest, compared to the immediacy of a car boot sale, and the associated fees, car boot sales win every time (subject to good weather of course!).

On moving to Wales, Tony needed something to stop our insufficient funds burning a hole in his pocket. And what finds he made- not only do we have a car boot sale five minutes down the road every Sunday afternoon, but there are some larger scale car boot sales at Bessemer Road, in Leckwith and in Sully as well.

Car boot sales have allowed us to buy some tatt we would never have considered buying new. This is especially good when you have three little ones. Like us, many families chose to get rid of their children's paraphernalia through this route. Over the past year we've managed to get vtech tables and walkers for under a fiver, bed guards for a couple of pounds, and Tony now is getting so good he spots bargains to sell on to invest the profits in treat for himself.

From a pink canoe to the kayek of his dreams!

I've even managed to progress my spending from books to trinkets for the kitchen.

With the double whammy of getting out as a family for some fresh air, car boot sales have turned into a regular Sunday thing for us, it's certainly a good way of picking up things for the children that we would not have been able to afford otherwise.

And as a testament to how far we've been here, this weekend when offered the chance of the grandparents looking after the boys, what have we chosen to do with our time: sort out the wardrobes and garage so we can do a car boot sale with the clothes, equipment and toys the li'l ones have grown out of!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Ruby Red Tells Tales - theatre for 3 year olds

Growing up, going to the theatre was a really big thing for me. From a young age I was obsessed by the ballet, and my mum regularly treated me to performances at the New Theatre in Cardiff. This moved onto contemporary dance as our new next-door neighbour was part of the Diversions Dance Company. And at fifteen I finally tried my hand at acting, and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences.

Whilst Seren has witnessed (and been mesmerised) by 'In the Night Garden- Live' one of the things I have most been looking forward to about moving home was the amount of excellent theatres we have locally and that Seren is now old enough to have her first experiences.

Seren was lucky enough to be gifted tickets for "Ruby Red Tells Tales" for her birthday.
"Ruby Red" is described as a musical play from director Sarah Argent and Theatr Iolo, and part of Sherman Cymru's new programme.

Sherman Cymru reopened in February this year following an extensive rebuilding programme. I was hugely excited about taking Seren to see this play, and it meant I got to check out a theatre which I had been quite familiar with in my youth.

We met with a friend for lunch beforehand, and the Sherman bears no resemblance to me of the theatre it left behind. It protrudes from the street, making it instantly recognisable, and as you step into the foyer it is light, airy and clean. From a rose-tinted spectacles (and 10+years) perspective, I liked the old building, but the new building is, to me, how theatres should be. A welcoming space, catering for all. Not like the New Theatre of my youth where you dressed up and felt on your best behaviour. Sherman Cymru achieves that universal aim of making the arts accessible to all.

In terms of the performance itself- Wow! I was taken back to being as memorised as ever. The play has only two actors, playing "Ruby" and "Ella". It was musical theatre, it was physical theatre, and it was two actors keeping people, and more importantly children, entranced for almost an hour.

I am always astounded by how much it takes to be a good actor, being reliant on one other person, and to have their trust in you, is a huge undertaking.
To achieve this with theatre aimed at 3-5 year olds- awesome.

In terms of the play itself, it is really difficult to explain, apart from to say it is magical and enchanting. It loosely follows fairytales as children might recite them.
And there is good reason for this, as described to us on the way in, the words of the play were all devised by 3 and 4 year olds, writing their own stories, and then "mismashed" to create this play. An absolutely fantastic concept for keeping little ones engaged.

Seren did a lot better than I thought.
The play was aimed at 3-5 year olds, and Seren turned three a fortnight or so ago so it was going to be interesting to see how she would get on.
On entering the theatre children are encouraged to sit on the 'grass' and adults sit in the theatre setting. Seren regularly looked round for me, and on occasion came up to find me (cue very loud footsteps in a quiet-ish setting), but she didn't stay, it was although she wanted to make sure she had the option if she wanted it.
Seren also stood up to watch parts of the performance (as well as lying down to look at the ceiling lights). I sort of appreciate where she was coming from, in enjoying the performance. Sometimes, it seems a shame to to keep children sitting when they want to explore- but this is the joy of parenting that I must learn!

We definitely loved Seren's first trip to the theatre, and are looking forward to a few more future plays.

For more information and dates for Ruby Red Tells Tales check out Theatr Iolo's website.

For more information about the family programme at Sherman Cymru, check out this link.
We've already got out tickets booked for White, aimed at 2-4 year olds, and currently on a UK tour.

This post has been written because we enjoyed the experience, it is not sponsored.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Project #366 - Week #14

So, this week's is in a bit of a random order, but here goes:

Sunday: Tom wearing Seren's sunglasses, Seb trying to make a grab for them.
Thursday: Weigh-in, first time in 9 months, and still 1lb seperating the two.

Tuesday: Trying out an apartment instead of the 'usual hotel' in London- it was a lot more comfortable!
Wednesday: The place I spend most of my time in London (yes, that is a pub reflected in the glass!)

Friday: Improving our cake baking skills.
Saturday: Seren treated to a Lindtt bunny on a trip to the theatre (It was a shortlived relationship!).

And my favourite of the week- Monday: my babies first- a trip in the back of my car- amazing how the weather changed the following day.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Extreme Baby Led Weaning

We've had quite a change with the twins this year, and it's been quite difficult to adjust.
One of the choices mums are faced with as their babies reach six months is whether to opt for a puree approach to weaning, or baby led.

With Seren, I bought Gill Rapley's infamous book, and despite reading I still opted for a puree approach. It wasn't great, Seren did have reservations about progressing to lumpy food and then onto 'our food' but nonetheless at 3 she is a rounded eater, her favourite meal when asked is "pasta, tomato, eggs, meatballs, peas, sausage and trees (broccoli)". She's never managed them in one meal yet, but I think she'd give it a good try.

With the boys, as they didn't sit up independently until they were ten months, at six months we once again opted for a puree approach to weaning. I was quite pleased with their progress, we had a few regressions after colds and bugs but we soon built up to lumpy food again.

Until February, when the ultimate sickness bug hit, and as we went into March nothing but nothing could persuade the boys to go near purees.

Not only were we caught off guard, we had no idea what to do. Of course they would still accept their breakfast of weetabix and banana, and yoghurts for dessert, but go near them with a puree- homemade or jar- and they would wretch and manage to throw up in seconds.

For a couple of days we ended up predominately giving them the foods they would accept, after trying and failing on a series of different foods. We tried all the things Seren had loved, but to no avail.

With hindsight it was an amazing 'twin' moment to witness, the steadfast refusal to accept food, and every now and again, one would give in- and the look of disapproval thrown by the other, I love the relationship between the two of them

And as worry set in, of starvation, and desperation, lightening struck. As they sat eating Seren's toast one morning. Oh yes, the determination of children.

My little dependent boys have decided unless they're feeding themselves- they're not eating.

We have had a baptism of fire into baby led weaning. What we have discovered they love pizza, fish fingers (without the breadcrumbs), chicken, sausages, potato, wraps with cream cheese or pastes, turkey burgers, and of course the trusty toast or bread with butter or jam.

It feels like it's taken a long time to get here. We have stressed so much over how much the boys are eating, how they've relied on milk in the interim, but this week, with everyone in full health, we went to see the health visitor, and despite not having the babies weighed for nine months- oddly they've remained on their centiles- and there's still exactly a pound separating them!

As always the advice from the health visitor- "follow baby's lead, they won't see you wrong".

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