Ignorance is bliss….

I’m sat here. I’m trying I get some work done, a bit of writing in the hour or so I have left before I need to collect Oscar from preschool. Because I have nowhere comfortable to work at home and because the walk to preschool and back doesn’t make going home worth it, I’m in a local coffee shop. Who am I kidding I’m in the ice cream shop. And doing what I do every week.

When I came in the place was empty, but a group of three obviously very new mothers have just come in. They’re probably NCT or antenatal group friends. I remember doing something similar when I had just had Oscar. They chat excitedly about sleep and feeding and house prices (well this is Surrey after all). The pride in their little ones and their new status as mamas clear. And it makes me sigh.

I remember bits about Oscar being this small. I remember going for coffee and being able to drink a whole cup with my girls without Oscar making a noise. I remember the excited chattering about how much sleep we’d had, the latest things our babies had done and about this whole new world we were just starting discovering.

But I also remember how hard it was. The panic in all of our eyes when we were unsure of what was going on (which was much of the time), the lack of sleep, the fear, the dread that we, that I, was getting it all, all wrong.

I remember mothers, experienced mothers, telling me to enjoy how portable my baby was at that age. I just remember thinking they were barmy! Thinking ‘look how much stuff he needs. How is this portable?’ But they were right. He was. I could just pick him up (along with a bulging changing bag) and just go. Anywhere.

I’m sat here listening to these women (one of who has pretty impressive mascara on, and coordinated clothes! Who is this super woman?) and I want to tell them. Yell at them, to enjoy this time. Tell them that whatever they’re doing they’re NOT doing it wrong and to just enjoy it. Enjoy the meet ups, relax in the company of other new mamas and bask in the ignorance of what’s to come. I think perhaps that’s what I miss the most. The ignorance of how hard this journey was going to be.

I could, but I won’t. They wouldn’t listen even if I did. Why would they? I didn’t.

They say first time motherhood, when you have nothing to do but love and look after your baby is wasted on the scared, fearful and unconfident first time mother and there is truth in those words.

So here’s my plea to you. Mama’s enjoy your babies, because they won’t be babies for long.

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Mummascribbles

 

Advice From The Heart

Back to School

What a shocking start to June hey?! Its blooming awful where we are but I’m pleased to inform you the trampoline is still where we left it, despite the wind. I tell you I’m relieved we had our gutters professionally cleaned yesterday. They’re working over time now!

Oscar’s had a terrible week or so, with all recent the changes in routine. I think he’s just telling me he’s not happy about it. His return to preschool, which I thought would bring him some relief, actually didn’t seem to be the magic wand I hoped it would be. As soon as we turned into the school’s road, he started squirming and crying and shouting ‘Uh Uh’, ‘Uh Uh’. I eventually talked him into getting out of the buggy, but then he insisted on being held and would not get down or even be passed to his favourite Miss Tasha. I guess a lot of children go through this when they return to school after any sort of break, but it kinda threw me. He’s never, ever been clingy to me the whole time he’s been going there. Not on his first day, not after Easter, never. And I guess I handled it badly. I stayed with him, less for Oscar’s sake (I fully appreciate that children are often fine as soon as their parents leave) but more that I didn’t want the staff to potentially have to deal with a true Autistic melt down first thing on a Monday morning!

So I stayed. I went in the garden with him and told his TA all about how amazing he was on our recent trip to WalesΒ and he calmed right down. So then I tried to leave and he started all over again (see I told you I handled it poorly!) Anyway eventually I managed to leave him, and was grabbed for a quick, impromptu meeting with his EYIA (local authority lady) who was visiting that day. Which was fine, until I heard Oscar screaming outside the room we were in.

I know I should have left it. Let the staff deal with it. But I just couldn’t. I jumped up and practically ran to him. Which, of course, made things worse and worse. Eventually I asked his TA if she just wanted me to stay, but she (quite rightly) said it would be better for me to leave, or he’d expect me to be there every session. She assured me she was prepared to deal with any melt downs and so I left. In a great big mental tizzy. I wasn’t upset, so much as confused and.. well no I was upset.

You see I don’t cope well without the surety of his routine either. I’ve always needed to know we had things planned from his earliest days, but the older he gets the more I need the small amount of time I get without him. Two weeks being ‘on’ with him has been exhausting. I feel the disruption in the rhythm of our lives just as keenly as I suspect he does. By the end of last week neither of us were coping very well.

I was totally focusing on him going back to school, rather selfishly, for my own relief. When it didn’t work out how I expected it threw me kinda sideways, I wont lie to you. So when I finally left him I did what every good 21st Century mama who has an hour to kill does. I headed to a favourite haunt, ordered coffee, a granola bar (granola’s healthy right? πŸ˜‰ ) and dived into social media. I thought I might write a post, but it turned out having a rant/laugh on Twitter, was much better for the soul that day.

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I returned to collect him feeling calmer but actually quite apprehensive as to what I’d find and, more importantly, be left to deal with for the rest of the day. His teachers told me he’d calmed down eventually, although had continued to ask to leave. He was pleased to see me and keen to get in his buggy, which in itself is unusual, but they were right, he was calmer. The tears were gone and he did seem much more relaxed.

So maybe it just took him a while to figure it out. To hear the beat that we usually live our lives by and start to dance in to it again. I don’t know. I’ll probably never know. He’s been much calmer the rest of the week too (despite the filthy weather). Monday left me dreading Friday’s drop off. Now I’m just aware it might hard. And being aware means I can change my expectations and plan to act accordingly.

What’s the betting he runs in without a glance back, like usual?

Hope your back to school’s went well and your children are finding their rhythm this half term.

xx

 

 

 

Time for (Pre)School

When the girls in my NCT group started to go back to work at the end of their maternity leave, our meet ups were suddenly aflame with the talk of daycare. Who was going where? The benefits of one over another? It got, dare I say, a tad competitive and it was the topic of conversation for weeks. God, it was boring. For me. For no other reason that I couldn’t join in. I wasn’t going back to work. I was one of the “lucky ones” apparently. Not that it felt like it at the time. It wasn’t my first plan to give up work after having my son and it left me feeling thoroughly isolated. For a couple of weeks, then I got over myself!

However, the experience left it’s mark. Despite shocked mothers telling me I needed to get Oscar’s name down for preschool immediately (but what I felt was years in advance) I point blank refused. I’d been given the opportunity not to have to worry about ‘all that’ and I resented now being told I had to. I was such a fool. I had no idea how much he’d need preschool when the time came. Or how much I would.

Eventually I capitulated and began to think about where he might go. There are so many nurseries/preschools in and around Haslemere, we really are spoilt for choice. As he was about 20 months old at the time and wouldn’t be able to start until at least the term after he turned 2 and a half (January 2015) I thought we had bags of time. I was wrong. The wide eyed mothers who’d looked at me in shock had been right. Others did put their children down for preschool during (or even before!) their earliest days. Meaning I was somewhat late to the party with my near two year old and it was something of a kick in the teeth to discover that the school we’d chosen didn’t have any places available until September 2015! So my first tip for finding a preschool, is not to be complacent about getting your child’s name down, particularly if you have somewhere in mind.

Despite the long wait, we went ahead and put his name down. It was suggested we could have him go elsewhere until his place became available. It was a valid suggestion, just not one we felt would work for us. As it happened, several families ‘ahead’ of us on the list, declined their places meaning he was able to start in January 2015. So my second tip is don’t be put off by long waiting lists.

So how do you chose the preschool thats right for you and your child? Everyone’s criteria is different, and that’s good. What was important for us might not be for you and vice versa. Thats why I loved having such a large choice locally. For me, the most important criteria was location. Unfortunately I do not have the luxury of being a driver. I could fall in love with a nursery, but if I simply couldn’t get there, what would be the point? That narrowed the field fairly dramatically.

After location, the school’s ethos really had to be one we agreed with. Everyone assumed Oscar would go to our geographically closest nursery, which happened to be a church run one. We were adamant that as atheists this would be unfair to both Oscar (to be taught one thing at school and another at home) and to another child who might miss out on a place we’d only half heartedly taken. So, close as it was, and lovely as it is, that one was off the list.

So once the short list was drawn up, the best thing I did was visit them. I personally feel there is little of value to be learnt from online research where preschools are concerned. I would highly recommend leaving the ofsted reports and reviews at home and getting yourself into the place you’re interested in. Don’t get me wrong, having a gander online is useful. I wouldn’t have found ours without it, but in my opinion nothing can replace the experience of visiting the school itself. I wanted to be able to see where and how my son would spend his time and (let’s not beat about the bush) our money. I tried looking at preschools with children in and without and would highly recommend visiting when other students are present, if at all possible. It’s hard to see the dynamic of an empty classroom and for me this was really important.

As it turned out the preschool I fell in love with and knew I wanted him to go to as soon as I walked through the door, was the one I felt most calm in. It wasn’t the newest or the most snazzy but I just knew it was ‘the one’. Kind of like your wedding dress, I guess. You may want to make your judgement based on more than just a gut instinct and that’s no bad thing. But for me, I just knew.

He’s been going there for five months now and I’ve yet to question that gut instinct. The staff have been as proactive and supportive as I could have hoped for and Oscar has already shown huge improvement in language, communication and socialisation. But mostly he’s happy to go. And Dylan’s Ice Cream are happy for the business they get out of me every Monday morning when I drop Oscar off and head there to drink coffee and use the excellent free WiFi to write my posts.

Yes, when the time came, I really did need preschool, as much as he did.

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A truncated version of this article first appeared in the January 2015 Haslemere and Midhurst NCT Magazine.

A Cornish Mum

Millie Jones Hair – a review

I’m a really cautious Twitter follower. If someone follows me, I don’t just automatically follow back. I take the time to check out who they are. If they’re not interesting to me (sorry children’s footie clubs in Raynes Park we have nothing in common) I don’t follow back. Controversial maybe, but just the way I am! A few weeks ago I was followed by @milliehair. When I looked I saw they were a new hair salon, Millie Jones Hair, opening in Haslemere. Now this I was interested in. We don’t live in a big place and new local businesses, particularly those of interest to me or my family, are always going to be worth checking out. A new hair salon? It was beyond interesting, I was properly excited.

I don’t know about you, but to me a hairdresser is easy to find but difficult to stay with. When I moved to Swansea it took me a few goes but I eventually stumbled on Paul at Boosh. He listened to me and understood what I was aiming for every time. I was gutted when I had to pack up and come back to England, leaving him and everything else I had come to love in South Wales. I moved to Haslemere four years ago and despite various attempts at various salons I’ve not found someone I liked enough to go back to (except a girl I had in Toni & Guy Guildford. Unfortunately I never seemed to be able to get another appointment with her when I needed it, so I gave up trying the end). For me, its not just about the actual cut (although that is a big part of it). I need to feel comfortable, both with the stylist and in a salon itself. I’ve had terrible experiences where I’ve spent the whole time feeling awkward and uncomfortable, have been made to feel like I was just a number, or worse ignored entirely (when I say NOT a Rachel cut, I mean NOT a Rachel cut). There’s such arrogance in ignoring your client and I can assure you such behaviour has never resulted in repeat business from me.

The Rachel cut. Looked great on her in the mid 90s. Not on me. Ever!

The ‘Rachel’ cut. Looked great on her in the mid 90’s. Not on me. Ever!

Now that I have Oscar, taking time to get my hair cut is more of a luxury than I can explain. So if I get that time and I’m spending what little money I have, I want to enjoy the experience. I want to feel pampered and looked after and I want to be listened to in a comfortable environment. Basically I want the best experience for my time and money. I have tried having my hair cut at home and don’t get me wrong the outcome was great, but it’s just not the same. I love the feeling a great salon visit can give you, so I decided to give Millie Jones a go. Last Saturday.

From the off it was clear this was different to any other salons I’ve visited locally. The decor is cool and relaxing, in shades of monchrome, the waiting armchairs a vibrant pop of red. The bold gold lettering on the wall are minimal and elegant. The salon has around 12 seats, but unlike other salons I couldn’t see any equipment or clutter. I was greeted by Millie herself then shown to my seat and provided with a frothy coffee and magazines. Millie explained to me that her specialism was colour, so Kate would be cutting my hair. We chatted briefly then she left me to my coffee (warm coffee that hasn’t been heated twice in the microwave? What decadence was this??)

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First time I’ve been to a salon and the gown’s fitted me perfectly – happy moment right there!

The salon wasn’t quiet, so much as peaceful, with cool chill out tunes coming through the speakers. This was a far cry from the high energy, non stop noise I’ve experienced in other salons. My hair was washed by a lovely apprentice and we chatted about her career and how glad she was to have found this placement. Then I met Kate, my stylist. I explained that I have been growing my hair for some time now and am happy with the style I have at the moment, having taken forever to grow out layers I was always talked into having. I was concerned that she didn’t take too much off, but enough so that it looked healthy and fresh. Kate is a very experienced stylist (17 years she told me) and was sure to give me the very best of what I’d described, explaining that any new client should stick with a stylist for at least three appointments before changing their style, as it takes that long to get to know both the client and the hair. She used products I’d never come across before – Living Proof from the US. As she rightly noted, my hair doesn’t feel like it looks. People think it’s thick, but it’s actually fine, there’s just a lot of it. So she used their No Frizz Weightless Styling Spray. It not only smelt great, but it also took any frizz out of my fine hair without making it lank (I think I might have to purchase, when I’ve got a bit more money πŸ˜‰ ) Kate did a fantastic job and I was really pleased with the outcome. Not too much off, and looking really sleek.

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Before I left I chatted with Millie, the owner and colourist. She explained that she’d been in the business for 25 years, working in Mayfair and Knightsbridge and loved what she did, but felt the need for more work life balance (she has two young children). Hence the decision to open her own salon, somewhere where her particularly dedicated clientele could follow her (from all over the South East it would seem!). I guess when you find someone you trust to colour your hair you’ll travel to reach them. Although going back to Swansea might have been a stretch for me!

I left with a great hair cut, feeling relaxed and just a little bit gorgeous. I couldn’t help the odd swish of the hair here and there. I definitely attracted a few glances, although I couldn’t work out if that was because I was looking so good, or because I was swishing my head about!

So big question did I like it there enough to go back? Do you know I think I did. Not only was the cut I got first rate it was the little things I appreciated. Like the mirrors not going from floor to ceiling (I find it really uncomfortable sitting in front of a full length view of myself for an hour!), the chairs that could be raised really high (I’m tall so they normally drop them right down and then sit to cut my hair which is can be quite uncomfortable for me), and the golden coloured spoon that came with the coffee. You know, stuff that has no bearing on the haircut what so ever, but make this an experience you are happy to repeat. And the most important thing for me, was how easily it ‘styled’ when I next washed it (for styled, read blow dried it til dry.) If it looks fab in the salon, but a dogs dinner once you’ve washed it, then really what’s the point? In terms of cost they’re not the cheapest in the area and neither would I expect them to be. You can check out their price lists here. I think they’re on a par with some prices I’ve paid locally and in Guildford and I know I was much happier with the results.

 

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I was given a free haircut in exchange for an honest write up. I was not paid to write this post. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Mama and More

The Hen House – an update

If you are a regular reader you’ll know that several months ago I had a meeting with Henri Paterson, the power house behind The Hen House, the latest excitement in Haslemere. We talked about her vision for this new take on soft play and I wrote about it here. To date it’s one of my most popular posts and is still being read practically every day. On the back of this post, I was then asked to write the copy for The Hen House website, which is now up and running. I’m not a professional copy writer, so I was extremely flattered to have been asked. I was paid for that job, but I can assure you I have not been paid to write this or any other post about The Hen House. The opinions here are all my own. Promise.

If this were just a review I could tell you about prices and times etc, but all that information can be found on their website which I urge you to take a look at! But this is more than that. It’s my interpretation of what this place is or could be for local parents. It’s my opinion based on my experiences. You may not agree, you may have had a different experience. And that’s fine. This is just how I see it.

So, back in April I told you what I knew about the plans for this exciting, and desperately needed new venture. But I couldn’t tell you how it actually worked or whether it was actually any good, as it wasn’t yet open. That changed at the beginning of May. We couldn’t wait to get into the place and find out what this new facility actually meant for us.

Our first visit was on the day after it opened and just as I imagined it would be, it was heaving. It was like the whole mummy population of Haslemere and the surrounding area had heeded the jungle drums, scooped up their toddlers and headed on over. But Wow! I went with my NCT group and we were all so impressed. The children practically threw themselves in joyful abandon at the play frame and squealed with delight at the numerous ride on cars, my favourite of which is the truck. I wish I’d known this chap existed back in April,when we were choosing Oscar’s birthday presents! Everything was just so (pardon the gushing) gorgeous! Yes we couldn’t get a seat but we didn’t care (we got one eventually). We were just as in enamoured as the children – or at least I was. The only thing that I couldn’t get my head round was the letting Oscar run around freely. Partly because it was just so alien to me. But also I spent the whole time looking to check he wasn’t near the gate, as I saw one or two children force it so hard they’d got their heads through and I knew if my son took it upon himself, he’d be able to force his entire body through. Thankfully the gate has since been reinforced, but it’s definitely something they need to keep an eye on. I don’t think the Hen House realised how strong toddlers on a mission could be!

Love this guy!

Love this guy!

That first visit has turned out to be one of many. Too many some might argue. Oscar just loves it there. We’ve been in the week, just the two of us, or with friends (we now reserve a table if there’s going to be a group of us). We’ve been at the weekend with Daddy (Ben was just as keen to check it out as I was and was impressed enough to say he’d take Oscar down on his own – one day πŸ˜‰ ). Its a venue that seems to lend itself to so many occasions. We’ve had playdates there and attended classes. I’ve drunk copious amounts of (great) coffee and Oscar’s chowed down on fresh sandwiches, tried hummus and eaten a carbonara he loved so much I worried he may actually dive in. I haven’t eaten there myself, (apart from a piece of Red Velvet Cake which you can read about here), as most of the food available, while gorgeous and fresh and locally sourced, doesn’t really fit with the SW plan (the panini’ s look amazing – sigh). I’d love to see more healthy snacks for grown ups. But then I’d like to see that everywhere.

Carbonara to die for

The cute Hen House dishes

In such a short space of time The Hen House, has become something I didn’t really expect. Its become ‘my’ place. By ‘my’ I don’t literally mean mine of course, but it’s a place for me, for people like me, parents, mummies with toddlers. I have lived in Haslemere three and a half years. I have never gone into Costa or any other cafe where I’ve bumped in to someone I’ve known and been asked to join them. Or conversely asked someone I know to join me. But that’s how it is at The Hen House. It’s a space for my ‘tribe’ and I had no idea how little we had this. No one tuts if your child screams (mine does, a lot, he’s ‘learning’ to share), no one pulls the sour lemon face when your child gets their food over themselves/the floor/the table/you. There is a level of understanding I have only ever experienced at toddler groups. Being a stay at home mum (bleugh – I really need to think of another name for what it is I am) can be quite isolating if you don’t push yourself out there, plan, look for things to do. Suddenly here is a place I can go on a whim and know I’ll be welcomed, at any time.

I’ve had great conversations I wouldn’t have done otherwise, gotten to know friends better, met other mothers, been inspired, all thanks to ‘just another soft play’. Because it really isn’t.

If you were to ask me what it actually is I like most about The Hen House it could be tricky to choose. The space, the great coffee, the warm welcome, the fun. But really it’s easy.

Its this

Worn out

All played out

It wears him out. And that’s just dandy by me.