Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Career brake

Before I conceived my daughter, I applied for a promotion at work. I had been with the organisation for five years and made a few sideways moves but wanted to progress further before starting a family. When I found out I was pregnant, almost a year into my promotion, I was deciding whether or not to enrol on an MBA programme. I had attended a couple of open days and started writing a business case to get sponsorship from my employer for the tuition fees. However, once I knew I was having a baby, I put those plans on hold.

I made a conscious decision to put the brakes on my career and give myself the space to adapt to and enjoy being a mother.

Five years later, the brakes are still on.

After my first maternity leave, I changed employer, took a step down the career ladder and accepted a drop in salary. My reasons were valid: to work closer to home and travel less. I negotiated part-time working and accepted a 12-month fixed-term contract. Thankfully, I was subsequently given a permanent contract and have since secured a better role, albeit still at the same pay grade.

Two years later, I found it very hard to return to work after losing Monty. For months, I couldn't sleep properly or concentrate well. I struggled to plan my work, set objectives or think about professional development. It has taken a long time to rebuild my confidence (and I still have to make progress here...) and start to think about the future.

Now, I'm just about to go on maternity leave again for a year. For the first time in a long time, I'm in a role that I really enjoy. I'm not in a position to make a change at the moment but I sometimes think about the next step and when I might take the brakes off. It will be another couple of years, at least.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

I am an animal

Our current favourite parlour game is a variation on "Animal, Mineral or Vegetable". We started playing it in the car on a long journey a few weeks ago and it has become a source of entertainment that we can play anytime, anywhere.

The rules are simple:

One player thinks of an animal (or fish, bird, crustacean, insect, etc).
The other players take it in turns to ask questions to guess the animal.
The questions must lead to 'yes/no' answers.

Our daughter loves this game! (Although she always starts out by thinking of a whale.) It is a great test of her deductive skills as well as her knowledge of the natural world.

We have found that zoo animals are particularly easy to guess, whereas local wildlife and insects are much harder: hedgehog proved very difficult!

Saturday, 19 July 2014


For a long time, a child's life is all about 'firsts': first steps, first words, first day at nursery/pre-school, etc. We are now experiencing a few 'lasts' and my daughter is finding it quite emotional. I think she is torn between wanting to grow up and wanting things to stay the same.

My daughter starts school in September and is excited at the prospect. She has a place at her (and our) first choice school, walking distance from our house. The 'green jumper' school as she calls it. We have bought her uniform and have appointments booked for a 'going-to-school-haircut' and being fitted for school shoes.

However, she is starting to realise that change is approaching and isn't always sure how comfortable she feels about it.

They had a photo-shoot at nursery, where they had to wear tiny mortar board hats and black gowns and hold pretend certificates. (I showed my daughter my graduation photo but I'm not convinced she really understood what it was all about!) There will be a graduation ceremony and party in a couple of weeks' time. Although my daughter will continue to attend nursery three days a week until the end of August, when she leaves, she will have to say goodbye to her best friend, who is going to a different school. I'm expecting some tears and melancholy, even though we can arrange to meet up for playdates in the school holidays.

There are changes afoot to our extra-curricular activities and hobbies, too. My daughter has three interests: swimming, gymnastics and singing. Gymnastics and swimming will continue when she goes to school, although she'll move up a class and attend after school or at the weekend. Singing classes, though, have ended. All the children from her Music With Mummy group are starting school in September; the whole class has 'graduated', having attended together since they were about a year old. At their last lesson, they were each given a certificate and a keyring for their school book-bag.

I'm trying to show my daughter how to celebrate the end of something. To look back on an enjoyable experience and look forward to the next stage in her life. I've tried to explain that school will bring new opportunities and that she will be able to continue with some of the things she currently likes.

Growing up can be hard and confusing and you can't stop it from happening but it can also be fun, exciting and rewarding. As a family, we have a lot of change heading our way this Summer/Autumn but I'm sure we will navigate our way through it together and, by Christmas, will be firmly settled in our new routine.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Day out review: Sundown Adventure Land (Pets Corner)

Whilst visiting the grandparents at the weekend, we enjoyed a fabulous day out at Sundown Adventure Land (aka Pets Corner). Sundown is a theme park specifically designed for under-10s and it certainly kept our four-year-old daughter and her nearly-three-year-old cousin entertained all day!

We arrived just after the park opened at 10am and started with a quick play in the under-5s play area. Then, we headed across the story-book village to the far side of the park to go on the Tractor Ride. Our nephew had been to Sundown before and this ride is one of his favourites! The children enjoyed 'driving' the tractor around the monorail track and wanted to have another go round when it was time to get off.

So, we took them to the next ride - Robin Hood. This was a similar ride but the children enjoyed it. My daughter declared it 'her best' so we said we'd come back for another go later in the day.

We by-passed the Lollipoppet Castle, snuck past a dragon guarding a treasure chest, and visited the Wild West, where we rode the Rocky Mountain train ride. After this, we were starting to feel very hot and thirsty (the weather was gloriously sunny and warm) so we went to the Rodeo Corral indoor play area and cafe for ice creams. It was air-conditioned and very quiet, so the children took the opportunity to enjoy the soft play facilities for half an hour or so and we took advantage of the opportunity to sit down!

After the children had fully explored the soft play, we realised it was getting close to lunchtime. We decided to ride the Boozy Barrel water ride and then take a break for some picnic lunch. The children enjoyed getting wet on the way round the ride and were delighted that the grown-ups got soaked too!

After lunch, the children rode some Go-Karts and played in another outdoor play area. They enjoyed chasing each other around whilst we enjoyed a cup of tea. The sun was quite warm by this point, so we moved on to the sand pits at Captain Sandy's Play Cove and the Angry Birds playground (which was designed for slightly older children).

With the early afternoon temperature rising and the children starting to look a bit warm, we made our way over to the big Crash Landings soft play. This was also air-conditioned (hurrah!), so we spent an hour refreshing ourselves with cool drinks and watching the children climb around the enormous play frames. Our nephew was a little too short to climb by himself but our daughter helped him up to the top. They enjoyed whizzing down the bumpy slides and jumping around on the padded play blocks.

We still had some parts of the park to visit, so we persuaded the children to put their shoes back on. We re-rode the Tractor Ride and had another go on the Boozy Barrel water ride and got wet all over again. As we dried off, we played in the Pirate Adventure play ground.

Then we rode the Rocky Mountain train again and spent some time looking around the Wild West Village. The children climbed up onto the plastic horses, drawing large plastic coaches and put their heads through a 'most wanted' poster for a photo opportunity. We headed towards Fort Apache - a large outdoor play area with lots of wooden climbing frames and slides.

By this time, there was less than an hour until the park's closing time. So, we visited the gift shop and bought a fridge magnet for our collection.

The children were so exhausted, they could hardly walk but they didn't want to go home! We had all had a fantastic day out and would definitely recommend it as a day out for young children. Despite visiting on the same day as a couple of school parties, we hardly had to wait or queue for anything and at no point did the park feel busy. There was plenty for the children to do and they enjoyed and were entertained by everything.

Our daughter has asked if we can go back to Sundown Adventure Land the next time we go to stay at Grandma's house.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Forward and low

I have become increasingly fed up with the 'wisdom' of strangers who think that it's OK to pass comment or judgement on my bump and its size/shape. No, I'm not nearly ready to drop and it's not twins! Oh, and you can't 'tell' that it's definitely going to be a boy...

I have carried all my pregnancies forward and low and my tummy muscles have separated (again!), so there is little support for this third-time bump.

Here's the proof - photos of me at approximately 6-months in each of my three pregnancies:

Spot the difference?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

First 'day' at school

My daughter attended her first settling-in session at school today. Chaperoned by her father and wearing her green school jumper, she went along to meet her teachers, find her way around and make friends with new classmates.

Although shy at first (as we expected), she sat next to the other child from her nursery who is going to the same school and they drew pictures. My daughter's picture is of our house, with us standing outside. Daddy has a grumpy face. She showed her teacher that the house has 12 windows.

She also played outside in the water trough and did some painting.

When the session was over, she was disappointed to have to go home.

When I came home from work, she was still wearing her school jumper!

Hopefully, this bodes well for the next settling-in session and for starting school proper in September.