Turning That Frown Upside Down

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This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

Not literally, you see I seem to stick to the left side (never been a starfisher) but I woke up in a vile mood. Grumpy. It was 6am, I was tired, Hux was shouting about wee wees and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

I got up, grabbed milk for the children and heaved myself into the shower. It was cold and I wanted to get back into bed. I tried on four tops, two pairs of trousers and three pairs of shoes before deciding that everything looked rubbish anyway so it didn’t matter what I wore. On Hux’s demand I got the iPad for him and he demanded “Toy Story, no TANGLED, mummy, but I want FROZEN!!! Where’s Toy Story?”.

I huffed that I could only find two pairs of clean pants for Hux because I think his nursery aren’t offering him the potty often enough and he’s going through multiple changes a day (#mumlife) and wondered if I’d get judged for Elfie’s choice of outfit (yellow shorts, red tshirt, knee high school socks – I think we were having a similar wardrobe crisis). We drove to nursery and both children wailed as I left, I could see their fat tears running down their cheeks through the window and it felt dreadful.

Driving to the station I worried about a situation that’s been weighing heavy on my mind. I muttered over the fact my favourite parking attendant wasn’t there so I had to walk across the car park to buy my parking ticket. My tea was too hot, the station too busy. It was going to be a bad day.

But then I sat down on the train and read a Facebook post from my friend Stu.

Stu is one of my oldest friends from High School and we went through a lot of things together – most notably Reading Festival 2002, and our weekend jobs, right Stu?. He lives in Melbourne, Australia and works for The McGuire Programme, a company that helps individuals overcome a stutter to become ‘articulate, well-spoken people’.

Stu’s post said:

I had a call from a recruitment consultant this morning, she wanted to ask me some questions about a guy who came into her work looking for a job.

He’s a grad from The McGuire Programme and has been working on his speech for about a year, so I answered a few of her questions about how I knew him, how he had been progressing over the past 12months and how these traits (commitment, ownership, punctuality, etc) were translatable into a work-environment. After 15 minutes of chatting, she started telling me of her encounter with this Grad:

A couple of weeks ago this young man had walked in to her office unannounced, with a resume looking for work; he’d had a brief chat with her and his stutter/stammer had been noticeable.
About 10minutes after he’d left the office, she was talking about the meeting with another lady in the team when the same guy came back in. “Oh, have you forgotten something..?” she said.
“Actually, I wanted to be honest with you about my speech and by doing that I’m cancelling out any negative feelings I might have about the speaking situation…” he replied.
She told me how inspired she felt at his courage and bravery to come back to the office and explain his work with The McGuire Programme Australia so she immediately decided to bring him back for the full interview process.

Again, he came back and demonstrated his work ethic, determination and commitment to overcome the speaking challenge, despite any fear, anxiety and uncertainty about what the interview process comprised of, which left her with the impression of a great young man, full of character that she would be confident to put forward to her clients for a role.

Not only that, but she actually said “I’m determined to find him a job through our company and I’ve already been ringing around other branches to put his name and resume forward, he’s such a wonderful young man.”

So thank you to Owen Westwood for bringing a big ray of sunshine to my dreary, cold Wednesday morning. You have a fervent supporter at Adecco in Dandenong and she simply can not speak highly enough of you or your commitment to improving yourself.

It really made me think.

Have I really just wasted the first part of my morning feeling sorry for myself because I’m tired/cold/my bulging wardrobe isn’t suitable/the sun was too bright?

The kids cried at nursery but I know full well they’re fine 30 seconds after I leave.

My tea will cool down, I will enjoy my day at work in a job I love.

I felt like a total dick for whinging when there are people out there doing actual inspiring things, overcoming obstacles in their life to be the best version of themselves.

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I knew it made sense when The Universe emailed me this morning to say:

Appreciating what you have little of is easy, Alice.

Appreciating what you have lots and lots of takes a spiritual master.

And you so have lots,
The Universe

I spent five minutes counting my blessings: I have two beautiful children who are being played with and educated at a great nursery while I work in a job I love that allows me to spend time with them. We have food on our plates, a roof over our heads and clothes in our wardrobe. The sun is shining and there’s a man out there who wants to treat me like a Princess and surprise me with flowers after work. Yes, a couple of things are wobbly but I have a life full of courage, motivation, love and excitement.

Isn’t that amazing that I have these things in my life?

Take five minutes to think about your lot: what are you grateful for today?

The Life And Times Of A Working Mum

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6am: alarm goes off. I swear like a sailor because really this is way too early for any human to be awake. Hi, I am not a morning person, nice to meet you.

6.15am: the latest possible time I can drag myself up out of bed. Get in the shower before the kids stir which usually wakes Elfie up. Make a cup of tea while I’m heating up milk for them (obviously never have time to drink it). Wake Hux up with milk and have a cuddle. Start the daily debate over exactly which dress Elfie will wear. This can take a while and usually involves a drawn-out debate touching on the finer points of how Queen Elsa dresses.

6.45am: get myself dressed while Elfie and Hux either argue (and sneeze) over the iPad or perform an impromptu stage show in their bedroom. I have never been allowed to watch the show; Elfie says it’s not for mummy, it’s for ‘the people’. I have to step over ‘the people’ to get into their room. Get the kids dressed and downstairs because then we have a small hope of grabbing breakfast before we leave. Attempt some make-up, check the kids’ nursery bags have everything they need (sun hats, coats, spare clothes, baby wipes, sun cream, nappies, kitchen sinks…) and my work bag has everything I need (Oyster card, notebook, phone charger, train entertainment, purse).

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7.30am: leave the house for the 15 min drive to nursery. Depending on whether or not we’ve had time for a ‘proper’ breakfast the kids munch on bananas, breadsticks and shreddies. Try not to feel so guilty as at nursery they’ll have toast and fruit at 9.30. Hux never too excited for his mum to leave him with his teachers though I know as soon as I go he enjoys playing with his friends. Elfie slightly more excited but not as much as at term-time which is when she gets to spend an hour or so at Gagi and Papa’s: they give her bacon and egg for breakfast. Bacon and eggs > playing in a sandbox. Fair enough.

8.22am: I board my train to London having had a chat with my favourite car parking money man. Sometimes I buy a cup of tea but I’ve spilt boiling hot liquids on two different commuters in the last three months so… yeah. Depending on how tired I am I either work, sleep, read or watch Mock The Week on my iPad. I enjoy how the LOLing at the comedy disconcerts the other commuters.

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9.10am: pull into London. It’s crazy how you position yourself on the train affects your ongoing journey; I always sit at the front of the train so I can beat the crowd, otherwise you can be stuck on the platform for five minutes. The escalator down to the Northern Line at Euston isn’t working at the moment which is a big fat pain in my arse and adds an extra three minutes onto my precious short journey.

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9.30am: Old Street. Power walk to the office in Shoreditch and catch up on overnight blog posts from the world of interiors. Check Twitter and Facebook feeds (for IKEA, not for me, duh I already did that on the train ;). Make sure there’s great content lined up that day to share on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I don’t have time to eat breakfast at home so I either have a green juice from POD, porridge from Pret or some Kale and Apple juice from Waitrose. This is me trying to cling on to some sense of healthy diet in the face of a million croissants.

10am: department heads meeting, catching up with what’s going on with the production of the magazine and how the Social Media activity can support it. Earlier on this month I helped Homes Editor Jo co-ordinate a storage makeover and shoot at the home of one of my favourite New York bloggers which was really exciting.

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10.30am: catch up on emails, have a bit of a chat with followers on Twitter. Check on how my targets are looking for the month and compare with my strategy.

1pm: I try not to eat lunch at 11.30 but it’s a challenge. I either walk to either Itsu or Pret and return to eat at my desk while perusing blog posts or meet up with my boyfriend. If it’s a nice day we go to sit in the park and on Fridays we visit Whitecross Street Market – YUM. I like lunch.

2pm: more meetings. I’m working on a couple of really fun projects at the moment – one is monitoring how the rest of the 31 countries in Europe are using our content – so it’s time to catch everyone up on where I’m at with them. Elfie and Hux’s nursery send little videos of what they did that day and they’re with my mum at that point so we have a lovely chat. Apart from that one time I discovered they had Hand, Foot and Mouth disease… that wasn’t so lovely.

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4pm: review how the Social Media posts have been received that day and have a peruse of IKEA’s Pinterest account.

5.20pm: tie up any last-minute emails or issues before hometime. On Wednesdays the kids’ dad comes to put them to bed so I’ll pop for a burger and a glass of wine with a friend or Mr Alice, otherwise it’s straight back to Eustom for the 6.13 train.

7pm: arrive back into Milton Keynes station. It’s a 15 minute drive to pick up the kids from my parents’, then back home for bedtime. Once a week I’ll hang around with them for a chat and a glass of wine while Elfie and Hux run riot in the garden. When we get home it’s milk and stories; they’re never in bed before 8pm but I don’t mind anymore (I used to be a 7pm bedtime Nazi). That time in the evenings with them is so precious.

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8.30pm: decide I’d better have dinner. Shamefully my diet is no-where good as it used to be but I really struggle with the time and energy to cook solid Paleo meals. Consider it a success if I don’t eat a jar of salsa and tortilla chips (oops).

9pm: answer any essential emails, write blog posts. My email account is one thing that has suffered over the past few months and I’m kind of scared to look at it. Put a load of washing in the machine, stick the dishwasher on. I love my box sets and I usually tidy the kitchen or cook a big Spag Bol to the tune of Grey’s Anatomy.

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11.30pm: fall into bed, realising I should have done this an hour earlier. I like to try and read before I go to bed – my gorgeous friend Neva bought me a book subscription for my birthday and I have Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg burning a hole in my nightstand – but I normally fall asleep before I’ve had time to read a page. FAIL.

11.45pm: suddenly remember to set my alarm. I haven’t forgotten this part… yet.

BritMums Live 2014: The Emotional Aftermath

10449147_1431191563820666_523169491_nBlogger dining: with Katie, Becky and Charlotte. Photo by Becky.

Every time Monday morning comes around I want to kick myself. I swear I could be a kick-arse lifestyle blogger if only I had the wherewithal to take my camera out on my funtime weekend jaunts, or even record half of it on my iPhone. But I always forget to record the day for prosperity – through living in the moment (my musings on mindfulness to come in a couple of weeks, prepare yourselves) or through focussing too much on craft beers and prosecco.

So you’ll just have to use my lovingly written words to imagine your own version of my weekend, which I promise you was as kick-arse as it sounds.

If you’re living under a rock, or you know, you’re not a blogger, you might not have realised that this weekend was BritMums Live 2014. The biggest blogging conference in the UK, this weekend London played host to 700 of the country’s finest parent bloggers and boy, were we all excited to see each other.

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Morgana and Jenny… the angels of the north

There’s something about the relationships we form online in this community we’ve created that’s difficult to explain to the outside world. Unless you’re a part of it is really difficult to describe the bonds, the emotions, the lives we share with one another. It’s such a powerful thing and it’s never more palpable than at the times you get all those bloggers in a room with each other.

I’ve never been to a blogging conference without it being a thoroughly emotional experience for me and this year was no different. It started with Karin, who I’ve watched go on a difficult journey these past couple of years, and being able to give her a hug just got me in the gut (or the tear ducts) and that was when the weeping began. Then there was the fact I was able to sit next to Charlotte at dinner, hold her hands and truly speak honestly and candidly about the last couple of years to someone who had lived it with me. That was so very special.

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Baby Charlotte

Then there was the love, support and friendship from those I hadn’t seen in a little while: Steph and Bryony as always, lovely Katie, Fritha, my northern soulsisters Morgana and Jenny who are total sunshines, Alison, new friends like Becky, Lizzie and Emma, and ones I wish I’d seen more of: Chloe, Sarah, Alice and Alice, Emma (I did get a gorgeous cuddle with baby Charlotte though! And got to give her back when she cried ;), Vicki and many more…

These people are some of the most important in my life and I hold very dear to my heart the fact I would never have met them if it wasn’t for my blog. Thank-you, wonderful ladies, for inspiring me every day and for your friendship, acceptance and love. I am lucky to have you all in my life!

Emo bit over.

I didn’t over-stretch myself this year by making mad plans to go to all the sessions and events. I know I’d have a tough week at work, so I booked a couple of meetings with some fantastic ladies to talk all things IKEA (holla B, Emma and Fritha), confirmed my attendance at a dinner that evening, sat back and waited for the fun to happen. And happen it did! From a lunch at the Hoxton to drinks at All Bar One and a wonderful dinner at Pizza East… it was a great evening with some great women.

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Look! Lizzie took a photo of me that I don’t hate!

Saturday was much the same in that I was totally laid-back about the day. I sacked off the sessions in favour of socialising with my favourite ladies, and you know what? I had a ball. I probably could have done with learning a bit (can’t we all do with learning sometimes?) but this weekend it was all about the sisterhood.

I trotted off early to get ready for my friend Caoimhe’s BBQ (remember her?). In the most grown-up step ever taken she has just bought her first (BEAUTIFUL) apartment and I was very excited to help Christen her balcony. Though it was more a terrace than a balcony, an amazing space that you’d never expect to find in central London. We had a fun-filled evening toasting her mortgage over chicken wings and organic burgers.

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Sunday was the perfect tonic to a busy weekend: a walk down to Spitalfields (the quest for the perfect leather jacket continues and there are some contenders in All Saints), a burger, a nap and a lazy afternoon at the park. And a reunion with my babies! Perfection.

It’s ironic that I’ve never had less time on my hands than I do right now but I feel I have so much to say. I feel like I’ve learned so much about life in these last six months and spending the weekend talking about anything and everything made me realise that. For the first time I am enjoying taking life by the balls and sharing it with this fabulous group of people… it’s going to be quite the ride, ladies.

PS: Cybermummy 2011 (glad to see I was sneaking off to All Bar One even then), Britmums Live 2012, Britmums Live 2013.

Ramblings On Tiredness And Work That May Or May Not Make Sense

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When you become a mum, you learn how to be tired. There are the different sorts of tired; that hazy newborn stage when you’re up all night and are urged to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ so end up zoned out in front of Jeremy Kyle while you feed the baby. The tiredness in these weeks meant I don’t remember those days save for lots of sofa and TV, but at least there was minimal pressure to get out of my pyjamas all day.

Then there’s the tiredness you get with a slightly older baby who just doesn’t want to sleep through the night. The incessant nights of never sleeping more than two hours in a row, resulting in a mama who can get up, comfort her baby back to sleep and crawl back in her own bed without even realising she’s woken up.

Next you’re presented with the toddler who considers 5.30am a lie-in. Yet you can’t go to bed when she does because, you know, those box sets won’t watch themselves and if you don’t keep those eyes open til at least 9pm you won’t get any alone time whatsoever.

But these days, oh these days I have the single-working-mum tiredness. And that my friends is something else altogether.

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We’re out of the house and on our way to my mum/nursery by 7.15am so I’m required to be out of bed and on my way to dressed by 6am. That, my friends, still hurts like a punch in the face each and every day. As one who has never been a morning person I spend the first fifteen minutes of each day practicing my sailor swearing and wondering how much it would hurt to break a bone. Because at least then I’d get to go back to bed.

The upshot of this is that by the time I get to the train station at 8am I am pretty much fully awake and with a full face of make-up on feeling ready to take on the world with a cup of tea that may or may not end up on a stranger (sorry, man on the 8.22 to Euston on Monday). This feeling of world conqueror would never come to me until at least 10am in the old days, so there you go – I now have two more hours each day to make a difference. Boom!

This doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes enjoy a little sleep on the train though. Never underestimate the restorative qualities of a 30 minute upright power nap. Unless you end up in a town fifty miles away from yours on a Sunday evening because you fell asleep on a kind stranger’s shoulder… never again.

Once I’m at work I’m surprised to find out that my job requires a fair bit of thought; deep thinking about strategies, statistics, results, proposals. I can’t zone out, can’t sleep with my eyes open, can’t watch Millionaire Matchmaker. Welcome to the real world. There are meetings and presentations that require intelligent input and by the time 5.30pm rolls around (HOMETIME!) my brain is quite literally spent, devoid of any conversation or leftover intelligence.

All that thinking, it wipes you out. And yesterday I was so knackered from just being ON and THINKING and DOING that I got home, took my bra off (the first thing I do as soon as I walk through the front door at 7.30pm) and had a good productive weep. This single-working-mum thing, it’s so hard. It drains you mentally, physically, even emotionally, until you’re not sure there’s anything left.

But then I thought – who am I doing this for?

I’m doing this because my career is super important to my family; my children rely on me as the breadwinner in the house so it’s crucial I work hard. I’m doing this to show them how important it is to work hard so they can do a job you love and get paid well for it. And I’m doing it to show them that while life is not a walk in the park you can find happiness in hard graft and success.

I might be falling over from tiredness but for those little people I am setting the best example I know how. And you know what? I’ve never been happier than now: I’m doing it, I’m making a difference.

Now can someone tweet me at 11pm and tell me to turn off Orange Is The New Black?

In Lieu Of A Big Long Blog Post

Because – who knew? – commuting into the big city five days a week is kicking my arse in twelve different ways. Getting in at 7.30pm means that all my (limited) remaining creative juices are being sent in the way of my evening freelance work and I’m literally so tired that when I sit down to blog the words just don’t come.

I have a million and one thoughts on the world of work from the eyes of a single mother which I’m sure I will regale you with very soon (try to contain your excitement, OK?), but for now here’s what I’ve been up to, told through the medium of Instagram filters, starting with last weekend…

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My current favourite late-night destination: Duck & Waffle. Food, views and a Portugese white to die for. There is seriously nothing better than a midnight dinner date up here taking in the glittering lights of London below. I like to order the Duck and Waffle, obvs. 

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…late nights followed by new favourite hangover cure, a (not too) spicy Bloody Mary. Sipped at Broadway Market before a sunny stroll along Regent’s Canal. Pretty blissful, right? 

10369324_1414091762206189_1633602909_n 10387857_847019188660419_371299732_nYet MORE socialising. First it was my lovely cousin’s birthday party in Camden then on to a fancy dinner and tequila with these two lovely ladies: Hannah from Mum’s Days and our friend Alex. We danced our socks off at The Kensington Roof Gardens and it was awesome. 

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Sunday rooftop times with Jamie, McNulty and the boys. Coppa Bar & BBQ is a fab sunny day destination just on London Fields; we whiled away a good few hours here. 

10401640_323510991137253_1283417362_n 10358208_675898035815850_280049950_n 10369498_250131868509683_1821598017_nOh, did you know? I’m a commuter now #zzzzzz. Had some painful moments leaving Hux at his new nursery last week “MUMMY! NOOOO! GO BACK IN CAR”… weep. He’ll settle in soon enough but it makes me feel sad that he misses his mama so much. 

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 Burger date! Current favourite London burger joints: Byron (Brick Lane… the MK restaurant just isn’t as good) and Meat Mission. MM’s monkey fingers are INCREDIBLE. Still want to try Patty & Bun. 

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It’s beautiful Bryony‘s birthday today and to celebrate Steph came to stay! We had a boozy blast on Saturday night and I woke up the next morning snuggled up to Steph in my bed. Her husband’s a lucky man, I’ll tell you that.  

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Most importantly – getting in some quality time with these two. I have missed them like you wouldn’t believe and seeing their faces when I come home from a busy day is the biggest treat. I’m working hard to make our evenings together count and it’s going to kill me when they’re with their Dad all next weekend. The transition has been tough for them – Hux with his new nursery and Elfie asking where mummy is and why does she have to go to London all day? – but we’re getting there. 

So, tell me: what have I missed?