The Lincoln Mums Expo 2017 – Entertainment and Enlightenment

As the Mr had decided to take himself off to the exotic holiday resort of Butlins, Skegness (!) for a boys night out on Friday night, he was clearly going to be in no fit state to help entertain an energetic 3 year old on Saturday morning. So I was glad to hear that the Lincoln Mums Expo could be the answer to my problems. I had arranged to attend with a group of friends and their children but an outbreak of scarlet fever and chicken pox meant they were very much in quarantine.

So myself, bump and the small person headed off to the Bishop Grosseteste University campus to take a look at what fun was to be had. And we weren’t disappointed. First stop was a glitter tattoo from the lovely Leanne at Colour Me Happy. Beautifully applied but I do feel duty bound to mention that the tattoos are waterproof only because the little Mr still has his perfectly in place more than 24 hours later. He does have a bath every night. You know, just in case anyone was wondering.

Next step was the excellent play area provided by Bounce Wright Castles. As you can see from the picture, a push along bike was immediately commandeered and only reluctantly surrendered when the lure of the bouncy castle was just too much. The equipment provided was to such a great standard and the range available would be great if you were to hire a church hall style venue and needed to fill it with lots of soft play fun.

Whilst it would have been lovely to have attended one of the talks that was on offer (particularly the brilliant Lisa from Opti-Mum) the clock was ticking with a increasingly over-tired 3 year old in tow. So we opted to have a quick scoot around the marketplace where lots of stands displaying local children’s activity and product providers were located.

We said ‘Hi’ to Annual, our new favourite uber-cool children’s lifestyle store in Lincoln. An eclectic selection of Instagram-able stock with a quirky twist – be prepared not only to have the urge to buy everything on offer but to just hang out in the carefully curated surroundings.

We also had a really interesting chat with Jo from Emotionally Aware Feeding. I’m really interested to try a different approach to weaning with the next baby but also would like to  encourage the 3 year old to widen his food repertoire a little. Obviously this conversation was occurring whilst he was wolfing down a packet of sugar laden Love Heart sweeties. Look, I was in full bribery territory by that point as I was determined to get around all the stands!

There were so many great businesses there that this blog post would be insanely long if I mentioned them all. But what really stood out to me was the passion from each and every one of the business founders exhibiting, all of whom were super lovely and able to each offer something unique and personal.

The event was really well organised and laid out and I would really recommend attending if Lincoln Mums are kind enough to put on another event in the future. Don’t be shy if you’re pregnant or attending on your own – I made it around with a small person and a growing bump and emerged not only unscathed but positively enlightened x

My Review of joinflex.tv : Social Home Workouts for Mums

Flex social fitness for mums

Although my burgeoning pregnant belly precludes me from taking part in my usual HIIT style classes and weights based training, I’m keen to continue to exercise during this pregnancy and I’ve been taking a look at home workouts that are available. I’m less concerned about the old weight gain/body shape change as I’m resigned to the fact that I will become the size of a small detached house.

But I do want to keep a little more in touch with my body and do whatever I can to stave off the high blood pressure that was like a monkey on my back when I was ‘with child’ first time around.

I’m still going down to my local gym when I can and I’m also seeing an absolutely fantastic specialist Sports Coach (who I’ll tell you about another time). However, there are times when I fancy trying something a little bit different but either;

  1. Can’t face dragging myself down to the gym
  2. Can’t actually get down to the gym due to having a small person asleep upstairs
  3. Can’t quite muster up the motivation to peel myself off the sofa

I came across www.joinflex.tv via twitter @joinflextv. It’s an online platform where fitness instructors can upload their classes and you can participate on the social home workouts live in the privacy of your own living room.

Flex home Workouts

There’s a whole bunch of different classes you can have a go at including Cardio, Dance, HIIT, Pilates, Yoga. There’s even a specialist pre/post-natal section which has proved to be off particular interest. The signup process is extremely straightforward and takes no more than 2 minutes to enter your details and class preferences. Your personalised calendar is then automatically populated with classes that will suit your interests with the live times.

At first, I wasn’t too sure about the live classes – surely pre-recorded options i.e. youtube would make it much more convenient? But the uniqueness of the site is the focus on accountability – according to Flex, you’re 86% more likely to achieve health and fitness goals by involving someone for support and accountability. If you don’t check into a class, expect to receive a friendly little nudge from Flex prompting you to take action. There’s a link to Facebook so you can involve your network and there’s also a live chat functionality when the class is running – but I’m not too sure how well that bit really works when you’re a contorted sweaty mess, trying to keep up with your pilates move/focus on your breathing/work that pelvic floor but it’s a nice option to have.

I do think platforms like Flex and home workouts are fantastic for those who practically cannot get out of the house or arrange childcare to participate in a physical class. It’s also a fantastic resource for those who have never stepped foot in a gym before and think that everyone will look like those leotard clad dancers from the Eric Prydz Call On Me video. Believe me, they really don’t.

Also, the creators of the site seem to really embrace the concept of creating community. We all know that as fantastic as motherhood is, it can be a teeny bit isolating at times when you simply can’t nip out and about at the drop of a hat. So, having tried a couple of initial classes, I’m going to continue with the online exercise scene, keep a little bit in touch with my rollercoaster pregnant body and see who else I may meet along the way x

You can find out more about Flex here https://www.joinflex.tv/ There’s a free 30 day trial option and then it’s £9.99/month.

 

Re-decorating – Boys Bedroom Ideas

Now our big boy is the grand old age of 3.5 years, and growing constantly it would seem, we’ve decided that now is the time to think about re-decorating his bedroom. I’m not going to lie, this decision has also been driven by the influx of additional toys since Christmas (cue a requirement for clever storage ideas) and the anticipated arrival in the summer of baby number 2 who will be commandeering the 3.5 year olds toddler cot bed.

Whilst I really like the idea of a mid rise sleeper such as this one, the big boy is still in fact a little bit too small so rather handily his cousins old bed frame from Next will see him through a little longer until we upgrade him to one like this from furniture123.

Mid Rise sleeper

Whilst one remains rather fickle regarding his pure love for Paw Patrol or Ben & Holly, I’m thinking a flexible decorating scheme could be advisable as something he can grow into and I can adapt without spending another fortune. I really like the idea of these stripes on a feature wall incorporating the navy blue without a solid block of colour which may close the room in a little. Also liking the idea of a splash of red.

As it would appear that the current obsession for this week is E.T (it is a classic I have to say!) I’m thinking that incorporating some stars into the space could create a little more interest without having too much of a fixed ‘theme’. I’m currently loving these curtains from John Lewis and the fact that the stars glow in the dark will surely be a winner with the judging panel.

I’m currently on the hunt for some space inspired wall stickers to ensure the room is in keeping with a 3.5 year olds imagination as I’m feeling that it could be a little too grown up for him. It must be a natural reaction to try and keep gawdy cartoon characters out of the way which is entirely impossible with a small person.

However, I have ordered this wardrobe and matching set of drawers from M&S which rather handily is currently in the sale.

And after all this, I’m still yet to solve the problem of toy storage which was the main catalyst for the re-decorating project. It seems there are a plethora of options available so that shall be my next step – toy storage, more research required! x

The New Tupperware Team Leaders – The Rise of the Mummy Blogger

When reading about the mummy blogger movement which has exploded in recent years, I have heard many references such as ‘the modern Tupperware team leaders’ and I can’t decide whether it amuses me or frustrates me.

Don’t get me wrong, having had past experiences in the world of party planning businesses back in the day, it’s not that I find the comparison derogatory in any way as in fact I earned a nice bit of cash from Virgin Vie (what did happen to them?) thank you very much. It just seems to be a lightly veiled pat on the head kind of comparison. You know ‘Awww, how nice she does that to earn a bit of spending money’. Hmmm, not sure many mummy bloggers start of in this time consuming world for a bit of spending money. Perhaps to pay for the swimming lessons, school trips, holidays etc. Spending money, what’s that??

For me, the rise of the blogging mummy appears to be a sign of something much more significant. That women are creative in stretching their own abilities and are capable of achieving great things. Back in the pre-internet era (anyone below the age of 20 may need to google this historic period in time) women used what resources where available to them to satisfy their entrepreneurial spirit and yes, that included the classic Tupperware parties, Virgin Vie (god bless all who sailed in her) and Anne Summers – is that one still going? The digital world has certainly created more opportunity to no longer be constrained by company structures and direct selling. The digital world is a little more subtle than that in terms of earnings and revenue. The digital world takes creativity, resilience, technical ability and, above all, the passion to create something unique.

I think women have always had a flair for maximising all of the resources available to them in order to create opportunities for ourselves and for our loved ones. But it has moved forward in terms of creating further intellectual challenge. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone can create a successful income earning blog. So perhaps the Tupperware comparison is a little tongue in cheek as we are no longer looked down upon and patted on the head. Instead we are looked up to as a force to be reckoned with.

Women everywhere who are burning the midnight oil tap tap tapping away, I salute you! x

 

Shiny Object Syndrome – 5 tips

I’ve seen the reference to ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’ all over the place recently and it’s certainly something I suffer from. I don’t mean from an ‘I must buy that fancy new kitchen appliance that I shall use once” i.e. the breadmaker, nutribullet……who, me? But seriously, I think it’s more from an information overload perspective.

We now find ourselves surrounded by marketing and media at every turn thanks mainly to the power of the iphone. Anyone remember when mobiles first came out, we thought it was just wild to use it as a phone but also send a text message, like that was EVER going to catch on. Hmmmm.

Well, although this new media world brings a whole world of freedom and a sense of escapism, it isn’t half a ginormous distraction not only from a personal perspective but as a business owner.

Hours can be completely lost checking out twitter feeds or linked in profiles as you flit between emails and writing that proposal that needs to go out by Friday gets relegate to midnight on Thursday. The latest Google search news interrupts my document production time (I’m in legal services by day!) as I think that perhaps we too should write a blog post about that thing that I briefly saw on that Linked in post from someone – cue wasting 20 minutes finding something that is probably irrelevant and also just not that important. Do NOT even get me started on You Tube – that sucks up time into some crazy vortex of business motivational speakers and make up tutorials that I will never properly remember when attempting a ‘cat eye’ whilst having a toy car thrown at my head by my 2 year old.

I’ve had a think about the 5 things that I’m going to try and do to avoid this distraction cataclysm that eats into my productivity – you might want to give them a go and let me know how you get on;

  1. Mono-Task & Focus

Forget all this multi-tasking nonsense. Yes, as women we can naturally think about what’s for dinner tonight whilst conducting a client presentation and messaging your friend about the much needed Friday night out. Focus on what you’re doing and you’ll be more effective, finish to a higher standard and in less time

2. Be Present

Whilst I’m busy juggling multiple tasks, I often miss what’s right in front of my nose. Clients subtle cues about their concerns, my son slightly worried about where his favourite racing car has gone. Life in general.

3. Reflect

Review the day. Often we’re achieved more than we realise and by acknowledging this, we can create a sense of satisfaction that may limit the need to search for more.

4. Time Management

Ok, I’m not suggesting I can for one minute cure my you tube addiction over night and nor should I. Sometimes we use this information searching quest as wind down time which is great. Just time limit it so that it doesn’t take over

5. Complete a task in one session

Sounds simple? As we flit between medias, we take much longer to complete individual tasks and probably to a lesser standard. Have a go at completing a task from start to finish without interruption and see how it makes you feel. Even better, make it something that you’ve been putting off for ages and give yourself a well earned pat on the back when you get it done.

Will be great to hear how you avoid distractions and increase your productivity! x

 

 

You Baby Me Mummy

Building Business Resilience – Working Wednesdays

Building business resilience is not always at the forefront of our minds as we find ourselves in the final quarter of the year (yes folks, it really is October) in the midst of the last big push at what, for some businesses anyway, is an unpredictable time of the year and it can be quite frankly, exhausting.

Unless you are fortunate to be in an industry for which Christmas time means a constantly ringing cash register (good for you if you are!) it can actually be a pretty tough time for those businesses not able to clamber on the festive train to boundless gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those of us in many service sectors actually find December particularly a pretty tough month……….so lets look at what we can do before we jump off the commercial bridge and hunker down!

I’ve been reading a few articles recently about why resilient people are generally more successful than their less resilient counterparts. Whilst the principle of the previous sentence of course makes some sense, for me its been about understanding what ‘being resilient’ means in the broadest sense – clearly it will vary depending upon individuals and their individual situations.

But generally speaking (and according to clever types such as those at HBR) having a critical sense of perspective and an acceptance of reality are pretty much the foundations of managing that familiar feeling of overwhelm. With a deep belief that life is meaningful and with strong values systems, its said that resilient people have the ability to make do with whatever is at hand and to improvise. This concept reminds me of that old adage that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get the same results – if something isn’t working then we need to change it……..ahem, because change is so easy right? We’ll get on to change in another post!

Back to resilience, one particular sentence really resonated with me in terms of how successful people simply keep on going (after all, its bloody hard work being in business) and that is, they create an inner psychological space protecting intrusions from others. They keep hold of that deep rooted belief in themselves and their business idea that gave them the rocket fuel to get started in the first place.

So what do we need to keep in mind as we embark on the final quarter of the year? We should embrace the challenge

  • With Confidence
  • With Purpose
  • With Social Support from those close to us
  • With Adaptability

Let me know how you get on! x

Making a House a Home

I’m not going to claim to be the worlds best home maker. Nor am I an effortless interior designer. However, like most people, I wish I was as I browse constantly and lose endless hours checking out ‘creative types’ pinterest boards with envy – you’ll have already noted a distinct lack of filtered photography on this blog credited to yours truly.

But certainly all of this voyeurism helps me to appreciate that since the nipper has come along, I crave a Homes & Gardens type home. You know the kind with beautiful John Lewis crockery on a heavy wooden table with fresh wild flowers and a beautiful child looking on. I have the latter (if I may say so myself!) but just need to work on the surroundings within which the beautiful child is sat……usually in my case, who is covered with remnants of toast, apple juice and the current favourite, yoghurt.

Now I need to be realistic here. I am no Linda Barker (for those of you that remember the cult 90’s classic programme, Changing Rooms……..wasn’t that a terribly functional show title by the way). I also have a limited budget, particularly since embarking on self-employment and the highs and lows that brings to the pocket. But I’m kind of working on small touches to try and make my house…..well, more like my home.

I got the bench in the picture from B&Q (in the sale), the cushions from Sainsburys and the fairy lights (yes, I’ve even ventured into the land of fairy lights people) from B&M. A few inexpensive items have made a little corner of the garden our little haven. Sure, it won’t be on the front cover of Ideal Home but we kind of like it. Makes it a bit more comfortable and gives some personality to what would otherwise be something of a ‘meh’ area.

The pared down minimalist style of the noughties is still creating an interiors hangover for us – the fear of over personalisation looking a bit kitsch. So I’m taking small steps…….well, come on now – I actually have fairy lights in my garden so I’d claim that as a giant leap thank you!

x

The Balance of Purpose and Pleasure

Every feel like you’re coasting along? Of course, I mean productively coasting along. Highly effective at work, tidy home, happy family – well, apart from the pee on the floor incident by the toddler earlier. Everything is just tickety boo right? Well, kind of. Some thing I’ve noticed is that in the pre-parenting days (ah, those heady times) I was very focused. I was very organised. I was also probably a little bit stressed if I’m honest. However, I didn’t half achieve some stuff. I had a brilliantly well paid job, did a masters degree part time, awesome social life. But perhaps looking back, it wasn’t all that rosy. The occasional random anxiety attacks (oh yes, those unexpected ones are just such a joy), lack of time to exercise (too busy eating out) and the yearning desire to have a child at the same time of saying to myself ‘is this it now that I’ve spectacularly made it?’

Clearly things were a little unbalanced back in the day – I was rather high speed with my days as was evident by the ever present knot in my stomach that I certainly do not miss.

But there was a sense of achievement. Sure, having a child and watching as they start to develop their speech is way more exciting then any job promotion. And I’m not even saying I don’t get a sense of satisfaction when I manage to actually hoover every room upstairs. Indeed my work balance is the best it has ever been. No 3 hour daily commute for me anymore – 5 mins and I am in that office ready to go.

However, I’m kind of ready to go through the motions. I’m not sure I’m seeing the world at the moment with the same sense of anticipation. Its almost like I’ve stopped noticing noticing stuff……..if that makes sense??

My daily world is a whole lot narrower than it has ever been. I see less people, I travel less miles and, most disappointingly, I drink less wine. But that doesn’t mean its any less rich because of it.

So I’m going to go back to my tried and tested methods. Yep, I’m back to what I know – on Amazon down the ‘what does it all mean’ book aisle. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine I must say and I’m about to order ‘Happiness by Design – Finding Pleasure & Purpose in everyday life” by Paul Dolan.

I’ll let you know how I get one!

Making Precious Memories

Its the tradition here in England for our Bank Holidays to be rainy and for us English to be determined to participate in outdoor related activities regardless of any potential hyperthermia risk it may incur. This weekend, our activity of choice was going along to Sundown Adventureland which is situated close to Markham Moor off the A1. We went along with my parents and I’m not sure who was most excited, us adults or the somewhat oblivious 18 month old who was wide eyed with wonder at the grown up over exuberance. With a journey time of less than 20 minutes from our hometown of Lincoln, we arrived as soon as the park opened at 10.00am – great planning as there were no queues and we were straight through the gates in no time. The slightly damp and drizzly weather wasn’t about to dampen our spirits as we took the nipper on the first ride we came across which was the Father Christmas one. Yes, I am fully aware its the beginning of May and yes it was a little surreal listening to Jingle Bells in a darkened room with twinkly lights and Christmas trees. However, the tiddler absolutely loved it and refused to get off it at the end – so the Grandparents had to ‘reluctantly’ jump on so he could go around again.

Though it has a few, Sundown Adventureland doesn’t  have lots and lots of rides which is actually what makes it ideal for our little boys age and older – no snaking queues, no stressed out parents anticipating the next toddler implosion. Its somewhere the kiddywinkles can explore relatively independently. There’s a wild west themed street where they can try and break the safe and then visit the jail house next door. There’s a sweetie inspired colourful castle where they can clamber over giant sized treats and enter rooms smelling of mint and liquorice – a sense sensation. There’s also an array of the usual play parks and climbing frames for any excess energy to be burned off. The place has a slightly psychedelic feel about it but it certainly seems to have the formula right to fire the little peoples imagination. Sure it was cold, wet and windy but the look of wonder on the nippers face as he rounded corner after corner of adventure was enough to keep us all warm!

Thankfully, we did have one sunny day on Monday when we met Ellis’s cousin and his parents at Peterborough (its the 1/2 way point between where we and they live) so the suncream and sunhat did get broken out for a few hours of the bank holiday at least. But overall, it was just lovely to have some precious time together to make some precious memories……………Tuesday today and I’m feeling oh-so Mondayish! Oh well, not long until next weekend, not that I’m wishing the working week away or anything!

*This post is not sponsored – I just really enjoyed visiting Sundown!

Sometimes life is just so frustrating!

Well, its perhaps a bit broad to say life is so frustrating. I think we’re talking about something a little more specific. We’re talking about work.

We’ve all been there. Completing that ginormous project and no one notices. The manager who comes up with all the big ideas……..that you gave them. The work mate who is CONSTANTLY texting whilst you finish off that report they were supposed to do.

My husband and I have just had a long chat about our respective current work related frustrations. There was wine involved. And unsurprisingly we both now feel a little better…….due in part to the wine, I’m not going to deny it. However, regardless of where you work, study or in fact stay at home (I’m talking about you patience-of-a-saint stay at home mums) we all have our moments when it all gets a bit too much. So what you can you do to save a tiny bit of your sanity and avoid any arrestable offences? Well, here’s a few thoughts;

1) Talk to a friend

This is where the wine may come in. Simply talking to someone can often help you find your own solutions and your friend may come up with some ideas that you may not have thought of. After all, they know you pretty well.

2) Write the good stuff down

Making a note of the good moments (or journaling as our transatlantic friends call it) really can help to focus your mind and take you out of the spiral of doom you’re sending yourself down.

3) Check your reality

Obviously I am always right. Always. Ok, so sometimes my reality is not the actual reality. It’s not the same reality that other people are experiencing even when they share the same moment with you. Your experience will always be yours and theirs will always be theirs. And sometimes, just sometimes, frustrations are our own making. Sometimes we need to take some responsibility for ourselves rather than blaming others. This is where the wine comes back into it’s own, makes most things more palletable.

4) Pound the pavement

Or a punchbag. Or a spinning bike. Or some weights in the gym. Its well know that exercise releases the feel good stuff and overcomes that tightly wrung tension. Even if its just a walk in the fresh air, a change of environment can aid the creation of a new perspective.

And finally, sometimes you just need to let it go. Will pent up frustration and internal blood curdling anger change the situation? Nope. It will only serve to increase your blood pressure as you descend into your very own vortex of doom.

Let it go, grab a glass of wine and have a good old chat with your nearest and dearest. Now, I’m off to top up my glass.