8 Stages of Sleep Training

Crisis Summit

You’ve reached your limit. You’re done. No more co-sleeping/hushing/feeding to sleep. You’ve had enough of the endless stories, lullabies, back rubbing and then the ballerina gymnastics needed to extricate without waking. You are a grown up. They are a child. You need a plan and a united front.

Research

No Cry Sleep Solution. Super-Nanny. Sleep trainers. The NCT What’s App group chat is alive with suggestions. You’ve done the jasmine and lavender bath salts. The calming bedtime. You’ve feng shui’d the crap out of the bedroom. You are ready.

Counting

Whatever route you take, you’re gonna count. Minutes. Returns to bed. Phases of the moon. Whichever. You’ll be counting.

Emotional Turmoil

Considering they tick a lot of the psychopath boxes (self-absorbed, risk takers, ruthless, lack of empathy), kids are master manipulators. Mine have demonstrated the full range of tactics to get me to buckle at bedtime: disbelief, humour, heartstrings, outrage, hurt. Each turn is always a sucker punch to the guilt gut and each blow is artfully crafted for maximum effect- ie, let them downstairs for ‘just one more PJ Masks’

Pain

You will suffer lower back pain from hoiking 20 kilos of child back in to bed 87 times. You will suffer stress headaches. You may stub your foot as you hover by the door. The stakes are high.

Breaking Point

There will be a moment in sleep training where you nearly nearly break. A poorly-times Amazon delivery. A screeching neighbourhood cat. A motorbike. A jaunty ice cream van. Any of these may send you spiralling back to square one.

You will nearly break-you may well indeed submit, fair play to you- but you may also summon up deep reserves of determination and press on. It’s like labour- at its peak worst just before it delivers.

Success

You’ve won! You know you shouldn’t think of it as winning! But you won! The bugger’s asleep! You did it!

Realisation

You have to do it again tomorrow. But it’ll probably be better tomorrow night. Right?

Working Mums are Less Professional

apolgies 2 final
Photo credit: The Pool/REX Features

A few weeks ago I was in an important meeting at work. It had lasted longer than I thought so I had to excuse myself. I  gave my apologies and left. This week I  turned down extra hours- citing that it wouldn’t be  financially worth it for me. Next week I have been asked to work at a time I wouldn’t normally be in. I have agreed to it but I have asked to be paid to be there.

And the reason each time? Childcare. That’s the reason I can’t stay at meetings, work longer hours, afford to pick up more work or just ‘pop in’ for an hour or two. Because every time I’m away from my children, it costs me money. That’s the bones of it.

So when Kelly Brook said that working mums are less professional it stung because I live in endless fear that she’s right.

Am I ‘using my kids as an excuse not to do my job properly’ as KB suggests women do? (She described ‘women’ doing this by the way, not parents).

I am not someone who likes bringing kids in to the work place. It doesn’t sit right with me because I compartmentalise. I also don’t really like talking about my children at work. Mostly because I am aware that hearing about other people’s kids is like hearing about other people’s dreams- at best, dull, at worst deeply revealing about a person’s psyche.

Whenever I have to say ‘I can’t because of the children’ a little bit of me cringes. So I try and say ‘I can’t’ instead. And I’ll be that’s what Brook’s co-workers who ‘have kids and you never hear about the kids’ are doing too. We leave it unsaid. We know that our male partners aren’t saying ‘ohbutIneedtogetbacktothekidsbecauseitsswimminglessonstonightsorrysorrysorry’ and ducking out of meetings in a fluster. And it’s no one’s fault. Other than a society that makes women feel like they need to apologise and excuse and validate decisions.

I don’t think ‘sorry’ should be another thing that women are told ‘not to do’. I don’t think citing childcare as a reason they can’t do something should be another thing ‘not to do’ but I would say, just saying ‘no’ is really empowering. Just saying ‘I have to be somewhere else’ is fine. And, if someone’s invited you to join an intellectual book club or a PTA meeting or a fancy dress night then sometimes it is marvellously handy to be able to say  ‘Ooh I’d love to but I’m delousing the kids’. #sorrynotsorry, Kelly.

apologise
Photo Credit: Emily Flake

A Kid-free Guide to Munich

Oddly, our kid-free trip to the Bravarian city of Munich started with us hitchhiking and wheeling in circles around the good-hearted village of Birchanger- possibly the most patient and friendly village in Essex. This article is dedicated to you, Birchanger, without your kindness we never would’ve made our flight.

After that dramatic start, we managed to get to our hotel just in time to meet our friends and celebrate the last hour of their birthday with the (first of many) beers of the holiday. Out for a kebab. Back for bed.

Day One.

Up and out! We always like to start with a bike tour because it gives us the lay of the land and cycling around a European city is one of life’s joys. We went with Mike’s Bikes who meet by Juliet statue in the main square.

Perky on a hire bike

We mooched along in our group admiring cathedrals, statues and acres and acres of beautiful parkland. The definite peak being stopping for lunch at the centre of the park where they serve litre glasses of beer and piles and piles of pork (knuckle, sausage, schnitzel).

Different priorities

The city is so geared up for beer and bikes they even have a drink called a ‘raddler’ which is basically a shandy -the idea being it’s less potent so you can wibble home on your bike more easily. Our group then went back through the park via the river. It’s so powerful no one swims in it- but they do surf it. The water gushes through at such a pace that it creates waves that can be surfed on. Which I obviously did.

This is (not) me

Our bike tour ended after five fab hours. Where next? A museum? An art gallery? Or perhaps nip to central market which has a…guess?…beer market in the centre! Man, I love this city!

Prost!

Many litres of beer later we go back to our hotel for a freshen up and a posh frock because we are off to a rooftop bar in a snazzpants hotel. And YIKES was it snazzy. Marble everything. Gold everything else. Munich is a rich city (I’ve never seen so Maseratis) but I think we found its epicentre. Cocktails were €10 a pop but the view was fabulous.

Views!

As were the bogs.

Out of place

We were meant to be going to a restaurant someone had recommended- we’d booked a taxi and everything but thought we’d ‘just check’ the prices. A main course was €40. Nope. We went for a whopping pizza round the corner. The whole bill was €40 and we were stuffed. And sloshed.

You can do it!

Day two

My plan was for us to go and mooch in the boutiques and cool cafes of Schwabing, the university area. We could drink cocktails out of jamjars and act superior. Alas, no one warned us that Munich is a ghost town on Sundays. Nothing was open. Other than museums. So we had a beer for breakfast and dived in to Residenz Museum. Now, call me uncultured but once you’ve seen one velvet-walled, golden-furnished meeting chamber, you don’t need to see another 80. So we pounded through half a dozen and headed to a beer keller. We went to Hofbraeuhaus which is vast and just long tables of people drinking mammoth glasses of beer. Quite proud that this is the only pic I have of me- testament to my drinking dedication.

An artfully curated selfie.

We then spent the next nine hours drinking beer and eating pork knuckle. We went to Haxenbauer and the knuckle and dumpling and sauerkraut was friggin delish.

Gonna need a bigger bib

Day three

Our flight wasn’t until the evening so we packed a picnic and headed to Englischer Garten. 900 acres of parkland with the river running through it. Our bike guide said the park is the city’s garden and everyone was out enjoying it. Including some nudists. We ate and cycled. We said goodbye to our friends who were on a lunchtime flight. We circled and cycled and explored the city. We ducked and dived through suburbs and centres. The more we cycled, the more I fell in love with this city. I love that they’ve made a beach by the river in the centre of town. I love that they have a glorified cuckoo clock in their city square. I love that you’re never more than a freewheel from a beer garden. I love that the city is dotted with parks. I love the statues and water fountains and the fact that you can buy excellent schnitzel whatever the time of day.

And now I’m home and all the beer and the pork are out of my system, I’m telling everyone I meet -including you- that they have to go to Munich. I’m telling you about it and yet you’re not packing your bag? Come on. Forget work tomorrow. Forget you’re a vegetarian. Book those flights and let Munich work its magic on you.

Women Hating On Women: what the whaaaat?!

My experience of the sisterhood has been completely and utterly fabulous: I’ve never ever been let down by a woman. But. When I do venture outside my bubble, it’s women who are the most vicious and nasty.

And I despair.

I also see so so much evidence of women being pitted against women and then I think it’s no wonder women turn on each other.

I try- on blog, media and in school- to set the expectation that women and girls are loyal to each other. I try and assume and promote it so it becomes the norm. Only because on International Women’s Day, I talked about how men have become our allies since #metoo etc and I thanked them for all their support and now the culture seems to be (more-not entirely by any stretch) that feminism is for men and it’s ‘assumed’ we have their support. It seemed to get more on board.

That’s the same with the sisterhood: I want to assume inclusion and support in a way to counter every time the media pit us against each other.

And yet.

Female journalists write about who ‘won’- Kate or Meghan?

Women on Mumsnet shame and humiliate well-meaning women

Mothers scowl and judge and belittle other mothers

Girls say cruel and unpleasant things to other girls

Some of the most vicious and hard-hitting and bone-scraping insults have been aimed at women by other women. It’s women who’ve made me feel the most alone and isolated and confused.

What motivates them?

I don’t get it. I get that women can be complex and shitty and rude and cruel. Fine. We aren’t duty-bound to be lovely and petal-covered. But why would a woman seek out ways to debilitate or over-power or shame another woman?

But actually. In truth. Women have always been the best bits of my life: they’ve mopped my tears, got me drunk, listened to me moan, made me laugh, shown me the world and enriched my life beyond all measurable realms.

And maybe that’s what motivates these rotters. Maybe they’ve never known friendship like that. My granny used to think that Hell was real but it was just not being in Heaven: that you knew about Heaven and you could see Heaven but you weren’t welcomed there. And maybe that’s how these women feel? Like they can see rich and diverse and complicated and beautiful female friendship but they don’t feel a part of it. We are always afraid of things we don’t understand and hateful towards things we feel excluded from.

Well. Tell you what? Women? Come on in. You’re all welcome here. I hear your hatred and vitriol and spite and I ask you to keep them in your pocket for a cause that needs them later (inequality, injustice, poverty, and any number of bits n bobs that need some good ole sorting out).

Welcome to Heaven: it’s female friendship.

Female friendship:

Drunk nights. Long chats. Karaoke.

Peepo! A Modern Retelling

With thanks and apologies to the Ahlbergs

Here’s a little toddler

One two three

Stands in his cot

What does he see?

Peepo!

He sees his mummy sleeping on his bedroom floor

She’s been there’s since 3am and can’t take it any more

He sees his Gro Clock glowing and the sun’s not up

Mummy’s still sleeping so he hits her with his sippy cup

Here’s a little toddler

One two three

Sits in his Tripp Trapp chair

What does he see?

Peepo!

He sees his mummy pouring hot Nespresso in a mug

She stirs in lots of sugar and takes a great big slug

He hears his daddy shouting to his sisters breakfast’s ready

He sucks on his Ella’s Kitchen pouch and smears some on his teddy

Here’s a little toddler

One two three

Sits in the soft play

What does he see?

Peepo!

He sees his sisters sweating down a sticky static slide

He toddles to the ball pit to find the perfect place to hide

He hears his mummy’s frantic shouting as she calls above the din

He giggles to himself- this time he’s going to win!

Here’s a little toddler

One two three

Sits in Time Out

What does he see?

Peepo!

He sees his sisters having fish fingers and Fruit Shoots

He hears the big kids screaming and their cries and their hoots

He thinks his mum’s forgotten that he’s been put in Time Out

He gets caught sneaking off and does his best endearing pout

Here’s a little toddler

One two three

Sits watching Netflix

What does he see?

Peepo!

He sees his mummy on her laptop ‘catching up on emails’

He chews on a fruit bar that dribbles out in sticky trails

He sees his sisters squabbling over the tv controller

They want Horrid Henry but he’s a loyal Paw Patroller

Here’s a little toddler

One two three

Been Supernannied to sleep

What did he see?

Peepo!

He hears his parents downstairs and the sound of glasses clinking

He hears his daddy calling ‘Is it red or white that you’re drinking?’

He hears his sister settling down each with an ipad

He drifts to sleep and thinks ‘I love my mum and dad’

Here’s a little toddler

One two three

Asleep in his Grobag

What did he see?

My Sister

She held my hand and counted my toes

She kissed my curls and kissed my nose

She sang me songs and read me books

She made me smile with loving looks

She made up the games and she was the teacher

She made me be co-presenter in her version of Blue Peter

She worked the tills and I was the shopper

She was the chef and me the washer upper

She held my hand on my first day of school

She sat by me in the assembly hall

She protected me from dinner ladies

She made me crowns from loops of daisies

She stood by me against kids on the bus

She let them know it was them versus us

She drove me to my first house party

She lent me her ID and cider money

She found success in careers and motherhood

She occupied I world I never understood

She welcomed me there when I had my first child

She blazed me a trail in that new scary world

She answered my calls at four in the morning

She did so with patience and bleary-eyed yawning

She passed on breast pumps, school shoes and advice

She told me the best box sets and cures for head lice

She’s made me Madonna/Cher mix cassettes

She’s made me sing loud Alanis Morrisette duets

She’s made me dress up as Winona Ryder

She’s made me travel the world right beside her

She’s opened up doors and guided me through

Hannah: everyone should have a sister like you.

CrossFit: what’s the jig?

The only sport I liked at school was rounders. The rest just seemed to be a roulette of hanging about waiting for a turn or a flurry of mud and kicked shins.

In my twenties I gave some half-arsed attempts at things but found that running was tedious, gyms were repetitive and yoga gave me the fidgets. Turns out that when it comes to exercise I’ve got the attention span of a gnat.

I did do Joe Wick’s 90 Day plan which was intense (all the egg whites!) but I found his exercise videos a bit samey (all the mountain climbers!) so used Fitness Blender at home four times and week and loved it.

But I needed something else. Exercise colleagues. New challenges. Something I have to book in to so I can’t flake.

Enter CrossFit.

We all have a friend who does CrossFit. The one who tells us we ‘really should go’ because we will ‘love it’. We’ve all said ‘maybe next weekend’ and then not mentioned it again. Because on paper it sounds flipping awful. That’s because it’s quite hard to explain. But now I’m a full on convert and paid up radicalised CrossFitter I can be ‘that friend’ and tell you all about it.

Disclaimer: I’m still new to cross fit and certainly not an expert (snort at the thought!) but I feel like I’ve found my ‘thing’ and love it.

Before

All CrossFit centres will host try-out sessions where you will be shown technique and walked through a sample class. You will only be with other beginners so it’s not intimidating.

Box jumps. Oddly sweaty.

During

Weight-lifting. Burpees. Ring pulls. Kettle bell swings. Short runs. Bursts of rowing. Sit ups. The whole shebang. The reps (number of times you do it) tend to be fewer than they are in Body Pump but it’s expected you to heavier. For example, you may deadlift 40kg six times rather than the 10kg you might do for a whole Pump track.

Getting my burpee on

My goals

I want to be able to do a chin to bar (swing from a bar and pull your chin up over it). To help me get there, I’m still slogging away on ring pulls.

You can see from the clock that I’m two minutes from the end and so slacking off on the RPs!

I’d like to be able to do a hand stand press up. TBH, I’ve wanted to be able to do a handstand since year three so, y’know, #lifegoals

Things to know

Push ups are tricep push ups because it’s more about functional fitness.

Burpees mean chest and hips to floor and a jump and clap in the air.

Sit ups are usually v-ups or using a mat and having the soles of your feet together.

Basically, everything is just that little bit harder than normal exercise classes!

Summoning the strength to do another weighted squat.

Lingo to know

Others might work it out faster than I did but here’s a heads up-

AMRAP: as many rounds as possible

EMOM: every minute on the minute

Box: they’re not called gyms, they’re called ‘boxes’.

WOD: working out of the day

AHAP: as heavy as possible

AFAP: as far as possible *edit: it’s actually ‘as fast as possible’ which goes to show even a seasoned pro like me can make mistakes #week10 #stillclueless*

My box, Saxon, are hosting another round of recruitment so if you’re based near Wymondham and like the sound of it, send them a message.