Thursday, 15 December 2016

Returning to work after being a long term stay at home parent.

The time has finally come.  After over 7 years of being a stay at home Mum to my two boys, I'm looking for work.  Ethan has been in full time school since 2013 and Felix started preschool this September.  He's only there for 15 hours a week, so not full time, but it's a few hours.  For the last 7 and a half years we've lived off one income.  Actually, that's not entirely accurate, I did receive maternity pay for the first 9 months of Ethan's life (6 months at full pay, 3 months at the SMP rate).  Anyway, for the best part of 7 years we've lived off one income.  During those 7 years, Pete's pay has increased, his jobs have changed and we went from being a family of two to four.  However, whilst his pay has increased, our living costs have increased and the actual cost of living itself has increased, especially in the last year.  We make do.  Pete earns a good wage but it is truly stretched covering the four of us and all the expenses life bring.  We could certainly do with a bit more money coming in.

It isn't just about money though.  After 7 years of full time parenting, I'd quite like to do something else.  I'd like to leave the house with a purpose.  I'd like to feel like I was contributing financially.  I'd like the boys to see me not "just" as "Mum".  I'm not berating anyone who stays at home to look after their children full time.  If I did, that'd be to berate myself!  I just know that I'm starting to feel a bit.. I'm not sure.. Bored?  Crazy?  Like I'm getting cabin fever.

Back in 2009 as a new SAHM
I feel apprehensive about returning to work.  What am I going to do?  I don't really want to go back to an office job anyone could do.  Ideally I'd like to do something I'd enjoy.  I looked into freelance copywriting.  The positives for something like this are that I could work from home, I could choose my own hours, I could work as little or as much as I like.  I wouldn't need any new qualifications.  I like the idea of writing work.  The negatives are that I wouldn't have colleagues or make new friends.  I wouldn't have to leave home so wouldn't get that feeling of "getting out" and also, like with blogging, there's the risk that you're never really "away" from work.  It would be unpredictable so my earnings and the amount of work would fluctuate.  My initial investigations haven't brought up any available work in any case.. I put together a new CV and contacted a heap of digital agencies and copywriting agencies.  I got a few "we'll put you on file" responses and two "get back in touch in January, we're crazy right now" and mostly I got ignored.  A bit disheartening but it's a funny time of year to be job hunting.

I've been looking at jobs online.  So far very few things have been suitable.  There are quite a few jobs around with terrible hours with awful pay.  Luckily I'm not in the position where I have to take anything.  I have to be realistic though.  Whatever I take on has to work around family life.  My husband works long hours and his job requires him to travel quite a bit at the moment.  I am still primarily needed at home.  His job comes first.  I've inquired about leafleting.  Not very exciting and certainly no chance of new colleagues and friends but it would be great exercise and definitely flexible!  But, the guy never returned my call.  I applied for a job in a local bakery but heard nothing.  It was all looking a bit hopeless..  But then two weeks ago my friend heard about a job at the school she works in.  An "Art Technician".  Something right up my street, a roll supporting the art department.  I knew I could do it but beyond that, it'd be varied, interesting, I'd have colleagues, a workplace, it paid well and, most importantly, it was part time and very flexible, and, drum roll.... TERM TIME ONLY! Quite possibly the perfect job!  I applied and two days later received a phone call to ask if I'd like to come in for interview the following week.  Would I??!! Oh yes!

So.. Last week I attended my first job interview in 12 years.  After being out of work for over 7 years.  It was a little bit daunting, but I decided that it would be a learning experience and maybe even a bit of fun at the same time.  I didn't want to assume the job was mine but equally, I wanted to be positive.  The interview itself was a good experience.  I got there 10 minutes early (that's a big deal for me, I'm terminally late) and, after a few minutes, I relaxed and it felt reassuringly familiar.  A work environment, the usual interview questions.  I must admit a couple of the questions were tricky but I was able to answer them and (I think) quite well.  It was good to think I can still do this kind of thing!   After the interview I was on quite a high.  They told me they would be making their decision that afternoon so I knew I didn't have long to wait.  I hopped in my car, retrieved Felix from my parents house (they were looking after him whilst I was at the interview) and drove to pick Ethan up from school.  Back to normality.  At five past three, as I walked into the school playground, my mobile rang.  Seeing the local landline number I answered straight away.  It was the school I'd had the interview with.  I could tell as soon as the lady returned my "Hello!" that she was phoning to let me know I hadn't got the job.  Of course it was a let down.  I asked why and was told that there wasn't anything I'd done wrong, that one of the other candidates simply had experience of working in a school before and I didn't.  That I shouldn't feel bad and to keep applying.  It did make me feel a little sad but it would have been amazingly easy if I'd walked into a job such as that so quickly.  When I told my friend who'd told me about the job that I hadn't got it, she said to me "Do you know how many people applied for the job?" "Not a clue!" I said "I assume not that many seeing as they took my application form even though the closing date had officially passed!".   "Over 60 people applied" my friend said "and 5 were interviewed, including you.  You did well, you shouldn't feel bad!".  It did bolster me a little, hearing that.  Perhaps I'm not totally unemployable.

Well. That was last week.  This week.  I'm no further on.  I've not seen any jobs advertised that are suitable.  Pete is still very much feeling the pressure of being the sole breadwinner.  "You should apply for JSA" my Mum says "Don't apply for JSA" says Dad "It's the last thing you should do.  Your Mum would say that but she's never experienced what it's like going to the job centre.".  They both have a point.  Is money becoming tight?  Yes.  Am I officially job seeking?  Yes.  But I've never applied for JSA before.  Somehow it doesn't seem right.  And do I really want to be reporting to the job centre every week, having some action plan drawn up?  Having to apply for things that really aren't suitable?  I'll talk to Pete about it, but probably not.

It's 10 Days until Christmas Day now.  Things in the world of work are winding down.  It's an odd time of year to be job hunting.  We're manic with Christmas stuff.   Presents to wrap.  Activities at school and preschool.  Card writing.  Trying to meet with people.  Next week I have both boys with me all week, school & preschool finishing this week. Realistically, the job hunt has to go on hold until the new year.  My plan of action will be contacting those copywriting folks again, phoning them, making myself known to them!  Scouring the job sites.  Tweaking that CV.  2017 will be the year of work!  How exciting.. I think!  Watch this space....

My two boys in 2016

Friday, 9 December 2016

Christmas jumpers.. of course!

I couldn't really write a fashion piece at this time of year and not mention the old Christmas Jumper, could I? How long is it since they've been back in fashion now?  Seems it's been quite a while.  I know it was ironic to start with but I think it's gone beyond that now, and to be honest, I think we should just admit that most of us just love the chance to fling on some cheesy chic.  Am I right?

We do love a Christmas jumper in our house.  Pete only had one, which I bought him a few years ago, and he lamented recently that he liked the look of a geeky one he'd seen online (a Street Fighter one if you wanted to know!) but it was over £25 and he just couldn't justify it.  Well, it got me thinking.  Why not get him one for Christmas but give it to him early so we could all "enjoy" it well before the big day.  So I did.  And I think he was extremely happy to find it waiting for him after a long day at work one day.  He's hardly taken it off since!!

Christmas Jumpers, Christmas clothes, mini rodini, Scandi
Christmas jumpers for all!

Christmas Jumpers, Christmas clothes, mini rodini, Scandi

I have quite a few Christmas jumpers, t-shirts and dresses myself.  Even tights.  The boys really have heaps of stuff though.  They both have an actual "Christmas section" in their wardrobes.  I love seeing them wear the clothes each year.  I do add to them each year too and of course, they grow out of things.  Though I have to say that we have quite a bit of Smafolk and DUNS Christmas wear and it just goes on and on.  Ethan has a beautiful Smafolk top he's been wearing for 4 Christmases now.



Christmas Jumpers, Christmas clothes, mini rodini, Scandi

I don't think many of us don't go in for festive wear these days, but just in case, I'll post the question.  Do you go in for the cheesy clothes fest or do you avoid it like the plague and stay classy?


Me - Merry Christmas Robin t shirt - Cath Kidston (very old).
         Elf t shirt - Tee Fury (I think - sorry!)
         Gingerbread people dress - DUNS - Funky Little People
Pete - Streetfighter Christmas jumper - Amazon
Ethan - Mini Rodini Christmas print top - KyNa Boutique
Felix - Reindeer Print Christmas jumper - Sainsburys  

Linking up with gorgeous Hannah today.  Congrats on the Insta 10K lady! XX

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Does it matter?

This last year or so, I've really lost my blogging mojo.  My entire online mojo really.  I've not blogged as much, I've not been feeling much like writing and when I have, I've not been too sure what to write.  Or I've felt that I've just churned something out and it's not really been worth it.. I've let the social media side of things drop.  I struggle to keep up with it.  I find myself wondering how other parent bloggers manage it.  How?  How are you on twitter and Instagram and Facebook so much and still attending to your children?  I'm not criticising at all, I'm genuinely curious - is there something I'm missing or is it that my children are just very demanding of my time and energy?

Certainly, there is something in that last point.  Felix started at preschool this September and one of the things the staff there have said to me over and over again is, how do I manage with Felix?  I've been asked countless times, "What can you do to get Felix to sit still for longer than one minute?  Does he ever sit still?"..  I have to tell them, truthfully, nothing really makes Felix sit down.  About the only thing would be his bottle of milk and I know, I KNOW that ideally a three year old should not be drinking milk from a bottle, but fuck (sorry) it is the only time I can be sure (mostly) that he'll stay in one place.  He's been the same since the moment he was born.  On the go.  All of the time.  He never wants to stop.  I'm sure it's one of the reasons he's always leaving it beyond the last minute to get to the loo despite being out of daytime nappies since his 2nd birthday.  I'll never the day he rolled over for the first time.  He was 3 days old.  Yes.  You read that correctly, 3 DAYS old.  He needed a nappy changing and I'd placed him on the changing mat on the floor.  I didn't have something to hand, wipes probably, so I asked Ethan to keep an eye on him and I left the room to get them.  As I left the room, Ethan piped up "Will he be ok on the floor?" and I answered "Yes! He's 3 days old he can't go anywhere!".  You know what I found when I came back in, don't you.  he had been on his back when I left and he was on his front when I came in.  With his head and neck fully lifted.  He was able to hold his head from birth too.  There's no way Ethan moved him.  He was still sat in the same placed glued to the ipad.  He'd not moved, that much was clear (and Ethan avoids contact with his brother at all costs, even from birth, but that's another story...).  Felix did the same the following day and I got photographic evidence.  Anyway, it's by the by, the point is, he's a fidget bum and always has been.  What I'm trying to illustrate here is that there is no doubt Felix is a high energy tired and I do think that after 7 years of being a stay at home Mum and 3.5 years of being a Mum to Felix I am rather worn down and demotivated.

Back in 2012 my blog was doing quite well for itself.  My readership was growing, I had a good growing following on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  I got comments on almost all my blog posts, not just the ones that were added to linkys.  I held two of my own linkys each week one of which was really quite successful.  I was nominated for quite a few blog awards and shortlisted for a couple.. But I would say that after the birth of Felix in 2013 it all tailed off.  I found it hard to get to get back into, I was shattered.  And in those few months my readership fell away and other blogs sprung up left, right and centre.  Some of those blogs are deservedly huge now, like Hannah of Make, Do and Push.  Her blog is doing amazingly and I know she works very very hard at it.  So it is very deserved.

All of this leaves me in this weird place now.  Sometimes I feel sad about my blog.  Like I've let it die.  Other times I don't care and think life would be easier if I'd just let it die totally and get on with living in the "real" world.  I feel like I've let myself down though.  I feel, like I do with many things in my life, like I've given up on it.  Like I'm just not quite good enough and really, what's the point?  I don't know.  I've had friends and some readers tell me my writing is good.  My photos on Instagram are good.  But I don't know.  Is it just an over-saturated market?  Should I just gracefully bow out?  I'm just not sure......

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Christmas Pudding Noggin

Earlier this year, the supermarket in the centre of our town closed down.  When this happened, speculation was rife was to what would take it's place.  A large unit like that, the costs would be high, it'd have to be something similar.  I was quietly hopeful, like some others, that we might get a Waitrose (hehe) but no.  Eventually the rumor mill was full of "It's going to be a B&M store".  I was most dismayed.  In the late Spring this was proven to be true and from then it was full steam ahead at the empty store, a whole heap of orange and blue started to appear.

I wouldn't say I planned to boycott the store but I was rather hopeful I'd never become a regular customer.  You can tell where this is going, can't you.... Well.  For a couple of months I honestly didn't go in.  Then a friend went in and was impressed so I was intrigued.  I really needed to buy a kids birthday present for a birthday one afternoon at short notice and very few places were open, my son wanted to go in and look there for the gift.  I told myself, it's OK.  We're only going in to look for one present.  It's not like I WANT to go in.  From then on it's been a slippery slope.  Don't get me wrong, I still very much prefer to shop elsewhere if I can, but they do stock some tempting items.  American sweets for one thing.  That's probably most of what I buy in there actually.  They stock a gorgeous stout that I can't find anywhere else.  They've been great for Paw Patrol crap toys that Felix lusts after.  I do stick to local small retailers but I don't make a point of avoiding it anymore.  Which is just as well and really brings me around to the point of this blog post.

This week it turned really bloody freezing.  Felix and I were in town, he'd ridden in on his bike.  We were due to go on to his gymnastics class but despite my best efforts to layer him up before leaving the house to keep him warm, he was crying with the cold.  There aren't really any kids clothing shops in town save from rifling through the charity rails.  Which is fine unless you are dragging said child with you, already moaning from cold.  I knew that B&M had hats, scarves, gloves and Christmas jumpers.  I knew that the silliness of a Christmas jumper might tempt Felix to put it on and keep him a little warmer.  In the end we managed to get a rather cute penguin jumper, a neck warmer and a very fetching hat which looks like a Christmas pudding.  This hat has been an absolute Godsend.  Felix doesn't really tolerate hats at all but since getting this one he constantly wants his "pudding hat" on.  And the amount of compliments and attention he attracts in it!  So cute.




In an ideal world I would buy only second hand or very ecological, ethical organic clothing.. but unfortunately this is the real world and for me, I'm afraid it does mean sometimes slightly deviating against my preferences.  But at least I have a happy warm child... and he does look damn cute in that hat!

Linking up with Hannah for Funky Kid Friday today.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

What do you do ALL DAY?

This is a question I recently had posed to me.  What do you do all day long?  As a stay at home parent, it's something I've often imagined people wondering.  Usually people who don't have children.  Or partners who've never done the "stay at home" thing.  I'm sure, on occasion, my husband as wondered the same.  Especially now Felix has started at preschool.

The fact is, I do often wonder where the time has gone myself.  At present, Ethan is at school full time.  Felix is at preschool but only for the 15 hours which are funded.  By the time I'm back home from dropping both of them off at least half an hour of that precious time has gone.  Once I get in the house and gather my thoughts, tidy up from breakfast etc it is often getting close to 10 am.  Feix has to be picked up at 1:30 pm so at this point only 3.5 hours remain.  I have to fit my own lunch in at some point.  Quite often make a packed lunch for one or both of the boys the following day.  House work.  Washing/folding/putting away clothing.  It amazes me how "little" I seem to get done.  It has to be said that I do like to keep a very tidy home.   I'm sure I could write far more blog posts or drum up more blogging work for myself if I loosened my grip on the house.  Really, I should.  I do love a tidy home though.  I love that I know where everything is.  There aren't piles of clothing and toys and other items hanging around to be put away.  Jobs do get done in this house.  We do tend to get on with things pretty quickly.  DIY, chores etc.  I don't like to leave them hanging around and neither does Pete really.  We work hard at it.

A quiet moment

Some of my time at home I do chose to use to relax in a little.  Yes, I will have a coffee and read a while.  I've been a stay at home Mum for over 7 years now and much of that time has been exhausting, draining and hard.  It's been lovely too and immensely rewarding, but it's been a long time and I am itching for time for myself and to start to do something different.  I'll always be a Mum and I'd never change that.  My boys will always need me.  The house will always be there needing something doing on it.  But I need something else in my life.  So, what do I do all day?  A whole heap of things but also, right now, I'm job hunting and trying to figure out what I want to do and how that will fit in with everyone else.  And if that means I have the odd quiet coffee by myself, so be it.  There's enough judging and ill feeling in this world without begrudging me that!


My home.. always being tweaked! 

Friday, 18 November 2016

We're repping for Moromini!

This week brought some very exciting news!   Brand Repping is a big thing on Instagram.  We've repped for a few brands over the last couple of years.  This year I took a step back from all the brand repping.  Sometimes it can be rather soulless, the entering of rep searches, the way it can make you feel if you don't get picked, the way it feels if you keep seeing the same people being picked over and over.  It all gets a little bit... I'm not sure.  I was feeling jaded by it.

There's so much I love about Instagram.  There's a lovely community there and I feel I've made life long friends there.  I enjoy seeing what others are up to and I enjoy seeing amazing quality photos there.  Snapshots of life.  I didn't feel I wanted to keep "chasing" something that wasn't necessarily bringing me happiness. So. A step back from entering rep searches.  Until I spotted a brand I love, Moromini, searching for reps a couple of weeks ago.  And I just couldn't resist.  Rather like repping for Slugs & Snails tights in the last year, I knew this brand would be a perfect fit for us.  Bright, colourful, full of patterns, clothes the boys and I genuinely like.  Encouraged by Anna who owns Funky Little People to enter, I did.  This Monday the lucky reps were announced and we were among them!  It made me grin from ear to ear.  It will bring me nothing but joy to work alongside a brand we love and I can't wait to help them out sharing photos on Instagram, Twitter and over here.  I believe brand repping should be a joy.  Not something you do because you want some kind of "InstaFame" or just because you are desperate for "free" clothes (they aren't free though.  This is an exchange of clothing for your time, skills and audience).  I am so proud we will be working with a Mama created brand with a wonderful ethos, Europe made clothing, organic cloth, designed with children in mind, not mini adults.

Moromini, Scandi, Kids Clothing
Felix wearing a Moromini Fried Egg Top

Moromini, Scandi, Kids Clothing
Felix snoozing in his Moromini Trousers

I can tell this is going to be a wonderful partnership and I'm very happy to have some cool Mama's and kids repping alongside us, not in the least Hannah from Make, Do & Push!  High five missus!

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Keeping children entertained on long car journeys

We've just booked a weekend break for the end of February half term and are also thinking about summer holidays, where we want to go etc. We have been parents for over 7 years now and we know all about traveling with children. It's hard work at the best of times, even a short journey can be trying! Ethan, our eldest, suffers from travel sickness, so we have that to contend with as well.. Just as I was thinking about where to go on holiday and how to minimise the stress of journeys I read this post published on the woodentoyshop.com's blog. There are some very useful tips and great game ideas, I love the car bingo! I found it a good read so thought I'd share it over here! No harm and you might just pick up a new idea!


Travelling with Kids

Friday, 21 October 2016

One for One Toy & Clothing Campaign with Natural Baby Shower


Looking through the spam folder of my email this morning I happened upon an email telling me all about this lovely campaign from Natural Baby Shower.  I am so glad I found this email, it could have been missed.  It's a wonderful idea.  For every Finn & Emma knitted toy or item of  Woodland Clothing sold between now and December 2016 Natural Baby Shower will donate like for like to a fantastic charity, REFUGE.  Here's a little more about it:

Natural Baby Shower Launch One for One Toy and Clothing Campaign

Natural Baby Shower are excited to announce the launch of their One for One campaign. During this campaign, for every Finn + Emma organic hand knitted toy or item of Woodland clothing sold between the 01st of October and December, Natural Baby Shower will be donating a like-for-like toy or piece of clothing to mother and baby REFUGE charities across the UK in time for Christmas.

Finn + Emma produce beautiful high quality natural products in stunning ranges that strike a balance of stylish and sustainable, classic and contemporary and whimsical and sophisticated.

All Finn + Emma’s toys and clothing are made from 100% G.O.T.S. certified organic cotton and eco-friendly dyes and all the toys are hand-knit or made from untreated wood. All their products are manufactured in fair-trade settings that focus on social and economic independence for local people and especially for women.

Boring designs and toxic chemicals are a thing of the past whilst modern colours and fresh prints are abundant alongside heirloom quality construction. If you love style as much as sustainability, with Finn + Emma there is no reason to have to choose between the two.

Finn + Emma are sold exclusively through leading online retailer of ethical and eco-friendly baby products, Natural Baby Shower. You can view the full collection at http://www.naturalbabyshower.co.uk/collections/finn-emma

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Spring in Autumn

Spring in Autumn.  What am I on about?  Well.  I got dressed this morning and the dress I put on, if I'm honest, it looked more like a dress for a Spring day than an Autumn one.  Having said that, today is particularly beautiful in this part of the country.  The exact kind of Autumn day you dream about.  Crisp air, colourful leaves in the trees, no rain and blue skies.  So I suppose, if it weren't for the leaves around my feet I could be fooled into thinking it was a little spring like out there.  If it weren't for the smell in the air as well...  Do you find the air smells different season to season?  I know I do.



Fashion Blogger Autumn Style Yumi Colourful tights Cherry Blossom


I like this dress.  It hangs in my wardrobe (which is bursting at the seems..) and doesn't come out very often.  It's one of those dresses, when I put it on, I'm not sure whether I like how it looks on my or not.  Today I like it.  And it suits the bright blue sky.  So whilst it has cherry blossom splashed all over it, it feels lovely and bright, just like the weather.  I'll take that..  Stick a pair of tights under and cardi over the top, I think it still works!

Smile woman!


Fashion Blogger Autumn Style Yumi Colourful tights Cherry Blossom

Dress - Who knows! Sorry...
Cardigan - Yumi
Tights - Ebay
Belt - H&M

Do you ever wear clothes that don't seem quite right for season but go with it anyway?  Oh, and before you comment. Yes, I am wearing my slippers.  I'm in my house! No shoes in the house!! Perhaps I should change the title of this blog to "Style in Slippers".  Or "Slip into Style".  Perhaps "Style V Comfort"?.  Hmmmm....

**Linking up with lovely Not Dressed As Lamb for #iwillwearwhatilike**

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The boys' Saturday Style

I am an avid clothing lover.  I love clothes and accessories for myself and the boys.  I usually can't wait to make a few choice purchases from Beau Loves, BoBo Choses & Mini Rodini every season.  But I have to be honest.  AW16 sees me strapped for cash.  Or, if I'm honest, less likely to rack up debt just to have the latest styles.  I find it hard. Rationalising my desire to buy them some gorgeous items from the new collections against knowing that it's expensive and they probably don't "need" them.  The urge to click is strong... and the design is strong this season too..  The deer print from Mini Rodini and the whole of the Beau Loves collection.. it's got me twitching my finger over the "at to shopping cart" button..  So far, I have resisted.

This means the boys are rocking much the same stuff they have all year long.  It's not exactly a hardship.  My boys have heaps of clothes.  Like a crazy amount.  The have wardrobes bursting at the doors and draws that really don't like closing or opening.  It does make it difficult for blogging about their clothes though.  So.. Today, I'm not sharing new styles or clothes with you.  I'm just sharing how we're mixing them up.  And I happen to think the boys still look pretty awesome!

Mini Rodini, Metsola, Moromini, Zara, Hatley, George at Asda, Kids Fashion, Boys Fashion

Mini Rodini, Metsola, Moromini, Zara, Hatley, George at Asda, Kids Fashion, Boys Fashion

Mini Rodini, Metsola, Moromini, Zara, Hatley, George at Asda, Kids Fashion, Boys Fashion


Ethan Wears:

Stripy Coat - Hatley
Skeleton print leggings - George @ Asda
Converse

Felix Wears:

Stripy Coat - Mini Rodini
Raindrop top - Metsola
Trousers - Moromini at Funky Little People
Trainers - Zara

What do you think.  Have they still got it?

Linking up today with Hannah for Funky Kid Friday.