Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Anyone for a party? My daughter is turning one...

This week we went to 2 first birthday parties and we have a whole series of invites to more. Baby M turns 1 in a month and I feel the pressure mounting to organise a party for Baby M. But I don't want one.

A party is always great especially when my friends are there and I get to open a load of presents (well Baby M can't open them yet can she?).

She turns 1 the day before I go back to work so organising a party is one additional presure I don't need. I wouldn't mind if it was a case of just inviting a few people over, but inevitably it's more than that: my house isn't big enough for more than a few babies and their parents. So I could follow what my friends are doing and hire a venue.  Then arrange catering.  And an entertainer. And toys. And party bags. Not to mention planning all of this around a theme.

I've been to some lovely parties. Some that cost a lot, some where the parents have made a huge effort, but they have just made me more determined not to have one.

Fair enough people want to celebrate their children's first birthday, but who are they doing it for? If I organised a party it would only be because I feel I had to, not because I wanted to. Baby M's Dad wouldn't enjoy it, I would be running around stressed and Baby M would be as happy spending the day with just us. Probably more happy as she will get to have her naps and food when she wants them.

Then there is the cost. As I reach the end of my maternity leave money becomes increasingly tight. I know you can organise a party on a budget, but the cheaper it is the more you have to do yourself and the more stress there is.

Another option is a family party, but it's unfair to ask people to drive a long way just for a couple of hours. I may be being selfish, but I don't want to spend my last weekend before I go back to work entertaining relatives when I could be spending precious time with my daughter.

People have started asking me what I am going to do for Baby M's birthday and I apologetically say I don't think we are doing anything. Why I feel the need to apologise I don't know, I'm saving them the need to buy a present after all.

The truth is I'm not having a party, because I don't want to and I don't see the point. Instead I might spend the money on toys and activities she will like and spend the day giving her cuddles.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Getting back in the game (product review)

After a years maternity leave I return to work next month. How I feel about that is a log post in its self, but one of the things that worries me is getting my brain back in to work mode. Being a mum is hard work and a constant challenge, but the challenges are along the lines of how do I get strawberry stains out, how do I put a nappy on a child that won't stay still and does this crying mean my daughter is tired, hungry, over stimulated, sick, in pain, lonely, bored or a combination of the above.

At work challenges will include: having to form coherent sentences in front of people that may notice if I talk rubbish, quickly identifying problems and suggesting solutions, writing reports, dealing with figures (other than 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive) and generally paying a lot more attention to detail.

To try and get ready for work I've been aiming for at least one adult conversation a week (that doesn't include development milestones, the contents of nappies or sleep) and I have been trying to remember how to write again using this blog.

Recently I got the opportunity to try and wake my brain up in another way by trying out the Mensa Academy game on Wii. I admit I am the sort of person that enjoys those tests you get a job interviews and I enjoyed the brain training games on Nintendo DS (although I thought there wasn't enough variety) so I was optimistic that I would like the Mensa Academy game and I wasn't disappointed.

I eventually managed to persuade my husband to take a break from the Olympics and we settled down in front of the TV with my Mother-in-law. There may have also been a few glasses of wine. I have since played the game on my own a few times to try out all the options and to take the Mensa test.

Game play Mensa Academy on Wii

The Highs

  • You can have up to 3 different profiles allowing different users to keep their scores separate.
  • You can play on your own or with up to 3 others in party mode (provided you have enough Wii remotes)
  • There are lots of different puzzles divided into language, numeracy, logic, visual and memory.
  • You can choose the level of difficulty
  • There are 2 multi-player modes: brain fighter and brain race.
  • After playing games to train your brain you can complete a Mensa Test: 30 questions in 15 minutes
  • My fast asleep maternity leave baby brain got the same score in the Mensa test as my sleep deprived husband:128
  • The games are on creative back drops with musical accompaniment
  • My mother in law said she could happily "invite the girls over" and spend an evening having fun with the game.

Multi player game play Mensa Game Academy on Wii

The Lows

  • A few of the games could be completed by younger children, but generally this isn't a family game and a reasonable level of Maths and English language is required to play all the games.
  • There is no option to turn the music off. This didn't bother me, but my MIL found the music distracting because she kept trying to work out what each piece was. There is always the mute button!
  • When the characters talk it is quiet in relation to the music, an issue I've noticed in a few other games before, but it doesn't cause any problems.
  • If you want to play the multi-player mode you need a decent resolution screen and good eyesight: party mode splits the making games with detail difficult to see, even on our 40 inch full HD screen. We enjoyed taking turns in the single player mode and laughing at other people's mistakes.

Game play Mensa Academy on Wii

My Verdict

Mensa Academy is a fun way to get your brain working. You can concentrate and play on your own or enjoy it with others and laugh at your friends and family's weaknesses. I wasn't a fan of the multi player games because some games were hard to see, but the single player mode is great. There is enough variety to keep things interesting and challenging, but easy to understand what it is you need to do. I'd recommend it for anyone 14 years plus who wants to give their brain a work out.

Mensa Academy is currently available on  Nintendo Wii and DS and on PC.  Other platforms including mobile, Playstation & Xbox are available soon.  More information available about Mensa Academy here

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A letter to my cleaner

I have no problem telling people at work or loved ones where they have gone wrong. I suspect if you ask my family they will say that I am far too willing to point out the bad and rarely praise the good. This isn't always the case. There is one group of people that I find it hard to be honest and openly critical of: those I pay, in particular hairdressers and my cleaner. These are the people that I most need to advise when I'm not happy with their work, but I really struggle.

I like things done a particular way. I know people aren't psychic and they won't do everything I want unless I ask, but I find it so hard to say anything to my cleaner. Overall she is great: in one hour a week she does a quick once over of my house so I can keep on top of things. So I don't want to upset or annoy her, but I'm going slowly mad. So I need to share.

Dear cleaner,

You are great, but:

- if you change the kitchen bin please take the bin bag out instead of leaving a stinky bin bag next to the bin
- please put the mouthwash back on the sink, not the surrounding area as it stains
- please don't swap the positions of my identical bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I don't wear my glasses in the shower so reading the labels is a pain
- please put the mixer on the bath taps back to the tap option rather than the shower head as I end up getting soaked when I run my daughters bath.
- please put the mats in the bathroom back in the same place. Am I weird for wanting one in front of the sink, one in front of the bath and one in front of the loo?
- please don't wash my dishes badly: you know I have a dishwasher and I've asked you to leave them.

I think that's everything.

Best Wishes

Your messiest client

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Taking a moment

Please can I stop time? Stay in this moment for just a little longer? My daughter is at the most amazing age. She is so incredibly beautiful and lovely.

Next month she turns one.
Next month she starts nursery.
Next month I go back to work.

Spending the last year off work has been the most amazing gift. I have experienced some of the hardest moments of my life, but also many of the best.

Time has moved so quickly. My daughter is no longer a tiny little baby who is totally dependent on me and only communicates through crying. She can now crawl, and stand (supported) and climb. She can find the toys she wants to play with. She can feed herself. She smiles and laughs and waves and jumps up and down to show her pleasure. She also throws tantrums when she isn't happy. Communicating in 100s of ways (including saying "mama").

Everyday I look at her in amazement and wonder. I also look on in fear: I'm scared something will happen to her, that as I stop being with her all day everyday I can no longer protect her.

Time will and must move on, but I'm just going to take a minute and be grateful that I have the most amazing daughter who I love so much. Whatever happens in the future we'll always have right now

Happy Mummy and Baby

Friday, 10 August 2012

Can not or will not?

Recently I have heard a lot of people claim they can't:

  • I can't blow up balloons
  • I can't ride a bike
  • There is no way we could go on holiday to France
  • I can't open the baby gate.

It makes me wonder... how often have people genuinely and repeatedly tried? Have they asked for help to be taught how to do it? Or is it that they haven't tried or they have given up too quickly?

If I say I can't do something it normally means I don't want to. It means that I'm not prepared to make the sacrifices it would take me to succeed. For instance I can no longer go out and get drunk. If I did it would take me roughly 2 days to get over my hangover and I would spend those days exhausted, sick, in pain and looking after a relentless baby.

I have never been someone to accept boundaries though, especially if enforced by others. As soon as I get told that I can't do some thing it provides me with instant motivation to try harder. Especially if people are assuming I can't do something due to my gender or age.

In contrast to most adults around me who like to impose limits on themselves my daughter knows no boundaries. This is refreshing and exhausting. Everyday she is pushing herself further to see how long she can stand for, how high she can climb, what she can put in her mouth. Each week she reaches new milestones, most notable this week is her new discovery of climbing stairs. In turn she is pushing me to do things I never knew I could, like survive on so little sleep.

We should all take a lesson from the young: if you want to do something keep trying until you succeed, if you don't want to do something be honest with yourself and others.