Friday, 30 August 2013

Book Review: Wonderful Wildlife 123

The front cover: Wonderful Wildlife 123
Plot Summary: Counting to 20 has never been so funny and quirky
Favourite page: Meercats sunbathing on bats!

Favourite character: this loveable bigfoot
What my daughter thinks:
Even at age 2 she giggled at the bats and rats being used as sun loungers
What I think:
The Simpsons is now in it's 25th series because it appeals to both adults and kids, Wonderful Wildlife 123 is the book equivalent. The pictures are cute, but also thoughtful with detail a pre-schooler will probably miss. It is written in rhyme, but over pages to make mini stories. I didn't think I would be surprised by the plot of a book aimed at introducing numbers, but it is impossible to guess what is on the next page. I genuinely love this book although I'll have to keep some of the reasons why a secret or I would ruin the surprise.

Other details
Type of book: Paperback picture book
Age range: Aimed at preschool
Words per page: less than 10 in a large font
Price: £5.99
Author: Charles Fuge
Illustrations: Charles Fuge
Publisher: Parragon
ISBN 978-1-4723-1990-6

I am part of Parragon Book Buddies review club and I was sent this book to read with my daughter, but I was under no obligation to blog or write nice things. The nice things are because the book is great.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Book Review: Ring a-Ring O'Roses

Front Cover: Ring a-Ring O'Roses
Plot summary: Play the music, read the words and see the pictures of this classic nursery rhyme
Favourite Page: Atishoo! Atishoo! (you know what comes next)

Favourite Character: each button makes a different noise, I like the bears cheeky laugh
What my daughter thinks: She likes to press the buttons

What I think: Not one to take out of the house unless you want to be serenaded by music every time you accidentally move your bag and place pressure on a button. A book that plays music, makes noises, lights up AND has pictures of animals has go to be a winner.

Other details
Type of book: Board Book with music
Age range: Publisher recommendation 1+
Words per page: less than 5 in a large font
Price: £5.99
Author: Not Given
Illustrations: Not Given
Publisher: Parragon as part of their little learners range
ISBN 978-1-4454-9552-1

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Book Review: A Royal Fairytale

The Front Cover: A royal fairytale William & Kate
 Plot Summary: The classic boy meets girl, they fall in love and get married. The twist is this is based on the true story of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
Favourite Page: There was just one little thing they wished for now...

Favourite character: Kate has a pet sheep, but I love Will's pet corgi best
What my daughter thinks: That it has great pictures
What I think: I love that it is loosely based on a real story and I think the pictures are brilliant with lots of animals and subtle humour. I do love a good fairytale.
What my husband thinks: he hates this book and get's annoyed every time my daughter gets it off the book shelf
Other details
Type of book: Paperback
Age range: depends how long you want it to last. The pictures a fun for younger children (my daughter is nearly 2), but the pages are a little worn. I enjoy it and I'm probably above the target audience age.
Words per page: Less than 20 medium print
Price: £6.99
Author & Illustrations: Ink Robin & Adam Larkum
Publisher: Egmont
ISBN: 978-1-4052-6843-1

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Book Review: That's not my pirate...

The Front Cover: That's not my pirate...
Plot Summary: Like all "That's not my" books you meet several characters with a textured area before finding your character.
Favourite page: a lady pirate

Favourite character: on every page there is a little mouse hiding somewhere
What my daughter thinks:
From a few months old she loved to touch all the textured areas
Feeling the pirates eye patch
What I think: From an early age the textures and bright colours were great stimulation, then I started to get her to spot the mouse on each page, now she is starting to understand the 'story' and I can ask her "Is that your pirate?" on each page to get her to say "yes" and "no".

Other details
Type of book: Board Book
Age range: Publisher recommend "Babies and toddlers will love turning the pages"
Words per page: less than 10 in a large font
Price: £5.99
Author: Fiona Watt
Illustrations: Rachel Wells
Publisher: Usborne
ISBN: 978074608524-0

Monday, 26 August 2013

Book Review: Peek-a-boo Friends

The Front Cover: Peek-a-boo Friends
Plot Summary: Meet 5 animals with peek-a-boo holes to the next page

Favourite page

Favourite character
What my daughter thinks:
She loves the animals and that she can carry the book around

My daughter enjoying the book
What I think:
I like that I can use the holes in the page to encourage conversation about what's on the next page and the pictures are really cute.

Other details
Type of book: Board Book
Age range: Publisher recommendation 0+
Words per page: less than 10 in a large font
Price: £4.99
Author: Not Given
Illustrations: Not Given
Publisher: Parragon as part of their little learners range
ISBN 978-1-4723-0590-9

Take a walk with me

I've always enjoyed walking. It is an activity that everyone can enjoy at their own pace. The day I went into labour I walked for several miles (that might have had something to do with going in to labour).

If walking with M I try not to have a destination in mind. She rarely goes the direction I would like and she likes to stop and look at everything. Things that as an adult we wouldn't notice. I'll find her crouched down on the floor looking at an ant or staring up into a tree. A dog walking past will probably result in us changing direction. But the destination doesn't matter, it's the journey.

If I want to spend more of my time walking than watching I wear M on my back in a sling (usually my Ergobaby or my Rose & Rebellion). I am lucky enough to be surrounded by Epping Forest and plenty of other lush forests so there are no end of places to explore.

A toddler looks at daisies, stands under a tree and strokes a tree
My daughter enjoying a walk
On 14th September there is a walk in Hatfield Forest for MacMillan. Miles for Macmillan is a perfect event for the family they have 3 and 8 mile walks around the country. The 3 mile walk at Hatfield Forest is even suitable for pushchairs and dogs. This beautiful ancient royal hunting forest is in Bishop's Stortford and it has a café, shop and toilets on site. There is a charge for parking as it is managed by the National Trust so be prepared to pay or use public transport.

Pictures from last time I went to Hatfield Forest
You can find out where your nearest Miles for Macmillan event is and sign up here. The event is supported by Boots (which I think is a brilliant partner to have for a walking event, so many pun opportunities).

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Getting Muddy in Essex

Earlier this year I ran Cancer Research UK's Race for Life for the first time. It was emotional and hard work and totally worth it. After the race they handed me a flyer for their new event: Pretty Muddy, a 5k obstacle race. I thought you'd have to be pretty mad to do that.

A sweaty woman in pink after running Race for Life
My post race 'glow'
Less than a month later I was signing up and I was excited about it.

When I did Race for Life I did it on my own. This time I will be part of a team with some other crazy Essex ladies. I'm hoping that the together we can pull each other through the mud and help beat cancer.

The Important Details
We'll be racing in Basildon on 21st September cheer us on using  #MuddyEssexGirls
Check out the other team members blogs: An Essex Wife  Chezmummy
Sponsor us here
JustGiving - Sponsor me now!
Find out more about the event here

I'm expecting this plus mud and things to climb over
Cancer be scared Muddy Essex Girls are coming to get you

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Does maternity leave damage your career?

Once I was young and ambitious, now I'm still ambitious, but I would rarely be described as young. I've always known I wanted children and I've always wanted to be successful in my career. I was brought up believing I could have it all, but how much damage does having children do to your career?

When we decided to have a baby I was unhappy in my job and I was considering leaving, but it made sense to stay in a job with a convenient location and maternity leave and have a baby first.
When I was pregnant I had no idea how long I would want to take off for maternity leave. A whole year not working? How boring. I was also concerned about my need to know everything that was going on at work (both to do my job well and because I'm nosey). A year off would leave me well and truly out of the loop.
Before I announced my pregnancy I was offered a new position at work, one that challenged me again and that I loved, but the stress of trying to prove myself and work long hours was hard. I decided to extend my original 3 months planned maternity leave to 6. Instead of working up until a few days before the baby was due I took a month off (well it was summer time).
Being at home all day everyday with a baby that wouldn't sleep alone could have pushed me into depression, but from the moment I was able to walk again after labour I started going to baby groups.
The constant tiredness and desire to be with my daughter led to the decision to extend my maternity leave and take the full year. A major change programme was happening at work and messages about potential redundancy and the stress experienced by my colleagues persuaded me I was better off not being there.
A few months before going back to work I offered to volunteer for a local charity and at the first meeting I ended up being the Chair! Who said it was a year off? I definitely had no time to get bored.

Mother with child on her lap
Being a working mum means compromising
Once back at work I could no longer have nap time and with a one year old who didn't sleep through the night I was going to bed early to get enough sleep.

Motherhood meant I could no longer work long hours. Even by sharing the nursery drop offs with my husband I couldn't get in to work early because either I would end the night cosleeping (meaning getting up would wake my daughter) or staying late would mean missing my daughter's bedtime feed, bath and bed time.
I think the biggest challenge for me has been how much my position has changed. There have been many new staff and I have missed the opportunity to get involved in changes. This means I have been unable to shape the way things are and challenge decisions (at least at a point where the outcome could have changed).
Before I left I had been shaping my new role: building relationships and reputation. Ensuring I was in the right place and knew the right people to influence things. When I came back I had lost all that. The role I had built up had been downsized by the person covering my maternity leave who was looking for an easy life. I was no longer asked to be involved in activities I had previously been a part of.
While my job title is the same the effort I had put in to be in a position where I could really make a difference had been lost. Opportunities I missed were taken by others meaning that I now have less responsibility than before and my colleagues have more.
6 months after returning I was still fighting. My manager has changed twice since I was pregnant and like Chinese whispers the knowledge of what I was doing (and am capable of) eroded. I was having to convince people to let me be involved with actions I had previously led. I worked through lunch breaks and others got recognition for my work and ideas.
Apparently this is to be expected and it's the price I pay for having a child. At 6 months I was wondering whether I would ever be able to get back to where I was. I was wondering if it was worth the effort to get to some where I was no longer constantly frustrated and I could make a difference or do should I start again, somewhere else with a blank sheet?

I decided to stick around. I decided to try harder.
The sky is the limit if you want it to be
Yesterday was almost 2 years to the day since I went on maternity leave and less than a year after I returned to work. I was invited to a meeting and informed my post is being deleted and that I will be made redundant.

Do I think this was due to me taking a year out to spend with my daughter? I don't know. I will never know. What I do know is that I am far stronger women than I was 2 years ago. Having a child has shown me I can do more that I previously thought was possible. I am a better manager, a stronger leader, a more productive colleague. On the toughest days at work I am extra determined to succeed, and when I don't achieve what I want the sight of my daughter reminds me that there are more important things than my work.

I will be sad to leave the company I love after 7 years, but there will be new opportunities. Everything works out for the best if you make it happen. And I will.

Having a baby may have harmed my job, but I am confident that what I have learnt will do great things for my career.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Dear guy standing far too close to me on the tube,

My preferred tube carriage is a near empty one 
Dear guy standing far too close to me on the tube,
At times the tube can be very busy. At times us Londoners may have to sacrifice our ideal amount of personal space, but there is NO EXCUSE FOR SPOONING.
I don't know you, I can't even turn round to see what you look like. There is no reason your nether regions should be touching my buttocks. Simpley turning at an angle would allow both of us some comfort and would make me feel less nauseous.
I am having to move forward, knocking the bag of the lady next to me. She turns round and glares at me. I would explain that I am trying to avoid becoming an acquaintance of man parts, but that would break another cardinal rule of tube travel: talking to people. Evil eyes are endured, tutting tolerated, but conversation is controversial.
When entering a crowded tube you must ensure that your body is not parallel to anyone else's (unless you are in a relationship with them).
When holding on please ensure your hand is at least 2 inches away from someone else's. this avoids awkward accidental hand holding as the train lurches to a stop.
If you are a guy and over 6 foot please have some consideration for how close your armpit is to those among us not cursed with height (being shorter does mean I can stand closer to the door without having to stand with my head and neck bent). This is even more important at the end of the day when you are more fragrant.
Oh and a new one: please don't elbow me in the face hitting my head against the side of the train and not even turn to apologise. (Can you tell I'm live blogging).

I have a real appreciation of the tube. It normally is a very reliable way of getting to me and from work. It's faster than driving and I don't have to worry about going for a drink or 2 after work.

I must admit I enjoy looking at the fashion styles of those heading to the office: today it is females in floaty dresses in pastel colours and a lot of men in rolled up shirt sleeves. There's also the guy who whacked my head who is wearing a suit jacket and is clearly sweltering. I guess it's not just other people he doesn't pay attention to, but the weather as well.

So while i have some love for the tube I don't feel the same love for commuters (often men) who stay in their own bubble, not checking who needs a seat, play music too loud and make others feel uncomfortable.

If you travel on the tube when it is busy, please consider others. Sardines happen often, but bump and grind is avoidable.