One Incorrect Lesson I Learned as a Child

Last week, I wrote about how careful I'm trying to be what I tell Matilda about herself; I was surprised by how many people responded with memories of unhelpful things that they were told when they were little.

And so here's my own memory - a throwaway comment I've been carrying inside me all these years:

One Incorrect Lesson I Learned as a Child

When I was little, I was really good at art. I was good at drawing and painting and gluing things together to make other things. I was the best artist in my class.

Except for Suzanne*.

Suzanne was just that tiny bit better than me.

Whenever the class had to work together to create a new frieze (did everyone call them "friezes"? I mean a mural or a big piece of art), Suzanne would be put in charge of designing and coordinating it. Every single time.

I was jealous. I was disappointed. I clung to the rumour (which I neither started nor spread) that her dad did her art homework for her.

Then one summer she moved away.

After the holidays, my class had a new teacher. New to the school, I mean, not just to us. She was nice; I liked her.

Anyway, the new school year meant a new class project and that meant a new frieze. And it would be designed and coordinated by... I can't even remember who it was. Somebody other than me.

I suppose my disappointment must have shown on my face; at lunchtime, the teacher asked me to stay behind.

"You're so good at art," she said, "that you always get to design the frieze. It's important that somebody else gets a turn."

"I never get to design the frieze," I wailed. "It's always been Suzanne."

I don't remember crying at the time but I want to cry for little eight or nine year old me now; I clearly remember how much hurt welled up inside her.

And she learned a lesson from this.

She - I - didn't learn that my teacher thought I was, and always had been, the best artist in the class; I learned that life was painfully unfair sometimes and that it didn't matter how hard I tried, somebody else would always get the reward that I was wanting.

A part of me still carries that lesson inside me. I've felt irritated but not surprised when colleagues took the credit for my work; I've not bothered to apply for jobs I really wanted because somebody else was guaranteed to get them; I don't put much effort into promoting my blog because there are so many other blogs out there that I assume that mine will get lost in the crowd.

***

Do you have a story of your own to share?




*not her real name (on principle; I doubt very much that using her real name would affect her in any way, all these years on!)

The Rooftops Family Fortnight of Fun

Rooftops Family on the Castlegate

Steve has had the last two weeks off work and it's been awesome.*

We celebrated Matilda's actual birthday at the park, as a family of three. We also had a small party for her - the three of us, four grandparents, one auntie, one uncle, two cousins, four other toddlers and their assorted parents chucking toys and wrapping paper around three rooms in our flat. Gizmo even put in an appearance. Matilda had no idea what all the fuss was about but had a great time, crashed out for a very long nap afterwards and spent the next few days investigating all of her wonderful gifts.

Here are some of the other highlights:

The Beach

We took Matilda to the beach - actually onto the beach not just to the weird concrete play park next to it - and she loved it. She would have run off to join the mermaids if we hadn't kept a firm grip on her. She was less impressed by me drawing things in the sand.

The Brutalist Playground

On the subject of weird concrete play parks and art appreciation, we visited the Brutalist Playground at Peacock Visual Arts. At its simplest, it's a green-and-coral soft play inspired by brutalist architecture. I'm fascinated by "ugly" architecture and Matilda's fascinated by having fun so it was always going to be a hit with us. We had a great time going on the (very steep, very fast) slide and stomping around on the squishy floor. It's in town until 29th May, it's free and I recommend other families head along to play.

Science!

We took Matilda and Steve's parents (actually took them - Steve faced his fears and drove a car containing his child) to Aberdeen Science Centre (formerly Satrosphere). It's technically aimed at slightly older children so we weren't sure what Matilda would make of it but she spent the first hour gazing at a swarming school party and then a good long time racing between the few exhibits she could figure out for herself. It was a big hit; she protested when we eventually left.

Family Visits

My dad was over from the States on his annual flash tour of Scottish friends and family; he spent two nights with us just before Matilda's birthday. The rest of the family were up a few days later (staying in hotels). It was lovely to see everyone in such a short space of time.

The Usual Toddler Groups

It's always fun to take Steve along to Matilda's favourite groups - suddenly he understands what all the fuss about "that big spiky ball" is.

And The Park

There's always the park.


*Although he did find out a few days ago that's he's likely to face redundancy soon. As wonderful as it is being together all the time, we do need a family income so if anybody knows of any IT Desktop Support jobs in Aberdeen - or any particularly well paid creative comms jobs for me - let me know!

Hotter Shoes Review (and Discount Code!)

Hotter Shoes and Yellow Chrysanthemums

What do you think of when you hear the name Hotter Shoes? If you're picturing your grandmother and her pals in sensible navy slip ons, you're not alone; Hotter has a long history of manufacturing very comfortable shoes but now they're on a mission to prove that comfort doesn't have to come at the cost of style.

A few weeks ago, they invited twelve local bloggers along to their Aberdeen store to check out their spring/summer collection for ourselves. Oh, and drink some Prosecco.

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event

Left to right are: Steff, Laura, me (hello!), Karen, Anastasia, Katherine, Hannah, Sarah, Iga, Lauren and Amey.

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event: Anastasia of Natbee's Fashion

The ladies at Hotter weren't surprised to find that only one of the group had been in the store before.

That one person was me; I had been in because I have a history of leg and hip trouble and had had their shoes recommended to me by a podiatrist. And, honestly, I had felt a little nervous going in because I wasn't sure I was their target clientele.

This is an outdated image they're seeking to change.

Gone are the days when Hotter only manufactured slippers; now they use the same trend forecasting as high street stores like M&S and New Look to ensure that their shoes are both stylish and in season. You can walk into a Hotter store or visit their website and find just the right shoes to complement your summer wardrobe.

All this without scrimping on comfort.

Hotter's intention is to make shoes which are as comfortable as slippers. After trying on a few pairs each (and handling the big, practical men's work boots which weighed about the same as a marshmallow!), every blogger there was convinced that they succeed.

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event: Katherine

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event: Shoe Cross Section

I particularly liked that the Hotter team didn't give us the hard sell on any specific shoes. Their belief is that buying the right shoes is like buying the right jeans: not every pair will work well on every foot and even the prettiest pair isn't right for you if it doesn't feel completely comfortable.

If you visit a Hotter store, the staff can help you to find the perfect pair for your foot and your taste. If you're shopping online, you can even ring their advice line on 0800 083 8490 (8am-4am) to talk about which shoes are right for you.

Here are some things I hadn't known about Hotter before attending the event:

  • They were founded in 1959 and originally made slippers.
  • Their shoes come in sizes 3-9 with a variety of widths. They all have built in comfort features and wiggle room in the toes. 
  • Some of their shoes even have removable insoles so they're comfortable for people with different sized feet.
  • In February 2010 there were 5 Hotter stores - there are now over 80.
  • Hotter is the UK's biggest shoe manufacturer, making a pair of shoes every 20 seconds.


Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event: Knitted Bus

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event: Love These Shoes

Hotter had told us in advance that we would all be given a free pair of shoes to take away and review. My intention had been to be very sensible and get a pair of smart, low-heeled shoes or some trainers - you know: fill the gaps in my wardrobe.

Instead, I fell in love with a pair of yellow heels.

Steve and I had plans to go out on a one-year-as-parents celebratory date the next day, so it was easy enough to justify choosing a pair of very pretty shoes.

And believe me: these are the most comfortable heels I've ever owned. I wore them for several hours without having broken them in beforehand (and without having worn heels at all for almost two years) and didn't feel the slightest bit of pain. Unthinkable.

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event

If you'd like to try Hotter for yourself (and, having just clicked through to get the link, I notice that they have a sale on. I bought myself a pair of trainers. The grey and yellow ones in the picture below. They're reduced to £35), be sure to use discount code PPATEN to get £10 off your first order plus free delivery.

T&Cs: You are entitled to £10 off the total order value of any full priced items in the Hotter range (excluding shoe care products and accessories) plus FREE delivery. Minimum order value £25. This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other promotional offer or on Sale or Factory Clearance items and gift vouchers. Expires 30/6/16

Hotter Shoes Aberdeen Blogger Event: Trainers

Are you ready to have your #HotterMoment?

My shoes were provided in exchange for an honest review; all opinions are my own.

The Stories We Tell About Our Children

How much should you share about your family on the internet?

Recently, I took Matilda swimming for the first time.

Afterwards, I wanted to write about it. I wanted to write about how sure I had been that she would love it, how excited she was when she saw the pool, and how freaked out she was when we got in the water and she realised that there was nothing solid to stand on. She did not enjoy the session.

So I wanted to write about how her reactions to things can still take me by surprise.

I couldn't do that without writing about her feeling scared, though, and that wasn't a story I wanted to record.

It's not the full story. The full story won't be "Matilda is scared of swimming"; it will be "Matilda was scared the first time she went swimming but came round after a couple of sessions" or "Matilda was scared of swimming as a toddler but enjoyed it when she was older and understood what was happening" or "Matilda doesn't enjoy swimming but she gave it a go and we respect her opinion".

I think we are all shaped by the stories grown ups tell us about ourselves when we are little. If we are told we are brave or capable or clever, we may grow up feeling strong; if we are told we are stupid or difficult or ugly, we may - we will - grow up feeling of less worth than other children; if we are only told we're pretty, we may grow up thinking that's our most important feature; if we are only told we're a monster, we may believe that's the one reason people pay attention to us.

I don't want to tell Matilda that she is frightened of new experiences.

It was thirty minutes, at one year old; it's not who she needs to become.

As she gets older, I'm becoming a lot more conscious of what I write about her (and say within her hearing).

I wasn't worried, when she was a baby. As much as all babies are unique, their parents' experiences are fairly universal - saying that she didn't sleep through or that she had her first cold or that she was unimpressed when we took her dummy away doesn't seem to me like a breach of her privacy. Pretty much all babies wake a lot and get colds and are unimpressed by sudden changes. They don't seem like things school bullies could find in my archives and use as a means to torment her - the bullies didn't sleep through, either.

But, as she grows up and develops a much clearer personality, more and more of my stories feel very specific to her.

And they don't feel like mine to share.

If I wouldn't write about friends' tastes or hobbies or emotional outbursts without their express permission, I'm not comfortable writing about Matilda's, either.

I mean: at some point, her personal experiences are going to be her first period, her first bra, her first date and can you imagine your mother writing about those for anyone to read? What if the other kids at school found it? Mortifying.

So I'm trying to be careful - to write about my experiences as a mother, rather than her experiences as a child; to write only about those parts of her life which seem like universal toddler moments rather than specific Matilda events.

It's tricky to find the balance, though. Our lives are so intertwined at the moment that it's not always clear where the line is between her story and mine.

And it's so subjective. There are plenty of parenting bloggers who share a lot more than I do; there are plenty of bloggers with children who write nothing about them at all. I'm finding my own comfort level and keeping my fingers crossed that Matilda's level is the same.

Extra: Ordinary Moment

First birthday banner.

This week, Matilda turned one year old.

Hardly an "ordinary moment" but the day itself was low-key. Steve was off work; we opened presents together (she particularly liked her xylophone); we went to the park; and we had pancakes for lunch. She ate honey for the first time. It was perfect.


Living Arrows

On the First Year of Parenthood

On one year of motherhood

I've never been that interested in babies. I found it pleasant enough to cuddle them for a few minutes before handing them on to the next person, but they always struck me as kind of boring. Give me a chatty, inquisitive, adventurous two year old any day.

So I wasn't sure I was actually going to enjoy the early days of parenthood.

And, frankly, babies can be boring. They sleep and drink and blink at things with stunned expressions on their faces and cry and poop and that's about it; new parents spend a lot of time sitting on sofas, cradling a sleeping baby with one arm, wielding a book/remote control/phone with the other and regretting filling their bladder with tea. I often felt overwhelmed by the monotony and the fear of getting it all wrong, but I loved much more of this phase than I had expected to. I loved Matilda from the moment our eyes met and I loved the shape and size and feel of her cuddled against me (I sometimes physically miss it, still) and I loved the quiet hours curled around each other.

In my head, I suppose I thought the tiny baby stage lasted longer than it does. I could picture babies and I could picture little kids but the bit in between was a bit of a mystery. I was surprised by how fast she grew and developed and learned, by how soon she stopped seeming like a baby and started seeming like a wannabe toddler.

By a few months old, she was properly interactive and I've loved the vast majority of our time since then. Sure, the ongoing lack of sleep is hard and the weeks when she was screeching with effort because she couldn't quite move were frustrating and, ohhhhhhhh, the mess of weaning doesn't bear thinking about. But she is fun. And all the time she is becoming more fun as she masters more skills and understands more games and discovers that she likes to make people laugh.

Spending my life was a less-than-one year old has been so much more enjoyable than I ever would have imagined it could be.

It's taught me a lot about myself, too.

I do believe I'm a good parent. I do. I believe I'm good at reading Matilda's body language and recognising her noises and understanding what she's trying so hard to say; I believe I've been good at noticing when her needs changed and I believe I do a pretty good job of balancing stimulation with quiet times, new challenges with familiar patterns, group activities with time at home.

I've discovered that I'm more patient than I had given myself credit for but that certain parts of parenting require a lot more patience than I would ever have expected. There are phases when bedtime goes on and on and on because Matilda's learning so much that she struggles to switch off her brain - the first twenty minutes are fine; the next twenty minutes are endured by play acting patience; if it goes on past that there are quite often tears.

I've always liked to think of myself as laidback and this year has confirmed it for me. I've never been scared to leave her with people I would trust at any other time; it's pretty gross to see her chewing on the same toys other snotty babies were chewing on moments beforehand, but I'm not the mum with a packet of wipes in hand; I don't see the point in shouting at a ten month old to share. Parenting's much more fun when you relax.

It's also made me braver. When Steve first went back to work, I was terrified of taking Matilda out of the house - it took all my nerve to pack a changing bag (what if I forgot something?!), bundle her up (was she wearing the right amount of clothes?!), pop her in the pram (what if I can't steer it on and off the bus?!) and get to a familiar friend's house for a very, very loosely agreed time. Now, I can get us ready and out the door in a matter of minutes; I can get us to unfamiliar parts of town on time; I can take her to baby groups where I won't know a single person; I can chat to other parents and even make the occasional proper friend.

This year has taught me how to make small talk. A disappointing amount of it has been telling people that she's a girl even though she's wearing green/yellow/orange/red/purple/blue/black/white/grey/anything-other-than-pink but it's quite nice that we can't leave the house without random strangers grinning at us and wanting to chat about her shoes.

I've said it before, but the first year of parenthood has made Steve's and my relationship stronger, too. Yes, we have both been ratty with each other from time to time, but there is no doubt that we are in this together; we support one another and we talk about better ways to balance our lives and we laugh and laugh and laugh about Matilda's crazy antics. We are a unit.
A Cornish Mum

Matilda at Twelve Months (A Year, People! A Year!)

Matilda on the swings

Today, Matilda is one year old.

It's traditional to say that you can't believe it's been a year already. I kind of can't. It doesn't feel all that long ago that I gave birth to her.

But, much more strongly, I can't believe that she's only been around for twelve months. She is such a huge part of my life - our lives - now that it seems crazy that there was ever a time before her. Hasn't she always been here? How could I have ever believed I was complete without her?

I can't believe that, twelve months ago today, we met our daughter for the first time and we had no idea who she was going to be. We were just discovering that she was a girl at all; we had no idea that she would be a clever girl or a funny girl or an independent girl; we didn't know she would be the kid who rolled at eight weeks or walked at nine months; we didn't know that she would say "hiya" and "this" and "here you go" and "shoes" before a year ("shoes" not because she's interested in sparkly pink stiletto heels - yet - but because she wants to go outside and have fun); we didn't know that she would love bananas but hate eggs; we didn't know that she would like musical instruments and building blocks and books; we didn't even know what her smile would look like.

But here she is, twelve months on, with so much personality.

Happy first birthday, Matilda. Let's raise a sippy cup to a year of great big toddler adventures.

Why We're Loving The Leap of Programs

Why the Leap of Programs is Great Fun (Wonder Week 55)

Do you know about baby Wonder Weeks? They are the points at which the majority of babies take massive developmental leaps forward. While they master their new skills or adjust to their new knowledge, they tend to be grouchier and clingier than usual and have even more trouble sleeping. There's an expensive book and a cheap app which explain them in much more detail.

Anyway, Matilda is currently going through a Wonder Week (it's a misleading name - most of them last for several weeks).

Specifically, she is going through the Leap of Programs. This is when babies learn about sequences of actions - that, say, getting their coat and shoes and putting them on and going down the stairs and getting in their buggy is "going out".

Most of the parents I've spoken to found this leap particularly hard.

We found the last one tricky. This one, we're absolutely loving.

That's right, Other Parents: we are loving a Wonder Week.

This is the leap which lets Matilda take charge of more of her life and she is so incredibly happy about it. She is able to feed herself without assistance. She is able to put herself to bed (although she still wants one of us - ideally me - to sit beside her until she falls asleep, and good grief that is taking several million decades a night at the moment). She is able to make it known that she wants to play a specific game or leave the house or watch TV or have some food. She is able to tell us that nappy-free time needs to end immediately. She will bring us a cardigan if she's cold.

She has realised that she likes to make people laugh and she is enjoying exploring her world.

Unlike previous Wonder Weeks, she is pretty consistently cheerful at the moment. The tears come when one of us tries to help her with something she's determined to do on her own ("You've been trying to put that sock on for forty minutes, Matilda, and we need to leave the house..."). There's the occasional thirty second tantrum because we won't let her do something fun like swallow gravel or ferret around in the litter tray. But, overall, she's very happy.

She has always seemed like an independent girl and that's something we've consciously encouraged. We've given her a lot of freedom over her play, putting all of her toys and books within her reach so she can switch between them at will. It strikes me as unfair that toddlers can't reach to put the light on in their own bedroom so, during the shorter days, we (somewhat grudgingly, our budget being what it is) put the light on in her room as soon as it got dark so she could go through there whenever she wanted. Moving her out of her cot at an early age means that she is never trapped in bed. Her clothes are on a low rail so she can choose what to wear (on those rare occasions that she's interested).

This leap takes all of those things from being a nice theory to being choices she can actively make. She is loving it.

From our point of view, she's hilarious at the moment (though we try not to let her know we're laughing at her!) and it's taking a lot less effort to look after her. She doesn't want to be shown things; she wants to discover them for herself. Where she used to want near constant attention, at the moment she will happily potter around on her own. When she wants to interact, she will play actual games with us; when she finds something funny, she looks at us to check that we got the joke, too.

She is so much fun to be around right now.

When I was pregnant, I remember feeling awed that I would (apparently) love this baby even more than I loved the cats. And I did. It was staggering, the amount of love I felt for this child, from the moment that our eyes first met; I didn't think it could possibly increase.

But it has.

This leap is bowling me over. She is becoming her own little person. She is a brave, funny, curious, determined, capable, creative girl and the more of that personality which appears, the stronger my emotions seem to become.



Extra: Ordinary Moments

Extra: Ordinary Moments

This week has been a tough one.

Perhaps inevitably, after me blogging about other people's kids being sick, Matilda came down with a bug at the start of the week. She was running a temperature and slept for more or less 60 hours straight, waking up now and then just long enough to eat something squishy and take more Calpol. Since then, she's been napping a lot more than usual and wobbling around, toppling into things; to top it all off, she's now covered in a rather spectacular rash. We have a polka dot baby.

That would have been tiring enough but then I caught the bug, too. I had a bit of help from a neighbour one morning but, otherwise, there were a couple of days of struggling to stay awake and of handing her over to Steve the moment he got home from work. We were soon regretting having let the Mummy-must-do-my-bedtime thing run on for so long; this was not the week to spring changes on her.

So, nope, not the best seven days but we're both on the mend now.

And, in other good news: we've got Steve at home with us for the next two weeks and all sorts of family visits and fun things planned. Now to stuff us all full of vitamin C...

First Birthday Gift Inspiration

Matilda's first birthday is less than a week away (I know!!!!!) so spoiling her (or, more accurately: her grandparents spoiling her) has been very much on my mind.

As luck would have it - and entirely coincidentally - several baby brands were also in the mood to spoil her. Over the past week, we have received parcel after parcel of wonderful gifts for Matilda and we have been (genuinely!) thrilled by each and every one of them.

If you're looking for baby and toddler gift inspiration, here are some brands to check out:

Cheeky Chompers

Cheeky Chompers Chewy hippo and neckerchomp
Set up by two Scottish mums, Cheeky Chompers is an award winning company making stylish, effective teething products.

Matilda has a bunch more teeth on the way (look at those rosy cheeks!) so her new "neckerchew" bandana bib and squeaky hippo teether arrived at the perfect time.

The neckerchew is beautifully soft and Matilda has been having a good chomp on the teething end. There are loads of designs to choose from from simple stripes to dinosaurs to special designs from Joules. A really clever idea.

As for Chewy the hippo, I love him! Oh... yeah... and Matilda does, too... In a world of giraffes, Chewy is a teether guaranteed to be noticed. Not only is he soft, squeaky and easy for babies to hold, he also comes with a velcro strap so he can be securely attached to buggies and the like. He is utterly adorable. My go-to new baby gift from now on, I think!

Frugi

Frugi summer outfit: tunic and shorts
Frugi summer outfit print
How sweet is this?!

Frugi is a brand I had heard a lot about but had never actually tried myself/Matildaself. They do gorgeous organic clothing, support a range of charities and are currently sending free wildflower seeds with all UK orders.

When Matilda was little, she grew so fast that I bought the cheapest of the cheap clothes; now that she's staying in one size for a decent amount of time, I'll be treating her to some more outfits from Frugi. The clothes are cute styles, the prints are adorable and - going by the gorgeous outfit we received - the quality is brilliant. I can hardly wait for her to wear this when the weather gets a little better!

Kokoso Baby

Kokoso coconut oil

Founded by a mother searching for effective, natural products for her baby's dry skin, Kokoso Baby is a pure, organic coconut oil made only from coconuts grown on one, family-run farm in Thailand.

Coconut oil is a bit of a miracle all-rounder: it moisturises, cleanses, heals and soothes skin. All without any added chemicals.

I had used coconut oil on Matilda before (we found it good for her cradle cap) so was pleased to receive another tub. The Kokoso Baby oil is particularly nice to smell and to hold, and it's reassuring to be able to find out so much about its origins.

Piupia

Piupia sweater with dotty fish
Piupia sweater elbow patches

This sweater from Piupia arrived at the perfect moment: Matilda was wiped out because of a nasty virus (doesn't she look shattered, poor toot?!) and I was scouring her wardrobe for something snuggly and comforting to dress her in. She has several sweaters already but most of them are rough on the inside; this one is incredibly soft.

Isn't it adorable, too? I love the elbow patches!

The sweater is actually a size smaller than Matilda currently wears but fits her perfectly; I imagine her standard size would be nicely slouchy and last her for ages!

Piupia was created by Portugese artist, Claudia Carvalho, after the birth of her own child; she's passionate about the quality of the clothes and each piece has her distinctive artistic style.

The autumn/winter collection is currently on sale so now's a great time to stock up.

Belle and Boo

Belle and Boo book and framed print

Belle and Boo are Just.So.Cute.

I already knew the brand (I've got a roll of Belle and Boo parcel tape I've been eking out for about six years now!) but hadn't realised just how wide a range of products they do, from pretty dresses to paper plates, bubble bath to bibs.

Belle and Boo illustrations are sweet and sentimental but not too much so - they depict the sort of idyllic, outdoorsy childhood which you know involves both daisy crowns and scabby knees; exactly the sort of childhood I'd love for Matilda to have.

This framed print will look lovely in Matilda's room and the book (thank you so much for the specific birthday gift, Belle and Boo!) is being saved for Thursday - it's beautiful.

***

Thanks so much to all the brands who sent gifts for Matilda - we absolutely love everything we received. Thanks also to The Bloggers Hangout for arranging it all.



All products mentioned were provided for the purposes of review. All opinions are honest and my own, gushing though they are.