So you may have noticed it has been a bit quiet on the blog in recent weeks. I would love to say that is because I have been spending all my time studying but sadly not. Instead the call of the Christmas lights, wrapping paper, food shopping and all those tasks us mums do to ensure Christmas is magical have been the cause of my distraction. I am sure I am not the only one who has let things slide and not just in the virtual world. Here at Cooper Towers my washing pile is bigger than ever. The only pile in the house that is bigger is that of the clean washing (some folded, some not). We are now in the realms of wearing said clothes straight from the baskets. Or (as we have affectionately begun to call them) Basket on the Landing, Basket in the Spare Room and Basket over There. It comes to something when your solution to this problem is to buy more baskets….
Anyway, I digress. As I am picking the tinsel out of the rug and screw up the never ending bits of wrapping paper I realise that December has left me completely wrung out. And surely I can not be the only one who has felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of mum-min involved in the run-up to this Christmas. This year I have two small people at school. And not just at school, but at two different schools. Two different schools who do things very differently. At different places, times and in different ways. It was a blessing that none of the Christmas events clashed. However, that meant getting to two Christmas fairs, two Nativity performances and one carol service (the junior school didn’t hold one) plus ensuring the boys could partake of a Christmas jumper day, a Tag day, a Christmas party and a cinema night…each.
Looking at that now, perhaps busy is an understatement. I am also certain I am not the only mum who was sewing tinsel onto an old top until my fingers bled late into the night the evening before The Nativity dress rehearsal. I thought sewing tinsel along the outline of a black top and black joggers would have a nice star-ry effect and smugly considered it wouldn’t take too long or cost too much. So I over-bought on cheap tinsel and set to work, forgetting that with every stitch that sparkly, slippery, shiny-ness would get caught up in the fine thread. It would also be impossible to cut the tinsel free without producing a mountain of teeny tiny silver sparkle shards which look oh so appetizing to a floor-roaming and inquisitive one year old.
With my stitches getting larger and my eyelids getting heavier I reassured myself that it would all be to good effect on the day. Sadly, a wardrobe malfunction during the dress rehearsal led to my son’s teacher ‘fixing’ his costume with sticky tape. Had I known about the tinsel coming free from his inside right leg I would have had the costume home and pulled out the needle and thread. But children have a canny knack of only telling you something this useful once you have been home from school for 20 minutes and can do absolutely nothing about it. Said tape did not do its job leaving small child grumpy and unhappy and waving limp, loose tinsel about while on stage. But at least he looked happy for the photos beforehand.
Enter stage right every mother’s festive nightmare. The moment your four year old son comes home with the words ‘mummy, I’m the camel’. The Camel. Yup, let that sink in for a moment. Imagine my glee when upon asking the class teaching assistant about the costume for The Nativity I was told it was all in hand. Hoorah I thought, that saves me a job. But then I thought I should check with the class teacher the following day. In fact, just two days before the performance. Her response was quite the opposite. A sort of non-comital ‘well, we can find him something if you are struggling.’ Struggling… struggling?? Those words were like petrol to a flame. No, I’m not struggling. I just could have done with a bit more warning. Oh did I get the note in his bag? No, no I didn’t. Do I ever? His school bag is a black hole of gargantuan proportions when it comes to any message of any import placed on headed paper. No, I didn’t get the note.
So, I did what any mum would do in this situation. No, I did not place an Amazon Prime order (why? Why didn’t I do that?) Instead I trawled the local charity shops for anything I could find that looked camel-like. Three hours later and I had managed to spend £2 on a pack of four brown flannels (panic buy!), 80p on a square of brown felt, £2.50 on a reindeer Christmas hat and £2 on some really rather pretty trim. It was very pretty (bit pricey) but just right for a camel. I then came home, raided the dressing up box for last year’s reindeer outfit and somehow crafted a camel head from the bits I had bought with the obvious necessary addition of an empty plastic plum punnet pulled from the recycling bin. Struggling…. pah!.
Happy Christmas to all and to all a goodnight…
My tales of Christmas fun could go on. I could tell you how you should never take a baby to a candle-lit carol service, how much fun it is when you forget what you have wrapped and you spend half the night unwrapping and re-wrapping things just to remind and reassure yourself or how you should always check your shoes before you sneak into someone else’s home to put up their Christmas tree as a surprise for them when they return from a long trip away. But I will leave those for another time.
So you ask how the studying is going? Well, I have every intention of getting back to it. But for now I’m going to collapse in a heap and recover for a few days. Happy New Year to you all.
2018 is on the horizon and while I still haven’t completed my Learn Direct web design course I am about to embark on the next phase of study with Digital Mums. Read more about Why I can’t wait to get f******* working
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I don’t want this post to all self-pity and woe is me. The fact of the matter is that 11 years ago today my mum died.
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
I want to honour her here in my little space on the internet, without writing a post woven with the sadness and grief that I feel every year, not just on this date, but at this time of year. Ironically, Autumn was mum’s favourite season and she would often be heard drawing our attention to the beauty of the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. But in 2006 as the leaves changed from green, to golden, red and brown and the bare branches made their annual appearance, my mum and her beautiful heart left us forever.
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
We were planning our wedding. We ended up planning a funeral first. Anyway, before I dive headlong into the reminiscences of moments that shatter my heart like they happened five minutes ago, I want to stop myself. I want to remember the good things, the funny things, the little things. Because they are the things I miss the most…
– Sitting on the worktop by the boiler as you made the Sunday roast/Steven’s dinner/a pot of tea.
– The way you said ‘OOOoooooo oooooo’ from afar to get someone’s attention.
– Your silent screams into the cupboard above the chopping board. As I parent I now totally get it.
– Waving a tea towel out the front door in the heat of summer and proclaiming it “too ‘ot” while cooking the obligatory Sunday roast.
– Being fed mashed up Mars bar when I had chicken pox.
– Needing to wake you in the night, but fearful of the Mum Rage (I have inherited this) so standing by the bed and mouthing ‘MUM’ with no sound as ‘loudly’ as I could.
– Birthdays. All of them. Every one. The last one you would share with me just weeks before you fell ill, I arrived at home to find pink crepe paper bows and balloons all over the front door and living room. We had a teddy bears picnic. I was 26.
– You coming in to school to run knitting club when I was at primary school. Everyone made mice out of squares, or cavemen out of squares or dinosaurs… out of squares.
– Watching you create – cake decorating, drawing, knitting, sewing… thank you x
– Always saying ‘love you’ before bed. Even if we weren’t talking.
– The one time I lied to you. You knew I was lying. You let me lie. I knew I was lying. A bit of me died.
– When I was 20 and the life I thought I had planned out took an unexpected turn. I couldn’t let you in because I couldn’t find the words. I went outside and washed my prized silver Mini Cooper in the street. I didn’t know what else to do with myself and the tears streamed down my face in anger, hurt and frustration as I scrubbed at the car. You opened the front door and played “Crash and Burn” by Savage Garden full blast.
– Seeing your face in the crowd at every school event willing me on. I can not remember a time you weren’t there.
– Doing the ‘Dove from Above’ (think Shooting Stars) at inappropriate moments.
– Baking – rock cakes, scones, sponge, Christmas cake. We had our faves.
– Your inability to leave any teddy that ‘looked at you that way’ on the shelf. Totally inherited.
– Your guidance and support as I struggled with anxiety even though you didn’t fully understand it… neither did I.
– Your love of Christmas; from crap crackers to the annual search for the dud lightbulb (those were the days!), from foil ceiling decorations to Christmas Eve ‘shows’, you loved it all and we loved your love of it all.
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
And while I could go on for a lot longer that is where I will leave it for now. Christmas. It isn’t so far off. Mum’s birthday was December 10 so we have always put the tree up the weekend that follows the 10th. We will do that again this year and as we do we tell the children why that weekend is special. While I can not ever bring their nanny fully into their lives, I like to think they get a sense of her essence through the things I do and say.
Since I have been back at the books I have tried to create pockets of time for study. While Mini Cooper 3 was in the teeny newborn stage, there seemed to be several opportunities for this. Studying while feeding, studying while she naps, studying as she sits in the bouncy chair. Now she is 9 months old and that’s a game changer…
While she hasn’t quite cracked crawling, she is shuffling her way around in that lightning quick way that they do. I put her in one place and a second later she is somehow across the room. This has changed my study spots somewhat for no sooner have I popped her down with her toys and grabbed the laptop, she is pulling at the fireguard or pulling herself up to stand by the sofa, needing me to come and ‘Reset’ her.
Time for change
So study times have changed. As I knew they would. It means a change in expectations from me as I struggle to complete the next course unit. It seems that along with less time to study, motivation is also on a dip (read more here: This is the Wall). Not a great combination when I was trying to stick to such a tight schedule and complete this course by January.
I am now trying to create some extra time (wouldn’t we all like to do that!). By that I mean I am using Mummy Multi-Tasking to give me those precious extra moments. Suddenly by creating them, it seems only right I use them as they were intended, so they have a double use as they are helping to focus me on the task in hand.
Bye bye bland
Enter, my secret weapon, my slow-cooker. I have had the slow-cooker for about five years. Every Autumn I blow the dust off it and pop it on the side. I might make two or three lack-lustre dinners in it and then back in the cupboard it goes. Not this year. This year it needs to earn its place on the kitchen side.
Over the last few weeks I have tried to inject some flavour into the meals and last week I cracked it. Now this is going on the menu once a week giving me an extra hour of study time between the school run landing and dinner time. Now that is gold. The recipe is below.
Slowly does it
While I am at it I have put together this quick cheat sheet. Every time I bung ingredients in the slow cooker I find myself scouring the internet (and ultimately texting my slow cooker guru sister) to ask how long to cook it for. This time when I found the info I decided I would not lose it again . So here that is too (and it’s Pin-able! Follow me on Pinterest and I’m on Instagram too)
Is the slow cooker your friend? If you want to share any slow-cooker secrets or recipes then please do so in the comments.
Slow Cooker Beef and Onion Stew
500g diced beef
3 small onions (red or white or a mix)
1 medium carrot
1 medium parsnip
1tbsp of tomato puree
A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley and fresh coriander
Brown the meat (optional)
Chop all vegetables (potatoes may need cutting in half to ensure they cook through – use as many as will fit!)
Add tomato puree
Add vegetable stock and bouquet garnis
Stir to mix
Pop on low for 8 hours
Serve with fresh herbs to taste
Enjoy with fresh crusty bread
*Made using a 3.5L slow cooker like this one…
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Today I woke up and smelt the coffee… and then remembered I don’t like coffee.
Anyway, I left my house at 8am this morning to drive my two children to school. Mini Cooper 2 attends a school that is a 7 minute walk from our house, yet he was late. Why? Because, Mini Cooper 1 attends a school that is a 20 minute drive away (in school run traffic traffic). I have a 10 minute window between dropping one child off and getting the other through the school gate.
This morning was the first time I have tried it with all three Mini Coopers. DH starts his 12-week training next week and there will no longer be the luxury of 1:1 school runs. Instead I will take on the challenge of getting two children to two different schools while juggling a baby.
And this morning I ended up a snivelling heap on the wrong side of a locked gate and here’s why. It appears that no matter how positive you are about something, once you are doing it there will be a number of things you had not considered that WILL happen.
Firstly Mini Cooper 1 lost his tuck money, brief delay over that. Then he went into the tuck queue but not through the door as I had asked, I waved like a nutter in the playground, he couldn’t see me and stood glassy-eyed, seemingly staring through where I was stood. Mini Cooper 2 then had his arm pulled from his socket as I raced against the flow of parents back to the car. ‘I’m tired mummy, you’re walking too quickly, mummy wait’, I managed a smile and one quirky ‘I got this’ comment over the shoulder to people I usually stop to say hi to, and dashed to the car.
Baby in the car seat. Mini Cooper 2 in his seat. Dropped car key down the side of the seat. Brief panic. Clambered in the back seat. Pulled the car door shut. Deep breaths ‘mummy come on you said we were in a hurry’. Retrieve car key from side of chair. Realise child lock is on both back doors. Clamber through to the front seat. On the road again. Wait for bin lorry to pass and maniac school run driver to mount the kerb and speed past. Navigate past a bus that stops for no reason, spot the bin lorry up ahead and cut through a different route to avoid it. Feeling good, I’m on this.
Drama at the school gate
8.49am and I am in the road Mini Cooper’s school is in. Swerve into car park, reverse, forwards, reverse, forwards, reverse, oh sod it (my car is massive, I can not park it). Jump out, no time for baby in sling. Mini Cooper 2 falls over PE bag string into car park with me screaming at him to mind the cars. Mini Cooper 3 has done a poo. I can feel it seeping through my new grey cardigan. A nod to a fellow soon-to-be-late parent and a dash across the car park. The outer gate is open, we have made it.
The inner gate is shut.
We have not made it.
Mini Cooper 2 is late.
I don’t really do failure. I have failed to get my child to school on time, despite being able to see my house from the top of the road. I drop to the floor. The moment I do it I realise I am being dramatic. This isn’t Eastenders. He is just 30 seconds late for school.
I gather myself enough to go and fill in The Late Form and send Mini Cooper 2 off into his day. Then peel the baby from my sleeve and make my way back to the car. At home I stamp about. Swear a bit. Tidy in anger (this may be an upside of the situation) and then sit and cry into my cup of tea. Studying is far from my thoughts. If I couldn’t concentrate before I certainly can’t now.
After all I have been lecturing myself over this situation for weeks: “It’s OK if he is late. It is just reception. You can’t change the situation. You are doing this for long-term gain. One day someone at the council might see sense. Just keep smiling and telling everyone it will be ok and… it will be ok”
So while waiting for the Rant and Rave to leave me I have written this post. It hasn’t got me anywhere in terms of my study; there are still Hama beads all over the kitchen floor and I need another cup of tea, the baby is asleep on my lap and I could have been doing those 10 other things but I do feel a bit better and I am now able to see some humour in the whole debacle. My mum’s words echo in my head:
‘You can only do your best’.
But today my best wasn’t good enough, and I didn’t like it.
While I was sat on a tree stump squinting at the LearnDirect study pages on my phone, I had an image in my mind. A vision of a warm cup of tea, a clear kitchen table, my laptop, a napping baby and an hour of study time.
As it was I had to make do with a tree stump, a sleepy baby on my back and a website which isn’t really suitable for mobile consumption and allows you to read approximately 2.7 words per scroll.
Camp studying comes with its own challenges. Not least, ensuring my phone had enough charge and enough data to enable me to log in to my remote learning course. Thanks to my ickle pink power brick and an obsession with Airplane Mode, I managed to have enough of both to enable me to continue to study.
But studying in the sun’s rays, surrounded by the woods did have its perks. I found it very grounding to be studying surrounded by nature. By a world that just grows by itself. Greenery that just has the knowledge to flourish and survive.
With nature ringing in my ears I continued my reading and note-taking between games of Scrabble, toasted marshmellows and glo-stick revelry.
Camping is about enjoying freedom. The open fields, the space, the night sky, all o their best to remind us we are part of something much bigger, It’s these two ideas that have stuck with me over the last few days. As I get my head around being accepted as a #DigitalMum and get excited by the freedom that opportunity should offer and the idea that I could be a small part of the big digital age picture.
Usually a camping trip is about getting away from technology. Leaving the chargers at home and letting the digital world rage without me. This year I have needed to bend the rules – just a little.
Camp studying reminds me that grabbing the odd 15 minutes here and there makes learning possible. That anything I learn in 15 minutes is enough. It isn’t about sitting at the kitchen table for hours on end. It’s about making a positive effort to do a little every day and setting a realistic goal.
So I logged in with the intention of spending 15 minutes studying each day. Some days mini Cooper 3’s nap allowed me a bit more time. But it didn’t matter if she didn’t because I was only ever aiming for a quick win in a short amount of time.
If I managed to learn something new in just 15 minutes, then I achieved my goal.
Like nature I am slowly but surely growing. I may not notice it on a daily basis. I may not see a massive change in a week. But eventually the sum of all these 15 minute study sessions will be a big change in mine and my family’s life.
The Kitchen Table… somewhere under there (honest!)
And so we return home with three muddy children stinking of camp fire. To a house of empty cupboards, forgotten toys and a telly. I fire up the lap top, log in and venture towards the kitchen table.
Alas, my dream is not to be once more; mini Cooper 1 is making HMS Victory, the washing we didn’t take camping with us is folded and piled up along with The Piles of Doom which continue to grow and never seem to diminish (and never will all the while I spend my time writing blog posts and studying rather than sorting them).
What’s a mum student to do? I gaze out the window at the nature, pop the baby on the toy mat, return to Sofa HQ and log in.
It is finally reality. From January 2018 I am going to be a Digital Mum.
I first heard about Digital Mums thanks to some cleverly targeted Facebook advertising. Having Googled the words flexible, remote, work and job every which way you can think of, I was beginning to think my ideas of building some sort of business, working from home would have to remain just ideas.
Since March I have become a Digital Mum stalker; taking part in their webinars, subscribing to their email lists and following past students on Twitter. It’s actually got a bit embarrassing. Now the time has come. I have been accepted onto the Associate Programme and will begin my social media management training on January 8.
“Learning, technology and journalism. The Digital Mums Associate Programme is the next step for me.”
That gives me around four months to complete the Level 3 in web development and design. Believe me, I know that won’t be a walk in the park. Ever impatient, I am hoping the thought of the next course will spur me on, rather than cause me to lose motivation with what I am working on at the moment. I believe mindful learning will have to be the key to keeping me focussed. I already have so much going on in my world that I keep having to remind myself that ‘this is what I am doing right now’.
Becoming a Digital Mum isn’t just about getting the training I want to build my own business. Digital Mums is also very active in driving forward the idea of flexible and remote working. It’s a cause I believe in. I have enjoyed my studies. I am not a silly person. Just because I am a mum, why shouldn’t I be able to earn enough to play a part in supporting my family, while raising my family?
“I already have so much going on in my world that I keep having to remind myself that ‘this is what I am doing right now’.”
The course is going to challenging. I am prepared for that. But, I am so excited about the opportunities it should bring about for me and my family. As a journalist I am eligible to join the Associate Programme, which hooks me up with a real live business to work with as I learn *gulp*. But no matter how scary that sounds I still believe it is the best way for me to transfer my journalism skills to the digital field while working towards the lifestyle I want for my family.
Ultimately I hope I can contribute to the family finances doing something I enjoy, while still being able to attend sports days and special assemblies.
“Just because I am a mum, why shouldn’t I be able to earn enough to play a part in supporting my family, while raising my family?”
Learning, technology and journalism. The Digital Mums Associate Programme is the next step for me.
What does a busy mum do when she has no time to do any more?
She starts a blog!
There have never been enough hours in a day but now there are three mini Coopers there’s always a mouth to feed, a dispute to referee or a tear to wipe. My mum used to say that even if there were more hours in a day, I would fill them with something. She could talk. She couldn’t sit still and do what she called “nothing”. Her definition of “nothing” being, sitting in front of the television with EastEnders on and nothing in her hands.
You know just sitting.
Just sitting for the purpose of… just sitting.
And so it was back in 2006 that I found myself just sitting in front of EastEnders (and Coronation Street and Hollyoaks and… contemplating watching Emmerdale) that I decided I wanted to write an essay. DH had recently started working mad shifts in London and I was working equally mad shifts nearby and that meant I wasn’t “just sitting” next to anyone. I was just wasting time. Imagine – having time to waste! A distant memory now.
Anyway, rather than just setting myself a task or thinking about how I could do some serious writing. I decided I would do a degree. As you do. I wanted to use a fountain pen and buy new stationery and have folders and use plastic pockets. My MIL had just completed her second degree with the Open University and so it was that I found myself on their website scrolling through subjects and courses.
So my evenings would be filled with reading and assessing, forming opinions and essay writing and I was excited. I was going to get a degree in art history. A subject I had always wanted to know more about and I wanted it now (my impatience is likely to be the subject of many a blog post).
Therein lies the beginnings of what I now believe is an obsession. As I sit here contemplating the next unit of the LearnDirect course I am currently enrolled on, and the Open Study course I have lined up for October, I can only imagine what “just sitting” feels like.
It’s 7.05am on a Monday in the school holidays. I have to be at my volunteering role, with the GIRL baby in two hours time. In that time the three mini Coopers need breakfast, teeth cleaning, a nappy needs changing, pyjamas need to be swapped for clothes. They will also need adult intervention in the next argument over who owns the Ninjago Lego, who owns The Silver Car and whether or not SpiderDog can wear a mask (because after all he is a dog).
What am I doing?
I’m Suze and this is my blog charting the highs and lows of studying with children. There are three mini Coopers in our house and two students; me and my husband. This blog will follow our journey as we work towards changing careers and changing our lifestyle.
I am currently studying Level 3 (QCF) Web design and Development with LearnDirect. I am also studying a Google Analytics course online and will be working on the #DigitalMums Associate Programme in 2018 to learn how to become a social media manager.
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