Posted by Josie on Oct 22, 2009 in Writing | 49 comments
Well this is all very exciting – my first post on my spangly new laptop! (yes, I know spangly isn’t a word but it should be and I’m a writer now so can make up new ones whenever I like…)
I NEVER get new toys so this is a bit of a treat. Me and the husband have been having a bit of an issue over laptop usage – since most of my evenings are now spent doing one bit of writing or another, the poor love doesn’t get a look in, looking at movie geek sites or whatever the hell it is he does (most likely playing Football Manager – ahem. Did I mention he was 31 in a couple of weeks?) . Despite the fact that he’s been his usual exceedingly patient and understanding self and not uttered one word of a moan about me forever tap tapping away, it does seem a bit unfair. So when I got some grant money through from the OU we decided to get me a ‘work’ laptop. Partly as a kind of investment in this writing adventure I think. I kind of ’I can do it (because I have a spangly new laptop)’ self-belief present.
In fact, in honour of my new self-belief ‘I can do it’ laptop I am going to make a promise…
I am going to write my first book on this baby. Oh yes I am.
I have no idea what about yet, but that’s a minor point…
Anyway. That’s not what this post is about. Well, it’s kind of what the post is about but only in a very long winded god-are-you-ever-going-to-get-to-the-point kind of way.
I shall get to the point.
The other day sweetie pie Karin at Cafe Bebe wrote about having a blogging confidence crisis – wondering why she was blogging, what did it all mean, whether it was it worth it, worrying that she wasn’t popular, and so on. Now, I think we’ve all been there. In fact, those that know me will know it’s a regular occurrence for me (having had to be dissuaded from deleting half my blog posts just the other day). Blogger’s Wobble is soon going to have to recognised as a certifiable mental affliction amongst the blogging community.
Obviously we all (recognising the symptoms) jumped to Karin’s reassurance that she was doing just fine, to forget the stats and get back to blogging basics – doing it cause you love and it and have something to say.
But some of the (very helpful) comments got me thinking. They echoed what I have heard said time after time about blogging – the importance of voice. Of having a unique personality and selling point for your blog, that ultimately THAT is what makes a blog successful and stand out from it’s ‘competitors’ (and I use that word loosely as that’s SO not what blogging should be about).
Now generally I do OK at keeping the Blogger’s Wobble at bay. I don’t spend TOO much time thinking about stats and ratings, only occasionally stressing over silly things like why I haven’t got many subscribers when I get lots of hits (*sob*). Mostly I’m just so in love with the whole thing that I don’t really stop to think about it.
But this thing about voice, that really struck a cord. You see, the ‘popularity’ thing I can let go, but I do really, really want to stand out from the crowd in terms of most definitely not being ‘just another mummy blog’ and instead having something different and interesting to say. And what I love is that I think I’m finding mine. It’s taken a while to evolve but I’m beginning to get the sense that this blog has a ‘something’ that is mine and unique to me.
So. Here’s my angle.
I am a mummy. I am an aspiring writer. I find motherhood hard and I am honest about that. I blog because I love to connect and to write and play with words and thoughts and ideas.
What’s your angle? Or what would you like it to be?
Or if you don’t know, maybe you should think about it? WHY do you blog? What do you hope to achieve?
I’d really love to know x
Posted by Josie on Oct 6, 2009 in Uncategorized | 22 comments
There’s been a lot of talk this week in the virtual world about the ‘Mumpreneur’ – women successfully combining at-home businesses with raising children and family life. I’m not all that comfortable with the label myself, something that Sally at Who’s The Mummy? also questioned recently sparking an interesting debate. It’s not even one that particularly applies to me as I don’t run my own business. But lately I feel I am beginning to move into the realm of the ‘Work-at-Home-Mum’ and issues surrounding women, business and enterprise are likely to be ones that effect me for some time to come.
My creative writing course has started in earnest now. I have turned into that fledgling writer with a notebook and pen surgically attached, lying awake in the small hours consumed by ideas and endlessly spiralling words and images, plagued by feelings of hope and potential and doubt and worthlessness all in equal measure.
At the same time I’m trying to expand my ‘freebie’ work, getting writing experience here, there and everywhere I can. This blog is becoming more than just a pet project, it’s becoming something that matters to me, something I feel the need to invest time and effort in, with the hope that it may springboard my writing somewhere new and exciting. The Great Toy Guide is keeping me busy too which I love, opening up a whole new world of PR contacts and confusing media lingo and a different kind of creative thinking.
The irony is that none of this is paid of course. Perhaps I’m over-reaching myself even calling it work, probably ‘work’ would be more descriptive and less pretentious. But my hope is that by putting the ‘work’ in I may one day get some work without the inverted commas, probably not anytime soon, but one day.
I’m coming across like a complete douche aren’t I? I did have a point somewhere.
Oh yes. Here it is…
I had been under the extremely naive and mistaken impression that working from home would be easier than going out to work. That combining a working day with taking care of your children would be simpler, most cost effective, and magically combine the two worlds of motherhood and career woman in one beautifully harmonious enterprise.
You’re laughing right. At least, the WAHM’s are laughing…
Turns out the reality is a little different.
My days and nights at the moment are left frantically juggling Kai’s (demanding) needs and my own desperate need to write and grow in a direction other than being ‘just a mum’ (oh and with the odd cursory bit of housework thrown in for good measure). When I’m doing my ‘mum’ bit I’m thinking about writing. When I’m writing I’m feeling guilty about not giving Kai my 100% one-on-one attention. I can’t win. Oh and of course – add into the mix being so sleep deprived I can barely remember my own name and you’ll probably have a fairly accurate picture of my state of mind right now.
Lately I’ve even wondered whether Kai would even be better off in nursery for a few hours a week, that maybe I’m depriving him of enough stimulation and attention, that maybe being at home with me ISN’T the best thing for him as I had always thought it would be. But of course (it’s the ironic bit again), I’m not earning anything and we don’t bring enough in as a family to make it an affordable option.
So here I am. Desperately trying to keep all these different conflicting balls in the air. And not managing it very successfully (the ‘hoovering’ ball I dropped a while back and seems to be festering in amongst the dust bunnies under the TV cabinet).
All of which is my rather long-winded way of saying this. Mumpreneurs, entrepreneurs, work-at-home mums/dads , self-employed writers, artists, craftspeople – what EVER you choose to call yourselves. I salute you. And admire you immensely. I am only beginning to realise how hard your working lives must be – and I’m still only ‘working’ at working.
Please tell me. How on earth do you do it?
Posted by Josie on Sep 17, 2009 in Uncategorized | 10 comments
It was a rather long night last night. Not quite a talking bread people kinda night but not far off.
And as I lay, trying to block out the whining and sniffing of the giant baby draped across my chest feeling very sorry for himself, having given up trying to put him back in the completely useless cot for the millionth time, I ended up thinking back to that post about baby gadgets and all the crap cluttering up our attic.
And I wondered… what gadgets do you reckon Kai’s children’s children will be ordering from their Mothercare catalogues in preparation for their first borns?
Side note: I’ll still be alive obviously and irritating the hell out of all my children by refusing to die. Holed up in some cottage somewhere surrounded by cats and writing steamy vampire erotic literature (because that’s all that will sell in the future).
Future baby gadgets. Here are my top 5 Baby Show 2060 contenders:
1. The ‘Operation’ Style Baby Monitor
You know that game right? Operation? With the man with the flashing nose and the elastic band in his leg that always got lost? Well since we already have camera monitors and movement monitors I reckon it’s only a matter of time before all homes mount an electronic representation of their baby on the wall that will alert them to said baby’s every need and complaint. Hungry? The tummy will flash. Cold? Skin will light up blue. Colic? Wailing siren and emergency lock-down procedure will initiate, sealing all doors and windows with cry-proof barriers to protect the neighbours (and stop us running screaming into the street) and deploying medicinal gin (for the parents, natch).
2. The Zero-Gravity Baby-Gro
Thus causing contained baby to become weightless enabling more comfortable all-night pacing. (Did I mention that Kai has just been weighed in at a whopping 26 and a half lb?!)
3. The Simpsons/Family Guy branded Baby Translator
As featured on the Simpsons to turn all those baby gurgles and gibberish Ikean talk into real worlds, but with translations spoken by the voice of baby Stewie from Family Guy (Don’t worry about the cross-show legal copyright complications – Family Guy will have bought out Simpsons by then, being as it is the far superior show). No longer would we have to guess what that gobbledegook nonsense accompanied by frantic gesturing meant when our Stewie-Speaker would reveal the truth: “Hello, mother. I come bearing a gift. I’ll give you a hint. It’s in my diaper and it’s not a toaster.”
4. The Baby Stasis Machine
In which our adorable little bundles of joy (who we love) could be cryogenically frozen (quite safely) for short periods (say a day or two – week at most) while we read a book / catch up on the housework/ go on holiday.
5. The Selective Hearing Ear Plugs
Fitted in a mother’s ears they would filter out all sounds that are not absolutely essential. For example , “Mummy I put the cat in the washing machine” you would hear. Unimportant whining, the sound of CBeebies (Reloaded), endless noisy battery operated toys, your husband talking about football would all be blocked. Silence is set as the default but you can also programme your ear plugs to instead play relaxing music, stress-relieving affirmations, or talking books read by Antonio Banderas.
So there’s mine. What parenting inventions would YOU like to see on the market in another 50 years?
NOTE: All the above ideas will be listed at the patent office shortly so no copying people. I need a future income to feed my cat hoarding, reclusive, vampire literature writing lifestyle after all.
Posted by Josie on Sep 8, 2009 in Uncategorized | 36 comments
I was recently asked by someone representing a big name toy and baby supplies company (yes I am totally bragging!! My first PR contact!) if I would like to contribute to a booklet for new parents on the essential items all parents need in preparation for the birth of their first baby.
And this got me thinking (and of course going yes! yes! yes! where do I sign!)
What DO you need when you’re having a baby?
And my answer came as something of a surprise.
Not much. In fact I struggled to think of many ‘must haves’ at all.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like stuff as much as the next person. But if you’d asked me that question before Kai was born I’d have been able to list off REAMS of items that I was sure were an absolute necessity to raising a healthy child and, most importantly, being a good mother. In fact, I was rather obsessed with having the right stuff.
I spent a long time before getting pregnant fantasising about having a baby. I’d imagine what it would be like to have a enormous bump, spending entire mornings with pillows stuffed up my jumper, admiring myself in the mirror and going ‘Oooh’ when I bent over (and eating lots of chocolate – oh wait, I did that anyway). Of course, in hindsight, I would have had a more realistic experience had I strapped a wriggling 8lb puppy to my tummy that liked to use my ribs as a kick board and head-butt my bladder, and stuffed a water balloon down my kegs that would leak slowly and at embarrassing moments, like when I laughed and sneezed. Oh and then just to REALLY get in the right frame of mind I would have to eat enough cheese to give me raging heartburn and come down off some hard drugs to give me that whole crazed mood-swing psychotic edge. I was a delight when I was pregnant I can tell you.
Anyway. When I did get pregnant I was beyond excited. This was it! Everything I had ever dreamed of! But what I hadn’t realised was that inbetween the getting pregnant bit (which was fun!) and the having your baby bit (not so fun!) there are 40 long weeks. 40 weeks!! That’s a long time. Once I had done with the puking stage (which lasted a good half of it) when I was too busy doing anything apart from trying to sit upright without hurling, I began to get a bit bored. Well, not bored so much. Antsy. I was fed up sitting around on my rapidly expanding ass. I wanted action.
So in typical Josie fashion I bought a file and some index dividers and some pretty paper. And then proceeded to read every baby magazine/book/online guide I could get my chicken-greased fingers on (the chicken is a GREAT pregnancy story – I’ll save that one for another day). And I made notes, and cut out pictures.
I planned god damn it. I planned my giant ass off.
Because I was determined to be a good mother. And reading all these magazines I quickly learned that good parenting = getting the right baby equipment. Obviously! Because bringing a baby into the world without a ready prepared co-ordinating nursery, room thermometer and ergonomic bath support? Well, that’s nothing short of neglect.
And then, after 40 long weeks and one day, Kai arrived. Beautiful, demanding, wide-awake Kai. Who from day one had very fixed views of the world and what he wanted from it. And that was a world in which fancy gadgets had very little place.
Here are the things that were especially useless:
1. The beautifully co-ordinated nursery – he still hasn’t slept in it for any length of time. It is currently surving a far more useful purpose as a place where we shove a lot of crap storage room and place to keep the ever increasing mountain of laundry.
2. The changing bag (that matched the pushchair of course!) – it survived 9 months before being ripped apart by Kai and having various baby-led weaning food-stuffs leak all over it whilst in transit. It was also far too small once I started needing to transport said foodstuffs and toys and sippy cups and spare clothes and sun cream and my bottle of gin (joking) and everything else. My advice? Go to TK Max and get a big, cheap messenger bag or a rucksack and throw everything in there. You’ll cry less when it gets wrecked.
3. The baby swing. Bought in desperation for our power-screaming colicy baby. It was very expensive. It had four speeds AND music. Of course he just screamed all the louder when you put him in it. Only, to music with a kind of rhythmic WAAaah WAAaah. It was quickly retired to the attic.
4. The bath support. We used it, oooh, three times? Then realised it was far less fiddly to just dunk him in there.
5. The Bumbo – Kai HATED it. And at four months old worked out how to catapult himself out over the back. Attic!
6. The very firm and unmouldable (and expensive) breastfeeding support pillow. Probably self-explanatory. When I lay Kai on it it put his mouth about four inches higher than my nipples. So when my back gave in I just used a pillow. A normal household multi-functional pillow. There’s a novel idea for you. Get this – it even comes with removable covers! That don’t cost extra!
And MOST importantly:
7. The baby books. None of them were written about Kai or seemed to bare any relation to the knowing, determined child I gave birth to. And worse, not only were they useless, they made ME feel useless. Life got a lot better once I relegated them to a high shelf and the charity shop.
So the lesson from this tale? Your baby really needs nothing but you. Your arms, your patience, your love. And most of all your permission to be as unique and unpredictible as they like. Yes it’s a soppy ending but it’s true, and a lesson I have learnt every day many times over.
NOT us... but you get the point.
Next time we’re just getting a new baby sling and that’s it. Oh and a vibrating baby bouncer (that one WAS a life saver), and we’ll re-use the co-sleeper crib but OF COURSE we’ll need a new mattress. And I want an electric breast pump next time.
Actually pass me that Mothercare catalogue? Oh and them post it notes, thanks.
So over to you (cause I’m loving the comment love) - what was the most useless item that you purchased or were given for your first baby?
Posted by Josie on Sep 4, 2009 in Uncategorized | 24 comments
Two things have saved me from the brink of insanity these last six months. OK, three things if you count my husband giving me five minutes to have a wee in peace without a small monster trying to ‘post’ his plastic Wonderpets Hamster between my clenched legs.
1. Blogging (self-explanatory – it rocks)
For some reason I’ve found the last six months especially hard. I mean, I found the first eight pretty horrendous too at times, but the last six? Man alive.
Maybe it’s because most of my friends went back to work and seemed to be coping so much better than me, being brilliant mummys AND having careers. Maybe it’s because Kai developed the ability to move. And move. And move some more. At high speed. Towards everything likely to kill him. Maybe it’s because in combination with the moving about he additionally developed the art of the apocalyptic temper tantrum which he proceeded to unleash every half an hour, or every time I dared to look away from him or try and disattach him from my leg (whichever came soonest). Or maybe it’s simply because the months of no sleep and forgetting to eat and running on adrenaline alone finally caught up with me.
In any case, whatever it was, it’s been tough.
It was during a particularly bad couple of weeks that I discovered Twitter. Mostly (as I think it begins for most people) as a way of spying on Stephen Fry and Jonathon Ross and the like. After a couple of weeks I started to get a bit bored. I had a grand total of 15 followers and was fed up of stupid Stephen blanking me, despite my persistent and frankly hilarious tweets to him, and following Ashton and Demi’s very sub-standard and yawn inducing conversations. And there I think it would have ended.
That is, had it not been for a life changing discovery.
There were people on Twitter. I mean REAL people. And if you happened across them and sent them a tweet, then chances are they’d tweet you back. You could have CONVERSATIONS!
Now as you know, I like talking. But at the same time I’m not so good at the ‘face to face’ type talking. Suddenly on Twitter I could become the wise-quipping, super confident, articulate superstar that dwells deep under the cover of my socially problematic exterior. It was wonderful.
I loved the randomness of my encounters and my experiences. One day I chanced upon an emerging tweeting trend on the subject of the TV show LOST and ended up spear-heading attempts to uncover the mystery behind a fan-made artificial reality game (ARG) running online and through Twitter itself, writing a blog chronicling the exciting events. In the 4 weeks it ran, my blog got nearly 30,000 hits. Yes I know, it was geek stuff and was short lived. But it got me totally hooked on blogging as a writing medium and equally importantly it fuelled my Twitter obsession, opening up hundreds of new random encounters and conversations.
Blogging led to British Mummy Bloggers and the vast network of blogging mums and dads both here and all over the world, ALL of which seem to be on twitter and tweeting about their equally mundane and extraordinary lives. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Yes I am hooked. No I am not ashamed of the fact. It beats a drug addiction or alcoholism which I think are probably less appealing ways of surviving motherhood.
And it really has been remarkably therapeutic. When I’m at home, especially on those days where I just can’t face going out, or it’s raining (again) or I’m tired, I tend to have the laptop running as I go about my daily business, pausing ever so often when I get a chance to respond to the ‘buzz’ of my Tweetdeck or the ‘ping’ of an email. And taking ten minutes to check my messages and have a quick chat can sometimes be the one thing that gets me through an otherwise lonely, stressful day. It revives me, gives me the boost I need to get me through that day’s particular meltdown, or the energy to go to up to re-settle Kai for the umpteenth time that evening, or the sense of humour to laugh at the fact that I just burnt the tea and the front room looks like a bomb went off in Toys R Us (during closing time though – don’t worry. No icky bits of harassed parents. Just Toys N Wee). It’s a time-out for me. And a much needed one.
Now I know most of you reading this use Twitter already (hell I’m probably multi-tasking and talking to you right now!). But just in case you’ve never tried it, or have and didn’t ‘get it’ (yes that’s you Ms Kendall) then here are some top tips:
- I’ve learnt that you need to put yourself out there a bit. And be prepared to respond and chat about pretty much anything. In the past 24 hours alone I’ve tweeted about breastfeeding, self-build house cleaning robots, growing a giant handlebar moustache, monkeys, and taking over the world via the medium of catchy bass beats (dunnah dunnah clap). Oh and I chatted to the devil! That was fun…
- Celebs are a fun novelty. But if they are the only people you follow it’s going to get very boring, very fast. You need real life people. Compete strangers who tweet regularly work best.
- Follow a few interesting people, then see who they’re following and follow them. Then talk to everyone. If you sit there on your todd, tweeting the odd fact about your lunch and expect hoards of people to spontaneously start following you, then the Twitter magic isn’t going to happen for you. If people are boring you can always unfollow them again.
- Don’t just tweet about your lunch. Unless it’s about toast. Cause for some reason that got me about 20 new followers last week.
- Prepare to get some interesting followers. And by ‘interesting’ I mean naked and probably sucking something disgusting in their profile picture. Don’t be scared – that’s what the ‘block’ button’s for. They’ll probably try to tempt you with their “Sexy New Vid! Click Here!” (don’t), or their promise of hundreds of new followers for just $1, or instant teeth whitening products. Block block block. Or, alternatively, try tweeting them and see what happens! You’ll soon start to love them in a kind of “I’d miss you if you weren’t here” kinda way. If only because their numbers in your Followers count will make you feel more popular.
- Read Scary Mommy’s fab posts on Twitter Etiquette and The Best Twitter Applications. Both essential reading material for any aspiring tweeter.
- Follow MEEEE!! You really should.
And since it’s ‘Follow Friday’ and just to get your started – here’s my top pick of people to follow on Twitter. Some are bloggers, some just make me laugh, some are generally just fabulous. And some are all three. Follow them all and collect the set. And if I miss you off it don’t take it personally - just would be here all night if I listed everyone!
@icklebabe_com @Soph4Soph @snafflesmummy @ilovemonty @LauraAWNTYM @Joner
@MyShitty20s @WestonsuperMum @ScaryMommy @swhittle @mamakatslosinit @dooce
@AmberStrocel @MummyBloggers @neenerspb @ruthiemossy @aedison @TheMabster
@hotcrossmum @PotatoFilm @myautisticson @naptimewriting @SouthWoodsMom @flimgeeks
@TheNDM @notsuchayummum @RealBillBailey @Shoegalsedgwick @immoralangel_uk
and, last but not least, my hubby @legobloke who doesn’t tweet much but posts great pictures of Kai!
Oh… and of course!
*DISCLAIMER* Despite the title of this post I do not advocate Crack or drug use in any way shape or form. Just say no people. Unless it’s to Milky Way Stars. Then you’re fine.
Right! Now it’s your turn (cause that worked so well last time). The topic is… Twitter! Love it? Loathe it? Tell me why…