I have read countless blog posts over the years telling me that I should unplug more, switch off my phone, not use social media, preaching about how much better my life would be if I did so. The irony that these posts are written by bloggers who work very hard to keep an online presence is not lost on me. Now, it seems a website (again irony metre off the scale) is getting in on the act by encouraging parents to take part in National Unplugging Day. To put our technology away for the day, for the sake of the children. They are asking us to do something different instead, like go on a bike ride or go to the park or simply a walk in the woods. It all smacks of making us feel guilty for being too interested in what we are reading and sharing on the Internet, rather than spending ‘quality time’ with our children. Well, you can unplug if you want to, but I shan’t be, because I know that social media and the internet in general, makes me a better parent.

Firstly, let’s deal with this myth that using our phones prevents us from doing things with our children. I take my children on bike rides and to the park. (Ok, so I pretty much loathe going to the park, but they don’t know that) I bake with them, play with them, craft with them, go the allotment with them, play board games with them, talk with them. I read. I laugh. I listen. I walk. I run. I do all this and still send tweets and share pictures on social media. I do it and still find time to read blogs and the news and yes, waste time reading gossip about One Direction and Bradley Cooper. My children don’t beg me to put my phone down, they hardly notice it. There are many times in the day when they are otherwise engaged. These times are often short lived, but there are definitely little pockets of time. They don’t need and nor should they have my undivided attention all day, every day. They wouldn’t want it!

I get the idea that we should be ‘present’ with them when we spend time with them and I won’t pretend I always am, but it’s not social media that is making my mind wander. It’s the fact that my house is messy, or I haven’t had the chance to put any bread in the breadmaker, because I haven’t had a moment when they’ve left me alone for five minutes. It’s the nagging feeling that I need to look at my credit card bill or renew mine and the children’s library books that makes me not want to sing ‘Wind the Bobbin up’ for the 20th time. All of this though is really about how the internet doesn’t make me a worse parent and I have stated that it makes me a better parent and it does.

Sharing on social media makes me notice things more and record things. I notice my children and what they are doing, I record it and I share it. The last part of that process isn’t necessary, I know, it’s just fun, but the first two bits are vital. I have a brilliant record of our life, the trivial, minute bits of it and I love that. I love looking back on it already and so do they. Inspired by someone I follow on Instagram, I recently made some mini videos of our day. We didn’t do anything special or different. Nano biked to school, we played, we visited the allotment, but it made such a special snippet of our day that I can look at for many years. In fact, yesterday after school Mini Mck asked if we could make a family video on Saturday. I love sharing this creativity with them and technology is going to part of their lives, why not show them what it can do.

Most of what I read and search out online is inspiring. I defy you to read this post and not become more patient the next time you feel more needed than you think you can handle. I can name at least three things I have done with my three year old, just in the last couple of weeks, that have come from Pinterest ideas. I know that when I am having a bad moment I can turn to social media and find a heap of support, delivered in a non-smug, totally understanding way, that will both make me feel better and make me pull my socks up and be a better parent. From other parents that I communicate with on-line I learn about places to take my children and things to do with them. I learn how to handle situations better, to be more patient, to laugh at a bad day, or nod knowingly at someone else’s. My world is bigger because of the internet, not smaller.

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The parents that I know and follow on-line and basically I am talking about you, the people who read this blog, are some of the best parents I have ever come across. They are creative and hard-working, they notice the details, they treasure the everyday, they want to be the best they can for themselves and their community and their kids and they inspire me every day.

So ‘National Unplugged Day’ can try it’s best to make plugged in parents feel as bad as possible on June 28th as it preaches to us to frolic through the woods on our  bikes. I may partake in some good old fashioned fun myself, but I’ll probably have a nice photo to go along with it and I refuse to feel guilty or lesser because of that.

NB – No children were neglected in the writing of this blog ;)

This week seems to have been packed to bursting, in fact every week seems to be packed to bursting. I guess that’s how it is in a family of five, with five people’s appointments, birthdays, friends, interests and needs to take into account. I like to think we are pretty good at not over-scheduling the kids, but we still seem to be fitting it all in with precision planning. Today is another juggle, as I help out at the School Fair and Mckdaddy’s football team have reached the play offs. Oh, how I long for this football season to be over. Of course, no sooner will it be over, than it will begin again, while we are still wearing shorts and suncream and sunglasses.

No matter how busy I am it is unusual for my crochet hook to be left idle for more than a few days. There have been times since Lady Mck was born, a year that I only just feel I emerging from, that I have literally hooked only three stitches before she has woken and needed me, but the intention is always there. So, since the last thing I shared with you, finished only a few hours before she was born, I have finished many other projects and learnt new skills. I am going to try and share them here. A project never feels quite finished until it has been blogged.

One of the things that often holds some of my projects back from being finished is my fear of and laziness around sewing. The crochet part comes naturally and sewing seams together with wool I can do without much thought, but actual sewing hurts my brain and so I need uninterrupted time, preferably in the day and that is hard to come by. A few weeks before Lady Mck was born, Mckdaddy took the boys away for the so I could have a weekend of ‘maternity leave’. He kept two small children in a rainy, cold and windy North Norfolk resort and I had time to rest, eat all my favourite foods, fold baby clothes and get the sewing machine out.

Some of the scatter cushions on our bed were looking a little tired and so I altered the size of standard pillowcases, that I then wanted to embellish a little. I love that being able to make things myself means when I am searching the shops for the perfect cushion and can’t find it, I can actually make something that suits perfectly. This project was made even easier when I realised that I had some IKEA crochet shapes that could be hand stitched onto the pillowcase and I’m not sure whether to be proud or ashamed that I had all the right colour yarn in my stash to make applique shapes for the second cushion.

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For what looks like such an easy little project it has taken me ages to finish this one. The hand stitching took me ages and I designed the shapes as I went along so it needed brain power, not something that is in abundance when you are pregnant or have a tiny baby and so this often spent months in the project bag. However, I finally retrieved it recently and finished it off and I am so happy with the results. Such a simple way to upcycle plain pillowcases and as it uses up small scraps of yarn it’s really good for the budget too.

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Mine is the one on the right and the IKEA shapes are on the left. See, scary colour matching, my yarn stash is too big!

For Lady Mck’s birthday I wrote an utterly positive post. It was a joy to write, so I am doing it again for Mini Mck, my eldest. I wonder if perhaps I’m not always as positive about my children as I could be. It feels good. 

I love how much you have grown in the past year. Gone are the tantrums of old, replaced with someone who can reason and think things through. I love how you adore your sister. Still. I keep waiting for the novelty of her to wear off, but it doesn’t. I love that you will help your brother with things, if he can’t make something, you will do it for him.

I love your enthusiasm for life. It is easy to get you interested in things. I love that you have a proper, best friend, who you spend ages just chatting with. I love that this hasn’t meant you’ve excluded yourself from others. I love that other kids in your class are always calling your name to say goodbye at the end of the day.

I love how creative you are. Always making and drawing and making stories, always to your own tune. I love that you are so full of ideas and will independently make them work. I hope you keep this need to be creative, it will enrich your life in so many ways. I love that you have your own, very specific and excellent ideas about your birthday parties and that when it was done you thanked me and your Dad for working so hard on it and doing such a good job.

I love that you are different at school, quieter, beautifully behaved at all times and yet, when I speak to your teachers, I can recognise the boy they are describing. I love that you have let them know you. I love that you are an ‘all-rounder’ in your learning, happy to join in with all subjects, good at maths and science, as well as art. I love that you really listen at school.

I love that you love Lego. Building it, using the instructions, doing your own thing and then making up fabulous stories with it. I love that you will save your pocket money to buy the sets you really want. I love that you tidy your room and put the shopping away with little complaint to get your pocket money. I love that you can make scrambled eggs and carry a cup of tea upstairs. I love that you can carry your sister and that she trusts you enough to let you. I love that you are much more adventurous with food than you used to be and that you love going to a restaurant to eat.

I love that, to me, you seem to be getting really tall and your legs just keep growing and yet when I see you with your friends you are still the shortest. I love ‘that, even though you don’t like “babyish TV”, you will still sit and watch Peppa Pig with your brother and giggle at it, despite yourself. I love that you can whistle and wink and your most recent achievement, click your fingers.

I love that you seem to suit ‘six’ already.

Noah 6th birthday collage

Since the Duchess of Cambridge left hospital looking amazing, with her husband and new daughter I’ve read blogs and seen lots of chatter on Twitter wondering how she could possibly look so amazing and how awful she must’ve been feeling and how somehow, her looking good twelve hours after giving birth, makes the rest of us feel bad about ourselves. 

I have to admit to being a little confused and it all smacks of jealousy to me. I understand that we don’t want to portray giving birth as no big deal, but many people seem to think that she has performed some hideous, tortuous task, by leaving hospital after twelve hours. So, before I join those wildly spectating about how she feels, let’s look at what we actually know. She walked outside, wearing a loose fitting dress, where her husband held her arm as she walked down some steps. She was wearing a bit of make up and had her hair loose and blow dried. She then waved, smiled and walked back inside. The whole thing took two minutes. She then came back outside, got in a car and was driven the short distance to her own home. She looked fabulous and glowing and this seems to be controversial. However, I have noticed something about women who have just given birth. They look amazing. There’s probably some kind of physiological reason, blood flow, hormones, but generally they glow.

Now I’m going to start speculating about how she felt and what she wanted. Maybe she wanted to be back in her own home as soon as possible and I’m not sure it really is an option for them to duck out a back door. Maybe they didn’t want to. From what I read, Prince William is pretty strict on what access he will and will not give, which is hardly surprising when you consider his past. Remember it wasn’t only the press waiting, but some die hard Royal supporters who had been camped out for days. (Did someone say ‘Nutcases’?) and the Royal Family do need the support of the public to survive. As a good friend said on Facebook yesterday, it is kind of her job.  Maybe in a small way the Duchess wanted to show her baby off. I know I did. “Look what I did world!” 

As for the inconvenience of the hair and make up help, which I believe was ONE person, I clearly remember that first delicious shower after giving birth, it was heaven. If someone had then popped a bit of make up on me and given me a fab blow dry while I cuddled my new baby, I’d have been more than happy. I think it’s totally reasonable for her to want to look groomed to have her picture taken. I would. 

I appreciate that all labours are different. Some women would need more recuperation for lots of reasons and of course, that should be respected, but on the other hand I applaud her for normalising it. I’m sure she had the option of staying in hospital as long as she felt necessary, but perhaps like many women, she wanted to go home, to her older child, to where she is comfortable. 

  

She stood for two minutes in a loose fitting dress and then went home, where I imagine she had a nice cup of tea, put her pyjamas on, put her feet up and gave her kids a big cuddle. I suspect however that she pop a fresh maternity pad in just before meeting the world’s media. I mean, did you see the colour of that dress?!

When Nano Mck was the age that Lady Mck is now, I was two or three months away from running a half marathon. Which means I was running at least three times a week, specifically three mornings. I was fitter than I’ve ever been and more toned than I could imagine and most importantly it made me happier. Now, I can hardly run around the block.

I tell myself that I could only run in the morning at the weekends due to having a school run to do now. That’s rubbish. I could manage a 30min run and still enjoy my cup of tea in bed when I get back. I tell myself that I’m too tired, that this baby is harder than the last. That’s rubbish, well I am tired and this baby is harder, but really, how much more tired would I be if I went for a little jog two or three times a week, so it’s rubbish. I tell myself I have a niggley Achilles ache. That’s rubbish, it’s hardly a thing and with some excercises it’ll clear up. A bit of light running won’t harm it.

They are all just excuses. Made of smoke. Clouding the reality. The feeling of running. The quiet. The room to think and the fact that there is no need to think. The view across my city. Strong, steady paces carrying me round. The last bit of energy left to sprint the last hundred metres, as my house comes into view.

When i don’t look after myself everything slips. I don’t eat right or sleep early or feed my creative side. No blogging, little crochet. A messy house. I run on empty. I have a friend who talks about putting pebbles in our jar, filling ourselves up with the things that soothe us and nurture us, so that we have reserves to give to others. I need to get better at this. I need to realise it’s important.

So, tomorrow, I am dusting off the running gear. Those slightly beat up trainers that I’ve run maybe hundreds of miles in. I’m trying not to think of the before. Of the getting out of bed. Of being out of breath and heavy legs. It is half an hour, probably less. I am thinking of the amazing rush when you finish. The energy which carries you through the day. The heavenly post run shower and the even more heavenly post run cup of tea served with a smidge of smugness and I’m writing it all here so I don’t back out!

We wake early here, usually before 6am. MM has always been an early riser, but he learnt from before he even left a cot to play with toys quietly or look at a book. Nano always used to sleep much later, but now he is the first one awake and we are finding it much harder to persuade him to stay quietly in his room and at the very least he will go to his brother for company. Once they are awake, I am awake. That’s just how it works, unless Mckdaddy gets up and takes them downstairs, then I could probably sleep until lunchtime.

At the weekend this time, the hours between 6am and 9am are so often wasted. Lazy mornings can be enjoyed and should be relished, but mostly I spend them feeling tired and annoyed that I am awake. I should just go to bed earlier and embrace this time. The rest of the family are usually fairly occupied doing their own thing and the baby is yet to make an appearance. I should reclaim this time for myself and so here I am, inspired by my friend Kelly, spending 15 minutes giving my poor neglected blog some much needed attention. I’m not quite sure how she gets a whole post written in 15 minutes, but I shall give it a go.

I am not sure why, but I am finding the whole blogging thing difficult at the moment, Gradually I have found that I am unhappy with what I am publishing here and that now I am getting in my own way. Spending too much time thinking about what others are doing and not enough just enjoying what has become a really important thing for me to do. I have been reading some lovely, beautiful blogs, but sometimes when we consume it becomes harder to create. Do you find that?

I wrote a post recently that still sits in drafts about giving everything in my life more attention. Concentrating on one thing, rather than flitting and thinking of ten other things. In it, I imposed rules on myself. At least one post a week and not written on my phone, while holding a sleeping baby and whilst this feels lovely to be typing on an actual keyboard and not doing anything else, it is unrealistic and unnecessary to impose such boring rules on myself. This is how it is. I still spend a lot of time holding a sleeping baby in one hand and an iphone in the other, so why not just accept this and make it work. It is not what I write on that makes me give something more attention, it is my attitude to it.

I am off to Blogtacular in a couple of months and whilst I am excited, I am also feeling that all those amazing creative people in one space will make me feel my contribution is inadequate. I am hoping that it has the opposite effect of inspiring me, that it gives me some direction and reignites my enthusiasm for this space.

My 15 minutes is up and Nano is asking me to help him play Monument on the ipad. Have you heard of it? Apparently Kevin Spacey plays it in House of Cards. It is such a great game and I am in awe of how my nearly 4 year old can work it out as well as, if not better than I can. This has been rather rambling and I hope that it gets across how I feel. What do you do when your confidence slips or you suddenly find that your blogging mojo has left you? How do you get that spark to return?

Ooh – no photo. That feels weird, but my 15 mins is well and truly up, but you can always follow me on Instagram. You will find me there more and more these days. 

On Wednesday my iPhone broke. The already cracked screen was trodden on and turned black, with the occasional blue line on it. Completely unreadable. Here is a list of things I’ve learned since then. 

  1. Having a almost useless phone the week before your child’s birthday party, when people are still texting their replies is an absolute pain. 
  2. However Siri is really good at reading your latest messages and replying. 
  3. Siri will only read and reply when they are new. 
  4. There is a fantastic program called iexplorer that allows you to read your texts, in fact all the contents of your phone on a computer. 
  5. I could give up Facebook  tomorrow. 
  6. I love Instagram. Not just posting there, but the creativity it sparks and the inspiration I get from the people I follow. If I follow you, it’s because I love your photos, so thank you. 
  7. Turns out having someone looking at their phone whilst you are supposed to be watching Masterchef together is extremely annoying. Who knew?! 
  8. I don’t know my passwords for anything. 
  9. It’s the little things that I never realised I used my phone so much for. Checking the weather. Reminding myself how to wrap Lady Mck with a YouTube video. 
  10. How to make socks. Well, one sock, so far, but still quite a thrill. 

  

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