Packing Up

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you’ll know that the McCann family are on the move, off to pastures new. Less than half a mile away, but in some ways this is a long road with many twist and turns, because although the physical move is highly anticipated and well planned out, the emotional shift that will take us away from our home of 14 years is something else entirely.

As we prepare for our move, packing, decluttering, cleaning, I am in two minds about the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, this is the right move for our family and I am very excited for what is to come. I’m excited for more space, for the work we want to do to make the new house into our home, I’m excited to be closer to family and friends, and to become part of a new community. I am however a bit sad about all the things that we are leaving behind.

Mr McC and I bought this house in 2004, we were just one year into married life and full of enthusiasm for this lovely little terrace cottage. There was no central heating, the windows and front door were in need of replacement, as were the kitchen, bathroom, skirting boards and doors and the garden was more like a jungle than the well manicured lawn we wanted. We hit the renovations head on, and moved into our fully renovated house just 8 weeks after getting the keys. I remember feeling relieved that all the work was behind us and we could get on with enjoying our new home. I never expected that ‘the work’ would never end, and as our lives changed so would our home.

In the early days we had parties without too much concern for our cream carpets (or the neighbours) and our house was the ideal after party venue because it is so convenient. We took a 3 year break from the house while living in London, but it was still ours, and we were delighted to move back in when we moved home. This time when we say goodbye we won’t return. We can drive past all we like but it won’t be our house anymore.

We have so many wonderful memories in this house. We have spent many happy hours train watching and looking for frogs in the garden. Catherine has grown here, she rolled over, sat up, crawled and took her first little steps in this house. She was sitting on my knee in the living room and said ‘dog’ when she was just 9 months old. She fell down the stairs and thankfully avoided injury. She has drawn on the walls and smudged the windows with fingerprints and kisses. She’s only 4 and I’m worried that she won’t even remember her very first haven.

This house has been everything to us. We are so proud of what we have achieved here, both in terms of the improvements we have made and the direction our lives have taken.

So as we pack up all of our worldly possessions and clear the decks for someone new, we are taking pictures as we go. Pictures of nothing in particular, but of everything that has helped shape our lives as a family. We will miss this wee place, but we are ready for a new adventure.

The Storybook Mummy xxx

Sleepless in South Belfast

Ok, so it doesn’t have the same ring to it as Sleepless in Seattle, but it’s where I’m at. Recently we are struggling with the old sleep thing in our house, and Mr McC and I are approaching our witts end. I’m researching having coffee administered by drip and am reliant on sugar to get me through the day. Our little girl is waking tired and grumpy. Something has to give!

Catherine was always a good sleeper. She slept through the night consistently from about 10 weeks old and made the transition from crib beside our bed to cot in her own room at 5 months without any fuss at all. I recall chatting to other mums who weren’t so lucky and really appreciating how wonderful it was to have a sleeper.

Flash forward a few years and here we are with an (almost) four year old who would rather sleep on top of my head than in her own, comfortable bed. Why, why, why??

I know that things could be a lot worse, but we want Catherine to get the most out of nursery, to have the energy that she needs for her day, and be ready to climb into bed each night feeling sleepy after a busy day. She has a very good bedtime routine of bath, prayers, stories and bed. Her room has blackout curtains, so it’s not the brighter evenings. She is our only child, so the house is quiet and settled at bedtime. So what the heck?!

When she wakes in the night she talks of hearing noises and being scared of a toy unicorn (we got rid of this menace a while back but she still lists it among the things that frighten her at night). Is she playing us? Well yes, she most likely is, because she knows that in the interest of everyone getting some rest she will be allowed into our bed. But We are not getting any rest, and she can’t possibly be getting the rest that she needs either! So we are taking a stand!

Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’ve made a purchase. Something that will transform our lives, something that will aid us all in getting a better nights sleep, something that I’d guess many parents have done before us. We have bought bunk beds! I am a strong woman, I will not be bullied out of a decent sleep any longer, I am not giving in (ok so I am kind of giving in), I will overcome (or sidestep) adversity, I will crawl into the bottom bunk when the going gets tough.

And there you have it. No sleep expert help needed. No tough love (it’ll be for the best) will be administered. No one will be harmed in the pursuit of a good nights rest for the McCann family. All will be well once more.

Flash forward 6 months when Catherine refers to her bedroom as ‘our room’ and Mr McC becomes unwilling and unable to relinquish a small part of the king size bed we used to share. All joking aside, I’m pretty sure that this is not a solution, but if it gets me a full 8 hours tonight it’s definitely worth a wee shot.

The Storybook Mummy

xxx

BC (Before Catherine)

It wasn’t all that long ago Mr McC and I were the token childless couple. It is just a few weeks until Catherine fourth birthday and looking back I struggle to remember the BC (before Catherine) years. But there were 36 of them, so I really should have something to say about that large chunk of my life, when it’s less happy meals and ballet classes and more gourmet meals and spin classes.

Spin classes were the first thing to go! My goodness, there’s nothing like having a baby to put the brakes on your exercise routine! Prior to my (difficult) pregnancy I was a very regular gym goer and loved my spin classes. Suddenly, leaning over a spin bike gave me (even worse) nausea, so it was swapped for weekly sessions with my very patient PT, just to keep me going. It helped with the constant nausea and kept me focused. After all I was jumping straight back on that spin bike as soon as I gave birth! How wrong was I?

When I look back at my time BC I was so consumed with material goods, new clothes, designer bags, the latest makeup. I do still love all these things, I just have a lot less cause to use designer bags and the latest makeup! When I was pregnant with Catherine I saved up some money and bought myself a beautiful Mulberry Daria satchel. My thinking was that I wouldn’t be able to afford such frivolities once the baby came along. It didn’t even occur to me (why would it) that for the first two years of your child’s life you carry a huge, heavy changing bag and have no need for Mulberry. So my Daria satchel was swapped for a Baba Bing satchel. A much more practical purchase. How silly was I?

I had no clue how much my outlook would change after Catherine was born. She became everything! In ways that I never expected. I’m having a wee laugh to myself when I think of how naive I was to think that she would simply fit in with us! The reality was very different. As we adapted to our new life as a family of three, impromptu anythings were a thing of the past. We were slaves to the ‘routine’. We are pretty structured people anyway, but I do remember setting the alarm for 3.00am to feed our baby just in case she didn’t wake for her feed. I mean, really?? Enjoy your sleep woman, she’ll wake you when she needs fed! How naive was I?

I never realised that a walk to the shops could be full of intrigue and discovery. It may take a lot longer to get to where you’re going, but you see so much more. You chat to people you would normally not even notice. You smell flowers. You jump in puddles rather than avoiding them. You take it all in. Through Catherine I have met people that otherwise would still be strangers and discovered things and places that I had never thought to explore before. How blind was I?

With all of these things came a more contented me. A me who is happy to be myself and not hold back anymore. A me who wants to show my little girl that she can be whatever she wants to be. A me who doesn’t need brands and things to validate herself (still love them, still use them, but not defined by them anymore). A me who cares a lot less about what the outside world thinks and a lot more about what is going on around our dinner table every evening. A me who accepts that we may never be a family of four or more, but as three we are content. A me who knows what is important to me and to my little family.

So now, almost four years on, what have I learned?

1. Having babies plays havoc with your ability to sit on a spin bike, or commit to exercise in general.

2. Don’t buy expensive handbags until your kids are at least five! You’ll more than likely carry a changing bag or busy bag for several years. SAVE YOUR MONEY!

3. Your life will not go back to ‘pre-baby normal’ ever, but there will be a new normal, and it will be focused on the most wonderful thing you will ever create.

4. Your world may feel like it has become so small when you have a baby (mine did), but you will encounter so many new experiences through your child and it will open your eyes.

The side note to all of the above is that motherhood isn’t easy. It isn’t all play dates and picnics (they do feature of course). It isn’t what I expected. Not even close. It’s different, but so much better in so many ways than my life BC.

How happy am I?!

The Storybook Mummy xxx

Dear Me (a letter to my younger self)

776926FC-9631-401B-9764-16CF21C47602.jpegDear Angela,

It’s me, well you, well both really. How the hell are ye? I’m feeling a bit reflective and thought I’d write to you from 2018. Since you’re sitting in 1998 looking for any excuse not to hit the library to finish your coursework you may as well get a little heads up about some stuff, just cos.

By now you are 20, studying English & Anglo-Irish Literature at UUC, living with friends in Portstewart and having the time of you’re life! Please enjoy it, in years to come you’ll look back fondly on the three hour conversations you are having with your friends while watching The Tweenies because no one can be bother to make the long trip from the sofa to the TV to change the channel.

You won’t always have time to sit and chew the fat, so cherish it, but not too much because you could be working harder. But it won’t really matter because at the end because these days are about so much more than the final grade. By the time you graduate you’ll be returning home able to cook (a bit), manage on a budget (you will lose this skill somewhere along to way), and understand James Joyce (sort of).

Life will be kind, but there will be losses to contend with and grief to overcome, but you will overcome it. Take the time to listen and you will never regret what you find out.

Mr McC, you already know. he’s a bit of a mystery at the moment, but stick with him, he’s a keeper.

You’re sisters are a bit of a pain in the arse right now, but it won’t always be like that. Once you all move out of home and start your own families you’ll start to actually like each other! This probably sound ludicrous at the moment when they are stealing clothes and make up from your room while you are away at uni, and clogging up the phone line. Be patient.

Friends will come and go, some will go for a while and come back again and it’ll be all the better. Some will stick around through thick and thin. You’ll be very lucky to have a wonderful set of kind and supportive friends. As you get older you’ll be less concerned with how people see you and just enjoy spending time with those who make you smile (preferably over coffee or wine, but neither is compulsory).

Don’t diet! It’s a pointless waste of time.

I need to say this to you though, you need to lighten up! More than half of the things that you worry about will never happen. You will learn how to manage this much later on, but for now, if you can, just try to ask yourself ‘will this matter in a year from now?’ before you lose any sleep over something. You are going to lose sleep anyway, because, you are going to become a mummy (don’t panic, not any time soon!). I’ll not say too much about this, but let’s just say if you think you’re tired now…JUST. YOU. WAIT!

There is so much more I could say, but I don’t want to ruin the surprises! Enjoy your life and you won’t go far wrong. Oh, and always be kind. Go for the things that you want and don’t be held back by worry and what ifs.

By the time you reach 40 you’ll have started to work out who you are and although you may not have it all sorted you will be happy and healthy. And Angela, at the end of the day, isn’t that the most important thing?

The Storybook Mummy

xxx

 

Stepping Out

I am the most normal of normal people. I worked for many years in a local bank. I arrived at work at the same time every day. I had a routine, my whole day was planned with tasked listed and scored off as they were completed. I enjoyed my job, I enjoyed the interactions with colleagues and customers. I built some wonderful, lasting friendships that started over a shared love of coffee cake, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and shopping trips at lunchtime.

How very different my life is now. I work for myself, mainly at home, with a few weekly mum & tots classes in other venues. I love it. I love working in the house, I can work while watching This Morning and if I need to nip out for messages I can. I do the school run everyday and take Catherine on adventures after nursery, sometimes to the park, sometimes to Tesco. But, (and this is a big but) I really miss ‘the chat’ that you get working in an office. I miss taking a cuppa to someone when I know they need a break. I miss people!

While on maternity leave Catherine and I had a lovely routine attending baby yoga, heading to the park, going to our local mother’s and toddlers group, getting out for walks. It was lovely. It was just what I wanted. But I missed regular grown up company, and wasn’t great at putting myself out there and making new friends. That’s one of the reasons that I started Toddlepops, to build a community for mums and their little ones. It’s so important for mums to come together.

My world became so small when I became a mother. Everything revolved around Catherine, her needs, her routine, her mood. Now that she’s at nursery I’m getting a bit more time to spread my wings and find out who I am, because I’ve changed a lot since May 2014 when Catherine was born. I know this for sure, I’m much more outgoing. I’ll happily be the one to start a conversation after years of being afraid. I think it’s my need for adult interaction. I’m much better at saying yes to new opportunities or invitations without making excuses. I’m getting out there and building a new social circle and I feel much more ‘me’ than ever before.

Being a mum is the most wonderful thing in the world, but it can be lonely. I still keep in touch with those lovely work friends, albeit much less regularly, I still have my wonderful close friends who are there no matter what is going on, and I now have new friends, made over the noise of nursery rhymes and coffee dates.

3B295C32-1868-43E9-ACEF-98BD35D3442CSo for anyone out there feeling like they could do with a bit of mum company, just make a start and say ’hello’. It could make someone’s day and you just never know where it will lead.

The Storybook Mummy

xxx

 

It’s Not You, It’s Me

B2AB29A6-DD2C-4EC7-91BA-C75BE55C87E3

 

This little guy with the big purple eyes is Monkey. Monkey with a capital ‘M’ – he goes by no other name. We acquired Monkey during a trip to the toy shop around the time of Catherine’s first birthday. It wasn’t love at first sight for me, but Catherine wouldn’t put him down, and so he came home with us (we paid for him like!).

Like many other toys he settled into life in the toy basket, now and again being pulled out and discarded before being thrown back in the toy box, never really making the cut with our then one year old  who was way more interested in Iggle Piggle at that stage. Then, one day, just like that, he became so much more important than the others. It was as if Catherine had made him a secret promise that she would never leave his side. And suddenly Monkey came everywhere! No longer were we a family of three, we were most definitely a family of four, with Monkey elevated to the position of favourite toy, comforter and constant companion.

I’ll let you in on a little secret, he stinks, he looks like he has cataracts and his fur is quite matted, but non of this matters to Catherine. He is her Monkey. That is until quite recently. Don’t get me wrong, he still holds the esteemed position of number one bedtime companion, but I’m starting to notice that’s he’s not hanging around (like a bad smell) quite as much as he used to, and although I don’t miss the brief panic when I hear the words ‘where’s Monkey?’ I’m feeling rather sad about this slow separation.

Catherine is now at nursery school and her horizons have broadened massively in the last six months or so. She has made new friends and developed new interests. She has become very confident and outgoing, and she doesn’t seem to need Monkey for comfort anymore.

This time last year she wouldn’t go to playgroup without him. She held his hand tightly wherever we went. He came shopping with us, out for dinner with us (and never once offered to pay) and, on the one occasion that we were allowed to wash him, Catherine stood by the machine the whole time. I loved her steadfast commitment to Monkey, and as our little girl grows and he slowly slips away I worry that in years to come she won’t remember how important he was. In saying that, my best friend brought her comforter to uni with her, so all is not lost!

Monkey is in almost every photo of Catherine up until she started nursery, and then he’s just not there, replaced by friends of another kind. I’m glad she’s able to stand alone without him (Mr McC used to joke that he would be walking them both up the aisle), but in true Toy Story fashion I can’t help but wonder what Monkey thinks of it all. He has been a truly loyal companion, a comfort to a shy little girl until she found her voice, and a comfort to her mummy when I handed her over to playgroup knowing she’d be OK if she had Monkey.

Monkey hasn’t changed, but Catherine has, so much, and so quickly. I don’t think she’ll ever fully separate from her trusted pal, but I might start giving him cuddles while she’s at nursery, just to make sure that he knows that I know how he feels.  Because now that she’s a bit older and so much more independent she doesn’t grip my hand quite as tightly anymore either.

The Storybook Mummy

xxx

First blog post

Welcome to my little space!! I decided to set up a blog to document my life as a self-employed mother, struggling to drive my business forward while being there for my little girl. Sometimes it’ll be light-hearted and fun, other times it’ll touch on more serious issues, just like life. I love chocolate, wine, shopping and books, so expect plenty of those. I’m not so fussed on football or being sensible with money, so don’t expect the latest scores or financial advice.

I’m the Storybook Mummy because I sell books, tell stories and because I’m a mummy. I started my own business in 2016 after leaving my full-time job in a local bank (after my daughter was born I was refused a part-time role, but that’s another story). I wasn’t happy, in fact I was miserable, anxious and distracted by thoughts of a better balance for me and my family. After much deliberation and soul searching my husband (from now on I’ll refer to him as Mr McC) and I agreed that it would be best for our family if I left my job and stared working for myself. The only problem was that I didn’t really know what I was going to do. I thought and thought and thought so much but I couldn’t come up with anything that I could make a career out of.

Then one day I was sitting with my daughter (then 2 years old) in a mother and baby class, not mixing with anyone else, dying to chat to the other mums, but not really knowing how to strike up a conversation, and that’s when it came to me. I decided that I was going to start my own class for babies and toddlers, somewhere welcoming, a small community for those who have suddenly found that their world has become very small whilst on maternity leave. Somewhere for little ones to engage with other little ones without being expected to behave. It took a lot of research, training and support from friends and family, and eventually Toddlepops was born out of love and a real interest in building a community for mums and their little ones.

That decision to start Toddlepops set me on a totally new path, where I was in control. I decided when, where and how I worked, and I still can’t believe the direction that things have taken. In 2017 I decided to become an independent organiser for Usborne Books, it felt like a nice fit with Toddlepops and I loved the books. That led me to Instagram and blogging and I just thought I’d give it a go. To document my journey, our journey as a family, our everyday struggles and triumphs. To celebrate the community that we are a part of and to share my hopes and aspirations.

So yeah, I’m going to give it a go and see where this path might lead. I’d love for you to join me.

The Storybook Mummy  xxx