#metoo

We are seeing floods of #metoo stories across social media – the hashtag is being used to give a sense of the sheer number of people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. I use people instead of women very specifically because it would be a huge mistake to assume this is just happening to women. It’s also a conversation we need to have around workplace activity as so many of the situations that come up seem to be based around managers, colleagues, clients and customers putting themselves in a position of power.

Like many people I’ve been in that position although I’m pleased to say it hasn’t been for a number of years. I can give you examples of Managers who insisted I sit on the desk in front of them during workplace conversations, ‘accidental’ hotel bookings with not enough rooms, members of senior management coming into my office and locking the door behind them and many more. All of this was done by people who were in positions of power over me, over my job and over my career.

All of these instances happened when I either didn’t have anyone to talk to about it or when the people I raised it with didn’t take me seriously. I was told that the people involved were just playing or that that didn’t sound like them at all so I was probably mistaken.

Workplace sexual harassment is rife in every single industry but we can change that. By putting in place some simple changes and ways of working we can make the workplace a safe space.

  • Take people seriously when they raise concerns with you. Yes it might be a lot of trouble to investigate it and yes it might not be true but start from a position of belief and understanding. Don’t make someone who has possibly been a victim of harassment feel even more shame and awkwardness than they already do.
  • Lead by example – if you see something happening that looks like someone is being made to feel uncomfortable or victimised then call it out. Don’t just stand by. If you hear any colleagues talking about anyone in your organisation in a sexual manner then call them out on it – immediately. It takes guts to stand up to someone but you’ve just given the victim an ally which will feel like a life raft to them.
  • Think about how you talk about people – don’t introduce colleagues and staff members as ‘the lovely’, ‘the beautiful’ or ‘the handsome’. I’m sure they have some professional achievements you can introduce them with such as – ‘the bright’, ‘the ambitious’, ‘the talented’.
  • Don’t assume that because someone seems comfortable with something that means they are. We all know how to survive in our own workplaces and sometimes that means letting comments and actions slide – even if they do make you feel uncomfortable. Just because someone is laughing with you now doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling fearful, ashamed or like they don’t have a choice but to go along with it.
  • This should go without saying but it needs to be said out loud still – DO NOT LAY YOUR HANDS ON ANYONE UNLESS YOU HAVE THEIR PERMISSION FIRST. Don’t be pedantic, you know I don’t mean handshakes or passing them a cup of coffee. I’m talking about kisses to say hello, hugs to say congratulations and slapping someone on the backside if they reach down to get something they dropped. So once again here it is – DO NOT LAY YOUR HANDS ON ANYONE UNLESS YOU HAVE THEIR PERMISSION FIRST. There are many things you can do with employees – you can grant holiday, give payrises and you can sack them but their body doesn’t belong to you and your hands have no place on it.

Be an equality champion. Yes that’s a nerdy term I know but it has a place. Things in workplaces will only change if people work together to make it happen and you need to be brave to do it. If you see something happening that you feel isn’t right then call it out. If you hear someone talking about a male or female colleague in a way that seems sexual then call it out. If you see a behaviour you think doesn’t look right then call it out. It’s also just as important to have a process in place for people to report to – otherwise how does someone report unwanted behaviour from a manager when it’s the same person they are supposed to report it to in the first place? Some of my examples happened when I worked in HR departments…..who was I supposed to speak to?

Be brave. Stand up for people. Don’t let someone you know end up with their own #metoo story

World Mental Health Day

I’ve been to that dark place – that place where you feel there is no more hope, that place that feels so empty, that place where you feel like you are standing in the middle of a crowded room screaming but not one single person can hear you. 

The problem with that place is no one else can see it. No one else can see the prison you are living in so they just assume that you are a bit distant, that you’ve dropped of the radar or that you are a bit flakey as you cancel plans all the time. They can’t see you sitting on the floor hyperventilating as you worry about going out the door. They can’t see you physically shaking with fear as depression and anxiety go to town on your low self esteem, non existent confidence and make merry with every single negative thought you’ve ever had about yourself. 

It’s not like breaking a leg, getting the flu or a chest infection. You can’t get physio or antibiotics for this – there are tablets you can take and treatments you can have but you’ll always live in fear that it’ll come and take over your life at any given moment. Because that’s the thing – you never know when it will go from being a sleeping dog to a snarling, biting, growling terrifying dog determined to decimate you.

So don’t expect to be able to identify people who have mental health issues. They could be the person at the pub who always laughs, jokes and appears to be the life and soul of the party – just because that is how they present themselves that doesn’t mean they weren’t shaking with fear before they stepped out the front door.

Be kind to people. Be kind to yourself and if you are one of those people who has also stood at the edge of despair please know that I and so many others are here for you. We will catch you when you feel like falling – we are a silent community but together we are strong. Please don’t let it get the better of you – know that while there is a dark pit in front of you there are people behind you holding ladders ready to help you out.

If you feel like it is too much please call the Samaritans on 116 123, Childline on 0800 11111 or PAPYRUS on 0800 068 4141. People want to help, people want to give you support but you have to ask for it. You have to be strong and recognise you need the help.

Be kin
#worldmentalhealthday

Mr MIP saves a life (hopefully)

Once upon a time there was a man called Mr MIP who had spit that matched quite well with someone elses………. it’s an odd story and that isn’t exactly right but it’s as good as any other start I suppose.

We registered with DKMS – Delete Blood Cancer in 2013 after seeing an appeal for people to sign up to help a little girl looking for a match as she had leukemia. We were sent our packs that included an “About Me” type form and a cotton bud to wipe around our mouths. Easy peasy. So we sent the forms off and didn’t think anything else of it apart from calling them to let them know we’d moved house in 2014.

Until last year (2016) when we got a letter through the post last year saying that Mr MIP might be a match for someone. The letter contained lots of brilliant information about the process, selection and the actual donation itself.

First up he had to go for a blood test call Confirmatory Typing (CT) to rule out any infectious diseases or other blood based nasties that he wouldn’t want to pass onto anyone else which all came back clear. The results were then sent onto the patient’s doctor along with two other close matches for them to decide which set of cells would be the most suitable. That part of the process took a few months before we got the call to say Mr MIP was the best match and they’d be going ahead with the donation.

Before he could donate he needed to have a series of injections called Filgrastim which would increase the amount of blood stem cells in his body. He was warned that this was likely to be the most difficult part of the process for him personally and the bit that would come with the most discomfort. As the cells build up it’s common to feel a heavy feeling in your shoulders, chest plate and hips and also common to get insomnia.

Mr MIP was a total champ throughout the injection process – he did get that heavy feeling in his chest and the insomnia was pretty bad. He’s one of those people who falls asleep in a few seconds normally so the experience of just not being able to sleep was totally new to him. The thing is though – no matter how uncomfortable his joints felt and no matter how hard it was not to sleep for two nights it still wasn’t as bad as having leukemia so he didn’t feel like it was bad enough to say he wanted to quit!

 

Before we knew it donation day had rolled around and DKMS UK took care of everything. They made sure we had somewhere to stay, took care of all our travel and answered any other queries we had. Donations can take two days and they wanted us to have the option of an overnight stay – they also recommended having it even if the donation was done in a day as he’d likely to be tired.

He arrived, was shown to his bed and was able to make himself comfortable – donations can take up to 4-6 hours and are done via a very clever machine. A needle on one arm draws out your blood, it goes into this clever little gizmo and then is put back into your body minus the excess cells through a needle in your other arm. Mr MIP’s donation was a relatively straightforward process apart from a calcium dip at one point that made him very lightheaded but the medical team were straight on it and kept a really close eye on him.

You don’t really get to find anything out about the patient – all we know is that she’s in her 30’s and lives somewhere on Earth. That really resonated with me. At the time of donation I was 36 – that could have been me. It could easily be any of us.

After the donation life went back to normal pretty quickly – Mr MIP had some aches and pains as his body went back to it’s normal blood levels and he felt quite tired. He has always said he’d do it again without any hesitation – he describes the process as feeling like having the flu without actually having the flu.

A few days later we recieved this surprise box from DKMS as a thank you to him for being a lifesaver. I can’t even imagine what it feels like to save a life but I do know I’m immensely proud of him. We are still waiting to find out how the patient is – we’ve asked to know but the recipient isn’t obliged to tell us and that’s fine. We just hope she’s ok and well on the way to recovery – we have our fingers, eyes and toes crossed for you mystery lady.

DKMS Box

It’s quick and easy to register to be a bone marrow and blood cell donor – you can visit DKMS-UK and answer a few questions and you can also register with Anthony Nolan Trust . If you find you can’t register with one then it’s worth trying the other as they have slightly different requirements.

You could be wandering around with a possible cure for blood cancer in your body. Just think about that for a second – you might have the cure for some types of cancer. Someone out there could be waiting for you to register – you just need to sign up, get your swab sent in and wait to see if you are holding the key to a possible miracle for someone.

Please register and if you find you are a match and have questions Mr MIP is more than happy to help – drop me a line at muminpractice@gmail.com and I’ll send your message on.

 

Time for school!

With September fast approaching I’ve been thinking back on Miss MIP’s first term and what I’d do differently with the benefit of hindsight. I put the same question to other parents and got some amazing responses.

So here they are – suggestions from parents who have survived the first year of school:

  • Do not send girls to school in white tights – they’ll be ready for the bin after just one wear.
  • Don’t make a big fuss about them not being with you for the day. Try to play it cool and be excited for them and tell them you’ll see them later
  • Don’t worry if they don’t tell you about their day – they’ve spent the whole day interacting with other children and teachers and they might just want some time to themselves to resettle their brains
  • Stock up on water bottles, hair bands, hair clips as they have a habit of vanishing into thin air even when you’ve got loads
  • Never send girls to school in tights on PE day. The teachers who have to help 30+ children get dressed and undressed won’t thank you for it
  • Try to make sure your children wear clothes they can get in and out of – zips are easier than buttons and will make getting changed for PE much less difficult
  • Don’t buy super fancy shoes – they are going to get scuffed up and destroyed in an annoyingly short period of time. Never ever buy patent leather shoes for any child in reception – they won’t make it past day one.
  • Don’t buy white polo shirts for the them to wear in any size bigger than they currently are – they won’t last out the term due to mud, pen and paint so they might as well wear a shirt that fits
  • You can’t have too many cardigans or jumpers
  • Use stamps from Stamptastic instead of labels – they wash well, last for ages and can be used on clothes, shoes and water bottles with ease.
  • Put your child’s name on everything you want back. You’ll be amazed at how big the lost property box gets in the first month.

Take a deep breath. It’s not the easiest thing to have a child starting school but it’s also not the hardest.

It’s going to be fine.

12 weeks? No thanks…..

I need to head this up with this point of clarification – I am not pregnant, I have no intentions of being pregnant and this isn’t any form of announcement that I am pregnant. Got it? All clear?

That being said I was chatting to someone recently who is in the early stages of pregnancy and they were saying they knew they weren’t meant to tell anyone they were but they had told a couple of people already. That got me thinking back to those first few stressful months of pregnancy and how it felt to have this massive secret but be unable to tell anyone.

As it was we told immediate family at 9 weeks and a couple of our closest friends at 10 weeks as we needed help covering up my lack of drinking over the Christmas period which would have sent alarm signals out to most people who knew me!

I wasn’t really sure why I didn’t tell anyone else though and I know I felt guilty for telling the people we did because of the 12 week rule. I know the official reason is because of the risks in early pregnancy but looking back on it that seems like more of a reason to feel relaxed about telling immediate family and a handful of closest friends. These were the friends I quietly celebrated with and enjoyed sharing our precious little secret with but if something had gone wrong then these also would have been the people I would have wanted to lean on in such a hard time.

The other consideration is that those first few weeks are so overwhelming sometimes you just want to talk about your fears, your concerns and your hopes but you may feel guilty or worried about doing so before the 12 week mark is reached. You are full of crazy hormones, you might not be feeling well, you’ll certainly be feeling tired and you’ll likely just want a damn good cry so why shouldn’t you tell someone how you are feeling. Ease the pressure. Share the load.

It takes a village to raise children and that support network starts from the moment you see the lines on your test. You build your village from that very moment and that network should be there for you during the rough times and the smooth times.

So if you want to tell people then do – if you feel it’ll help you feel more supported and then just do it and to hell with tradition and reason. Parenting is complicated enough without making anything harder than it needs to be.

Once again – I am not pregnant. I just really like cake. Please don’t give me any knowing looks following this blog….it’ll just be embarrassing for both of us.

Holiday Countdown

Choosing a holiday is a nerve wracking thing when you’ve got a tiny humans to consider – suddenly it’s not all about wine, fun and sleep. You’ve got to think about entertainment, meal options, sleeping arrangements and the possibility that you are about to spend a whole bunch of hard earned cash on a potential disaster. If that doesn’t make you crack open a bottle of wine then I don’t know what will……..

But help is out there and with a bit of searching around good deals can be found and ideal locations can be sought.

This year we are going for the hotel holiday instead of our usual self catering event. The last time we stayed in a hotel with Miss MIP she was 11 months old and when we arrived at the hotel it was still in the process of being built so we are coming at it with a postive foundation that anything has to be better than the last hotel we stayed in!

After much deliberation we’ve decided to go to the Aliathon Holiday Village and booked it through First Choice. We wanted a proven brand for this special break and are hoping First Choice will provide that extra reassurance.

So far the process has been great – the online booking was easy and there were plenty of photos to give an idea of what to expect. The thing that appealed to us most was the choice of rooms though – Miss MIP has a fragile relationship with sleep at the best of times and the Aliathon Holiday Village gave us the option of a room with a separate kids den for her to sleep in. This is perfect because we know from past experience that Miss MIP cannot, will not and shall not sleep in the same room as us. She just gets too excited and sits on our head singing Moana songs for 12 hours and frankly that’s not my idea of a holiday.

The hotel has lots of food options and we’ve gone all inclusive so I can drink cocktails, Mr MIP can drink a cold beer and the tiny human can consume her body weight in ice cream. It’s got a splash pool, a big swimming pool, a kids club and lots of activities aimed at keeping her asleep at night!

Aliathon 4

With only a couple of weeks to go I’m now looking at packing lists and what to take. This will also be our first holiday without Miss MIP in any kind of nappy which is super exciting! Our little girl is growing up fast and we are looking forward to this next adventure with her.

So off we go to Cyprus – if you have any packing hacks, must see places or travel tips I’d love to hear about them!

In the meantime I’m off to start a list. Maybe in Excel. With colours………….

Our first family camping experience……

Before Miss MIP came along hubby and I would often spend weekends camping away – it was a quick, cheap and easy way to make the most of a weekend and we really wanted to carry on when Baby MIP arrived. Sadly it became quickly apparent that Baby MIP and sleep were not going to be the best of friends and canvas wouldn’t contain her or her noise so we put it off…..and put it off…..and put it off.

She’s now four and while her and sleep aren’t friends they are at least mild acquaintances that are willing to occasionally be in each others presence. With that in mind we dusted off our camping gear from the garage and started to get excited at the prospect of spending weekends in sunny fields again.

Our tent needed replacing as it had gone to war with high winds in Snowdonia and was utterly defeated so while we were at the Outdoor Adventure and Camping show we brought a brand new inflatable Kampa tent which looked perfect for our needs. I do love a gadget and short of having wifi or bluetooth (maybe the next one?) this tent ticked all the boxes for us.

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Then we started to look around for a small and local campsite that we could test the camping water with. We hit the jackpot with the campsite at Watercress Lodges – it was less than an hour away so easy enough to abort Mission Camp if it turned out to be a 3am disaster, family owned, excellent facilities and in a great location. The booking process was easy and with a one night stay for less than £30 for the three of us very reasonable as well.

We packed up the car with a truly stunning amount of kit and drove through the pretty Hampshire countryside to the site.

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It was smaller than I expected from the website but just perfect for what we wanted – it meant no over crowded pitches and no noise from large groups. It was in an excellent location right in front of the Watercress Line – Miss MIP ran to the front of the tent to wave at the trains every time they went past even though they couldn’t see her. The bridge just down from Ropley station was the place to be if you wanted to wave at the train drivers and get a ‘toot toot’ from them and that was less than a 3 minute walk away so great for little legs.

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The facilities on site were great – spacious hot showers, wheelchair accessible toilets and button operated doors, lots of sink space and hairdryers that were free to use.

Unicorn

Miss MIP mostly cooperated – she was very confused at going to bed when the sun was still up so I think we need to bear that in mind for next time. She woke a few times between 12:00 and 3:00 but Mr MIP and I agreed that was more because it got very cold (6c and one point) and she was waking up in an unfamiliar place. She adored the experience though – especially being able to bounce around on her space hopper without worry of cars, drinking from her special tin camping mug and wielding a mallet to get the pegs in!

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The experience also showed us how much older she is getting now – she really wanted to help out and be part of the team and enjoyed the responsibility of the ‘jobs’ we gave her.

Spending time outdoors as a family is so important to us – it gives Miss MIP the experiences that we had as children and the chance to live a bit more ‘free range’ than she is able to at home due to school, her speech therapy and constant assessments on her development. When she is running around outside it doesn’t matter that she can’t meet those targets or isn’t quite the same as some other children – she’s just a little girl playing in the sunshine with her Mummy and Daddy.

In 2017 we are going to spend more time in the outdoors as a family and I feel sure that Miss MIP will only be better for it – and so will we.

If you are looking for that first step camping I couldn’t recommend Watercress Lodges and Camping highly enough. The site is friendly, well planned out, accessible and great for both experience and novice campers. We had a great time and I can guarantee we’ll be back……and maybe in one of these snazzy safari tents they’ve got!

Safi

Details

Watercress Lodges and Camping – http://www.watercresslodges.co.uk/

Watercress Line – http://www.watercressline.co.uk/ 

Kampa Tents – https://www.kampa.co.uk/ 

Happy Camper Mugs – http://www.poundland.co.uk (brought from Petersfield store)

Unicorn Sleeping Pod – http://www.gooutdoors.co.uk

N.B – I was offered a one night stay for in return for a review of the campsite. All views and opinions are my own and I was not paid for this review

Cover photo credit – Watercress Lodges

 

The Outdoor Adventure and Camping Show – Review

As your children get older you start to return to the things you had to stop doing when they arrived. We’ve always loved camping but Miss MIP has never been a good sleeper so begrudgingly we had to leave one of our favourite pastimes behind for a few years. Now she is starting to become slightly more acquainted with the idea of sleeping we are looking forward to spending more time outdoors.

To kick off our year of Outdoor Adventures we visited the Outdoor Adventure and Camping Show at London Excel in February and as it was billed as a family event we took Miss MIP with us.

We decided to drive up as there is an abundance of parking at Excel and the train and tube would have taken much longer than Miss MIP would have put up with! Parking is £15 which isn’t cheap but so much cheaper than train and tube tickets for us all still. We moved very easily from the car park and followed the very clear signage to the event hall.

The Outdoor Adventure and Camping show is enormous – there are over 300 exhibitors, around 50 guest speakers and over the four days it runs over 50,000 people will visit the show. The Telegraph Outdoor Adventure and Camping show is the UK’s largest outdoors show and offers people the chance to explore new activities. If you have a ticket you also get access to the London Bike Show and the Triathlon Show: London which makes it excellent value for money.

Miss MIP had a ball – she built butterfly feeders at the RSBP stand, had an amazing virtual reality experience aboard the Clipper Race , played pretend house and picnics with everything at the Blacks Outdoor sale area and had a truly wonderful time in the Incredible Oceans Live space.

We watched bikes fly at the Air to the Throne, were inspired to travel by Laura Bingham and Ash Bhardwaj and brought a Kampa tent from the lovely chaps at PJ Outdoors.

If you have the chance to go along you should definitely go. Excellent value for money, very family friendly and lots to learn from some very personable experts. While the idea of going to an exhibition might not be the first thing that comes to mind for a family day out we all had such a fun time. It was so good to go somewhere that showed us an entire wealth of opportunities open to us as a family and a brilliant start to our year of outdoor fun.

A big thank you to Fusion Media for arranging press passes for us.

I will not be afraid.

I will not be afraid. I will be proud of the people who ran to help, I will be proud of the police who reacted instantly despite a colleague being attacked, I’ll be proud of the ambulance, fire crews and security services who helped when people needed them. I’ll be so proud of the people who stayed and offered help, comfort and assistance when every instinct would have told them to run.

Don’t listen to stories of propaganda but listen to stories of people who opened their doors, people who helped and people who will not be cowed. We will not be afraid. We will not hide. We will not live in fear of what might happen.

Don’t let fear win and don’t give them the anger they need to continue to fuel the flames of fear, hatred and fury . Be kind, be helpful, be encouraging, be accepting, be open minded and be resilient.

Milestones Matter

Someone asked me today if I’d always known there was something different about Miss MIP and the answer is yes.

She sat up in good time, was weaned in good time, crawled in good time and walked in good time but the talking……that was always a bit off really. I know you aren’t supposed to compare your children to others but everyone does it don’t they? We always knew she wasn’t exactly the same but we always heard from everyone around us how children always caught up and before we knew it she’d be chattering away.

Except she didn’t.

Yes there were a few words here and there but she was always on the back foot when it came to her speech.

She’d try so hard though – we had so many tears and tantrums of frustrated rage as she tried to form words and sentences that just wouldn’t come. The words were there in her brain but she just couldn’t get them out of her mouth and that was heartbreaking to watch. No parent wants to watch their child struggle and to watch her just fall further and further behind other children her age was awful.

But still we waited for the leap to come. For it all to make sense to her in a sudden flash and she’d start chattering away like everyone promised.

Well she’s four now and despite speech therapy toddler groups, speech and language sessions with experts and an enormous amount assistance from her excellent school there has been no flash and no light. She makes small steps of improvement each week but we have to realistically acknowledge the steps need to be bigger for her to catch up and that’s just not going to happen.

We are lucky we have such a great support system but I can’t explain the levels of heartbreak you feel as a parent when children in school playground with your child. It’s not because she’s mean or she’s unkind but because she simply can’t play the role play and pretend games they do – she can’t be Elsa or Twilight Sparkle at the same speed or understanding they do. Generally the children at her school are so kind and understand that they need a bit of extra care but, through no fault of their own and totally understandably, sometimes they don’t want to slow down for her.

I can reason all this out but when I see her sat on her own on a bench when all the other children are running around and playing my heart shatters for her. Into a million pieces.

Miss MIP has a severe speech and language delay combined with a potential hearing problem and this causes her significant learning difficulties on a day to day basis. She can’t read that well because she can’t sound out letters and she struggles with maths because she can’t conceptualise what the numbers actually mean. Please just for a second try to imagine how hard this is for a four year old who has just started school.

She will be fine – we’ll give her everything we can to help, she has an incredible teacher and is surrounded by lovely children who are very kind but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of patience to get her through the next few years at school. We’ve explained to her that when she’s at school she needs to work hard and concentrate harder than some of the other children do. She nods very seriously but doesn’t understand – she doesn’t know that we have major concerns about her moving out of reception class, that no matter how many times she asks she is very unlikely to be Mary in next years nativity play and if we throw her a birthday party I really don’t have any idea how many of her classmates would actually come along.

Life with a child who has a learning difficulty is tough. It’s full of joy because we adore her, she’s funny, she’s kind and she’s brave but it’s also frustrating and so so hard.

So I’d beg of you – if you have serious doubts about your child meeting those pesky milestones please get help. The only reason we’ve made it this far is by pushing for help and annoying people into getting her into the places she needs to be. Don’t let people placate you with false promises that everything will get better – follow your instincts and speak to someone about your concerns over and over again until someone listens to you.