Monday 24 February 2014

Living Arrows 8/52

"Better, Mummy."

Ebony had a fever late on Friday night, and though she seemed fine all the next day, it peaked again on Saturday night. We spent the weekend indoors, snuggled up under a duvet. 

By Sunday, she had a cough, running nose and streaming eyes, and looked quite out of it. But she didn't want to be alone, choosing instead to nap on either me or Laurie for most of the day. Throughout the illness, whenever I asked how she was feeling, she would reply with "Better, Mummy."
living arrows

Saturday 22 February 2014

One Year as a Freelance Copywriter

Maternity leave was an amazing time - spending my time with my baby, watching her grow and helping her to develop. I loved having that time to truly focus on being a mother, but I did feel there was a dark cloud hanging over me. That cloud was my return to work, to a job I loved, at a place I loved to work, but for some reason it still felt like a dark storm approaching. I just couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to my daughter at the start of each day, and not seeing her for the following 10 hours.

After many sleepless nights, hours of discussion and a moment of clarity, I decided not to return to work. I thought, at the time, that I just needed a few more months with my daughter. That when she was a little older, I would happily leave her. And so, I handed my notice in. It was a difficult month that followed, with many hours spent worrying I may have done the wrong thing. I loved being with my daughter, but would I one day resent her for missed opportunities? Would I struggle to define myself without my passion for my work?

In that month, I wondered whether I might be able to make money from home. I had always had a passion for writing, and had done plenty of writing in my various roles. I decided that I would try my hand at copywriting. I was lucky, and quickly found my first job.

Today marks one year since I first became a freelance copywriter. I spend the mornings playing with my toddler, and then run downstairs to start working when she goes down for a nap. I get as much work done as I can in that hour or so of peace and quiet, and then spend the afternoon with my daughter again. If I have any work outstanding at the end of the day, I do it while my husband is bathing and reading bedtime stories. If I have a lot on, the grandparents pop round to entertain my daughter for a couple of hours so I can get up to speed. It is the perfect arrangement.

I don’t miss out on time with my daughter, but I still get to do something I love, while making money. It’s not a lot of money, of course, I am restricted by the number of hours I work, but it’s enough. I feel like I have found the perfect balance.

It’s hard to predict of course, and there is an element of fear that comes with freelancing, but for the moment it is working well. I love that the extent of my commute is a short walk to the dining table. We’re hoping to move house within the next few months, and I hope I will be able to have an office in the new house. I would love to have a space to truly call my own, where I could sit to work without first moving crayons, paints and glasses.

I often think about my work in terms of luck - I am lucky I am able to work from home, I am lucky I get to spend so much time with my daughter… but actually, I work pretty hard, so I think I deserve some of the credit.

Here are the articles I’ve written over this past year:

If you are ever in need of a copywriter, find me to mrsfionapeacock (at)

Thursday 20 February 2014

When Motherhood Isn't Like the Gilmore Girls

I just went clothes shopping with my two year old. To those of you without kids, this probably sounds like it’s the dullest writing topic imaginable. Those of you with kids on the otherhand, are probably wondering if I’ve lost my mind.

Well, yes, quite possibly. I needed an outfit for a wedding, and the two year old needed a cardigan for the same wedding. So, as I lay in bed last night, I thought we could go shopping together today. Y’know, have a nice mother-daughter shopping trip like I do with my mum. Except my mum is not a fast runner, and rarely tantrums, but I did not detect the seriousness of these differences last night. I thought we would browse the shops together, stopping to look at clothes, and gossiping about our lives. LIKE THE GILMORE GIRLS. My last thought before my insomnia-ridden brain finally switched off last night was ‘maybe we could even get a steamed soya milk somewhere on the way home’.

So, you can imagine my surprise when our shopping trip did not turn into a montage of Lorelai and Rory trying on hilarious outfits together in a changing room.

The day started well, I only had to read The Cat in the Hat twice before we were allowed to set off (on the agreement I would read it three times when we got back home). I packed a bag of snacks for Ebony, because if there is one rule for looking after toddlers, it is never ever let them experience hunger.

We got on the bus. Ebony opened her first snack, took one bite and then dropped it on the floor. The bus floor was, well, a bus floor, so that snack was out of the running. She demanded a pear. I rummaged in her backpack and located the pear. She grabbed it, took a huge bite, chewed, swallowed and said, “No.” before handing the pear back. The montage in my mind was already beginning to fade.

We arrived at the shopping centre two snacks later, and discovered that the dress I wanted was not in stock. If they had had the dress, perhaps we would have enacted some Gilmore-esque bonding in the changing rooms. But they didn’t, and as such, we had to go BLIND shopping. My actual worse kind of shopping.

We went to H&M and I discovered that Ebony would have been the perfect contestant on Supermarket Sweep. That nifty little two year old can dash through the store, grabbing gloves, David Beckham boxers, and headbands like they’re huge inflatable prizes. I chased round after her, trying to minimise the damage, and saying positive things like, “That was fun, shall we go over here and look at these dresses now?”

Unfortunately, Ebony lost her hearing temporarily in H&M, and was unable to hear my pleas. Instead she spent a long time walking towards a mirror to give it a kiss, and an uncomfortable length of time staring at David Beckham in his underwear. At one stage, she was stood next to the incredibly awkward sales assistant behind the counter, while I tried to coax her out with David Beckham underwear. I’m assuming I’m now on some kind of list somewhere.  

I thought we had turned a corner when she offered to carry a t-shirt for me, “Ok, but be careful not drag it on the floor.” Of course with all the hearing difficulties, Ebony heard “DRAG IT ON THE FLOOR. FASTER!” and immediately took off through the shop. I had to run after her, in a crouching position (so as best to reach the t-shirt), but she was actually faster than me and I couldn’t catch up. Perhaps taking the physical stance of a fairy tale wicked witch is not the optimum running position. She eventually tired herself out, and dropped the now-mucky t-shirt on the floor, which I then had to buy. Then she noticed a stand of headbands and proceeded to break the world record for most headbands worn at one time, while shouting “BUY IT!” at me in an aggressive tone.

In the next shop, I chose a few dresses to try on, still hopeful that we might be able to create a bit of a bonding montage, even if it ended up more like a Noel Coward farce than the Gilmore Girls. The teenage boy working the changing rooms looked from me (sweaty, dishevelled and with crazy eyes) to the toddler (feral) and offered us the largest changing room. I accepted gratefully, thinking only of the space, and not noticing that we would be within earshot of a lot of people. Because on TV, montages have music playing over them.

I sat Ebony on the chair, and started trying on clothes. Normally, this is a private event that only I witness. Today, everyone in the changing rooms received a play-by-play account provided by Ebony. It went something like this, but louder:

“Oh dresses. Mummy shoes off. Mummy tights off! Oh, mummy bra! BOOBIES! Mummy dress. Pretty dress. AH. Yes dress. Yes. Dress off. BOOBIES! Jeans, mummy jeans. Red jeans. Yes. OOPS, OH DEAR MUMMY BOTTOM OUT! HAHAHA! CHEEKY BOTTOM! BYE BYE BOOBIES.”

I really cannot stress how loud her voice is. I made Ebony hand the tag back to the young teenage boy working the changing rooms, while I avoided eye-contact by pretending I was buying everything. Because, the look I’m going for is probably best summed up as OH DEAR BOTTOM, so actually all of these clothes are perfect, ok, goodbye.

That was our first and last clothes shopping trip together.

Once again, life has shown me it is nothing like the Gilmore Girls.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #36

I’ve worked out that the key to great adventures during miserable weather, is to make sure Ebony is wearing the snow suit. She gets cold in her coat, and soon wants to go home, but the snow suit keeps her warmer for longer.

By some miracle, we had a whole day this weekend to spend some quality time as a family, so we decided to make the most of it. After struggling to get out of bed (Ebony is still getting these bloody molars), we drove to Hare Hill. It’s a National Trust property that we haven’t visited before, but as we neared the gates we discovered it was closed until March. We continued driving, and just a minute later came across Alderley Edge, another National Trust property, so we went there instead.

There was a choice of trails to follow, and we decided to attempt the medium trail. It was two miles long and included water falls and lots of mud, so it sounded pretty toddler-friendly. Ebony was happy to be wearing wellies so she could jump in puddles, and spent the first part of the walk looking for “more puddles!”

Since acquiring the book Stick Man for her birthday (I love this book, the stick family sleep in the family bed, which makes it a wonderful book for any other cosleeping families out there) Ebony calls all sticks ‘stick man’. She carried a few stick men round with her on our walk, stopping occasionally to discard them in puddles and streams.

For the trail, the National Trust use a very complicated system where they have coloured arrows pointing you in the right direction. It may not sound overly complex, but it must be because we ended up walking in the wrong direction. I’m not entirely sure how or where we went wrong, but I certainly didn’t see any waterfalls during my walk which ended abruptly at a main road, so I’m assuming we encountered navigational difficulties.

There are beautiful views to be seen from Alderley Edge, and we stopped on the hill to appreciate them. Laurie picked Ebony up so she exclaim “Ooooh views!” while looking in the right direction. When he popped her back down I noticed some snowdrops near by. I love that flowers are starting to creep in again now, I’m really looking forward to springtime adventures in fields of buttercups and daisies.

Ebony asked to be carried, but I managed to entertain her with some pawprints in the mud. They were deep footprints, she thought they were probably a dinosaur but I’m pretty certain they were a dog. We decided to run ahead to see if we could track the dog. We couldn’t, but it convinced Ebony to walk for a little longer.

After our failed dog hunt, Laurie picked her up and put her on his shoulders for our walk back to the car park. She loves sitting on his shoulders, playing with his hair and occasionally kissing his head, while demanding that I carry her muddy wellies.

All in all, it was a pretty successful great adventure, and I’m hoping we’ll manage another long one next weekend.

Every week I take Ebony into the great outdoors for an adventure, and write about it here. Whatever the weather, no excuses, for a year. So far, so good. Find out more here.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Books from my Granny's House

I’ve developed a bit of a thing for old children’s books. I love nothing more than stumbling across vintage story books in my local charity shop. I went to visit my Granny last week, and her house is filled with beautiful books from when my dad was growing up. I just love the illustrations in these vintage books.

One of the books, a collection of Aesop's’ fables, has an advertisement for milk on the back cover. I didn’t know they used to advertise on the back of books. Inside, the pages are browning at the edges with age. Some of the books are in good condition, but others have obviously been well loved over the years. My Granny’s copy of The Water Babies, inscribed to her for Christmas when she was seven years old (making it 87 years old), is falling to bits. I think it’s amazing that a book my Granny was given on her seventh birthday can still be read (very carefully) today.

I love the book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with its cover fading with age. It’s one of those old fashioned books with the occasional silky page carrying an illustration. I have a copy of Alice in Wonderland that was my mum’s growing up, and I always loved the feel of the pages. The old-fashioned hard backed books look beautiful on bookshelves, especially at my Granny’s house.

Monday 17 February 2014

Living Arrows 7/52

"Jigsaw time, Mummy. More jigsaws!"

Over the past few weeks, Ebony has developed an insatiable appetite for jigsaws. The jigsaw pile now towers above all of her other toys, and seems to grow ever taller with each passing day. 

This morning we found this Pingu jigsaw for £1 in the charity shop. It was worth every penny, because I was able to sit down with a hot cup of tea while she put the jigsaw together. 
living arrows

Saturday 15 February 2014

Living Arrows 6/52

"Sweep. Hazel. More rabbits!"

We spent some time in the garden last week, playing with the rabbits and making the most of the dry hours between the downpours. Our garden was filled with rubble for the second half of last year, but it has finally all gone to the tip so we can play in the garden again.

Ebony always takes food out for the rabbits, and spends time feeding it through the bars of the run. Quite a lot of it ends up on the wrong side of the bars, much to Sweep and Hazel's annoyance. 

This photograph was supposed to be taken as Ebony walked towards to head back indoors, but she turned and ran back to the rabbits, disappearing out of focus. I seem to spend most of my time chasing after her these days, my independent little girl. 
living arrows

Tuesday 11 February 2014

A Little Victory for Gentle Parenting

I research for a living. I like to research. I don’t like to do anything without researching it first, and parenting is no exception. Parenting is a slightly terrifying responsibility. All of a sudden (well, ok, after nine long months followed by nine even longer hours) a baby is thrust into your arms and all of a sudden you’re a parent. I had researched the birth lots, but hadn’t really given too much thought to what we would do after that.

Then I had a newborn, and a new full time job as a breastfeeding mother, and the associated eight hours of sitting that comes with the role. Sure, for the first few days I gazed lovingly at my daughter’s tiny fingernails, her wrinkled legs and her cloudy eyes. But then, I started reading parenting blogs and sites. And there are so many of them to read, I found myself spending hours a week scrolling through blogs on my phone.

I’m sure a lot of what I read faded to insignificance as soon as it was digested by my bleary-brand-new-mother-eyes. But some of it took hold, some of the information I read has helped to shape the way I parent my daughter. Some of the blogs forced me to questions myself, and do things differently. Others helped me to realise I was right, and that I should continue following my instincts.

The blogs I read were passionate and personal, but included research and science. They were written by experts and parents alike. They all offered ideals - confident, happy, loving children - and ways to achieve them. And, for the techniques I chose to adapt, I hoped to hell they would work.

I must admit, I have at times doubted myself. What if not shouting at my daughter for pushing, causes her to be an aggressor her whole life? What if she actually does become one of those much-dreaded 18 year olds who still sleep in their parents’ bed? What if she fails to understand that I love her unconditionally, and instead thinks I do not love her enough? But, each time doubt entered my mind I would push on, putting my faith in the parenting style, the theory, my instincts, and the blogger who shared with me their story.

I don’t remember where, but when Ebony was just a small baby, I read that children should learn to say please and thank you by imitation, not by instruction. If a child says please and thank you simply because they are told to, they may not say it when not told to. If a child says please or thank you because they are copying a parent, then they will consider it a normal part of everyday life and will always do it.

I told my mum about what I'd read. She looked concerned. Clearly, she was worried about having the rudest grandchild of all her friends. She didn’t think it would work, and she thought that the way she did things had worked just fine (everyone always thinks this, even when it is far from true. To my mother’s testament though, I do always say please and thank you).

And so, ever since Ebony learned to talk, I have said please and thank you for her. I have not once asked to her say it. I look after my daughter full time, and though she spends time with other people, I am the person she spends the most time with. Every day she sees me say please and thank you to the people we encounter. I hoped that she would learn through imitation, though occasionally wondered whether it would really work.

Well, it did. For the past few weeks, my daughter (who just turned two) has been saying please and thank you AND you’re welcome! It came out of the blue, but is now a fixed part of her vocabulary. I’m so pleased, and I’m so glad I trusted that it would work. And I’m so glad I was never the parent who refuses to hand something to their child until they say thank you. And I’m so glad that, in spite of not being that parent, and in spite of my mother’s fears and my own doubts, it actually worked.

So, to those worrying that playing the long game might not pay off - that years down the line you’ll be stuck with a rude, aggressive, bed-sharing adolescent - worry not. Here’s hoping this is the first of many victories for gentle parenting.

Monday 10 February 2014

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #35

 I was hoping we’d be able to get out for a proper walk this weekend, but sadly not. Second birthday parties, hangovers (not related to the second birthday party), and an abundance of work (what is the weekend if not more time for work?) meant that we managed only a small adventure again this week.

I hadn’t predicted that the adventures would become more difficult when Ebony learnt to say no. Sometimes she just wants to stay home, and that means no great adventures. Luckily this week she was in the mood for a spider hunt, so we managed to get out of the front door and into the wilderness beyond.

It’s quite cold at the moment, so I bundled her into her warm, padded snowsuit and wellies, and we set off in search of spiders. We didn’t find any, obviously, because it’s freezing outside so they’re all hiding in my house, but Ebony has not yet figured this out.

We walked through the estate, stopping to jump in each and every puddle we encountered, and headed to some nearby fields. The country lane is filled with loose stones, and Ebony was hurtling along at great speed leaving Laurie with a terrified expression on his face. She fell once (“Oh dear, muddy hands!”) but didn’t seem at all bothered. We walked across the bridge, and then noticed a usually empty field was full of sheep. Ebony shouted “Moo!” at them for a while, before turning and running off down the road.

At the bottom of the road, she found some thick, squelchy mud. And loved it. Until she got stuck and I had to heave her out, almost losing a welly in the process. She immediately jumped straight back into the thick mud, stomping her feet happily.

After exploring a few more puddles, Ebony decided it was time to head home. After a few more moos, we started to cross the bridge towards home. Ebony wanted to see the river, and when we told her it was a railway track she wanted to wait for a train. There isn’t really many trains on a Sunday to our neck of the woods, and it would have been a long wait in the cold, so eventually we persuaded her we should go home.

So, another short but still enjoyable adventure. Hopefully we’ll manage a more exciting adventure soon. Have you been on any adventures this week?

Find out more about my great adventures here.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Blog Challenge: Great Adventure #34

I’ve fallen a week behind with these adventures (again), but am hoping I’ll be able to catch myself up soon. Last week I was ridiculously busy getting things finished around the house, and dealing with the consequences (an unhappy toddler). This week, that same toddler has a humongous back molar forcing its way through her delicate gums and is very moody as a result.

We stayed with Nanny and Papa last night, and while Ebony loves playing with them, it does mean she doesn’t get much sleep, so the moodiness was at its peak today. Papa, Ebony and I decided to take a walk to Towneley Woods, to see if we could find any squirrels. I spent many hours at Towneley in my childhood, so I always enjoy going back. Papa wanted to take the route through the woods so he could show Ebony the animal carvings in the tree trunks.

It was very muddy at Towneley, and I didn’t have my wellies with me so had to keep to the path. Ebony, on the other hand, was happily sloshing in the mud as soon as we arrived. Ebony seemed quite fascinated by the first wood carving, a huge bird, and asked Papa to lift her up so she could get a closer look.

As we reached the bridge, Papa suggested a game of pooh sticks and Ebony ran off shouting “Stick man? Stick man!” She returned with a suitable stick and promptly through him over the bridge. They rushed to the other side to wait for the stick to pass. This was repeated a number of times, and Ebony wasn’t really keen on moving away from bridge, she just wanted to keep playing “stick man”.

A little further on we encountered a squirrel sitting on a bench. Ebony made a beeline for him, but a dog flew round the corner and the squirrel quickly bolted up a nearby tree. We walked a little further into the woods, passing some beautiful old trees twisting away from the earth, before Ebony decided she had had enough. She wasn’t really dressed for a walk in the woods, having only brought a party dress with her (her choice), so I think she was getting cold.

We stopped at the duck pond on the way back to the car, and she spent a little while watching the ducks, geese and seagulls gathered there.

Have you been on any great adventures this week?

Monday 3 February 2014

Living Arrows 5/52

"Little bed, no big, little."

Ebony categorises things in two ways; 'big, no little' and 'little, no big.' Always said with a cocked head and a crinkled nose, these descriptions are how she organises things throughout her day.

We stayed with my parents for the night, and she had a nap in the bunk beds in my old bedroom. The bunk beds were recently dragged out of the loft in the hope she may stay over on her own soon. She won't, of course, but a Nanny can dream.

The top bunk is full of junk - boxes and bags of wires, clothes and toys leak out and fill the wooden boards. The bed below is made and ready. Today Ebony wanted to have a nap in the bunk bed, 'no big, little. Big mess." This photo was taken just after she woke from her nap, in front of the rainbow from my old bedroom wall.

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