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Collegiate Kids Store

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Blog Articles

(Mis) adventures in Parenthood, Little League & moving your family 5,500 miles from London to California.

Filtering by Category: Parenting

The Rookie Mama

Laura Bonnell

What is a Rookie Mama? Well, I'm a Rookie Mama. Before we had my eldest son 7 years ago I had never changed a diaper (nappy), I'd put on a baby grow once. It took an hour, and it ended up being back to front and inside out. And for me (& my American hubby) we've pretty much been making it up as we go along ever since.

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Raising inquisitive kids that don't alway do what they're told

Laura Bonnell

 

I've always been a inquisitive kid, you know the type - that one that ask's a million "but, why?" questions. My eldest is EXACTLY the same. "He's just like you, you know?", my husband likes to point out. Often when I'm doing battle with a tidal wave of questions before Mummies morning coffee has had a chance to kick in.

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To all my muklet friends & family...

Laura Bonnell

Now, I'm gonna try and write this without sounding like an egotistical narcissist!! It's a very genuine thank you to everyone who has cheered me along thus far. I honestly wouldn't be able to keep going had I not had the support and encouragement from you all! 

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Project USA - this is not a drill, I repeat this is not a drill

Laura Bonnell

I've been keeping a bit quiet about this until I knew it was really happening. Well, I say keeping quiet, I'm rubbish at keeping my own secrets. I've been unsubtly adding British, American and airplane emoticons to my IG messages & tweets recently. Particularly to anyone I connect with on the 'other side of the pond'.  

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Just don't say the 'M' word

Laura Bonnell

 Classic Mompreneur moment - attempting flat shots with Captain Sticky Mitts

Classic Mompreneur moment - attempting flat shots with Captain Sticky Mitts

A few weeks back I headed out to meet up with some local small business owners to share our stories, hints and tips. It's one of the things I really enjoy about running a business, getting out and meeting other like minded people, hearing their stories, telling them yours, and finding ways to help each other out. Meeting in a pub, park, play gym or even my living room with or without the smalls is way way more fun than the stuffy, laborious, angst ridden board meetings I used to have to sit through when I worked in the corporate world. 

Towards the end of the meeting the organiser happened to mention her disdain for the word 'Mumpreneur', given that just because you are a woman, with child, why should you be classed any differently from a man who happens to be a parent who runs a small business. In that moment I have to say my heart sank a little bit. Mumpreneur/ Mompreneur was kinda how I thought of myself, that was kinda my 'schtick'. Without being able to use that word I'm not sure I could say all I wanted to say about my business, Mumpreneuring was my business.

After a latte and walk home, I had time to reflect a little. I could understand a little where she was coming from. Wanting men and women to be seen as equals, why should a woman and mother be viewed as anything different or special compared to a man running a small business? I'm yet to ever hear the word 'Dadpreneur'. Now, I would say I do have feminist tendencies, I'm certainly not an all out bra burning, man scorning (well a bit) campaign sign toting feminist, but I do heavily support women's rights, and I do honestly think we've still got a ways to go. 

I was reminded recently of the frustration we have returning to work post children. One woman attempting unsuccessfully to request flexible working post mat leave, and another trying to justify and hold onto the flexible working she had negotiated 4 years ago at a job she loved.

I've now managed to find a little peace with the ridiculousness of post child work situations. (Even managed to do this without the aid of meditation, just lots of moaning, and bitching. Am fully moaned and bitched out now, and diverting my energy into doing something about it). Workplaces should offer more flexibility, and hold onto mums working for them. We have all the technology in place to make it happen, yet so many work places lack the trust and vision to allow it to happen.

I feel I am part of the first generation of kids to grow up with the internet and e-mail (I remember getting my first e-mail address when I went to Uni, yep showing my age!). Naively, we thought all this wonderful technology was going to simplify our lives. In fact we created a heck load more work for ourselves, and raised expectations to achieve more in a working day. We often feel compelled to carry on the work at night back at home because we have the devices to do it.

Now that my generation has had children, we've realised we can't keep up with the expectations of work. Or, maybe we don't want to. So we quit, get made redundant, or maybe we stick it out. Maybe we overindulge on coffee to ensure semi-professional attention span at work. Maybe we leg it to and from work most days, perhaps arriving with 5 minutes to spare before we incur late fees and a call to child welfare (who would that be?!). Ok, I'm making sweeping generalisations, but you get the gist of where I'm coming from right?!

I've found my peace by saying to myself, "Right corporate world, if you don't think we're worth hanging on to, we're gonna start a revolution, and do it our way". If I may steal a quote from my blog-guru Anna Whitehouse (aka Mother Pukka), she pretty much always speaks my mind, just in a much better, more eloquent and quick witted way:

Forget ‘Instamums’, forget the ‘cool mum’ blather, we’re all laughing as much as we’re crying and wondering how long that Thomas the Tank Engine plaster has been stuck in our barnet. We’re in this together – be that Lennie & Co’s FRIYAY t-shirts or Don’t Buy Her Flowers’ packages for knackered new mums and every new parent-run business or blog in between.
We’re just a rabble of mothers who don’t want it all, but want something.
My something is to be with my daughter and pull in cold, hard cash whenever, wherever I can (without it being illegal) – be that in the playground or at my Ketchup-smattered kitchen table.
Career, you’ve been fruitful but it’s time to stumble (not jump – too knackered) off the precipice into something else; something that will involve fighting for flexible working in global brands; fighting for reducing extortionate daycare rates and trying to build a platform that champions parent-run businesses one Instagram post at a time.
quote from Anna Whitehouse's blog post 'I quit' on Mother Pukka

So, Mumpreneur, Mom Boss, Parent run Business, what ever you want to call it, I'm proud to be one. I embrace the title however cliche and overused. Because it's takes a unique skill and energy to keep those plates spinning; school run, after school fun, park trips, sore nips, IG blags, packing gym bags, keeping up with online orders, and ensuring the smalls are not board as.... okay you get the idea! I'm stumbling off to get the muklets to bed and go sew another t-shirt.

Burning the midnight oil & calling in the cavalry

Laura Bonnell

Well, I'll be honest, I wasn't quite sure I'd survive it, but I did. I made it out the other side of an epic run of Christmas fairs & order fulfilment! In hindsight I was maybe a little ambitious with how many Christmas Fairs I signed up to, but as with everything it's a big learning curve right now. In the run up to the festive season I even managed to squeeze 5 fairs into one week! Admittedly I did get help one Saturday when 2 fairs were actually going on at the same time, but I can tell you Starbucks did very well out of me in November and December. With my history in retail though I knew that many business can make around 40% of their turnover at this time of year, so I decided to power up and make the most of it!

 Mucho coffee was consumed in the festive run up to Christmas

Mucho coffee was consumed in the festive run up to Christmas

I've oft heard it said "when you decide to start your own business for a better work/ life balance - DON'T!" You'll work harder than you've ever worked before! And it's true, but you know what, I'm a grafter, and I actually like working. It's so much more fulfilling when it's your own business, and I truly believe the more you put into it the more you get out. You hold the reigns, it's really only me giving myself a hard time if I haven't finished something in the time I wanted to.

The reality of juggling running a business and having 2 young children is that you are very time poor. I had initially budgeted in my business plan to give myself 1 day of childcare for the first few months to get me up and running. Unfortunately the reality of the cost of childcare in London is that it'll set you back the best part of £100 a day. Maybe not an issue to some, but for me, until the business can generate an income, it's not really viable or sustainable. So, for now I'm grabbing time when my youngest is napping, calling in the Grandma babysitting services when I can, and once the muklets are in bed cracking open the laptop or sewing machine and catching up e-mails, admin and orders.

I was sent some literature a while back from a lady I met at of the networking groups I belong to. It's entitled "The Simple 5 Step Formula To Double your income within 12 months" by Sarah Cox. Sarah has some really great tips, particularly focusing on how you can be very time and money poor when running your own business. Sarah introduces the concept that if you were told you could invest £5 and you would get £10 back, wouldn't you want to invest? It illustrates that you will have to spend money in a business in order to gain back. Reading that passage opened my eyes to another way of thinking. If I was having to pay someone £10/ hour to look after the kids to enable me to work, why not pay someone else around £10 to do some of the work for me, and have the added benefit that it is their area of expertise?!

So, still working on a button and a shoelace budget I set about looking for people that were willing to work with a small business in manageable fees on an ad-hoc flexible basis. I'd also recognised that there was great potential in my local parent peerage. Mostly Career Mums who had either decided not to return to work or struggled to find a work situation that offered flexible hours to work around family life. So, why not utilise this amazing skill base, and offer projects that could fit around their schedules? I also discovered fellow Mums that were happy to meet whilst one or both of our children played so we could have a meeting. Fantastic - making progress at work and not having to pay for childcare! As long as the muklets were happy, entertained and nourished I managed for the most part to achieve productive fulfilling meetings and get some exciting plans in place!

 Meeting at  Crafted London  with the smalls to plan Xmas Fairs and joint marketing campaigns

Meeting at Crafted London with the smalls to plan Xmas Fairs and joint marketing campaigns

So, this is who I've managed to bring on board so far:

A Momma whose helping manage my production - planning and costing making our muklet wares. Also currently costing and planning out my next collection, possibly moving all our manufacturing to the UK

Momma & Poppa photographers - both professional and amateur, helping with lifestyle and flat shots, also sending out muklets wares to Parent bloggers in exchange for photos

A Momma who's become my Editor reviewing my web content and blog for me

A lovely Muklet buddy who helps at Fairs, and is always up for a challenge so has been tasked with small research projects to fit around her busy week

A lovely Momma seamstress - helping to build my stock levels so I'm not always needing to make to order

And a Social Media Momma - helping to send out e-mails, review my website, ensure continuity across my web store platforms... and more tasks growing by the week!

Now, I'm not exclusive to mostly working with Mommas, it's kind of transpired that way as these are the people I'm crossing paths with now. But having that level of understanding that the reason I took 2 days to reply to your e-mail was because I haven't had a child free moment to breath. Or understanding that I can only arrange meetings during the school run window is a rather priceless, and much less stressful way of working than navigating family life with a 9-9 job! I think the people I've found to work with hopefully can share some of the passion I have for growing this business, and hopefully get a kick out of being part of this 'story'. 

I'm certainly very thankful to these guys and all our muklet buddies that have helped us get this far. It literally wouldn't have been possible without them. Now, grab a double shot flat white, roll up your sleeves and let's get cracking with the next bit!

 

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Guest blogging & half moon tambourines

Laura Bonnell

Not long after I launched Muklet a few months back, my ol’ pal Andy, or 'Corpy' as he is known to his mates got in touch to ask if I'd like to write a guest blog for him on Good Stuff 4 Kids. It was early days for me then and I was still figuring out what the brand was going to be and whether people would actually want to buy my products and read my blog.

Now that I've got some sales under my belt and feel that I’m hitting my stride with where I’m taking the brand and the blog, I’ve decided it’s time to put fingertip to Ipad! 

I've known Corpy for many, many years. Well, that's not strictly true – we met at school and lost touch when we headed off to university. Then sometime around 2000 came Friends Reunited followed by Facebook and we were suddenly able to rediscover friends and track down our old tribes. 

It was in the sixth form of comprehensive school that Corpy and I first became pals. His band 'Arthur's Family Restaurant' needed a lead singer and having just completed a run as Tzeitel in the school production of 'Fiddler on the Roof', I felt I had the necessary skills. Thankfully there is no lasting evidence of my off-key warblings and out of beat half moon tambourine accompaniment to our covers of hits such as 'Spirit in the Sky' (believe me, I've checked!).

We were lucky to always have a receptive and forgiving audience on our short tour of venues including the school hall and the local old people’s home. This was the era of The Charlatans, The Cure and The Levellers. I was an Indie kid through and through, complete with olive doc martens and overdyed 501s. I have fond memories of lazy afternoons 'jamming' in the house of whoever’s parents would allow us all in and being squished in the back of our friend’s Land Rover Defender headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody (we'll see if Corpy actually allows me to publish this!).

Cut to the present day and our paths cross again, albeit virtually. Good Stuff 4 Kids is mainly a food-themed blog, which got me thinking about the go-to recipes in our family. Food plays an important role for my family in keeping us connected to our American heritage. My husband is from the States and finds comfort in foods that originate from home. Over the years I’ve amassed a treasury of classic American recipes. For my bridal shower, my New York friends created a cookbook of their favourite dishes, a gift I’ll always treasure. Got Milk? The Cookie Book by Peggy Cullen and Ricky Lauren's Cuisine, Lifestyle, and Legend of the Double RL Ranch are another couple of well-worn favourites.

A special treat for us is heading to Wholefoods to stock up on the finest corn starched products they offer including Aunt Jemimas pancake mix and Maple Syrup, Amy's frozen burritos, Everything seeded bagels and Blue corn chips. Give my husband a large bag of Pretzel Pieces and he will be putty in your hands!

 Aunt Jemima's pancakes feature regularly on the weekend muklet menu

Aunt Jemima's pancakes feature regularly on the weekend muklet menu

When I moved to the United States the foods I craved were often quite bizarre things that I would never dream of eating back home. Thankfully in NY we had stores like Myers of Keswick which sells just about every brand a homesick Brit could wish for and even the local supermarket in Williamsburg was well stocked with Heinz Baked Beans (the American variety, much loved by cowboys, tend to be brown and sugary with lumps of ham).

So, I felt I should at least make the effort to cook a little something to accompany this post. It was going to be Breakfast Burritos (one of my faves) but eldest muklet overruled and we went with brownies from The Star Wars Cookbook instead. If you haven't seen this before, it’s another fun family cookbook. Ok the Star Wars part is very loosely connected to some recipes (mostly strategic placement of OB1 Kanobi and Jawas models), but at least it keeps the littlies engaged and will fill a rainy afternoon when you’re stuck indoors! 

 Big muklet stirring in the 'intergalactic stars'

Big muklet stirring in the 'intergalactic stars'

 Of course the best bit of cake making is licking the spoon!

Of course the best bit of cake making is licking the spoon!

 Et Voila - Star Wars brownies!

Et Voila - Star Wars brownies!

Corpy is also a rather good photographer with two adorable muklets of his own (as you’ll already know if you're a Good Stuff 4 Kids reader). So, never one to miss a trick I have recruited Family Corp to be my Muklet ambassadors. Corpy's kids will be putting Muklet wares through their paces and capturing some awesome pics for me in the process! You may have already seen some muklet tees featuring in his post about Banksy's latest exhibit 'Dismaland'.

 The 'Grubby Knees T-shirt' being too cool fo' skool

The 'Grubby Knees T-shirt' being too cool fo' skool

I thought it fitting to finish with some words from one of my favourite bands from back in the school days, the Sultans of Ping (when this Momma Muklet was sneaking her way into dodgy Indi Clubs in Weston-Super-Mare!:

My, brother, knows, Karl Marx,
He met him eating mushrooms in the peoples park,
He said 'What do you think about my manifesto?'
'I like a manifesto, put it to the test-o.'

Took it straight down to meet the anarchist's party.
I met a groovy guy, he was arty farty,
He said 'I know a little latin man a cus man a kai'
I said 'I don't know what it means' he said 'neither do I'

Eat natural foods, bathe twice daily,
Fill your nostrils up with gravy.
Don't drink tea and don't drink coffee.
Cover your chin in yorkshire toffee.

Dancing in the disco, bumper to bumber,

Wait a minute, where's me jumper,

 

Words courtesy of: Sultans of Ping FC, "Where's Me Jumper" (Divine Records ATHY 01 - Feb 92)

 

Good Stuff 4 Kids (aka The Good Stuff) is Matt & Corpy.  2 nearly forty-somethings who became good mates over beer and student sandwiches back in the heady days of mid-1990′s South East London.  Fast forward nearly 20 years and 140 miles to the West – both of us found ourselves becoming Dads for the first time at around the same time.  Swapping beer and carelessness for nappies and purees – The Good Stuff is our journey through parenthood.  Its the place where we share recipes, review the stuff we like and occasionally rant about the stuff we don’t. 

Visit them at:

www.goodstuff4kids.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/goodstuff4kids

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoodStuff4Kids

Instagram: https://instagram.com/goodstuff4kids/

 

Keeping one foot in the Fash-wan pot

Laura Bonnell

apple_muklet_pantone.jpeg

So firstly, apologies that it's been a while since my last post. My excuse is that I've been working! Real, paid, grown-up working! You see whilst I get my Muklet on, and get this business going, I still need to pay for the proverbial bread and butter. (My husband occasionally apologises for not being a banker and keeping me in the style he thinks I could become accustomed to. (The truth is I always preferred the scruffy arty types around the Lower East Side to the suited and booted ones around Wall Street).

If you've been following my blog you'll know that since being made redundant last December, I've been struggling to find another design job that I'm passionate about and that would get me home in time to see the boys before bedtime. Well after six months of looking, guess what? Two came along at once! 

I love designing clothes and accessories. It's all I've ever wanted to do. I knew from around the age of seven that I wanted to be a fashion designer and that's when I got my first hand-cranked sewing machine. By my 14th birthday my parents had realised this wasn't going to be a passing phase and gave me my wonderful Pfaff Hobbymatic. This machine carried me through making dolls clothes and toys, to costumes and cushions for GCSE textiles, a final collection for my degree in Fashion Design and most recently, my first batches of Varsity Tees and Cushions for Muklet. It's only in the last couple of months that this trusty friend has been retired to my mum's house and replaced by a brand spanking new Janome (maker sewers will appreciate this machine porn talk!). Once again the machine was thanks to Mum, this time investing in her entrepreneurial daughter.

I'm not ready to abandon the fashion world entirely yet. I've made a conscious decision to focus on freelance work to give myself flexibility and maximise the time I spend with the boys. And I've been very fortunate to land a couple of projects I'm really excited about and to be working with people whose company I genuinely enjoy.

I've had some particularly interesting conversations with my coworkers. As women of roughly the same age who have all worked for both big and small brands, we seem to be in a similar place in our lives. In my 20s I thought I knew it all and had the world figured out. With no commitments or major responsibilities, I could invest all my energy in work and my social life. In my 30s I'd figured out who I was, who I wanted to be, who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and where I was headed next. Now getting close (very close) to 40, I know what balance I am striving for in my life. I don't feel I need to prove anything to anyone anymore. In my career as a fashion designer I've worked the long hours, made the sacrifices, put my stamp on the brands I've designed for. I've also seen behind 'the green curtain'. It's awesome to love what you do creatively, but fashion can also be a beast of an industry if I'm honest.

This time I've felt that being a mother has definitely counted against me in my search for a job. I've been very clear in interviews that I would mostly need to leave work on time as I have a family. I don't see any point in not being up front about this. When I see things like 'looking for someone who lives and breathes the brand' in a job description, I read 'you must basically work your life around this job and be ready to cancel your plans at a moment's notice if we decide to change the collection for a zillionth time and need you to get the updated designs out asap' (and breath!). So if there are candidates who are 10 years younger, don't have kids, and are asking £10k less then me, then for the most part I'm headed for the 'no pile'.

That said, I am now working with some awesome people. One company not only has women with a similar mindset to me, but the whole culture of the place is open, supportive, non judgemental and what can be most rare when you're working somewhere 'trendy', it's not cliquey!

The clients I'm working with are smaller brands but with big plans. I've discovered this is where my passion lies. I relish identifying opportunities in the market, getting in the head of the customer and hopefully delivering a compelling wardrobe that she will want to buy. I joined most of the big brands I've worked for at a time of change or growth. I was part of the initial team at Lauren, Ralph Lauren that relaunched the brand after it was brought back in house in 2002. I joined Jack Wills at a time when they were still relatively unknown and based out of a large tin shed in West London. And I got my teeth stuck into Barbour after an old colleague went in to head up the women's and children's ranges and got me onboard to help focus the brand and grow their markets in the UK and Overseas.

Through working with these smaller brands I'm continuing to learn and develop. I'm starting to understand more about how you grow a company and why you would choose to seek outside investment or remain a privately held company and reinvest capital to grow your business slowly. I look at Barbour, still a privately held company. They've been around 120 years so they seem to be doing alright!

It seems I'm not alone in this 'slashy' style of working – in my case Design Consultant/Founder of a Kids' Brand (and of course rather fried parent). In the last two months I've crossed paths with five designers and developers all freelancing at the same time as running their own clothing label. In fact many moons ago on my student placement at M&S I was fortunate to work in the room next to Orla Kiely who was working as a freelance Childrenswear Designer whilst building her business with her husband. 

I recently enjoyed reading this article about 'Slashy working' on The Pool.

Keeping one foot in the fashion pot keeps me connected with the industry and helps me develop as a designer, a creative, a maker and hopefully a successful business woman! 

 Working in my 'she-shed' gets me home in good time to see the kids. No worrying about being stuck on the tube! &nbsp;  Enjoyed this article on  The Pool  recently about 'She-Shed's' (Don't tell my hubby, it's still called the 'Office Pod' as far as he's concerned!)

Working in my 'she-shed' gets me home in good time to see the kids. No worrying about being stuck on the tube!  

Enjoyed this article on The Pool recently about 'She-Shed's' (Don't tell my hubby, it's still called the 'Office Pod' as far as he's concerned!)



Father's Day, an ode to my Baby Daddy

Laura Bonnell

So, it hasn't escaped Mr Muklet's notice that his life has now been transposed into blog fodder! I've already copped some sarky comments after Mr M read a couple of posts. I tried to explain that he was Mr Big to my Carrie (albeit a slightly more stubbly, less suited, more jeaned version), Mr NVN to my Mrs NappyValleyNet (if you're not already familiar with this, I would highly recommend her weekly newsletter for hubby musings, mummy grumblings and local tips!).

I realised I may have unwittingly caused a little offence. My aim is for this blog to be a light-hearted, slightly irreverent commentary on our misadventures in parenthood but I hope the underlying tone of 'couldn't cope or live without you' is apparent.

Mr M is everything I ever really wanted from a partner in crime and baby daddy. He's the dad who's moshing to Beastie Boys with the littlees at 9pm when they should be in bed. The goofball competing with their eldest to see how high the swing can go. The jokester putting Underoos over the youngest's jeans so that he looks like a superhero. Yes, he is a total man child and without my semi-strict supervision our children would be eating pizza and fruit loops for dinner every night, but I wouldn't have it any other way! So, Mr Muklet, here's my:

ODE TO MY BABY DADDY
Oh, hubster, ye are but stubbly, but fair of face
Ye are but a brave man to have married this nutcase
Ye keep me in check with caffeine and good humour
And as parents we may have been late bloomers, 
But ye are the funnest of dads, the looniest of toons
So silly, loving and caring, and soon, 
For being basically awesome to me, W and B
on this Fathers Day we love you unconditionally  
(Pints, hugs and cookies heading your way!)

 

 

 Me, biggest muklet, Mr M, littlest muklet  

Me, biggest muklet, Mr M, littlest muklet  

Best laid plans n' all that

Laura Bonnell

Now it's sod's law that if you have something important scheduled and you have children they will get ill on or before said event. Take the run up to the muklet launch for example. Every last second of nanny time and nap time had been mapped out. And then along comes Captain Fever paying a visit to the eldest muklet! These things also normally coincide with when you've escaped for a rare night of socialising and Prosecco!

 Me &amp; brother muklet designing the website. Wearing 'Sista' tshirt from blogzine  Selfish Mother &nbsp;.&nbsp; Profits from sales of Mother designs go to   Women for Women International –&nbsp;  an amazing charity that helps women in 8 war-torn regions rebuild their lives through training programmes.

Me & brother muklet designing the website. Wearing 'Sista' tshirt from blogzine Selfish Mother . Profits from sales of Mother designs go to Women for Women International – an amazing charity that helps women in 8 war-torn regions rebuild their lives through training programmes.


So, 3am Sunday morning and still slightly pickled, I am awoken by my eldest screaming and hallucinating with a 40 degree fever.  Two days later things have progressed to the point where I find him screaming in pain and pointing to the right side of his groin. A panicked call to 111 decides it's best to cart him off to A&E as it might be appendicitis.


Unless you've got kids it's probably hard to imagine just how difficult it can be to put two children in a car in a hurry. It reminds me of that puzzle where you have to get the fox, the chicken and the bag of corn across the river without one of them eating the other! Except it's trying to get buggy, nappies and general child survival kit into the car whilst a) ensuring children don't peg it down the road (littlest muklet made a dash for it and had to be apprehended by a passerby) and b) getting a child rigid and writhing in pain into a car seat with just a bit of help from a passing runner and by opening the car door with your foot.


Of course 15 minutes after checking in, the patient – who had previously been screaming the house down in pain – was now happily running around the waiting room, making Mommy look like an overdramatic psychotic momma bear! Daddy, who'd practically run from central London, was none too impressed!


This isn't the first – and probably won't be the last – time we’ll incur illnesses at inopportune times. My first big presentation at Barbour in front of about 100 delegates from around the world coincided with my eldest getting chicken pox. The same child got a splinter in his finger when I had a major work deadline. And no, we couldn't get it out and the doctor wouldn't take it out either – you have to go to A&E for a splinter! To be fair it took one week of prep, two nurses, bubbles, the iPad and me and my husband to get the buggering thing out, so yes it was necessary to bring in the professionals!


On the latest jaunt to hospital we were however the latest patients to be filmed for Channel 4's '24 Hours in A&E'. So if you see a frazzled momma betting her husband £5 she can get her obstinate son to pee in a pot in the show this autumn - that's me!

The Mommy Orbit

Laura Bonnell

Now, I don't know if this is a parent-wide phenomenon (it certainly seems to be among my friends), but why is it that the rug rats orbit around moms in a way they don't do around dads?! Why can dads pee in peace, step out of the door without being rammed by small people on scooters and do the male equivalent of putting on makeup without having their Clinique jumbo pencil apprehended for an art project? The minute I start to write an email, pick out an outfit or do any other small job, my muklets are on a mission to make it as complicated for me as possible.

 

People often say how nice it must be to work from home. 'Wow', they say, 'you can look after the kids while you work, that's so nice'. Umm, no, it's not quite like that. If I have serious paid work to do, I have to have childcare. We have an office pod at the end of the garden and for the most part the boys know that if Mommy is in there, she is working, and not to be disturbed. But if I leave the door open and unattended they'll both be in there within 0.3 milliseconds. In that time they will have pulled out my fabric shears, have hold of permanent markers and got busy separating a pile of 200 post-it notes!

 #mummyfail no 103, just wanted to print out some flyers.... of course that's the perfect time for littlest muklet to open a pot of glitter....

#mummyfail no 103, just wanted to print out some flyers.... of course that's the perfect time for littlest muklet to open a pot of glitter....


I have learned a few tricks over the years, not all of them examples of textbook parenting. Most of the approaches involve bribery. One phone call the other day cost me two Cadburys chocolate rolls, a Peppa Pig chocolate lollipop, and a download of 'Big Hero 6'! I once managed to have a Skype interview with San Francisco whilst my eldest did a poo (and gave me a running commentary) and my youngest had a paddy over his latest Duplo construction. Andrew flushable wipes, wild shushing gesticulations with one hand and 3ft plastic brick tower construction with the other – done and done!


So, I still haven't figured out why this is a female phenomenon, this mommy orbit business. Maybe it's because we’re a bit squashier and more comfy so they want to be attached to us more of the time. Maybe it's because we can handle tinkling, opening a pot of yogurt and playing race cars at the same time, I dunno ...

What a Mom can get done in an hour

Laura Bonnell

"....Before I had children, I could spend an hour doing absolutely nothing. Nothing. Indeed, an hour was chickenfeed. I could spend whole days with absolutely no achievement at all.

....Three days after having LIzzie, however, I suddenly realised the riches I had squandered. An hour! Oh man, what I could do with an hour now!

....Just an hour! If my mother wasn't so sodding selfish, and simply gave up her life to come here and babysit, I could learn how to tie sailor's knots! Bag a Munro! Take in an exhibition of ancient maps at the British Museum!

....So, in the tiny windows of time that your child is asleep or someone else is looking after her, you find yourself becoming almost superhumanly productive."

excerpt taken from 'How to be a Woman' by Caitlin Moran

As every mom knows you have to be able to juggle. Not just three balls but maybe more like 10. If you imagine that one of those balls is an 8.45am meeting, another a homework assignment, one a child who needs to be stopped from stuffing soil in his mouth, another a playdate and subsequent scrap over a Transformer, you start to get an idea of the average parent's day.

 

Before I had kids, the first hour at work could easily cruise by like this: start by contemplating what I was going to achieve that day, procrastinate a bit, chat to colleagues about what I was going to have for lunch, what they were going to have for lunch and what we were going to cook for dinner, then realise it was time for a cuppa and deliberate over whether to have a biscuit or be good etc etc!

 

When I look back now I'm amazed at how blissfully unaware I was of the luxury of time. As a parent downtime is pretty rare (unless you have an amazing support network or are Victoria Beckham – sorry, it just ain't possible to take care of four kids 24/7 and look that put together!). So when you become a parent and you do have some childfree time, boy do make the most of it! Many of us dream of putting our feet up with a glass of Pimms and a bit of daytime TV, but the reality is more about how much you can squeeze into those two precious hours of nap time.

 

So it baffles me why so many employers don't seem to appreciate what mums can offer them. We will work our asses off from 9am till 5.30pm because we know we have to peg it out of the door on the dot to retrieve our little treasures from whoever is minding them. And then if we need to, we'll be straight back on the laptop as soon as they're settled in bed.  I can count on one hand the number of friends who were given the days and hours they'd asked for when they returned to work after maternity leave. Many ended up leaving their jobs as they found the pressure of trying to cram a full-time workload into part-time hours too much. And don't get me started on the cost of childcare … that's for another day!

 

My Muffia friends are a mix of working and stay-at-home moms. There's no denying that balancing kids with a job can be a real challenge but it can also be very rewarding (when they don't decide to make you redundant that is!). So another ambition I have for muklet is to tap into some of the mommy talent I'm surrounded by that's been put on hold until the kids are settled in school. I'd like to get to a point where we can support mums working at home and at a time that suits them.

 Using nap time to photoshop images ready for website. Powered by caffeine &amp; twirl

Using nap time to photoshop images ready for website. Powered by caffeine & twirl


You know they talk about the ‘golden hour’ in emergency rooms? Well I have my own ‘golden hour’ it's called nap time and it's what keeps me sane. Don't get me wrong, I love my kids more than life itself, but jeez, I need that hour or two each day to breathe! Right now, I'm making full use of my golden hours to get muklet off the ground. If you’re organised and armed with an IPad and a sewing machine, it’s amazing what you can do. And slowly, but surely … I'm getting there! Knackered, but getting there! 



Ice-cream beards and grubby knees

Laura Bonnell

So, if there's one thing me and my husband totally agree on, it's that we want to allow our kids to be kids! We positively encourage getting mucky, falling over, learning that maybe that wasn't such a great idea after all and getting back up again. A 99 Flake tastes all the better for having had a little face submerged in it then reappear with a humorous ice-cream beard!

Icecream beard.jpg

We’re not big fans of ‘helicopter parenting’ so you won't find us hovering around the rug rats trying to prevent every stumble and scrape. If you hang with us, go ahead, climb up the slide the wrong way, run down a hill faster than your lil' legs can carry you, make a mud pie. We say grubby knees, yes please! 

 

 Grubby Knees T-shirt available online. Click to link to SHOP

Grubby Knees T-shirt available online. Click to link to SHOP