A Super Easy Kids Party

For Jack’s first birthday, I went all out (predictable, huh? Over-excited first time parent over here…). I made everything from scratch including a if-I-do-say-so-myself fairly mega monkey cake. It was awesome, and I so enjoyed preparing everything for him but this year round for his second birthday, I find myself 36 weeks pregnant and well, just feeling a little, ummm, how do I put it… L A Z Y. View Post

Why You Need To Get Outdoors Today

My love for the outdoors is all-consuming and ever-growing. Being outside in nature, ideally in a spot where cars and people cannot be heard, is what makes me happiest. Nothing else compares to that feeling of *freedom* that simply cannot be replicated when indoors (especially if you, like me, live in London or another city). This is why being outdoors makes me feel good: there are less boundaries and the opportunities seem endless. As long as you respect the Nature around you, and the strength she possesses, spontaneity and instinct take up the driving seat. You never quite know what you will find when you’re in Nature – and therein lies the magic…

Since becoming a parent (our little boy Jack is approaching two and we have another one on the way, due at the end of May), spending time outdoors has become even more precious to me. On a personal level, there is nothing I love more than watching Jack play in nature, and see him amuse himself with sticks, stones and mud, exploring all the elements before being plonked in a bubble bath at the end of the day. He hasn’t yet fully experienced snow and I am so excited to see his reaction, and watch him grimace at the cold of it (or more likely, cackle with glee). I can’t wait to watch him build his first fire, swim in the sea (so far he loves nothing more than running into the waves) or pick his first wild flower.  Outdoors is such a natural environment for children which is why I hope to send him to Forest pre-school when he is old enough where the curriculum centres around outdoor play and learning through hands on experience with the natural world. Mathematics skills taught through counting stones? Yes please!

But it extends beyond just my fondness for seeing Jack play in the mud and capture cute photos for Instagram. In the wider UK population, there is a real breakdown of connection between children and the outdoors, which is having serious implications. Just last month, the Guardian newspaper revealed a survey showing that three -quarters of UK children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. Another government report earlier in the year found that one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest, beach or any other natural environment for at least a year. This shows the extent to which time spent playing outdoors has shrunk and is actually quite shocking especially when you consider that increasing obesity and lower mental wellbeing in children is being linked to lack of physical activity (Source: Mark Sears, The Wild Network).

We know that the pervasiveness of technology in our lives has caused much of this, which leads me on to another reason why the outdoors is so crucial. Another poll, led by Persil, as part of their amazing #dirtisgood campaign, found that children spent twice as long playing on screens as playing outside. We cannot stop technology playing such a major role in our lives, and of course it has many advantages but the need to counteract screen time with being outdoors is even more pressing. We need to ensure that we spend time away from screens and get some fresh air into our minds and bodies. With so much digital technology at our fingertips, we NEED the outdoors more than ever.

Finally, Nature affords not just parents – although it has become a huge crutch for me – but any person who might be feeling a little fragile a means to breathe new life into a situation and potentially improve their mental and emotional health. So many days I have woken feeling low and exhausted after a poor night’s sleep and sought solace outdoors in the woods by our house. Things tend to fall into perspective when you realize how small we – and our problems – really are, and Nature can shake us back to this reality in the kindest, most beautiful way. We travel as a family extensively and one day I’d love to visit the redwoods in California, the tallest trees in the world at around 300 feet tall, and just stand beside one. I cannot imagine how intense and calming that must feel.

There is a growing gap between us all and nature as our lives become increasingly enclosed. And yet we know the importance and beauty of the outdoors. To quote the MP Liz Truss, let’s get back to “climbing trees, not walls.” Emma xx

P.S Conversations with a Forest School Leader

On Taking Early Maternity Leave

The day I became a working mum was the day my head space reduced down to the size of a pea. If they talk about ‘baby brain’, I think ironically mine only kicked in once I returned to work and left my mummy life as suddenly I had a gazillion things running through my head, and very little time to compute anything. Hence why one morning I turned up to a very important work meeting with my eye mask still dangling around my neck and a milk-stained top. Let’s just say thank gosh for bladders (obviously I had not had time to use the bathroom that morning so was desperate to go on arrival to work. Well, you can imagine my face when I saw myself in the mirror. It wasn’t pretty)

Working motherhood means being the best juggler in town. The presentation you need to deliver tomorrow morning in front of the entire Sales floor….the milk you need to stock up on for your toddler’s bedtime….the Whooping cough vaccination you need to arrange being pregnant second time round…the gift you need to get for your colleague’s leaving do. It’s a constant battleground of semi-important thoughts and action points fighting to win a place at the top of your head resulting in, for me, frequent feelings of stress.

So when I sat down a month or so ago and computed the fact that we are due to have baba number two at the end of May, not only was I stung by the pelvic girdle pain that had crept over me (but I’d ignored), I was also overcome with strong waves of anxiety. Bringing another human into the world is a BIG deal and not something to be taken lightly. It is bound to have huge changes on our family life and the environment and habits we currently exist in (namely, no bedroom fit for a new baby and being able to generally get a full nights sleep – EEEEEKS! ) and I realised that I really craved time to properly prepare for the next chapter of our lives, and the first chapter of the life of a very important person we were even yet to meet. And so I decided to take early maternity leave at 33 weeks, and writing this on day one of that, I can safely say I think it was one of the best decisions I have made in a long time. Today I was able to already start clearing the room, listening to BBC radio 2, drink multiple cups of herbal tea and attend a physio’s appointment – all such simple and yet soul-lifting activities.

I’m determined to make the most of this period of time as I’m aware it’s an extremely precious and privileged time so I’ve listed below some of my aspirations for the next six weeks. A public to do list, if you will, which I will keep checking in on over the next five or so weeks.

Spend time with my kiddo  – There’s no doubt about it, however much mine and Sam’s lives will change, someone else’s life is about to change a whole lot mroe. Jack, our two year old, is soon to become a big brother, which means a huge amount of adapting on his part and also inevitably less time  spent just the two of us. I really want to spend the next few weeks soaking him up (sounds strange, but you know what I mean) and enjoying our time together and seriously bonding before a certain new someone makes an appearance.

Start cooking again – Since returning to work, I’ve massively neglected cooking, which is genuinely a passion of mine. Dinner has tended to be at best spaghetti bolognese if I’m feeling energetic or at worst, frozen pizza or a takeaway. Cooking has just slipped through the net and I want to reclaim it! I got the beautiful Hemsley and Hemsley cookery book as a leaving gift so the plan is to dive into that and get experimenting.

Practice hypnobirthing – having been taught by the wonderful Siobhan at the Positive Birth Company, I now need to practice practice practice; this is key to hypnobirthing having an effect as you need to get your body used to relaxing, and get to know the different triggers that get you best into this state. I also need to make a birth plan and be clear on the ‘conditions’ I am hoping for..On that note…

Do a dry run – we are aiming for a homebirth, complete with a birthing pool. I’ve been advised to blow it up and fill it with water to practice before the actual day to iron out any potential problems assembling it! We also need to get some cheap shower curtain sheets to lay down everywhere….

Gardening – I love pottering in the garden, especially with Jack, and marvelling at what is sprouting. We even started growing some vegetables. But it’s another one of my passions that fell by the wayside once I went back to work and our little garden has become totally neglected and overgrown with weeds. So when I say gardening, I actually mean weeding 😉

Work on this blog and my YouTube channel – Again, since returning to work it’s been really tricky to create content. I’ve had to fit it in around working and mummying, resulting in very little time. I have so many ideas for new posts and cannot wait to get going on it all.

Baby shower and belly painting – whilst I am not keen on too much fuss and fanfare, I’d love a small sort of ceremony with some positive affirmations and perhaps a touch of belly painting with some of my closest girl friends. Now’s the time to be surrounded by good female energy and get creative, right? This is what a friend and I created last time round…

Go swimming – swimming is said to be one of the best activities for pregnant women and I’ve heard that it helps the baby get in a good position and given this baby is back to back at present, I need all the help I can get… Just got to find me a cossy (Argh!)

Pack my birthing basket or bag – I have a few goodies I plan to keep hidden away until I go into labour, such as this Neals Yard massage oil which smells divine and which could be a really useful tool for the early stages of labour to help my husband help me relax. I would also like to get some clary sage and lavender to sniff at during labour. Any other herbs/tinctures I should be getting? I need to of course prepare the clothes, nappies and blankets for our new arrival – and clothes for me should I need to transfer to hospital. We also need to get some old shower curtains for laying the birth pool down on!

Bounce on my ball – let’s get this baby moving! Now that getting ready in the mornings isn’t a race against the clock, I can actually enjoy bouncing on the ball…and it makes a great addition to the teeth-brushing experience may I say.

Listen to the radio – This is a real hobby of mine, which being at work running in and out of meetings doesn’t allow for. I have recently discovered BBC radio 2 thanks to my instagram followers so have been really enjoying that – it’s a perfect mixture of music, news and discussion.

Sort out the bedroom – as I alluded to above, we do have a room for the new baby but it is currently, let’s say, under construction, and has become somewhat of a junk room. And though I know the baby will be with us for the first six months or so (Jack moved out at 4 months), I’m trying to be organised and get this sorted now as I know further down the line spare time will be a real premium.

Print off and arrange photos – this is a biggy ! Since having Jack I have of course taken many, many photos – most of which remain on my phone, on Instagram and nowhere really to be seen other than on the Internet. I want to change this and get them printed out and arranged in albums to be able to look back on properly, and not just have them live on a mobile phone.

Take baths – one of the most beautiful things in life (even when surrounded by a tonne of plastic toys) and definitely something I plan on doing more of. Just so relaxing, which is exactly what I need right now…

Arrange Jack’s second birthday – Jack is turning two at the end of the month and I need to do some planning! So far, we have entertainment in the form of my husband playing some nursery rhymes on the guitar and a few paper cups…Hmm.

So these are my plans for the next 4-6 weeks… I’m just so grateful to have this time and want to make the most of it. Please drop me a line with any ideas of other things I should be doing pre number two coming along… I know there won’t be too much time for much once he / she does. And anyway, I think this is what they call “nesting” which you’re supposed to do right? 😉

ON SET WITH MOTHERCARE

It was a typically hectic weekday morning in the Ross household and somewhere between gulping down my pregnancy vitamin tablets and finding Jack’s missing shoe, I saw an email from Mothercare land in my inbox. Whilst pre kids it was just another mummy brand selling nappies and babygrows, now that I’ve become a mum, Mothercare is my ‘go to’ shop where I get everything from breast pads to buggies. And so yes, I cannot walk past without going in, yes they’ve got shit hot baby changing facilities which I love and yes, to receive an email from the shop I like to call the Mothership about making video content together was a good start to the day.

Fast forward a few meetings later and I found myself heading to the depths of East London one freezing dark Saturday morning at 6am to spend the day vlogging behind the scenes at their new Spring/ Summer fashion shoot. My brief was to bring the catalogue stills being shot over the course of the day to life through video and general insider ‘chat’ with the model, stylist and make up artist on site which would then be accessed by customers scanning the catalogue with the app (or on YouTube – see below for links). I’d never seen a mummy brand doing anything as innovative as this with their standard clothes catalogue, and was super excited to get started. We took advantage of the gorgeous bright weather and spent most of the morning filming outside by the Regents Canal, incredulous that so many Londoners wanted to get fit in the depths of Winter (and in on our shoot) and doing our best ourselves not to fall in the water.

The bulk of the day was spent going through the ‘capsule’ wardrobe, or the essential Mothercare items that every pregnant woman needs to own including a gorgeous cotton t-shirt dress in grey and blue pin stripe that I fell in love with. Other must-have items included a pair of jeans complete with stretchy pouch holding bump in perfectly, that I have hardly taken off since the shoot. The stylist talked both me and Lauren through the different items, from casual lounge wear to smarter pieces perfect for (that rare) night out, and I was genuinely surprised by just how many looks your could put together with so few items, and a little bit of clever accessorizing here and there. During my last pregnancy I’ll admit that being stylish was not on my priority list; NCT classes and seemingly endless lists of things we *needed* to purchase were more on my mind. This time round though, and thanks to the Mothercare range and stylist’s advice, I feel far more aware of my new “figure” and the best way to dress bump to make me look and feel good.

The atmosphere on set was laid back but focused. We made a lot of content – stills and video – and it wasn’t long before we lost the light and had to call it a day. We wrapped at 6pm, and with high fives and kisses all round, I headed home to my boys to eat chips on the sofa and get an early night after a long – and awesome – day’s work.

You can find the finished videos and shop the collection below:

Falling in Love with Costa Rica (PART 2)

Travelling slap bang in the middle of the day with the sun at its hottest was not something we’d really thought through. But then again, we’re not necessarily the most forward- thinking people (you may have realized that about us by now). Once we were on board, there was no turning back though and what we didn’t realize was the “party” waiting for us. View Post

Road Tripping Around Costa Rica (PART 1)

As I’ve written about before, my husband and I were keen to continue travelling once we had sproglets. We’re still relatively young (no back/ groin issues and adept users of Facebook. OK yes we were amongst it’s first users back in 2005 but hey…), we still want to see the world, explore different cultures, hang out with a diverse, fun and sometimes guitar-wielding crowd and quite frankly, whilst having children undoubtedly makes you grow up, neither of us are ready to lose our free-spiritedness and thirst for gathering our belongings on our back and seeing some of the world. View Post

PLANET ORGANIC COLLAB

I’m super excited to be working with Planet Organic during my second pregnancy to bring you guys a series of blogs and vlogs all about what to eat, drink, bath in, slap on your face and more when you’re pregnant. What more important time in your life is there to look after your mind and your body then when you are growing a brand new person inside of you?

I’ll be working alongside a Fertility Nutiritionist and I do want to stress that everything I talk and write about is just my own experience as I am by no means a doctor. But I am a mama, and a mama-to-be-to number two, so I hope that I can offer a few words of advice you might take on board here and there. I’ll be posting blogs and videos from now up until I am due to give birth (the end of May) so watch this space! Thanks for being here and stay smiling people! x x x

MY 2016 INTENTIONS

I genuinely think that 2015 was the year that I learnt the most in my whole life and perhaps, dare I say it even, grew “up”. I’d gotten over the bleary, sleep-deprived, puppy love experience of having a newborn and constant comparing and conferring with other new mums about the amount my baby was sleeping / crying / feeding / pooping and started to discover my mothering style and in turn discover who I now was as a wife, mother, daughter, friend and woman. Sure, there were ups and downs but things seemed more stable, and in turn more beautiful. Maternity leave was a joy, we went backpacking around South Africa, Jack turned 1, I returned back to the my job four days a week, Summer came and went, I turned 30 – a big and happy milestone for me, I fell pregnant again (yikes!) and Christmas and New Year have been ahaze with sofa, movies and carbs whilst Jack is making us laugh out loud every day and turning into the most awesome boy.

But there is a lot of growing to do still (there always is, right?) so based mainly on listening to others, because I think quite simply that is how you *really* learn about yourself warts and all, here are my 10 Intentions for 2016:

1. Don’t compete, complement: As a parent, it’s easy to think that one person is “doing” more to contribute to the puzzle of life than the other (even if the puzzle of life is just about getting everyone out the house). However, I have learnt that by giving more to a situation (you being the one to get out of bed) you actually get more back (a longer lie in the next day – unless you have a partner who really takes the biscuit) so basic as it sounds, I want to strive even further to work as a team to make us an even stronger and happier unit.

2. Appreciation: Everyone loves a kind word or gesture whether that’s a handwritten card in the post or just being told how good a job they are doing. I don’t think I currently do enough of a good job on this front so…colleagues if you’re reading this, expect more cups of tea and Sam, my husband, you rock my world.

3. Don’t compare myself with anyone else. It’s a real killer, and so counter-productive. Everyones’ situation and reality is entirely different and we know that, so why bother comparing? It’s a total waste of time and emotion.

4. Keep a lid on the drama: Bringing unnecessary drama to a situation is something I hate, and yet I find myself doing it from time to time (usually when I am underslept or pregnant!) I know it’s more than likely just my hormones having a bit of a rave inside of me but I want to make sure I cut this out entirely for 2016 or at least, know when it’s happening and control it.

5. Scroll less, stare more: Working on a screen is one thing but mindless scrolling of social media (Facebook especially) actually feels wrong. When I have a spare minute or two I am going to resolve to just be in the moment, to not pull out my phone to begin peeking at other peoples’ lives but to just sit with the time and enjoy it. Not only is it relaxing but it actually serves to empty the mind (as opposed to Facebook checking, which is purely cluttering the mind) Every Friday we now have a ritual whereby we are screen-free all evening (trust me, it’s harder than it sounds, unfortunately). But the result is quite beautiful. I just find myself staring at Jack as he plays with his trains and really watching how he pushes the little choo choo train back and forth on a piece of track giving myself a feeling of warmth and immense satisfaction that he is enjoying his Christmas gift instead of mindlessly flicking through social media as I may have done on another night. Sam and I get into bed, read the papers and have early, cosy nights. It’s bliss.

6. Focus on my blog: This blog brings me a lot of contentment, but to date I’ve not been good at scheduling my content and generally prioritising it. I really want this to change this year and hope to push myself to the next level with Mamalina. Watch this space, folks and thank you so much for all your support up to this point.

7. Challenge myself in new ways: Last year I taught myself movie editing and this year I really want to step it up and learn more sophisticated editing to up my game on that front. Any ideas for where to start much appreciated!

8. Carve out me time: I think women can be particularly bad at this somehow always letting something or someone else (normally the kiddo) get in the way. But I have learnt if you really carve it out, it is possible and your nails can actually get filed and painted and you can get that half an hours of yoga in.

9. Spend time with older people in the family. I have untold amount of respect for older people, I love hearing their stories of relatives now long gone and love stories unfolding at underground parties during the Blitz. I resolve to spend more time with the older generation this year and in turn bring each other happiness.

10. Write more: Yes I use this blog as a sort of journal but I can’t help but think that “this” is not fully real and that one day it will ultimately be lost in the ether. I have a diary for Jack which I write in infrequently but I want to ensure I remain close to it and actually put pen to paper at least a few times a month.

So that’s it. My 10 intentions for the year 2016 to keep my mind healthy and happy. I’d love to hear what yours are and if we have any of the same so pop me a comment below. Thanks for reading and have a great day 🙂