Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Contract of employment

THIS AGREEMENT is made on the 28 day of July 2010
  1. The Young Household Ltd of Young Towers, Young & Younger Hill, London ("The Young Household"); and
  2. Young Mummy
1. Young Mummy shall provide childcare, domestic, and editorial services to The Young Household as Chief Childcarer and Part-Time WAHM (Work At Home Mum) (but always within such parameters as may be specified by The Young Household and the primary employer, Ez and Fonz).
2. The Young Household shall pay to Young Mummy the grand sum of Happy Babies, and A Stressfree Working Life (plus any VAT) for all hours worked.
3. The Young Household shall reimburse any reasonable expenses incurred by Young Mummy in the provision of the services under this agreement, with a Drink at the end of each day (choice of which to be determined by Young Mummy), Dinner (ideally including Pud) every night and the Occasional Night Out.
4.1 Subject to clause 4.2 this agreement shall subsist for an indefinite period unless and until determined by one months' written notice given by The Young Household to Young Mummy or by Young Mummy to The Young Household.
4.2 The Young Household may terminate this Agreement forthwith by written notice to Young Mummy at any time if she shall:
4.2.1 Fail to deliver constantly entertaining activities to amuse The Babies; or
4.22 Fail to update her blog more than once a week; or
4.23 Turn up for work without a shower and wearing her pyjamas and slippers; or
4.24 Spend more time on Twitter than playing with The Babies; or
4.25 Not succeed in having a meaningful conversation with her secondary employer, Young Daddy, at least once a month.
5. This Agreement constitutes the whole of the agreement and arrangement and supersedes with effect from the date hereof all previous agreements and arrangements relating to the subject matter.
6. Any notice to be given hereunder shall be in writing and shall be sufficiently served by being delivered personally to The Young Household’s registered office. 

SIGNED for and on behalf of 
The Young Household Limited
Ez and Fonz
Young Mummy
Young Mummy

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Vlogging Diary - ear infections

Instead of a vlog about my best week yet as a mum (I'll post about it later this week instead), a poorly Ez has hijacked this week's Vlogging Diary...

Apologies for my terrible lighting in the video. This vlogging lark is a learning curve, and I obviously have quite a long way to go yet! Although I quite like the fact you can't really see my face, it would make a much better vlog if you could. I shall go away to Vlogging School this week to work on improving next week's diary entry!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Goodbye purees

I'm going to start this post with a reminder - The Artist Formerly Known As Miss E will now be known as Ez, and The Artist Formally Known As Mr A, will go by the name Fonz. Still nicknames (obviously, I hope), but somehow they feel more like real people with these names, and they feel much more natural when I'm writing or vlogging about them.

As I mentioned in my Vlogging Diary this week, we've been having some problems with Fonz and Ez's feeding for the last week or so. I know it's normal for babies to go off their food when teething, but we just couldn't seem to get back on track when Fonz's tooth finally came through. And Ez was being equally challenging at mealtimes, even though she wasn't teething. I began to suspect that it was pureed food that was the problem. They just didn't seem that interested anymore.

We started traditional weaning at six months, having been advised to wait until then, and also to go for traditional weaning, I think because they were born early, and had always been on the small side. Having been given this advice from a healthcare professional that I really trusted, I was happy to do this and so we began pureeing food in massive quantities to meet Fonz and Ez's rapidly increasing appetites!

As soon as they showed interest, we also gave them finger foods, and both Fonz and Ez have chowed down on a large variety of different foods, from roast chicken to French toast. The amount of finger foods they have wanted has been growing recently and I realised that they are more interested in feeding themselves than taking purees off a spoon. So we made the decision. No more purees.

Today, with great trepidation, I served up cheesy chicken pasta bake instead of puree. I needn't have worried because both babies shovelled it down at a rate of knots. I was amazed, both by their enthusiasm, and by the amount of food they ate, and I got such a buzz to see them happily feed themselves.

Weaning's been a really hard slog. It's never been straightforward and I have often found mealtimes incredibly stressful as I'm faced with one or both babies screaming because they're not happy with what's on offer. I blogged back in January about my anxiety about feeding when I was still breastfeeding, and it's never really gone away. The emergency feeding regime the babies were put on after losing too much of their birthweight in the first couple of days really took its toll emotionally and their size and weight has been a sensitive issue for me since then. And still is, if I'm honest.

Maybe we should have chosen baby led weaning over traditional weaning. Maybe we should have moved on from purees months ago. Maybe mealtimes would have been less stressful if we had. But we didn't, and there's no point worrying about it now.

Today was a good day. I feel excited and relieved that Ez and Fonz are ready to move on. It's a sign they're developing, and I'm all for encouraging their independence. I have no doubt that we'll have good days, and we'll have bad days. But through them all I've got to remember that I'm doing my best, and my babies are healthy and happy. Because that's what's really important.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Vlogging Diary - teething woes

Before you watch this video - I've decided it feels too awkward saying 'Mr A' and 'Miss E' when I'm vlogging, so I'm giving them a name-change! Miss E is now Ez, and Mr A become The Fonz (Fonz, or Fonzie). Anyway, here's what we got up to last week...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Weekend Review: Phil & Teds Dash with double kit

You may remember that a while back the kind people at Phil & Teds sent me a Dash inline pushchair to trial. I had imagined it to be a useful second pushchair, great for trips up to town, but I honestly can't remember the last time we went out in our old pushchair since the Dash arrived! We've tried it out in all sorts of situations - long walks, a nip to the local shops, our first trip on the London Underground, our first trip in a black cab, fighting our way down Oxford Street and even a stroll along the beach. We've given it a good testing, and here's my honest review.

The Dash looks smart and modern

It's good on any surface, including grass

The 'intelligent handle' includes a trigger fold and braking mechanism, making the Dash really easy to fold and unfold. When folded it's compact size means it fits easily in the boot of my small car. Out and about, the pushchair is really manoeuvrable, and the suspension is great, even on rough ground. Both seats are multi-position so they can recline. Miss E and Mr A happily sleep without reclining, so I haven't had to use this feature very much. The sunshade was invaluable over the heatwave, and I also use it to encourage the babies to nap.

People often seem concerned that the baby in the back gets a raw deal, but I can honestly say that neither Mr A or Miss E seem to mind being the rear passenger. In fact, I would say that Mr A actively enjoys it, as he loves playing with dangling toys, which can be hung from the seat in front. And contrary to general opinion, I think the view he gets from the rear seat is pretty good - I liken it to being in the back seat of a car - you can't see straight ahead past the seat in front of you, but you have a great range of vision to either side.

Of course the Dash's main strength is its width. The inline design means that it's no wider than most single pushchairs and it makes shops and crowded places much more accessible for me. My side-by-side pushchair doesn't fit through the doors of a lot of my local shops, so it's been fantastic to be able to pop down the road to pick something urgent up. I've used it for those little trips that a lot of my mummy friends would use a sling or front carrier for (obviously not possible with two babies!). The Dash has also made me feel much more confident about heading up to town - I would never brave the tube with a side-by-side pushchair, but I have no fewer worries about it with the Dash.

I also feel a lot less conspicuous when we're out. When you're pushing twins you can get a lot of attention. This can be lovely, but can also make me feel quite self-conscious at times. When we're out with the Dash it's a lot less obvious that I've got twins, so I feel a bit less stared at.

 Mr A loves the back seat (double kit)

Both babies enjoy the view

Unfortunately the Dash isn't suitable for two newborns, so it isn't ideal for twins (with the double kit it's suitable for one newborn and one toddler or two toddlers). A pushchair is such a big purchase and when we were considering our options before the babies arrived, we had to look for models that would last us for a few years.  Unfortunately, buying a new one six months down the line just wouldn't be an option for us.

The braking mechanism on the 'intelligent handle' requires two hands to operate. This can be really difficult if you're trying to hold a baby at the same time!

The Dash is really easy to fold, but you do have to remove the double kit from the back before you can fold it. It's pretty straightforward to do, but is a bit of an added faff if you're in a hurry.

Young Daddy finds pushing the Dash slightly awkward with the double kit attached, because he knocks his knees on the double kit as he walks. He reckons the handle should be a bit longer for a more comfortable walking position.


Phil & Teds describe the Dash as 'the active urban inline' and I think this description is spot-on. We spend a lot of time out and about, and the Dash has been great in every situation. I think it's ideal for urban living, and for me it has definitely taken a lot of the stress out of our outings as I haven't had to worry about whether I'll fit in wherever we're heading that day. I wasn't sure it would win me over, but it's made me feel much more free and more like the independent and outgoing mum I always imagined I'd be. For our family, the Dash has been a real winner.


Weight (with double kit): 12kg
Width: 62cm
Price of Dash: £435
Price of Dash double kit: £73.95

For the Dash's full spec and other details head over to the Phil & Teds website, where there's also a video and a spinning view of the pushchair.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Messy Play by Huggies Wipes Challenge

I think that I'm too late to enter the Huggies Messy Play Challenge (the closing date is today - oops!), but I didn't want to miss the chance to share the pictures of Miss E and Mr A getting messy.

I took the plunge and got out the finger paints for Fathers' Day, so we could create some original artwork for Young Daddy. I was kind of prepared for the babies to get mucky, but didn't forsee the extent of the mess, and they were none-too-pleased to be cleaned up afterwards! But I did get some great shots of them 'creating'....

Here were the rules of the challenge (as laid out by Huggies):.

1. The messier your baby is in the photo the better. (The challenge is cleaning up!)
2. Post the photo to your blog with The Messy Play by Huggies Wipes challenge. (It can be an old photo or a previous post).
3. Send a link of your blog post featuring your Messy Play photo to @Huggies_UK on Twitter or to participate.
4. Check out to see all the blogger submissions and links to their blogs. Submissions will also be shouted out by @Huggies_UK on Twitter.
5. The top 3 messiest entries will receive Huggies® gift packs of Huggies merchandise.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

A wonderful week

We're home today, after a lovely week oop north with the in-laws. Having extra pairs of hands around to help out with the babies, has been, in short, incredible. It's made me realise what a difference having people around to help can make. My parents live locally, but they both work full-time and have diaries so packed they rival the most dedicated socialites so we don't see as much of them as we (and they) would like.

Highlights of the week include:

* Seeing Mr A and Miss E develop a close bond with their grandparents. It has been so lovely to watch these friendships form, and makes me really sad that it will be a while before they see each other again.

* Learning some basic baby signing. Granny Jill suggested buying a book, so we've integrated a few basic signs into the days. The babies have really responded, and we think we've started to recognise some of their sounds for particular words ('cat' is a real favourite). Will write another post about this in due course.

* Having dinner out with my husband. Staying at the in-laws meant there were readily-available babysitters onhand, so that we could head out to the gastro pub in the village. I didn't get drunk at all. I promise. *ahem*

* A lovely afternoon at the seaside, strolling along the beach, eating fish and chips and icecreams and meeting up with a fab Twitter friend and her gorgeous twin girls.

* Our first night away as a couple since Mr A and Miss E arrived on the scene. We went to a wedding on Saturday, and left the babies with their beloved grandparents for the whole day AND NIGHT. We did miss them, but loved waking up in the morning at our leisure and enjoying a lazy cooked breakfast.

There was only one real negative about the week and that is that Mr A has taken to waking up early. Very, very early. I think the latest we've got up for the last ten days is 5.50am. I'm hoping this is down to teething (a new top tooth has made its appearance today), and not just that he's going to be a permanent early riser. I feel particularly sorry for Miss E, who gets woken up each and every morning by her brother when she quite obviously wants to remain asleep.

I shed a tear (ok, quite a few tears) this morning as we said goodbye and headed off on the long car journey home. And now it's back to reality with a thud as I contemplate a to-do list that has been steadily growing over the last few months instead of ever getting any shorter.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Vlogging Diary - some grown-up time

Meant to post this on Friday but I'm... umm... rubbish. But it seems a shame to waste the vlog so here it is, a couple of days late!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Some wise blogging words, borrowed from a wise blogger

We're away at the in-laws this week, so I can't be too anti-social and spend all my time blogging. A great tip from Charlotte Smith at Cybermummy was that if you don't have time to blog but read something you really like, take some of their original post and post on your blog (linking back to the original, of course).

Yesterday night I read the lovely Josie from Sleep is for the Weak's Blogging Manifesto. There seem to have been a few spats in the parent blogging community of late, most of which I am entirely oblivious to, but I have picked up on some of the hurt feelings and upset so her manifesto struck a chord. I for one wholeheartedly sign up to it, so thought I'd post it again here.

[Excerpt from Sleep is for the Weak]

1.People behind blogs are real, and almost without exception they are interesting, complex, unique people with valid, often inspirational stories to tell. Without fail they deserve to be heard and treated with respect.

2.The blogging community should be empowering people to tell those stories. It should be making people feel like it is ok to be them.

3.Blogging is about writing AND connection. It is about finding ways to express yourself, in whatever ways that feel right, and about finding ways to share that with others. This means not just writing and sitting back to let the world come to you. It is about seeking out people that you connect with, it is about not being afraid to make friends. Because there are PLENTY of friends to be made and people that will support you. It is about giving out, but not just to receive. It is about karmic blogging.

4.Good writing, good content comes with practice and with authenticity. Yes, that word. It is about writing from where you are at. It is about writing honestly about the things that matter to YOU. That means not being afraid to write about pain. It is not about being perfect. If you don’t feel like blogging, don’t blog.

5.Your blog is your space, no-one else’s. You have permission to make it anything you want it to be, without guilt or without obligation. Equally, though, understand, though, that people are under no obligation to READ your blog, and should be able to, or not, also without guilt or obligation. Welcome the people that DO connect with it, don’t worry about the others. And, as a reader, if you don’t like it? Politely go elsewhere.

6.If you haven’t met someone in real-life, I would probably hold off making too firm a judgement on them. Words are no substitute for face to face conversation, probably over a bottle of wine or six. You will probably find, like I have, that people are exactly who they say they are. But it’s worth getting to know the person behind the words.

7.If what you have to say someone is something you couldn’t say to their face, then you probably shouldn’t be saying it all. the people behind blogs are real and have feelings. They have busy and complicated lives. They do not need your hate. Veiled passive aggressiveness is cowardly and creates bad feeling. Don’t do it.

8.Indexes and metrics don’t define a blog’s worth. Only you do that, through the connections you make through it and the stories you have to tell. No metric should define how you feel about your blog. If it is spoiling your enjoyment of blogging or making you question your self-worth, you should withdraw from them. It is not worth it.

9.Blogging should be fun. It should make you feel good. It should be therapeutic and make you laugh and make you cry and make you feel. If it doesn’t, you need to change something cause you’re doing it wrong.

10.And, which is what I said in my talk and I’ll say it again here: blogging is ABOUT your life, it is NOT your life. Your blog will be soulless and boring if you are not getting out there and living. So switch off your computers and go and do something different and fun.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

What Cybermummy spelt for me

C Crazy, Costumes, Caffeine, CSS, Cameras, Comments

Y Yum cakes, You, Yelling

B Belly-laughs, Buffet, Buzz, Breakfast [Thanks Huggies!], Book-deals, Breastpads, Bloggers, Best-mates

E Emotional, Emails, Energy, Exhaustion, Edit

R Retweet, Ranking, Relationships, Record, Rendezvous, Reply, Remarkable

M Moving, Me-time, Moo-cards, Monetise

U UberTwitter, Uncharted, Unity, Upload, URL, USB, USP

M Multimedia, Mint Tea, Momentous, Mad

M Manic, Merry, Mayhem, Mingle

Y Yearly, hopefully. Bring on 2011!

Thanks again to the fantastic Huggies team for their sponsorship, smiles and support, and congratulations and thanks to the Cybermummy team for putting on such an incredible day.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Live from Cybermummy #1 - SEO & Blog-to-Book Cyberlabs

I am live-blogging from the slightly more intimate Room 2 at Cybermummy, where the session SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) & Blog-to-Book Cyberlabs is about to begin. As the title of the session suggests, it's divided into two parts...

Part I: SEO Basics and Twitter tips with social media expert Charlotte Smith, AKA Madame Blogger, from Glam Media.

Part II: Blog to book - tips for writing your book from the rather dashing Robin Harvie from Harper Collins, who'll be giving you the lowdown on how to turn your blog into a bestseller.

Part 1: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Basics and Twitter Tips, by Charlotte Smith

Why is knowing how to write for the internet important? It helps you raise your rankings and to reach your audience. You want people to read your blog.

There are two types of searches. When you search on Google, the top two searches are 'paid searches' - the companies have bought the space at the top of the page. The other, 'organic search' is ours. We're blogging for our passion, and the 'organic search' is how we find each other.

SEO is kind of like creative writing, but there are some essential tools - firebox browser, google toolbar, SEO quake or SEO book toolbar.

Your ranking is important - you want to be on the first top ten hits on google. 93% of users won't go past the first page, and less than 1% goes beyond the second page of a search.

A search engine crawls the web like a spider [Charlotte was very proud of this analogy!] to bring up all the pages talking about 'spiders' for example. What is your content? What is it relevant too? You want to be indexed - so take whatever you're talking about put it in your URL. Search engines index the phrases they find on each webpage into a database, so you need to be aware of this and use it to bring people into your site.

Whatever you're writing about - think about how your friends would search for it? How would your mum search for it, and then make sure you write accordingly. It's about relevancy and how it appears on your page.

KEYWORDS - Content is King. You need to learn to write for search engines. Identify exactly what the article or page is about and understand how your target market searches for information. What search terms would they use? Use the search tool to identify the best keywords to target for the article or page. A simple change from eg. 'weight loss tricks' to 'weight loss tips' can massively increase your search ranking.

Google analytics can give you the keywords for your site. What keywords are your readers using? You can then use them in your posts. Density, frequency, prominence, proximity, semantic reinforcement - remember this is how search engines are looking at your keywords.

Create a database of the keywords relevant to your site. This ensures you won't forget them so get an Excel spreadsheet set up of them

Link to each other. This is really important. If you don't have time to write a post for your blog but one of your friends might have blogged about something you're interested in, take 50 words of their post and link back to their original post instead. Hopefully they might return the favour sometime, so you're opening up their audience to your audience and vice versa.

What questions are your community asking? Can you give them information that they can't find anyone else? Always be thinking about how someone would search for this information.


Tweetdeck is awesome, especially if you have more than one account. Engage with each other. Do #followfriday. You should be all about growing your community.

When Charlotte first started using Twitter she just pimped out her blog posts, but got little traffic back. It wasn't until she started talking to, and engaging with, other users that her tweets became more successful in driving traffic to her blog. If you're got an identity, people are more likely to click through to your blog posts. It's all about ENGAGEMENT.

Use Twitter for buzz marketing - if you've got a giveaway, new site design, competition ... TWEET IT!

Charlotte locks her tweets. She followed you, she wants you to follow her back. And if you don't follow back, why should you read her tweets? She doesn't want everyone to see what she's saying all of the time. So she's selective.

#Cybermummy is today's hashtag.  Get tweet pics going.


SEO - how to get your name out there and think about your keywords to come up in a search. What's a metatag? It's a description of your site - you want this to come up in the search. Put metatags in the back of your CSS.

Keyword research:

  • Identify keyword groups

  • Brain storm

  • Keyword research tools (Google Keyword Tool, Wordtracker)

  • Keep a list of keywords for your site

  • Think about how you search

Don't over-use keywords because you don't want to spam it. Google will pick up on this. You should be using ideally no more than two to three keywords per page.

Areas to optimise with keywords:

  • Title tag

  • H1 tag (the heading of the page)

  • The anchor text

  • In the first 25 words of text on the page
Meta description - keep it short, no more than 152 characters (including spaces). Make it relevant!

Charlotte's session has finished, so now it's Robin's turn to take to the stand...

Part II Blog-to-Book, with Robin Harvie

You as writers need to come up with a package, including the network you've tapped into. The more you can do that, the more attention you'll get from publishers.
You all write, you all have stories to tell. A publisher gets up to 30 manuscripts landing on their desk every day. Only the top two will even be considered by the publisher. You have to convert from a blog to the wider world. The bottom line is what dictates what gets published - from 10s to 100s to 1000s of copies sold all over the world.
There's divided opinion about what people want in books from blogs. One big narrative with beginning, middle and end or diary entries? Should you blend truth and fiction for the sake of a narrative and a good story? The publisher will be part of the process for writing the book but the germ of the idea has to come from you.
The package:
Do you tweet? How many followers? Are you on Facebook? How much social media presence do you have? All questions a publisher will ask immediately. You need thousands of people logging onto your blog at least every week. How do you convert that into copies? You need to come with a readymade audience.
An area now being looked at in more depth is the future of publishing. What is digital publishing? What will it look like in the future? What wil the job as a writer be in the future? An author is a curator of content. Look at your content as more than the written form - what can you give as a consumer experience, including videos, downloads, engaging directly with your readers. Convert the blog into an e-book format. The value of text itself has diminished. It's much more of a multi-media idea.
Amazon believe we don't need publishers anymore. If you've got your market, you've got your audience. You've got a savvy idea. you've got your twitter followers. All you need is a distributor. Why would you give 15% to a publisher? So instead, you go direct to Amazon for a digitally-formatted book and circumvent the straight-to-print format. The old process is gone. Amazon will offer you a much better royalty share and they're there for you if you're brave enough. Unless you want to see yourself in print - and then publishers can create printed books for you. Other than that, you're in charge.
What happens about doubling up content from blog to the book (repeated content)?
With some published blog authors, all their content is there online. What do you do with free content when it comes to promoting your book? Should you take free content down from the blog? We published a book, sold no copies. Then we put the whole book online for free and sold thousands of copies. Fight hard if a publisher demands you take the content down from your blog.
How do you get the blog to the publisher?
You can sit in your room and wait for people to come and find you. But you need a huge following and to be aggressive in getting yourself noticed. Use social media. If you have good content people will follow you and find you. You're doing the groundwork putting your material out there.
What is
It's a free library service where you can upload any material you want. You can choose who sees it or leave it open to the general public and you can send the link around.
Do publishers actively seek blogs?
Yes is the answer. They are looking, all the time. But there are masses of blogs out there, it's enormous. You've got to recognise the reality - publishers are publishing half as many books as they were two years ago. They're more cautious, they don't just take a punt anymore, there's a much more scientific approach. You've got to work hard on the content and the social media stuff to get noticed.
Is the parent blogging world a recognised trend? Is it considered a viable publishing avenue? Do they garner lots of market interest?
The ones that work, really work. but they're few and far between. But the same applies to novels, memoirs. There may be a slight fatigue on the back of those that have been so successful. There is success out there, but you need to make your idea sing. It's not a niche market, there are opportunities to be had.
What marketing support can you expect from a publisher?
The onus is on the author - you come up with the marketing ideas. The old-fashioned way of buying a book, sticking up posters, doing a tour, and siting back, crossing your fingers has gone by-the-by largely (due to recession). Print advertising isn't as powerful as people think it is. The online marketing is time-consuming but it's free and much more effective.
How much do you need to put together to send to a publisher? A synopsis, a chapter, the whole thing?
Fiction - you've got to write the whole thing. Get it tip-top before sending. Spend lots of time on it. It's got to be the best it can possibly be.
Are the only mum blogs that can be successful published as a book those by celebrities? No-one wants to read about everyday mums?
The celebrity publishing market has gone through the floor. It's failing. If your blog is good enough it will find a publisher.
Everyone had lots of questions for Robin, but unfortunately we ran out of time. I hope you enjoyed this session at Cybermummy, I know I did and it's given me lots to think about.


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