September – what a month

I always knew that September would be a tough month.  That basically I would have to just put my head down, keep fighting until the very end and then hopefully emerge from the other side still kicking.

Having given my notice to finish teaching at the end of the Summer, I was offered a further month of work with a bonus to help ease the transition for new members of staff within the department.  With a finish date of four weeks, after having just had the six weeks of Summer off, I decided to go ahead and accept the proposal.  The extra money I was being offered would be nice in the build up to Christmas if nothing else!

I knew it would be tougher than when I had originally returned to work back in May.  A May timetable with no year 11 or 13 and countless trips across other year groups is very different to a September timetable, when new courses are starting up and resources need creating or adapting to suit different classes.  My September timetable contained six year 11 classes and a year 10 class, amongst others, so I would also spend lunchtimes holding coursework catchup sessions for those GCSE students.

Not only would my workload be higher, but my personal life at the weekends was also looking rather full during September.  For each of the weekends my calendar was pretty jam-packed full of activities.

Week 1: Marshaling at Go Beyond Northampton Half Marathon
Week 2: At a friend’s wedding
Week 3: Round Norfolk Relay
Week 4: Ealing half marathon
Week 5: Oscar’s birthday party/christening

There wouldn’t be a lot of time for sleep, running or baby cuddles.  With my Mum very poorly I also wanted to try and fit in as many visits back to Norfolk as was practical.
As a new ambassador for Decathlon I was also really looking forward to the Decathlon blogger meet up at the end of the month, although was concerned that I would be burnt out by that point and unable to fully enjoy the activities that had been planned for us all.

As it turned out though, things didn’t really go quite to plan for September.  I had severe back pain from the second week of the month, managing to run the Round Norfolk Relay only having dosed myself up with double-strength Ibuprofen first, and then unable to run any further miles in September.  The day after the Round Norfolk Relay, my Mum was once again admitted into hospital with a serious infection and so many trips were made over to Norwich hospital for visits during the week, as well as twice-daily phone calls to help support my Dad.  Following one weekend visit and eating in the questionable hospital canteen I ended up throwing up over and over.  My Dad was also left feeling poorly that evening.  I made the difficult decision to pull from Ealing Half Marathon – I hadn’t been able to walk with a straight back for ten days by that point and also I felt it was more important to be with my family in Norfolk.

By the time I began the final week of my contract, I was really struggling.  By Wednesday lunch time my face was hot to touch – burning up, whilst my coat-clad body shivered uncontrollably from the cold.  At 3pm that day I made the decision to head for home, leaving my half-finished marking laid out on the shared office desk with a post-it note stuck to the top reading “Really sorry, – feeling totally pants this afternoon.  Will clear in the morning.”

Oscar's first birthday

That Wednesday was Oscar’s birthday, only I never saw him that day as I rang to cancel my physio appointment on the way home, before curling up into a little ball in my bed, texting Dan to ask if he would be able to pick Oscar up from nursery on his way home from work later that night instead.

The following day I couldn’t even get out of bed, and napped on and off all day, feeling very sorry for myself.  I left emailing Decathlon until the very last minute to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it that evening, just in case I perked up a little and was able to still attend.  I so wanted to attend.  I knew deep down that I would be too poorly to go though, and even if I did manage to sit through the train journey down, I would not be well enough to enjoy the activities they had planned for us once down there.

Friday, my last day at school and I was still too poorly to attend.  What a funny end to my time at the school.  I’ve been in this week to clear my desk and tidy up a few loose ends, but the end of my time there wasn’t how I imagined it to be at all.Oscar's first birthdayThe Saturday was spent opening up Oscar’s birthday presents and last minute cleaning and tidying ready for Oscar’s guests the following day.  I managed to get through the weekend somehow, although I still don’t feel 100%.

…But we did make it through the other side.

Our life will be better now.  That hard work was worthwhile, as it has put a nice pot of money into our bank which we can fall back on if necessary and I’ve been told any future reference requests will be glowing following the work I put into my role.  I’m very glad that my time in school is over now though.  Despite working full pelt, I never felt like I was totally doing my best job of being a Mum or my best job of being a teacher or a daughter or wife.  I always just felt like I was getting by – existing and doing my best to not sink in the madness that was going on around me.  The last fortnight of the month contained several days where I managed only to grab something from the petrol station for lunch, and skipped tea altogether as I knew Oscar was being looked after at nursery for food and I really needed to get on with work.

This is the start of our new chapter now.  One hopefully filled with healthy living, three meals a day, a tidy house, family fun, lots of running, a return to blogging, and a better work-life balance for us all.  I struggle with that work-life balance, as I know many do.  But at the end of the day, life is short.  {How is Oscar one year old already?!}  I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out because I was too busy working or wishing Oscar would go to sleep so that I could get some marking done.

Now to see how the next chapter of our life turns out…

Two parkruns and some big news

Firstly, the parkruns.
Both at Northampton, both with the buggy.

Last week I headed over to run with Laura and Steph, who has been out with an injury for almost a year now.  Every runner’s worst nightmare.  Steph was hoping to run the whole parkrun and then intended on rewarding herself with a new pair of trainers if she succeeded in doing so.  Spoiler alert: a new pair of trainers were purchased!

We started at the back and kept things super slow so that we could catch up on the gossip.  I can’t remember the last time I ran properly without chatting at parkrun to be honest.  I’m due a proper hard run soon I’m sure!
Northampton parkrun with the running buggy

We used to regularly have a photographer at Northampton parkrun but it’s been a bit hit and miss for the last year or so and it was nice to see one out and about last weekend.  He was literally everywhere as well.  Popped up so many times out on the course!  According to a post he shared on the parkrun Facebook page, he took more than 2000 images during the run!

Garmin time: 35:37
Official time: 35:42
Position: 449/539
Gender position: 173/234
Age category position: 22/27

We obviously headed to The Good Loaf for cake afterwards, although for some reason I forgot to take any pictures.  Very unlike me!

As I was loading up the buggy back at my car again, a tiny little mouse came running out from underneath my car and just pottered around on the pavement.  He kept stopping and looking at me, but really wasn’t scared at all.

Mouse in Northampton

This past weekend, Oscar and I headed to Northampton parkrun again with Laura and this time Dan joined us too, although ran his own ‘race’.  Now that Dan has decided to give up football on a Saturday morning he thought it would be a good idea to get back out to parkrun for as many events as he can make, starting with the one at the weekend.

Dan, Me and Oscar on the way to parkrun

On the drive over Dan asked if I would like him to head back and collect Oscar from me once he had crossed the finish line.  I said that he could do if he wanted, although we may not be too far behind, depending on how busy it was that day.

Laura, Oscar and I at Northampton parkrunIt was pretty busy.

We got very stuck behind other runners at the beginning.  I’ve naturally got a very long stride and it’s very hard to keep clipping it continuously.  The paths are very narrow at Northampton and so I kept whizzing Oscar out on the grassy verges and over the bumpy bits where I was able, so that I could overtake runners who stopped or slowed as we went along.  Oscar didn’t seem to care though.  I get the impression (from all the fab smiling he does as everyone runs by) that he adores being in the buggy!

Garmin time: 31:40
Official time: 31:43
Position: 361/523
Gender position: 105/217
Age category position: 17/31

I was really surprised to see 31m 40s on my Garmin as I crossed the line, as once again I’d chatted the whole way round and we really had been going so very slowly (for us) at the beginning of the run.  Dan finished in just under 31 minutes and didn’t make it back to relieve me of the buggy!

We had a busy weekend actually as Dan, Oscar and I met friends, along with their 11-month-old baby at Beckworth Emporium for lunch.  Well, we met them at 2pm, and were seated a little after 3.  The queuing was insane!  Luckily, the babies behaved.

Beckworth Emporium queueI definitely deserved burger and cake for my lunch/tea by the time we were seated!

Burger from Beckworth EmporiumThat fudge cake was a killer though…I wolfed it down as Oscar needed feeding by that point, but by the time I got up I could barely move I was so full!

Chocolate fudge cake from Beckworth Emporium

On Sunday morning Dan managed a lay in, and then I got him breakfast in bed.  (I thought it was supposed to be Mother’s Day?!  Haha!)  We had planned to go swimming so that Dan could see Oscar in the pool, as, other than his first swimming lesson back at the start of January, Dan hasn’t seen Oscar in the water.

Oscar absolutely adores swimming.  Over the past three months his confidence has grown so much in the pool and he is now perfectly happy to dive in from the side of the pool, go underwater, and he kicks his legs and doggy-paddles with his arms.  He’s pretty easy to spot in the pool as he’s the one that will be shrieking with excitement each lesson!

We stopped in at Asda to pick up some coloured plastic balls and a plastic watering can for him to play with in the pool and although he was quite distracted by all of the other children in the public swimming pool, Dan still got to see him enjoying the water which was nice.

We followed our swim up with a picnic at Irchester Country Park, where we were going to give Oscar his first experience of the swings, but it was so incredibly busy as it was such a lovely, sunny weekend that we decided to give it a miss and headed out on a little walk instead.

Dan, Oscar and I out for a walk on Mother's Day

On Sunday I also handed in my notice at work.  I’ve been at the same school for the last two and a half years, although it feels like much longer.  Despite having been on maternity leave since the end of September, I still find myself logging in to the system every couple of days to work on resources for Year 11 (my subject responsibility), and I check my email daily.  I just can’t switch off as a teacher, despite not being in the classroom!

It was a huge decision for Dan and I to make, but ultimately I know that we have made the best decision for our little family.  I will still be returning to school at the end of May to work my notice until the end of the school year, during which time Oscar will attend nursery, but after that I will become a full-time stay-at-home/work-odd-jobs-from-home Mum.

I was so worried about sending the email with my resignation that it took me more than two hours to write the message, and then nearly another 30 minutes before I felt able to hit the send button!  The response from my Head of Department summed up how I was feeling though, and I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing this paragraph…
“I know that you won’t have made this decision lightly.  I also know that you couldn’t possibly be just an ‘OK’ teacher and just an ‘OK’ Mum, so it’s about priorities.  It’s so important to be happy in life Mary.”

I want to be the very best Mum that I can be to Oscar, and I don’t feel like I would be able to do that with 60+ hour working weeks and without any down-time to run or write.  I don’t know quite how things will work out come-September, but I do know that we will adjust just fine and our new way of life will become the new normal.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter!

Just recently there have been several things that I have wanted to write about that I feel don’t really ‘fit’ this blog.  AHM has always been a) very run-focused and b) written more like a diary.  I feel like at the moment there are quite a few ‘topics’ I want to write about.  Some of them baby, some of them just life-things, and they don’t really fit here.  I hurriedly set up a new baby blog back when I first announced my pregnancy online, although decided to continue writing on AHM as my pregnancy journey often had a running-focus.  I think I’m now ready to start running the two blogs alongside each other though, so if you would like to read about a slightly different side of my life, then please visit me over at From Teacher to Mum.  It’s very new, I haven’t played with the design yet and I’m not sure how often I’ll post at the moment.  Getting long blocks of time in front of the computer with a six month old is pretty tough!  I still intend on writing about Oscar-things here when it is running related though.

How did you spend Mother’s Day at the weekend?
Did you learn to swim as a child?
When did you last hand your notice in at a job?

Another week, another parkrun, same pink top

Because the pink top is just one of two which fit me right now, and it always seems to be the one not in the wash basket on a Saturday morning!

Peterborough parkrun at 36 weeks pregnant

As we headed to a new-to-me parkrun (Market Harborough) last week, it was time for a new-to-Laura parkrun this week, and so she drove over to mine for 8am so that we could make our way over to Peterborough parkrun, held at Ferry Meadows.

I knew that the course had changed slightly since I had last run the event, although I wasn’t sure what changes had been made.

The walk to the start is now much shorter, and we began much closer to the cafe than the long walk to the start line that we used to have to take.  I was a little confused when we ran past the finish line on the way out though as it appeared to be in the same location.  Where was the course going to lose the extra metres that we had added on at the start of the event?…!

Peterborough parkrun is run around the lakes and is another lap-course.  Last time I ran, we completed a mini loop around one lake, before two large loops around both lakes and through to the finish.  This time, there is just the mini loop followed by one and a half large loops around both lakes, before runners turn off and head back along a slightly different route to the finish (part of the same way you head out on the starting mini loop but in reverse).  Although the Peterborough course isn’t hugely congested, it meant that faster runners weren’t having to dodge so many other runners as they were lapping people on their way to the finish and it allowed the rest of us to run as larger groups along the track.

As Laura and I ran over the second bridge on the first lap, we spotted a lady who had fallen over who was now sat on the side of the path.  There were a couple of other runners with her and she appeared to have just fallen and knocked herself.  As there wasn’t a lot we could do and everything appeared to be under control, we continued running.  The bridges can be a little slippery at times, but the worst part about running over the bridges is the sensation when they bounce up underneath you to meet your feet as you run along!

Just like last week, the run felt super comfortable throughout and I easily ran another Royal Flush Negative Split:

Mile 1: 11:02
Mile 2: 10:25
Mile 3: 9:55
Nubbin (0.23m): 9:00mm pace

Peterborough parkrun Garmin time

The course clocked up a fair way over on my Garmin – guess I must have weaved a fair amount out there!  I was just two seconds slower than my run at Market Harborough the week before, but had covered more distance, so my pace worked out faster overall.

Garmin time: 33:23
Official time: 
33:24
Position: 
366/494
Gender position: 
80/123
Age category position: 
117/195

Peterborough parkrun - RUN HQ sign

(Love this sign at the start!)

This past week was super busy with the Cakeathon on Monday, lots of final GCSE coursework marking to do ready for school on Thursday, and then with returning to school on Thursday for the first two days of term.  Throw in the fact that my parents were staying over Wednesday-Friday to help with fitting the kitchen (along with a million other odd renovation jobs that still need doing to our house), slotting in a running club committee meeting on the Thursday evening, being back to a 5:15am get up for work each morning, and I was very ready to meet the trail run gang at the pub for dinner following their run on Friday night, and then slot in a parkrun on Saturday morning to escape from the madness of everything else.  Maternity leave cannot come soon enough, despite not being scheduled to begin until October 4th (unless baby decides to come early).

Did you start your weekend with a parkrun?

All the delicious Summer foods

School, (as it has seemed to do a lot just lately) has managed to get in the way of my running and blogging over the past few weeks again.  Although I will be starting my maternity leave at the beginning of October, leaving me less than nine working weeks left before I disappear until June next year, another member of staff within our department has actually handed their notice in and this has meant that timetables and planning and classes have all been up in the year for the 2016-17 calendar for the rest of us within the department.  I’ve ended up taking on several year 11 classes for next year, many of whom I do not teach at the moment, resulting in hours upon hours of marking their coursework to come over the next few weeks, alongside my existing workload.  And I thought all the coursework marking was over for this year?!

Shhhh I'm marking teacher mugThis mug was given to me as a thankyou gift by one of my current year 11 students on the day of her last exam and was very fitting, especially when I actually ended up getting up at 2:30am the following morning to finish marking year 10 folders for a marking scrutiny within the department.  My hard work paid off and I aced the scrutiny with an ‘Outstanding’ grade.  But I was tired and miserable for the next few days, and not the sharpest for the rest of the week.  Dan cheered me up with a ‘Bee Happy’ bee from Waitrose.

Bee happy bee cookie

Luckily, this is the half term of trips and with year 8 currently abroad so out of lessons all of this week, and year 10 soon off for a fortnight of work experience fun, my workload should hopefully begin to balance out once more…

And then it will be the glorious long Summer holidays!

End of term

My teaching timetable is much lighter at this time of year, as my six year eleven classes and two year thirteen groups have finished now, and I am lucky(!) in that some days I have now been freed up to mark or plan for three-hour stints without a break.  By the end of the school day though, I have been ready to head home and never look at a computer again.

Dan and I had talked about getting a second car for the Summer, so that I would be able to head out and visit friends/shop/stay sane whilst he was still at work.  With a friend’s wedding up near Manchester at the start of July though, and Dan needing to head up in the day on Friday, whilst I would still be at work, we started the great car hunt of 2016 slightly early and managed to find Dan a new car at the weekend.

Dan’s priorities were that the car had a large boot for the buggy and space inside for our future children.  How priorities have changed!  He was also rather excited to see that the car had cruise control as well!

Going back to a two-car family means that if I know I will be working on the computer for long portions during the school day I can pre-empt this the night before, arranging to drive myself into work and thus enabling me to leave at 3pm on the dot, instead of having to hang around, forcing work from my tired brain before Dan would be able to collect me at 5, before reaching home at 6pm, after getting stuck in the post-work traffic.  Home by 3:45 means all things running and blogging and brain-break activities can take place, before returning to work in the evenings when my brain is hopefully ready for it again.  I’m super excited to have the option to commute home alone once more, although we will be spending slightly more money on petrol and it will mean two hours less that I see Dan during the day.

Anyway, I’ve written more than 500 words so far and without a single picture of any delicious Summer food as promised in my blog title!

Here goes…

Beckworth Emporium afternoon teaThis…was…amazing…!  I’ve heard lots of fabulous things about the afternoon teas at Beckworth Emporium before, but have never had the opportunity to give one a try.  (Dan won’t touch half the stuff on that slate!)  The day after heading down to marshal at South Downs Way 100, I headed out for afternoon tea and a long-overdue catchup with two of my running mates.  Somehow we managed to make this delicious slate (and another, smaller slate for one) of sandwiches, crisps, scones, tarts and cakes last for nearly three hours over our catchup.  It went down very well!

Beckworth Emporium afternoon tea

This last weekend was a busy one too.  On the Saturday I headed back down South to Basingstoke.  This time for a friend from Uni’s surprise 30th birthday party.Dan and me at Rich's birthday

A long way to go, but I hadn’t seen him for one reason or another since my wedding nearly two years ago, so it was good to catch up over the birthday BBQ.

Check out this awesome bar that his girlfriend’s Dad had knocked up out of the old logshed over the previous couple of days.

The outside bar at Rich's birthdayI made Dan take a sneaky picture so that we could recreate it at our house for next Summer…!

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to join in with the Pimms drinking, or the cocktail drinking, but I still made the most of the fab cocktail umbrellas that were out for use!

Cocktail umbrella in the shape of a peacockI’m really addicted to Raspberry lemonade at the moment.  This was also probably our first BBQ of the Summer?  I can’t remember having been to any so far in 2016 anyway!

We drove back on the Saturday evening, and I headed out for a long-overdue run in the morning.  Trail, out with friends and it was a gorgeous sunny day.  It was the best run I’ve had in a long while.  :)  More to come on that in my running round-up post later in the week though.

On Sunday afternoon we were off to Cambridge for Dan’s fancy work do.

His school had hired out Trinity College and welcomed all staff, along with partners and young children to a Summer Celebration.  There was a free bar, party food and a photographer doing the rounds to take group shots of anybody who asked.  For those not local to Cambridge, the Trinity College is in a beautiful setting overlooking the river and apparently is where the original copy of Winnie the Pooh is kept?  My school will give us each half a glass of wine on the last day of term and expect us to sing “We’re happy and we know it.” (!)

Finger food buffet at work doUnfortunately there weren’t many sandwiches I could eat at 25 weeks pregnant, as lots contained parma ham or salmon.  I made do with a cucumber sandwich instead, along with a selection of asparagus spears (never been to buffet where there has been asparagus spears as an option before!), cheese straws (these were the tastiest cheese straws I’ve ever had), bread, grapes, crackers and cheese (had to avoid the brie and blue cheese too.)  I’m not a fan of macaroons but wanted to know what the flavour ‘green’ tasted like.  (Playdoh if anyone is interested!)

Dan and Me at his work doThe highlight of the meal was the dessert though.  It’s got to be about berries and icecream at this time of year, and this dish of strawberries, blueberries and raspberries was perfect topped with toffee icecream.

Berries and icecream

Berries and BBQs…proper British Summer food!

What do you consider to be British Summer food?
Have you been to any BBQs yet this Summer?