This weekend I stepped right out of my comfort zone and travelled down to London to attend BritMums Live and the Brilliance in Blogging Awards ceremony for which My Little 3 and Me was a craft finalist. It was my first time and a huge step for me to take on so many levels. The most difficult hurdle was deciding to actually go in the first place as it meant leaving my little ones over night. I don’t get to have nights away from my children and the idea of it felt just plan wrong.
In the past, a huge part of the difficulty I had leaving them was my youngest deaf son’s needs. For the first few years of his life I couldn’t leave him with anyone else because he needed people to communicate to him through British Sign Language or Cued Speech and I was his full-time interpreter, there was no-one else. I wasn’t comfortable leaving him even for an hour or so during the day let alone in the evening or over night, not without the means to communicate…what if he woke up, what if he needed something and couldn’t make himself understood, what if his carer couldn’t get him to understand?…and so I stayed right by his side and so it became the norm, and so the years have ticked on.
And there I sat, long after his cochlear implants, long after his move from signed language to spoken English, contemplating whether to attend BritMums or not, whether to attempt the unheard of and go away for two whole days by myself without the children. It was not an easy choice, it was not a comfortable choice.
The day before I was due to leave I spent a few hours with my mum drilling her on how to get the cochlear implant processors and radio aid working, how to fit them on him and how to troubleshoot all the 101 possible errors that can occur, including what to do if a tornado swept through the house and carried one implant processor away and what to do if the cat swallows his ear-moulds and maliciously stamps on his glasses…Did I tell you I’m an over worrier? Have you ever seen the film Men in Black 3 with the alien character Griffin who can see many alternate realities all happening at the same time? Well that’s me…I see too many possibles, too many what ifs and worry myself silly. I think perhaps that’s just being a parent; perhaps we all do it?
My mum was very patient with me, she diligently scribbled everything I said down and then rewrote it all out neatly. She and my dad reassured me that it would all be fine. Logic of course told me that it would all be OK but that didn’t take away the anxiety and didn’t help me settle to a good night’s sleep with the dreaded morning goodbye looming.
Morning came all too quickly and I’m sure I had only just drifted off when the alarm startled me. Big breath and off I went…to the big city. Were the children OK saying goodbye? Of course they were! Was I feeling OK? Of course I wasn’t! Was that a tear in my eye? No, no of course not, I was just tired! Sniff!
I arrived in London and made my way to the glitzy venue and then it hit me! So busy had I been worrying about typhoons and hearing equipment eating monsters and house fires that I’d not paused to reflect on what I was actually going to. Perhaps that was a good thing as if I’d known what to expect then I probably wouldn’t have left the house! I arrived to a swarm of 500 – ish women and a handful of men all of whom I didn’t know! Overwhelming? You betcha!
Deep breaths, deep breaths….”Get me out of here!!!” …deep breaths…standing in the courtyard bewildered, doors not yet open, crowd getting bigger by the second I spotted someone with a Voodoo Lounge clipboard. My saviour, my lifeline, I battled my way through. “I’m Emma, sorry I’m late.”
I’d signed up to take part in a VooDoo Lounge discussion group and how immensely glad I was that I had at that point, can not be overstated.
And here the palpitations stopped for a while. Sharing ideas and chatting in a small group was a lovely relaxed start that helped me find my feet a little and it was nice to meet with some of the faces behind blogs I’d heard of before and some new ones too. It was a relief to be able to recognize those same faces in the crowds later on through-out the weekend and it really helped me feel less alone. To all newbies like me at such an event, I would really recommend taking part in a smaller focus group if the opportunity arises. And BIG thanks to Vintage Folly, The Ramblings of a formerly Rock’n’Roll Mum , An Exeter Mum, Franglaise Mummy and Chocolate Is Not The Only Fruit for being your lovely friendly fab selves in that session.
After the discussion group though I was thrown back out into the crowd to fend for myself again. How did I do? Well it was exhausting, and scary, and exciting all at the same time. I went to every talk that I possibly could over the two days, scribbled pages and pages of notes and learnt an immense amount. I have unfortunately also come away with an impossibly long list of “Must dos” that I will over the next few months no doubt beat myself up about!
I also had the fantastic opportunity to listen to Katie Piper tell her story and share the amazing work that her charity the Katie Piper Foundation is doing now. A remarkable and inspirational lady who reduced me and many others there to tears and also filled us with immense positivity about living the moment. She was an amazing highlight of the weekend for me and her words will stay with me.
There were lots of times over the two days when I missed the children especially as there were so many things there that I knew they would have just loved. The best I could do was to take photos and send them over to my parents to share with them.
Here’s some of the things the children would have adored…I got to cuddle the Penguins from Madagascar…
…and hang out with Hedwig. Yes the real Hedwig, how cool is that?
I even got to hold one of the wands used by Harry Potter, learn some spells and how to wield the wand in a proficient wizarding style. ( Although perhaps not quite so proficient in my case.)
Over-all I had a lot of fun and met a lot of lovely people and ate a lot of delicious biscuits.
A massive highlight of the weekend was of course the Bibs Awards Ceremony on the Friday night. It was exciting to be celebrating so many wonderful writers that share their stories, experiences, information and skills in the blogosphere. The line up of finalists in each category was amazing and it really was hard to believe that My Little 3 and Me was there on the list with them.
When it finally got to the time for the winner of the Craft category to be announced I was getting ready to applaud and whoop for one of the other fantastic craft finalists that I just knew was going to win, they were so deserving and I was really excited to find out which one it would be. I hadn’t for a moment expected My Little 3 and Me’s name to be called out. I was stunned and it took a few seconds to sink in!
To get up on stage in front of 500 people was a ‘huge gulp’ moment and I’m afraid I was far from eloquent and gabbled some nonsense about trying to walk up steps in high heels! Big thanks to Vintage Folly and But Why Mummy Why who were sitting next to me for helping me celebrate that exciting moment.
Here I am with the award, yay! And yes I know I’m looking a bit like a tortoise! (It’s a long, thin necked family thing!) And here’s the link to the whole award ceremony in case you fancy watching it. The craft category announcement starts at 41 mins.
I am still catching my breath after a very hectic weekend that compares to nothing I’ve ever done before and want to say a huge thankyou to everyone that spoke to me, smiled at me and helped me feel part of the BritMums blogging community.
I am also SHOUTING out a HUGE, HUGE thank you to everyone that voted for us. The BiB award means so, so much.
I was one immensely proud mummy showing her children it on Saturday night when I got home. The award is very much theirs too and as you can see from all the photos on this blog, without them there wouldn’t be any crafts at all. I’m sure over the year it will be taken in to a ‘show and tell’ session or two in school and I love that they are immensely proud too.