Thursday, 22 July 2010

Bad Habits

It’s so easy isn’t it, falling into bad habits. For me it’s a mixture of lack of time, laziness and doing anything for a quiet life. But over the next 6 weeks I’m going to try and break some bad habits that both the girls and I have got into.

Going to the loo

I hated potty training my eldest. I found it frustrating and stressful and, probably because of this, she took a long while to ‘get it’. Which is why I have deliberately put it off with my now 3yo. But she starts preschool in September so over the next 6 weeks I have to bite the bullet and feel the potty training pain! At the same time though, I plan to break my 4yos habit of holding on until she’s fit to burst. She can hold on for hours, which is not good for her, and I have struggled to get her to go at school. Because of this she continues to have regular accidents at school. I’m assuming that, by now, she probably feels that being ‘busting’ is normal. So to retrain her brain I am resorting to good, old fashioned bribery and have told her that every time she goes for a wee she can have a Party Ring. Hopefully then she will get used to the sensation of a comfortably full bladder and will go more regularly once she’s back at school.

Eating Well

I’ve been quietly ignoring the fact that my weight has been creeping up and up over the past year. However 2 things have happened this week to give me the wake up call I needed. Firstly, I went up a clothes size, to a size I never wanted to reach. Secondly, last weekend I had a really bad headache and spent much of the weekend in bed. It made me realise how important it is for me to be well, and in order to be in good health I have a responsibility to look after my body. So I am going to try really hard to eat better – not for purposes of vanity or to lose weight (although I hope this may be a happy consequence) but for my wellbeing.

And along with this I will be encouraging the girls to do the same. Again, through laziness, I have got into the routine of buying food for them that I know they will eat rather than encouraging them to try new things. So while we have some time I’m hoping to get the girls cooking and shopping for some new things to try.


If I'm honest, the last 6 months have been a bit of a disorganised mess. As the business has grown, the housework has slipped and I have lost my control over things like the household paperwork, the clutter of the kids toys etc. So I need to regain a bit more structure. So rather than my normal laissez faire attitude, this holiday I’ll be planning things to do and making this visual so the girls know what we’re up to, to prevent the next 6 weeks just merging into one long lazy day. I’m also going to try and stay on top of the housework, using the little and often approach. And I’m going to get on top of the paperwork and the clutter, so that in September, when term starts again, I can start afresh as I mean to go on.

Me Time/Us Time

My evenings have ended up being the time when I work, blog, tweet, shop online, you name it – none of which is relaxing or has anything to do with my other half. Some evenings we sit on separate sofas on separate laptops with the TV on in the background – not exactly conducive to sparkling conversation and keeping the romance alive! So I want to reclaim my evenings – to do relaxing things like reading, taking a bath, having a conversation (shock horror!) and generally making time more time for me and us.

I don’t suppose any of this will be easy. I’m great at starting things – I’m not so great as a finisher. But as this quote from Doug Firebaugh nicely sums up: “Something must die in order to grow - your old habits, your old self image, your old thinking, your old life - must be weeded out for the seeds of success to grow.”

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Getting it off my chest

There has been a lot of talk online this week about breastfeeding as it has been National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, and it got me thinking about my experiences of feeding my two girls.

When I got pregnant I had no strong feeling about the subject either way. I accepted that breast was most probably best and knew I wanted to give it a go, but beyond that I was fairly relaxed. Maybe because I felt like that we took to it pretty easily. We had some initial clumsiness, mainly down to me not being used to holding a baby, nevermind in a feeding position - but I had help from the midwives in the maternity ward and managed to get the hang of things, with the aid of a cushion or two for support.

Any problems I had with feeding were down to my general ignorance about babies, rather than any physiological. When Annie was feeding constantly near the beginning I rang the NCT and a La Leche Telephone Support Lines and the ladies I spoke to were brilliant - saying yes, babies do have periods of pretty much constant feeding but to ride these periods and my supply would soon match her demand.

Along with all this, I was also expressing. I hated expressing. It was the one thing that made me feel like a cow at a milking parlour. But I wanted Annie to get used to drinking from a bottle, so I persevered.

At about 12 weeks I introduced 1 bottle of formula at bedtime, as I had read that formula sustains a baby for longer and may help them sleep through the night. I really struggled with this, but I was also extremely precious about my sleep, so I caved in. I finally stopped feeding Annie at 9 months.

By the time Molly came along I was even more passionate about breastfeeding, albeit a little worried how I would cope with feeding a newborn when I had a 19 month toddler to look after too. I need not have worried. Molly took to it like a duck to water and it was as though, second time around, my body knew instinctively what to do and went into milk-producing overdrive!

Second time I was adamant I was not going to express. I decided if she wanted feeding I would rather quickly feed her myself for 20mins than spend hours trying to harvest a few pathetic drops to put in a bottle. It made for less stress for me, but it did come back to bite me on the bum a bit, as Molly never took to a bottle, which meant I ended up feeding her for 14 months. But it was she who decided when to stop. The day before we went on holiday she point blank refused to feed. Several attemnpts later, with boobs like bricks, I resigned myself to an abrupt cessation of feeding and spent the whole holiday in boob-related agony, having to surreptiously hand express to give myself some relief!

In the end, despite not really caring either way, breastfeeding became a defining part of me being a mum. Don't get me wrong - I was never outspoken about the subject and was actually very shy and uncomfortbale feeding in public. But to me, the experience of having a baby just wouldn't be complete without this fundametal element. At the end of the day, the responsibility was all down to me. Sometimes this was a huge burden and some days I would cry at my lack of freedom, feeling resentful and used - but most of the time it was a joy, a priviledge and a huge sense of achievement.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

If in doubt......

I'm worried enough about meeting so many new people at Cybermummy next week and putting the right name to the right blog to the right Twitter name.

And to complicate matters further I am turning up wearing 2 blogging hats myself. On the one hand there is mine & Helen's professional blog supporting & informing mums in business.

On the other hand there's this blog where I'm a Tory hating, overweight, food obsessed, vampire-loving 40 year old who can't decide what contraception to use and who's cat has just died.

If we end up bumping into each other next weekend, and there is an awkward silence to fill, just ask me about cake!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Matter of Life & Death

Last week my lovely old cat Poppy was put to sleep. She was wasting away because of chronic kidney failure and had lost half her body weight within a few months.

I adopted Poppy, and her son Monty, over 13 years ago, during a previous relationship. We had just bought a house together and thought a pet would make it a home. I had not been brought up with pets and for months I wasn't even confident enough to pick them up. In less than a year, the relationship had broken down and I was left with a house and 2 cats to look after.

Over the next 12 years there were good times, bad times, and downright crazy times. Good times like watching her sunning herself in the garden, prowling through the lawn or curled up by the fire. Bad times like when she was hit by a car and crushed her pelvis - and we had to take her to a specialist veterinary college where they put in pins & plates and pieced her back together. And in the latter years there was the inconvenience of her having lots of accidents in the house, ruining carpets & flooring in the process. Downright crazy times like when she attacked Monty in a case of redirected agression, and we had to keep them separated in the house for 16 months, with wallpaper covering our glass interior doors, and during which time she was on antidepressants and went to see a Pet Psychologist.

The day before Poppy died I had a massive row with my sister. Names were called, mud was slung and I ended the day thinking there was no going back and no future for our relationship. Within the next 24 hours I was faced with a life or death decision, and found myself holding my frail cat tightly while she was put to sleep. I then had to break the news to the girls and console my heartbroken 4 year old, whilst trying to answer the torrent of questions she fired at me about death, without worrying or confusing her.

And I just thought 'You know what, there is enough shit and pain to deal with in this world that is out of my control, without me adding to it'. So the next day I rang my sister, apologised, and we talked properly for the first time in years, in a quiet, accepting way, instead of an accusatory or defensive way.

Since having children the cats had drifted somewhat into the background of my consciousness but I'm going to spoil Monty rotten now, because I know I'm really going to miss him when he's gone.

Call it coincidence, or fate, but the sadness I'm feeling at the loss of Poppy is tempered by the feeling that her leaving has taught me some lessons I really needed to learn. Like we don't have all the time we think we have. And that matters of life and death really do put the rest of life's trivia into sharp perspective.

For such a small animal she certainly had a big impact on my life and the house doesn't half feel empty without her.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

A Room of my Own

I miss having my own room. Thoughout my childhood I always had my own bedroom and now the thought of having one room that is all mine is a luxury I can only dream of. But dream of it I often do.

Sometimes this room is an office. Working from home, it would be so welcome to have my own desk, shelves and cupboard so I could organise myself properly and so I could shut the door and switch off completely.

Sometimes this room is a shed or summerhouse at the bottom of a long garden, with a comfy chair, a stereo, a bookcase and a tatty rug on the floor. There is a potting table, flower pots, bulbs and seeds and a pair of shiny red wellies by the door.

Sometimes this room is a bedroom - light and airy, with big windows, lots of cushions and very feminine. Scented candles, fairy lights, fluffy pyjamas and a teasmade by the bed.

Sometimes this room is a day room - my very own den - with a slouchy sofa, Tiffany lamp, a piano covered in framed photos, a desk & computer, floor to ceiling bookcases filled with novels and cookery books.

Living as part of a couple, and now as a family of four, the space we share is a constant compromise. How fabulous would it be to have my own space, to fill with all the things I love - the colours, music, smells, pictures and textures that speak to me. A room which would allow me to just be me.

Wearing a Shell

Having a bath yesterday it was like I was seeing my body with new eyes. Folds of skin, extra fat, lines, cellulite - a body that had aged without me noticing it. But does it really matter? Isn't this body just a shell that protects who I am really am, and have always been?

Why this obsession with the outside at the expense of the inside? Why spend so much time trying to change the shell, and ignore the contents? Maybe it's because it is easier to deal with what's on the outside than look honestly at what's inside.

Call it what you like - your soul, your inner being, your personality, what makes you tick - but it is hardwired into us, and when we fight against it we are unhappy. And if you are unhappy, isn't it easier to blame your chunky thighs or your wobbly bum, than admit you are unfulfilled or have fallen out of love. It's much easier to change the colour of your hair than get to the root of why you feel lonely or misunderstood. And going on a diet is a great way to feel you have some control over your life, when inside you feel like you're going into free fall.

When I look at old photos of myself I see a shell that is tall and slim, smiling back at me like she doesn't have a care in the world. But the self I still carry around with me remembers that wasn't how she felt inside.

Modern life has become a series of aspirations, where our happiness is set to be sealed in some future paradise when we are richer, thinner, more successful in our career or living in a bigger house. The single thing few us can be is content in the here and now, in our own skin.

So for now, I'm going to try and worry less about the shell and try taking a leaf out of Robert Green Ingersoll's book:

"Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so.”

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Long time no blog

It's been a while since I blogged over here - mainly because I've been blogging a lot over there and work has been keeping me busy. But having scheduled all my work posts for the whole of Half Term I'm hoping to catch up over here, and do some more personal writing.

I find I go through peaks and troughs with most things. I'll do them intensely for a while and then stop for ages. I think it's a personality trait that I bore easily. While things are new and fresh I get slightly addicted. Then I reach saturation point and need a complete break. The real measure of the things I love are those that I go back to time and time again.

Some of these have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember - most particularly writing & reading. Lots of things have been tried (enthusiastically at the time) then fallen by the wayside, like crafting, knitting and running. The newer things that have stood the test of time are gardening, blogging, baking and Twitter.

So for the next week I intend to spend a lot more time doing the things that really define who I am. I have a crisp new novel to read (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), a vegetable patch to tend, this months BBC Good Food magazine to pore through for new recipes, and my beloved Blackberry so I can keep up to date with the Twitterverse wherever I happen to be.

And I have this blog, which will be receiving some special TLC - Tender Loving Copy.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Why I fear Tory Rule

I've said before that I don't think of myself as a political person - in the past 40 years I have really never taken much of an interest. But this months election has stirred something deep inside me and re-awakened old memories of bad and unhappy times. And it has made me realise how deeply ingrained ones political beliefs can be, even without you knowing.

The last time the Conservatives were in power my family had a tough time. I was a child then and didn't undertand the implications of what their government did, but now I am an adult, a parent and a home-owner I understand much better what my parents must have gone through.

In 1977 they bought a brand new house in a beautiful village in rural North Bedfordshire. They both came from North London but couldn't afford to stay in the capital so gradually moved away, first to Northamptonshire (because in the early 70s it was cheap and there were new estates springing up everywhere) and then to Bedfordshire.

We watched the house being built. We would go over and look at the plot at weekends, and saw it develop from just a concrete foundation to our new home. In 1977 the mortgage interest rates were around 7.5%. By November 1979, just 6 months after Margaret Thatcher came to power they had doubled to 15.75% and my parents had long been unable to afford the home they had bought. In Decemebr 1980 they peaked at 21.5%

Then in the 80s my dad lost his job. He was unemployed for more than 5 years. We couldn't afford to run a car, and as we lived out in a village he needed to travel to Bedford every fortnight to sign on. Rather than pay the bus fare he would walk or cycle the 10 miles each way.

I spent my childhood wearing second hand clothes, never going on holiday and getting very little for birthdays and Christmas. During this difficult time both my parents suffered with depression which had a lasting effect on everyone in the family.

Now I am fully aware that this story might all sound a bit dramatic and melancholic. It is not meant to be that way. It is purely meant as an explanation as to why I could NEVER vote for a Conservative Government. Why I felt so despondent when I woke up on May 7th and saw that the political map of our country had turned blue overnight. And why I genuinely fear for my home, my children's future and that of our public services. And also for my own sanity.

By all means people have the right to demand change - but not change for changes sake. And not at any cost. People are quick to blame, quick to judge and equally, it seems, quick to forget.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Secret Post Club - April

This month my Secret Post Club gift came from Geriatric Mummy (and I'm not being rude, that really is what her blog is called!). She had warned me it was going to be a few days late but it was such a lovely, thoughtful gift it really was worth the wait!

Firstly she bought me a herb growing kit, as she knew I like gardening and cooking. Containing basil, thyme and coriander, the seeds come with their own mini propagator, so the seedlings can be be grown on the window sill. She thought it would be a nice activity for me to do with the girls, and now I have a veg patch, I have somewhere to plant the seedlings once they get bigger.

Secondly, in her capacity as a former holistic therapist, she made me some organic hand cream, to treat my hands after being in the garden. The cream is made from coconut oil, white camelia oil, macademia nut oil and sunflower oil. She also added essential oils of Benzoin (for dry chapped skin, irritations & wounds), Lavendar (antiseptic & antifungal) and Lemon (antiseptic). And trust me, it feels and smells wonderful!

And last but not least, she included a bar of Green & Black Raisin & Hazlenut chocolate. Honestly, what more could a girl ask for?! Thank you once again GM - it was a truly lovely gift.

The Wheat and the Chaff

I have never been a particularly political animal, and normally the prospect of a general election would not excite me. But for some reason, this year's election has sparked my interest - and it has a lot to do with Twitter and the televised Leaders Debates.

In the past, elections have probably been won or lost through propaganda, and by the way the press has portrayed the candidates. But for the first time in the UK, the general public can see the leaders of the main 3 political parties standing side by side and make their own judgements. And that's got to be a good thing, right?

Not only that, but thanks to the wonders of Twitter, online forums and opinion polls, people can share their opinions 'live' and in the moment, sparking conversation, thought and debate. And that's got to be a really good thing, right?

For the past 2 weeks I have eagerly awaited each of the live Leaders Debates, and with my laptop poised have commented on, and read other people's thoughts on, proceedings. Some of the debate is trivial "Isn't his face shiny" (Cameron), "Aren't his ears big" (Brown), "Wow, who's the new boy?" (Clegg) but other times people with far more political insight than me are highlighting the potential flaws in policies, disputing facts and figures, and generally bringing the whole process of government and politics to life.

Before I watched the first debate I, like everyone, had my own preconceived ideas. I thought Gordon Brown was a good, decent man but lacked the charisma to win an election. I thought David Cameron was a smooth-talking orator who would beguile the public with the promise of 'change'. And Nick Clegg - well, I didn't even know what he looked like til about 2 weeks ago!

But having watched 2 of the 3 debates I have already changed my mind - there's nothing like a good honest debate to sort the wheat from the chaff! Gordon Brown seems an extremely knowledgeable, passionate orator. David Cameron has seemed surprisingly uncomfortable and easily ruffled under pressure. And Nick Clegg - well, who would have thought it!

No one of the leaders has completely won me over yet and I'm still considering which way I will cast my vote. But whichever way I swing, I feel happier that this time I will have been more actively involved in the decision-making process, and not just swayed by the press, or the most impressive PR campaign.

The Power of 1,2,3......

I'm not sure exactly when it began, but at some point around the time my eldest was starting to get defiant and downright awkward, I started counting to 3.

Every time I told her to do something, she would do the opposite. So one day, having tried everything else, I just shouted, "Right, I'm going to count to 3. 1.......2......" and to my surprise and delight she did what she was told.

Now I never actually said what would happpen if I reached 3 - it was just an unspoken understanding that it would be something unthinkably bad! And from that day on, whenever I felt myself getting to the end of my tether, I just started counting in a menacing way.

She's nearly 5 now and it still works. It's most effective at bedtime, when she's stalling for time. And, to be fair, my menacing counting now contains the added bonus of 2 and a half, and 2 and three quarters, just to increase my bargaining time. Sometimes I don't even get past 1. Other times she'll shout "Don't count mum!" and do what she's told straightaway.

So when all else fails, never underestimate the power of 1,2,3...... Although I'm not expecting it to still be as effective when she's a teenager, wanting to wear unsuitable clothes and date inappropriate boys. But until then, I'm making the most of it!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Oh No Mojo, Where Did You Go?

I have been without my mojo for a few days now and I'm beginning to miss it terribly.

It all started when I discovered yet another example of how someone I know through my business had betrayed me. First I was angry (how dare they), then I was sad (I hate it when people disappoint me) and then I felt numb.

I decided I could do one of three things - fight back, give up or sleep on it. All of the advice I was given was the former - "don't let the bastards get you down", "stay strong", "be better" and yes, of course, that's the positive, brave thing to do. But in truth it has made me question whether I'm as strong as I'd like to be.

I hate confrontation of any kind and avoid it at all costs. This is why many of the problems I have had with friends and family members have remained unresolved and locked away. So to find more unpleasant, potentially confrontational situations in my business life is unnerving and unwelcome.

The petulant child in me wanted to stamp my foot, throw my toys out of the pram and give up. But even I know that is an overreaction. So I decided "when in doubt, do nowt". So I sent my mojo on an impromptu mini-break while I soaked up the sunshine, made myself busy in the garden, watched films, and enjoyed the girls' last days of the school holidays.

This week though things need to get back to normal - my eldest child goes back to school and my partner goes back at work. So it's time for me to slot back into 'work mode'. But my mojo has yet to make a reappearance. So, just in case you see or hear from them, can you pass on a message:

"I miss you and I want you to come home. I know we can work through this and hopefully be the stronger for it. Just please, please come home - we have some important decisions to make."

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tummy Tuck

On a day to day basis you don't even notice, because it happens so gradually - insidiously even. But then one day the realisation hits you and there's no going back - you are overweight and it's all your own doing.

Over the months the tops you've bought may have become longer and baggier. Shopping for clothes now is more about coverage and disguise than fashion.

You may have ended up opting for black, black and more black, under the illusion that it is slimming. Or you may have done the complete opposite and chosen bright colours and patterns in the hope that this will detract from your swelling bosom and expanding waistline.

The tight jeans have given way to comfortable leggings. Belts have been swept aside in favour of elasticated waistbands. And you discover the distracting benefits of accessories, like scarves and necklaces.

All this time, you console yourself that, with a little effort, this excess weight could be lost and all will be well again.

But then *it* happens. That defining moment when you know you must either pee or get off the pot. You either accept your new shape or do something about it before the rot sets in for good.

The point at which you start tucking your tummy in your knickers! *shudder*

Please note: The photo above is not actually my tummy - but it so easily could be!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

My Big Bundle of Joy

Having wimped out at last week's prompt of Ugly I have to say I was very really happy to see that this week's Gallery prompt is Joy. This is an easy peasy one for me!

Some of you may have read about my struggle to become a mum. So when my eldest finally did come along, it was something of a minor miracle. And to that end we named her Annie Joy. The name had a double significance - firstly our own joy at finally becoming parents, and secondly because Joy is my mother-in-law's maiden name.

So here she is, my very own bundle of JOY.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Contraception Conundrum

For around a decade contraception was not very high on my agenda. For six years I was trying to conceive, then for the next four years I was either pregnant, breastfeeding, pregnant again or breastfeeding again. And so now, at the age of 40, I find myself back in the market for contraception - and quite frankly I'm not impressed.

Back in my youth I used to take the pill, with no apparent problems. However in the past decade I have discovered I have a blood clotting condition which makes any oestrogen-based contraception (whether it be a pill, implant or injection) a no-no.

I had thought I might try the coil, but at one of my post-natal doctors appointments my GP showed me the contraption 'in the flesh' and I have to confess the thought of having that inside me made my legs go a bit wobbly and I chickened out.

And so we compromised on a progesterone only mini-pill. I take it every day and may or may not have a period. Generally I do not, which leaves me with no monthly reassurance that I am definitely *not* pregnant and no real sense of the natural rythmn of my body. I also never know when I might have a period so it nearly always catches me out.

Having been out of the loop for some years, I guess I'm surprised things have not moved on that much and there is not more choice available to women - you either pump yourself full of hormones or have foreign bodies placed inside you. And while I'm fairly certain I don't want any more children, I don't feel quite ready to make that final decision to be sterilised.

Maybe the 'natural' alternative is to do what our grandmothers did - wear a winceyette nightie down to the floor, curlers, a hairnet and a generous slathering of face cream. Maybe GPs should prescribe this 'Passion Killer Package' on the NHS?!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Fresh Start

This time last year my partner received a letter telling him he was under threat of redundancy. By June he was on 'gardening leave' and in October he was officially made redundant.

From that point on he faced the indignity of having to sign on every fortnight and we became reliant on Tax Credits and Income Support. Thankfully he had received a reasonable pay out so we knew we had some money to fall back on, but in reality we never knew how long the situation would last.

To say the past 9 months have been difficult would be an understatement. It tested us both to our limits - his anger at his employer and the 'system', the stress of being with each 24/7 with 2 small children, the feelings of helplessness being reliant on benefit, the depression that resulted, and the subsequant healing and putting ourselves back together, as individuals and as a couple.

And now, he has a new job which he starts in a week. After 9 months of shared childcare I will go back to flying solo with the girls. And do you know what? I feel like I've lost my nerve. I feel like I did when he took paternity leave when the girls were born. Knowing that the minute he went back to work it would all be down to me.

I've moaned about him being under my feet, and thought that the intensity of being together every day was bad for us. But in a week he will have a 90 minute commute each way on top of a full working day. He'll be up with the lark and back (hopefully) just in time to see the girls before they go to bed.

If I'm knackered or poorly I won't be able to have a lie in while he gets our eldest ready for school. If it's raining he won't be able to nip out in the car to collect her. If we run out of milk or loo roll, he won't be here to pop round the shop. If someone comes to the door, cold calling, he won't be here to tell them to get lost. And I'll have to make my own cups of tea.

I'm really happy for him and for us - it's a chance for a fresh start. I just wish I'd been more grateful and looked a bit harder for all the good things our situation afforded us, rather than being so willing to see the bad.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Seven Facts About Me

In a recent flurry of awards and memes I have been tagged by the fabulous Linda, of You've Got Your Hands Full fame, to accept the Kreativ Blogger Award and tell you 7 things I've never told you about myself. So here goes:

1. I was once in the audience of a Christmas Top of the Pops but managed to successfully avoid being caught on camera. On the bill that year were Chesney Hawkes, Erasure, James and Soul to Soul (not showing my age much there then!)

2. I chose Latin as an option at school so I could get out of doing PE and ended up getting an A grade at O Level.

3. In my teens I had a massive crush on Marti Pellow and I went to see Wet Wet Wet in concert 3 times. On one occasion, so keen was I in ringing the ticket hotline, that my ticket was Block A, Row A, Seat 1. I made Marti a pair of personsalised Boxer Shorts and threw them on the stage, along with a letter wrapped lovingly around a red rose. And just last year I went to see him at the theatre in the Witches of Eastwick - and I still squealed all those years later!!

4. I have a tattoo on my right thigh of the Tibetan symbol 'Hung' which means 'Enlightened Mind'

5. I once saw a psychic who told me I would need to have injections (but not IVF) in order to have children. She was right as I was found to have a blood clotting disorder, which meant I had to inject myself with anti-coagulants throughout both my pregnancies.

6. I have adopted the word 'Cake'

7. When I was 2 years old I had part of my ear bitten off by my nan's dog. The dog was an alsation cross and when my mum saw what the dog was doing she picked it up off me and threw it across the room. They never found the missing piece of ear so we assume the dog ate it. Not surprisingly I'm a bit scared of dogs.

I now have to pass this award on to seven other bloggers. If they want, they can also take up the challenge, which is:

1.Copy the award to your blog
2.Insert a link to the person who nominated me
3.Tell you seven things about myself that I haven’t told you before
4.Nominate seven other bloggers for the award
5.Link to their blogs
6.Tell the nominees about their award
So, here are my seven (apologies to anyone who's been tagged already):

Helen at Business Plus Baby
Amy at Cooking, Cakes & Children
Emily at Mummy Limited
Amanda at Superwoman Wannabee
Karin at Cafe Bebe
Gigi at MumsRock
Diary of a Not So Single Mum

Monday, 5 April 2010

Plastic Joy Award

I've been waiting ages to do this meme, so many thanks to Beth at My Good Life for tagging me with the Plastic Joy Award. I now get to share with you who 'I would do' from the film/TV world. To say I'm spoilt for choice is an understatment, so here's hoping I can narrow it down to just five!

John Barrowman as Torchwood's Captain Jack - and before anyone says 'But Sam, you do know he is *gay* don't you?' - yes of course I know, but this is fantasy land and, anyway, as Captain Jack he swings both ways. Besides, I'm a sucker for a man in a 1st World War uniform, particularly one that isn't scared of aliens and whose day job is saving the world.

Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black in New Moon - I know it's wrong on so many levels - i.e. he's a werewolf and he looks about 12 - but I'm afraid the rippling muscles, the golden tan and the puppy dog eyes completely won me over in the books before I even saw the film. Go Team Jacob!

Johnny Depp - I know, it's a no brainer, Johnny is God. However he often looks a bit strange in his film roles (take Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, Sweeney Todd & Mad Hatter as just a few examples). And whilst I am definitely not immune to the charms of Captain Jack Sparrow, I am specifically requesting Johnny in his role as Roux in Chocolat for my guilt-free night of passion. Pretty please!

Aiden Turner as Mitchell in Being Human - so, not only have I picked a werewolf, I've also chosen a vampire. That's not normal is it?! But at least Mitchell is mainly 'on the wagon' and trying to resist his vampirish urges. Plus he is dark, smouldering and looks great in leather.

Matthew MacFadyen as Mr Darcy - I realise I am in the minority but I really liked Matthew's portrayal of Darcy in the latest version of Pride & Prejudice. Most particularly the scene on the moor when he declares his love for Elizabeth, makes me tingle every time I see it:

"You must know... surely, you must know it was all for you... you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on." *swoons*

So looking back over my 5 they are all tall, dark, handsome and have a brooding or secretive side to their character. Looks like I have a definite 'type' doesn't it?!

And finally, I need to mention the delectable Matthew Morrison aka Mr Schuster from Glee. There is something irresistable about an inspiring teacher and Mr Schu is up there with the best. Most of the time he is just lovely and sweet, but when he's rapping to Golddigger with his pecs peeking out of his T-shirt, he is definitely eye-candy. But at the end of the day I think he is perhaps a little too wholesome to actually corrupt so I will keep him as my schoolgirl crush!

So, who would you do? I'm passing this on to the following ladies to find out:

Sam at Mumazing
Jay at Mocha Beanie Mummy
Susie at Wise Genius
Wendy at Whimsical Wife
Chloe at I am Radford

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Silent Light

This post was written for Josie's Writing Workshop over at Sleep is for the Weak. This week I chose Prompt 3: Write a story or a poem or something descriptive to try and share your view of what happens when we die. Perhaps you could write it as a way of explaining a hard concept to your children? Or just to express your own feeling about the Big Question

Silent Light

I see the light
And the door
And an overwhelming feeling
That I've been here before

On the day I was born

Safe and still
I squeezed through the door
Pushed into the light
And the noise -
So much noise

That never went away
Inside my head,
Asking questions
For what?

For this.
Drawn towards the light
And the door
I know what's in store.

The warm, womb-like safety of home,
Silent light.

Monday, 29 March 2010

You are my sunshine

I am just a little bit excited - cos I've won an award! Now, don't get your knickers in a twist, it's not one of the MADs. No, the lovely Amy from Cooking, Cakes & Children has bestowed upon me a Sunshine Award and I'm genuinely chuffed to bits, as I only started this blog at the start of the month after a lot of umming and ahhhing about whether or not I should.

I have been writing Mum's The Blog for almost a year now (and never won a single award, I might add!), but more and more often I was finding myself itching to write about things that didn't really 'fit' a business mum blog. So I took the plunge, created myself an alter ego on Twitter and just started writing for fun. It's been brilliant as I have a completely different audience and feel I can be much more myself. I'm even doing a bit of creative writing for the first time in ages. So the fact that someone likes reading it enough to pass on a few rays of sunshine, makes me a very happy bunny indeed!

And so I am now passing this award onto 5 other bloggers who all, in their own way, bring a bit of sunshine into the lives of their readers. They all have sunny dispositions and I enjoy their blogs and their tweets in equal measure.

So, slap on some suncream ladies, cos these rays are coming your way:

Dotty @
Linda & Lyn @
Sam @
Peggy @
Jay @

Sunday, 28 March 2010

My secret tactic

It's weird but most mums I speak to find other mums difficult to get on with in the real world. Online it seems easier somehow - like-minded people seem to gravitate naturally towards each other - but day to day it often seems as though you can't find a kindred spirit locally for love nor money.

Mother & toddler groups are much bemoaned. "The other mums are cliquey and unfriendly", "I don't fit in", "I feel on the outside looking in" - I've heard people say it and I've sure as hell felt it. After banging my head against a brick wall for a couple of years I gave up on them. My kids didn't even enjoy them, so really, what was the point?

Now, though, my eldest is at school, so instead I have the school playground to contend with. And, as of today, birthday parties. And trust me, if you didn't enjoy the toddler groups, then you won't find these any better.

But I have a tactic. I didn't realise I was doing it until today, but looking back I've actually been doing it unconsciously for some time.

I latch on to the dads.

More often than not I chat to the dads on the school run rather than the mums. I've always tended to work in male evironments, and had males friends, so maybe that's why I find mums en masse difficult. However I am more interested in meeting and talking to people with whom I have things in common, other than just stretchmarks and episiotomy scars - and generally that comes down to sense of humour.

At the aforementioned party today, I recognised a few mums from the playground, but none that I chat to normally. As luck would have it I ended up sharing a table with the only lone dad in the room (who, fortunately for me was also rather pleasing on the eye, in a pierced, tattooed Eddie Izzard type way!). And we ended up having a real laugh, mainly at the expense of the DJ/entertainer!

So, my advice to you, if the mummy mafia makes you miserable - befriend a dad!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Forty Not Out

This post is part of the Writing Workshop over at Sleep is For the Weak. This week I have chosen prompt 4. Describe a ‘letting go’ that made you happy, rather than sad. What have you been ready to say goodbye to? What new future have you been ready to embrace?

I didn't cope very well with turning 30. At 29, 30 seemed a bit grown-up and middle-aged. And as I still had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life and where I was heading, 30 felt a bit old to be so clueless.

When I hit 39 I started to brace myself for another wave of panic. But it didn't come. Strangely I felt quite excited about leaving my thirties behind. I think your 30s are typically quite a difficult decade - they are a time of big decisions, marriage, babies, mortgages, career choices. It's the decade when you make your bed -and are then forced to lie in it.

My thirties were not easy. I met my partner when I was 29 and by the time I hit 30 we were already trying for a baby. But nothing happened. For months. So we went for tests (which anyone who has been for tests will know is not much fun), to be told eventually there was nothing wrong.

Then I fell pregnant. We were deliriously happy and told anyone who would listen our happy news. We'd waited so long. Then, at 8 weeks, I miscarried, alone at home. I howled, like an animal, when it was over.

I fell pregnant again - and miscarried. And again - and miscarried. My life became defined by hospital appointments, blood tests, scans and procedures. I was referred to a hospital in London and, quite unexpectedly, they found a reason for the miscarriages. A reason for which there was a treatment - daily injections of anti-coagulants for the whole pregnancy and for six weeks after. So we went away and tried to get pregnant again. And every time I wondered if I could put my body, and my emotions, through the heartache again.

I went straight to the hospital as soon as I fell pregnant for the fourth time and was shown how to inject myself in the thigh. For the first couple of weeks I cried every time I injected myself - it didn't seem fair that there was no joy in being pregnant, just scans, blood tests, needles & anxiety. But the treatment worked and 9 months later my miracle girl was born.

I knew if I wanted more children I would have to go through the same treatment again. I wanted to get it all over and done with, so by the time she was 10 months old I was pregnant, and injecting myself, again.

Having 2 babies in 19 months was hard but it was for a good reason. Having taken 6 years to become a mum, I was much older than I had planned to be. The first half of my thirties had been a medical and emotional battleground. The second half had passed me by in a fog of nappies, breastpads and germaloids. But suddenly there I was, teetering on the brink of 40, and I could see a life for me winking at me in the distance.

I'm looking forward to really enjoying the two little girls I went through so much to have. By the end of my forties they will be 14 and 12, the thought of which fills me with excitement and terror. But I am so looking forward to getting to know the girls and the young women they will become.

So, saying goodbye to my thirties was no sweet sorrow. It was a decade of laying the foundations for a fabulous forties!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Me - After & Before

This post is my contribution to this weeks Gallery. Each week Tara over at Sticky Fingers publishes a prompt, an idea or a notion and the idea is then that you go out and take a photograph using that prompt. And this week the theme is 'Me'.

I thought long and hard about this one. Me as a baby, me now, something abstract that sums me up? I was gong to take a photo of my tatoo - a very personal part of me that very few people have seen - but this proved a bit too tricky, bearing in mind whereabouts it is! So in the end I decided I'd do a 'Before & After' Me - the 2 sides of Sam, the seen and the mostly unseen.

The first photo is one of my favourites from the last 6 months. It was taken just before Christmas at Downing Street, and was the culmination of 10 days of intensive shopping, pampering and preening.

Rewind 2 hours and the second photo is of me in the hotel beforehand, fresh out of the shower, having a quick glass of dutch courage before the big event.

All I can say is, thank GOD for spray tans, contact lenses, makeup, GHD hair straighners and my M&S thigh length waist cincher!

Monday, 22 March 2010

What's Your Taboo?

I never cease to be amazed at the raw honesty and the intimate subjects people write about in their blogs.

During my 9 months in the blogosphere I have read some incredibly personal and heartfelt posts about postnatal depression, eating disorders, mental illness and even attempted suicide.

Conversely I have also read some of the funniest, laugh-out-loud posts about ladies private parts, vibrators, and spontaneous sex in the kitchen!

Yet, in contrast there are many bloggers who write under a pseudonym or who adopt false names or nicknames for their children. In some areas there is complete freedom of expression, in others there is caution and restraint.

Which got me wondering - what are my blogging taboos? It's easy to get carried away, when you feel you are amongst a community of supportive friends, to spill your guts, only to regret it later. And the more I thought about it, I realised my benchmark for the appropriateness of a subject is:

a) would I mind if my mum read it and/or

b) would I want the other mums at the school to read it?

I'm happy to use my children's names and publish their photos on my blog. I have written about giving birth and my increasing weight. I have admitted my depression and, just recently, opened up about the friend I cannot forgive. But that has only scratched the surface of who I am.

Like many people, I have a deep desire to be understood and accepted for who I am, warts and all. But would I tell you everything there is to know? I know I wouldn't - and I couldn't.

Maybe I'm a coward. I know that the more personal the writing, the greater is its power to move and to help others who may be suffering in silence. But in the same way I wouldn't bear my private parts on national TV, I'm not sure I could completely bear my soul on my blog. I'd be too worried you wouldn't like me or would judge me if I did.

Do you have a blogging taboo? Are there subjects you would never write about? Or are you happy to bear your soul to the blogging community?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

4 for the price of 1

This week I received my first Secret Post Club parcel and it contained not one, but four individually wrapped and labelled gifts. My presents came from the lovely Chloe from I am Radford and she had obviously spent a lot of care choosing my gifts.

Having just celebrated a big birthday (containing a 4 and a 0) the keyring with 'Spring Chicken' on it made me chuckle (but only after I had checked it didn't say NO on the other side!!).

And as a permanently knackered mummy I will particularly appreciate the bottle of relaxing Lavendar Bubble Bath - if I can only manage an uninterupted soak in the bath sometime!

But my favourite gift was a felt, heart book mark. I had mentioned on my list of 'Likes' that I enjoy reading, so Chloe chose me something pretty to mark my page.

And last but not least there was a little package containing 2 sets of hair clips for my 2 little girls. How thoughtful was that?!

And how could she possibly have known that the girls are both badly in need of a haircut - so those hairclips will be a godsend until we manage to get to the hairdressers!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Bye Bye Baby

On Sunday I wrote a post about when my youngest daughter was born 3 years ago on Mothers Day. Well today it's her actual birthday. My baby girl is 3.

Already in the last few months I have sold my double buggy and given away my travel cot. I have packed up the clothes she has outgrown, and this time they are going to the charity shop instead of being tucked away in a cupboard, waiting to be handed down.

But in no way does this make me sad. Quite the opposite in fact. I am loving the new found freedom that comes with having two little girls, rather than a baby and a toddler.

We no longer need all the 'equipment' that comes with babies - the highchairs, booster seats, straps, gates, cots etc. I love being able to throw on our our coats and leave the house, unemcumbered by large bags full of baby-related paraphenalia.

I love that she is confident and articulate, and can make herself understood, meaning there are less and less public displays of anger and frustration.

I love her appreciation of a good old-fashioned fry-up. That she can help herself to a drink from the fridge. That she can brush her own teeth. That she wakes up happy and smiling rather than with a piercing cry.

I love it when she chooses to climb up on my lap for a cuddle. That she wants to hold my hand.

I will always cherish the time when I first held her in my arms. But I know I will love her more and more as the years go by. And however complex, confusing and challenging she becomes, she'll always be my baby.

Colour - The More the Merrier

I can't tell you how exciting it is having my own blog now, as opposed to my business blog, because now it means I can take part in all the fun stuff, like memes, writing workshops and now The Gallery. Each week Tara over at Sticky Fingers publishes a prompt, an idea or a notion and the idea is then that you go out and take a photograph using that prompt. And this week the theme is 'Colour'.

Colour is very important to me. Over the past 12 months I have gone through something of a colour metamorphosis, from monochrome caterpillar to luminous butterly! I have turned my back on a wardrobe of dull clothes and replaced it with bright, cheerful hues - pink, turquoise, green, red, purple - the more the merrier.

Not only that, I have also discovered beads! Gone are the days when I would wear a delicate chain or subtle pendant. Now I covet beads - the bigger and brighter the better. So for my contribution to this weeks gallery here are some of my spangly baubles, that rescue even the dullest outfit from the brink of boredom, and never fail to cheer me up.

To find out more about The Gallery take a peek over at Sticky Fingers to find out what it’s all about.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The Unforgiven

This is my first attempt at one of Josie's Writing Workshops over at Sleep is for the Weak. For this post I have chosen the prompt "Tell me about someone from you past who you lost touch with and who you often think about. Perhaps imagine meeting them again. What would you say? What unresolved issues would you love to bury?"

There was a time when the white rage that I felt towards you was all consuming. When you first betrayed me. Before that there was a longer time when we were best friends.

We were 9 when we met, remaining friends right through school. At 18 we packed our bags and left home for the same university. When we arrived, the campus seemed so huge I thought I’d never see you again. Little did I know we would spend every day together, sharing the same house for two years.


We shared excitement, fun, gossip, unrequited love, broken hearts, the death of friends. We shared the success of our degrees and our coming of age. And all that time you were the golden star I longed to be.

And so we returned home. Jobs, relationships, illness, life got in the way. You married, then divorced. I had broken relationships, lost babies. But the nights out and the dancing held us together like glue.

Until the night you met him.

Of all the men in all the world, why him? You could have had anyone, but instead you decided to gatecrash my life, hijack my family, and cross a line that no friend should.

And now, when we meet at weddings and funerals, we act like strangers, masking our discomfort with politeness and pleasantries.

The white rage has gone.

All that’s left is a hole.

Monday, 15 March 2010

They Know Me So Well

I was a very lucky girl yesterday, and was given a lovely new cookery book for Mothers Day. To be specific, it was another Cupcake cookery book - but this one takes cupcake baking and decorating to a whole new level!

Let's get something abundantly clear - I love cookery books. I would say I get almost as much pleasure from poring over recipes as I do from eating the end result. And now not a Birthday, Christmas, Anniversary or Mothers Day goes by without me aquiring another book to add to my collection. My kitchen shelves are groaning under the weight, as are we, as we steadily pile on the pounds because of all the cakes I'm baking!

My latest project is working my way through the cookery section of my local library. On Saturday I borrowed Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food and The Hummingbird Bakery Book. So all in all, there's going to be some serious baking going on around here!

What I need now though, is to slow up on the books, and gear up on my baking equipment. Maybe a nice professional icing set for my Anniversary next month? Now would that be too much to ask for?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The Best Mothers Day Present Ever

3 years ago on Mothers Day I gave birth to my youngest daughter Molly. She was 12 days overdue so I had an appointment at the hospital to have my membranes swept. First thing that morning my other half gave me two cards - one from my 19 month old daughter and another from my 'bump'. The card said "Dear Mummy, looking forward to meeting you soon".

Having had a 36 hour labour with my first baby I was expecting a long arduous labour again. So, after being swept at 11am and monitored for an hour, I was duly sent home to sit it out and wait. By 1pm - and half way through a fry up - I had to keep stopping eating to pace up and down the room as my contractions had started in earnest.

I'll have a bath I thought. But as soon as I'd run the water I was starting to panic about how quickly the pains were increasing. We called my mum to come and babysit and rang the hospital. Just stay at home as long as you can, they replied. By 3pm I was desperate to get to hospital and feeling scared by the speed at which things were progressing.

I hobbled from the car park to the delivery suite and was ushered into a room by a lovely young midwife called Louise. A quick hop onto the bed and I was told I was 8cm dilated and the baby would be here very soon. I couldn't quite comprehend what was happening. Last time I gave birth I was in the delivery suite for 27 hours, had an epidural, a failed ventouse then a forceps delivery, followed by botched stitches. I couldn't possibly be having this baby right here, right now.

Time for a quick shot of pethidine, a swig of lucozade and it was all systems go. Having had an epidural before I had never felt the sensation to push before, and it took me completely by surprise. In disbelief I pushed my baby girl into the world just before 5pm, still incredulous that I had managed to do it naturally and so quickly.

Having not known whether we were expecting a boy or a girl we decided on the name Molly while the midwife was stitching me up. It's funny the conversations you have under the most undignified of situations, but I felt a real affinity with the midwife, and was so grateful for the way she had been encouraging, supportive but very 'hands off'. So much so that we decided Molly's second name would be Louise, after the wonderful lady that helped her into the world.

We were home again by 10pm - it took longer to wait for all our paperwork to be signed than it did for me to give birth - and the look on my mum's face as we walked back through the door on the same day was an absolute picture. And the best thing of all was we were all home and in our own beds when our elder daughter woke the next morning, so the sisters could be introduced to each other properly.

And so Mothers Day will always hold any extra special place in my heart. It was just the perfect day to meet my little girl. And so thoughtful of her to send a card ahead of her saying hello!

How Happy Do You Weigh?

I heard someone say recently that "it's not what you weigh, it's how the weight makes you feel". Having just turned forty I am currently the heaviest I have ever been. Strangely though I probably feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever before.

When I think back to my teens I was just a skinny beanpole with no confidence and few social skills. I had no idea how to dress to suit my lanky frame and I felt tall and self-conscious next to my more compact friends.

In my twenties I got ill and my weight plummeted. In any photos taken of me then, when I was at my thinnest, I look frail and haunted. I spent a decade not liking myself very much and not valuing myself very highly. Then, as I approached 30, I met 'the man', my life was on a more even keel and the weight started to creep on.

And now I am 40. I have 2 beautiful girls, and the stretchmarks and war wounds to prove it. Two years of breastfeeding have taken there toll on my boobs, my tummy wobbles, my lap is built for comfort and my frame is built for squishy cuddles. And yet I like myself more than I have ever done.

They say that youth is wasted on the young, and looking back I can see what a fabulous figure I had, but that alone could never made me happy. One of the greatest consolations of getting older (and heavier) has been the freedom to be myself, just how I want to be. With no pressure to follow fashion or my peers.

Maybe I was always meant to be a bit chunky? And maybe all the happiness in my life weighs more than the sadness, anxiety and self-consciousness that came before.

How happy do you weigh? How has your weight fluctuated between the good and the bad times?

In the beginning there was cake

So, this is the first post on my shiny new blog. I have a blank blog and a blank screen. Nothing has gone before. No style, no themes, no expectations or preconceived ideas. I can be anyone I like.

I hope I'll be myself, only slightly funnier and a little more glamorous. I plan to write about my past, my present and my future, my children - oh, and cake. Lots of cake. And chocolate. Oh, and wine. I might even post some of my poems. And along the way I'll try and make sense of this crazy world we live in and the magic and mayhem of being a mum.