31 October 2009

A Carnival, a Bath, Soup and Pygmies



Firstly, in case you haven't seen it, the best of the British Mummy Bloggers Hallowe'en carnival is being hosted by Hot Cross Mum. Head over there for some parenting horror stories!


In other news the Great Toy Guide just gets bigger and better. We have been testing reusable advent calendars. Those reviews are coming soon. You can now find the GTG on Twitter too.

The Calico household tried some of the Tinti natural bath products, including popping bath candy. You can read my review here.

***

Finally, I mentioned in an earlier post that I had printed out a short story that I had written. I was planning to take it to Word Soup, Preston's live literature night. Well, I took it last week and it stayed in my bag the whole night.

Last night I went to a mini Word Soup event. It was primarily a poetry evening, but other people read prose at the open mic. I plucked up courage during the interval and put my name down for a spot in the second half.

When I was introduced I stood up and made my way to the microphone. I told the audience that this was the first time I had read any of my work in public. I took a deep breath and read my story. Towards the end I struggled to keep my breathing regular. I read the last line and with shaking hands I folded my 750 words. The applause lasted until I sat down.

At the end of the night several people came over to tell me they had enjoyed my story, that they couldn't believe how confidently I read and that I should definitely carry on writing. I was in shock! Complete strangers were so kind and supportive.

I originally called my little story 'Halloween Party', but later changed my mind to 'Playing With Fire'. It is particularly apt for this time of year anyway. I'm delighted to say that it was published today on The Pygmy Giant and you can read it here if you like.








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30 October 2009

Fruity Friday!


These photographs popped up on my Vista slide show and I thought I would share them as they are quite seasonal. They were taken at the RHS gardens at Wisley a few years ago.

Can you guess what it is yet?!







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29 October 2009

I Know My Place



Last night I asked Presley for a goodnight kiss before Andy took him up to bed.

He kissed his beloved Jessie Cat goodnight...



He kissed Percy goodnight...
He kissed his fire engine goodnight...

He even kissed his In The Night Garden book goodnight...



'Presley, can Mummy have a kiss?', I asked.

'No', he said.

I know my place.






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28 October 2009

Oh Grow Up!


When I grew up I wanted to be a grown up.

When I was 22 and married and finding my first grey hair, I thought is this it? Is this my life? I had to question it because I wasn’t sure. It felt strange. It felt like this life belonged to someone else.

I had a lovely little house. It was a teeny tiny two-up two-down semi with a postage stamp garden. It never felt real. I always felt as if I was playing house. I cleaned it, constantly rearranged the ornaments and planted daffodil bulbs in the garden . My mum nagged me to choose a dinner service to collect. I never did this, I was only playing at being grown up after all.

It wasn’t always like this. At middle school I wanted to be a vet. I loved animals and I enjoyed science. I was well-behaved and studious at school. Then I got to the upper school and found that physics, chemistry and biology were not streamed by ability. Take chemistry for instance, instead of studying the periodic table and mixing potions in test tubes, a girl called Tracey Pope used to thump me and give me a dead arm every five minutes. The teacher spent half the lesson making, then drinking a cup of coffee.

Then I decided I would be an actress – who said Drama Queen? My skeletal, chain-smoking drama teacher asked me if I would sell my grandmother for a role. I said I wouldn’t, so that was that.

After that I had run out of career ideas.

I left school at 18 and was planning to study English at university, but I didn’t get the expected A grade at A level, so I didn’t get in. I re-applied for the following year, to study history (I did get an A in that).

To earn some money I took a job at a local building company. I was a wages clerk with a desk, a calculator and a dumb computer terminal connected to the mainframe computer. I was allowed to make coffee whenever I wanted and I drank it as I stuck stamps on holiday cards. I was at work, I was an adult.

After a few months someone Spotted My Potential. I was offered the job of trainee accountant. By this point my childhood sweetheart had proposed. He said if we got engaged I couldn’t go to university.

We got engaged and I started to study accountancy. I thought that accountants earned loadsamoney so I decided to give it a go. If I failed any of the exams I would give up.

Five years later I qualified. I had letters after my name, but I still didn’t feel like a grown up.

When I was 30, newly divorced, I took a gap year. I worked and travelled in Australia and New Zealand. I broadened my horizons and gained confidence, but I also met people who seemed far more self-aware and self-assured than I was.

I realised the world was my oyster.

So I came home to live with my Dad, who had been ill while I was away, and got another job in finance.

I did more grown up things. I bought a house. I had boyfriends (not all at once you understand). I had cats. I started doing yoga. All the while I felt like a child when I compared myself with anyone older than myself.

If anything ever went wrong in my house I rang Dad’s Handyman Service. He would ask me to describe the problem and get annoyed that I didn’t know which tools would be required for the job. He would turn up half an hour later with an old ice-cream tub containing the right tools for the job and some others besides and always a dirty rag. In the ice-cream tub would also be a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. I would put the kettle on and Dad would fix whatever was wrong. My Dad could fix anything. Then we could have a cup of tea and a natter.

I guess I only grew up when he died.

I grew up when I was 36.

I’m now 39 and a bona fide adult. I have a wonderful relationship with my husband. I gave birth to two amazing children. I write a lively and popular parenting blog (you know my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I write this sentence). I’m a member of a writing group. I go to live literature events on my own and have made friends there. That’s what grown ups do.

I’m happy.

***

Today I didn’t act like a grown up when Presley stomped up and down wearing my shoes. I crawled around on the floor chasing him, pulling faces and laughing.

Presley later held Cash, round the neck, in a half-nelson. I screamed at him to stop. When he didn’t I prised his arm away and threw him in the playpen. As I was comforting a screaming Cash and trying to ignore a crying Presley I blinked back tears and wished I could hide under the duvet.

Sometimes I hate being a grown up.


This post was written for the Sleep is for the weak writing workshop. I chose writing prompts number 4: What did you want to be when you grew up? Or are you still deciding?!




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27 October 2009

Live and Let Live



Have I sold my soul to the devil because I've reviewed a couple of products on my blog?

No, of course not.

Earlier this year I didn't know what a blog was. I started Baby Baby to see what all the fuss was about. It was a case of everyone else (on Twitter) has one so I'll give it a go. I was looking for something I could do for me.

Through reading loads of wonderful blogs I quickly discovered the mostly supportive and friendly blogging community. I feel like I have made friends, I've even met some bloggers in real life. I can certainly count on their advice on parenting issues. If I'm having a bad day and tweet about it I know that the majority of virtual hugs will come from bloggers.

I also discovered that I love writing. This is my 90th post. Wow! I've written 90 blog posts, give or take the odd Wordless Wednesday. The more I write, the more I want to write. I keep a notebook just for blogging and scribble down ideas for posts. If something funny or traumatic happens I start planning the post I'll write about it.

I also write short stories that I don't put on my blog. I've joined a local creative writing group and start a creative writing course next week. I'm so excited about this. I have bought myself a new notebook especially.

When I started blogging I had no idea that people got freebies thrown at them. I was surprised to hear people talking about wanting to make money from their blogs. I wondered how they could possibly do this. I signed up for Google Adsense and have made nearly £5 from it! Woop-de-doop.

I responded to a few requests for reviewers that I saw on British Mummy Bloggers. I thought it was hilarious that companies were happy to send me books, toys, cleaning products and soap. I now get emails every day asking me to review websites, products and services. I am extremely selective. I only accept items that are of value to my family.

I don't have a job, therefore I have no income. I feel I can contribute a product to my family finances and that's great. I don't feel dirty writing a review. For me it's fun. I get to pretend to be a journalist for half an hour. If my lovely readers aren't interested in the product I'm reviewing I don't mind. I hope that they are interested in the 95% of posts that aren't sponsored.

Baby Baby isn't a commercial blog. I'm just having a lot of fun and I hope that comes across.

I respect those bloggers who accept freebies and I respect those that don't. I admire those bloggers that are excellent writers, those who are funny, those who are informative, those who are moving and those that use their blogs as confessionals.

What I don't like is being sneered at or looked down on because I'm not keeping my blog pure.

The internet is a huge place and there's room for everyone. Live and let live.




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25 October 2009

Review: Ecover



I saw on British Mummy Bloggers that Melita from Bray Leino PR was looking for people to review Ecover products. I emailed her and was sent a trug containing everything I would need to do a thorough test of the new Ecover hard surface cleaning range against some of the UK's leading brands.

I've used Ecover washing up liquid for years so I was keen to try other Ecover products.

So far so good.

Then of course it hit me. I'll have to do some serious cleaning now!

These are the Ecover products and their petro-chemical competitors. The blurb is taken from the press release, with my comments in red:

  • Ecover Multi Surface Spray Cleaner – RRP £2.84 (500ml) – twice as powerful as Ecover’s previous spray surface cleaner, SquirtEco3 thanks to Ecover’s Eco-Surfactants, this versatile spray cleaner is safe around food. It cleans as efficiently as Flash Multi Purpose Spray, leaving all washable surfaces sparkling clean. // Agreed!
  • Ecover Window & Glass Cleaner – RRP £2.69 (500ml) - this brand new product can be used on windows, mirrors, glass and chrome. Up against Mr Muscle Window Cleaner, it took victory on performance and finish, and was described as ‘efficient’, ‘very effective’ and ‘easy to use’ in consumer research. // Agreed, no smears, wonderful.
  • Ecover All Purpose Cleaner – RRP £1.59 (500ml) - the concentrated form of this new formulation is over 70% more powerful than the old one. It naturally and hygienically cleans all hard washable surfaces just as well as Flash All Purpose Dilutable and was found to ‘remove stubborn marks’, be ‘good in the bathroom’ and ‘make taps sparkle’ in consumer research. // I gave this and the Flash to my mother in law to test. I didn't tell her anything about Ecover. I just asked her to clean her kitchen floor with it and let me know how she got on. And I quote "it was really good. No leftover suds. I'd definitely use it again. It's the green one, isn't it?'. So there you are. High praise indeed!
  • Ecover Power Cleaner – RRP £3.99 (500ml) – this new power degreaser is great for tackling grimy ovens, bbqs, cooker hobs, extractor hoods and grills and consumers have found it to be as effective as Cillit Bang Power Cleaner Degreaser when it comes to ovens and pots and pans. // This is the reason I took so long to write this review. I kept putting off cleaning my cooker hood. When I eventually got round to it I had mixed results. The Ecover didn't remove every scrap of grease, but I couldn't leave half a cooker hood to soak. The Cillit Bang removed the grease and the coating from the other half of the cooker hood. I had to clean the Ecover half with Cillit Bang to even it up. Now both sides are dull. :-(

Overall I prefer the Ecover products because they are effective, eco-friendly, natural, plant based, pH neutral and don't smell like traditional cleaning products - and that's a Very Good Thing!




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Eye Fang Ewe


I've been hoarding, squirrelling away awards from my lovely blogging friends.

Now it's time for a few thank yous.


Thank you Fraught Mummy at Brits in Bosnia
and Claire at 20 Something Mum.



Thank you Amy at Moving on From the Drama.





Photobucket

Thank you Emma Louise at Me, The Man & The Baby.



Thank you Carly at WADS
and Liz at Living With Kids.



Thank you Chic Mama.


image

Thank you Clare at Clareybabbling.



Thank you Rachel at Really Rachel
and Whistlejacket at Babyrambles.

“The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.”

I am so grateful to you all, my virtual mantle piece is groaning under the weight.

If you're looking for some wonderful new blogs to read click on any of the links above and you won't be disappointed. That's a Baby Baby guarantee!

I'm afraid I haven't followed all of the awards' rules, but I'm even more afraid of the Zombie Chickens so I should pass that one on at least. If the following blogs already have it they are quite welcome to choose another - easy chickens!





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24 October 2009

An Unholy Trinity



Presley was a few weeks old. I had just fed him and he'd been sick on me.

Then I heard a little squeak and realised there was some action the other end. As you can see from the photograph there was a lot of action the other end.

As I was changing him Presley peed on me. Thanks mate.

I now had sick, poo and pee on my scrape-the-bottom-of-the-pyjama-barrel pyjamas.

The joys of parenthood :-)







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23 October 2009

What is the ideal age gap between siblings?



‘You’ll have your hands full!’, laughed my mother in law. We’d just told her that I was pregnant again and the baby was due on Presley’s first birthday. Laughter and incredulity were common reactions to our pregnancy announcement.

What did the other parents know that we didn’t? Why did most families leave a gap of two to three years between babies? I guess we hadn’t thought it through.

Presley was such a ‘good’ baby that we thought having another would be a doddle. Also, I was in my late thirties and we didn’t know how long it would take for me to get pregnant (erm, one month)!

I thought, mistakenly, that one year olds walked and talked fluently. When Cash arrived, three days before Presley’s birthday, we found ourselves with two babies to look after. Two babies with different needs, in different routines, both demanding attention. I was rushed off my feet and constantly tired.

With the wonderful gift of hindsight I suppose it would have been easier if Presley was potty trained, communicating well, eating at the table, walking along the road safely, before Cash arrived.

I found it difficult to take them to baby classes (these are mostly age specific) and impossible to take them swimming alone. Our local Surestart Children’s Centre doesn’t allow pushchairs, so I struggled to get them both inside. I would describe my role as that of baby juggler!

There are some positives though. Cash wears Presley’s hand-me-down clothes. They are the right season too. Also having two so close together means they will play together. I still live in hope of them playing happily together. At the moment Presley builds a tower and Cash knocks it over. They have quite mastered the concept of sharing. Presley thinks all the toys are his and Cash wants to play with whatever Presley is playing with.

On the face of it the cons of having a one year age gap outweigh the pros, but I have two adorable sons and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Advice, hints and tips:

  • Do as much as you can before the new baby arrives. You won’t have time to blow your nose, let alone decorate the downstairs loo once he/she arrives!
  • Encourage your partner to establish a bedtime routine for the older child that is continued after the new baby arrives.
  • Shop online.
  • Stock up on loo roll, washing powder, nappies and wipes.
  • Cook and freeze meals for all the family in advance of the new baby’s arrival.
  • Have a few ready-meals/jars and the pizza delivery menu handy.
  • Routine is important so you know what happens next.
  • Be flexible. This may sound contradictory but everything you try to do will take that little bit longer!
  • If both babies are crying deal with the older child first as their issue can usually be resolved quicker.
  • Accept all offers of help. Family and friends can either take the older child out, or hold the baby while you spend time with the older sibling. Better still they can do the housework while you relax with your babies.
  • Keep your changing bag packed at all times so that it’s one less thing to worry about when you’re trying to leave the house.
  • Put the baby down in a carry cot on table out of the way of grabbing hands.
  • Rotate toys so your older child has regular ‘new’ toys to keep them occupied.
  • Try to get both babies to sleep at the same time so you can rest (do NOT do the housework)!


First published on Parentdish UK


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21 October 2009

Playgroup Etiquette



Is there a playgroup etiquette guide?

If there is, I don't have a copy.

This afternoon at playgroup Cash was busy playing on the rug with a toy piano. A little boy, probably three years old, was pushing the shopping trolley around the room. Cash was in his way so the little boy gave Cash a nudge with the trolley. Cash started to crawl politely out of the way. As he did this the little boy changed direction and again nudged Cash with the trolley. Cash sat back and looked up at him, confused. The little boy reversed the trolley and pushed it into Cash, harder this time.

At this point I intervened. I'd had enough of seeing my baby get pushed around. He gets enough of this at home from his brother.

As the little boy reversed the trolley for more ramming I gently took hold of the trolley and said to him 'uh uh, you're not to push things at the babies, there's a good boy'.

The little boy looked at me, realised he'd been rumbled, and walked away.

The little boy was fine. Cash was fine. No angry mother approached me to start a fight.

Even so, I wondered whether I had done the right thing. Did I cross a line? How would I have felt if one of the other mothers told Presley off?




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Wordless Wednesday - Gallery Presley





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20 October 2009

Writing Workshop - My Space



For this week's Sleep is for the week writing workshop I chose writing prompt number 5:

Sit in a room of your house you spend a lot of time in. And really LOOK. Notice all the details you usually miss, and describe them with all the creativity you can muster. Let the every-day inspire you.

I spend a great deal of time sitting at our dining table. I'm either feeding myself, feeding my children or playing on my laptop. So for this exercise I don't need to move.

Looking around me I firstly take in the piles of stuff.

I see my higgledy piggledy 'to do' heap, including:
An unpaid Barclaycard bill.
A nursery brochure. I must put Presley's name down NOW or he won't have a place next September.
The leaflet that came with the boys' playgroup photographs. I will write that cheque before we go tomorrow.
My note pad, open at the 'to do' list.
An envelope with another, more urgent, list of 'to do's'.
A printout of a short story I wrote using one of the spooky prompts given to us at last month's creative writing group. I'm going to a live literature night later on. There are open mic spots available. There's even one reserved for our group. Dare I get up on stage and read my short story? No, probably not. If they're desperate though... I'll take it with me. Just in case.

I see unread Sunday newspapers that are half obscured by a wood veneer table mat. I write 'new table mats' on my Christmas list in the notebook. They go directly below the slanket.

I see the highchairs, a tangle of straps and missed mouth morsels. They stand on an alphabet splash mat. Andy and I enjoy the odd quick game of splash mat Boggle. Today I can see the word Dior. I hadn't noticed that one before. I must pick those crusts up before the boys come downstairs after their naps. Cash will probably pick a crust up and start eating it. Of course he wouldn't eat it at lunchtime, but stolen food clearly tastes better!

I've been trying to avoid looking at the ceiling, walls and floor. I don't mind looking at Andy's framed postcards on the wall in front of me. They're an odd collection: the boss-eyes cat, the sad clown being cuddled by a monkey, the Elvis caricature with the quiff, the fat man sitting on a chair in his pants and the old woman walking through a meadow with her skirt billowing Marilyn Monroe style.

We came house-hunting when I was seven months pregnant with Presley. We drove up to Preston from Surrey one weekend and saw fifteen houses. We'd done our preparation. We had a checklist for each property with tick boxes for number of bedrooms, gas central heating and space to record whether there was room to hide a Dyson upstairs and was there adequate visitor parking. We made notes so we would remember each place we viewed, so we could weigh up our options. Of course we completely forgot that you know within seconds of walking up to the front door whether you can see yourself living there. We still dutifully filled in our checklists.

We had seen Location Location Location. We knew that you have to look at the potential of the house and ignore any decoration that is not to your taste. That is cosmetic and can be easily changed.

On the checklist for this house I had written.
Decor: vile
Carpets: hideous

There was Anaglypta wallpaper everywhere. Fortunately most of it was painted white. There were accented walls swirling with peach and pale green patterned shiny wallpaper. Coordinating peach and pale green borders were stuck on the coving. Green paint had been lovingly applied to parts of the ceiling roses. The curtains were a deep peach velvet with brocaded tie-backs. The carpet was new. It was green with peach flowers on it. It's the sort of carpet that doesn't show the dirt.

We'll decorate one day.





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19 October 2009

Words and Pictures





I was tagged (oops, ages ago) by the lovely Kelly at A Place of My Own with the Photo Tag.

Here are the rules:
  • Mention who tagged you.
  • Go to your photo files…Select the 6th photo folder.
  • Select the 6th photo in that folder.
  • Post that photo along with the story behind it.
  • Then challenge 5 blog friends to do the same!
This is a photo of Presley taken by Andy about a year ago. I must have been out, or feeding Cash or something. Andy thinks it's hilarious to give the boys guitar magazines to read. This is one of Andy's technical manuals. Presley looks quite interested - or perhaps he's contemplating what it will taste like!

Rather than singling out five of you, I'll throw this open to anyone who fancies it.

***

Far more recently Kelly also tagged me with the Randomness of the Book Meme, as did the wonderful Lorraine at Ramblings of a Mum on the Run.

So here are the rules…
  • Collect the book that you have most handy.
  • Turn to page 161.
  • Find the 5th complete sentence.
  • Site the sentence on your blog.
  • Pass it on to 5 other bloggers.
Funnily enough the book I'm currently reading, 'The Philosophical Baby' by Alison Gopnik', is the book Kelly used for her tag. So I'm going to pick up the next book I'm planning to read.

"Describe the problem:
'I'd like to help you out. The problem is the electrician is coming in the nest half hour' "

This is from 'How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk' by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish. This book has been recommended to me by so many parents. I'm looking forward to reading it. When I get a minute!

Again I'm going to pass this on to anyone that fancies it, but I would specifically like to invite those who have contributed to the "What are you reading?" stream on British Mummy Bloggers.




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Review: Tolo Safari Crocodile



When Helen from Aspen PR asked if any British Mummy Bloggers were interested reviewing toys, I offered the services of my top toy testers Presley and Cash!

We were sent a Tolo crocodile. We've named him Snappy. Snappy is part of a Tolo Safari Set. The complete set includes a safari vehicle, a Safari Boy and a Safari Girl, an elephant, a snake, a hippo, a lion and a giraffe. They are suitable for ages one to five.

My boys love crocodiles. They can do the crocodile sign and usually interrupt their boat rowing to snap their hands together at the appropriate moment.

When we gave them Snappy to test they both wanted to hold him. He feels very well made. He's a solid plastic crocodile with moveable head, tail and legs. We loved rotating his head in particular. All movements give a satisfying click. Both boys played with him for ages the first day. He is still picked up everyday, even if it's just for a quick click.

At just two and just one I think my boys are still a little young to use Snappy in imaginative play. I suspect slightly older children would love the Safari Set and take it on many adventures.

For £6 Snappy the Crocodile is pretty good value for money and would make a good stocking filler for Christmas. The complete Safari Set would set you back £84. That's a bit pricey for us, although it looks like a lovely set. I expect it would be played with over many years.

You can find the full range at www.john-crane.co.uk





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18 October 2009

Overwhelmed




On Friday night Andy and I watched Mad Hot Ballroom. It's a charming documentary about a New York school dance competition. As I watched one team of eleven year olds, crying as they realised they hadn't made it through to the semi-finals, I felt a rising panic. It hit me that the huge responsibility of looking after my sons extends beyond the toddler stage.

I feel overwhelmed.

There are all these milestones you go past on the way to raising your children: pregnancy, birth, feeding, weaning, first words, first steps, tantrums, nursery. This is all before they go to school. Most of this list deals with their physical needs. Obviously you also show them love, through the gift of your time, with plenty of hugs and kisses thrown in.

Being a parent extends way beyond that tearful first day at school (me, not them, I expect). Until I watched these school children in the film, I hadn't really thought that far ahead.

When they get to school will they make friends? Will they be bullied? Will they be academic? Will they good at sport? Will they be picked for teams? Will they be picked for the school play? Will they be artistic? Will they be confident? Will they be popular? Will they be happy?

How will I feel the first time I let them out to play on their own? Will I let them ride their bikes into town? Will I let them have the freedom I enjoyed as a child? Will they want to ride a motorbike? (There's not a chance of that being agreed to, never in a month of Sundays). How will I feel when they drive off for university or leave home? How will I cope if they want to spend a year travelling the world? What will they do for a living?

Will they fall in love? Will they get their hearts broken?

I feel overwhelmed. Being a parent is for the rest of your life.

I'll be there for them every step of the way. I'll cheer them on. I'll put plasters on their knees. I'll hold their hands when they're ill. I'll listen to their violin recitals. I'll be polite to the potential partners they bring home, even though I know they'll never be good enough for my boys.

I want to wrap them up in cotton wool, but I know that won't prepare them for the real world. Life can be tough, but I hope I'll do a good job in preparing them for whatever they encounter along the way.

For now though I'll try to stop worrying about what may or may not happen in the future. I'll live for today. They'll be awake in a while and I need to decide what to cook for them for tea.







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16 October 2009

TV: Unplugged



It's been a week since Presley and Cash have watched television. They haven't even tried to turn it on today. I pulled the plug, quite literally, because I couldn't stand to watch another episode of the drivel that is 'Big and Small'.

There has been a great deal of fuss made this week about the Australian government's guidelines that television should be banned for the under twos and limited for the under fives. You can read about it in The Times and The Telegraph.

Some have called it mummy-bashing. It's another way to criticise parents and mothers in particular for raising obese couch potatoes. On Twitter @TheNobleSavage had this to say:
"Sorry, but I'm not convinced that kids watching tv is the end of the world. Mothers have enough guilt w/out this bollocks."

Flea, Sally's daughter, has never watched television. You can read why on Who's the Mummy?.

Dulwich Divorcee has no problem with her children watching television, so long as it is rationed.

Liz at Living With Kids agrees and there are some excellent comments on her post too.

Well, I pulled the plug before all of this started, but I'm not the first to do it. Hot Cross Mum banned television for a week last month. She found it tough going for the first couple of days.

Since I started blogging I have watched less and less the idiots' lantern. In the last week I have watched 'Strictly Come Dancing' and an old episode of 'Wife Swap' we had recorded and never watched. I also sat on the sofa with my laptop whilst Andy watched 'Electric Dreams'. That's it. That's enough for me.

Presley was never that interested in the tellybox. I recorded three programmes each day from CBeebies for him to watch: 'Something Special', 'Big Cook Little Cook' and 'In The Night Garden'. He would happily watch these while I did some housework. Then along came Cash and I was busier and it was easy to leave the television on to entertain the boys. I would forget it was on.

I have to admit I did use television as a baby-sitter - something I said I would never do before I had children.

It was even worse after Cash learned how to turn the set on. He's the biggest telly-addict of them all. I kept telling myself that they didn't watch that much television. They were only watching the quality programmes: 'Nina and the Neurons', 'The Green Balloon Club', 'Mister Maker' and 'Grandpa in my Pocket'. Of course if you add up, that's a fair few hours of television each day. I'm quite ashamed.

I started to get quite sick of CBeebies, especially the cartoons and the noise. I particularly dislike programmes like 'Nuzzle and Scratch' and 'Bits and Bobs' (I'm not sure I even paid enough attention to get their names right)! Every time I turned the television off, Cash would turn it on again. 'Big and Small' was the final straw. Noise. Then silence.

I've loved being a mummy this week. Presley and Cash have played with all their toys. We've read all their books, many times. We've had massive tea parties. We've been artistic. We've sung and danced and played musical instruments. We invented the sock game. Don't ask. I think it's rubbish, they think it's hilarious. They've 'helped' me with the cooking and housework. We've watched the squirrels and birds in the garden. We haven't missed the telly at all.

So what now? I'd be happy to leave the television unplugged, but I believe in everything in moderation. Also, I've just bought some In The Night Garden toys in the half-price sale at Toys R Us. So I suppose I'll let them watch that!

Do you limit television in your house? Have you achieved a balance?




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14 October 2009

Proud to be Meme

Thanks to the lovely Linda at You've got your hands full for tagging me with the 'proud to be meme'. You can listen to Heather Small singing 'Proud' while you read if you like. Isn't youtube wonderful?!



I'm proud of so much in my life, but I also have a few not so proud skeletons lurking in the Calico closet. What do you mean you want to hear about those? No!

I' ll stick to listing five things that I'm proud of today:
  1. Presley walked to and from playgroup today. He held on to Cash's pushchair all the way and stopped patiently on the kerb as I taught him the Green Cross Code.
  2. At playgroup the boys were spectacularly well behaved, (if you ignore Presley trying to open the main door - my 'UH UH' cut through the hubbub and he walked sheepishly back). Today was the first time Presley asked to join the craft table. He glued some paper and felt on to a squirrel-shaped piece of paper. It's lovely *wipes away a tear*. Yes, child art work is still a novelty. Yes, it's going on the fridge!
  3. I managed not to pass out with the pain when Cash whacked me round the face with the potty. I saw stars. Unfortunately not the George Clooney/Johnny Depp kind of stars.
  4. We survived day five without CBeebies. I will write a post on this soon. Incidentally, our television was unplugged before the news report about the Aussies banning it for the under-twos. I just couldn't watch another episode of 'Big and Small'.
  5. I'm proud of being involved in all this blogging erm... stuff:
  • The Best of British Mummy Bloggers Carnival is being held by Antonia at Family Friendly Working.
  • A Mother's Secrets has a collection of posts on pregnancy lows.
  • I've written another Blogger Basics post for Carol at New Mummy's Tips, this time on adding images to posts.
  • I've reviewed the best children's dressing up costume in the world ever on the Great Toy Guide. If you're looking for a Halloween costume you'll find the best twelve here.
Now to pass the meme on to five unsuspecting bloggers, off the top of my head:


Consider yourselves tagged!







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Wordless Wednesday - Almost



Any thoughts on the blog Mr Frog?

Reddit.

Haha!



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13 October 2009

A Weighty Issue



This is a difficult post to write.

I’ve been putting it off for a couple of weeks, but I’m ready now.

You see, I’m in this complicated relationship. I’ve been in this relationship for thirty years. This relationship is with food, and it’s not a healthy one.

If I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol or drugs I could go cold turkey. It would be difficult (and I’m not making light of addictions here), but it’s possible. I used to smoke twenty cigarettes a day. On 6th June 2003 I stopped smoking. I just stopped. It was hard, but I haven’t smoked since.

If your unhealthy relationship is with food, you can’t just stop eating. You have to eat every day, several times a day.

***

I wasn’t a skinny child, but looking back though the photo albums I now realise I wasn’t that big either. I certainly wouldn’t have been filmed from the neck down, eating chips, for an ITV news report on childhood obesity.

I was teased at primary school though. Some of the boys called me Big Bertha or Two Ton Tessie. My best friends Joanne and Wendy used to sit on me at lunchtime to make my tummy smaller.

When I was nine my mother put me on my first diet. I don’t blame her. Throughout the 1970s she only ate cottage cheese, Ryvitas or lettuce. She didn’t know any better. She used to make me wear huge ‘tent dresses’.

I was allowed to eat 1000 calories a day. Everything I ate was recorded on a chart stuck on the back of the larder door. I was only allowed about 100ml of milk per day.

I can’t remember whether I lost any weight, I suppose I must have done.

The following year, when I was ten, my mother started to work in the evenings. My father also worked in the evenings, but in his workshop at home. I remember night after night feeling bored, rifling through every cupboard in the kitchen looking for something to eat. In secret I would eat a couple of chocolate biscuits, a packet of crisps and a kitkat. I would then eat a bowl of cornflakes covered with sugar, then wash and dry the bowl and spoon and put them away.

***

I repeated the starve/binge cycle for years and years and years.

I was either on a diet, or not on a diet and binging.

I have tried most diets over the years. I’ve been to Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley and my mum’s slimming/aerobics club. I’ve tried the Atkins Diet and the Low GI Diet. I’ve read slimming magazines. I know so much about dieting that I’ve made a up a few of my own. I can tell you how to lose weight by eating a low fat, low sugar diet. I’ve tried not eating after six o’clock and I’ve tried not eating before six o’clock.

The most weight I lost in one go was six and a half stone. Then I started eating ‘normally’ again and put all the weight back on again – and then some.

I’ve failed at every single diet I’ve been on. Do you know why?

DIETS DON’T WORK!

They don’t.

Diets set you up for failure because you can’t stay on them forever. You’ve been deprived of your favourite foods for however long you’ve been dieting and as soon as you stop, you eat and eat and eat and eat. Well, I do.

If diets worked I’d be a size ten and wouldn’t be writing this.

***

So where does that leave me?

I’m not the heaviest I’ve ever been, but I'm getting there, slowly but surely.

Around the time I met Andy, a few years ago, I lost weight. I lost it without trying. I ate what I wanted, including chocolate. We ate out in restaurants and we cooked for each other. I was so happy I didn’t think about food. After I had lost four stone I realised that I hadn’t binged or eaten in secret for months.

Then, when I was pregnant with Presley I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was put on a strict diet. I continued this diet for a few months after he was born too and lost even more weight. No wonder I had problems with my milk supply. The diet couldn’t last though. I was back on the diet/binge cycle once more. The Christmas after Presley was born I ate two large tins of chocolates before mid-December and had to buy more. I couldn’t stop eating.

Then I got pregnant with Cash. Again I had gestational diabetes. This time the diet wasn’t so strict, but I still had to follow a diet. I only put on ten pounds throughout the entire pregnancy. Once Cash was born I ate loads to help my milk supply. I haven’t stopped eating since. I’m pretty disgusted with myself.

So I’m overweight and rather unfit at the moment. I’d love to have more energy to play with the boys. I’d love to be able to shop for clothes anywhere but Evans. I don’t want the boys to be teased at school because they’ve got a fat mummy.

I want to lose weight, but I don’t want to go on a diet.

***

Thank Bob for the lovely Jo Beaufoix. We’d been emailing each other following a comment on a blog post. She asked me if I’d read the book ‘Beyond Chocolate: How To Stop Yo-Yo Dieting and Lose Weight For Good’ by Sophie and Audrey Boss. I hadn’t, so I bought it and read it.

What a revelation! Beyond Chocolate is not a diet. You can eat what you want when you want, so long as you tune in to what your body really needs. There are no ‘bad foods’ , no calorie counting, no points, no scales. You eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. You move your body because you enjoy it.

Simple.

Yes, it is simple, but I wasn’t sure where to start. There was a lot to take in. We looked into the weekend courses that they run, but Jo and I live a fair distance from each other. There is an alternative...

A couple of weeks ago Jo and I started the twelve week Beyond Chocolate Ecourse.

The Ecourse breaks the book down into bite-sized pieces. Sorry, that joke was in poor taste. And so was that one.

There’s full email support and a website forum to join. Also, Jo and I are supporting each other too. It is nerve-racking, but exciting. I’ve got nothing to lose, apart from some weight. I hope to gain body confidence and to get back in touch with myself. Go back to basics.

I’ll let you know how I get on.






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12 October 2009

Writing Workshop - Perfect Moments and Secret Rooms



One of my favourite bloggers, the fabulous Josie from Sleep is for the Weak, has started a Writing Workshop. She has only been blogging for a few months but has fallen back in love with words and language.

I feel exactly the same. I hadn't written anything (apart from work stuff) since I left school *whispers* over twenty years ago! I started this blog in May and have thoroughly enjoyed doing a bit of writing. I read certain other blogs with envy, they are so well written, so eloquent.

Sometimes I try to write posts that are more than simple factual accounts. I'm particularly proud of the post I wrote about Cash 'My baby smells of strawberries', also the post I wrote about Presley going missing 'I can't find my little boy'.

Like most endeavours, the more you practice the better you get. I'm hoping that Josie's prompts will inspire me to be more creative. My time is limited, but I'm hoping to join in with the Writing Workshop most weeks. I already have around thirty blog posts half written in my head, all my own ideas or inspired by a post that I have read. All of these can wait today.

***

Share a perfect moment

The boys were ratbags this morning. I hate to say it, but it's true. While I was feeding Cash, Presley took every book he could reach out of the bookcase. When he couldn't reach any more he piled up some books, climbed on them, and made it to the next shelf. Threats of incarceration in the playpen fell on deaf ears.

As soon as I could reach him, I threw Presley in the playpen. I tidied up the books. They used to be in height order, all my Anne Tylers together, next to the Helen Dunmores. The reference books were together. Nowadays they are thrown in higgledy piggledy. 'Timequake' by the late great Kurt Vonnegut sits on top of Peter Kay's 'The Sound of Laughter and underneath 'The Rough Guide to Barcelona'.

I had just finished tidying when Cash crawled over, pulled himself up the bookcase and grabbed hold of 'My Booky Wook' and threw it on the floor.

You see. Ratbags.

After lunch - and thank goodness for highchair straps - I wanted to change their nappies.

Perfect moment coming up...

Cash laid down on the changing mat for me, face down. I may change a lot of nappies, but even I haven't perfected the bum-in-the-air-change.

Whilst Cash was waiting, looking up at me and smiling, Presley came over and climbed on my lap. He just wanted a cuddle. I wrapped my arms around him and he relaxed onto me, his head on my shoulder. His breathing slowed and his arms tightened around my arm and neck. I breathed him in. I gently rocked him. This is the best feeling in the world.

***

Imagine an extra room in your house just for you. Time would freeze as you stepped through the door, leaving your life frozen behind you and giving you unlimited guilt-free time to spend there. What would you fill it with?

I love the idea of time freezing. This would be amazing. I would love to be able to step through a door and have some serious guilt-free me time.

My secret room would be huge. Light would flood through enormous clean windows. One wall would be full of books. I'd have to have one of those library step ladders on wheels.

Under one window I would have a big old desk. On the desk would be my laptop and loads of lovely stationery: notebooks galore, pencils, pens, note cards, envelopes, every colour highlighter they make, post-it notes in all shapes and sizes and Tippex mice. Oh and coloured paperclips. I guess there are some things I miss about working in an office!

On my desk would be an enormous steaming cup of coffee, a flat white or an Americano with milk. Next to the coffee would be a massive slice of cake. Mmm, orange and poppy seed one day, coffee and walnut the next. All calorie-free of course.

In one corner I would have a large craft table. I would be able to leave all my card making paraphernalia out, ready to use. It would never get dusty, or get caught in a draft.

In another corner would be a sewing machine and piles of fabric gorgeousness. And I'd be able to sew.

Finally, there would be the most comfortable sofa in the world (I'm imaging battered leather and soft fleecy throws) in front of a roaring real fire. I would sit there with my feet tucked under me and read and read and read and read.

***

Thank you Josie, I thoroughly enjoyed that!






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10 October 2009

Pregnancy Lows



This is a photograph of me in labour with Presley. My waters have broken and my contractions are two minutes apart. We are just about to go into hospital. Another contraction is just starting - take the photo quickly. This is me at my most pregnant.

***

The lovely Peggy from A Mother’s Secrets has asked for posts on the subject of pregnancy lows. This is my contribution.

All my adult life I wanted to be pregnant. I couldn’t wait to start wearing maternity clothes and walking with a waddle. I wanted to be treated differently, reverentially. That’s how I saw pregnant women, I was in awe of them.

When it finally happened to me I was thrilled. I had to keep popping to the loos at work so I could have a grin to myself. Mostly I loved being pregnant. It’s an exciting time, a time to make plans. I studied my baby books and each week read about the baby’s development. I also checked the mother’s symptoms guide and read out snippets to Andy. This week I will get a rush of hormones, apparently. This week I should have my first scan. And so on.

With Presley I sailed through my pregnancy until about 28 weeks. I narrowly failed the Glucose Tolerance test for gestational diabetes. I had to keep a food diary and regularly check my blood sugar. After a week I went back to the diabetic clinic at my local hospital. They said some of my readings were too high. Why had I eaten white bread and pizza?

This was the start of the low. I hadn’t even seen a dietician, yet I was prescribed insulin injections. I asked the doctor if there was an alternative. His caring reply was ‘your baby could die’.

I had to inform DVLA and my car insurance. If I had a hypoglycemic episode I could pass out at the wheel. I had to tell everyone at work that I was a diabetic and give them instructions in case I became ill. I had to inject myself twice a day, immediately before eating. I got used to this and could discreetly inject myself in restaurants.

I followed a low GI diet and kept my blood sugar under control. I lost weight. In fact I weighed the same the day I went into labour as I did the day I got pregnant. I probably wasn’t eating enough, but I was terrified that a single polo mint would harm my unborn child.

I had a couple of scans to check that the baby wasn’t getting too big. They estimated an 8lb baby. It was reassuring to see my child on the screen.

All through my pregnancy I had been planning a natural, active birth. I went to a wonderful yoga class to prepare my body. Andy and I went on an excellent active birth weekend. I was following a natal hypnotherapy course too. I was adamant that no one would force me to lay on a bed to give birth.

At one of my weekly diabetic clinic visits I asked the antenatal consultant whether having gestational diabetes meant my labour would be any different from normal.

I was told that I would have to be induced early. I would have continuous foetal monitoring. I would have insulin and glucose drips.

I asked if I would be able to be upright, move around? I was told no, you’ll have to lay on the bed.

When you are pregnant it is almost impossible to see beyond the birth of your baby. You can’t imagine what it’s like to have a baby at home. So hearing these words was pretty devastating to me. I was worried sick that my baby would die because I had gestational diabetes and I was terrified of an inactive labour and medical intervention.

My labour was traumatic, the medics intervened, but Presley arrived, all 6lb 10oz of him. Andy jokes that he wasn’t delivered by stork, but by Dalek (venthouse)!

After a few days in the Special Care Baby Unit we took our precious boy home.

Once you’ve had the baby, and you start to take care of it, the labour and birth gains some perspective. It’s only a day or two out of the rest of your life. The most important thing is holding your new baby and caring for it. All of the worry, fear of the unknown and the pain is behind you.

You’re a parent. Now the real worrying can start!


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9 October 2009

She's a Model and She's Looking Good




***

On Wednesday night Andy and I travelled down to the Grosvenor House Hotel in London to attend the annual Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show.

I had been before, but this was Andy's first time. After winning one of the charity auctions last time, I left my credit card at home! Eight of us travelled there by limo and we met four other friends at the hotel.

It was an amazing experience. There was a red carpet entrance. We took advantage of the champagne reception. Ahem. The room looked fabulous. The meal was excellent considering they were catering for 800 people. There were plenty of celebrities roaming around too. Most importantly the event raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Breast Cancer Care.

The highlight of the night was fashion show. I didn't really notice the clothes, nice as they were, because my attention was on the models. All of the models, 23 women and 1 man, have survived breast cancer. This particular cancer can dramatically alter your appearance, so to walk down the runway with hundreds of people cheering and clapping must be a massive boost to your self-esteem.

One model in particular caught my eye, my best friend Amanda. She looked stunning.

I'm filling up as I write this. Every time I remember her floating down the catwalk I cry. Watching all of the models was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

My apologies to the Grosvenor for using one of their napkins to dry my tears, I hope the mascara comes out in the wash.

I've run out of superlatives so I'll leave you with the photographs. They're not quite in the right order, but I hope you can get some idea of just how wonderful the night was. The photos were taken by Andy and I and our friend Alan.


Amanda and her proud mum Carola

Amanda's husband Graham, playing the 'Heads or Tails' game

Me, with a mouthful of food! Eagle eyed readers will notice that I am wearing the same dress as last time, but with different accessories. And brown hair.

Amanda and Joe Swash (King of the Jungle, Eastenders)

Amanda on the catwalk, wearing Matthew Williamson

Amanda being escorted by a male model. Jealous? Moi?!

Amanda wearing Oasis and Coast

Amanda wearing Twenty8Twelve and Lisa Edwards

Amanda wearing Twenty8Twelve and French Connection

The entertainment was provided by Beverley Craven

Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopilova from Strictly Come Dancing. This was the auction prize I wanted to bid for. They were offering a dancing lesson at their dance studio in Cheam. The Cheam part made me laugh though, I used to work there and glamorous it is not!
Some celeb gossip for you. Lilia stormed out before the end with a face like thunder. She was followed by a grimacing Darren. He looked like he was used to it!

Ben Ofoedu and Vanessa Feltz on their way to the loo.
More celeb gossip. "Andy Snubs Soap Star". While Andy was taking this photo of Vanessa and her fiance, Kara Tointon waited patiently to get past. Andy thanked her, but didn't ask to take her picture. Well, we don't watch Eastenders. He had no idea who she was!

Denise Lewis

The lovely Gail Porter. She was a fabulous host.

'Lord' Jeffrey Archer. Whatever you may say about him, the man is a brilliant charity auctioneer. After the main auction he asked for 80 people to stand up and donate £250 each to pay for a breast cancer patient to have hair-loss consultancy. In five minutes Archer raised an additional £20,000.

The patron of Breast Cancer Care, Cherie Blair

Geri Halliwell.

More celeb gossip. Geri arrived and was photographed, but she didn't stay for the show. Apparently Lisa Snowden was there too, but we didn't see her at the show either.

Joe Swash and Kara Tointon. Andy knows who she is now.

Denise Lewis and Kara Tointon on the catwalk, modelling an auction prize

Tara Palmer-Tompkinson. Even more celeb gossip for you. I saw Tara up close a few times on the night and she is far more beautiful in real life than on TV or in photographs. And those shoes were HIGH!

Jonathan Ansell (ex G4 opera singer)

Ooh, the excitement! Look what we got in our goody bags

The Show program and ticket


And finally here are a few grainy videos.

Apologies for the whooping, squealing and cheering, but I was standing next to the camera!

The first video is Amanda on the catwalk in the 1920's section.

The second video is Amanda in her beautiful Matthew Williamson dress in the finale.

Finally, all of the models came out individually at the end to receive flowers and thanks from Cherie Blair.

video video video

I hope you enjoyed the show!

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