Christmas 2018... The one where things did go well

After concentrating on the things that went wrong in my last post, I wanted to re-cap the wonderful things about this Christmas.

Despite beating myself up for not being the ideal wife, mother and hostess of my dreams, I did enjoy much of Christmas and advent this year and, as always, I wish to record the best bits both for me and the kids to look back on one day.

Each Christmas contains the same elements - trees, presents, food, fun but I don't want to lose sight of the unique events and activities that will always make this particular Christmas different to othersDecember has been an incredibly busy month and there has been a lot to record!

A Festive Failure

By 9am on Christmas Eve I was in tears. Overwhelmed by the knowledge of being imperfect, floored by a comment made by a friend about their ‘perfect wife’.

My Christmas Eve wasn’t going to be the relaxed, festive affair that I’d planned. After months of planning and organisation, I still wasn’t ready. There were things to buy, a home to prepare, things to do, places to go.

And I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t perfect. This wasn’t the ‘perfect’ Christmas I’d hoped for.

I blame the Christmas adverts I was subjected to as a kid. The luscious and extravagant parties, towering pyramids of Ferraro Rocher, laughing adults with glasses of champagne.

Fixing winter skin with the #MyAquaphor Challenge

Winter has well and truly hit High Wycombe in the last couple of weeks. The school run has turned from a pleasurable meander in the pale Autumn sunlight into a cold and miserable scurry in the rain and even I'm thinking of purchasing a bobble hat to keep my ears warm as I walk to school and back a few times everyday.

Winter is particularly tough on skin. As a family we struggle with dry, cracked and sore skin on our hands and faces and it can be hard to find products to help.

Perhaps, I'm just fussy, but when it comes to a cream I can use on my hands and dry skin it has to meet certain criteria:

Ketchup to the rescue! My son's obsession with the red stuff

I like to think that my kids are reasonably well balanced when it comes to food. They eat a good amount of fruit and vegetables, they love to help themselves to a well-stocked salad bar at Harvester or Pizza Hut and can usually be persuaded to try something new. At the same time, I'm not militant when it comes to sweets and treats and am happy for them to have small amounts of chocolate and cake.

So, in my parenting bubble where everything can often seem challenging and overwhelming, food is one area which I don't stress too much about.

Until recently, that is.

Recently, I have began to feel a little bit insulted by the overuse of tomato ketchup at mealtimes.

City Break - Rome Day 2

This is the second part in a post about our recent trip to Rome without the kids. It was the first chance Matt and I had to get abroad together since our honeymoon and, despite being on a budget and missing the kids, we were determined to make the most of it.
You can read the first part here. Or read on to find out all about how we got on for Day 2, our only full day spent in the Eternal City...

City Break - Rome Day 1

I did wonder for a while whether I should post about our trip away (you may have seen my pics on Instagram last week), after all, I'm not a 'travel blogger'. In fact, as someone who has only been abroad once in the last 7 years (for my honeymoon) it'd be almost laughable for me to hope to impart much wisdom at all.
However, despite travel not being my particular blogging 'niche', I wanted to share our quick couple's getaway to Rome with you. It was a bit of a parenting challenge: balancing the delight of being 'child-free', the anxiety of travelling, the excitement of discovering somewhere new and missing the children, but it was well worth the effort. Read on for a glimpse into our mini-Roman adventure.

(Or just take a look at the photos, I won't be offended)

Lily's Birthday Trip - Ruislip Park Stables

Instead of big parties for the children's birthdays, this year we decided on 'treat days' instead. Matt and I chose this to save on money and effort but also as a way of gifting Lily and Ollie with memories of fun days out. I didn't want years of birthday parties, no matter how fabulous, to blur into one.

And so we intersperse parties with treat days and over the years have had some great days out at places like Chessington World of Adventures, the Natural History Museum earlier this year and, for Lily's 6th birthday we had a morning with the horses and ponies at Ruislip Park Stables.

Since watching Netflix favourites like Spirit: Riding Free and Free Rein on repeat, Lily has become a huge fan of horses and horse riding. This summer we visited the Dartmoor Pony Centre and Lily's most anticipated part of the day by far was the pony ride.

#ACEforSchool - school adventures without laundry worries

As a kid I loved school. It's something I want for both my children - afterall, children spend an awful lot of time in school and I want them to enjoy it rather than dread it!

Our own school adventures start early in the morning - I avoid the school run getting mundane and miserable by letting the kids have fun as we go. It's only one long road to walk down and I leave plenty of time so that the kids can walk on walls, stop to marvel at the spider webs and their inhabitants, say hello to the cats and play we're going on a bear hunt.

We're usually some of the first to arrive in the playground, Lily and Ollie both off and running whilst I stand in the corner with a few other Mums, often talking about how cold it is or having a bit of a gossip.

Natural History Museum Day Trip

This post has been a long time coming - sorry about that! The day job got in the way and it's only now that I'm able to write most days that I'm realising how much I missed sharing our days out and family life on the blog.

Ollie's birthday is in March and this year our planned treat was originally postponed due to snow. He didn't have to wait too long though and as soon as the white stuff had cleared we headed into London with friends for a dinosaur-filled day at the Natural History Museum.

We live in High Wycombe, about 30 minutes by train from central London. However, when it comes to saving money on family days out, we rarely get the train from the local station (£27.50 for an anytime return with travelcard) and instead opt for driving a little way to Ruislip Gardens where we can park up cheaply (often at the station itself, sometimes in a nearby residential street) and get the tube to our chosen destination for more than half price using an Oyster card (capped at £11.70).

Going it alone

As you may have gathered from my last post, there was a big question mark over my job and I feel that now might be a good time to update you all.

The title of this post is a huge hint.

I'm no longer employed.

The job which I had such high hopes for, which gave me a new boost of confidence, didn't work out.

Work and Worry

I've found myself getting increasingly stressed over the last few months.

The cause? My work.

Like the majority of people, it isn't the first time working has caused me stress, given me nightmares, exacerbated my anxiety. I have often found that my work is closely linked to me mental health and well being.

Looking over my blog posts from last year you wouldn't think that for half of it I was feeling depressed and even, at times, suicidal.

My Geek Gift List

Can you remember a time before you could buy nearly anything you wanted at a click of a button?

As a teen and a lover of all things Lord of the Rings I would sit in an internet cafe searching the world wide web for anything to fuel my passion. There wasn't much. I don't think I'd even heard of eBay at that point (I am only 32 by the way but the internet was still new enough to be featured on 'Tomorrow's World')...

Godstone Farm

One of the things I love most as a parent is sharing the things I love, or loved as a child, with my own kids. growing up in the South London area, both Matt and I visited Godstone Farm as children for school and family trips and have lots of happy memories there.

So when we were invited to visit on Father's Day we were both really excited to take Lily and Ollie. It's no surprise that we love visiting a farm, I'm yet to meet a child who doesn't get excited about meeting the animals - my kids love it!

A lot has changed at Godstone Farm over the years. As a kid, I remembered all the animals and Matt has fond memories of playing on the ride on tractors - but now there are even more activities to take part in and keep the kids busy all day long. As an adult, I find I'm just as appreciative of good toilet facilities, a decent cup of tea and some good quality food in the tearoom as I was of all the fun stuff I enjoyed when I was much younger.

My second biggest fear

As someone who suffers from anxiety, I have many, many fears.

I worry constantly about losing Matt or my kids.

But the next biggest fear is losing someone else I know to suicide. The fear that I could recognise someone who is in the same situation that my Dad was in and fail to help them. Fail to save them.

Where I'm coming from...

Young Love

After a random conversation with a friend about my previous boyfriends it occurred to me that as a list, a collective, they can be summarised like a list of Friends episodes.

The first love. The one who lied about everything. The one with seriously bad hygiene.

It's a short list. I haven't had many boyfriends. But I apparently kissed a lot of frogs before I found and married Matt.

Pretty standard.

Like most teens I had a long list of crushes and the odd stolen kiss. There was the boyfriend who cheated on me with my step-sister and the one guy I fancied throughout secondary school but never told anyone about and then there are loads of boys who held my attention for periods of time, the Disney-inspired dreams of an adolescent female desperate to find someone to love her and hold her hand.

Embracing the Mum Geek

I haven't been blogging that much lately. My concentration taken up by my day job, parenting, housework, trying to be a better friend and other pleasant distractions. It's not that I don't have much to say anymore, just that I'm finding it difficult to to find the time to get all my thoughts onto paper.

Of course, the shadow of Mum-guilt and anxiety hovers over me still and I feel pretty awful about the relief I have walking into the office everyday. That time where, although I never stop thinking of my kids and home pressures, I temporarily transform into an adult with a personality of my own, a persona other than 'just a mum'.

What happened when... I tried Clubbercise

When I was a kid we had this thing called 'bedtime disco'. It did exactly what it said on the tin and my Mum would whack up the sound on the stereo (we had a hi-fi, cause we were cool), turn off the lights and we'd dance around like lunatics in an attempt to wear us out before bed.

Seriously, when I think of my those times, I want to award my Mummy a medal. It was the best.

With all those opportunities to dance you’d think I’d at least be good at it.

But alas. No. 

I was an ungainly, awkward child who couldn't work out how to get her arms to do one thing whilst her feet did something else. Like most things in life, I made up for a lack of skill with greater enthusiasm or by shrugging it off and pretending that I never wanted to be a great dancer anyway.

Co-ordination and I have never been bosom buddies.

Especially as said bosom grew, with a booty to match.

Ollie at 3

This morning, as I woke up, stretched and opened my eyes, the first thing I saw was your cheeky grin.

You laughed, snuggled in for a cuddle, and whispered "I love you so much Mummy".

And my heart melted into a big, gooey puddle.

This is you all over. Adorable, affectionate, funny, mischievous and cheeky. You love to cuddle as much as you love to play, you're sweet but naughty in equal parts, you're headstrong and independent.

What happened when... I joined a fitness class

Long-term readers and good friends will know that, given the choice, I'll always choose a good book and cup of tea over strenuous exercise or sport.

Before falling pregnant with Lily, and all the uncertainty I faced in those early days, I loved going to Zumba classes. They were fun but I still felt like I'd burned calories. It didn't matter that I can't dance. I just gave it my best shot and I was pleased with the results - not just in my fitness and how I looked but how I felt in myself. 

That rush of endorphins when you take part in exercise that you enjoy. 

Even if I was miserable at the start of the session, I was always happy at the end.

A quarter-life crisis?!

I sit here wondering if I am the only person working in a school who wishes it wasn't half term right now.

As the break approached everyone I work with was looking forward to a holiday but all I could think about was a disruption to routine and endless days with my kids.

Which makes me sound like a pretty shit mother really.

Shouldn't I want to spend every single second of every single day savouring their childhood?

One day I'll wake up and they'll be grown. And I'll miss these times.

It's not even that they're misbehaving.

It's not that I don't love them.

It's not that I don't want to spend as much time with them as possible.

I just don't want to spend time with me.

The real me who is boring, frumpy, grumpy (thanks for that suggestion, auto-correct) and depressing.

I want to step out of my life right now, just for a few days and have a real break. Not just from work but from everything. From being a mum, a wife, a colleague. From being myself. from my history and my future.

Book Review - Sea and Sand

When I read Air and Ash by Alex Lidell, the first book in the ‘Tides’ series I was drawn in by comparisons to one of my favourite authors, Tamora Pierce. You’ll notice from my review (which can be found here) that I felt it lived up to that promise. I loved Ash as a feisty but realistically flawed character and you could tell there was a great story building.

Since then I have read the next two books in the series. War and Wind which was released June 2017 and recently released Sea and Sand.

And in this review, I want to impress upon you not just how much this book would appeal to readers of Tamora Pierce, Rachel E Carter and Maria V Snyder, but also how this series can hold it’s own and be worth reading without any comparison.

9 things no Mum wants to hear... an alternative perspective

I'm not a big fan of the '10 things you shouldn't say to...' lists that often spring up on the internet. When it comes to those that advise on what you shouldn't say to someone who is grieving, suffering or unwell, I think they miss the point - no one wants to say the wrong thing, they just want to say something and I'd rather a friend picked up the phone and said something a bit stupid than not call at all because they're too scared after reading one of these sanctimonious bullet point lists.

The same goes for parenting. If you need to remind someone to refer to you as 'pregnant' instead of 'fat' then I'm pretty sure they won't be the sort of person who would read these lists anyway...