Thursday, 29 August 2013

Like a pebble on a beach...

This is my pebble.
I collected it on a beach near where my in-laws live.

The red is sandstone, it's a sedimentary rock formed in the Devonian era (not surprising then to note that the in-laws live in Devon).  As rocks go sandstone is not the hardest stone you will ever come across, while not exactly soft it is easily eroded by the action of the environment (in this case the waves and tide).

The white stuff is quartz, it's an igneous stone formed by volcanic action that used heat and pressure to push it into the sandstone.  Quartz is hard and when all the rest of this pebble has been worn away the quartz will still be there in flakes.

I feel like I can identify with the pebble,  bits of my personality were made under the intense heat and pressure of some difficult situations, they are hard, rough edges but they hold the rest of me together. Other parts of my personality are softer and are more easily worn away and like the pebble, the adult I am today was formed gradually over time.

It's taken me time to understand that these aspects are not flaws. The pebble is interesting precisely because it has these different features. 

And if I am not the only pebble on the beach?
Maybe then I can be a little bolder.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Take me to the water

I've had a few 'health journeys' in my time, either by choice (like a fitness or weight loss programme) or by necessity (like an illness which involves regular trips to the doctor) and one question I'm often asked is 'are you drinking enough fluids'. Its a fair enough question, bodies perform better when they are fully hydrated and drinking more is an easy lifestyle change to make. If you are in the UK the NHS recommends you drink about six 200ml glasses a day.

As it happens I do drink plenty, it's only 10am and I estimate that I'm already well into my second litre. I like to drink, it helps my brain work and if I'm honest I also use it as a way to suppress any hunger pangs. (Did I mention that in the last year I've lost over 2 stone?) Do you know that many people can't actually tell the difference between feeling hungry and feeling dehydrated and that that skill will diminish with age, the elderly are at particular risk of dehydration.

Unfortunately many of the drinks we like to have are not actually hydrating, tea and coffee for example, alcohol will also drive water out of your system. Pure fruit juices are also so stack full of sugar that they wont help hydrate you either, unless you add extra water. I also try to avoid squash for similar reasons and I don't think the 'no added sugar' squashes are a great alternative either as the artificial sweetener can leave you feeling hungry (think about it, how many skinny people do you actually see drinking diet soda?) And so called 'flavoured water' you can buy in the shops is usually just colourless diet squash with added sweetener.

Re-hydrating isotonic drinks are fab (provided they don't have sweetener) but they can be VERY expensive, over-the-counter oral re-hydration sachets to add to water are not much cheaper.  No, there really is no better drink than water. But even I'm prepared to admit that it can be a little dull at times so here I'm going to share my favourite water 'recipes'. Things that can give the water just enough flavour to make it different and interesting.

  • Sliced fruit - be it citrus like lemons or sweet like sliced strawberries just a touch of sliced fruit mixed in with the ice can make the water seem even more refreshing. Also cucumber works really nicely.
  • Herbs - many herbs are great in water. I often use rosemary (which by the way is BRILLIANT with a slice of watermelon, so refreshing) but I also like all sorts of mint, thyme and sage (which is great with some blackcurrants) . The list goes on. Give your herb some gentle scrunching to release the flavour and float on the water.
  • Flowers - my girls love a flower or two floating in with the ice and water. Rose petals, elderflower, nasturtiums, marigolds. Any edible flower looks great and if it's scented like roses a little sparkling water added to the mix will help bring that out.
  • Herbal and fruit teas - I'll often make a peppermint or chamomile tea and drink it hot or let it cool and add ice. Go for quality bags or loose tea with no added 'black tea' and no artificial sweetener. My all time favourite tea is a few thin slices of ginger with a dash of lemon juice.
  • A dash of.. - lemon juice, lime juice, vanilla, cider vinegar or Angostura bitters all work well when added to water.
  • Home made oral re-hydration therapy - to one litre of fresh clean water add half a level teaspoon (3 grams) of salt and 3 level tablespoons of sugar (18 grams). 

If you want to look really classy any of the above frozen into ice cubs will look great but of course until the ice melts you will have less flavour.

As I type now I am looking forward to a blistering hot weekend, the weather man just told me that the last time it was this good was the first week in July 2006 - I remember it well, it was the week my first daughter was born (and no it wasn't a water birth). 
Have a great weekend! xx

Sunday, 30 June 2013

My breastfeeding journey

As I've spent the last week helping locally with Breastfeeding Awareness Week I thought I'd share my breastfeeding journey with you. 

When we started trying to build a family I had just turned 29, we’d thought about it for years and were very ‘active’ in trying to conceive. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be and before long we were at the hospital receiving various cycles of IVF. I was 35 when a cycle finally worked and we were expecting our first baby. I felt that we’d tried so hard to have a baby that we owed it to ourselves to be the very best parents we could so I read a great number of books on pregnancy and early baby-hood. When I learnt that breastfeeding could potentially reduce the chances of developing food allergies I knew I had to breastfeed. I have a number of food allergies myself and felt that anything I could do to spare my child from these was well worth doing.

We went to NCT antenatal classes and while ‘breast is best’ was constantly repeated the actual focus of ‘how to breastfeed’ was probably only one hour of the course. I expressed concern to my sister (who already had children) who told me not to worry and that mum would ‘sort me out’ as she had done for her.

When my baby was born, I had a difficult time in getting her to latch on. I’d had an induction and an epidural as well as some gas and air and had eventually delivered my baby by ventouse. No-one had explained to me that anyone of these procedures might make the early stages of breastfeeding difficult and added to this I have very flat nipples (everyone was calling them ‘inverted’ but I now know they were just flat) and even my mum couldn’t get me breastfeeding.

My problems were exacerbated by a migraine at 24hours post delivery where I could barely lift my own head never-mind concentrate on feeding my baby. I was heartbroken when the nursery-nurse took Rosa for a blood glucose test, told me her glucose was dangerously low because I was starving her and immediately ‘administered’ 40ml of formula.

I decided to go for a shower at this point. Once in the flow of water I let the tears run, I was still blubbing when I stepped out and cursed myself for crying so much my feet were getting wet. When I finally dried my eyes of course I found that it wasn’t my tears making my feet wet it was my milk. I remember just then I heard a baby cry out side and my milk stopped dripping and started pouring, I could have filled a teacup a metre away. I put my clothes on as quickly as I could and went out and told the nurse that there was no way I was starving my child and demanded she get me a breast-pump.

In no time at all I had produced 40ml of breastmilk and came to a deal with the nurse, I would pump for each feed, I would show her or a colleague that I had produced at least 40mls. They would then test her blood sugar and then I would feed her my milk from the bottle (no one ever mentioned cup feeding and I certainly didn’t know about it).  If we passed 36 hours without going under a particular level of blood glucose I would be allowed home, where I already had a breast pump, bottles and a can of formula (which I’d bought just in case). I gave up on direct breastfeeding at that point I just wanted to get home. Once at home my mum and a number of good friends tried to help me get her to latch on instead of bottle-feeding expressed milk.

My mum suggested stripping baby down to her nappy as she’d been told to do with me. We mistakenly thought this was because warmth was making her sleepy, we didn’t realise it was skin-to-skin contact that was needed so I kept my nursing vest on. It was a very hot summer so I was even feeding in the direct line of a fan, just to try to keep her awake to feed. It sort of helped but the breakthrough came when a friend who’d had similar problems told us where we could get some nipple shields from. My husband and mum (who had suggested shields from the start) were duly dispatched to the shop and came back with some silicon ones. I have to say that at that point those shields saved my breastfeeding relationship. Baby liked the shields and I found I could control the mess they made (they filled up and dribbled in no time) with a well-placed towel.

I always intended to come off of the shields but again I was let down by poor advice as everyone, midwife, health visitor, my mum and many others suggested ‘cutting the shield down’ with a pair of scissors slowly making the hole bigger. Baby out rightly refused to let them back into her mouth once she realised they had been cut as try as I might the cutting always left sharp edges. The friend who’d originally told me about them admitted she’d never come off of them either in her 6 months of breastfeeding and so at about six weeks I resigned myself to using them for the rest of our breastfeeding. That was when I went to my first La Leche meeting.

Another girl from my NCT antenatal group had had problems with her baby too and had already sort out their help. Problems largely solved she had been invited to the meeting and wanted a bit of moral support going in so I said we’d go too. I have to say that first meeting was a bit of a shock, I’d rarely seen a sling before, and I’d certainly never seen a child over six months being breastfed, seeing a 3 year old do it blew my mind! However I was willing to admit the children all seemed very happy and healthy and the welcoming friendship of the other mums encouraged us to go back for the next meeting.

It was on my third meeting that I discovered ‘The Breastfeeding Answer Book’ had a section on shields. I learnt then that the ‘cutting down advice’ applied only to rubber shields and not silicon and that if I wanted to wean off shields then what I needed to do was essentially put a piece of sterilized cloth in the shield to make it more difficult for her to get the milk and then show her how easy it was to take it straight from the breast. I gave it a go and got into a terrible mess, milk everywhere, a rather sore nipple and a screaming daughter. Subsequently I gave up on the whole idea and decided I would continue using the shields.

La Leche changed how I felt about long-term breastfeeding. When I went back to work I carried on feeding baby when I was with her and I had wanted to carry on feeding until she was 2 however I also wanted a larger family and we had a time limit (at that time they would only keep frozen gametes for IVF for 5 years and we were already 2 and a half years in). My IVF consultant was not particularly understanding about my wish to continue to breastfeed but I thought we’d come to an arrangement where we would try implanting during a ‘natural cycle’ without medication. However that message didn’t get communicated to the staff and in the hospital on the day of the transfer I was suddenly given an injection and my breastfeeding abruptly stopped.

I was in pieces (well I just been given a syringe full of hormones!) and I called several LLL leaders who did a brilliant job in counselling and encouraged me with the thought that a sudden stop in breastfeeding can lead to an element of ‘super fertility’. Whether it was that, luck, brilliant fertility treatment or a mixture of all three I don’t know but 2 weeks later the pregnancy test said positive and it all seemed worth it.

When my second baby girl was born I thought I would be able to crack the breastfeeding quickly and settle down to two years of feeding. How wrong I was. She just wasn’t the same child as my first and clearly hadn’t read the books I had, on top of this I had terrible SPD and many health professionals were telling me that to continue breastfeeding would just continue the SPD. Thank goodness I didn’t listen to that advice. However after less than a week of trying to feed both with and without nipple shields my nipples were exceptionally painful and I made the decision to just feed with shields. Quickly the pain dissipated and I resigned myself to never doing ‘normal breastfeeding’, except that once again she had different ideas.

When she was about 6 weeks old I settled down to feed her when her big sister wanting help with a book, interrupted me. As I leaned over her she very gently helped herself to my uncovered nipple, I didn’t even realised she’d latched on until I leaned back. She looked happy so I pulled her a little closer and let her continue. At the next feed she just pushed the shield away and we’ve never looked back.

I had intended to feed her for just the NHS recommended 2 years but as ever she felt differently and I realised that I could just let her ‘self wean’, so that’s what we did.

On the eve of her third birthday she decided she was a big girl and wouldn’t have ‘num-nums’ any more. By the evening of her birthday my breasts were nearly bursting so I decided to hand express into the sink, she quickly realised this was a waste and said she would help me by feeding! Shortly after this however I decided I’d just had enough of the constant night feeding and negotiated a deal with her that she would have extra playdoh time with mummy in return for not feeding at night. (It wasn’t exactly a reward system, I explained I just couldn’t cope with the lack of sleep and that everyone needed a ‘happy mummy’.)

When she was about 3years 8 months I developed ‘nursing aversion’ but after working through my feelings decided that if I could drop the evening ‘going to sleep’ feed (which by now was actually hurting as she had a tendency to chew as she went to sleep) I could carry on.  However this really was the beginning of the end.

Daytime feeds quickly disappeared and in the early mornings she would complain ‘there’s not really much there any more mum’. Again as she approached her birthday she told me that once she was 4 she would be a big girl and wouldn’t need it any more.

Just before her birthday we went on holiday. In the evening we let the girls stay up late and consequently mornings got later and later. In addition to this the gite had a satellite dish and the girls found a kids channel they loved. In the end it seemed breastfeeding just couldn’t compete with ‘The Winx Club’ and she stopped climbing into my bed for a morning feed. When we came back to the UK she did climb in on a few mornings, even on her 4th birthday she wanted ‘num-nums’ first then presents, but I think I’ve only fed her two times since and on both times she told me there was no milk coming out. Recently she told me she thought it had stopped because it knew she was a big girl.

Looking back on the early days of my breastfeeding I clearly had an over active milk ejection reflex which was pumping out such a large amount of milk it was making my babies gag. The nipple shields didn’t sort out my perceived flat nipple problem, they slowed the milk down to a flow my babies could cope with. Biological nurturing would have been a great alternative (the ‘up-hill’ position slowing the milk down) and that together with skin to skin that would have helped to stimulate my baby to feed. Looking back at pictures of my first girl I can see how her head was so pulled out of shape by the suction, I bet it really hurt her to move her head at all. If the me now met the me then I would have had me expressing small amounts of colostrum before the birth to cup feed baby when she arrived. (It was a planned induction and epidural, it could have been anticipated that these would cause problems).  I’d also have suggested biological nurturing or cup-feeding when I had the migraine and I think that showing me how to feed lying down would also have helped a lot. Finally I’d have thrown away the Gina Ford and Claire Byam-Cook books and introduced Dr Sears and the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding a lot earlier. Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


A spot! I have a spot!! Several actually. I had a horrible time with acne as I was growing up and I think it's coming back. I suspect that now just as then, changing hormones are to blame. 

Yes, if there is one thing I really hate about heading into the menopause it's the spots - oh and the hot flushes. Honestly yesterday I had a 'personal summer' that had my face glowing like a beacon, it actually hurt. And the sweat, ugh!! I was watching my girls do their gymnastics and I'm sure the other mums must have been wondering what on earth was up.

Yes if there one thing I really hate about heading into the menopause it's the spots and the hot flushes - oh and the mood swings. The mood swings are awful. Not just bad but really f***ing bad! I can go from sweetly talking to the birds while I garden to full on RAGES in less than 60 seconds. Sometimes I go absolutely MAD about the tiniest little thing and goodness help anyone who gets in my way.

Yes if there is one thing I really hate about heading into the menopause it's the spots, the hot flushes, the mood swings. Oh and lets not to mention a change in the old pelvic floor! Things just are not what they were (don't worry I'm not going to go TMI on you but I do intend to talk about this more in another post).

Yes if there is one thing I really hate about heading into the menopause it's the spots, the hot flushes, the mood swings and the pelvic floor issues. Oh and let's not forget the 


I'm sorry, what was I talking about? 
You know if there is one thing I really hate about heading into the menopause it's the short term memory loss. 

Now where were we??

BTW I'm sorry I've been away so long, a badly strained wrist made typing very painful!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

International Star Wars Day (Or don't tell the bride!)

Just a quick little bonus blog for you!
As you may know I love my crochet, what you might not know (unless you are my friend on Facebook) is that I am Sci-Fi nuts. So I was really happy over the last couple of weeks to combine the two!

So why the cryptic reality tv reference? Remember how I volunteer for Charnwood BRAS? Well one of the other volunteers was getting married today and the groom is a big Star Wars fan too (it's a mark of how much he loves her that he actually sold some of the collectables to finance the wedding) so instead of my normal Bride and Groom cork-keepers I've done a little Princess Leia and Han Solo.

Finally my girls wanted to show off the other hat too.
Meet Princess Leia and R2D2 

I've roped in the photographer so hopefully these will be used as props in his photo-booth during the wedding!

Oh and all this was nothing compared to the arch of knitted boobs we made them walk under as they left the church but I forgot to get her permission to post that here so you'll have to go and find us on facebook!

Friday, 3 May 2013

My first barefoot walk!

I have been a good girl of late. I've gotten myself a new health challenge and as a start I've been going on a walk every day. Some days it's 30 minutes and some days it's an hour and some days I have to take the kids with me but I do it.

And it's not about burning calories. (Though I really hope it helps). It's not even about raising my heart rate much. It's about making my body do what it should naturally be doing. Our bodies were not made to sit in front of a computer, oh no, they were expertly evolved over millions of years to move skillfully around our environment that we might hunt and gather food. Stopping our bodies from moving plays havoc with them.

So why barefoot walk? Lately I've been really interested in learning about how our bodies are connected and it seems that shoes are not as friendly to our bodies as we thought. Yes they can stop your feet getting covered in dog mess or stepping on a nail but they also stop the proper action of our feet which can in turn stop the proper action of muscles higher up the leg, which in turn can even weaken your pelvic floor!

I did my homework with care. I realised that my feet are not used to being out of shoes so I've been braking them in gently. To start with I got rid of my slippers. Then I minimalised my shoes, less ridged cast with heals, more flat with a big toe box and gripping to my feet (flip-flops or thongs mean you have to grip with your toes and produces a very unnatural style of walking). Then I got chilblains on my toes and realised that thick socks in winter are a must and that the next stage would have to wait until spring!

Biding my time I set to look for places to walk. It's not as easy as you might think, I needed lots of grass to start this experiment, my feet are not hard enough yet to cope with rocks or leaves and concrete or tarmac does tend to lead to blisters as the surface is so unforgiving. I've selected 3 fields in the village all within easy walking distance from my children's school (why not use the school run as a warm up I though) and got some good fitting 'croc' style shoes for the bits on pavement (also if I'm honest I wanted to look 'normal' in the playground).

So today I finally decided it was warm enough to take the plunge. Crocs at the ready I took the girls to school and walked down to the village sports field. I recon one round of the  field is about 500m (there's a cricket pitch and a football pitch and more large areas of grass besides) and I went around 3 times!

What I learnt - 1) dew soaked grass is FREEZING at 9am in the morning! The muddy bits are much warmer. 2) even very nice dig owners can miss the odd poo (and then still put the poo in the wrong bin!!) 3) the funny looks are not too bad, you don't have to keep explaining yourself. I think most people didn't even notice.

And a plus side is that I have had a really nice buzzy feeling in my feet all morning. And if that is all I get then it is still worth it.

Tomorrow I shall try the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) nature reserve at the back of the village, it's not as big but there may be things bigger than dog poo to avoid!! 

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Max Ehrmann, "Desiderata"

Today I went to the memorial service for a friends grown-up son. It was a moving service so different to many others I have been to. It took place in a Quaker Meeting House and in Quaker tradition it did not have the clear structure I have come to expect from my upbringing in the Church of England. Many friends contributed their own warm memories of him which for me as someone who had met him on a mere handful of occasions clearly illustrated the sort of man he was. 

There were few overt prayers as such but there was a great deal of time for reflection and contemplation.  As an atheist I didn't have to sit there and ask why this young man was taken, I know there is no grand plan, "shit" as they say "just happens" and I actually take great comfort in that.

Sad as it is, he died. There is no reason, just friends and family whose lives were richer for his presence and whose hearts are torn at his loss.

I understand that not everyone in that room would have felt the same way and and I hope their faith can help and comfort them in their loss. It was an honour to sit in the silence with them.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

My body

Billy Bragg, 'Sexuality' - 

"I'm sure that everybody knows how much my body hates me,
It lets me down most every time and makes me rash and hasty."

Sometimes it honestly feels like my body is out to get me. What with the food allergies, the headaches, the migraines, the SPD during both my pregnancies and the infertility prior to that, it's not hard to feel that body and I are not really the best of friends. I try to feed it well, I exercise (well some of the time I do) and I watch my weight and yet.....
....and yet I rarely if ever feel happy with it. Sometime I even hate it (and the fact it is only 'sometimes' now is actually an improvement). I stand in front of the mirror and I see an ageing, plump, saggy body that doesn't look like the 'me' I feel inside. I fight to make it finish an exercise workout, I knock back pints of water to try and stop it reaching for a piece of chocolate and I curse it when I have to stop and clench to cough. I know a good body, like a good car needs looking after but I wish it didn't feel like we were at war with each other.

To be fair I've not had the best role models. Today magazines are full of celebrities who have 'already lost their baby weight', like baby weight is something to be ashamed of and that we should all be able to do it (even if we can't afford the personal trainer, nanny and chef that they used). They airbrush pictures to such an extent some celebs would be barely recognisable in 'real life'. (Look here) The media has never been a friend to a positive body image. But they are not the only ones to blame.

Take an earlier role model for girls, Barbie for example, if we assume that as a 'real' woman she'd be about 5foot 9 inches then her chest would be 39 inches, her waist 18 inches and her hips 33 inches. Her weight would be about 7 stone 12lbs which gives a BMI of 16.24 (which is so underweight we'd call her anorexic). Because her neck is so long she wouldn't be able to hold her head up and because her feet are so small (a size 3) she'd probably not be able to walk or even stand without help. And the makers Matel apparently consider this to be a fuller figure. Frankly it scares me that I still think she is beautiful and it terrifies me that my children might too.

And my earliest role model, my Mummy? I look back at photos of her at the age I am now and I see a beautiful lady, a lean, fit, healthy body, great skin, great legs, lovely hair but what I remember is her standing in front of a mirror picking herself apart, at the time I don't think she liked her own body either.

Really want my girls to have a positive body image. I wish I'd banned the Disney dolls which are really little different to Barbie before they started creeping into our home and I also wish they'd never seen the Winx club (cartoon girls so disproportioned they make Barbie look tame) but they are here now. So what can I do? I try to be as positive about my own body as I can be. When they point at my stretch marks I tell them they are tiger stripes and how much I love them because they were a gift. I try never to talk about dieting, just sensible eating. I tell them how interesting it is to watch our bodies change as we get older.

And I hope, I really hope that in talking to them more positively it wont just be them that feels good about their own body, I hope that I'll start to feel better about it too.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Forget Judy Garland, I'll listen to Frank Turner

I was all set to to write a blog post about my political views explaining where I stood on the political spectrum and then an old lady had to go and ruin my train of thought by dying.

She ruined so much of my youth, with her big hair, capped teeth and right-wing policies. She started off pinching my school milk and went on to much, much worse. Yes, that's right, I'm talking about Margret Thatcher. Even if you don't know exactly where I stand politically I don't think it will surprise you if I say that I wasn't a fan.

I can remember the day she became Prime Minster, I'd not quite turned 8 but I'd never seen my Dad look so sad, I knew Labour had lost just by the look on his face. Yes you could say my family indoctrinated me into socialism but they also had me Christened and I shook that off. I'm proud to be a lefty. I'm proud that when it comes to my country and indeed the world, I want to see a fairer, more equal society and in that I felt she was diametrically opposed to me.

She became for me, a personification of everything I hated about the political right, I danced with joy the day she was forced out of Number 10 (and got completely hammered, I was a University student at the time) so I expected to feel a similar sense of elation when she died. I didn't.

I can understand that a large number of people wanted to run around singing "Ding dong the witch is dead" from the Wizard of Oz - there is actually a Facebook group with the soul aim of getting it to number 1 by the end of the week (at the time of writing it is at number 10 in the down load charts - how ironic!) I admit to singing the odd chorus in the last 48hours but to be honest my heart isn't in it.  

In the first place this is because my fight isn't over. The current government are forcing through the sorts of cuts and changes the 'Iron Lady' could only have dreamed of. I will not stand by while the weakest and most vulnerable in our society have what little they have taken away from them and I will not be quiet while they break up and sell off the NHS. Yes we live in difficult economic times but make no mistake, these changes are political and ideological and not the necessity they are painted to be, there are alternatives. 

And in the second place, at the end she was a sad, frail woman suffering from dementia when she died, her 'prime' (if you can call it that) a distant memory. I do feel a sense of sorrow for her children that they have lost their mother though I always felt rather sorry for them having her as a parent in the first place however I don't feel any more need to be 'respectful' than I did at say Pinochet's death. Mostly I just feel flat. One right-winger may have gone but it reminds me that the fight to put society back in the place I feel it belongs continues.

No, if I'm going to download any particular song this week it will be this number by Frank Turner. It explains very clearly how I feel while still somehow managing to sound a little happy. (I'll just warn you now it is unsuitable for young children or the work place as it contains plenty of adult language from the start.)

Take it away Frank.

Lyrics, for those who have small ears nearby. 

Thatcher F*cked the kids - Frank Turner
Whatever happened to childhood?
We're all scared of the kids in our neighborhood;
They're not small, charming and harmless,
They're a violent bunch of bastard little shits.
And anyone who looks younger than me
Makes me check for my wallet, my phone and my keys,
And I'm tired of being tired out
Always being on the lookout for thieving gits.

We're all wondering how we ended up so scared;
We spent ten long years teaching our kids not to care
And that "there's no such thing as society" anyway,
And all the rich folks act surprised
When all sense of community dies,
But you just closed your eyes to the other side
Of all the things that she did.
Thatcher fucked the kids

And it seems a little bit rich to me,
The way the rich only ever talk of charity
In times like the seventies, the broken down economy
Meant even the upper tier was needing some help.
But as soon as things look brighter,
Yeah the grin gets wider and the grip gets tighter,
And for every teenage tracksuit mugger
There's a guy in a suit who wouldn't lift a finger for anybody else.

You've got a generation raised on the welfare state,
Enjoyed all its benefits and did just great,
But as soon as they were settled as the richest of the rich,
They kicked away the ladder, told the rest of us that life's a bitch.
And it's no surprise that all the fuck-ups
Didn't show up until the kids had grown up.
But when no one ever smiles or ever helps a stranger,
Is it any fucking wonder our society's in danger of collapse?

So all the kids are bastards,
But don't blame them, yeah, they learn by example.
Blame the folks who sold the future for the highest bid:
That's right, Thatcher fucked the kids.

Now why didn't they let him sing that at the Olympics?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

So much to do (so little time)

I've neglected this blog a little the last two weeks, I'm sorry. I can't even give you sick note from my mum. I've been a little busy working for the BIG community (without pay) in other words volunteering. Let me fill you in on a little bit of what I do......

My biggest volunteering commitment currently is the Charnwood BRAS (you can find us here and here) I'm a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter. This means that sometimes I sit in Sure Start Children's Centres working with a Health Visitor or Nursery Nurse (and I do work with two really super ones) to support new mums in their breastfeeding journey. Sometimes I zip off to someones house for a morning or afternoon to get them through a critical point and help them keep going. I also deliver workshops, we have antenatal sessions but mostly I lead the 'Returning to Work or Study' seminar. However MOST of my volunteering with the BRAS isn't that glamorous, it's running the Facebook page (not just on my own), baking cakes, writing new leaflets, press releases, case studies and the all important paperwork to prove that I'm worth the money they don't pay me.

I'm currently in the middle of 'Nearly New Sale' season with the NCT. I volunteer (and sell) at both the Loughborough and Leicester sales which are both close to being the biggest sales of their kind in the UK. Theoretically this is only 6 days 'work' a year but even without getting my own stuff ready for sale it mushrooms out of all proportion, what with printing signage and stuff. This particular volunteering is the closest I get to paid work these days as not only do I sell stuff but the volunteers pre-sale 'thank you' enables me to kit out the kids without it costing a fortune - I swear I have never paid more that £3 for a winter coat for example. If you have small kids and you are not involved in your local NCT sale I suggest you find out more about it now.

You may have spotted that I'm hooked on crochet. I owe a huge thanks to my lovely friend and 'oh-my-god-mother' to my kids for teaching me how to do it just 18months ago, since then it has become an obsession. I have made plenty of items for the school PTA (for whom I also do other volunteering) which we sell at seasonal fairs but I have particularly enjoyed making a small contribution to the work of the KGB. This is not (in case you were worried) the security arm of the Soviet Union but an 'arts' group - the Knitting Guerillas of Birstall. They yarn bomb the local area generally brightening up the place and making it a cosier place to live. I like it because I love modern art (even if this is a very middle class version), I think it challenges what society think of knitting and crochet and come to that, volunteering (I give my time, skill and wool for free) and because it makes me smile.

I'm also involved with La Leche League where I'm just starting training to be a group leader and a couple of 'Fertility' based groups and of course I don't just write this blog I also have my food blog The Trials of the Inclusive Cook, but the last organisation that I really want to tell you about is one that it feels like doesn't take any of my time at the moment, The Leicester Masaya Link Group. The LMLG is a non-governmental organisation and charity which manages the town-twinning link between Leicester and Masaya in Nicaragua. Official twinning was established in 1987 and since then, the LMLG has worked to develop and maintain an exchange of contacts between the two cities by co-ordinating projects aimed at enriching life in both cities. Before my girls were born I did a lot of voluntary work there but my main role now is supporting the Chair of the organisation, he's my husband. It turns out we can't both go to evening committee meetings because someone has to stay at home with the girls (and daytime office work isn't an option with a baby in tow) but I am VERY proud of the work he and our 'paid worker' do (it's in inverted commas because I know she gives far more of herself than what we pay for) and it is a pleasure to attend weekend events and fundraisers. 

Why do I do so much volunteering? Because it's rewarding, it makes me feel worthwhile and that helps keep my mental health a float in so many different ways and if you don't believe me read what the mental health charity Mind say here.  Yes it takes a lot of my time but here's the thing, without wishing to sound big headed
I make a difference.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


Shh, whisper it quietly but I have been know to sleep with young girls. It’s OK, it’s nothing illegal, the girls in question are my daughters. And it seems I may not be the only mum who does it.
“If you stay in the room until your child is asleep you are not alone – as a matter of fact, you are in the majority. This “problem” isn’t really a “problem” at all, but normal childhood behavior.” 
 Elizabeth Pantley --The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers & Preschoolers. 

Every night I cuddle my four year old to sleep (until she was 3 I breastfed her to sleep), it is the most peaceful part of my day, like a little meditation. I wrap my arm around her, hold her hand and sing both girls lullabies until they are gently snoring.  I don’t cuddle her big sister for a number of reasons, all of them practical a) she likes her own space to sleep b) when I was pregnant I had SPD and it became too uncomfortable and c) (which is the most practical) she’s on the top bunk and with the best will in the world I can’t get up or down without a racket. 

Recently I did have a little health scare and during those horrible two weeks I thought that if I was to get the diagnosis I feared I would buy the girls new beds, nice low ones that were wide enough to take me too because the moments spent cuddling them to sleep are precious.

Both my girls have beautiful lashes which flutter up and down as the precursor to sleep, the eye roll sets in. As their eyelids stop trying to lift the girls give a little sigh as they let go of the day, their limbs relax and the soft snoring starts. I watch them amazed at their beauty and forever thankful that I have them in my life. 

Perhaps I am lucky that they go to sleep so quickly, it normally takes less than 10 minutes. But I come out of their room so happy, up-lifted and peaceful I wish that every parent could have this. Am I mean to not share this with my husband? Perhaps. He has done it on the handful of occasions I have not been able to be there but it started from breastfeeding and really that was something that only I could do. He is very active in their bedtime routine and he does get to look in on them later.

Of course not every night is perfect, some nights they are poorly and need extra attention, frankly the little girl doesn’t need sleep the way the rest of the family do and is often up in the night. At those times I try to remember how lucky I am to have them before I snuggle up with them and attempt to get back to sleep. Last night in fact was pretty horrific, up twice in the night and again at 6am. No wonder I feel shattered.

I know one day it will end. I suspect it will be reading that does it, the point where they are both able to read independently and I can say, "OK you can read your book now for a bit". I hope that for them books become as magical and relaxing as they are for their Dad and I but that's a whole other blog post. I don't suppose for one minute that as teenagers they will want Mum to cuddle them in their beds, it's such a short time until then and perhaps such a big long time (I hope?) until they have a loving partner of their own to hold in their sleep and then perhaps babies of their own.

Cradle Song by William Blake 1757-1827
Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,
Dreaming in the joys of night;
Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.
Sweet babe, in thy face
Soft desires I can trace,
Secret joys and secret smiles,
Little pretty infant wiles.
As thy softest limbs I feel
Smiles as of the morning steal
O'er thy cheek, and o'er thy breast
Where thy little heart doth rest.
O the cunning wiles that creep
In thy little heart asleep!
When thy little heart doth wake,
Then the dreadful night shall break.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Rights and responsibilities

1.     An element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, esp. imitation.
2.     An image, video, etc. that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another.

Some memes I see on the internet are great, they raise a smile and pass on. The one I saw today on Facebook might on the surface seem quite nice:

"I am a mother, my children were a gift and not a right"

And yet it hurt. As someone who spent many years thinking I might never have children you could say I have a chip on my shoulder, but bear with me while I pick this apart....

Merriam-Webster on line dictionary defines 'gift' with the 3 following meanings  (

1: a notable capacity, talent, or endowment
2: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation
3: the act, right, or power of giving 

A gift once given is owned by you. I do not own my children. Furthermore it is not a 'talent' for a child to be born, they have absolutely no say in the matter

Gifts are free; therefore something you have to pay for is not a gift. So if my children were a gift then the fertility treatment would have been free. It wasn’t. And it certainly isn't free on the NHS because a) the NHS is paid for by National Insurance contributions and b) you are VERY lucky if you qualify for fertility treatment on the NHS. 

If children are a gift to be given then I feel the inference is that there is a higher power that decides whether or not to give children to us. I have yet to find any evidence of a higher power (that's why I'm an atheist) and so I also reject this idea of children as gifts but if there is a god why allow children to be born into famine or war zones?  If we agree instead that with or with out a higher power to direct us man and woman have free will then why are people even in the most dire of circumstance still deciding to become parents? Is it really a choice or is it because there is a huge biological imperative that drives us to procreate?

The World Health Organization does recognise infertility as a disease of the reproductive system. In the UK NICE recommends that the NHS should fund treatment for infertility because children are not just good for a successful nation, they are essential to it. The economic benefit that one child brings to the country is not outweighed by the huge costs of even 3 rounds of IVF.     

So it could be considered that someone in the UK eligible for NHS treatment might have a right to IVF, yet that in of itself is not a right to have children.

If children were a ‘right’ we would allow them to stay with continually abusive parents. A responsible society doesn’t do that, they support the family to help improve the parenting and if that doesn’t work ultimately they remove the children from that situation and hopefully find them a new family who will respect, love and care for them.

Children are neither gift nor a right; they are a huge, awesome responsibility.

I would prefer a meme that said:

Anybody could become a parent but it takes time, responsibility and determination to earn the title Mummy or Daddy.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

You are being watched.

Kids need role models, it's great to have someone to show them that they can be an astronaut, a successful athlete or Prime Minister. But small children start with role models much closer to home. Little children are learning at a fantastic rate and what they want to learn most of all is how to be human. So they watch the nearest human to them and generally speaking that's the parent.

It's a scary but my kids are going to use me as a role model. They already are.

It was my post last week that got me thinking about this 
"Because if I don't try something new how can I expect my children to?"
It doesn't just apply to trying new things, it applies to everything I do and that is one heck of a responsibility.

There are the obvious thing like if I were to use bad language then they probably would use it too. If they were to see me leave the toilet without washing my hands then in all likely-hood they would too. If I use my mobile phone when crossing the road, or surf the net instead of interacting with other humans then when they get their chance they will too.

I try to model healthy eating for them, I think I cook nutritious meals (find out more about that here ) and I make sure we eat them together at the table without anything to distract us. I model exercise by taking them on walks, cycle rides and going to the pool. I model manners and politeness daily (at least I hope I do).

But its the less explicit stuff that is really mind-blowing. My kids look to me to see how to be happy, how to be confident, how to behave, even how to move. They watch me to learn how to be kind, considerate, generous and empathic, I have to model that and they will know if I'm faking.

Never mind the athlete, the doctor, business director or any host of other things my daughters might like to be when they grow up, the one thing I hope I can count on is that they will be an adult. And that awesome adult I want my kids to become? I have to model that.
Just like you have to for your kids.

Friday, 11 January 2013

New Year Resolutions

"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever."
Neil Gaiman

I am absolutely scared of making mistakes. For starters I hate being wrong and when I have made a big mistake I tend to beat myself up over it, a lot. But I love this quote and really I do need things try new things, I don't want to stay the same forever, I think that would be really boring and in trying things I need to take risks and that means I may sometimes make mistakes. It brings to mind another quote on learning to fly from the book 'Staying OK' by Amy and Tom Harris which I think goes 
If you wait for the courage to come you may never take off
(I can't find my copy of the book but that is the sentiment if not the exact words).

I have to jump in there with both feet. And if there is a mistake I'll try not say 'oops'  but instead 'hmmm, that's interesting' and ask myself what I can learn from it. Because if I don't try something new how can I expect my children to? If all they see is a Mum too scared to do anything how will they grow as people? And to be honest I want to spare them the guilt cycle I all too easily get myself into.

So my New Year resolutions is to try new things and if I make mistakes so be it.