Friday, 31 January 2014

Me & Mine Project {January 2014}

dear beautiful

I know, I know, another selfie style photo for another project hosted by the amazing Dear Beautiful blog and six other lovely bloggers. 

I love the idea of taking a photo of us as a family each month.  I completely understand the mentality behind this linky.  I am always the one taking the photos and am very rarely in them.  I was saddened recently when I was looking through old photographs and I realised that there are hardly any of me and the kids.  Lots of other people with my children, and my Other Half, but not so many of me.  The beauty of this project is that we can get a capture of our whole family, which we are sadly lacking!

I am saving for a new camera but until I get it, you will have to make do with the photos I can grab on my phone.

I originally took a photo of all of us at the start of the month when we first moved to Southport.  We went for some lunch and then wandered down the pier.  As usual when we try to squeeze all four of us into a photograph, someone wasn't complying although it has to be said, it's usually Meg who won't smile but in this case, Eli was practising his pout.

We decided to make it a monthly thing, dinner and a picture at the end of the pier so we will have a photo type diary to look back on at the end of the year.

Don't worry though, I won't bore you all with the same posed selfie shot each month.

I am planning to get a teensy bit more creative with these pictures but it's going to be a learning journey for me.  It's also getting a little bit sad that Meg knows when I get my phone out that we will inevitably do the family selfie portrait shot and now asks with a resigned tone when it will be!

I also thought I would include this one though, it's part of the perfect golden hours shoot we managed when we visited the sand dunes at Formby Beach.  Honestly, I was so surprised that the pictures were taken on my phone but I guess it's all to do with the luck of having the light.

Everything about this picture is infinitely better, for a start we are all smiling!

Next time we will have to try and pose a little bit better, my Other Half lost out in this one being just a tiny head in the background.

Book Love: February


I'm cheating a little bit by starting February's linky whilst it is still January but I'm reasoning that February is a shorter month anyway and the timings of today being the 31st January...yada yada yada.  You get the idea!!

As usual, the idea of the linky is to share recent reviews (adult or children's books) and to give some comment love to other people who have linked up.  Book reviews tend to get skipped over as they aren't for everyone and aren't usually publicised as much but I think it's always nice to know that someone has taken the time to read what you have written. 

Additionally, you might discover a book you want to read, a new author, or even a new blog!

The linky is open for the entire month so if you are a read-a-holic, you are welcome to come and link up numerous times, or just the once, whatever suits.

Thank you to those who faithfully link up with me each month.  I'm hoping to see the linky grow this year so please spread the word to other bloggers who also write book reviews :)

If you want to grab my badge the code is under What I'm Reading over there >>>>>> (and up a bit)

Happy reading everyone!

Book Love: The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty


The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
The trouble with the truth is that it can change everything...

I picked this book as one for the book club I run for Duck Egg, I was going for something which would engage people and really make them think and this fits the bill perfectly.

It's the type of book which makes you consider what you would do in such a situation and I love stuff like that.  It's one of the reasons why I'm such a fan of Jodi Picoult (although her current book is making me snoooozzzeeee but that's another story!) and I often bore my husband to tears asking him incessant questions about what he would do and sharing my thoughts.

The book tells the stories of three women, whose lives all connect in some way.

There is Cecilia, 'has it all together' modern mum of three children, wife to a successful husband, big house, well known family with get the idea.  It is Cecilia whose life will be turned upside down and Liane Moriarty sets it up perfectly, she really has no idea what is coming around the corner.

Rachel is an elderly lady whose daughter was murdered when she was a teenager.  She has spent her life looking for justice for her daughter to the point where it has driven away everyone she knows and she is incredibly angry and lonely.  I thought that Liane Moriarty captured Rachel's emotions really well.  At times it was frustrating how blinkered she could be in the pursuit of her daughter's killer but then, who wouldn't be?  I was really able to empathise with Rachel and how she was feeling, even if sometimes I couldn't quite understand it.

Tess is married with a son, she has moved away from the area in which Cecilia and Rachel live but is thrown back there when something monumental happens in her marriage.

The issue I had with this book, mainly, is that Tess's story just didn't fit.  When we talked about it as a book club, the general consensus was that it was another thread to fill the book out but frankly, it bored me to tears.  Her connection to Cecilia and Rachel, is at best, thin, and her reasons for running off and then going back...the whole thing just frustrated me.  It was drawn out and unrealistic in my opinion.

Apart from that I thought it was a very intriguing premise.  Cecilia finds a letter in the attic, written by her husband to be opened on his death.  Naturally she wants to open it but she manages to hold on until she has spoken to her husband (who is away on business).  His violent reaction to her not opening the letter is what sparks her curiosity and although it takes a while to build up to Cecilia opening the letter, even though you know that eventually she will, what she discovers is HUGE.  Massively life changingly HUGE.

I absolutely cannot tell you what she discovers without ruining the entire plot of the story but it is this thing which drives the whole story, which throws Rachel and Cecilia together, which raises the question, 'if this were my family, what would I do?'

Cecilia has been happily married for years to her husband, John-Paul, and the letter reveals that she didn't really know him at all which fascinates me.  I will admit I gave my husband some pretty intense gruelling after reading this 'just in case' although he's useless at keeping secrets so it's never really going to happen to us!

I suppose I do have another gripe in that the ending tied up a little too nicely for my liking.  It took away the raw edge that I thought the book had by posing such an interesting situation, but it doesn't really take away from the overall enjoyment factor.

The book is fairly fluid and easy to read so I would definitely recommend it, particularly if you are a fan of Jodi Picoult or similar authors.

If you needed any more convincing, here are some of the comments from the other book clubbers:

'Once you get past the sudden changes between characters/plotlines, it's a pretty good read.  the majority of the story lines end up merging quite nicely, although the ending felt a little rushed and flat.' 

'It was a slow burner to start with but certainly picked up.  The ending just suddenly happened thought and the loose ends tied up in the epilogue - could have gone further.'

'I thought it was thought-provoking, sad in places and left you wondering what you would have done.'

'I enjoyed it and certainly engaged emotionally but wish the ending had been explored a little more.'

'It was really thought-provoking at times.  I was often asking myself what I would do in the same circumstances.'

'I enjoyed it mostly but was a little disappointed by the ending.'

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Stick Man Trail, Delamere Forest

I had been meaning to find out where our nearest Stick Man Trail was for quite a while but with the move and just not having any time, the idea had fallen by the wayside.  When I happened to see a link advertising it at Delamere Forest, and realised it was the last weekend it would be there, we just had to go!

We prepared for our Stick Man adventures by reading the story in the morning whilst we ambitiously hoped that the rain would blow over.

Unfortunately it didn't but we decided to set off anyway.  As we drove the hour's journey down to Delamere, through torrential rain, my Other Half was becoming less enthused by the second.  He must have mentioned a number of times about cutting our losses and turning round and going home.  I was determined that we would at least give it a go though!

Meg and Eli, as you might expect, were thrilled when we arrived and they spotted their first Stick Man sign.  We picked up the activity sheet from the Cafe and then we set off on the trail.

I really liked how there were different activities placed around the trail, which were designed to encourage little people to learn about the forest.  There were also poems randomly scattered on the trail which were interesting to read.

We enjoyed exploring off the trail a little bit too, finding some shelters which had been built and investigating those.  The kids were fascinated by the fact that the rain wasn't coming through even though the shelters were just made of sticks.  If we'd had a bit more time, we might have had a go at building our own, maybe next time.

Meg and Eli just love running and exploring and the forest was the perfect place to do that.  Although it was a little bit soggy and muddy and cold they didn't really notice and I imagine kept warm by racing along the path to find the next sign.

The favourite activity seemed to be building a stick tower, although we should probably have known better than to ask Daddy to get involved.  Engineers should not be allowed to partake in things which are meant to be fun!  It all got very technical and tensions began to run high; especially when Daddy's tower fell down...he was not pleased!

Unfortunately, Eli has decided to make it his mission wherever we go to wade through every puddle that we come across and the result was about halfway round he decided he was too wet and too cold to walk so my Other Half had to carry him for the rest of the trail.  I think it was all going well until my Other Half slipped and landed in a big puddle of mud!  It was very amusing but I'm very glad it wasn't me that fell!

I think by the end of it, we were all a little bit cold and wet but it was definitely worth it.  Meg had such a big grin on her face when she realised we'd done the whole trail and although Eli was a little bit miserable, mostly because his feet were like little blocks of ice, it was a really great afternoon out.

And, of course, as is the requirement when you've spent the afternoon getting muddy and wet; we all enjoyed some nice hot chocolate in our PJ's when we got back home, which definitely made it worth it!

The Stick Man trails are being put on by the Forestry Commission and there are several up and down the country still running.  You can find out more here.

I am linking this post up with Coombe Mill's #CountryKids.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Gallery: Rewind

This week's theme for The Gallery is 'Rewind' and I don't think I could have chosen any other photographs to show you than my favourite of Meg and Eli.  Starting this blog when they were out of the baby phase means that most of my readers probably won't have seen them as little tiny babies, certainly not Meg anyway!

These are two of my all time favourite pictures.  It took me hours to whittle it down to one each for them, there are really so many that I love.

This one of Meg is in 2011, would you believe the little bald beauty was two and a half years old.  Her face looks a lot older to me, but it's the lack of hair that gives it away as she didn't really have any curls to speak of until well after her third birthday.  It was a friend's wedding and she had 'borrowed' one of the bridesmaid bouquets.  We were walking up the reception so this is just a quickly grabbed photograph (hence the legs in the background!)

Eli's photos were a lot harder to choose from as his are mostly just baby pictures but I think this is one of my favourites of him pre-two years old.  It was taken on his first birthday and I think it's his eyes that I love the most.  So inquisitive as though he's really interested on how the camera is working.  Again, it isn't the clearest photo as I just snapped it whilst he crawled towards me but I think the memory of it is one of the reasons I like it so much.

It's also one of the few pictures we have where you can really see his sectoral heterochromia if you look closely enough (ooh yes!!) and I like that.  People often comment on his eyes but we never really get to see it as he's always on the move.  

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Day Out: WWT Martin Mere Wetlands Centre

Last week, Eli and myself were taken out by a lovely new friend we have made here in our village to Martin Mere Wetlands Centre.  I had spotted it signposted a few times since we've been here, and my Other Half has remarked on us going as he went himself when he was younger so it was nice to finally see what all the fuss was about!

The day was bitterly cold, and Eli didn't last long before we needed to retreat to the warmth of the cafe, although I think this might be more to do with his incessant need to wade and splash through every puddle in sight making him soaking through almost as soon as we arrive anywhere...we definitely need to invest in a puddle suit for him!

I have to be honest and admit that I had no idea there were so many different types of ducks!  The centre is split into different continents and there were just so many ducks, geese, swans and all kinds of wildlife.

Including, unfortunately, seagulls.

We had taken some bread along to feed the ducks and the entire time we were stalked by seagulls which were incredibly brazen and low flying.  Had it not been so windy, I am sure they would have got even closer to us.  As it was, they would hover above our heads and then need to readjust themselves when the wind came.  Horrible birds!!

The centre does offer more than bird sightings too though, with otter and beaver enclosures, an eco-garden and a nice play area too.  Unfortunately we didn't get to see the otters as apparently they were having their annual visit to the vet and wouldn't be back until the following week and we didn't see the beavers either (do beavers hibernate?!?) but Eli still thoroughly enjoyed himself.  He particularly liked the two geese we befriended who obviously sensed our bread supplies and attached themselves to us all the way through one section of the centre.  He talked about his friends the geese all the way home.

I'd like to go back when it's warmer, I imagine that the wildlife you see will change with the seasons and I think we probably rushed round a little bit drawn by the promise of a hot drink and cake.  The fact we were the only ones visiting aside from the staff should have been a good indication it was a little on the cold side!

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write this post about Martin Mere nor have I been compensated in any way.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Being An Introverted Mummy

I recently came across this cartoon which made me smile as it sums up how I feel about being an introvert perfectly.  I've always known I was introverted but have struggled to explain to people that being an introvert doesn't necessarily mean that you don't like people, as many assume, and in fact, you do enjoy time spent in the company of others, it just costs you more emotionally to engage with other people.  On top of this, I also don't see the point of small talk which limits the ways that I can interact with people...I can see that it is cold and it's raining; why should I have to talk about it?

Of course, when you have a child, the playing field changes completely. Before children, as an introvert you can interact with people if you wish and retreat to your safe space when you no longer want to and you need a break. As a parent the choices are not that easy.

There are parent-toddler groups, people who stop you in the street, nurseries and then the playground all to navigate.  It isn't easy, believe me I know.  For the fourth time in a row, I stood in the playground waiting for Meg to come out of her new school watching all the parents standing together chatting and wondering how on earth I was going to break into the circle and actually talk to someone.

I do think it is possible though, and wanted to share some tips with you which I have picked up along the way through trial and error.  They are particularly relevant to anyone who has just had a baby and is feeling terrified about attending a parent and child group for the first time.

1. Be Honest
This has got me through many times although it only really works in a more intimate setting where you can perhaps catch the eye of another parent.  Choosing a parent who seems more naturally extroverted than you often works well too as the minute you admit that you are shy, nervous, or not very good at talking to people, they usually feel obliged to take you under their wing.  This has worked for me lots of times.  Beyond this, it also feels good to say out loud to someone - I'm okay sitting by myself, please don't feel sorry for me!

2. Pretend to be Confident
This one is a bit like to pot calling the kettle black at the moment as I have yet to try this out at Meg's new school BUT when she started her previous school, I made a conscious decision to come out from behind my shyness and just pretend I wasn't.  I assumed that most parents would be feeling awkward and just went out of my way to speak to others.  I appreciate this isn't always possible for some people but if you feel able to, it will really help to build relationships.

3. Use Your Children
Never underestimate how much people like to talk about their own children.  If you find yourself floundering for a way to interact, just ask them about their kids....they will be able to talk for hours on the topic.  Children also provide a variety of questions to ask from names and ages to sleeping and eating patterns.  Honestly, once some people start talking about their children you can sit back and listen and be worry-free!

4. Smile
I people watch an awful lot and one of the things I have noticed is that a good number of people look quite mean when they are just sitting and not doing anything.  You can't underestimate the value of plastering a smiley face on, even when you don't feel like it.  It automatically puts other people at ease and makes you seem much more approachable than you actually might be feeling at the time!

5. Small Talk...Practice It!
I, for one, despise small talk.  I just don't see the point of talking about things which are obvious to anyone with half a brain cell.  Yes, the weather is crap at the moment but this is winter and it's Britain...yada yada yada.  Of course, it doesn't work at all to launch into a deeply intimate conversation with someone the moment that you've met them so learning how to engage with small talk is actually quite a valuable skill.  It doesn't mean you have to like it, or that you won't leave the conversation thinking, 'seriously, is that all we talked about?' but at least you will have engaged another person in conversation which is better than nothing!

Do you have any other tips for how to get on as a parent when you are introverted?  I'd love to hear them!

Friday, 24 January 2014

The Prompt 2: Saddened


I was saddened this week when I saw a tweet go out linking to a particularly mindless blog post.  You might know the one.  To paraphrase it was something along the lines of 'I look down on women with children and I'm not sorry blah blah blah.'

There are many reasons why this blog post saddened me.  I could pick holes in the way it was terribly written, so vastly incorrect or simply just an attention seeking load of drivel.  But I won't.

Because what saddened me the most was the inevitable deluge of mummy bloggers who were, at that moment, rushing to their computers to carve out a rebuttal to this piece of nonsense.  It's not that we shouldn't feel like we CAN respond to things such as this but that there shouldn't be such a desperate need to do so.

Social media has done so much for society but it has also highlighted and enabled so many things which are wrong.  It is an open field where people can air their grievances, their ill-thought through opinions (don't even ask me about Katie-will say anything to get myself a slot on Daybreak-Hopkins) and where people get sucked into feeding the ego's of complete idiots.

One of these areas, maybe because it's the one I move in, is parenting.  Someone makes a comment and suddenly the whole Twittersphere and beyond explodes with indignant replies and tweets and retweets abound.  What started as a stupid remark gets blown way way out of proportion.  Take Dr Christian, for example.  Earlier in the week, something he had said on the subject of breastfeeding was put into print, something which in hindsight could probably have been handled better but still, it was there and it was said.  All the pro-breastfeeders were up in arms and all the bottle-feeders were rubbing their hands with glee.  It's sad.  

It's sad because it highlights that for all the advances society has made when it comes to women, all the things we have fought for, and an instant, you will see women turn against each other.  Mother's are possibly the worst for doing this.  Issues which are really neither here nor there (in my opinion) become huge dividing points and when someone dares to raise their head above the parapet to pass comment, people leap upon it in an instant.  We are still so insecure that one comment can offend, can cause utter outrage.  

You'd think we'd have moved past this point by now.  That we would have reached a place where everyone just tries to be the best parent that they can possibly be and kudos to anyone who puts their head down and gets on with such a complex role.

More than that, I know when I first became a mother I found parenting a really rough deal.  As I mentioned in my last Prompt post, it wasn't anything like the books had suggested and I was so desperate to be a good mum, to fight the stereotype that I was too young to be a mum that I was incredibly impressionable.  I drank in whatever people told me and convinced myself that they must be right to tell me so.  Even to the point of writing down I didn't want an epidural during labour as a pain relief-free labour was all that people talked about in the circles I moved in.  How ridiculous is that?  And yet, I can't help but wonder, how many other first time mother's come across these opinionated, stake in the ground statements, and just feel utterly overwhelmed?

Who feel like they have to fall on one side or the other because at some point you will be called upon to state your position and heaven forbid if you don't know whether you are for or against co-sleeping, vaccinations or how to wean your child.  What if they have a medical issue?  Are you a pushy lioness or a take it lying down parent?  Do you allow your child to watch television or spend no less than 5 hours a week doing messy play with your child in order to stimulate their creativity and ensure they are the very best that they can be?

I don't know how we will ever get to a place of supporting one another as parents.  I hope one day we can see more of it.  So that when some numpty with a sad and empty life, gets the idea into their head that they will write a blog post pointing out how being a mother, bringing future doctors and engineers into the world, loving them, nurturing them, caring for them and enabling them to become such valuable members of society, when THAT person decides to say that mother's are simply women who have failed to achieve their true potential; as a collective we can turn our heads and ignore them...and get back to discussing the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy over tea and cake.  Natch.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Exploring the Sand Dunes...

Yes, I'm sorry, more beach pictures!!

Last weekend we drove the 15 minutes or so down to Formby Beach to walk through the woodlands which are famed for their red squirrels, and down to the beach to walk over the sand dunes.

Although the day was cold and windy, it was surprisingly bright when we arrived at about 3pm, after much negotiation with Meg and Eli that we weren't going to the beach-beach as they wouldn't be able to swim in the sea!

We came down a large hill, straight out onto the flat of the beach and it was a gorgeous view.  If you saw my post yesterday, I think you will see what I am talking about.  Eli spent some time collecting pebbles and shells before burying them elsewhere as his 'treasure' collection (we are going through a pirate phase with him now) but Meg was determined that we were going to explore the dunes.

She stood patiently at the bottom, trying to work out how she was going to scale them by herself before simply giving it a go.  Unfortunately, fear got the better of her and she had to call for help before getting too far off the ground.

We climbed up via a dune which looked pretty well trodden although there were still some dubious moments when I thought my Other Half and the two kids were going to come tumbling down on top of me.  Once we made it to the top we spent a couple of minutes admiring the views (I would have spent a lot longer but the kids were itching to be off) and then we spent the rest of the time simply running up and down the dunes, swishing through the grass and having fun.  Meg and Eli loved the haphazardness of being able to climb and run, they were screaming and shouting with delight, especially when my Other Half would run full pelt down a dune with them.

I won't pretend my heart wasn't in my mouth some of the times.  There is something strangely horrifying about standing at the top of something and watching somebody go down, it's completely different from when you are standing at the bottom.  I guess it's a bit like when you are walking down the stairs behind little ones and you feel like they are going to fall down with every step...or is that just me?!?

Meg even had a go at jumping from one large dune to another with my Other Half, which I managed to capture.  I still don't think the photo looks real now, just as though we've planted them into the background of it.

The views from the top of the dunes were simply stunning.  On the one side we had the expanse of the beach and the sea and on the other, some gorgeous woodland.  It was very uplifting and refreshing and if I had been having any wobbles about our decision to move away, then they were certainly eliminated when I took a moment to appreciate our surroundings and to listen to the shouts of excitement and enjoyment from Meg and Eli.

The only thing that tarnished the experience was the fact that Alfie was missing.  I noticed it and Meg did too, as when we were headed back to the car she sighed and mentioned how much Alfie would have loved joining in with us.  Of course, we will definitely be going back there and as we pick Alfie up this weekend, I am sure he will get to experience the fun of the dunes too!!

We even managed to splash in some puddles on the way back to the car.  What could be better than that?

I am linking this post up with Coombe Mill's Country Kids.  Hop over to the blog to see more of the entries.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The Gallery: Something Beautiful

We are walking down a woodland path; having promised Meg and Eli that we will be going to the beach, I am becoming somewhat agitated as we seem to be heading further into the gloomy depths of the trees.  This doesn't feel very beach-like, this is not what I was expecting.

Then, suddenly we arrive at the end of the trees, race up a hill, over the crest and...into a car park.  Surely this is not it?  The ground of the car park is made up of sand but it still isn't quite what I was imagining.  Is this really where my Other Half has brought us?  It was his idea to come here after all.  Half of it is under water and the rest is surrounded by dried out, dismal looking scrub.  

I begin to lose hope.

Then another hill, a precarious walk across a pile of sand which looks as though it should probably have been roped off...I see it has been roped off, but the barricade has come loose and has instead been trampled down into the trickling sand mountain and suddenly we are there.

A deep breath in.

Air tinged with the salty scent of the sea hits my lungs.  Instantly refreshing.  Instantly uplifting.

This is where we live now.

*Punches Air* (metaphorically obviously, I am British)

This is where we live now.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Joining A New Class.

I am literally bursting with pride.  Pride for my little girl who has shown an amazing amount of resilience to all the changes that have happened in recent weeks and who did something yesterday which, for her, took an awful lot of gumption.

We discussed in length before we moved some of the ways that we could help Meg and Eli to adjust to the change in location and getting them involved in similar classes to those they left behind was one of the key things we thought would help them.  For that reason, we have been looking for a gymnastics class local to us which Meg could attend.  She really enjoyed going to one in Loughborough and we had been led to understand that for her age she was really quite good so we thought it would help her settle in just that little bit more if she could be encouraged to go to one again.

Luckily (amazingly?!) there is a class which runs at the leisure centre here, so on Saturday I took her along to see what it was like.  As I had expected, she spent the entire hour with her head buried in my neck, completely refusing to join in.  What I didn't anticipate was the little commentary she provided me with...

'A v-sit? That's easy.'

'I can do a backwards roll, no problem.'

'A straight stand, yes.'

...and so on.  

I was impressed with her knowledge of what they were talking about, even if half the time she wasn't actually looking!

At the end, when everyone else had gone, she finally deigned to show the coaches what she could do.  To say I was amazed would be a monumental understatement.  I think the coaches were surprised as well.  They kept double and triple checking her age...'she's just FOUR?!?'

One of the things she did, was to walk along a low balance beam on her tiptoes, and then do the same thing on an incredibly high balance beam.  Something she had never done before.  She tackled it like an absolute pro and it was really great to see.  On top of that she carried out all of the movements the coach asked of her without even blinking twice.

Now, that was enough to make me feel like one very proud mama but what really set me off was yesterday after school.  I was a bit nervous about how she would react to being told I wouldn't be able to stay with her at the class because I had Eli with me.

But, she got changed and went in with only a small backwards glance at me.

Believe me when I say that this is HUGE.  She just doesn't do that kind of thing; especially not since we have moved and she's become more nervous about leaving our sides.

Better still, as I was walking to collect her, I noticed you can see into the gymnasium through one of the side windows so I was able to have a quick look at what she was doing.  It was really good and I'm not just saying that because I'm her mother!!

So you get the idea I'm sure, that right now I am so so proud of my little miss.  Of course, we paid for it in the evening with a total meltdown over spilling some water but I can accept that for her taking such a big independent step.

Go Team Meg!!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Me & You {January 2014}

dear beautiful
One thing I am constantly doing, is taking pictures of Meg and Eli.  Apart from the occasional 'selfie', we very rarely have photos of myself and my Other Half together.

The Me & You photo project from Dear Beautiful is one I'm very much looking forward to and I'm hoping to get some more interesting and creative photos of us together.  However, this month you will have to make do with a hastily grabbed selfie from the weekend (Meg and Eli were racing across the dunes so we didn't have much time!)

This year, we will have been together for nine years.  We have been married for six of those years and in that time have experienced so much, including the arrival of our two beautiful babies.  My Other Half is undoubtedly my best friend and I can't imagine anyone else understanding me the way he does.

When we first started going out.
What babies we were!
We are so different from each other; it has been the source of many a frustrated disagreement over the years but I also think it has been the cause of us becoming the best that we can be.  We both bring something different to the relationship and it drives us forward in a unique (and often interesting!) way.

We often joke that we only got together because he made me laugh like no one else but the truth is that his ability to make me giggle like a little girl is an incredible quality.  We have laughed our way through many a dark day and it is one of the elements I love most about our relationship.  Of course there are many others as well but I won't turn this into a soppy rendition of why I love my Other Half!

Although quickly taken I love this photo.  To me it is a reminder that we are embarking on this new adventure in our lives together...and still smiling.  I also (personally) think that we look better with age.  Or perhaps just less awkward!!

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Prompt 1: Guilt


When Meg was a tiny baby, possibly when she was around three months old, I had an epiphany.  I realised that the realm of being a mummy was not as the books made it out to be, and that I had two options: to sink or swim.

You see, Meg was a baby that cried all the time.  Always.  For hours and hours.

To begin with, I thought it was something I was doing wrong and for the life of me I couldn't fathom what it was.  I was reading books, researching online and looking, always looking for the solution.  My Health Visitor told me it was colic and there was nothing to be done.  The GP told me it was colic and eventually she would grow out of it.  Even now writing that makes me angry; it's always easy for someone to tell you that your child will eventually stop screaming bloody murder for three hours straight every evening when they don't have to listen to it, isn't it?

But, I digress.  The point was, that I realised eventually that it wasn't anything I was doing.  She was well fed, burped, changed, rested.  She was just a baby that liked to make a noise.

So I made a decision, I was going to stop hiding away and apologising for my child who cried all the time and just accept that she was going to be that way until...until she wasn't any more.  I couldn't force that to happen and I couldn't change the circumstances.  It's something which one of my friends referenced to me a number of times after she had her own children.  She was visiting me one day and Meg set off on one of her episodes.  I didn't apologise, I just smiled and said, 'some babies just cry, she'll stop in a minute.'  I'm sure that at the time my friend was looking at my purple faced, almost apoplectic baby and thinking that I had utterly lost the plot but in the end, I was right.

So back to my epiphany.

Nobody ever told me that becoming a mother was like stepping onto a battlefield strewn with minefields, loaded and ready with opinions.  Step on the wrong person and they would explode all over you in a cacophony of criticisms and veiled insults about your parenting skills.  Whether that be sleeping arrangements, routines, breastfeeding and bottle-feeding, purées or baby-led...the list is endless.

At the time I was tired of feeling judged for my choices, tired of explaining myself; rationalising why Meg wasn't sleeping through the night, why I was pushing her in a pram which faced away from me at 'such a young age' and tired of justifying myself as a parent when she started to scream.  Tired of being stopped in the street by people who assumed that I was just desperate to listen to their tales of how things were when they had children and how what I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong.  Tired of sitting in baby groups listening to other mother's talk about their children, hold themselves up as a perfect example of what a mother should be and how all the rest of us should feel small, insignificant and like a failure by comparison.  Tired.

So, one random morning, as I paced backwards and forwards willing Meg to sleep, I made the decision that I couldn't do it any more.  That I needed to parent the way I knew how to parent and to let go of all the assumptions people placed on me when they realised I was a mummy; to let go of the guilt I felt at not being the right kind of parent and simply be the parent I was.

I wish it was that easy.  I wish I could say now that I pushed off all the worries and have happily parented ever since but it isn't that simple, as I'm sure any parent will agree.  For the most part, I stand by what I said.  Publicly that is certainly true and when people have sought my advice on parenting issues (which is not often, I'm not a secret guru on the matter!) I have always maintained that they know their children best and ultimately nobody can tell them the right or wrong thing.  It is for them to decide.

In the quiet moments though, when I'm distracted or when I allow my mind to wander, I do feel the guilt creeping in.  Have I made the right choices?  Do I do enough for my children?  Am I attentive enough?  Do they watch too much television?  Eat too much chocolate?  Should I discipline them more?  Less?

Round and round in circles it goes. 

There isn't an answer.  I will never know the outcome of my decisions, until my children are old enough to tell me themselves.  All I can do is trust that my innate mothering instincts have carried me through this battlefield and that when I come out the other side it will be as a seasoned warrior, able to pass on the advice to my children when they start to have babies of their what you think is best.  Not what other people tell you to do.  And try not to feel guilty about it, although that will always come with the territory.

After all:

How do you deal with the guilt of parenthood?  Do you let it affect you?  Do you agree with the quote above?  I know I do!!

I am linking this post up with Sara from mumturnedmom's new linky: The Prompt.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Park Life

One of the things the kids have really missed since we moved is the park around the corner.  We discovered one park, thanks to some lovely local people but it's quite a fair walk and doesn't really offer much for the kids to play with.

The park was a pretty solid fixture in the kids week, with my Other Half regularly taking them there over the weekend.  When I needed a break from working, I'd also often walk up with Eli to get some fresh air and clear my head.

So it is definitely something we miss and it seems like, because of the location we have moved to, in order to access a decent park, we will have to get in the car and drive.  This kills me as I do love a good walk but needs must.

Yesterday Meg woke up with a roaring temperature and after several failed attempts to get her out of bed, we called the school to let them know she wouldn't be coming in.  Of course, as is the way of things by lunchtime she was right as rain and chomping at the bit to be let out so I decided to brave the new and scary roads and drive to Hesketh Park, which is meant to be the biggest park in Southport.

Whilst I had a quick glance at the map on our way in, I thought it was easier to just let the kids decide the way they wanted to go as the park is made up of a number of different trails which lead you through it.  I steered them a little bit when it became clear we were just going round in circles but for the most part, they felt like they were in control which they seemed to thrive on and it was very sweet to see them stopping and conferring with each other head to head when they came across a fork in the path or an alternative route.  I was very impressed with their team work although a few times they had to resort to 'eenie meenie miney mo' when they couldn't agree on the best path to take.

The kids were overjoyed when we came across the children's play area which featured a castle, no less!  We drew some very strange glances from local dog walkers when we played our rather loud game of knights and dragons.  I'm sure one woman thought I was genuinely capturing Meg and putting her into the dungeon.  She kept stopping and looking back over her shoulder, I can't imagine who she thought might have brought the children to the park in the first place if I wasn't actually with them!

We had great fun trying to find our way back out of the park to the place I had parked the car too, one of the things Mummy didn't think through when she let the children lead her on a merry jig around the park.

We didn't manage to find the train or the sensory gardens which the park claims to have, but that gives us something to look for next time.  Overall though, I think it was a very successful trip to what might become our local park.  It was only a ten minute drive as well so not as terrible as I thought it was going to be.

I am linking this post up with Coombe Mill's Country Kids.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall