Posted in advice, Children, memories, parenting

What not to expect after you’ve been expecting….

When you are pregnant (especially the first time) you are hungry for information – well, you’re generally hungry full stop to be honest; you have a desire to find out everything that will, can or might happen. You absorb facts like a proverbial sponge. You tell anyone who will listen what size fruit your unborn child most closely resembles and you spend so long researching labour that you could probably deliver the next royal baby singlehandedly.

And that’s great.

Really. It is. Forewarned is forearmed as they say. Although in all honesty that babies coming out the same way whether you’ve subscribed to every email ‘bump update’ system the world wide web has to offer or have stuck your fingers in your ears and tried hard to ignore anything that mentioned the words ‘mucus’ ‘blood or ‘pain’.

But. No matter how many books you read. How many statistics you memorise. How many times you rewrite your birth plan (just don’t do what I did and suddenly remember it’s in the glove box of the car during hour 51 of labour; do you wonder she wasn’t happy to come out – she was waiting for ‘the plan’ to materialise.) there is one thing you are not fully prepared for or even particularly aware of.

Guilt.

Guilt? I hear you say, what is there to feel guilty about?

In a word. Everything.

It starts from the very second that you hold that precious bundle in your arms.  It creeps in uninvited (not dissimilar to the Bounty people on post-delivery wards) and before you know it it’s part of your new life.

Ironically, the more research you did before parenthood the more guilt you are likely to suffer:

Firstly everyone wants to know how the birth went and is ready to share their wonderful tales of birthing in a hypnotic trance with the scents of lavender and patchouli floating through the air. You recall random flashbacks of mooing, calling the poor doctor some obscenities that had never before even been imagined, and demanding every drug under the sun. Bam – Guilt.

You’ve read every piece of evidence under the sun that states ‘breast is best’ but either your baby or your breast or the combination of the two didn’t get that memo and it doesn’t work. Bam – Guilt.

You know that disposable nappies are to the earth what kryptonite is to Superman. But…well….you know…..laundry. Bam – Guilt.

You know that the socialisation aspect of baby groups is important for your small person’s development but you would rather stick nappy pins in your eyes than attend one. Bam – Guilt.

Mrs Busybody down the road soothes her baby to sleep with the melodic souns of Baby Bach. You’ve been humming ‘Dude looks like a lady’ for 15 hours straight and not one ounce of sleep has drifted your way. Bam – Guilt.

Your housework becomes a long forgotten memory, in fact you’re tempted to open bets about whether the pile of washing up will topple before the pile of laundry.  Bam – Guilt.

Fast forward a few months and you hit weaning.

Good old Mrs Busybody is preparing nutritious, organic, locally sourced produce which is lovingly devoured without an iota of mess. Meanwhile…you ran out of ideas after offering carrot puree so carried on and now the baby has a such a tinge of orange you could hire her out as a colour chart to a tanning booth. Bam – Guilt.

And then.

Then we reach the pinnacle of parenting guilt. When should I return to work?

Bam Bam Bam Guilt Overload.

Should I pay for childcare so I can get back into a career? Should I exclusively stay at home and raise my children? Should I work full time/part time/at home/outside the home/days/nights/shifts? Should I use a nursery/a childminder/grandparents?

The choices and decisions are exponential and. unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ option. Everyone has different needs and different values; both their own and the ones they wish to instil into their children. Basically, it break down to this; some people fit their children into their lives, and some fit their lives around their children. Neither one is right. Neither one is wrong. Each has it’s strengths and weaknesses, each has it’s pros and cons.

Sometimes that decision is made for you. Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to return to work, bills have to paid, mouths have to be fed and if that’s what needs to happen then so be it.

Sometimes, however, it comes down to personal choice.

  • I can return to work, use childcare, have more money to spend and set a good work ethic example to my child.
  • I can stay at home, have more time to spend with my child, muddle through financially and set an example of life balance to my child.

People are different and thus make different decisions, that is not what causes guilt. Guilt generally has an outside influence, be that a perception of a person looking in or even a perceived perception whether justified or not (post natal paranoia is a bitch). Guilt breeds from what other people say and do; opinions they give, comments they make.

But the crux of the issue is this.

It doesn’t make one blind bit of difference what anyone else thinks.

Because, it’s your life. You only get one chance at it and you have to live it in a way that makes you happy.  Raise your children how you wish (within reason obviously), live as modestly or outlandishly as you wish (and your finances allow), be Mary Poppins or Miss Trunchball, Earth Mother or Mother Superior, do school runs or home educate (and kudos to those that do).

If it works for you and those closely involved then it’s the right thing to do.

To your child you are the most important thing in the world (cupboard love mainly but hey). They will admire what ever choice you make and adapt to whichever scenario you choose – fickle little creatures as they are.

Leave the guilt in the glove box with the birthing plan (but not ‘The Red Book’, please don’t mislay ‘The Red Book’, I’m fairly sure everytime a red book goes missing a health visitor’s head implodes), and live your life without giving a flying monkey’s trapeze what anyone else thinks.

Welcome to my world
Rx

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Posted in Children, Christmas, memories, parenting

Oh go then, it is Christmas…

Hello lovely people.

How are we all doing?

Who’s still in the ‘time twixt Christmas and New Year’ haze?

Let’s check:

🔶 Do you know what day it is? (Erm, well Christmas was on a Tuesday and that was a few days ago-ish, so it’s definitely…….a day ending with y.)

🔶 When is your next bin collection? (Hmm, normal day is Tuesday….. we worked out a minute ago that Christmas was Tuesday so no noisy bin folk… so probably…..hang on what day is it today anyway…..no I don’t know where the dangly bit of card with the Very Important Reorganised Dates on is. Let’s just keep on an eye on next door, they’ll know…)

🔶What did you have for breakfast today? (Was it standard, run of the mill, everyday, socially acceptable breakfast fare? Or…..not? For example; yesterday I enjoyed Baileys Roulade for breakfast and I’m not even sorry.)

🔶Have you answered any questions with the words “oh go on then, it is Christmas”? (Shall we open another packet of Brie?/ Can we stay in pyjamas all day?/ Drink?/Another drink?)

🔶Are you regularly refereeing Selection Box Ownership battles? (That’s my Fudge bar, he’s had two Crunchies now, she’s eaten my Oreo bar – er nope she hasn’t, it underwent quality control -)

🔶Are you still discovering gourmet worthy ways of serving cold turkey? (We’ve had ‘cold meats and cheeses’, turkey soup, turkey carbonara, Christmas dinner pasta bake, turkey rolls…..)

I think we can safely say that we are all suffering from ‘holiday season hangover’.

So. Christmas at The Circus was fairly standard. We recently got a new oven so it didn’t take 27.6 hours to cook the turkey (and for anyone who remembers the soap opera worthy goings on of last year, you’ll be pleased to know that no wildlife pretested the poultry this time)

Noodle decided to be my sous chef for the Christmas cooking, especially with the very important pigs in blankets. However, he discovered upon opening the bacon that it had been packaged in Suffolk so therefore must be posh. So it transpired that our meaty side dish was to become ‘porkers in ponchos’.

Pickle had the double delight again of her Christmas Day birthday. She was over the moon to receive the only two things that she craved in life; a violin and a microphone.

It sounded so idyllic, ah she wants a violin, how sweet, we shall of course purchase one with haste. Oh how wrong we were.

The Noise. I cannot begin to describe the sound that a five year old can make with a violin.

But this is me so I will, of course, try: imagine a hybrid animal somewhere between a mouse and a hyena (I’ll give you a minute). Then imagine that this creature is forced to walk barefoot on Lego whilst simultaneously having its teeth pulled out with pinking shears. Then. And only then. Will you be any where close to the melodic harmonies that are produced. You live and learn.

All due respect to CircusHusband who remembered my desire for a pyrography kit, and further respect for an afternoon of lone parenting while I sat with three of my fingers submerged in cold water after my first go. In case anyone has ever wondered; human fingers are not designed to withstand the heat required to burn wood (who says these blog posts aren’t educational?!)

The finished article.

So, all in all. Not a bad Christmas period I suppose. I have to be honest, I struggle with Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love the lead up; the music, the lights, the present buying. It’s just the day itself, it always feels a touch anticlimactic, and rushed and chaotic (yes I know, I have control issues which don’t help). But we made it through, and Boxing Day was much easier to digest (it may or may not have had something to do with the discovery of chocolate orange Baileys) so all was well.

The 28th of December is the anniversary of losing my Mum which, even after many years, always clouds my Christmas somewhat. This year we spent it quietly at home and played some of her favourite songs on the Echo (we now have three in the house, if you have never used them as walkie talkies then you haven’t lived). It wasn’t sad, but acts as a reminder to tell people you love them while you can, and to show appreciation to those in your life who deserve it. Everyday is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.

A few more limbo days now until we hit the excitement of New Year. What will 2019 bring? In The Circus we are hoping for health and happiness; for CircusHusband’s new career path to continue expanding, for my writing to hit the wider audience (I know, god help everyone), and for lots of laughs.

I hope you all had an enjoyable Christmas in whichever way you choose to spend it.

Welcome to my world.

Rx

Posted in Children, parenting, Random musings, Uncategorized

An Ode To Summer…….ish.

The holidays are on us, they landed with a bump,

They came in like a wrecking ball, complete with twerking rump.

A rundown of our summer, lightened with a rhyme,

I’d try a sonnet or haiku, but simply don’t have time.

All The Monkeys are off school, yes all four, all day long,

Four small children, in one house, whatever could go wrong?

Let’s start off with the mornings, no need to rush to wake,

Yet still we’re up before the birds, but why for pity’s sake?

Mealtimes can be relaxed, time to eat and chat,

But really, what was I thinking? Where’s the fun in that?

We have to argue over plates, who gets the sacred green,

Wombat tends to win that one….he has the loudest scream.

No need for boring uniforms, wear the clothes you choose,

It’s not my fault that you can’t find, your socks, your skirt, your shoes.

Do you want to play outside? yes you can use the pool.

Did you get in, in all your clothes? You soppy, soggy fool.

No I can’t heat up the water, I can’t control the sun,

Yes the grass had turned it green, isn’t science fun?

No you can’t watch television, not because I’m mean,

But mostly cos you can’t agree, what should come on the screen.

The list of things that we can’t watch, is as varied as can be,

Things that scare the middle two, or bore the brains off me.

Videos of Minecraft crap, are banned if I’m about,

The people and their creepy voices, make me start to shout.

So far we are two weeks in, and we’ve learnt quite a bunch,

Like just how many snacks are needed twixt breakfast time and lunch.

It’s makes me wonder how the hell they last the whole school day,

Twenty minutes without food and it’s like they’ll fade away.

Thank god we have a super fridge, that magically refills,

It’s funded by the mystic elves who pay all of the bills.

It’s also these almighty elves who plant the money trees,

So I can grant all whims and wishes, with monetary ease.

We’ve learnt The Monkeys can get on, they can be nice and kind,

Just not when in each other’s reach, or at the same time mind.

I’m being pessimistic. It’s really not all bad.

At least there is some sunshine and laughter to be had.

Froo’s developed sarcasm, she’s witty, there’s no doubt,

Sometimes when she opens up her mouth, I hear myself come out.

The little two spend hours outside, rolling in the mud.

“Pickle, what’s that in your ear?” “Grandma said it’s crud”.

Then of course we have the pets, a veritable zoo.

Four hens, a pup, a hamster and Noodle’s ant farm too.

The hamster is a new addition, Jeffrey is his name,

If he squeaks his wheel one more time, I swear I’ll go insane.

It all adds up to chaos. Noise and one big mess,

Baking, cooking, painting. glueing and endless games of chess.

You have to choose to laugh or cry, or opt to loudly sing.

But one fact is for certain. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Posted in baking, night out, mums, back to school, Children, parenting

And today we baked…..

Today I decided on word association activities.

It was baking (hot) so we baked.

Tenuous possibly but it gives me leeway, imagine a day with lots of whines……

So, anyway, baking and making it was and surprisingly I had a full quota of willing helpers.

The first was easy. Bread. Focaccia bread.

This was a very simple recipe; self raising flour, oil, warm water, herbs and salt. No need to prove.

45 minutes in the oven and it was done

It might not win any prizes (or a Hollywood handshake) but wow did it taste good!

So, what do you need with fresh bread on the hottest day in the history of the world ever……drum roll please……..

Soup. (Yes The Monkeys are decidedly odd)

So we dug out my faithful multi cooker and homemade tomato and vegetable soup did appear.

You can buy really expensive multi cookers but mine is a £20 Wilko’s jobby which does me just fine

The soup was a hit. So much so, that the vat of soup I intended to portion and freeze (yes I’m scared too, the heat must be affecting my domesticity, don’t be alarmed this heat has to give way soon and normal service will be resumed) actually only did one lunch time with a bit spare.

Finally. It was decided we needed pudding so we put our heads together and an invention was born.

I present to you…..

Nutella (other brands of chocolate spread are available, most notably Aldi’s Nutoka which if you remove the label bears a striking resemblance to the market leader, and apparently passes the taste test of continually ravenous Monkeys…..) and candied mixed peel bread and butter pudding.

For administrative purposes I was forced to test the results (the proof of the pudding is in the eating after all) and I can quite honestly say that if you looked up ‘divine’ in a thesaurus there would be a picture of this dessert. I am known for my modesty so that should give you an indication into the deliciousness of this creation.

To summarise; my kitchen looks like a bomb site, my dishwasher is going on strike for being forced to work beyond normal conditions, there’s no ingredients left for anything else but it was great fun and that’s all that really matters (oh and they inadvertently ate shed loads of vegetables which was probably counteracted by the second course but that’s the way the pudding crumbles).

Welcome to my world

Rx

Posted in Children, parenting

Raise Vegan – My Thoughts.

This week I received an email offering me a digital copy of a parenting magazine (I’m assuming they’ve read my blog and decided I need all the help I can get) and a request for me to share my opinions once I had read it.

Now, when I had spare time and spare money (the good ole days) I loved an afternoon spent with a cuppa and a magazine so I jumped at the chance. I had no further information so was eager to see what might appear in my inbox.

When I heard the ping of my inbox and saw the title I was intrigued yet doubtful.

Veganism is something I am aware of but do not know the finer points of shall we say and I wasn’t sure how relevant the publication was going to be to me and The Monkeys.

I STAND CORRECTED.

 

I have now read this magazine (digitally which is bizarre beyond words) from cover to cover and there are several articles that I plan to go back and explore in more depth.

From the offset this is a very appealing magazine to read, I love the colour schemes that run throughout all 64 (yes sixty four!) pages and the boxed images with are consistently placed make it easy to focus and follow. The fonts used in the subtitles and overlaying the images are both quirky yet readable which is a tough combination to achieve.

There are so many different and varied articles in this publication that it’s difficult to know where to begin: despite being aimed at vegan families there is a lot of information and advice which would benefit all families and I really appreciated the parenting styles that were outlined from the various contributors.

One part I particularly enjoyed was reading about Andrea Hannemann aka ‘EarthyAndy’. I learnt all about her family and their principles. As I read, this part especially resonated with me greatly:

“…we live in a world of choice. everyone is making choices that define them every single day. If someone is judging your choices, that’s on them!”

That’s is a quote I will remember and recite to myself.

About halfway through the magazine is a section entitled ‘Summer Reading’ with the category being ‘accidentally vegan books’. We are not a vegan family but that doesn’t mean I don’t want The Monkeys to grow up appreciating the natural world around us and these book recommendations are perfect examples of this and will definitely be on our summer reading list.

There are some wonderful articles regarding preterm labour, the benefits of probiotics, nutrition in pregnancy and many more and all of these are informative to each and every parent.

I found ‘Essential Nutrients for Growing Vegan Kids’ very interesting, everybody worries about whether their child is getting the right vitamins and nutrition in their diet regardless of their chosen way of living so details like these can be very helpful.

I was impressed with the style of the writing in Raise Vegan, I felt that I was being informed but not preached to. An article called “12 calm down techniques for the highly spirited child” really stood out. It outlines techniques, which were clear and easy to understand, but it also used some phrasing which I found very refreshing when speaking about ‘highly spirited’ children.

Phrases like:

  • Highly spirited children make their way through the world with great enthusiasm, curiosity and excitement.
  • The qualities are positive and beneficial.
  • Make it clear that these are not activities they have to do because they have been bad or done something undesirable.

It encourages you to accept “quirky qualities” and be proud to explain these qualities to others and why they are “fantastically special”.

“They learn from us and the example we set, and we have a lot to learn from them as well”

I am a lover of a good cookery book

So was pleased to see some delicious looking recipes. It was enlightening to discover ways to make family favourite recipes using purely plant based ingredients and there are a couple of recipes that I will trying out on CircusHusband and The Monkeys.

I am not planning to become vegan but I thoroughly enjoyed reading Raise Vegan. This is an open and honest review and those who know me away from the other side of a screen will tell you that if I don’t like something I will say and not beat around the bush!

I found the health implications of a vegan lifestyle very educational and there are certainly elements of it that I would like to reproduce. As I mentioned before, I love the parenting styles. I am a fan of attachment parenting (breastfeeding where possible/baby wearing/positive reinforcement) and those practices shone through whilst reading. I discovered health advice that I will be heeding and books I will be sharing with my Monkeys.

I think the major learning curve from this opportunity is that just because you may not share the same beliefs as someone else it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something you can learn from them. Parenting is parenting is parenting, we all want to do it to the best of our ability and that means educating ourselves and opening our minds to different approaches to allow us to develop our very own parenting style that works with our very unique and individual little people.

Thank you the editor of Raise Vegan for the opportunity to share my thoughts about her publication with you and for more information please visit www.raisevegan.com

Welcome to my world

Rx

*all photo credits for this post (bar my cookery book shelf) belong to Raise Vegan.

Posted in Children, medical, parenting

Sanity Savers.

After over ten years of parenting (I just had to double check that those figures added up) I have amassed a collection of tricks of the trade. Little things that help life continue smoothly.

Sanity savers if you will.

These are in no particular order; they vary from the weird to the wonderfulish, and none of them come with a money back guarantee (somewhat like the Monkeys really!)

Calpol Syringes {other brands of infant medication are available}. These little hollow tubes may seem basic and suitable for only one purpose. They are anything but:

  • You can use them to insert lemon juice into a freshly baked lemon drizzle cake without damaging the surface.
  • You can use them to transfer unsolidified jelly mix from mixing receptacle to miniature jelly moulds.
  • You can use them to apply drops of olive/coconut oil into ears to aid earache.
  • They are great for filling with watered down poster paint to do splatter painting.
  • You can use them to suck air out of freezer bags to save space in the freezer (more room for you lemon drizzle cake and jelly gummy bears)
  • And if you’ve got any left over after that you can use them to administer medicine.

Baby Vests have envelope necks for a reason. The reason being that they allow the vest to be pulled down the body and off the legs following a poonami rather than upwards and over the head which inevitably precedes the infamous Google Search: how to remove poo from baby’s eyebrows.

Weighted baby toys. Babies always manage to accumulate a plethora of soft toys and cuddly accoutrements. You will send most of you time moving them from place to another, especially now that SIDS guidelines recommend that nothing is placed in the cot with the baby. But. They do have an important use:

  1. Firstly weigh your dominant hand on the bathroom scales applying a small amount of pressure (bear with me).
  2. Source a selection of toys.
  3. Weigh aforementioned toys until you discover one with the same weight as your hand.
  4. This will now play the part of ‘spare hand’. It’s role will become abundantly clear when you’ve been crouched on the floor with your hand on baby’s back for eleventy-two hours and you really need to scratch your nose/have a wee/headbutt the wall/whisper voodoo curses into peacefully sleeping husband’s ear. The stealth switcheroo of hand to perfectly weighted toy should buy you at least a few precious seconds.

Paper cupcake cases. Yes they’re great for baking cakes in but they also have a entire plethora of sideline jobs.

They are brilliant for keeping bugs and other hitchhikers out of drinks.

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Obviously I would strongly suggest using eco friendly straws rather than plastic but unfortunately this was all I could currently find. This is also handy for parties as themed cupcake cases placed over plain paper cups works out much cheaper than themes cups!

Sick of lolly drips all over tshirts?

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Poke the lolly stick through the case and voila a ready made drip catcher. (Yes I then had to eat the lolly, I hope you all appreciate the sacrifice that was involved).

They are the perfect size for taking on picnics; I use them for ketchup, hummus, grated cheese………the list is endless and it means there’s less heavy tubs to cart around in the picnic bag.

Medical Stuff. Children fall down. A lot. It’s like evolutionary skills don’t kick in until at least 14. This means that you need an entire pharmacy of products ready and waiting (readers of our facebook page will remember the fun that was ‘plastergate’.) So here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up that may just make the healing process a little easier.

  • Conventional ice packs can be way too cold, way to big and way too inflexible to hold on a squirmy child. If you fill a strong freezer bag (I like the industrial strength ones from Ikea) with giant marshmallows and pop them in the freezer, it becomes a soft, moldable, child-friendly icepack.
  • Similarly I also use the tube yoghurts, we don’t have them in The Circus as actual yoghurts very often as they’re ridiculously high in sugar BUT I do like to have some in the freezer. Those little tubes are an absolute brainwave. If you pack them in between your wrapped sandwiches they slowly defrost while keeping the sandwiches cool. If a child is suffering with a sore throat and doesn’t want to eat, then these frozen beauties will soothe a throat and also provide more sustenance than a typical ice lolly. And along the same lines, one held behind the ear will provide relief from earache.
  • Plasters are an absolute necessity. Even if there’s no blood sometimes just covering up the ‘wound’ can stop it hurting. They are also useful for splinters. I don’t know about other children but The Monkeys seem to sense when I’m approaching with tweezers and adopt either of the fight or flight options. However, if you add a tiny drop of water to some baking soda to make a paste and apply it to the splinter then cover with a plaster, it will draw the splinter out by itself. Plus, if you keep some under the buggy/in the car/in your school run bag then when you get to the school gate, and realise a child is adorned in ‘temporary’ tattoos you can cover them up with plasters and introduce a storyline about bugbites/cat scratches/acupuncture scars.
  • Hayfever is a massive issue in The Circus; especially with myself, Froo and Wombat all being asthmatic. We have tried and tested so many remedies I’m surprised there’s any histamine left anywhere. But the single best tip I was given is Vaseline, if you apply it round the nostrils and along the eye bone (carefully!!) it helps prevent the pollen entering the body in the first place and of course it’s non medicated which was a big relief for me.
  • Chicken Pox is one of the major childhood illnesses and it can be a testing time for all involved. Some children wander merrily through life as normal all be it with a few spots while other are really very poorly. The most important thing to remember is that you must never ever give Ibuprofen during chicken pox as it can cause serious skin infections. Calpol can be given for a temperature and calamine lotion has always been the go to, although personally I found the calamine lotion was difficult to apply and crusted over the spots making the hot and uncomfortable.

 

The best thing I discovered was oat baths and now whenever someone says their child is suffering with the dreaded pox this is what I recommend.

Take a muslin cloth (or the leg of a pair of tight works too) and fill it with a mixture of porridge oats and bicarbonate of soda. Tie at the top like a parcel and hang over the bath taps while you run the bath so the water runs through it. It provides a cloudy but very soothing bath to aid irritation and itching, you can then use the muslin package as a bath sponge. This worked so well when Froo and Noodle had pox (exactly 14 days apart and Noddle was only 16 weeks old) that we spent a lot of time hanging out in the bathroom. I have no idea what I’ll do when Pickle and Wombat get it as we no longer have the luxury of a bathtub!

 

  • Now The Big One: cheaper generic medication is (90% of them time) exactly the same as the brand name products.

£5 big name hayfever tablets have the same active ingredient (either Loratodine or    Cetrizine) as the 89p version from supermarkets. If you compare the boxes, they quite often have exactly the same manufacturing code. The same goes for medicine; Calpol and ‘infant paracetamol suspension’ are one and the same, except with one you are not paying for a pretty box and a wall known name.

Welcome to my world
Rx

 

 

Posted in Children, parenting, Product Testing

Our Very First Product Review – Project Mc2 Ultimate Spy Bag.

There was major excitement in The Circus last week as we were offered the opportunity to provide a product review on a toy.

And not just any toy.

No. Only a toy that Froo (10) has been coveted for around 18 months.

So here goes:

This is the ‘Project Mc2 Ultimate Spy Bag’. It is merchandise to tie in with Project Mc2 programme which airs on Netflix.

The display of this toy in it’s packaging is very appealing. It is beautifully designed and fits in well with the theme. If you are unfamiliar with Project Mc2, it is based around a group of school girls who use their love of science to get through life and solve problems.

As you can see from our video, the packaging was quite tricky to get into. Lots of fiddly ties and clips and twisty things.

But eventually…

The thing I liked at this point is that all the parts go neatly in the box and it closes securely, very important in The Circus.

You can see Froo’s demonstrations of some of the gadgets in our video, but the main thing we tried out was the finger printing kit which was the main appeal it held for Froo.

There are clear instructions, both, on paperwork in the packaging and in the book you receive with the kit which also has various experiments in it.

Froo already owns the Adrienne doll from the series so this is a lovely addition to her (ever growing) collection.

Here’s our fingerprinting guide:

This was good fun to do and I love the ‘spy compact’ that doubles up as a magnifying glass! We had some trouble getting the fingerprints to attach to the suspects sheets so perhaps some trial and error is required there with regards to how much powder to use.

Now to the scary bit.

A couple of disclaimers before we unleash ourselves onto the unsuspecting world

  1. This is our very first attempt at filming.
  2. It’s the very first time that I have ventured into video editing.
  3. I forgot just how noisy fans are when caught on film.

So, with all that clarified, here goes nothing….

THE UNBOXING

Turns out being forced to watch unboxing videos on YouTube by Pickle has paid off as my normally shy and reluctant Monkey came into her own.

THE EXPLORATION AND THE CONCLUSION.

So, there we have it. I have to say I was unsure about this toy and had resisted pressure to buy it as we have quite a lot of Project Mc2 merchandise

and I always feel it’s very expensive for what you actually get.

BUT.

Froo was over the moon with it and I do love the fact that’s it science themed toys aimed at girls (yes toys are toys for girls or boys but this is a big step forward). We had a lot of fun playing and reviewing which was really nice as thinking about I probably wouldn’t have been that involved with it had I bought it for her myself.

Yes it’s expensive at £39.99 rrp.

Yes it’s probably a five minute wonder.

Yes there will be fingerprint dust everywhere.

But it’s actually very cleverly made and great fun to use.

The Circus gives the ProjectMc2 Ultimate Spy Bag a big thumbs up and a score of 9.5/10 from Froo and 7/10 from myself.

Welcome to my world

Rx

Posted in Children, parenting

Half Term Hindsight.

So, here we are. The first day back at school, the first day of the final half term of this school year.

Let’s take a look back on the last week.

Let’s call it ‘half term hindsight’.

Let’s start at the very beginning….that’s a very good place to start, when you read you begin with A B C, when you look back you begin with Saturday….. (yeah that perhaps needs work, anyway onwards and upwards)

The first weekend of half term was good fun. We had the exciting prospect of a family christening on the Saturday. I LOVE christenings, I’m not sure why, I just do.

So I was in full on neatness mode. My dress and shoes were selected, the Monkeys looked slightly less feral than normal.

I ironed clothes…………….

Yes I know. Believe me you’re not the only one who’s shocked.

  • Monkey number one exclaimed “wow, I didn’t know we had an iron”
  • Monkey number two announced “wow this shirt is warm and straight and smooth”
  • Monkey number three declared “wow I have one of those, but mine has a board too” (I found the iron. I was not going rummaging for an ironing board that I may or not own.)
  • Monkey number four just looked and me oddly and said “mummy do hair?” (I later realised he assumed they were industrial sized hair straighteners)

So we are all clean and presentable, the girls have matching french braids. One has long blonde fine hair and the other has a wilderness of tight mousy curls so matching might be a stretch but they did at least have two braids each.

CircusHusband who is on a working weekend appears home in time and deliberates about his clothes (despite promising me days and days ago that he was prepared and knew what he was wearing and where it all was)

We load into the car, feeling smug that finally something has gone right.

We arrive at our destination, unload the Monkeys, enjoy a gentle stroll to the church.

A church with closed doors.

A church that seemed remarkably quiet.

A church with a board outside advertising the christenings that it would be undertaking……………tomorrow.

I tried really hard to pass it off as a deliberate practice run, but rudely no one was convinced and no one was very happy with me.

On the flip side at least Sunday (aka Groundhog Day) was easy.

Unfortunately CircusHusband couldn’t join us on Sunday (apparently when you’ve organised your whole week to allow you to finish early on Saturday, then a spontaneous Sunday absence is ‘tricky’).

But anyway, the Monkeys and I went to church. No one tried to paddle in the font, no one cartwheeled down the aisle, no one needed a wee…..’right now’. Pickle thought it was amazing because her nursery has visits from ‘the church ladies’ once a week who tell them stories about Jesus and she was really impressed that the man in the funny cape knew Jesus too! She actually has a slight obsession with ‘the church ladies’. She knows the name of one of them -let’s call her Betty- but she doesn’t know the name of the other one, so if you ask who she saw the conversation goes:

“Which ladies were there today.”

“Well only one, you know Betty mummy?”

“Oh yes your favourite one.”

“Yes. Betty wasn’t there today, we had the one who isn’t Betty”

She is also fascinated by the stories although perturbed that they only know stories about Jesus, she’s considering asking Father Christmas for a new book for them so they can learn some different stories (but then she might not get her violin?!). Then there’s the exciting moment where I find out if this week’s story involved ‘Baby Jesus’ or ‘Old Man with a Walking Stick Jesus’, I assume these parts are acted out as they seem to be coveted roles in her 4 year old head. My favourite conversation about ‘the church ladies’ so far was on the last day of term.

“Did you see the church ladies today?”

“Yes it was Betty and the one who isn’t Betty and guess what?” Well the story was about Jesus……again, but at the end the ladies chose me to say something really funny”

“Really, what was that then?”

“Well they said this little poem thing and then I had to say……..

“Ahhhhhh Man”

Never again will I be able to finish The Lord’s Prayer without an image of Bart Simpson in my head.

Weekend complete. The week was fairly quiet we visited a local castle ruins, which both the biggest Monkeys declared their favourite part of their week off so marking that one up as a success.

We did (well, mainly Froo and Pickle) did baking. Half terms cost me a fortune simply because I need enough ingredients in to satisfy Froo’s constant desire to bake. This week’s creation was a beautiful, two tiered sponge cake sandwiched with lemon icing and decorated with peach slices and mixed peel. It tasted phenomenal. Really very impressive.

However this was slightly marred with this interaction:

“Froo this cake is amazing, well done you must be really pleased.”

“Of course it’s amazing……I used Grandma’s recipe”

One funny incident of this week needs to be shared so here goes. Noodle had been complaining in the evenings a sore tooth. I deduced that he had picked the gum around it and foresaw that it would become a method or stalling bedtime (I have a pretty good radar for this sort of thing).

He goes off to bed and sure enough he appears again about fifteen minutes later. CircusHusband goes to see him and comes back mumbling something I didn’t quite catch but ended with the word ‘sore’, I nodded and said “there’s bonjela in the first aid box, put some of that on and it should help”.

He was gone a while then came down and declared job done.

We heard no more from Noodle and a few hours later CircusHusband turns to me and says

“I never knew you could use Bonjela like that?”

Slightly confused I enquire what he means.

“You know, for tummy ache”

Now completely confused I just sat silent until he continued….

“Noodle said his tummy was sore and you said to put Bonjela on it…….”

Me – “what? No I didn’t…..Oh…..You mean you …….?”

Yep. Noodle was now happily snoring away with his stomach lovingly covered with teething gel.

Fast forward to this weekend just gone and I had a night out. Not just out, but out out. You know, where you have to brush your hair.

Now, nights out when you are a mum and all your friends are mums are similar to the initiation process required for joining MI5. The first part is deciding a date, you collaborate all the data and work out that yay there is one night you are all free…….a Tuesday evening in October 2025.

Then there’s clothing. What do you wear? The problem with having small children is that your wardrobe generally has two sections ‘stuff I don’t mind having Weetabix ground into’ and ‘pyjamas’. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to amalgamate the two to produce something suitable. Add onto that the conundrum of childcare and transport and you’re knackered before you’ve even set off.

Fortunately, thanks to very good friends, we have a childcare/transport system in place which works well. We go out and CircusHusband and CircusHusband’s friend have the children all in one house. This does mean they are outnumbered seven to two but hey ho. It seemed to be a success this time; there were computer games, snacks and silliness……..and the children had fun too!

Once you’re out it’s all good. The relief of letting your hair down for a little while is amazing. That amazing feeling wears off rather quickly however when you roll into bed at 2:42 and wake up to a banshee hollering your name at amplified volume at 5:46.

Now we are back to structure and routine as we begin a seven week half term of business. This first week alone includes 3 school trips, 1 nursery trip, 1 intake evening to prepare us for Pickle starting school in September (I’m fairly sure it’s them who need preparing if I’m honest). 1 spelling bee. 1 music group. 1 fundraising event and 1 jar of coffee…….maybe Pickle’s beloved church ladies can have a word with their friend Jesus and see if the magic refilling oil concept can also be applied to caffeine.

Enjoy this week whatever you are doing.

Welcome to my world

Rx

Posted in Children, parenting

Budget cuts affecting the lives of our children and what we can do.

When you first have a baby you are handed a package of gumph. If it’s your first baby you assume that the package holds a manual for your new bundle, a lifetime warranty and a receipt….just in case. Unfortunately not.

What it does contain is plethora of randomness;

  • Samples of products that may or may not bear any relevance on the new journey you are about to undertake. (a pot of Sudocrem that you can almost fit one finger in, a pouch of fabric softener that will not tear open for love nor money so it spends it’s days loitering near the machine dreaming of the day it’s moment to shine will arrive, a one dose tube of liquid iron supplement which is the equivalent of putting a verruca plaster on a gun shot wound).
  • A booklet of postnatal exercises. God only knows why you’re suddenly supposed to become a yoga expert simply because you’ve given birth.
  • The application pack for Child Benefit. Do not panic, if you accidently use it to mop up after you try to get the better of your fabric softener sample, you can do the whole thing online.

and acting as protective packaging for all above treasure will be many, many, many pieces of paper that will keep you entertained during night feeds (or you could read to the baby to encourage sleep).

One of those pieces of paper will be a leaflet about postnatal depression and the importance of socialisation for you and your new baby. There will probably be details of your local Children’s Centre (usually Sure Start). These were the creation of Tessa Jowell under Tony Blair’s Labour government 20 years ago with the view to “giving children the best possible start in life” through improvement of childcare, early education, health and family support, with an emphasis on outreach and community development.

Perfect, you think, somewhere I can take my baby and meet new people and gather advice and generally feel a part of my community.

Then you see headlines such as this:

Family services at risk as thousands of children’s centres face budget cuts

And sadly, it looks like the budget cuts and spending caps are more and more prevalent and affecting more and more Children’s Centres.

The absurdity of these cuts is shown in the figures. In 2011 a survey was undertaken that showed that 1.05 million families were actively using their local centre’s facilities which was an increase of 50,000 on the previous year.

That is a huge number, and it represents an enormous amount of new parent’s seeking guidance or young mum’s reaching out for support or those suffering with PND having somewhere safe to visit.

It seems that the problem began with the forming of the coalition government. They allegedly removed the ringfenced funding that was protecting the running of the vital services giving local authorities the power to open consultation regarding the closures which many chose to do.

As a result to these changes, funding was slashed from £1.2bn to £0.6bn and at latest count 508 centres have closed completely.

The problem is that a lot of these closures are in areas where their presence was most needed. Areas of deprivation and areas with a high number of disadvantaged children. Areas where they really could make a difference through support and education.

The centre’s which have been fortunate enough to remain open have still been hit with budget cuts meaning the services they can offer are restricted and free services are not viable.

It is this last point that has prompted me to use this blog as a platform to inform people of these devastating cuts. People who may not be familiar with these Children’s Centres and what they actually do, may not understand the need for a place that allows any parent or carer of any social background, of any economic class, with no discrimination to come together to become better parents.

My local Children’s Centre is experiencing these exact problems and it has affected myself and The Monkeys first hand. We have been attending a music group weekly since Noodle was a baby (so around 6 years), the group is run by a lady with years of experience who has her own business as an early years music group leader. She was paid by the Children’s Centre to run these weekly groups, allowing parents to spend this important, quality interaction time with their children. The major advantage of this group is that there is no ‘clique’ aspect that can be experienced at some toddler group settings, as it is focussed on you and your child. Support and friendships are the positive side effect that happens when you spend time enjoying yourself in a comfortable situation.

As someone who struggles with social interaction, that one hour per week was a godsend to me. It was a regular time to leave the house and be carefree with whichever Monkey I had with me and I gained many friendships from that repeated event that became part of our lives (I think we are actually part of the furniture now!)

Until.

The Children’s Centre announces that it can no longer fund the music sessions. The choices are to start charging parents to attend or call it a day. This goes completely against the ‘all inclusive’ policy that was set at right at the beginning. It means that if you can’t afford it then you can’t attend.

The lady who runs our music group, Lorna Berry of Fledgeling Music, refused to accept this new policy. There is an awful lot of research showing the importance of music and sound in early years education and the impact that it can have on a child’s socialisation and speech and language. This, and seeing the effects the groups have first hand encouraged her to keep going despite there being no funding. This means she was working for free and personally funding the hire of halls to allow her to continue contributing this imperative work to the community.

In this day and economic climate this is not something that can continue full time, and because of this a group of parents who find these music groups invaluable have come together and formed a company which are working tirelessly to raise both funds and awareness to ensure that people can continue benefitting from this service.

Sometimes it’s down to the normal person to take charge and make a stand. One voice is sometimes enough and if it’s loud enough others will also step forward. Take note of this group of people who are working so hard to give others the opportunity to experience what they have.

They say it takes a village to raise a child and they (whoever they are) have a point. Come together and form a network. If it benefits one person then it was worthwhile.

If you would like to find out more about these amazing people then please visit https://www.facebook.com/MusicForFamiliesHoltBriston/ or if have been encouraged to want to make a difference then there is https://www.gofundme.com/musicforfamilies.

If these cuts which look set to continue have also affected you then please get in touch as this is something I would like to pursue public interest in.

Welcome to my world

Rx

Posted in medical, parenting

Mental Health Awareness Week and Me.

If you’ve spent any time on social media this week then you’re probably aware that it is Mental Health Awareness week.

So, what does that mean exactly?

Well, it means that it’s one week out of 52 where people can talk openly about their feelings without any risk of stigma or ridicule.

But, why do we need a special week?

That is a very complicated question with a very simple answer. Because we live in a society where it is frowned upon to show weakness

We live in a society where it’s acceptable to complain about an ingrown toenail or enquire about someone’s broken leg. But when it comes to a condition that cannot be plainly seen from the outside then it becomes ‘that we must not speak of’.

So let’s speak about it.

What is mental health? It is generally any condition that doesn’t have a obvious physical manifestation. It can range from mild to debilitating with a huge range in between. The main complication with understanding mental health is that literally any one can be affected, and quite often it’s the people you would least expect.

For example; the new mum who posts photos of her newborn on Facebook on a hourly basis may not just be ‘baby boasting’ but may be suffering with Postnatal Depression and just need some interaction. The person who makes excuses and doesn’t turn up when planned may not be unsociable and scatty but suffering with social anxiety that means as hard as he tries he cannot push himself to join in. The lady you just watched check her car was locked multiple times isn’t forgetful or over security conscious, she has a condition called OCD that controls her entire life.

For the 2018 study of mental health, the Mental Health Foundation conducted a study of 4619 random people. Of those people 74% admitted that within the past year they had felt so stressed that were overwhelmed and unable to cope.

This is a high percentage which means someone you know WILL be struggling with mental health difficulties. You may know exactly who are they are but mostly you will have no idea, and that is the problem, mental health issues are lonely and isolating.

I know what you’re thinking. What does she know? Who is she to explain mental health to us? She’s the one with always has a smile on. Well I do know, I am one of those 74% of people.

Anybody who knows me personally is going to find this difficult to read and, believe me, I have ummed and ahhed all week long about whether to post and from which angle to approach it. But what is the point of there being a mental health awareness week if you skirt around the issue? and if reading someone’s unfiltered, honest experiences helps just one person then that’s one person who might pluck up the courage to speak to one more person. And so on.

I have suffered from mental health issues since my teenage years, I spent time on antidepressants and undergoing counselling (yeah that didn’t work too well for me). I have scars from self-harming and spent summers wearing jumpers to cover my arms. I did, on one occasion almost take things too far, but a moment of clarity kicked in and I called for a friendto help rather than put unneeded burden on my family.

For me, there was a trigger. I grew up in a situation that 100% revolved around mental health.

My mum had ‘manic depression’. Now more commonly known as ‘bipolar disorder’. Combined with many other issues with resulted in a manifestation of schizophrenia. She was seriously affected with her mental health and it majorly impeded into her life. As a child I remember voluntary admissions into the psychiatric ward and admissions that couldn’t be less voluntary (technically known as being sectioned). I remember many, many, many trips to visit her after school, where she may refuse to see us. It became the norm (and on Mondays we got McDonalds afterwards!).

I remember all the medication that she took, and the side effects that it caused, the times when you dare not speak for fear of what reaction you might get. The nightmares that she woke up from convinced that the world and everything in it was out to get her. The conversations she had that were quite blatantly not with anyone physical. The apprehension of what you might find when you arrived home from school. The dread of big events, such as Christmas or holidays as you knew a period of major depression would follow. She was one of the very last people in the uk to receive Electro Convulsive Therapy, a barbaric form of ‘treatment’ that involved sending electrical currents through the brain. She had it twice a week, on a Tuesday and a Friday. It didn’t work. All it did was wipe her memories.

It was crap. But at the time I didn’t know this. This was our life and we lived it. We stuck together and we coped. My dad was an actual real life saint, he made sure that we missed out on nothing and worked hard to give us the best.

But, no one on the outside knew the full extent of what was going on and that’s the real crux of the issue. It’s not only lonely and isolating for the person with the mental health issues. It’s also the family and close friends of them. The ones who love them and are torn apart seeing them suffer. The ones who know that they’d rather not be here anymore.

So. Maybe it’s important to remember that for every one person struggling from any mental health condition there’s probably a whole family of people near them, also suffering. A husband or wife who can’t do a single thing to help the person they love most in the world. A child who sees an empty shell of their parent, devoid of emotion and I can tell you that really takes it’s toll on a young person and they begin to hide emotion and not let people too close.

Sadly I no longer have my mum, I lost her to cancer in 2006. Followed by my dad in 2011. But if one positive thing came from everything I witnessed it is that I know how important it is to ask for help. There is no reward for struggling and making everyone else struggle. Misery loves company. Nowadays there is much more help available and a variety of much more gentle treatments to allow people to lead a better quality of life.

If you ask someone how they are and they say “oh you know, things are a bit tough” then they’ve reached out to you. They could have used the old generic “oh I’m fine” but they didn’t. So don’t dismiss it, don’t say “smile, it might never happen”, because it already is happening. Offer an ear, a shoulder, a cuppa, whatever it looks like they need most but would ask for least. Offer support but without taking on the role of counsellor, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be someone they know they can call on in times of ups and times of downs. Consistency is so, so important,

The other major piece of advice I would like to offer is this. Don’t wait to seek help. Don’t try to cross The Nile in a dinghy. I am terrible, and I mean really bad at asking for help. But two years ago I found myself in a hole, and I couldn’t dig back out of it. I told myself I could handle it myself, scolded myself for being weak but it didn’t help and a few days before Christmas 2016 I had a meltdown, I admitted defeat in January 2017 and visited my gp who diagnosed severe anxiety issues and delayed postnatal depression. I was distraught but instead of going further downwards I accepted treatment. I let someone help me and thanks to some medication and wonderful support from those who love me I am back on form and better than ever.

If your leg hurts see a doctor, if your teeth hurt see a dentist, if your mind ‘hurts’ it’s just as real so go and see someone. Please.

If you’ve managed to get through this far then well done, it was as hard to write as it was to read I promise. I really hope that my writing is not in vain. I really hope that sharing actually is caring and can make a difference because I am a very private person and this is a huge personal step for me.

If anyone wants to connect and discuss anything then do not hesitate to get in touch, I will always listen and I have broad shoulders so pile it on.

With love

Rx