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? 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

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… 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.


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


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 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

Welcome to my world


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

Posted in Children, memories, parenting

What are memories made of…….?

When you tell people that you have 4 children, there’s usually the stereotypical ‘wow you’ve got your hands full’ response.

Yet as they walk away you can hear the ‘what a shame, they must never get one-on-one time’.

Well they do so ner to the nay-sayers!

And its that thought that brings me to today’s point (yes these posts do sometimes have a point).

Its very often that you hear the phrases ‘precious family time’ and ‘making memories’ thrown around, especially in this age of social media.

But, it’s important to remember that the things that mean the most to children are not always things that can be explained in a Facebook post, or hash tagged in an Instagram snap.

An expensive day trip with added extras may seem like a massive treat from our perspective, but if a child has had a bad day at school the day before and is furtively hoping for a few quiet minutes to discuss it with you. Then this busy trip would not be welcome or appreciated leading to disappointment from both sides.

Having memories is wonderful and incredibly important. But looking back it suddenly becomes clear that the things that we, as adults, remember from our childhood are not necessarily the big events, but more likely snapshots of a funny moment or a treasured smile.

We don’t ‘make memories’ they make themselves. They are spontaneous and we may not know that they have happened until years later when we suddenly recall a random event that makes us smile or laugh or cry all over again.

Memories have the uncanny ability of turning up when they are needed, whether we appreciate their appearance or not. But they serve a purpose, without them we are not a whole person; a character that’s portrayed in a book needs a past, a present and a future to enable the reader to connect with them as a three dimensional being and the same is true with us.

I feel that I have the authority to make these points as the daughter of a lady who, through the need for medical treatment, lost the majority of her long term memories. She was still a character in her own story but she couldn’t flick back the pages of her mind to remind herself of details. She lost her past and the part she played in our past. Moments that could never be recaptured.

I think this is why when it comes to the Monkeys, I’m very much aware that the things they store away in their memories may not be the things I have planned and scripted as a ‘memory making’ exercise.

Take today for example.

Noodle has a new musical obsession which is out of the realms of most typical 6 year olds.

Because I am stingy I refused to pay the extortionate costs of downloading the tracks he wanted, so he suggested that we could go and look in the local charity shops and check through their CDs and I agreed.

CircusHusband needed to pick up a package in town so we all headed out and parted ways (in other words he bribed the remaining Monkeys with the promise of snacks at Gregg’s if they complied)

Noodle and I went off on our mission. The fun we had browsing through hundreds of CDs was ridiculous and the excitement when I found a compilation album with a track by his new favourite singer was unbelievable. I’ll leave you to picture a high-fiving session in the middle of Cancer Research!

It was a short outing. We spent precisely £3. Yet Noodle was so happy he was skipping down the pavement.

Those few moments right there. Just me and him. Will stay with me always and I know that he’ll remember the day we went and did exactly what he wanted. Just for him.

Yes I have my hands full but sometimes (as often as I can) I have two completely empty hands ready to support whichever Monkey requires one-on-one. Today it was Noodle and CD’s, next time will be something just as random yet just as vitally important in a child’s uncomplicated opinion.

I am a long way from a perfect parent and I don’t, in any way, profess to know the secrets of parenting (seriously, is it like the magicians secret circle or something? Is there a special handshake?). The only thing I know is that children are simple and they like the simple things, it’s only as we grow up that we start to make things complicated

If I could give a new parent one piece of advice, it would be;

Don’t waste so much energy forcing memories that you’ve none left to actually make the real ones.

Welcome to my world