Our rainy morning #NoddyChallenge

Today is officially the start of our daughter’s summer holiday (we didn’t include the weekend) – So of course it is cold and rainy! Thanks weather! We were expecting a friend to join us after lunch, so this morning was the ideal chance to slouch in our jim jams and do some crafting.

During Dylan’s 6am feed I was browsing on my phone and had spotted a fab competition on tots100 to win £500 in books from Book People. It involved creating a craft activity inspired by Noddy and there were some great ideas being shared already. We didn’t have a great deal of time so anything involving baking was out, but I figured we would have some fun with good old fashioned paper and pens.

I chatted to Willow about her and Dylan dressing up as Noddy and Tessie Bear and she was really keen to get to work straight away while her brother napped. We gathered up the things we needed and began

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We decided that the main thing she needed was Noddy’s blue hat with a bell at the end. Luckily we just happened to have a bell from a Lindt bunny kicking around since Easter (I knew I saved this stuff for a reason) While she coloured in using all the blue pens, crayons and pencils we could find, I explained to her that the prize would be some wonderful books to share with her brother. We are very fond of books in this house, not only because I believe you can never have too many books, but also because I am currently in the process of trying to get my own novel accepted with a literary agent. As well as telling me I couldn’t be the policeman in Noddy because ‘You’re a writer mummy, not a policeman’, Willow added that if we won, she would like to share some books with her school. I have to say, seeing your child show such kindness is the most wonderful feeling for any parent! I know she would have great fun choosing a large box of books to donate to her infant school.

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One thing she has very obviously taken away from her year in reception is her ability to use scissors. I was really impressed! She stayed right on the lines and even managed the curvy bit around the tip of the hat. I can’t remember the last time I sat and watched her cutting out at home, but she definitely wasn’t as controlled as this.

With the hat made (and put straight on) we just had the bell to attach. Then it was on to making a washi tape bow for baby brother to wear.

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I drew a very rough outline of the bow on some card, then Willow used some pink washi tape to fill in the white. It took a little bit of practice to tear the pieces long enough to actually cover the bow, but she got there in the end. Once that was done I cut out the bow and we stuck it to a very large elastic band (sorry Dylan – it was all we could find!) I tried it on to make sure it wouldn’t strangle him, and it seemed OK for the job (let’s face it – we weren’t about to send him out in this!)

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So there we were – hat complete with bell and leaving blue smudges on anything it touched, pink bow made, costumes ready.. All we needed was unsuspecting Dylan to wake up from his nap. And almost on demand, he did!  We dashed out into the garden before he really knew what on earth was going on, and got our final photo.

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Don’t they look awesome!

This post is an entry into the  #NoddyChallenge Book People blogger challenge.

 

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A little reminder to myself

This year has seen one of my greatest achievements to date. I finally finished writing and editing my novel for young adults – after having the idea nearly 2 years ago. The story was so strong in my mind that I simply couldn’t NOT write it. But there was a tiny little thing that got in the way – Our family was just about to increase by one.

Writing the book was literally squeezed into every waking hour I had while our newborn napped. I’m not gonna lie – I dropped nearly everything else and we were running our household on minimal input. The washing mounted up, the grocery shops were last minute, and we barely even looked at the garden. I fed the baby, fed the rest of us, and wrote. In the evenings my husband and I were like passing ships in the night – he came in from work and took over looking after the kids, while I went upstairs with my laptop and carried on writing until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

In the early days I would often be seen like this: –

As his naps grew shorter and his feeds got longer, I found myself torn between living inside the fantasy world that I was creating in my mind, and needing to BE here. It was torture for me. All I wanted, more than anything I’ve ever wanted before, was to finish this book and see it published. I’ve forced myself to be harsh, I’ve made myself be critical, but the end result is always the same – I still love this story and desperately hope that I’ve done it justice. It’s been hard. Very hard, and most people I know probably don’t understand why I HAD to write it.

Mike and I have talked extensively about what if. What if it’s published and people love it? What if they hate it? What if I can’t get it published at all? I’ve cried tears of happiness, and soaked myself with tears of pain. It has consumed me. But there has been one thing that I know I would love to do one day, no matter what the outcome of my journey will be. That is to find a way to immortalise the world I created, even if I am the only one to ever see it.

This is when the idea of ‘Curiosity Corner’ was born – It’s my own little nod towards the theme of my book, and the pokey little corner of our bedroom where much of it was written. I would have a sign made and hang it my my desk to remind myself that despite all the hurdles, I DID write it. And if I say so myself, I wrote it well! *blush* I’d look at the sign and remind myself to feel proud. Inspire myself to keep writing.

Or maybe I would put the sign on the front of our house so that friends would know that this is where it all began. This is where THAT story was written – the one I wouldn’t shut up about 😀

I’ve chosen the Rochelle Grande Wall Plaque from smartsign.com because it FEELS right for my book. The Antique Brass finish reflects the steampunk styling I chose for the world I created, and the scroll pattern hints at everything that putting pen to paper is about. It is simplistic yet beautiful. Poignant yet practical. A little symbol of all the time and energy I gave to this project.

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I love it!

Of course if the book never makes it then the sign means nothing to other people. It’s just a quirky name for our little corner of the world. But I will never forget, and every time I look at it I will be reminded to write.

This post is an entry into the #MyCustomSign www.smartsign.com blogger challenge

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With the empathy of a parent

Even after four years it still surprises me just how much I’m affected by news stories involving children, now that I’m a parent. Whilst most of us are always able to sympathise, I think that real empathy for other parents only comes when you have children yourself.

This week I’ve found myself unable to stop thinking about the poor family whose 2 year old child, Lane, was snatched by an alligator at a really nice Disney resort in Orlando.

(Read the story on the nytimes website here)

I find myself thinking about ‘what if’ that were my child (who was a similar age when we first went to Orlando) or what it must have felt like for the parents and older sister to witness. Our daughter is now the same age as Lane’s sister, and it tears me apart just thinking about how utterly distraught she would be to lose her baby brother (who isn’t even born yet).

The sad truth is, these types of stories are all over the news. There is always someone, somewhere in the world who is feeling the pain of losing a child, and that makes me feel incredibly sad.

 

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That first wobbly walk

This post is my entry into the Tots100/WaterWipes Baby Milestones challenge, where bloggers have been asked to write about their own personal milestones to celebrate how special our families are.

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I have to admit that I am naturally a very curious person. I like to know how things work or why, and if they might affect me. Over time this curiosity has led to a natural skill in research, and I now read and research pretty much everything – from what products will best suit our family, to where is best to eat a quiet lunch in Magic Kingdom.

The Internet has obviously played a massive part in this need to read, but social media has also crept in – and often brought with it paranoia and frustration. No time has this been more obvious than during pregnancy and early parenthood. Don’t get me wrong – the Internet can be truly wonderful, but as someone who has suffered from depression in the past, it can also bring back the shaky feeling when everyone else in the world looks like they are having the time of their lives, and you can’t relate.

When our little lady was born, I thankfully realised quite early on that comparisons were damaging my psyche, and that I needed to focus on the life in front of me. I’ve never been the sort of mummy who ‘needed’ to be around other mummies so I could talk about how many nappies I’d changed or how much sleep we’d had. Instead I found happiness in the smaller things – such as a chat with my husband over dinner about our favourite film, or sitting outside listening to the birds tweeting as they flew from garden to garden.

IMG_5479All was going fairly well for the first few weeks as new parents, however we were unprepared for the news given to us at a routine hip scan. Our little lady was 11 weeks old when the scan confirmed that she actually had no hip socket at all on one side – it was totally flat. The consultant put her into a Pavlik harness immediately, and I remember feeling utterly distraught, shocked, and confused. The first thing I did was clutch my baby tight, cry, and tell her how sorry I was. I felt that it was somehow my fault because of the fact she had been breech for so long during my pregnancy, and had to be born by c-section. I began worrying that I might not be able to continue breastfeeding, or that we would have to stop using cloth nappies on her. These might sound like simple things to worry about, but we were first time parents and had only just started to get used to the change in our life after our baby was born, when the Pavlik harness turned everything upside down again.

IMG_5524We left the hospital with what felt like a different baby. We couldn’t hold her in the same way, her clothes didn’t fit, nappy changes were awkward, she didn’t fit in the car seat very easily, and I had to re-learn the best way to breastfeed her. Again, these niggles were a small price to pay to ensure our little girl would one day be able to walk, but they were still challenges to us.

The most frustrating part was how it affected even the most simple things. Before she was fitted with the harness, we were using plain water and cotton wool to clean her at nappy changes. The problem we found was that the cotton wool often stuck to the harness and was difficult to remove. Because we were unable to give our baby her usual baths for the whole time she was being treated, keeping her as clean as possible was paramount. Cotton wool was also useless for scrubbing the straps, so we started using WaterWipes instead. Naturally I’d researched which wipes were the kindest on sensitive skin, and these were definitely the next best thing to plain water.

IMG_5642After six long, hot summer weeks it was time for the harness to come off, and we could finally give her a proper bath – which she absolutely hated!

Getting the Pavlik harness taken off was a very special milestone in itself, but the real test would be when she was old enough to start walking. Of course I’d worried myself sick reading about young ones who had needed surgery to correct hip problems, but thankfully the worst we had to deal with was that she was just a little bit behind her two cousins when it came to crawling and walking.

In June 2013 – one year after the Pavlik harness came off, I managed to catch this very special moment on film using my new phone. Naturally the first time your child walks unaided is extremely precious to every parent, but for Mike and I it came with an enormous relief. The worry about any long-term effects of being born with no hip socket finally lifted, and we were able to focus on the positives again – the hip problems were fixed and our little lady could lead a normal life – walking, running, jumping and dancing to her heart’s content.

~ Here is our very special milestone caught on camera ~

Writing this post has made me realise how nice it is to remember each and every milestone, so I’ve trawled through my digital collection and put together this little movie to celebrate each and every milestone caught on camera. I hope you enjoy it!

~ A compilation of many of our milestones and favourite memories ~

 

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Through the eyes of a 4-year old

On the few occasions that Dubai has ever come up in conversation, I have to admit that I’ve always pictured young couples on honeymoon, luxurious hotels and an intense heat that means you spend the whole holiday floating on an inflatable with a cocktail in your hand. It’s just never crossed my mind that it could be a destination that a child would enjoy. It was only when I recently joined in with a Twitter party hosted by @tots100 and @visitdubai_uk (#DXBDreams) that I found myself extremely excited by the prospect of taking our 4-year old there for a holiday. Fellow bloggers were tweeting about the things they’ve done whilst on holiday in Dubai, and it all sounded wonderful. In fact I was so inspired that I found myself browsing hotels and attractions on travel agency websites, and had to remind myself that we weren’t in a position to press the ‘book now’ button.

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1st try at kite flying

The first thing that I know our daughter would absolutely love, is a day spent on Kite Beach. She has been asking about ‘mummy’s old kite’ leaning up against the coat rack for a good few months now, and a few weeks ago we actually had enough wind for her to take it out. Seeing her run around shouting ‘Look! It’s flying, it’s flying!’ with a high-pitched, over excited voice was such a wonderful reminder that children love even the most basic things. The fact that Kite Beach also boasts outdoor trampolines, a play area, and a chance to collect shells is just the icing on the cake. I would have to remember to pack an extra suitcase for all the ‘treasure’ she would want to bring back though. We recently spent two nights on a pebble beach in Selsey, and have two buckets full of shells and stones that simply had to come home with us.

The second place I think we would all love to visit is the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Now I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with aquariums after I did a sponsored shark-dive for charity – despite having a massive fear of water! The sharks didn’t actually bother me. I was hugely uncomfortable with the way my lips shrivelled with the taste of salt water, that every breath in the mask felt unnatural and forced, and that I couldn’t simply say ‘get me out!’ I distinctly remember looking at my husband through the thick wall of glass which made up the tank, and staring into his eyes as he looked back at me with that look – he just knew I was hating it. I would personally love to visit the Dubai Aquarium so that I could put that terrified memory to rest, and replace it with the wonderful feeling you get when you see your child experience something wonderful for the first time. Our daughter would stare at the world’s largest suspended tank simply waiting for a mermaid to swim past, or skip through the 48-metre tunnel trying to count every fish. It would be a fantastic relief from the midday heat, and a beautiful way to introduce our little lady to life under the sea. One thing is for sure though – mummy won’t be going for a snorkel or scuba dive this time!

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A natural superhero

Having taken our first trip to a theme park when our daughter was just under 3 years old, I think she is definitely ready to experience something on a much larger scale. The new IMG Worlds of Adventure looks right up our street, and I can’t wait to see some more photos once the place opens in a few months. It sounds absolutely amazing, and I’m sure we would spend at least a few hours in the Cartoon Network zone – especially on The Ride of Ooo with Finn & Jake. I love that theme parks offer a safe, fun and jam-packed break from reality, although I’d want to make sure we all got a good night’s sleep beforehand. Theme parks are always so exhausting!

 

I don’t think any trip to Dubai would be complete without at least one visit to Madinat Jumeirah, although if I had it my way I think this is where our hotel would be located! The resort just looks utterly incredible, and I can happily see myself floating down the waterway on a traditional abra, as I build up an appetite for lunch. Our daughter would be happy talking about all the sights, sounds and smells and I would love to take her to an Arabian spice market so she can see all the different ingredients we talk about in the kitchen. Every photo I’ve looked at looks truly beautiful. I can almost smell the cinnamon already.

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Drifting down the waterway to your dinner reservation (photo borrowed from www.jumeirah.com)

The wonderful thing about holidays through the eyes of a 4-year old is that they honestly don’t really mind where you are or what you do. There is still so much for them to see and learn and I believe the sooner they can appreciate other cultures the better. Everywhere is a new experience for young children, but I can see now that Dubai would be a truly amazing place for a family holiday.

 

This post is my entry to the Tots100/Dubai Dreams blogger challenge. Why not share your own Dubai Dreams for a chance to win a holiday of your own. The best reader comment on the winning blog post will also win their own family break, so comment below and keep those fingers crossed!

 

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Breakfast biscuit anyone?

BiscuitsWe got this free sample from Ocado today. To me, this one biscuit emphasises just how difficult diabetes is to manage – and how very misleading all these ‘healthy’ alternatives actually are.

These are marketed as a ‘breakfast biscuit’, but just ONE biscuit contains 11g of sugar – which is roughly 3 teaspoons. And who could seriously eat just 1 biscuit for breakfast and nothing else? Wash it down with a glass of orange juice and you’ve basically just had 2/3 of your advised daily intake – TWO THIRDS! – in what (to me) sounds like a rather crappy breakfast! And if I gave that 1 biscuit and glass of juice to our 4-year-old? Well, that would be ALL her sugars done for the day. Seriously – on what planet is that healthy?? To give an amusing comparison, 1 of these so called breakfast biscuits has the same sugar content as 5 malted milk biscuits!


If I ate this now, I cannot even explain how ill I would feel. Hyperglycaemia is like a crippling exhaustion that makes you feel weak, grumpy and fuzzy all day long. Trust me, diabetes is NOT something you want to develop.


I know for sure that these last 27 weeks have changed everything about the way I look at food. Please my lovely friends, just look at the ingredients of what you are buying and don’t just trust the marketing campaigns!

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A friend to remember

A competition on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle asks ‘do you have a favourite story about your pet?’ – My answer may be somewhat surprising.

Lancelot was the cat who was literally born on my lap when I was 15, and who stayed by my side through my absolute worst years during my fight with depression. When he was diagnosed with cancer at nearly 15 years young, some of my strongest and happiest memories were forged.

This diagnosis was of course heartbreaking, but over the following six months I shared some of the most amazing moments with Lance, and saw a kindness in the human race that I never could have anticipated.

It began when Lancelot was on the operating table, and I received a phone-call from our vet to say that they had found two tumours in his intestines, and suspected an aggressive Leukaemia. I was given the choice to either say goodbye now, or continue with extensive (and expensive) surgery to try and prolong his life. He wasn’t insured, and I didn’t have the £1200 for the bill, but I couldn’t bring myself to accept that we’d spent our last days together. Call it selfish, but I wasn’t ready to let go. Through the generosity of one amazing friend, I was able to visit Lance later that day, and found him standing up in his kennel looking as perky as a spring chicken.

DSC00053You would never have imagined that this old boy had just been through major surgery. The staff at the vets had all fallen in love with Lance, and I could see that they were genuinely pleased to see how happy and calm he was despite the whole ordeal. His recovery was so good that he came home the next day and started to try and jump up out of the living room window (much to my dismay) He was just a cat that wanted to be outside, wanted to do everything he had always done – including stealing the raw chicken drumsticks that a neighbour was leaving out for the foxes.

All of the veterinary staff were amazed by how well he coped over the following weeks, but the reality was still that we were cuddling on borrowed time.

Mike and I were due to get married only a few months later, and were to be away from home for 3 weeks. We were discussing our best options with the practice staff, when the same vet who had done the surgery offered to look after my beloved boy in their kennels and staff flat upstairs – ‘call it a wedding gift’ he said.

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I was utterly gobsmacked, and could not thank them enough. Not only could I rest assured that Lance would receive the best care, but this alleviated a lot of the guilt that I felt for getting married abroad when we had no idea if he would be alive on our return. We chose not to have updates while away (a very hard decision) but rushed to the vets as soon as we landed back at Heathrow, to find Lancelot running around looking as happy as ever.

Now obviously cancer doesn’t play nice, and months later the decision was made that Lance ideally needed chemotherapy injections once a week to slow the tumours’ return. However, our vet warned us that this wasn’t an option if anyone in the household was pregnant. My husband and I looked at each other with disappointment and fear – the very first person we told about my pregnancy was our vet! There was no way I could subject Lance to chemo if I couldn’t be around him to see him through it. Our only other option was steroid pills, and these did as best they could for some weeks.

On 9th August 2011, Lancelot took one final trip to the vets. He had put up with my agonising depression, years of self-harm, and seen me through all the anger, hurt and frustration. Even in his dying days he brought me more happy memories than I could ever have hoped for, and his endearing character charmed all who came to know him.

IMG_3821Lancelot lost his mum to kidney disease, he ‘put up’ with our clingy new addition to the house – Logi the siamese, but sadly never got to meet my daughter. I had a small savings account – his ‘retirement fund’ where I was saving for his vet bills, and this has generously been donated to Logi and Pippin (our new black and white rescue cat).

To this day I look back on those ‘extra’ 6 months we had with Lancelot with  very fond memories, and I shall be ever grateful to the people who made that time possible. It is why I have chosen this memory to share, because it reminds me that even in sad times it is possible to find comfort.

Winning any amount of food for our two cats in Lance’s honour would be wonderful, and I think he would definitely approve of a little trip to Normandy.

This post is an entry into the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle and Arden Grange competition.

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No one is immune

Over the Christmas holiday I found out that another member of a group I am part of tragically took her own life due to post-natal depression. She had a husband, a three year old daughter and a five month old baby. If you looked at her profile online you would think she was blissfully happy and enjoying life.

On Christmas day, she drove to a quiet woodland with her two children, and shot herself. Her baby was in the car, and her daughter was found lying partially on top of her – with gun fragments in her head.

Reading the news has affected me not just because it is a tragic story, but because I too have felt the way this stranger must have been feeling. Even with all my years of experience and learning to cope with depression, post-natal depression still found me. It might be hard for my family and friends to believe, but this story could easily have been about me.

I drew this picture of Robin Williams today, because he is a stark reminder of the fact that it doesn’t matter how happy people might appear to be. It doesn’t matter how loved they are, how wonderful their family are, or how talented they are. No one is immune.

If someone comes to you and tells you that they are struggling, please don’t ignore it. Don’t assume that someone else will help them, or that it is something they will get over in time.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand their reason for feeling depressed, or even if you believe that the reason doesn’t justify the resulting emotions. They have come to you, and I beg you to respond. Hug that person a little tighter, and be there to listen.

Robin Williams left behind a wife and children. Fame, talent, nor love could save him. As an amazing comedian, he reminds us that you can never judge a book by its cover.

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Pumpkin Carving for Halloween

This Halloween, my little girl was just about old enough (she’s 3.5) to get involved with our annual pumpkin carving. Before becoming a mummy, I used to carve the typical scary faces – usually Jack Skellington from one of my favourite films, Nightmare before Christmas. Then I became a little more adventurous and found out that I really enjoy drawing pictures on our pumpkins.
We took to the Internet for some inspiration, and she got her heart set on Lock, Stock and Barrel – the 3 trick-or-treating kids from the same film.

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I’d ordered our pumpkin from Ocado, as I wasn’t sure if we’d get to the shops in time, and thankfully Ocado did deliver. In fact, they delivered an absolutely enormous pumpkin, which was so huge I could barely carry it!

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Our little lady was so excited when she saw it, and took great pleasure in washing the mud off it with mummy.

Now the only thing we have to carve with is our very sharp kitchen knives, so I had to do the next bit, which was to cut the top off so she could help get the seeds out.

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She had a brilliant time getting all the seeds out and loved how gooey the insides felt. It was a fab opportunity for us to talk about how the inside of the pumpkin felt, and what it smelled like – talking is always a good way to keep her focussed. She also took a great interest as I was drawing the picture on, although her little fingers did manage to wipe some of it off!

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The preparation part was a great way to get her involved, especially when I knew she wasn’t big enough to do any of the actual cutting – but she did love watching mummy do this bit and was very intrigued.

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The carving part didn’t take me too long, although I did make a couple of mistakes. Can you spot them? It didn’t matter though – she was so happy at the finished result and that was enough to make me happy. Soon we were all dressed up ready to go trick-or-treating for the very first time!

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Overall, my little girl really enjoyed the whole pumpkin carving aspect of Halloween, and I’m so pleased she is now old enough to get involved. It won’t be long before she can also do some of the carving, although I think it’s time I finally invested in some special pumpkin-carving tools. There were a few tricky moments where I was worried I might slip with my samurai-steel knife and lose part of my finger!

We were all really happy with the finished result. What do you think?

Now to think of something for next year!

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I’ve entered this post into the competition run by Gravelmaster.co.uk to win £250 in vouchers. What an amazing prize that is! Why not have a go yourself?

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Another tragedy for captive Orcas

After watching the eye-opening film Blackfish​, I made the decision that we would not give any of the SeaWorld parks our money on our visit to Orlando, and we re-adjusted all of our holiday plans around this. It was difficult because I so wanted our toddler to see these magnificent animals and learn about marine life, however the overwhelming feeling that it was wrong to see Orcas in tanks was something I simply couldn’t shake.

We may have only been 5 guests who spent our money elsewhere, but if everyone listens to their conscience and does the same, then eventually these parks would cease to exist.

The article in the link below isn’t about SeaWorld, but read it in full, watch the video and look at the pictures of the conditions these animals are ‘living’ in.

I don’t claim to know very much about Orcas, but the facts speak for themselves. When these animals continue to die at half of their expected lives, something is clearly wrong.

Captive Orca Dies in his Tank – Just Like his Mum

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