Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The agnostic approach

When Charlie was born, I thought I knew exactly how to bring up a child. Why? Because I'd read the books.
Everyone says babies are not born with instruction manuals, but the shops seem to be full of them. Bibles for the parenting factions.
You choose your approach, you buy your instruction manual, you follow it to the letter, and it works, right?

You've got any number of factions you can join - you can be on the Attachment Parenting team, the Free Range Kids team, the Rod of Iron team, the Baby Led team...you name it, there's a guru with all the answers, just waiting to take your money and tell you that basically, you're doing everything wrong and they are the only ones with the right answers.

So what happens if you buy the parenting bible, follow the instructions, and it doesn't work? Are you doing everything wrong? Is your child damaged, ruined, beyond help?

No. Just no. Can I let you in on a secret?

The instruction manuals don't work. Not all the time, anyway. Children are not computers, or cars, or flat pack wardrobes, they're HUMAN. They're variable.
What works for one child might not work for another, and what works for one parent might not work for another.

I remember well the terror I felt as a first time mum, just absolutely desperate to do everything right, and feeling like I'd permanently ruined my child every time I made a tiny mistake.
Simple comments from people such as "You don't give him a DUMMY, do you?", "Oh, jarred food? Don't you make your own?", "You're cuddling him too much, you'll spoil him!", struck fear into my heart.
I'm doing it wrong! Quick, check the instruction manual, what can I do to make it right?

I followed the instructions that Gina Ford gave me, going against every one of my instincts, crying outside his bedroom door while he screamed himself to sleep, with Gina's imaginary voice screaming in my ear, "Don't give in" He's trying to control you! Show him who's boss!"
My baby was the enemy, and I needed to defeat him, lest he rule my life with his demanding baby behaviour. Why on earth should I feed my screaming baby? It's 6pm, he's not due a feed for at least half an hour!
So I followed the rules, believing that I needed to, Gina knew more than me, a silly 23 year old first time mum. I had to turn to the expert, because I wanted to do it right, even though it made me uncomfortable, unhappy, and went against everything I believed in.

Luckily, 3 kids later, I've found the answer. I've even given it a pretentious name! Can I have my own parenting manual, please?

It's the Agnostic Approach.
It's the "Choose the best bits of all the other approaches and ignore the rest" approach.
It's the "Get up every day and wing it" approach.
It's the "Ignore everyone else and do what works for you" approach.
It's the "Throw away the books and be your own expert" approach.

The thing is, no mattter what you do, some faction or other will disapprove. You'll always be wrong.
If you hug your kids, you're spoiling them. If you don't hug your kids, they're emotionally neglected.
If you breastfeed, you're making a rod for your own back. If you bottle feed, you're selfish and shocking, isn't that what boobs are for?
Co-sleeping? Goodbye sex life. Cot sleeping? Emotionally neglected.
Free range parenting? You're raising hoodlums with no sense of boundaries. Strict parenting? Your kids will never have minds of their own!

And so on, and so on.
Basically, you'll always be doing something wrong, but as far as I'm concerned, if you're happy, your kids are happy, and you go to bed every day with a vow to get up and do it all again tomorrow, learning from your mistakes along the way and showing your kids that the only way to learn is to keep going - you're doing it right.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Every man wants a son....WTF?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Actually, this little jellybaby is our newest addition - say hello to Tootie Le Fourth!
We had our first scan a few weeks ago, and this is our tootie at just 8 weeks gestation.
We have another scan next week, and can't wait to see how much our little jellybean has grown and developed since the last scan.
Already, we're getting the Big Question - are you going to find out if it's a boy or girl?
The answer is no, we like surprises. Of course, we'll be analysing every scan to bits, but we're more than happy to wait until the moment this little bundle is pulled from the sunroof to find out whether it's Arthur or Martha.
Kidding - those aren't our chosen names. It'll be George or Mildred.
Also kidding.

Anyway, I must share something that's been irking me lately. That is, the number of people (and there's been quite a lot), who have said to Steve "I hope for your sake that this one's a boy."
Um, why? Well, the resounding answer I seem to get when I ask this question is "Because every man wants a son."
Now, this is insulting on many levels. First of all, we already have a boy. Remember Charlie? 11 years old, extremely handsome, smart, funny, great kid? Well, he's also a boy!
But, and this is the big BUT, he's not Steve's biological son, which means he doesn't count. 
Thing is....he counts to us, and that's what matters.
It's also insulting because does that mean people think Steve was secretly disappointed to have Amelie, a mere girl? Of course not, nothing could be further from the truth, he adores his girl, and his other girl, and his boy, and this unborn child, whatever gender s/he may be.

I get it from a purely gender-related point of view. The boys in our house are pretty outnumbered. Apart from Steve and Charlie, there's my mum, me, Daisy, Amelie, Marge (the cat), Molly (the dog),Mindy and Jessie (mum's two chiahuauas) and our three (female) guinea pigs.
So yes, in that respect, a boy would in some tiny part help to even out the numbers somewhat, but really, is there any other real reason to have a preference?

The thing is, just because you have a baby of a certain gender, it doesn't automatically mean that they will become the person you had in mind. Not all girls are into princesses and tea parties, and not all boys are into football and cars.

Charlie HATES football. I tried to get him playing football when he was 4, not because I thought he "should", but because his nursery class were starting a new team and I thought I'd get him involved. He hated it from the start, and despite several attempts to engage him, he knew his mind and wouldn't have it.
The final straw came when he absolutely refused one day to take part and was in floods of tears at the sidelines. I realised how unhappy he was and went to give him a hug, at which point the coach walked past and sneered at my FOUR YEAR OLD CHILD "You know what you are? A mummy's boy. And if you don't get on that field and play, you'll always be a mummy's boy"
At which point I picked up my mummy's boy and politely informed the coach that I'd rather my boy was the only gay in the village than a neanderthal like him, and vowed to never make him do anything ever again, just because his gender dictated that he "should".

Incidentally, at 11, he's no more of a mummy's boy than the next kid. He likes computers, and learning, and science. His favourite colour is purple and his favourite band is Queen. Should I be worried? Um, no.

Daisy is into cheerleading, but hates Disney Princesses. She has never worn anything pink, or sparkly, or glittery. In fact, even as a baby, if I'd tried to dress her up like a dolly (which I wouldn't), she'd have ripped it off because it would have hindered her from climbing up the curtains or swinging from door handles.
If you ask her what her party trick is, it won't be singing a song from Frozen, or showing you her shoe collection. It'l be doing the splits upside down, and just as you're about to applaud, she'll fart really loudly and proceed to burp the alphabet, just because she can.
Yep, that's our little princess.

Amelie hasn't quite reached the point of showing preferences for much yet, but I look forward to watching her little personality develop, just as I look forward to watching Tootie Le Fourth's personality develop.

We aren't limiting our kids to certain things based on their gender. We don't walk into a toy shop or clothes shop and automatically rule out half the contents as being "unsuitable", we let our kids decide who they want to be, because at the end of the day, that's exactly what they'll do anyway.

Our kids have the world at their feet - whether they want to be doctors, artists, teachers, astronauts, drag queens or bin collectors - all we want is for them to be happy in their own skin and content to be themselves, safe in  the knowledge that no matter what, we will always love and support them.

So please, don't hope for Steve's sake or anyone else's that this baby is a certain gender, as long as our kids are happy, healthy and are brought up to be decent human beings, their gender is absolutely irrelevant.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Online bullying

Last night, a good friend of mine had a horrible experience - someone posted something very personal from her past on social media, something she really didn't want anyone to see.

Her response was incredible...far from running away, she went on Facebook and publicly told her friends and family what was happening to her. She has received a massive outpouring of support, and now, rather than feeling humiliated and degraded, she has come out of the experience with even more respect from her true friends, and is empowered.
In short, she's beaten the bullies at their own game.

A couple of years ago, I experienced vicious online bullying, again from a "friend". She had taken a generic post on my Facebook the wrong way, assuming it was about her (it wasn't), and rather than ask me about it, she instead got her husband to launch a frankly disgusting hate campaign against me.
He posted that I was a c**t, a whore, and many other horrible names. He said he hoped my husband would see sense and leave me, and worst of all, said some really nasty things involving my unborn baby's health.
Other people, many who didn't even know me, joined in, calling me names, making threats and wishing all manner of nastiness on me.

What did I do? I ran.
I deleted and blocked them on Facebook, made sure none of the nasty posts could be seen on my page, and otherwise just let them get away with it.
To be fair, at the time, they were having an extremely hard time and just wanted to lash out at someone, and deliberately misunderstanding my post had given them the ideal opportunity.
I didn't want to make things any harder for them, but looking back, I wish I hadn't just let them get off with treating me in such an unforgivable way.
I wish I had had the courage to publicly say "This is happening to me...don't let it happen to you"
Instead, most people I know aren't even aware that this happened to me.

We can't let bullies win. No matter what the circumstances, if someone is making you feel in any way uncomfortable, humiliated or upset online, please please do something about it.

Tell your friends, tell your kids, and tell yourself. You are worth more, you deserve to only be surrounded by people who make you happy.

To anyone affected by bullying, online or otherwise, take action now. I promise the support will overwhelm you.

And to my friend, I salute you. Thank you for inspiring me xxx

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Lost in the house...found in the mountains

I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but I have. The last few posts I've done have been a bit...I don't know, fed up, maybe?
It's easy to get caught up in the treadmill of everyday life - you tidy up, the house gets messed up again, you tidy up again, everyone gets hungry. You feed them, then the kitchen is a mess. You tidy up, and they're hungry again...etc etc ad infinitum.

I've always fancied myself as a "fly by the seat of my pants kinda girl, you know, moment to moment". Think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but with less prostitution. Okay, no prostitution.
The thing is, deep down, I'm not all that spontaneous. I NEED routine, and stability, and to know what's happening next.
The more kids you have, or the busier your life is, the more I think you need routines and structure in your life.
The thing is, sometimes it can become too rigid, and I especially find myself clinging to my routines, sometimes unnecessarily. I become ruled by the clock, waking up every morning with a head full of to-do lists, and becoming irritated when anything gets in the way of my routine.

"No, we can't go to the park, it's 4pm, I have to make dinner"

"No, we can't play a board game, it's 6pm and we need to tidy up after dinner"

"No, I can't stop and play with you, have you SEEN the state of the house?"

So many "No's", not nearly enough "Yesses".  When we become bogged down in everyday life, it becomes far too easy to forget to get down to the kids' level, to think "What harm would it do?", and to just ease up a little.

This weekend past, we were invited to Aviemore for the weekend. Steve's mum and dad have a timeshare there, and they asked us to come for the weekend. It was just the break we all so badly needed.

It was BEAUTIFUL. The little house we stayed in was gorgeous, and we were allowed to take Molly (our dog), who I think needed a holiday as much as we did. She sat beautifully in the boot the whole way there, and had a brilliant time running around in Loch Morlich when we first got there...

Watching Molly leaping around in the loch, full of joy (is there a lovelier sight than a happy dog jumping in the water?), made us realise how rigid thngs have been at home. We had spent so much time telling her off, not letting her on the sofa, getting annoyed with her for barking, etc. It was a much needed reminderfor us that she isjust like one of our kids, and needs a bit more freedom than she's been given lately. She was delighted to have so many open spaces to run around in.

Steve and I both needed a reminder that there's more to life than work, housework, routines and constant tiredness. We so badly needed a space to breathe, to enjoy a bit of sunshine and to reconnect. Our days had been filled with jobs, as soon as one thing was done, we were straight on to the next thing, doing everything for the kids and the house and having precious little left at the end of each day for ourselves, or each other.

The weather was stuning, and it was lovely during the time we were in the house to just leave the door open, to let the sun stream in and to let the kids and Molly run in and out of the house as they pleased. The found simple things to keep them happy, such as timing themselves running around the outside of the house, or finding random items to hide for each other to find.
I needed to hear them giggle, to see them run, and to watch their little faces filled with carefree joy, to remember that these are the things that matter.
Who cares that it's 4pm? So what if we eat dinner a little late? Does it really matter that there's a cushion on the floor, or that the dog is soaking wet, or that the beds haven't been made yet? All these things that had irritated the hell out of me just 24 hours before, suddenly became completely irrelevant.

On sunday, we took the kids on the Funicular Railway up the Cairngorm mountain, and if you ever needed something to heal your soul, this view would do it...

Oh my very goodness. When we got to the top and looked down, it was breathtaking. This is what life's all about. Not laundry. Not cleaning the fridge, or taking an inventory of the kitchen cupboards, or scrubbing the toilet bowl, or shouting because I've tripped over somebody's bloody shoes again.
We need to get outside, to appreciate this stunning landscape, to breathe in fresh air and to feel the sun on our faces.

I know things have to be done, we all have to work, to tidy up and to keep our families going with the mundane, everyday tasks. 
What we need to be careful of though, is that we don't get lost in the routines and drudgery. If you find yourself losing your sparkle, head outside and put your watch away at the earliest opportunity. 

I lost my soul in the kitchen sink, but I found my heart in the mountains.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Tricky days

Picture the scene...the baby has sickness and diahorrea, so at any given moment, she is likely to either projectile vomit, covering everything in a 3 metre radius (think killer whale shows at Sea World - the first 14 rows are going to get soaked!), or let out a squeal, as an ominous wetness starts seeping through the back and legs of her clothing. Either way, it means stripping her off and hosing her down in the shower, again.

Meanwhile, Middle Child, who has the energy of a Duracell Bunny, and the attention span of a bumblebee, is following me around, literally never more than a couple of feet away from me, asking constant, incessant questions..."What are you doing? Are you done yet? Why is Amelie crying? Can I have something to eat? Are we going anywhere today? Are you nearly finished? Amelie has been sick! Are you going to clean it up? I'm bored. Look at me, play with me, talk to me! Look at this! Mum, look! Look, mum! Mum. Mum. Muuuuuum!"

Eldest child, who would happily spend 24 hours a day in his bedroom, having his brain fried by Minecraft and Youtube, curtains closed against the blazing sunshine, building up a vast collection of cereal bowls (complete with congealed milk), empty juice cans, crisp packets, plates and dirty clothes, comes into the living room. He's still in his pyjamas, despite the fact that it's nearly lunchtime, and instead of just speaking to me, decides to get my attention by knocking on the living room door.
The dog immediately goes apeshit, thinking someone is trying to break in and eat her family, so starts running around frantically, barking her head off.

In the midst of being elbow deep in baby vomit, with aforementioned baby screaming inconsolably and Middle Child bouncing up and down inches from my face, chattering constantly, and the dog barking the house down, Eldest Child is loudly asking for a can of Dr Pepper. No, I say, he's already had one, and they have ridiculous amounts of sugar, and what kind of mother would I be if I let him overdose on sugar.
He starts loudly negotiating with me, over the sound of the dog, the baby, the Middle Child, and holy crap, why the hell is the TV so bloody loud? Make it stop, just make it effing stop.
"OKAY!" I shout, have the Dr Pepper if it makes you happy, on the condition that he tidies his room. He trots off, triumphant. Instant guilt. My child is going to end up with Type 2 Diabetes and no teeth by the age of 16, and it'll all be my fault. Why am I such a crap mum?
I turn my attention back to cleaning up vomit off the sofa, while "Shhhh Shhh Shhh-ing" the screaming baby, and turning the TV down, and saying "Uh huh", and "mmm hmm" at appropriate moments in Middle Child's incessant dialogue.

I go through to the kitchen, which I'd cleaned just a few minutes before the chaos broke out, only to discover that it's been wrecked again. Every surface is covered in dirty plates, bowls and juice cans from Eldest Child's room. I sigh, and set about clearing it all up.
Back through to the living room, which has now been covered completely in Middle Child's toys. I decide to ignore this and take Baby upstair s to attempt a nap.
It's a struggle,  but she finally goes down. I sit on the bed, listening to her quietly snoring, and think how tempting it would be to lie down as well.
No such luck, the bathroom is covered in wet towels, dirty clothes, puddles from the shower, toothbrushes with little toothpaste puddles underneath, Baby's ruined clothes...plus, there's dinner to prepare, laundry to put away, rooms to tidy, and tidy again, and tidy again.

Sometimes, the relentless nature of parenting is just too much. Don't get me wrong, the good far, far outweighs the bad. It just takes a little giggle, or cuddle, or "Love you" to make it all worthwhile, but let's be honest, some days are just really really hard.

I read a pretty shocking story yesterday about Britain's youngest parents, who had a baby last week when they were only 12 and 13 years old. Now, I'm not about to get into the ins and outs about how I feel about this, it's not my place to judge, but some of the comments on the story were awful. People saying they should all be taken into care, assuming that the grandparents were "Benefit scum", you name it. Judgement aplenty.
Now, these kids are going to struggle, no doubt about it. They're only kids themselves, and I'm pretty sure that a lot of the parenting of the baby will be down to the grandparents, but what these kids need is support, education and help, not judgement.

This parenting gig is HARD. I'm 34, on my fourth pregnancy, and think of myself as a confident, calm, pretty good mum most of the time, but I have days, quite a lot of them, where I find myself, like I did last night, crying at the kitchen sink because I'm so bloody tired and can't face another dirty pot or crying child.
What I need when I feel like that is a cuddle, for my husband to stroke my hair and kiss my cheek and tell me that I'm doing great, that I need to sit down and he'll finish up for me.

What will these kids get when they inevitably struggle, flail and fall on their faces? They won't have anyone saying "I know, it's hard, isn't it? You're doing great, keep going"
They'll be bombarded with tuts, eye rolls and "Told you so's". They'll think, as we all do, that they're terrible parents, and instead of being reassured that we all feel like that, they'll be told that they were too young, that they don't now anything about life, and that of course they're rubbish parents, they're still kids.

I don't approve of the situation, but I do feel for them. I hope society , at least in some small part, will support this young family instead of kicking them when they're down.

Gotta go, I hear a baby crying and I'm pretty sure my kitchen is wrecked.....again.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

5 Things...

....you have to bake.....and 5 things I'm yet to try.

I love baking, I bake at least 3 times a week. There's something very comforting about knowing that no matter what you have a fancy for, you can find a recipe, grab some ingredients and make it happen.
My mum in law follows a gluten free diet, so I usually bake some gluten free yummies for her when we have them over to visit, and when I followed a dairy free diet, it was great to know I could still have some cakes and bakes that were safe to eat.

I often like to try new things, but here's a round up of my top 5 treats that I bake most often:

This cake is AMAZING. It's everything a chocolate cake should be - rich, dark, sweet, moreish, moist and best of al, easy to make.
I have made this gluten free by simply using gluten free flour, and adding 1tsp of xanthan gum. 
I've also made it dairy free by using very high cocoa dark chocolate, and dairy free spread in place of butter.
It's an awesome birthday cake (the most requested birthday cake by my kids), and perfect for any occasion.

2) Tessa Kiros' Banana Bread
OMG. If you make one banana bread in your lifetime, make it this one. The recipe is from a lovely (highly recommended) book by Tessa Kiros, called Apples for Jam.
It's a gorgeous, soft and fluffy cake, smells amazing, and is just perfect if you pour the batter into muffin cases and make banana breakfast muffins. I like to sprinkle oats on the top of the muffins as well, just for a little extra fibre, and it makes them look uber pretty. Lovely with raspberries or bluberries inside, too.

180g Dark Brown Sugar
3 or 4 Medium Ripe Bananas, Mashed
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
250g Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
3 Tbsp Warm Milk
A Pinch Of Salt
How you do it
Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F) and butter a bread tin.
Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and then whisk in the mashed bananas. Add the eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of salt and whisk in well. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and beat until smooth. Mix the baking soda into the milk and stir into the batter.n the top and a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean.

3) Plain white cake
Sounds boring, right? The great thing with this basic sponge recipe is that you can take it in any direction you like. Here's the basic recipe:
8oz Butter or Margarine
8Caster sugar
8oz Self Raising Flour
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 200c.
Cream butter and sugar together, mix in eggs. Fold in flour. Pour into either 2 sandwich tins or cupcake cases and bake for 15 mins (for cupcakes) or 20-25 mins (for sponges), or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Easy peasy, right? The great thing with this is that it's just a base. I like to make it into a victoria sponge by sandwiching two sponges together with whipped cream and jam, or filling the middle with jam and buttercream, and covering the top with jam and dessicated coconut.
You can also add cocoa to make a chocolate sponge, make little iced fairy cakes, add lemon juice and zest to make a lovely lemon cake, coconut cake with lime icing...the world is your lobster with this cake!

4) Scottish Tablet

If you've never made tablet before, you definitely should. It's a bit lengthy to make, but really simple. It just needs lots of stirring, which in itself can be a comforting, kinda hypnotic activity.
Plus, you can fool yourself that you're burning off the 15000000 calories in each ridiculously addictive piece.
This recipe is my favourite.

5) Phoebe's Fabulous Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Remember that episode of Friends, where Phoebe makes the best oatmeal raisin cookies in the world? Well, she wasn't lying.
This Recipe is awesome. The cookies are crumbly, chewy and stupidly addictive. I make half the recipe without raisins for the crazy people in my house who don't like raisins, and the plain old oatmeal cookies are just as addictive.


5 Things I really want to try..

Look at it. LOOK AT IT!!! Isn't it a thing of beauty? Oaty, gingery biscuit base with a gooey ginger icing on top. OMG. I'm making this today. My friend Victoria had posted on Facebook that she was making it last night, so I googled it and now I cant. stop. thinking. about. it.

Hello? Soft little chocolate cake discs filled with nutty, chocolatey nutella frosting? Come on, you and I both know this needs no justification.

Little warm, sugary cinnamon sticks with a warm chocolate dipping sauce....DROOL.....

Holy crap, I think I just gained a stone looking at this. Any combo of sweet and salty works for me.

I ADORE peanut butter (although I'm slightly off it since becoming pregnant, strangely), and these look amazing. Imagine, warm, chewy brownies with salty peanut butter and creamy ice cold vanilla ice cream. WANT.

Damn, I'm hungry now! What are your favourite bakes, and what's on your to-bake list?

Saturday, 12 April 2014

If in doubt...let's go out!

Yesterday was a normal saturday in our house, but there was a slight threat of a black cloud descending.
We've bought a family bus, which we'd planned to go everywhere in. Look, isn't it gorgeous?
It's amazing - everything we need, 7 seats, big boot for the dog, sliding doors to make getting in and out easier, automatic, awesome stereo (priorities), and it looks cool. Only trouble is, it doesn't work.
Since we got it, everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong! We're reaching the point of spending more in parts and repairs than the bus cost to buy!
Anyhoo, poor Steve was getting pretty fed up with it yesterday. We thought we were getting things under control with it, but yesterday, he went out to give it a run and found a massive oil leak. Aaaargh!
So, he spent most of the morning furiously (literally) researching what to do next.

Meanwhile, Amelie was full of the cold and generally grumpy and miserable. She had a blocked nose and was struggling to take a bottle, but completely uninterested in solids. Poor baby, she spent most of the morning thrashing around and screaming.

Charlie was in one of his adolescent moods, unwilling to leave his incredibly messy darkened room, get off his computer, or do anything he was asked. 

Daisy had just come back from a couple of days with her dad, and as always when she comes home, was overly excited to be back, hyper and defiant.

It had all the hallmarks of a potentially draining day, with one added bonus - the sun was shining. Okay, so it was pretty darn windy, but it was bright, so I made an executive decision that we were all going to go out. We drove to a little town just a few minutes from where we live, parked at the top of the cliffs and walked down to the tiny rocky beach.

It's amazing to see the transformation that happens to the kids when we take them out. Whether it's a park, a forest, a beach or a castle, they turn into different kids. Seriously, five minutes beforehand, Daisy had been whining and getting upset about every little thing ("Why are you looking at me like that? Why are you talking to me in that voice?"), Charlie had been slumped in the car with his hood up, mumbling incoherently when asked a question, and Amelie had been screaming the place down.
We got out of the car, and everyone suddenly cheered right up. It's like fresh air and sunshine actually have magical powers!

Daisy immediately set about running around finding unusual rocks and shells, squealing with delight when she found one. 
"Look! A stripy one!"
"OMG! A sparkly one"
"WOW! This one's shaped like an easter egg!!!"

Charlie had his phone, so was taking lots of photos to share with his friends on Instagram, and decided that he and Steve should go exploring on some further away rocks. I could hear him excitedly making plans..."So we'll go over the bridge of destiny, past the rocks of justice and over to the cliffs of adventure!!"

Steve impressed Amelie with his stone skimming skills...

As for Amelie, well, she just took it all in. She enjoyed picking up rocks, feeling the different textures, and gazing out to sea...

It was lovely to see everyone forgetting their troubles and enjoying the sunshine. We love all outdoor activities, but going to beaches is my favourite.

I think it's great to get out in nature, especially when you're feeling fed up. There's something about seeing things that have been there for thousands of years that reminds us how small we are, that some things change quickly, but others remain the same. It's comforting to know that we can always escape to the sea and be calmed by the sound of the waves and the salty air.
I love fishing towns, little boats and fisherman's cottages always bring a smile to my face.

If you're ever feeling fed up or stressed out, or the kids are driving you nuts, I would definitely recommend following the mantra "If in doubt, let's go out!"
It works every time.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Night night, Mama

I, like most others, was rocked to the core this week by the tragic news of Peaches Geldof, who died very suddenly on Monday at the age of just 25.
Her two baby sons are not even two years old yet. Such a tragic loss of a beautiful mother.
I've always liked Peaches. I felt like we had a bit in common - we'd both suffered horrible losses of loved ones, had turbulent years, made silly decisions, gone slightly off the rails, then fallen in love and embraced a settled, family life as our saving grace.
I admired the fact that she was a vocal fan of attachment parenting, something I'm also a fan of, and the way she stood up to the horrible Katie Hopkins when they appeared on This Morning together.
She adored her gorgeous boys, and they adored her right back. She still shared a bed with them every night, and it really was heartbreaking to think of those poor babies going to bed for the first time ever without their beloved Mama.

It struck me that this just highlights something that happens every day. Babies and children all over the world lose their mums every single day, whether due to illness, war, accidents, or any manner of tragedies, and I can't imagine anything worse.

Thoughts like these remind me how precious and unpredictable life is, and make me hug my babies extra tight. 

Mum, Mama, Mummy, Mother. These are the words that define me. They fill my heart and hurt my head. I've had days where I'd happily change my name, because if I heard someone shouting it one more damn time, I might just lose it. But what can you do? When kids need their mum, no-one else will do.
Sometimes the sheer responsibility of motherhood is so overwhelming, it's tempting to run away, but to be honest, none of us would get very far. 
The umbilical cord may be cut at birth, but we are all attatched to our kids by an invisible cord so strong, that when we're separated even for a short time, it's like a physical pain in our hearts.
It doesn't matter how big my kids get, I still feel that attachment. When the older two go to their dad's, even when they disappear into the doors of their school, sometimes it's all I can do not to run after them, hold them close and say "Just stay with me, please".

They drive us nuts, they exhaust us, they take every ounce of our time, money and energy. Sometimes I feel so wrung out by motherhood, I don't know where my kids end and I begin. Who am I, again?
Oh yes, that's right. I'm Mum.
I adore these little people, and sitting here, holding a sleepy Amelie on my knee while she rests her head against my chest, there's nowhere else on earth I'd rather be. 
Holding one baby, growing another. This is my life, and this is who I am. Like Peaches, I only became "me" when I became a mother.

These babies need me, and I need them every bit as much. To the world, I might be "just a mum", but to these little people, "mum" is the world.
The thought of them going to bed without their mummy in the world brings a gulping, gasping sob into my throat. I can't even imagine it.

To all the mamas who feel worn out, wrung out and exhausted, just remember that you are the absolute universe to your kids. They don't care that you haven't washed your hair in days or that you're permanently in leggings. All they want is to hear your soft heartbeat as they rest their tired little heads on your chest.
To all the babies who will never hear that beautiful sound again, my heart reaches out to you. If I could be a Mama to every one of you, I would.

And to Peaches, rest in peace, beautiful girl. Night night, Mama xxxx

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Excuse me while I hoik up my judgey pants...

We went for an unexpected day out yesterday. It started as a trip to Home Bargains, so Daisy could spend the £3 that was burning a hole in her piggy bank (she struggles to save money, ever).
Because the shop is by the beach, Charlie suggested that, since it was a nice day, he could use some of his money to buy a frisbee and we could go down to the beach for a game or two. Nice idea, we said, and the frisbee was bought.
Unfortunately, being in Aberdeen, by the time we left the shop, it was piddling with rain, so we decided on a whim to take the kids to the carnivals. We're really lucky where we live, there's a lot of flashy, expensive entertainment, and we almost never take the kids there. Why? Because it can suck £100 out of your wallet before you can say "Oooh! Dodgems!"
This time, however, we decided to treat the kids and let them have a little fun. Charlie and Steve made a beeline for the roller coasters, and I took the girls to Smuggler's Cove, a big, lovely soft play area.
Sitting watching Amelie joyfully swirling the coloured balls around in the ball pool, while Daisy pointed out each different colour to her, I felt happy and content. Until...

SMASH! A plastic ball comes flying through the air and hits Amelie on the shoulder. I look around, but can't be sure whether it was thrown deliberately, or just an accident.
SMASH! Another ball smacks her directly in the face. My mama bear instints kick in and I swing round to see who I need to open a can of whoopass on. There's a very cute little boy in denim dungarees with curly hair, and he's smiling as he throws ball after ball at Amelie, while Daisy is virtually lying on top of her in the manner of a soldier taking a grenade for his comrades.
I go over to him. "Honey? Please don't throw balls at the baby. I know you're just trying to play, but she's only little"
He ignores me and continues to lob more balls at Amelie.
"Um, excuse me? Don't do that, please. You might hurt someone"
He looks at me. "So? It's fun."
Grrr. I'm losing my patience. "No, it's not fun, it's mean. Stop it please"
He smiles at me. "No"
I look around, desperately trying to find this little hoodlum's parents. Of course, they're nowhere to be seen. They could be any of the dozens of parents I can see hunched over tables, reading newspapers, staring at their phones, or chatting to friends. Seriously, I'm all for letting kids play and not being on their case every two minutes, but godammit, keep an eye on them! It's always the bullies and downright rude kids that seem to get the free run of places like this, and it drives me nuts.

I have a thing about manners. I don't claim to be a perfect parent, and I certainly don't have perfect kids, but one thing they might thank me for when they're older is that I've always drummed manners into them.
It's as simple as this - if you want something, you say please. If you get something, you say thank you. If someone asks you to do something (within reason), you do it, and if someone asks you to stop doing something, you SODDING WELL STOP DOING IT.

Nothing winds me up more than bad manners. Kids, I can almost forgive, but adults just give me the rage. How many times do you see adults in shops not saying please or thank you? Not holding doors open?
People in restaurants ignoring their families while staring at phones. Waaaaah.

The way I see it, hopefully if you bring kids up to have manners and have consideration for others, they'll grow into adults who have manners and consideration for others. I'd like to think that we as a society aren't becoming so busy and absorbed in our digital lives, that we're losing sight of what's right in front of us.

I'm not a judgemental person, I hate to make judgements based on glimpses of strangers' lives, but if I could say one thing to the general public (including myself), it would be "Put your phone down, and look at your kids. Say please and thank you, and encourage them to do the same"
Let's reclaim the lost art of manners before they disappear completely.

I'll put my judgey pants away now, thank you very much...