Saturday, 16 August 2014

Getting organised - menus and more!

I never got round to listing last week's menu, so here it is...

Saturday - Chicken madras and rice

Sunday - Mince and tatties

Monday - Lamb doner, chips and salad

Tuesday - Salmon steaks with new potatoes and veg

Wednesday - Lamb koftas, savoury rice, roast veg and salad

Thursday - Lasagne, garlic bread and salad

Friday - Mongolian beef, root mash, broccoli and cauliflower

This week, I'm really scraping the bottom of the freezer and cupboards, because we're trying to use up what we have before doing a massive shopping and prep session. I'm hoping to fill the freezer with complete meals for the slow cooker to last us at least a month or two, so everything must go!

This week, all I have left in my freezer is 2 bags of beef mince, 2 bags of lamb mince, a pack of chicken breasts and a bag of stewing beef. 
Here's the menu...

Saturday - chicken curry and rice (have you noticed a pattern? Saturday is ALWAYS curry night!)

Sunday - Lamb orzo in slow cooker

Monday - Stovies

Tuesday - Lasagne

Wednesday - Slow cooked gammon, roast potatoes and peas (Daisy's birthday choice, homemade chocolate cake for afters!)

Thursday - chilli con carne (my birthday choice)

Friday - mousaka

This week, I'll start collecting slow cooker recipes and writing down lists of what I need to buy. Hopefully next week, I'll do a giant shopping trip and spend a few hours prepping veg and meat so that we have a good number of fully prepped meals just ready to defrost and chuck into the slow cooker. Hopefully if I can get into this habit, it'll save me time and money, because I'll just need to buy fresh fruit and veg most weeks, and just do a quick salad each night instead of spending an hour every afternoon sorting dinner out!

I've been getting organised in other areas as well - the kids have everything they need for school, I just need to do some ironing over the weekend to make sure they both have a weeks' worth of clothes ready to go.

It's Daisy's birthday on Wednesday, but I must admit I'm not very organised in that respect, we've bought nothing yet! It'll get done on Tuesday when she goes back to school.

Baby wise - I've sorted and washed all of my newborn clothes. This weekend, I'll iron what I need to and that'll be another job done. We have heaps of stuff, all sorted into boy, girl and neutral piles, so to save time, I'll just iron the neutral stuff until we find out if Tootie le Fourth is a chap or a chapess!

I've even started thinking about Christmas! Two of Steve's presents have been chosen, one definite thing for Amelie and a few ideas for other folks. I'll get the shopping started as soon as the kids are back in school this week.

So....that's all my organisation so far! Getting there, maybe one of these days I can be one of those smug organised mums who has every eventuality planned for. Baby steps.....

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Digging deep

We watched a programme the other day about men training to become Royal Marines Commandos, and it focused on the times when the training is incredibly tough - when the recruits think they can't possibly take any more and consider giving up. It was about them having to dig deep and find their fighting spirit to get up and keep going, even when they felt like giving up.

It occurred to me that it's like that for pretty much everyone at times, isn't it? No matter what we do in life, we will all have times when we think "Sod this, what am I doing?".
Parenthood is no different. In fact, it's probably the biggest example of having no choice but to keep going, no matter how exhausting, frustrating, upsetting and plain old bloody hard it might get.

Suck it up, princess, because nobody else will do it for you.

Amelie is going through a particularly difficult phase at the moment. Our happy, smiley, content little baby is suddenly very frustrated and angry. She has spectacular tantrums, where she headbutts doors, floors and furniture so hard, we're certain she'll do herself major damage.
She nips us, and bites us, and slaps our faces. Daisy is even a little bit scared of her!
She sleeps pretty well most of the time, but maybe once or twice a week, she is up during the night, and gets very upset, screaming and throwing herself around. I usually spend pretty much the whole of those ights downstairs in the living room, feeling very lonely and tired while she screams the night away, because I don't want to disturb everyone else.

We have this brilliant app at the moment called Wonder Weeks, which explains what's going on developmentally with your baby at their particular age. It explains what they call developmental "leaps", where your baby or toddler might be having a particularly stormy time. It tells you what's going on in their bodies and minds, and how best to deal with it.
This is great because years ago, the attitude was just "Oh, they're being naughty, and testing boundaries. Ignore them or punish them."
Now, there's much more understanding that babies are going through almost constant changes that they're not emotionally equipped to deal with, which obviously manifests itself in the form of tantrums and violent outbursts, and occasionally sleepless nights.

A bit of understanding goes a long way. When Charlie went through this phase 11 years ago, I struggled so much, because I felt like I was failing him. This time, I know it's a phase, and will pass, but it doesn't make it any less distressing at the time.

I'm so tired. I'm 27 weeks pregnant, so have reached that stage where I'm breathless because I'm starting to be squished from the inside. I'm trying so hard to keep going all day, every day. There's housework to do, the older two kids need a bit of attention and involvement, and obviously a lot of my time is being spent keeping Amelie safe and entertained, which is often difficult when I'm reaching the end of my energy reserves and I have to deal with a major tantrum.

None of this is a whinge. I don't want to hear "Well, you chose this!"
I know I chose this, I'm not UN-choosing it, but it's really bloody hard sometimes. I know that at least for the next year, there are going to be tough times.
I'll have a newborn to breastfeed, a toddler to keep busy and safe, and two older kids to support through the transition into a new school, where I should encourage new friendships by inviting friends over to play or have dinner, even when I'm so exhausted, I can barely walk the length of myself.
There will be days like today, where I am so tired, all I can do is go through the motions with silent tears rolling down my face. But there's never a bad day, just bad parts of days.
In fact, let's not even call them bad parts, just tricky parts. 
All it takes is to see them all giggle together, or see them all eat their dinner, or even have them all asleep and have 5 minutes to breathe quietly, to put it all in perspective and make me wonder why it was all such a struggle.

Today was a brilliant example, I was just knackered and emotional and finding every moment really difficult. Then, out of nowhere, Amelie fell asleep and Charlie and Daisy played happily together while I laid down. I didn't sleep as such, but just having a little while to be quiet and still was all I needed and I was able to see each of my kids for the lovely little people they are.

Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that it'll pass. It always passes. Everything is a phase.

And if that doesn't solve everything, there's always coffee and chocolate.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

It isn't a choice

Today, I woke to the tragic news that Robin Williams, one of my all time favourite actors and comedians, was found dead due to an apparent suicide. He was clearly a lot of other people's favourites as well, and I've been close to tears all day looking at the countless tributes on my Facebook feed.

He was a famously troubled soul, such a contrast to the funny, larger than life persona that we all adored watching on our screens.
As many people have said, it's so sad to think that someone who brought fun and laughter to so many millions of people around the world, was privately battling demons that ultimately overcame him.

I've written about depression before, but it really is such a misunderstood illness. If this tragedy can bring anything good, at least it's got lots of people talking about depression and what it can do.

What has surprised me is that there seems to be more understanding than ever, which can never be a bad thing. Okay, so a few people have said "But he had so much talent, so much money, so many fans...why was he depressed?", but the majority of people have simply expressed deep sympathy and sadness for a dark and lost soul who has left us all bereft.

There will always be that view of depression though - when people point out how many good things are in a depressed person's life...."But you have a happy family/lots of money/a beautiful home/a great job....what have YOU got to be depressed about?"

Here's the's not a choice.

Depression is an illness, and it can kill. It's as deadly as cancer, a deep darkness that can spread silently through your life without even you being aware of it until it's too deeply ingrained.
It can be frustrating for people who live with someone who is battling depression, because for all the world, I guess it does look like a choice.

Just get out of bed, dammit! Smile, watch a comedy, treat yourself to some retail therapy, have a cocktail....

You know that's like putting a band-aid on a broken leg, right?

You never hear anyone saying to someone who's recently been diagnosed with cancer, "But you're always so bubbly! What do YOU have to get cancer about?"

Of course not, that would be ridiculous. We KNOW that nobody chooses to get cancer, and it's the same with depression, or any other mental illness.
Like addiction, depression doesn't care who you are. You could be rich, poor, fat, thin, black, white, gay, doesn't care if you're a parent (but what about your kids???), or a professional, or anything in between.

Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks "Ah, today, I think I'll become a heroin addict/an alcoholic/bipolar/filled with such despair that I will need to end my life immediately"

I'm glad that the world at large seems to be developing more of an understanding of mental illness, but we can always do with learning more about how to cope, especially if we live with someone who is suffering.

Love, understanding, patience. It can be hard, and frustrating, and terrifying. I know only too well what it's like to tragically lose a beloved one to depression, and I never want to go through it again, but at the end of the day, it's out there. We have to be aware of it and what to do if we find ourselves either feeling depressed or loving someone who is.

This article on the best and worst things to say to someone who is depressed is a good starting point, as are organisations such as Mind and The Samaritans. 

We must be aware that, like cancer, we won't be able to "save" everyone, but at least if we know how to find or give support, it's a start.

Rest in peace, Robin. You were a brilliant man, who will never, ever be forgotten. I hope you've found your heaven.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Getting Organised - what's on the menu?

Last week, we were away camping, so I didn't have a menu as such, but this week, I had an abundance of beef mince, lamb mince and potatoes, plus I wanted to include lots of healthy fresh veg, so here's what I came up with for this week's menu....

SATURDAY: Beer Butt Chicken (using this recipe from BBC Good Food - image shown), served with butternut coconut rice, corn on the cob and salad

SUNDAY: Fajitas, using leftover chicken

MONDAY: Lamb doner with chips and salad

TUESDAY: Mince and tatties

WEDNESDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs

THURSDAY: Fillet tips, baked potatoes and salad

FRIDAY: Chicken, chickpea and spinach curry with rice (using leftover chicken)

Lunches will mostly be salad stuff, with smoked mackerel, grilled halloumi and hummous, or soups and sandwiches. I might bake something as well, if I find the time!

What's on your menu this week?