Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

Sweet night, sweet serenity. 

So here I sit. 4:04am. Those big blue eyes stare up at me in wonderment. My eight week old daughter is in my arms, writhing and wriggling as she struggles to digest her extra thick anti-reflux milk. It seems hard for her little body to deal with the eagerly ingested five ounce feed. She is beautiful.

Last night she woke at 1:30am, just an hour after I had managed to fall asleep  myself. We were both still awake at 4:30am. A hard night yes, but nonetheless I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Luckily it’s half term so there was no 7am wake up call or school run to do meaning I could at least salvage a couple of hours rest this morning.

I find it’s these times, when our busy chaotic household is sleeping and the conversations, laughter and tears have all faded into sighs of slumber, when I snatch a little quiet time with my thoughts. It’s a valuable thing to have moments of peace of mind, especially when you have four crazy young children and a creative whirlwind of a husband.

I find clarity comes at night. When all the background noise dulls to nothing more than birdsong and the soft breathing from my littlest and biggest loves either side of me, I process the day’s events, remembering the hilarious moments afforded to me by our very own bunch of mini comedians. Revisiting the tears and the tantrums when they inevitably clash with each other. Reminiscing about the cuddles and I love yous.

I assess my parenting; how did I do today? Did I handle that tantrum ok? Did I make it worse by not being as patient as I could have been? Did I respond to each of the extraordinary stories they tell with enough enthusiasm? Did I feed them well enough? Did I teach them valuable lessons and allow them to embrace the world as children should? Did I give each member of my little universe, including my husband, sufficient attention? The answers are not always yes.

When our daughter was new I struggled with this. The extra demands on my time and energy were near impossible to take in my stride. For those first few weeks we all suffered in different ways while our family unit adjusted it’s balance and found its new axis. I went through a period of beating myself up about this. I felt like I was failing. Failing as a parent, a wife and even as a person.

As the weeks have moved on so has my mental state. Now as I sit here watching those big blue eyes and tiny fingers exploring as she feeds, I find myself feeling a rather proud sense of achievement. I kept four mini versions of my husband and I fed, watered, safe and happy today. I took them outside into the world and gave them opportunities to discover and explore. I laughed with them and played with them. I encouraged discipline when their behaviour was inappropriate. I talked with them. I cuddled them. I helped to each one of them to grow just a little bit more today.

While writing this tonight our two year old had a nightmare. Apparently he doesn’t like the wolf and said wolf is incredibly frightening. He clung to me desperately and sobbed while I reassured him that there really was no wolf and that he was in fact safe and warm in his bed. His little voice in my ear and tiny arms wrapping tightly around my neck tell me all I need to know about my parenting. He is safe and loved in my arms. No big scary dream-wolf can harm him there.

Therein lies the answer to all of my questions and critiquing; today my family knew I loved them. I find my peace and shut my eyes, ready to do it all over again in just a few hours time.

Socially Unacceptable

Socially Unacceptable

This weekend I had my eyes violently opened to the underlying horrors of social media.  I discovered in the cruelest fashion how easily these virtual bubbles we exist in online are burst.

Someone stole what we thought were private photos of our son.  Not only did they steal them but they spent well over a year creating a whole online life for themselves where our son was in fact their son.  They created a birthdate, labour story and name for him.  They posted regular updates and pictures including photos of our son receiving treatment in hospital while fighting for his life against meningitis and encephalitis.  They commented how brave he was, how scared they were, how blessed they were that he had beaten it.  It made me sick.

We discovered the photos on Instagram at first after a friend recognised our boy in a picture which referred to him with the wrong name.  This friend contacted me to query it.  From this we discovered two Facebook profiles posing as a couple, going by the names Laney Wilson and Ryan Clarke who claimed to be our son’s parents.  There were several photos of our son, even a photo with part of my face in and one with my husband’s heavily tattooed and very recognisable arm!

From here we discovered that the profiles’ friends were also using photos of four of our friends’ children in the same way.  One profile by the name of Carla Clarke had memorial photos of a child we know is alive and well as he attends our son and daughter’s primary school.  These photos were captioned ‘sleep tight little angel’ and included birth and death dates. All the children were around the same age in the photos and all were blond, pale and blue eyed.

We immediately reported it to the police but unfortunately there is no crime in what they have done.  We have reported it to Facebook and Instagram and the profiles have all vanished.  We do not know if Facebook and Instagram removed them or if the person(s) behind the profiles discovered they had been caught out and deleted them.  Sadly, I suspect the latter to be true.  This means the photos of our children are still in their possession.  This chills me to the bone.

We have circulated this story as much as possible online and as a result we have discovered that the adults in the photos on the profiles are also victims of identity theft and not the people named on the profiles.  These poor innocent people are equally as shocked and horrified as us and now run the risk of being recognised as these sickos.  We also discovered we are all linked through our local pub indicating the distinct possibility that the instigator could be someone we know.

To rub salt in the wound, I felt it necessary to delete some of the posts I had shared on various public groups as I began to receive abusive comments from strangers implying that I was simply seeking attention and looking to sell my story for financial gain.  I also received comments calling for compassion for the person behind the profile, with the reasoning perhaps they had lost a child themselves.  Anyone sane who has gone through the trauma of a seriously ill child as we did, would never even dream of stealing someone else’s experience and pretending to suffer it themselves.  Through their actions they have brought the worst time of my entire life freshly back to the surface of my mind and made light of it.  Made the pain less valid, the emotions that I keep in such a tightly locked box seem exposed and somehow made our experience feel fraudulent.  They have exploited our disabled and partially blind son.  This is something I can never hold compassion for or even consider forgiving.  As a result of these comments and with the stress of the situation I felt I was only succeeding in making all of us involved vulnerable, instead of raising awareness as I had intended.

After tucking our three older children into bed last night I spent the entirety of yesterday evening with my four week old baby girl snuggled in my arms and my laptop in hand, adjusting the privacy settings on all my social media photos from ‘friends only’ to ‘only me’ in an attempt to prevent this happening again.  As someone who loves to share my family adventures with my friends and family online I am deeply saddened to say my confidence is shattered and I no longer feel safe sharing our precious moments with our loved ones in this way.

The moral of the story?  The horror stories and rumours are true; social media allows the weirdos of the world to be dishonest to extremes of their desires and no matter how disciplined you are with your privacy settings, nothing online is ever truly private.

Fists and a condom?!!

Fists and a condom?!!

So I’ve been pretty quiet of late.  Oddly I’ve not had much to say but this is mostly down to being heavily pregnant and going through a rather frustrated time which I’m affectionately calling ‘had just about enough now’.  

For some reason this time around I have really struggled from thirty-four weeks and have just become increasingly stressed out and impatient with my ballooning belly, lack of energy and achy body.  Fourth time around has proven to be completely different to my previous three pregnancies and I have been decisively neurotic, much to the delight of my poor, suffering husband. 

I am now thirty-seven weeks and five days pregnant and am writing this from a hospital bed, due to a bleed yesterday afternoon.  Everything is fine, our little lady is happy as can be but they insisted I stay as the source of the bleed is as yet undetermined.  Thankfully it seems to have stopped so I’m hopeful I will be released very soon. 

My best friend accompanied me to hospital last night as my husband was working with his band.  She’s a great friend, always there for me in all manner of emergencies and dramas!  We waited patiently in the assessment unit while the lone Dr tried to work his way round us all.  We didn’t mind waiting, the longer you wait the more urgent cases there must be ahead of you right?  I’d rather the Dr be saving lives than fussing over me.  We actually had a bit of a giggle, but she and I can make good of any situation.  

The Dr got to me around midnight and hilarity ensued.  Those of you who have not had children/experience with gynaecology might want to skip this anecdote…. 

My situation required a speculum examination to determine the source of the bleed so the Dr arrived with a massive torch worthy of the hardest prison warden and a speculum (don’t look up what this is if you don’t already know, trust me!).  He had a brief look and then announced to the nurse “Fists and a condom?!”  Horrified, I immediately asked “Excuse me?” and informed him in no uncertain terms that even my husband isn’t that lucky!  Turns out that it was all much more innocent than first thought and he just needed me to put my own fists under the small of my back.  The condom was purely to make the speculum easier to use.  At this point I missed my husband more than ever, as there were just far too many opportunities for his witty sense of humour and sharp one liners to be utilised!  He would have thrived in that situation and had everyone in tears of laughter.  He is one of a kind and I wouldn’t want him to be any other way! 

Edit: I wrote this led on a hospital ward on the morning of 3rd April. Little did I know that later that day we would be welcoming our beautiful little girl into the world!  That’s another story….

Watching her little heart hurt is the hardest thing. 

Watching her little heart hurt is the hardest thing. 

My daughter got dumped today.  She is only ten.  I’m not even sure what having a boyfriend really means to her and her peers; she tells me they don’t kiss or hold hands yet they exchange Valentine’s presents and they can’t be anyone else’s boyfriend or girlfriend.  Still, it hurt her and she cried.  He got a friend to tell her on his behalf.  They had been together since January. 

Her girlfriends rallied round her with the usual girly support including the expected exclamations of don’t cry over a dumb boy, he doesn’t know what he’s losing and he clearly doesn’t deserve you.  A boy she has been close with for years also offered his support, which is sweet as they have a very sibling-like relationship and he’s always looked out for her. 

She came out of school subdued and red eyed and on the way into the shop to get something for tea, out of earshot of her brothers, I got her to tell me what was wrong.  It cut deeply to hear that someone had hurt my baby girl’s feelings.  She’s had ‘boyfriends’ before but I’m pretty sure she actually liked this one in a slightly more adolescent way.  

However, it also angered something in me.  Not that he dumped her, but that they are all in such a hurry to grow up.  At ten years old surely there’s no need to experience such heartache, no need to feel that horrible sick feeling in the pit of the stomach.  I know that’s an overprotective attitude and one that is not remotely realistic in today’s society but I long to keep my offspring children as long as possible.  Life through the teenage years can be so tough; hormones and insecurities shrouding everything with confusion.  I don’t want my darling little princess to ever suffer these wounds, especially before she’s even officially a ‘tweenager’! 

Regardless of my longing to desperately freeze in time the innocent little girl who’s biggest dilemma was which Barbie to play with  I have to accept she is growing up fast.  I know that I should be grateful and also proud that she is such a strong willed, independent girl.  She is not afraid to speak her mind or to go after what she wants even in the face of failure.  She has experienced and understood situations that are far beyond her years throughout her short life and therefore I don’t feel I need to worry for her emotional sanity or maturity.  I would still like to wrap her in cotton wool.  Or bubble wrap.  The extra large kind that would protect even the most delicate of goods.   

We bought steak for tea; her favourite and she chose Oreo ice creams for dessert.  As I sit writing this now I can hear her singing along to music playing far too loud upstairs in her bedroom.  I’ll let her off this time, releasing that angst is good for the soul. 

I’ll cook her a delicious steak dinner and let her load up on sugar with one of her ice creams afterwards, even if she doesn’t finish her tea.  I’ve updated my husband on events and fore warned him of her sensitive emotional condition so he’ll be extra gentle when he returns home from work.  We’ll both hug her extra tight tonight at bed time.  Then tomorrow she’ll get up and face her world, refreshed and stronger than she was before and our little girl will be another step closer to ‘grown up’, a place I for one am still striving to reach at thirty-three. 

Thank you checkout lady. 

Thank you checkout lady. 

To the cheerful and helpful lady who served me on the checkout at Tesco this morning,

Thank you for not offering to help me despite me being visibly heavily pregnant, obviously in pain and out of breath.  

Thanks for putting every item of my shopping right next to you so you didn’t have to stretch your arms or move your person at all, while I had to uncomfortably push my bump up against the side of the checkout and painfully stretch to reach each item.  

Thank you for sighing at me and sitting there staring while I struggled to pack quick enough for you.  Please note if you actually pushed the items down the checkout instead of dumping them adjacent to the scanner you’d have more room to keep scanning.  This would still only require minimal movement from you. 

I think it is not unreasonable to assume that you go home from your shift every day feeling unsatisfied, short tempered and bitter.  Perhaps cracking a smile or being at all helpful might increase your enjoyment of your role or at least make you a half decent person. 

Regards, 

Thirty-five weeks pregnant and in more pain than before I arrived, thanks to you. 

Such cruelty, such sadness, such fear. 

Such cruelty, such sadness, such fear. 

In light of the horrific events unfolding in my city this last two weeks I find myself questioning just what kind of world we are bringing our children into?  I imagine most UK residents are aware but for those internationally who may not be, a 16 year old girl named Rebecca Watts went missing on February 20th at 11am.  After extensive searching and public appeals Police have confirmed they have discovered what they believe to be her body parts and five further people have been arrested in addition to two others.  This sickens me to the core as I’m sure it does all of you.  I am deeply saddened for her family and friends and disgusted by the behaviour of the people that have committed such a horrific act of senseless violence and put an innocent family through such unimaginable hell. 

I don’t deal well with fear or violence, I am easily disturbed and will not watch crime dramas, murder mysteries, horror films or anything such like that is deemed entertainment.  I am simply too afraid of the potential reality.  I look at my children and wonder how I can possibly keep them safe.  I mean there’s a lot of them for starters; three with one more on the way in just six weeks time.  I have limited observational skills let alone enough limbs to hold onto them all at once. 

Currently this fear gravitates towards my ten year old daughter who has recently discovered the joys of hanging out at the park with her friends, chatting and listening to music on their phones.  We live just a five minute drive from said park but a good twenty minute walk, so she is only allowed to attend the park when myself or a family member are able to drive her to and from home.  My mum and stepdad live just a five minute walk from the park, so sometimes she is allowed to walk back with friends who live nearby, to their house.  

Frequently, although I admit much sooner that I expected in her young years, we argue over what time she must be home by.  Being just ten years old she is yet to be aware of the horrors of the world and does not appreciate the potential danger of walking home at dusk rather than in daylight.  She also does not realise how quickly she could be snatched by a passer by or how weak in comparison she would be against an adult.  Nor should she, at just ten years old.  She should be concerned with things of childlike innocence, of fun and games and laughter.  Still the potential threat every time I allow my beautiful, first born child out of my sight just chills me to the bone. 

Should I keep her home?  Wrap her in cotton wool and have her be the outcast of her social circle with the overly strict and protective mother?  I don’t believe I should.  I was born in a generation where we played out in the streets and our favourite toys were bikes and trees and skateboards.  Or those fantastic little coloured plastic balls on strings with a loop that you hooked around your ankle and sort of skipped and ran along, jumping the plastic string and causing the ball to fly round in circles.  We had no mobile phones, no means of tracking our whereabouts whatsoever.  Our parents simply opened that front door and set us loose with the faith that we would return unscathed at our instructed time.  If we did not, then I could be sure to hear my mum bellowing my full name at the top of her voice as she angrily marched towards our usual hang out location to haul me off home amid threats of never being allowed out again and grounded for at least a week.  I believe our children should be granted the same exhilarating experiences, running and jumping in the fresh air. 

Now it appears to me that the world has become more dangerous as I have aged, that more and more members of our populations choose to act on their sick, perverse or violent desires.  Yet the logical part of me thinks with such advances in technology and the authorities capabilities the risk of being caught has also significantly increased.  So is it just that the media make us so much more aware these days but that the number of occurrences has not changed so much?  Surely these monsters existed throughout previous generations?  Did they just fear acting on their depravities more than these modern day fiends?  Has the extortionate amount of media resources and coverage made it more commonplace and as a result made such demons feel it more acceptable to commit such cruelties?  They say our younger generations are desensitised towards violence, seeing it so much from such a young age in computer games and movies.  Perhaps, even as shocking as each individual incident is, having our senses flooded with so many cases of murder, violence, rape and abuse almost daily on TV and the Internet, not only as news but also under the premise of entertainment, has conditioned us to accept it as a part of our world. 

I for one cannot accept this.  Therefore I see no option but to educate my children on the horrors that are out there, sadly puncturing their innocence.  I told my unsullied daughter about Rebecca Watts and I have kept her updated on the case with as much tact as I can manage, trying to find and keep a balance between how frightened she is by the information and the education she is receiving through the knowledge that I am trying to equip her with.  I hope that she sees the love in my eyes and hears the fear in my voice.  I hope she understands that this is why I must be unfair and mean sometimes; not giving in to her pleas to stay out just fifteen minutes longer, or to venture to an unknown park that I don’t know how to get to even though all of her friends are going to be there.

Mostly I hope she always knows how much I love her and her siblings and how I would give absolutely anything to just keep them safe.  However, this is the price we pay as parents; we must suffer the agony of allowing our children to blossom and grow, to experience independence and learn the ways of the world.  All we can do is love them and educate them and hope  for the best.  

I will be hugging my children extra tight tonight and remembering how lucky I am to have that moment.  My thoughts and heart go out to all that loved Rebecca Watts and also to all the other parents in the world who are no longer able to hold their children.  

For those of you that still have the opportunity, cherish it.  

What is style? Do you have it? Can you get it?

What is style? Do you have it? Can you get it?

Style. Such a multi-faceted word. What does it mean to have style? Does it mean that your current choice of clothing fits with the majority’s definition of what is fashionable? Does it mean that you have chosen a genre and dress accordingly, strictly adhering to the regulations and requirements of said genre? I like to think style is something that anyone can have and that it can be a fluid concept. I’ve had a few requests for a style related post since I started this blog so I’ve decided to give it a shot and share my thoughts with you.

Right from a very young age my mum always encouraged me to put thought into my outfits. She did not so much push do’s and don’t’s on me but instead guide me to think about what I had adorned my body with and why. She always allowed me to have the freedom to express myself outwardly which is something I am grateful for. As a result I have experimented with many styles over the years and I allow my children that same freedom. My daughter recently decided she simply must have a pair of bright pink Nike Air trainers, something that caused my husband and I to recoil in horror. Even so, I believe she should be able to experiment with style in the same way that I did. It is almost a right of passage to look back at the collection of awful fashion choices you made throughout the years.

However, I have never been as comfortable in my own skin as these last few years. Maybe it is due to age; perhaps as the years increase my insecurities decrease, who knows? Regardless, I love a lot of different styles these days. I like a lot of looks from the forties and fifties, including the hair and make up. I like some things punk and a little bit grunge. I love high waisted skinny jeans. I also like pretty floral dresses and chunky knit cardigans. I love my Converse, my Dr Martens and my brothel creepers as much as I love my dainty dolly shoes and Mary Janes. Sometimes I like the things I see in the high street chains’ windows – being 32 weeks pregnant I currently have a penchant for ripped skinny jeans teamed with a loose fitting patterned or checked shirt. I have naturally curly brown hair that I never bother to tame further than my Bettie Page bangs and the occasional Victory Roll. I also usually have a least one part of my hair that is sporting some kind of bright or unnatural colour through it; currently about a third of my bangs on my right side is bright blue. I have several tattoos, too many to count, and some piercings. I favour silver or white gold jewellery and strongly dislike yellow gold. I love high heels but since my third child arrived I have to admit I am terrible at walking in them and I just cannot take the pain. Most importantly I don’t think I particularly fit in with any one style or fashion. That’s ok with me.

So do I have style? I think so. Well I’d like to think so anyway?

So what is style? I am no guru nor even remotely educated in this subject but my humble opinion is that style comes from understanding your body and your natural look and having the courage to accessorise yourself with the clothes, hair and make up that works for you. Regardless of fashion or style, if it suits you then you can make it work. For example; some women look fantastic in nothing more than a white t shirt, blue jeans and a pair of Converse style lace ups. Others look like sensual goddesses when they wiggle themselves into a pencil skirt and tight fitting blouse. It does not matter what size or shape you are providing you are honest with yourself about it. In my opinion there is no worse look than a woman who has stuffed herself into clothing that is wrongly sized.

It does not matter what size or shape you are, everyone can look good with some basic thought put in. If you do not have a particularly defined waist but you’d like to obtain the look of having one and this is regardless of size, then choose clothes that accentuate your hips and chest to give the illusion of a waist. If you don’t like your middle then you could go for leg lengthening looks and pretty necklines to draw the eye away from your middle. If you are very skinny then don’t hide yourself in loose fitting clothes head to toe, by all means opt for a loose fit top or bottom if your choice of look dictates it but don’t be afraid to show off that small, delicate frame in contrast. If you are a larger build then the same rule applies; go for that floaty floral blouse but team it with well fitting jeans. Or if you go for a relaxed fit bottom then wear a well fitting top and add a cardigan, jacket or scarf if you want more coverage. Key point here; well fitting does not mean skin tight, it means well fitting. If the item is supposed to be figure hugging then choose a size that fits well – if it strains across you or rides up then it does not fit well. Equally loose fitting clothes should also be the correct size. Don’t go for an item that falls like a tent from your shoulders. Loose fit is intended to skim over your frame. The most important thing to remember is no one sees the label inside your clothes and if it bothers you that they might then cut the label out. The number on that label means nothing if the clothes sit well on your physique. You might feel better buying a smaller size but you won’t feel or look better when you spend the entire time you are wearing it readjusting it.

I honestly don’t think it matters what you actually wear in terms of look; goth, grunge, hipster, fitness, granny (a friend of mine simply loves the granny look and it works impeccably for her), office chic or vintage. The key is dressing yourself in items from the genre that suit you. So take some time and look at yourself. What bits do you like? What bits would you rather take the attention away from? What patterns do you like? What type of accessories catch your eye? Mix up your favourite styles; wear a red lip with an otherwise boyish look, or wear Converse or chunky boots with a feminine floral dress. The most important part is feeling comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable and self conscious then gather some opinions from those that know you best. If you still feel uncomfortable then no amount of compliments will change that, so make an adjustment to help you. Really want to wear those new skinny jeans but feel like your bum looks huge? Don’t feel confident enough to just flaunt it? Don’t worry, don’t get rid of them just pair them with a loose fitting or long cardi so you aren’t so on show and the fabric skims your hips making the shape less defined.

I think everyone can look fantastic, no matter what size, shape or look you have, you just need to be honest with yourself. That in itself is the challenge most of the time. We all want longer legs or bigger boobs, a smaller waist or thinner arms. The reality is that the media makes us desire this and if we just accept ourselves for what we are we can look just as good as the next girl. So stop striving for the things you aren’t and embrace the things you are. Realistically, can you actually remember what the last person you spoke to was wearing in any form of detail? No, I thought not. Ask your friends if they remember what you wore yesterday? I’ll bet they can’t be sure. Feel silly for stressing so much about which top/skirt/shoes you put on this morning? I thought so.

Relax, embrace you and be happy.