Taking time for me

Being mum is the most rewarding, challenging, exciting and enjoyable ‘hobby’ there is. And I for one absolutely love spending time with my children and hate, hate, hate being away from them. But what with work and three children, I tend to make very little time for me.

A few months ago my husband found out that my local college was running a furniture upholstery course in the evenings.  At this point, my youngest was just a few weeks old and I was adamant that there was no way I was going to be apart from her (or the others for that matter) even for 2 hours a week.  But hubby held his ground and practically chucked me out the house for me to ‘at least go along and have a look’.

From the minute I walked through the door and saw people working on beautiful pieces of furniture, I was hooked, and whilst I only stayed for half an hour, as I rushed back to the car to get home, I couldn’t deny the bubble of excitement I felt at getting started myself.

Several months down the line and I am absolutely loving learning something new and have discovered a new hobby which I completely adore.  On Saturday, as my littlies had a nap or did homework, I worried and thought about nothing more than where to hammer the calico – switching off completely from thoughts of work, errands, washing, tea, and all the other things us working parents have to think about.

And it’s not just me loving the course.  Monday nights are now Bear Gryll nights, when Daddy and team get some special time and pizza for tea is not only enjoyed but also now a Monday night expectation!  Perhaps most importantly, I, for the first time have learnt that having time for you is really important.   Being with my children has always been my hobby of choice, but in actual fact, having something that is totally just about me is totally refreshing and positive for all the family.

Now someone pass me a hammer and some tacks – I’m on a mission!

Parenting a strong willed child

Parenting a strong willed child

My oldest girl is everything you could possible want in a daughter and more… particularly from the age of 17 upwards! Strong willed, determined, knows her own mind and won’t be talked into anything. As I say, everything you could possibly want…but wish me luck for the next 11 years!

My beautiful Belle is bright and so strong willed. She challenges my patience and my will every week without fail, flipping from being the sweetest, most loving and helpful little angel to the most manipulative little madam at the drop of a hat. I regularly find myself taking a deep breath and trying it count to 10 before getting to three and having a ‘Mummy melt down’!

She’s bright. She’s confident and capable and she seems to excel at most things she applies herself to. She was Daddy’s little princess from the moment she was conceived and she knows that she has him wrapped around her little finger…wow, does she know that!

But as challenging as she can often be, there is no way I want her to change. I love her fight. Her determination is what will make her who she is, a girl who will turn into a woman who can do anything or be anything she wants to be (albeit in actual fact she seems determined on being a vet…for now at least!)

It’s a tough balance. At parents evening I was told that she had a habit of getting up to go for a wonder around the classroom when she did not feel challenged by the work she had been given.  My response…give her something that will challenge her then!

Knowing when to toe the line and when to let her be is something I regularly get wrong. Letting her find out for herself that she can climb the tree to the top, even though I’ve told her she’s not old enough to climb that high is both frustrating and exhilarating. I balance the irritation that she’s not listening to me, alongside the fear that she will fall, alongside the admiration that she has the courage to succeed.

But right or wrong, I do know that the most crucial thing is that she keeps her spirit. Even if that means I have a thousand more tantrums to deal with, and hundred more throw away comments and even the odd toy thrown across the room on occasion. Because my girl is everything I could want her to be…just exactly as she is. Fighting spirit and all.

Sally x

Mary Poppins Themed Party

For my practically perfect girl, nothing less than a practically perfect party would do for her 3rd birthday. And so, with her love of all things Mary Poppins, that weekend saw a Poppins party like no other – elements of which even surprised me!

screen-shot-2017-09-18-at-13-13-34.pngParties for younger ones are always slightly more challenging as opposed to when the birthday boy or girl is that little bit older. As children get older, they understand the concept of playing games: following the rules, waiting their turn and that all these things form part of the fun. But it’s much harder for the younger ones to understand. I think it’s really important to bear this in mind, along with the personality of the birthday child when planning a party. Belle loves to be creative, but is still young enough to get bored relatively quickly if she is not involved at that precise moment. So this time around ‘pass the parcel’ was out put ‘paint the penguin’ was in!

When guests arrived, they were greeted with Burt’s chimney sweep brush and instructions to ‘Think, wink, do a double blink…’ before jumping into our very own picture which was a print out of the chalk drawing Burt creates for the Jolly Holiday scene.

To entertain our guests, I set up tables with different activities to do whilst they waited their turn for the main event (more on this later!) We had paper, string, bamboo canes and paints (and aprons!) for the party guests to make their own kites; we had penguins to ‘decoupage’ to a greater or a lesser degree depending on their age and skills and we had black paper and chalks so that they could create their very own masterpieces. I also had a blanket with some instruments on for the really little ones to play with – and this was a firm favourite with Griffin!

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A party wouldn’t be a party without the odd game, so we had ‘pin the bow-tie on the penguin’ and a ‘spoonful of sugar relay race’, which resulted in considerable amounts of sugar being spilt on the lawns and very happy ants as a result!

But the main event was definitely the ‘Carousel Horses’ – well, ponies! Party guests went two-by-two to have ‘carousel’ pony rides and from the smallest to the oldest. Each and every one loved having some time riding the very fabulous and patient ponies provided by Maz at Halona Horses.

Tea included kite-shaped sandwiches (complete with kite ribbons made from spaghetti coloured with food colouring!), strawberry-filled meringue nests, red velvet cupcakes and red heart jammy dodgers – oh, and of course strawberry jelly! Despite Belle loving her Jolly Holiday costume-inspired cake, it was most definitely upstaged by Hugo the pony walking right the way up to our dining room patio doors just in time to join in the singing. As well as his party hat, Hugo was also carrying a card and small gift for the birthday girl which totally made her day (“Hugo came in our house, mummy!”).

After tea is when the magic really happened. Everyone knows that every good carousel horse is pretty-coloured and covered in ribbons, so with strict instructions to mind their feet and be gentle and calm, 14 delighted children were given paintbrushes and ribbons and invited to literally paint the ponies. Belle was chuffed to bits with the blue butterfly sponge she found and decorated oh-so patient Hugo with a row of blue butterflies all along his tummy and matching ribbons in his mane.

The party bags included birdseed to feed the birds, tuppence (chocolate coins) for a paper and sting, umbrella-shaped cookies, kite-shaped bookmarks, spoonfuls of sugar lollipops and, of course, a ‘practically perfect’ pencil.

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It’s no secret that I adore throwing my children parties. I think birthdays are the most special occasion of the year for them – a day that is all about them. And for me, making that extra bit of effort to give them a party they will love is simply one of the pleasures of being a mum. But I confess, I utterly loved this party and think I enjoyed it as much as the children did. I loved begin able to actually spend time with my littlies and enjoy it with them as opposed to frantically have to run around organising games. I loved doing something so completely bonkers that you would only ever do it at a party – such as painting ponies. And I loved the smiles that one all over my beautiful girl’s face. A Jolly Holiday indeed.

Sally x

Coffee

Today, I really fancied a proper coffee. After dropping my daughter at her ballet class, I decided to have a wander (please read by that mad- dash rush!) into town in the 40 minutes I had spare to grab a coffee to go. Passing Boots on the way, I realised said daughter needed hair nets, grips and all things ballet bun related after the last lot seemed to have vanished into thin air, so I stopped off to make a purchase. By the time I had navigated the hair accessories aisle and contemplated whether the clear elastics which guaranteed tangle free would be better than the cotton ones (which also guaranteed tangle free) I realised that I was running short on time and so the coffee got exchanged for a wander (please again read mad dash rush) back to class to ensure I was there in plenty of time for the pick up.

My point of my ramblings is…us Mums (& Dads too) never really put ourselves first. It’s simply not our way to put our need for a coffee above the need for hair grips. So for goodness sake, put your feet up this weekend after the little people are in bed. Take half an hour away from the washing, clearing, planning etc etc and reward yourselves for being awesome. Because we are! For me, the coffee need has passed, but a nice bottle of wine is already chilling in the fridge!! Happy Weekend! Sally x

Growing up way too fast…

It flies by…that’s what everyone says isn’t it?

This week my eldest son went on a school residential week away. One whole week. Well, 5 whole days…but regardless…in a mummy’s heart…a very long time!

I have felt physically hollow, I have had a headache which has pounded to varying degrees as the week has gone on, and I have been highly emotional all week. Getting my youngest her jabs was probably next the best plan as the nurse practically had to deal with me crying as well as my 12 month old! And despite all the best plans to strip his bed and air his mattress, it took me until Wednesday to bring myself to take the sheets off whereby they were duly washed, dried and put straight back on so I knew it was ready for him when he gets home,

Now, I know, I’m over the top and emotional as a parent. I totally recognise that. But my child, being away from me, in a situation completely unfamiliar to me, out of my care, my hands, no control over whether or not he is eating, drinking, sleeping etc etc…well it’s a pretty large pill for any parent to swallow.

The week has passed and I am currently sat outside his school (I am only about an hour early – but best not to be late!) typing frantically whilst twitching continually to look up for the peep of a coach. I am honestly so excited, I really do feel like a 5 year old at Christmas.

I know for a fact that he will have had a fantastic time. The activities they have undertaken are all things he would enjoy, and I am sure he has had the time of his life. But that doesn’t stop it being hard for us parents left behind. And it worries me that I am not equipped to deal with my children growing up.

Despite doing it four times, I have never really enjoyed pregnancy. But the one thing I loved was constantly having my baby with me. Everywhere I went, baby came too. And it’s the same when you have a newborn. You get to snuggle them tight into a sling and carry them around all day. But the older they get, the further they move away from you – both physically and emotionally. They start nursery, then it’s school and before you know it the time has come for the week residential visit. And this is just the start! There will be more and more the older they get, until eventually….well, I can’t deal with that today!

Fact is, we can’t stop it..nor would we want to, I would not have sacrificed him staying here with me for the week and me not having had to feel this awful sense of loss in exchange for him missing out. There was never a question about him not going. He was always going to be on that coach. But I’m not going to lie, I’m really glad it’s Friday! And I’m even more glad that it will be at least a year before I have to face this again.

Do you really have to grow up quite so fast?

Sally x

 

Accepting miscarriage…and even moving on?

Everything happens for a reason. Isn’t that what everyone says?

June marks the Anniversary of, what would have been, the 7th birthday of my LLO – my Lost Little One.

Not a day goes past when I don’t find myself pondering the baby that never was. I don’t dwell or mope, but I do catch myself thinking of her at least once a day, every day, and without fail she gets blown a goodnight kiss.

I knew in my heart, right from the start, that something wasn’t right when I fell pregnant. I couldn’t put my finger on it, and having only been pregnant once before, I had minimal experience, but my gut told me that all was not well. Based entirely on my mother’s instinct, we booked an early scan. Learning that my instincts were right took my breath away. How could this be? I hadn’t bled, I had no physical symptoms whatsoever to suggest that there was a problem and yet, there on the screen, I stared at a clear line which was the foetal pole, and no flickering heartbeat.

Perhaps the hardest week of my life lay ahead.

I wrestled with the need to just get it over with and for my body to ‘reject the pregnancy’ as it is somewhat coldly termed, with my heart yelling as loud as it could to hang on in there and prove them all wrong. When I finally did start to miscarriage, there was no relief – just very raw pain.

Every year, on the 20th of June – my LLO’s due date, I have a bad day. I don’t mean to, I don’t plan to, but I can’t help it. It creeps up on me no matter how hard I try to push it down, and as much as I try and ignore the grief, it’s still there and it bubbles up each year without fail.

But for the first time, this year was different.

Ever since I became a mum, I have wanted four children. Four was my number. And no matter how hard I have tried to convince myself along the way that 1 or 2 or 3 would work, in my heart, it was always four. Never five, always four.

But it has not been an easy path for us. I think people assume if you have four children that they have all come easy and of their own accord, but that’s not been my journey. We have had our fair share of fertility treatments, all sorts of prodding, poking and investigating, and have had our patience tested to the max – which for someone who would open her Christmas presents in November given the choice, has been pretty challenging!

But now we have four. My beautiful daughter Chess completed our family just over 12 months ago, and she is the perfect finishing piece in our family jigsaw. She is everything we could have wished for and so much more, and our family would not have been whole without her. And had it not been for losing my LLO….well, that doesn’t bear thinking about it. Chess was always meant to be.

I will never forget the baby I never held in my arms but who will always be in my heart.

But instead of it just being about missing her, this year, I was also so grateful to her, grateful for the pain I went through, grateful for that bit of my journey in a way I have never been before, as it is part of the story that has led me to the perfect jigsaw I have.

I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes those reasons are impossible to understand. Sometimes, they are so painful to an extent you could never put into words. But there is a reason. I could never have imagined getting to a point where I understood my miscarriage and accepted it. But because of Chess, I not only accept it but I am also grateful for it.

I hope by sharing this post, it brings courage and hope to those of you on your own journeys, those of you who have suffered a loss and those of you going through tough times for whatever reason right now. It’s taken 7 years for me, but I can now see the reason why my path took such turns. It is my hope and wish that your reasons will also become clear.

With love.

Sally x

The questions you really want answered about IVF

I think people assume with four children that they all came easily when I wanted them.  That is not the case and we had three rounds of fertility treatment (ICSI twice and then Frozen Embryo Transfer) to have our beautiful daughter Belle.

When I was going through treatment, I found there was information everywhere – but no-one really answered the questions I wanted to ask. So here goes… these were my burning questions with answers and if you have any others, please do comment below and I will do my best.

1.  The injections really do not hurt.  Just remind yourself each time what you are doing and why (I used to say in my head “For a baby”) and you will barely flinch – I promise.

2. Side effects include: Nightmares (weird I know, but I used wake up most mornings insisting we fitted another lock on the front door/ checked the smoke alarms, check all torch batteries etc, etc!) mood swings (I was a bit of a monster to my poor hubby!) and hot flushes (very bizarre and I am so not looking forward to the menopause!)

3. Cost – a fortune, there is no getting away from it.  But it is worth every penny.  Check for funding with your Primary Care Trust before you do anything else as they may have strict rules which can forfeit funding you may be entitled to if you break them – even if you don’t realise you have.  For general information, please see http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/889.aspx    You can check your local PCT at http://www.nhs.uk/ServiceDirectories/Pages/ServiceSearchAdditional.aspx?SearchType=PCT&ServiceType=Trust

4. Cycle length – Most cycles (please note that this is not the case in all women) involve approximately 5 weeks of drugs before egg collection, and then embryo transfer follows that with a 2 week wait until you can check to see if you have that precious BFP (Big Fat Positive pregnancy test) after transfer.   It is a long path for each cycle.  There is no getting around this so just accept it and try and be patient.  I found it helped to view each stage as a hurdle I had jumped – closer and closer to the finish line.

5. If you have a choice – choose your clinic very carefully.  Check their success rates but also dig a bit beeper as the success rates are only part the stroy.  Be sure to check on forums to see what people are really saying about them.  Most clinics have an open evening but they are only going to tell you the good bits.  You are trusting them with your future family (and often your savings which may also limit the number of cycles you can afford if it doesn’t work first time around (and often, it doesn’t)).  So research, research, research.

6. Think carefully about who you share the fact that you are having treatment with.  It may seem lovely to have lots of support from all sorts of people but remember that they will all know at what stage you are at.  You wouldn’t normally tell people you were pregnant as early as 4 weeks (which will be how pregnant you are after a positive test – bizarrely enough!) so do you want these people to know just because you are having fertility treatment?   The support is great, but just be sure it is from the right people and carefully communicate what you want from them.  If you don’t want them to ask every day ‘how things are…’ ask them not to.  They will understand.

7.  It often doesn’t work first cycle.  It didn’t for us and I found it hard to accept why not given that our little embryo was safe and sound in my womb where it just needed to grow.  It’s so hard to jump each hurdle and then not get that BFP.  Be kind to yourself and when you are ready, pick yourself up and try again.

7. It’s tough.  It’s ok to think it sucks, that the world’s not fair and why me.   It is the hardest thing I have ever done, but equally the most rewarding.

Sending you all oodles of baby dust.

Sally x