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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

How you know you've got kids…

Ok, so we already know that children don't do bank holidays or weekends, that's the obvious one.

If you've recently become a parent for the first time, you might have just discovered that there are two 4 o’clocks in the day as well.

But what about those really cute little things that make you smile to yourself (or pull your hair out in frustration)?

Here's a list of some of the things I thought of that make me remember I'm a mum:

1) Paintbrushes and pots jostle for space with the glasses and cutlery in the draining rack.
2) Nine pm is the new bedtime.
3) Cupboard doors and the fridge are now similar to the gallery from Tony Hart’s Hartbeat.
4) The toilet is no longer a private place.
5) Your bed now plays host to half the “In the night garden” characters and some trains.
6) There are only two TV channels - cbeebies or nick jr.
7) The car you were once proud of is now a skip on wheels.
8) Leaving the house now take three times as long.
9) A visit to a posh restaurant now means crayons, fish fingers and ice cream.
10) The gorgeous scented candles in your bathroom have now been replaced with rubber toys (and not the fun ones either).
11) You know the words to all of the Peppa Pig episodes and you also know all the words to Wind the Bobbin Up, Sleeping Bunnies and many more.
12) Your cupboards that once contained the sort of herbs and spices that would make Gordon Ramsay proud now contain spaghetti hoops and Haribo.

Do you know what? Unsurprisingly, these were just off the top of my head, I'm sure you could think of many more, or if you're not a parent yourself, it may be you have all this to come!

Well, I wouldn't change it for the world (except perhaps for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I'm Loving Positive Self Talk!

Lately I've been looking at the subjects of happiness, kindness and inner peace.

Ok, don't worry, I'm not becoming a hippy 45 years too late. I just think we all need a little feel good in our lives and if done in a positive way, hopefully it will do us the world of good, maybe even those around us.

I've been lucky enough to do some work recently for the fabulous personal trainer Kelly Rennie, one of the authors of The Fit Mummy Manual

She's got some brilliant tips for getting back into shape post pregnancy, but one of her tips that really struck me was the theory of Positive Self Talk.

This is a technique sometimes used to help athletes stay focused and in an optimal state of mind. It is an internal conversation to create motivation, specific positive emotions, and belief.

The trick is not to listen to the voice that says: “This is too hard, I can't do it anymore,” because when we hear these words, they become our belief.

Instead you create a positive belief and therefore, a positive outcome. If you tell yourself you can do one more repetition or walk one more mile, you will.

It might sound a bit too idealistic to start with, but in thinking back on my life, it really makes sense.

One example – I used to be terrible at cross country at school. Then one day I thought, no, why shouldn't I be as good as the others?

From that day on I was always in the top ten finishers. It really honestly wasn't anabolic steroids, I just started believing in myself.

Even now when I go for a run, initially I start to get tired and think I'm going to stop, then I tell myself I can go further and all of a sudden it's fine again.

And for those of us who have been through problematic labours, for example, you might have got to a point where you thought "I can't do this anymore". I know I did.

Fact is you have to get through it one way or another, what other choice do you have? And this is where positive self talk can come into its own.

If you tell yourself you can do something and really believe it, chances are you will be able to do it. I honestly believe we're capable of so much more than we think. Maybe all it takes is a little more self confidence and self belief?

It's like the theory of the mum lifting the car off her run over child. Would you really believe that could happen? It just goes to show the strength of positive belief. If you want something enough you can do it.

I can't get over how strong our minds can be. Sometimes it feels like our minds are so much stronger than our bodies.

Access the true positive strength of your mind and you will be able to achieve so much more. That is something I truly believe, hippy or no hippy!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Communication is key!

I know I've rambled on in the past about how different men and women are.

How it fascinates me that two such different creatures have to pair up in order to contribute to the future of our human race.

This week it got me wondering how many relationships have broken down because of those differences and the fact that people are increasingly either unwilling or unable to communicate.

You see it's not just men and women who are different. We're all different.

And too many of us live life in a bubble, maintaining a stubborn unwillingness to see things from others' point of view and thinking everyone should think the same as we do.

When I was a cub reporter, I was sent on lots of diamond wedding anniversary stories. Gorgeous elderly couples who still loved each other like the day they were married, 60 years before.

The stock question I always asked them was: "What's the secret to a long and happy marriage?" And their stock reply: "Give and take."

You don't get many relationships lasting the test of time these days. And I think a breakdown in communication is the biggest issue.

What these lovely elderly people meant by give and take, was the need to be understanding of one another and work together as a team.

If couples don't even bother communicating anymore, how is this even possible?

Men generally think and want things one way, women the other. It's this great yin-yang, opposites attract, we compliment each other perfectly thing, that's meant to be so bloody wonderful.

We all know that. We've always known that and to be fair, it ain't so great, so there it is.

I believe that couples back in the day worked harder at relationships and acceptance of each other.

Yes, this was encouraged by society's lack of tolerance regarding divorce and separation, but maybe that was a good thing to some extent?

Why not try a bit harder and be a little more sympathetic and understanding, not just to your partner, but to people in general?

Take time to talk to one another. Practise good communication, understanding, patience, tolerance and of course, give and take.

I know I'm probably being idealistic, but this blog is call Sugar and Fairy Dust after all. And, in my everlasting pursuit of happiness, it can't hurt, can it?

Monday, 4 August 2014

The greatest love of all

A very close friend of mine has just told me she's having a baby!

While my own baby making days are far behind me, it's got me all broody again and thinking about how much your life changes.

Especially when it's your first.

I never cease to be amazed by how many changes are in store for you once that blue line appears.

And how one such tiny little bundle can completely alter life as you know it from that point onwards.

Funny thing is though, you can never truly grasp just how much your life will change until it actually happens.

People can tell you things, like your life stops being your own, your priorities change, your body changes beyond all recognition, you have to stop putting yourself first, but time and time again I've heard new parents say they never realised quite how much until they did it.

There are just so many changes, some good, some pretty tough, but one of my favourites is this.

It's a new type of love you'll feel, borne from the fires deep within your heart and soul.

One you can guarantee you've never felt before.

It's a love that truly makes you part of nature and a member of the animal kingdom.

One all-encompassing, protective, nurturing love, that means no matter what it takes, you will protect that person with your life, forever.

That, my friends, is what being a mother is truly all about. Of course, I rant about instilling confidence, discipline, mutual respect and a caring spirit in our children.

Bringing them up to be half decent contributors to society, rather than not bothering and letting them raise themselves, is so vital.

But loving them is the most important thing you can do. Because from that, everything else should follow.

That's why my heart bleeds for those tragic few who can't feel that love for their children.

To me, an unloved child is the saddest thing in the world, whatever walk of life we come from.

So, I've resolved to try harder to make the most of the trying, but delightful days I have with my little ones while they're small and to commit to memory everything I can.

Because ones thing's for sure, it's not going to last forever!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Some feel-good soul food free of charge!

Ok, so I know I rant a bit (lot) about how people should be nicer to each other.

It feels like these days people are so concerned with themselves that they live in a little bubble where kindness, thoughtfulness and understanding no longer exists.

It could be easy to get despondent, but I know for sure that out there are some little pockets of happiness and inner peace, just waiting to be discovered.

So, without meaning to sound like the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons, I've decided to list a few ways I like to get a little bit of feel good in my life and they're totally (mostly) FOC!

The help your fellow man ones:

- Smile and make eye contact with someone you pass, maybe even say hello.

- Help someone.. An old lady drops something? Help her pick it up. You see a mum struggling with the little ones and the shopping - instead of tutting at the noise, why not hold the door open for her?

- Talk to an elderly person. They've got so many great stories to share.

- Someone's queuing to get out of a junction? Why not let them out?

- Leaving a car park and have a couple of hours left on your ticket? Why not give it to someone else?

- Buy a suspended coffee or sandwich and help someone more in need than you.

- When someone annoys you, how about killing them with kindness? Be nice - it'll do their heads in loads more and believe me, you'll feel so much better inside.

And the ones just for you - who knows, maybe they might make you feel like being a little nicer!

- Close your eyes and take some long deep breaths. Remember in through the nose, out through the mouth...

- Take a swim in the sea - feels fantastic!

- Give up on the pork life mate - get some exercise! I can't recommend Pilates enough - amazing for mind, body and soul!

- Take time to listen to or even record the sound of your children playing together and laughing. Nothing. In the world. Beats it.

Are you starting to feel the love yet?

Alex xx

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Let Us Smile

Sticking on the subject of being nice, here's one I wrote a couple of years ago for the fabulous fashion, beauty and lifestyle website  I Am Into This which is created by the gorgeous Teresa and Samantha. If you haven't seen the site already, you should check it out!

Let Us Smile 

As summer days get warmer and the temperatures rise, it’s clear to see we’re all beginning to feel a little bit happier, as we confine our winter knits to the back of the wardrobe once again. 

It got me thinking about happiness and how random acts of kindness are cropping up all over the place.

Recent reports claim that while everyone is pulling the belt in, a positive result of the more austere times have shown an increase in kindness to our fellow man. 

When talking to members of the wartime generation, they recall a similar thing. The 1940s and 50s were times of terrible hardship as a result of rationing brought about by WWII.

But it was also hailed as a time when communities pulled together in defiance against the common enemy. People left their front doors unlocked when they went out, neighbours all knew each other and people genuinely cared for one another. 

It’s clear that things are different now. Tragic news stories of our time have reinforced people’s fears for the safety of their children and themselves.

There are some really terrible things happening. But while this is true, there are also some amazing things happening. 

One example that really struck me was ‘suspended coffee’ – an idea which began in Italy several years ago that has taken off in coffee shops across the world. Basically, when you buy yourself a coffee at a participating cafe, you also pay for a second one - which can then be claimed by someone who cannot afford it themselves.

They don't have to "prove" anything to claim one, but the scheme relies on the good faith of everyone involved. It doesn’t have to be for just homeless people, but can be for anyone who is struggling to make ends meet.

Acts of kindness don’t even have to mean spending your money.

I sometimes slate the village I live in. It’s quiet, there’s not much at all to do. Let’s face it, it’s completely boring. But on pounding the streets with my pram, as I regularly do, I’ve noticed one thing. Everyone you pass smiles and says hello. Some even stop and talk to you like they’ve known you for years.

The bigger cities may have the better parks and the trendy cafes and wine bars, but people seem to look at the ground when they walk by. It’s amazing the response you get when you smile and it was wonderful to find how a smile from a stranger seemed to brighten my day.

For just a day or even a week, why not try and do something to brighten someone’s day and I guarantee it will make you feel better too. Who knows, that person you pass in the street, may not have seen someone smile at them for weeks. So why not give it a go?


As the old saying goes “mighty oaks from little acorns grow” and maybe, this time next year we’ll all be feeling a little happier.

Alex xx

Can we be a bit nicer? Pretty please?

Can someone tell me what is going on with the human race these days please?

Fact is, times are harder and we all have our crosses to bear and problems to deal with.

But does this really mean that taking it out on others is the answer?

Can nobody see that by just being a little kinder and more understanding to your fellow man, that it might just help you too?

Ok, so I'm slightly less tolerant at the moment.

I'm covered from head to toe in itchy red eczema, because I've developed an allergy to something and nobody's got a clue what it is.

And looking after two preschooler boys on my own for seven weeks of the summer holidays is, shall we say, testing.

But, fact is, being nice makes you feel better inside and that's why I still find the ability to be kind and sympathetic to others and I'm no saint by any stretch of the imagination!

Like in Sainsburys today. Pushing a trolley round with two little monkeys inside, tends to take your concentration.

So I pulled up to a checkout that had a tiny sign on it saying it was closing. Terribly sorry, I didn't see it, ok I'll move on.

Was it me huffing and puffing at the inconvenience? No, it was the (older) checkout assistant rolling her eyes at the (older) customer she was serving.

Did I deserve that? No. Totally unnecessary.

But, it seems people these days would rather be nasty than nice.

Another example - trying to pull out of my street onto the main road. Even though the traffic is coming to a halt, people would rather look at you like you're something they've trodden in and pull up in front of you than let you out in front of them.

Quite honestly it makes me feel a little ill. What is wrong with these people?

I know it can't be the case all the time but at the minute it feels like customer service, manners, friendliness and just a simple supportive smile have all but gone.

And I tell you one thing for sure, it's not going to get any of us anywhere.

On the positive side, minutes after the Sainsbury's incident, another assistant was chatting to my little boy, giving him high fives and making him laugh while my other child helped me unload the trolley.

Now, why can't things be like that more? It's so much easier for all concerned!

I suppose it's just down to the individual, but I'm still going to keep trying to be nice whatever, so there.

Rant over. As you were... :-)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Many an FFS moment to share!

My Top 10 Sod's flipping Law, kick you in the butt when you're worn out, things about parenthood...

Now, don't get me wrong, I love being a mum. My little men and their toothy grins, their quirky little mannerisms and the little songs they sing, are my raison d'être.

But, very often I find myself laughing cynically about how full of FFS, Sod's Law and irony this whole parenting lark is.

So I've compiled my top few "FFS moments" in no particular order, for your entertainment, in the hope that I'm not alone and completely insane!

Please add your own via FB or comment below!

* Labour  - most natural thing in the world - effing painful. Why, oh why, is this necessary?

* Crying newborns most often want you to walk around with them, when you've had no sleep yourself and all you want to do is sit down.

* When you're in a rush to dry your hands to get to a crying child, tea towels roll themselves up in your hands and become useless.

* Babies and toddlers sharpen their elbows especially for your boobs and other painful places.

* Current guidelines suggest making baby bottles fresh and letting the boiled water cool for half an hour before making them. How many babies will wait that long?

* When you're at your most tired and irritable, that's when children play up the most.

* The time with your newborn that you want to savour and enjoy is the time you're more like a worn out zombie and probably wouldn't notice if they'd turned into an elephant!

* Children have a natural predisposition to become daredevils and try new things the day before a big event.. See christenings, weddings, first day at nursery etc...

* It doesn't matter how hard you try, children are always programmed to wake up ready and raring to go for the day between 5am and 6am ... 365/7. Was I totally stupid when I was surprised to find babies didn't differentiate between weekdays, weekends and bank holidays...? Sounds silly now!

* Toilets, toilet brushes, sofa cushions, litter, mud, poo, play doh and felt tip pens are fascinating.

And all I'm going to do is smile sweetly, curse silently under my breath and carry on regardless!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Cancer - the biggest heartbreaker

I really want to talk to my Gran today, desperately. So much it hurts.

I need my Gran today because only she could offer the words of comfort and reassurance that I so desperately need.

But, despite the fact that I could talk to her in person, it wouldn't be her there anymore.

You see, she's dying very slowly of cancer. And little by little this vile scourge is eating painfully away at every part of her and the Gran I once knew is no longer there.

Now in its final stages, this cruel and wicked disease has finally moved onto her brain. She doesn't really know who we are anymore and drifts in and out of consciousness with an air of quiet inevitability and acceptance of what is to come.

This was a woman who I could talk to about anything. If something or someone hurt me, she would have my back, no matter what.

I love the way she would apply reasoning from her own experiences and expectations, like people still acted and behaved in the way they did sixty years ago.

To start with I felt selfish getting so upset that I couldn't have my Gran there for me anymore. After all, I'm not the one who is dying slowly and painfully, losing every dignity I once held dear.

But then I realised, we all have to go eventually, one way or another. My Gran is 94 years old and has had a long and happy life.

She truly believes it won't be long before she meets my Grandpa and her parents again and I think that's beautiful.

When it happens though, a piece of me will be missing forever. A comfort and support that I won't ever get again. Call me selfish, but that's what hurts the most.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

When is it ok to be a mummy to all?

Gosh it's an age old question isn't it?

You're friends with someone, really close friends actually.

But when comes the point that it's ok to tell your friend's kids off when they're being naughty?

When is it ok to take those kids only a few feet away to play on a climbing frame with your own children when their mum's got her hands full?

Do you know what? Today I found out there's no formula, it's all down to the individual.

You see, I've made loads of friends at my son's pre school and while we all parent in different ways, there's a kind of an unspoken bond.

Sometimes as a mum, you just instinctively do things to help other mums out, because it's a tough job, let's face it!

Other mums are the only people in the world who know just how much hard work it is to do what we do.

So we all kind of muck in together. Or that's what I've found.

Just the other day, for instance, one of my friends, who is a mum to two boys like me, suggested that she take the two older boys into pre school while I kept an eye on the younger ones.

That worked really well. The older two enjoyed going in together and the younger two didn't feel the need to kick off because they couldn't join in. Great!

But then, at a school fete today, with a friend who was running a stall there, I let her kids step a couple of feet away to play with mine for a minute, thinking she'd appreciate it while she was busy.

You'd think I'd committed mass genocide!

I suppose that because we were so close by and she could see us - and because we were such good friends - I just assumed she be grateful that I was trying to keep them entertained and that she'd appreciate it. But apparently not.

Fact is, you can never second guess people and you can never generalise about the way people think.

They do say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so maybe I just need to be a bit more selfish in future?

After all we don't live in a commune do we? Why should we look out for each other?

Actually, I think we should. But, I guess that's just what makes me an individual.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Eeeeeks! It's finally happened!

Just like the film Freaky Friday (the Jodie Foster version) I have officially turned into my mother and my mother has turned into me!

Here I am about to go to bed on a Sunday night at 10pm, tutting away to myself,  because the people opposite are having a banging, boozy house party!

There was a time when I would have been gutted that I didn't get an invite.

Now all I can think of is how selfish they are playing music so loud at this time, with people having to work in the morning and how it had better not wake the children up!

My mother, on the other hand, would have preferred to be over there joining in, I'm sure!

What on earth has happened?

I can only deduce that with parenthood comes a certain air of responsibility and the relief of giving up the "children still at home" stage of parenthood brings about some sort of sense of freedom.

Now enjoying their retirement, my mother has informed me that her and my father would like to buy a holiday home in Brighton, because they like the buzz of the place!

Ok, Brighton is a really lively and lovely place to be, but SAGA it ain't! Maybe a bit further up the coast in Eastbourne, but hey ho, who am I to judge?

After all, it was only five years ago I was trotting up and down the stunning, but very steep, Amalfi coast - now holidays have to be all about family friendly fun time!

It all reminds me of a phrase my beautiful but mischievous 94-year-old gran told me once about starting life as a child and ending it as a child.

Because with childhood comes a sense of freedom, fun and irresponsibility and at the end of your life, when you've done everything you're supposed to, why not have a little fun?

Friday, 13 June 2014

The travel bug has hit!

This beautiful sunshine really is fabulous isn't it!

I flipping love the summer and one thing that sunshine makes me dream of is travelling to far flung climes for a lovely relaxing break or the chance to do some exploring!

Thing is, with most of us feeling the pinch these days, that dream holiday really needs to be right first time doesn't it...  And cheap!

After all, once we've raided the poor piggy bank for the umpteenth time, who knows when we'll get the chance again?

So I've put together my wish list for a perfect holiday:

Leg room on the plane - it's nice to make friends, but those seats really are crammed into the plane aren't they? I think shorter people must feel cramped, but, being of the giraffe variety myself, enough space is a must!

Kiddy friendly passengers on the plane and in the hotel as well as understanding staff... Whole new ball game when you have children isn't it? Say no more..!

Clean and functional hotel - I really don't want to travel to somewhere that's like a dirtier version of home. I want some luxury and to feel pampered when I'm on holiday.. High maintenance? Moi?

Everything done for you - look, I'm not talking about helping me wash and dress here, just having someone else do the cooking and clearing up would be AMAZING!

Safe spaces for children to play - as mentioned above, it is a different ball game when travelling with little ones, but if you do get a chance to relax for five minutes you want to know they can't go far and get into any danger.

Happy children.. make for happy mummies and daddies.

No massive queues - made all the worse by doing it in the stifling heat. Go on, open up another counter, pleeeease!

And finally... I spend much of my mummy life craving it... Peace!

(So no holidays next to building sites or banging nightclubs please!)

If you can find me all of this for the price of a bus ticket, couple of receipts, a few moths and the rest of the fluff in my handbag, I'll be happy!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Parent or best bud?

It's good to be a dad, it's better to be a friend?

A recent advert made this bold statement. It was about a dad showing his son all the fun things he used to do as a child, which was lovely to see.

We often bemoan the fact that our children are not getting the childhoods we had, spending too much time in front of computers and too little climbing trees.

But, because of that strapline, the advert instantly had me asking the question, do parents try too hard to be their children's friends these days and by doing so, neglect the role of parent and mentor?

I know the advert was meant to be nostalgic for all of us who, born in the seventies and eighties, spent most of our childhood playing outside.

Back in the days before cbeebies and nick jr, when it was always hot in the summer and snowed in the winter (at least that's how I rose tintedly remember it)….

When a Saturday morning show was about all we got. Remember Going Live, Swapshop, Get Fresh, even Tiswas?

But now we are the adults. So, while parents are busily 'fraping' their children on Facebook and trying to be cool, are they forgetting that the real job is to teach our children right from wrong?

When entirely frustrated with my three year old the other day and pulling my hair out at his naughty antics, it occurred to me, kids aren't born knowing what to do.

They push the boundaries and that is their way of finding out what is allowed and what is not.

We bring them into the world. Instead of sticking them in front of xboxes and leaving it to the schools to show them the way, it is our job to guide them from the start.

It is good to be friend. To love and cherish your child, to build their confidence and to try and be understanding where you can. But it is more important, I believe, to be a parent.

First published on

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Mummy comes from the heart, not the head

An episode of the US drama, House, starring Hugh Laurie, really got me thinking recently.

In the episode ("Parents" season eight), Laurie's character made the statement that all parents f#ck their kids up, with no exception.

He later went on to explain that it's because, as parents you act with your heart and not your head.

I found this incredibly interesting.

Actions of the heart are normally associated with love, but actually this is only a part of the whole picture.

Any feelings that aren't premeditated, that involve emotion, can be seen to come from the heart, whether it's love, hate, anger, fear, passion or whatever.

This was illustrated well to me in another episode of the same drama when it portrayed a brilliant example of a psychopath female ("Remorse" season six).

An article I read by William Hirstein in Psycology Today, pointed to findings that the brains of psychopaths have weak connections among the components of the brain’s emotional systems. These disconnects are responsible for the psychopath’s inability to feel emotions deeply.

As parents, we are so easily judged by all around us. You probably find yourself doing it - looking at a stressed out mum shouting at her children as she struggles wearily to get on with what she's doing.

And then on a particularly bad day, which follows a night of little sleep, you find yourself doing the same thing and that's when the guilt sets in.

The thing is, it's easy to judge when we're thinking with our heads, but not so easy to control our feelings when we're thinking with our hearts.

That's why we need to forgive ourselves more. Because the majority of us are good mums and we would die to protect our children, shouty stress head or no shouty stress head.

And I'm glad I parent with my heart and not my head. Because it means that I love my children so deeply it hurts. I comfort them when they fall and cuddle them when they cry.

Yes, I might shout at them the odd time, when they're being particularly hard work, but that's what makes me human.

And that's just fine with me.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Food fight!

Unlike Eastenders' Biaaanca, I am not a fan of feeding my children chicken nuggets for their dinner every night.

Nor will I put fish fingers and spaghetti in front of them all the time, which is the one thing my three year old will eat up, no questions asked.

Yes, there could be food a lot less nutritious and there's certainly nothing wrong with a bit of what you like (hey, at least he's eating), but I have always liked them to try different things.

My toddler, bless his little pot belly, will wolf down whatever you give him, but it seems my older child has discovered the option of not eating.

And so, this he does ... Every. Single. Breakfast, lunch and dinner time ad nauseam...

I sometimes wonder how many more times I'll have to tell him he can't have breakfast from the treat cupboard, until it finally sinks in.

Obviously, he's just testing boundaries and is at that blessed age where he will try and see what he can get away with. How else do they learn right from wrong?

But gone are the days of force feeding (thank God) or children going to bed hungry.

To be honest, I'm up enough through the night; the last thing I need is a hungry little boy to add to the trips to the loo, dropped dummies and ejected bed sheets.

So, what to do with a child who is a bit too young to empathise with the starving children in Africa or understand that if he doesn't eat, he will soon leave this mortal coil?

Believe me, the phrase "you'll sit there until you've eaten it" is long dead. My little man's record so far is three hours sat at the breakfast table. Unfortunately there's not enough hours in the day for that!

My stepdaughter even trumped that by falling asleep at the dinner table! What can you do then but put them to bed?

I know stricter parents would probably have served it up for her breakfast the next day, but that's just not me!

One great idea from a nanny friend of mine is based on the reward chart system, where you sit down together and create a special place mat.

When they have enough stickers on their place mat, they get a reward.

It's a lovely chance to do something arty and creative together and actually, because it's visible throughout mealtimes it seems to be working really well so far... Let's just see how we get on!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Life, love and loss

This is a hard one to write.

This year I will lose from my life the two people who have unfailingly supported me and given me the small amount of self confidence and self esteem that I have.

One, my grandmother, to liver cancer, the other, my godmother, to motor neurone disease. Both have very little time left and both will leave a massive gaping hole in my life where they once were.

You see, I was a very awkward teenager. No one ever really understood me or understood why I never fitted in.

There was a lot of anger and hurt inside me that I just didn't know how to deal with, and depression was a looming spectre ever since I could remember. But these two ladies saw through that.

They always made me feel special and loved. Always focussed on my good points, instead of putting me down and more importantly they believed in me.

As a result of this I was able to believe in myself. That I could do something good with my life. For this I will be forever grateful.

By the end of this year, I won't have them anymore and while I'm keeping a brave face on for my children, inside I'm devastated.

I know death happens, it's a fact of life, and I know I'm a big girl now, with my own family to look after.

But, as I held my dying gran's hand and watched her drift in and out of consciousness this weekend, I thought, how on earth am I going to be able to explain it to my three year old, when I'm struggling to come to terms with it myself?

So I sat him down and talked to him about the flowers in the garden and how they will all get tired and eventually die.

I explained that this was the same for people. I told him great gran was very poorly and just like the flowers she would soon die too, but that we'd always remember her and love her.

I think he understood; hopefully more than I do. It's so black and white for children.

I made the decision not to take him to see her because I wanted him to remember her how she was, not the ravaged figure that cancer has left behind.

I haven't been able to cry about it yet, but it's always there hiding behind my brave face. Hopefully I'll get a chance to let it out soon, maybe when my boys aren't around to see it.

Life is cruel and cold. Make the most of every moment and be kind to each other, because you never know when it's going to be taken away.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

How times have changed!

A comment on twitter just made me reminisce about the holidays of my childhood and that 'oh so familiar' smell that became synonymous with it - the coconut flavoured tanning oil!

Not that long ago (well, ok, it was the early 80s, but, for the sake of my sanity, let's call it not long ago) SPF 6 was considered to be a high factor!

I clearly remember my mum slathering on the SPF 2 Hawaiian Tropic oil and frying her way to a mahogany tan - and she certainly wasn't the only one doing it.

I swear pool sides back then looked like a row of sizzling sausages!

Hard to believe really! That was back in the day when smoking was considered acceptable and people gave their children little snips of brandy when they were poorly.

Now, in hindsight, those things appear foolhardy, let alone down right dangerous, but have we gone too far in the other direction?

While only 30 years ago we'd run around building sandcastles and playing in the sea with just one layer of SPF 6 on, now it's all about SPF 50+.

But, with a worrying rise in Vitamin D deficiency and conditions such as rickets, caused by lack of exposure to the sun, maybe we should be slightly more sensible about things?

You are very entitled to disagree, but I believe that a child with a healthy, slightly sun kissed glow is a good thing.

Just like I think children should have rosy cheeks in the winter.

It shows that they enjoy being active outdoors and I believe a little sunshine is good for us all, both mentally, physically and constitutionally.

What I don't advocate is sunburn. A sunburnt child to me is a neglected one and nothing is more tragic. But then I hate to see deathly pale children too. To me that is also unhealthy.

So I suppose, what it comes down to is being sensible and trusting our instincts.

All too often us mums become victims of the nanny state and told how we should and shouldn't be doing things.

Apart from the fact that this so called advice contradicts itself every few years, it seems to discourage us from thinking for ourselves.

Personally, I think, if you consider yourself an intelligent, caring and mature human being, you should trust the instincts you were born with.

Not to mention the fact that you love your children more then life itself and would do whatever it took to protect them, despite whatever guidelines are fashionable at the time.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The time has come to stop hitting the sweetie cupboard!

When I was a newcomer to the joys of parenthood, the sleep deprivation that came with a newborn baby hit me like a ton of bricks.

For the first thirty years of my life, my body had been used to getting a good night's sleep and, as we all know, this rapidly became a distant memory.

As I'm sure the vast majority of women will agree, being kept awake night after night can feel like absolute torture.

Nothing beats those gorgeous snuggles, but I just wish I'd been more awake, focussed and a lot less headachy, so I could have enjoyed them more!

My husband had a daughter from a previous relationship and I remember saying to him after a few days: "How long does this last for? I'm not sure I can do many more nights like this!"

When he informed me it could take months, if not years, for a baby to sleep through the night, I about died of shock!

But, like with many things to do with pregnancy, birth and parenthood, I just had to suck it up and get on with it the best I could. After all, my little man needed me to!

One of the things that got me through those first few fuzzy-headed weeks was coffee and an awful lot of chocolate.

Now, I wouldn't advocate these quick fixes to anyone. Really, it should have been all about bananas, porridge and other slow release energy boosting things.

But I'm not that saintly. Chocolate and coffee worked for me and it also felt like a little treat to myself for all the hard work.

And that continued well past the birth of my second little man... so now, let's just say I'm pretty used to raiding the treats cupboard!

The problem is, now I'm getting more sleep and not running on vapours anymore, how do I stop? Because if I don't, I'm going to end up being the size of a house and that's no fun for anyone!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not classed as overweight and I still use up a lot of energy running around after my little men. But treats and chocolate fixes here and there aren't going to get me that flat stomach I desire and sleep deprivation is no longer an excuse!

So, in the drive to be fitter and healthier, I've started exercising more. The added energy this gives me is fab and I can't recommend Pilates enough.

I'm also home cooking more, cutting down on fast food and getting the children out and about loads, now the tiredness has abated.

The road to perfection is a long and unrealistic one, but I'm trying and I think it's working.. Slowly.

All I need now is more will power and healthy treats that taste like chocolate... Or coffee!

Monday, 26 May 2014

The perils of the 18 month old

Now, don't get me wrong. It's a gorgeous time of life for me.. Just my two lil men and me (hubs too sometimes) ambling through life together, enjoying all the lovely little adventures and weathering the tears, tantrums and diva strops along the way.

It's a learning curve for us all and I'm trying my best to savour every wide eyed, sticky fingered, beautiful, cuddly, sleep deprived minute of it.

But isn't the 18-month stage a difficult one? Yes, granted, there are no night feeds, no potty training, no 40-minute winding sessions and no two-hours of broken sleep at night (well sometimes, but nothing like a newborn!)

Instead, what I've got at the toddler stage, is an energy-fuelled, boisterous, active, inquisitive little man, who hasn't yet learnt the meaning of the words "stand still", "wait", or "be patient" and primarily the word no!

As I'm also a mother to a pre schooler, as well as a toddler, adult behaviour is unfortunately required of me at times and this includes waiting patiently in a nice line when I drop my pre schooler off and pick him up.

Unfortunately my toddler cannot see the need for this. And, of course, I'm the only one stood there with a toddler.

While he is delightfully sociable, it would be an understatement to say this little guy likes to make his presence felt. Every day he barges his way to the front of the queue, demanding everyone's attention in his search for his older brother and any toys he can get his hands on and screams his head off at me if I refuse to let him race up and down like a freight train.

Rock and a hard place springs to mind... He's too big for a pushchair, but too small to do as he's darn well told, it seems! Of course, he's only been on the planet for five minutes. No star charts, reward systems or blatant all out bribery for this one! No!

So I weather the massive amount of attention foisted on me for those few minutes every day and smile sweetly, while trying my best not to show the raging embarrassment I'm feeling! I'd love to be one of those mums who doesn't seem to care what their kids get up to, but frankly that's not me. I'd rather blend in than cause a scene.

But, as a parent for the second time around, I've realised, it's not going to last forever and it's just another one of those challenges I must face in the long journey of parenthood.

So grin and bear it I shall, while brazenly repeating the mantra... Everyone has to go through the trying times.... I'm not the first and I won't be the last.

And I'll just keep trying my best and wait for the next challenge to come along.... Now where's that potty...

Is chivalry really dead?

We've all heard the phrase "chivalry is dead", but who killed it?

A recent incident on a busy train down to London had me wondering, what happened to chivalry and where's it gone?

It all happened when I was sitting calmly reading in my seat, when a spotty young man, wildly brandishing his iPod, demanded that I was in his seat and should move.

It turned out that it was the man next to me who was in fact in the wrong seat and so ensued a marvellous tango, as we all shuffled round to let this lad sit down.

There were other seats on the train, but he demanded that my bags and I should move to allow him to sit.

Now, by rights, this was his seat and he was entitled to it, but would this have happened years ago and quite so aggressively?

Not that long ago, a man would have happily given up his seat to a woman and this attitude is still evident within our elderly population. Kindly gents with a glint in their eye still try to help members of the fairer sex.

And I think it's absolutely delightful to see, even though, often for me, necessary to politely decline.

Men can be quick to blame the loss of chivalry on women's drive for equality, but is it really just an excuse for no manners?

I've even seen pregnant women and the elderly stand on crowded buses while younger men and women lounge in their seats.

Yes, admittedly, there are women who would be offended by someone holding a door open for them. They would see it as an assumption that they can't do it for themselves. But have we really all become so cold that we have to refuse an act of kindness?

It doesn't mean you are weaker or inferior, but just accepting of a friendly gesture from one human being to another. It's something which could completely lift your mood if you let it. What's to stop a woman opening a door for a man if he's struggling?

Now, that's real equality. Not to refuse help because we think it makes us weaker, but giving and receiving help and kindness in the hope of a better society.

So actually, is the statement that chivalry is dead just an opportunity to be lazy? For men not to be gentlemen anymore and not to have to make that extra effort. Is it really just them trying to justify the fact that they can't be bothered?

If you go onto an armed forces base, it still very much remains. The immaculate courtesy and manners displayed by serving men and women alike is outstanding. And it's nice. Really nice. Just a bit shocking when you return to the real world.

There is a new generation that believes we should only see ourselves in the world and help ourselves.

But I find this very sad. So I've decided. I'm going to be chivalrous if it kills me! And I'm going to talk to strangers, even if they think I'm mental. And I'm going to smile, even if someone steps on my foot on a crowded train.

And hopefully I might start a trend... Who knows?

Social Media

Social media

There are 7 billion people on our planet and by the end of last year well over one billion of them were using Facebook.

That's over 1 in 7 of us! When you think the world's total includes babies, young children and those who don't have access to the Internet, it's pretty amazing.

There's no doubt that social media is massive, but it got me wondering... Is knowing what your mates had for dinner a good or a bad thing?

Somebody once told me that London was one of the loneliest places to live. I found this pretty surprising.

We all know it's a huge place and absolutely bursting at the seams with people, so how could you be lonely?

They explained that because it's so big, it's easy to feel lost and difficult to meet friends. People don't use cars and friends can live miles and miles away.

I suppose it's hard to feel you belong in a place so diverse and understandably, it's easy to feel like a little fish in a big pond.

The same could be said for motherhood. Many of us can feel alone and think we're the only ones going through the tough bits.

It's easy when everyone around you puts on a display of doing fantastically well, leaving you to feel like you're the only one who's struggling.

No one would ever admit that it's hard, for fear of sounding like they've failed.

Until social media came along. Finally from the safety blanket of your computer has come the chance to be honest and by doing so provide support for others who can feel reassured that we're actually all in the same boat.

Whether its finding your feet in a new city or learning about the trials and tribulations of first time motherhood, the support of others can be a lifeline.

Not wishing to state the obvious, but social media has given us the opportunity to realise we are not alone. Even by seeing comments you can relate to, it can make you feel part of something.

Friends can be supportive while living hundreds of miles away and even the comments of virtual strangers can lead to the development of another good relationship.

For many, it can be the only chance at adult conversation they've had in days.

It takes just six links in the chain to know everyone in the world. So, it seems Facebook's aim to connect the world has been successful, but can social media be a bad thing?

After all, it has  been sited in a worrying percentage of divorce cases. It's so easy to get back in touch with exes and flirt online, causing waves in what might be an already troubled relationship. And people can also be quite hurtful online, because it's not face to face.

But, is this a new thing? Isn't this the case in life anyway?

Like with everything, when done in moderation, I think the chance to connect with your friends more regularly has got to be a good thing.

But, now our planet seems like such a small place, maybe we should move further afield? ;-)

Alex xx

Getting Old

Getting old

A children's programme recently featured a dad with the grumps because it was his birthday and he didn't like getting older. But his little girl said she did.

It had me wondering, at what age do we stop wishing we were older and instead start wishing time would stand still?

I don't know if I'm alone here, but I spent much of my childhood wanting to be grown up. My earliest memory is going to school as a four year old and thinking how grown up the children in the year above were. Wow, how much I wanted to be five!

Then of course came the secondary school years. Well, of course, the sixth formers were proper grown ups weren't they?

Adulthood seemed like complete utopia. After all, you could do what you wanted couldn't you? Mortgages, taxes, bills and laws weren't even thought about.

Then at around 25, things started to creak and ache a little more and getting older came with added responsibility. It didn't seem quite so much fun anymore. It was around that time I started conveniently forgetting how old I was every time a birthday came around.

By the time I hit 30, I really wasn't pleased about it at all. It brought a new realisation that there were people who were classed as grown ups, who were younger than me now. In nightclubs I was beginning to feel like someone's gran.

I'll never forget the time my husband's much younger brother said he quite fancied his school tutor, but she was a bit old. I said oh, how old is she?He replied, 23...... Hmmm.

But then there are some plus sides to getting older and I found hitting 30 had some benefits.

I no longer lived my life according to how others expected me to be. I was more confident and comfortable in my own skin.

Getting older seems to bring about a new sense of self assurance. You have more chance of knowing who you are later in life. And I stopped spending most of my time trying to please others.

So, while it takes more work to keep the flab off and a few wrinkles are appearing here and there, I suppose, in a way, I must be happier.

And, after all, as a second time around mum at the age of 34, I'm not the only one doing things later in life.

 Britain has the oldest average age for starting a family in the world and, according to reports, the average woman in Britain starts a family at the age of 30. Years ago, this would have been considered too far over the hill.

Women have different goals in life, careers, owning your own home, seeing the world. People are also living longer and can stay healthier for longer.

So maybe I should be looking forward to my forties? There'll be no nappies to change and hopefully I'll be enjoying the finer things in life, confident in who I am and what I like.

So what if it takes that bit longer to get up a hill? At least I won't be over it!

Money for Mummies

Money for mummies

This year's budget heralded a new hope on the horizon for sleep deprived mummies and daddies not only worrying about whether that rash on little Johnny really was prickly heat, but how on earth a nasty winter gas bill or newly huge shopping budget was getting paid.

In his budget, George Osborne promised to support hard working families with a lower income tax bill, help with childcare, a huge boost for homebuyers and help with some every-day costs.

But, in these troubled times and 2015 being just that bit too far away to breathe a sigh of relief just yet, what can we do to look after the pennies while we raise our little rocket scientists?

While some people might joke that being married to an accountant brings the wrong meaning to 50 shades of grey, it isn't all boring facts and figures.

He might eat sleep and breathe number crunching and financial forecasts but his astuteness meant we planned ahead from the minute the little blue line appeared. And with people now believing that the cost of raising a child to 21 has now rocketed to over £222,000 this was one thing I didn't find so boring!

For the first time in my life I created a spreadsheet and projected forecast during early pregnancy. This outlined incoming figures and outgoing costs for the year to come and how long I really could afford to take off on maternity leave.

It highlighted where we'd need to pull the belt in and looked ahead to any nasty bills that might appear in a future filled with only three hours sleep a night. For instance, car servicing, increased food bills and how much extra nappies would really cost.

I also started saving from the minute I knew I was pregnant. Did I really need to eat out, have a takeaway once a week, buy those new clothes I wouldn't get a chance to wear until they'd gone out of fashion? I managed to put aside money every month during my pregnancy and this is now what I'm living on alongside a meagre maternity allowance. How grateful am I to forego the odd kebab!

Finally, some other things I found useful were, firstly, not to be precious about hand me downs from friends' children. They really are only in them for five minutes and most stuff comes to you in a virtually new condition. Likewise, I will do the same for my pregnant friends.

It makes sense to buy nappies in advance, but be warned, those little poo machines grow at a rate of knots, so buy up the sizes. It may seem strange buying size two and three nappies before your little one has even come into the world but the planet suffers enough from used nappies being chucked away, let alone unused ones!

Gifts from friends and family are brilliant but the last thing you want is lots of baby's first tooth/ lock of hair/ shoe boxes. Ask for clothes or toiletries and allocate sizes to people (in the nicest possible way of course).

Lastly, I know I've said it before but save from the start! And do make the most of KIT days... Would it really be so hard to go back into the office and catch up with your mates for a day, while the poo machine stays with granny? You'll get paid for it too - yes real money! Something I don't envisage seeing for quite some time!