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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!