Introducing Usborne Books + a sticker book review!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

One of my favourite things to do is snuggle up on the sofa and read with Jellybean. I get excited when the colder weather rolls around purely for the idea of laying on the sofa together under a blanket and reading, until one of us (usually me) starts to nod off.

I love this special time together, partly because it's a sneaky way to get cuddles with my daughter, but partly because stories mean so much to me. It feels like a privilege to pass on that joyful feeling of entering another world, allowing words and pictures to shape your imagination and allow a moment of wonder and escape from reality.

I am excited to announce that I will be linking up with Sarah Keeler, a representative from Usborne Books, to review some lovely children's books and to help promote the importance of reading with children. Sarah is an ex-teacher and passionate about encouraging children to enjoy books. She will be sending me some lovely Usborne books for Jellybean and I to enjoy together!

I'll be kicking off this series with a review of this lovely book:


Jellybean loves animals so this book is perfect for her. She's getting to the age where she cares a bit more about where each sticker belongs now, which is just a bit less frustrating than the stick-them-all-on-top-of-each-other stage she was in before.

We had a lot of chats about the things we saw at the zoo when we went for her birthday:


'Mama, on my birthday at the zoo the elephants were splashing in the water!'

And it also kept her occupied whilst waiting for a long time for me to have an appointment at the hospital, which was really handy.

What I like about this book is that the stickers are really easy to peel off (good for toddlers) and you can also easily rip out the actual sticker pages which makes it easier to use. They also look nice enough to keep and flick through afterwards. If you're looking for some quiet time activity books I'd definitely recommend it!




You can buy First Sticker Book: Zoo and similar books on Sarah's Usborne store. Thank you again Sarah for the freebie and for helping me to keep a very bored toddler happy!

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Talk of the Town

I give up caring, and why you should too

Tuesday, 25 October 2016



I'm concious of the fact that I'm writing something really flipping obvious today. Like, hit-your-head-on-the-wall, duhhhh level of obvious.

Apologies. You have to know if you're reading my blog for the first time that I mostly write for myself, to make sense of things that go on in my head. So if you've reached this level of self-actualisation way before me, then congratulations! You've levelled up as a human! Feel free to skip to the end.

Sometimes, though, the most obvious lessons are the ones that are the easiest to forget. Issues become issues again (and again and again). Which is frustrating. I've noticed though that I can pick myself up when I fall a lot quicker when I've already had to do it before.

So that's why I'm writing this.

A big part of my twenties (particularly the early twenties which are slipping further away from me at a terrifying pace) have been spent learning not to care what other people think about me. As a teenager - particularly around the age of sixteen - my self-confidence took a spectacular hit, a nose-dive into nothingness, and it took years and years to be built up to the point where I am now, and frankly, I'm still not quite where I want to be yet. I've said it before, but when I met my husband, I was an actual wreck in a lot of ways. As I mentioned in my last post, grace is what my whole life hinges upon. At that point, I needed Chris to understand me and not put pressure on me to change.

Which he did, gracefully. And he still does, gracefully, ten years on.

The other day we were in the car and I started crying over something really stupid and insignificant. I took something tiny - that might make people think less of me - and it brought back all these memories of how I used to be.

That is what it is like to have low self-esteem (or rather no self-esteem): everything hinges on what other people think. You are obsessively determined to get things right. You analyse everything you've said and done. Every weakness and flaw in you feels huge, glaring and obvious. You put up walls; you don't allow many (or any) people to see those hidden parts of you, because it is too dangerous to let people know who you really are.

 Some people might read you as being standoffish, or rude; only you know how you really feel on the inside: inadequate, worthless, terrified. Ordinary social situations used to make me feel shaky and sick.

If you're in the midst of that now, I'm so sorry. Because it really does suck. Just that mild reminder of who I used to be was enough to make me break down, sitting next to Chris as we drove along the motorway, helpless non-stop crying (the snotty, ugly kind).

I am very relieved not to be that person anymore.

A few years ago I resigned that I would no longer pretend to be someone I wasn't: I decided I would purposefully make myself vulnerable sometimes (only to a certain point, obviously). I decided I would be real with people who knew me well enough to still love me regardless. I decided to write this blog, not to show off or pretend that my life is perfect, but to just be honest. As honest as possible. And to let people in to that honesty. Because what is the worst that can happen? You can get hurt? People might think less of you?

So what if people think less of you?

I've struggled the past couple of years to deal with the very real (and very loud) opinions that people have about the way mothers should do things. I never expected this: this intense interest in how other people raise their kids. I've learnt that I raise my daughter in a different way than my friends might raise their kids: that's fine. When you're in baby-and-toddler world, it can be really easy to lose sight of the big picture and to think that the smallest of choices mean everything. I've learnt to let go of comments from people in the midst of that. Because I get it: some people do things that make me raise my eyebrows (internally). You forget that in the long run it doesn't really matter how you decide to sleep train your kids or whatever.

But still, sometimes, I let people's opinions get to me. We all have our weak spots, right? Like the soft fleshy underbelly of a boss monster. Doesn't matter how well-armoured we think we are: there's always a little weak spot somewhere, and whether on purpose or not, someone will hit it eventually. For me, that weak spot is being a stay at home Mum. I occasionally hear people saying things like:

'I couldn't be a stay at home Mum. I'd be so bored. I need stimulation. I'd need my brain to keep working'

or

'I think it's good for the kids to see me as a role model by working.'

or

'I could never rely on my husband like that: I'm too independent.'

All of those statements are relating to that person: they're not saying 'I hate stay at home Mums and they suck and they smell.' They are just ... thinking about themselves. (Most of them anyway. I've been on the receiving end of some pointed comments about our life decisions before, and that's a whole different ballgame).

But, boom! Arrow straight to my weak spot. I start wibbling when I hear that kind of stuff. I start wondering 'if that person thinks that, then what do they think about me?'

Do you know what?

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't actually matter. I don't need to prove anything to those people, and frankly, if someone is so narrow-minded that they can't imagine why anyone would make a different choice to them, then they are not a person I should waste my time on. And I don't feel the need to justify myself by listing out all the reasons why we made this choice (like I used to, when people asked, stammering out a long list of all the circumstances that led us to this point).

I'm learning to narrow my focus and purposefully block certain things out. Because it's too exhausting otherwise. I find caring about my immediate family as well as caring about friends and my wider family, and being concerned for the state of the wider world, takes up so much of my headspace that frankly I don't have time to care about this sort of stuff anymore.

If you're trapped in a bubble of losing time or emotional energy or even sleep worrying about what people think of you, then repeat after me:

Sometimes I will make decisions that will make other people judge me, and that's okay.

If you're reading this and you're still at that place where everything hinges on how others perceive you, I understand. Hang in there. Sometimes, all you need is time to get your confidence back.

... maybe someone is reading this and judging me right now.

If that's you: I'm terribly sorry, but I don't care what you think.


Hey. Does that mean I've levelled up?


Linking up with:

Mummascribbles3 Little Buttons Pink Pear Bear

Pick N Mix Fridays
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Words matter: on Donald Trump and women

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Unless you've lived under a rock for the past few months, you've probably heard about the US presidential election campaign that is currently, er, heated (I thought UK politics were brutal! Blimey).

Everyone in the world seems to have a pretty strong opinion on both Clinton and Trump, and the extremity of feeling on either side is quite something to behold. Today, though, I'm going to focus on the thing that most people have been focusing on recently: Trump's hideous comments about women.

Leaving allegations of sexual assault/court cases aside (as they are, for the moment, only allegations), and also laying aside the many other offensive things that he has said, I just want to focus on some of the things that have been said, about women, by Trump.

Words like these:

"You know, it doesn't really matter what [they] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass."

“It must be a pretty picture. You dropping to your knee."

"You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever."

"Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?
"Can you imagine that, the face of our next next president? I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"

And the clincher (warning: strong language coming up here!)

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”
“I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

(Source for these quotes here and here).

Now: I feel uncomfortable listing these here (and they're far from everything he's said), because I don't like singling people out for attack. Frankly, the thought of this man being the next president of the United States genuinely scares me, but then again, it's not my decision to make.

If you allow a person who has little to no respect for half of the population to run a country ... well. I dread to think.

But, that's besides the point.

Trump's words speak a bigger picture: a huge disrespect towards women, and the massive problem we STILL, to this day, grapple with - the blatant objectifying of girls. It heartens me to see so many people speaking out against Trump's words (and questioning whether he is fit to run for president), and that obviously shows that, to many people, his attitude is not okay.

However there's still a huge amount of supporters out there defending what he said. I can get past the idea that he has matured since then (he was in his fifties when he said some of them, and frankly I find it a bit dubious that he really has changed, but I'm still willing to accept that, even if it's a bit weak), but people are defending him because they genuinely don't think it matters that he said these things.

Some women don't mind this. Some women can laugh and shrug off unwanted remarks and sexual advances, and some women shrug off catcalling as flattering. What's the harm, right? It's just words.

It's not just words, though.

It's an entire culture based around the degredation and humiliation of women, even very young teenagers.

It's an world view based on the idea that men can do whatever they want because they are the stronger sex.

It's an attitude based around women being nothing more than sexual objects to please men.

It is sickening and disgusting and it's STILL rampant, even now.

I haven't forgotten my Faith and Feminism series - it's just been on the back burner recently. I've still got the fire in my belly for it And this whole thing has just reminded me of how important it is to keep talking, to keep holding people to a higher standard of support and encouragement for women.

It is not acceptable to insinuate that an accomplished reporter is on her period because you don't like her line of questioning.

It is not acceptable to condone ANY form of sexual assault (and, yes, Trump, the grabbing of a woman by her genitals definitely does count as sexual assault). It's not acceptable to even joke about it.

It is not acceptable to yell out at an obviously pregnant woman pushing a buggy with a small child the (unrepeatable) things that you'd like to do to her. (Thanks, random catcalling man. It was months ago now and I still remember how vulnerable and angry you made me feel).


Walking with a small child, one of the many scenarios in which it is NOT okay to for a stranger to yell obscene things at me

I want to bang my head against the wall for even having to SAY any of this. It's obvious - isn't it?

But for some people it isn't. So I, and so many other people, will keep speaking out in defence of women again and again and again until the message gets through.

And in the meantime, I'm hoping and praying that this man isn't handed any more power than he already has.

Linking up with:
Mummascribbles

Diary of an imperfect mum

Pause

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Growing a person makes you feel really, really vulnerable.

Not for me. I'm not afraid for myself. Although I'm getting to the point where my body is starting to feel it: even on the non-pelvic-joint-pain-days, after a long time on my feet, I feel it in my hips and lower back, that bone-deep uncomfortable ache.

These babies wrack my body. I am physically changed forever because of them.

I don't mind. It feels a small price to pay in the long run. But the days stretch on sometimes, just me and Jellybean, when Chris works long hours and I try and be everything that she needs me to be.

Time ticks by, slowly.

***

In our twenty week scan, I saw a glimpse of my son's face.

Not all of it: he was shy, arms up, covering his eyes. But I saw a tiny nose and perfectly plump lips. Just like Jellybean's. By the end of my pregnancy with her, I had so many scans, I practically knew what she would look like when she came out.

He looks like her.

Then we went to another scan last week, and I saw his face properly. As I thought: splitting image of his sister.

The wait is suddenly unbearable. I don't think I realised how much I wanted him until I saw him that day. And now, he's there, in me, and ten weeks feels like a long time to wait for him to be strong enough to come out.

So much is still at stake.

And it's a long, long waiting game.

It's an anxious wait that cannot have my full attention. Occasionally, in the midst of everything, I forget. Because everything still needs to be done: potties to wipe down and toys to pick up and stubborn blonde curls to brush knots from and food to be prepared and walks to be taken and nature to be observed and dancing to be done. It all ticks on like normal. And then suddenly, in the midst of something else - like today, stirring a pot of spiced lentils and spinach and doing that 'I hope my toddler actually eats this' chant under my breath - he'll just spring awake. Like a little surprise. I'm here! And I think 'oh, I forgot you were in there.'

It all comes rushing back, then. This want for him in my arms, fully cooked, and safe.

***

I think it's more intense this time because I've had it before. I'm ready for it. My body started changing way quicker this time: I felt his movements ridiculously early, and my bump seemed to appear suddenly, overnight, when he was still smaller than a grape. Emotionally I'm already there. I'm ready. Give me that baby so I can hold him and sniff his head.




Also, everything has a sense of finality to it this time because we can't afford any more babies after this. (Financially and physically. Some days the nerve pain is so bad I feel like one my legs will actually just drop off). And so, this is the last time. I keep thinking it: enjoy this feeling when he kicks, enjoy seeing your belly move, this is the last time.

It's kind of gently torturous. On the one hand, yes. On the other, no. I want him now. I'd happily skip the next ten weeks in order to have him here safely.

So I carry on down this path of uncertainty and preparation. I sit amongst mounds and mounds of beautiful baby clothes (thank you, thank you, thank you, to my kind friends. We literally need nothing for this kid. My 'newborn clothes drawer' is so full I can barely close it) and I keep thinking: please hurry up. But also don't.

That's where I am.

Hurry along little one. But take your time.


Linking up with:
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Pink Pear Bear


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Mummy Fever - Share With Me


Past it, and proud of it (and a Pokemon obsession)

Thursday, 6 October 2016

About a year ago, I had a little nostalgic memory of a Pokemon book I had as a kid. I loved it so much I held onto it for years before eventually taking it to the charity shop.

I suddenly wanted that book back. A lot.

So I ordered a second hand copy 'for Jellybean' because it's little animals and she will love them, obviously. As it happened, she did love it, and all was well.

Then Pokemon Go came out.

My daughter is now obsessed with Pokemon to a level that is frankly frightening. Forget Frozen or Peppa Pig: Pokemon is where it's at. She knows most of the original 150 and who evolves into what. She knows that Pokeballs are for catching them. She knows that you have to defeat Pokemon to catch them (but she thinks its a bit naughty that they fight each other). We've had to come up with ways to scratch her Pokemon itch that doesn't involve staring at our phones because of, you know, square eyes.

These things include:
  • Making Pokemon out of playdough
  • Printing off endless Pokemon colouring pictures
  • Watching the TV show (thanks Netflix)
  • Looking at Pokemon cards (thanks to my past self for holding onto something)
  • Pretending to catch Pokemon
The latter is adorable. She runs around the house shouting 'GO ONIX GO!' and then comes running up to me to tell me she's caught an Eevee or whatever.


That's right: pyjamas in the daytime, sitting on the coffee table, watching cartoons: the trifecta of bad parenting

It's funny seeing her explain all this to our (baffled) parents. 

Jellybean: 'Granny, Caterpie turns into Metapod and Metapod turns into BUTTERFREE!'
Granny: 'Oh!' (blank expression)

Funnier to think that when I was nine or so, I was explaining the exact same thing to my (again, baffled) parents.

Which makes me feel very very very

OLD.

This is it, isn't it? This is what it means to be old. I felt it a couple of years ago when I spotted a bunch of teenagers wearing crop tops and checkered shirts tied round their waists with platform shoes and chokers. I thought 'oh, those kids look like my childhood.'

Then I realised that the nineties were in fashion. That's right, the nineteen-nineties: the era of inflatable furniture and alien necklaces and the Vengaboys. When Justin Timberlake's hair looked like noodles.


Image source. I notice the youth of today are a bit more sensible: no matter how many nineties trends come back, the noodle hair is staying firmly in the past. For which I can only thank God.


When I was a tweenager, I happily daydreamed about being a 'grown up'. Being a grown-up involved going to lots of parties, living in a ridiculous, luxurious flat in a big city with lots of friends, and not doing a whole lot of work.



Thanks for that helpful perception of adulthood, Friends.

In my daydreaming I never imagined myself past the age of 21. Not in a weird morbid way. Just because I genuinely didn't think anything cool or interesting could happen after that point. In my eleven-year-old mind, mid-twenties = ancient. I couldn't imagine being, you know, like my parents.

Now I am nearly thirty and I am married and I consider it a notable achievement if I go to bed with the bins emptied and the washing hanging up. I say a lot of things like

'Come back from the TV!'

and

'That's probably a bit too much glitter'

and 

'You need to let Mummy do this sweeping up/tidying/bill paying because it's important'

and

'No we can't just get money out of the bank'

and so on.

I chopped all my hair off (something I swore I'd never do as a teenager) and the thought of curling up on the sofa watching Strictly and having a nice cup of peppermint tea is actually delightful.

But do you know what? I still feel like the world is my oyster. Along with the confidence that comes from a bit more life experience. Almost thirty is way better than almost twenty one.

The youth can have their chokers and platform shoes if they want. I'm happy over here talking about the weather and occasionally complaining about heartburn.

As long as they realise that we had Pokemon first.



(P.S: she obviously doesn't know this, but our daughter is getting tiny Pokemon toys in her advent calendar instead of chocolate this year. Also, we've got her a book with all seven-hundred-million new Pokemon in it. As far as she's concerned there's only really 150. Her mind is about to be blown).



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