31 July 2012

Yummy Mummy?

A year's supply of Rice Krispies?  That 's what we're in with a chance of winning with this latest Britmums promo.

Perhaps it might change our conversations which normally pan out like this:

Me:  'Shall we make a cake for your Brithday / the school fair / for fun today?'

7YO:  'No, Mum.  It'll be rubbish.'    

Me:  'Biscuits?'

7YO:  'No, Mum.  They'll be rubbish.'


Me:  'Shall we make some Rice Krispie Cakes today?' 

7YO: 'Of course, Mum. What a great idea.  They'll be yummy.'  

Do you like my use of colour? 

That's because, for a limited time only, Rice Krispies currently come in a Colour Me In packet - something to keep the boys nicely occupied in our lovely holiday villa and there is a fab Colour Together Website with loads more fun to be had with it - both on line and with plenty of stuff to print-off. 

Not at all rubbish...

Our entry for the BritMums #ColourMeInRK competition, sponsored by Kellogg’s.

Disclosure: We were sent the packet and the pens for the purposes of this promo.

25 July 2012

The Plan!

So this is The Plan:

We live in a semi detached house on the coast.  In my mind it has become our luxury villa in a seaside - resort and we are on holiday for a whole six weeks.

Instead of dread, I am eager to explore, just like I would be somewhere new.

I am looking at our surroundings with new eyes - those of a holiday maker, not a woman with two children on her own, ostensibly, and it all seems bearable. 

The thing about being a single parent in the holidays is that I can't ask my boyfriend to take two weeks off work to help me with the kids, because they're not his.  I could ask him to take off the odd day for him and me to spend some extra time together, particularly while the weather is glorious, and as much as he would love to and will, he doesn't mind admitting he would rather be taking me out for dinner, just the two of us.

To be honest, I'm flattered to death.  It's years since someone has asked me on a proper date.

Don't get me wrong, as a wonderful friend and partner of almost a year now, he has always been nothing less than fantastic with both my boys.  It didn't occur to me he might want me to himself now and then, but he does. 

So rather than the snatched two or three hours on the odd Saturday afternoon when the children are with their father, who lives a decent enough distance away for me to find this whole scenario tolerable, we are going to find ourselves a babysitter and going out on at least one Saturday night, alone, for the first time ever.

How bizarre is that?  We have the nuts and bolts of a solid relationship to get on with every day living in a warm, easy, positive, calm way and we know each other at our worst.  Wouldn't it be brilliant to get to know one another at our very best?

So, apart from being romanced, there won't be much blogging going on in the Summer break - I am surely not alone with the deserving demands of children and stuff to prepare for days on the beach (where catching up on other peoples' is a joy), making it nigh on impossible for me - unless, of course, when it's to keep me sane, so it's definitely not out of the question - but with curiosity calling, we'll all be out and about. 

If only this villa came with a Housekeeper.

This is where you'll find us...

P.S  See you at the Tots100 Summer Party in Hove?



14 July 2012

Who's a Beautiful Blogger?

Cheers, Polly!

I have been honoured by the Tres Jolie Polly at Caught Writing with this Beautiful Blogger Award.  I am thrilled and touched (but not like that 'in the head' kind of a way, although others may beg to differ), thank you.   

There are rules which always come with accepting these things.  I must nominate (about) six Beautiful Bloggers and tell ten facts about myself that others may not know.   I have already done a bit of the latter on my Versatile Blogger Award post a while ago and some of it was serious stuff, so less of that this time.      

Here are some of my Beautiful Blogger friends.  All are ladies I have met IN THE FLESH and are credits to their blogs.  The first four were at a Save the Children conference and the last two were at the Tesco Real Food Cooking Event.  

It is my pleasure to nominate the following wonderful women;

1) Michelle at Mummy Rates It .  Witty frivolity.  Top lady. Top blog.

2) Luci at mother.wife.me. A fellow Montessori Mum. Ex Journo / PR / Media. Writes very interesting, varied, often thought provoking, proper stuff.

3)  Sarah at Grenglish - a name derived for writing about the mixture of her Greek husband and English self and their son.  Again, an entertaining read.

4)  Ruth at dorkymum writes about politics, her much older husband and their son, with fun and frank, common sense.

5)  Jenny at Cheetahs in my Shoes showcases the most beautiful scenic photos, is a baker extraordinaire and shares all her stuff with us to make a deeply personal, enjoyable blog.  She has started a second one just for her pics.

6)  Am I allowed to mention Tania from Larger Family Life again? Mother of 11, 12th on the way.  Normal mum, socking it to us.  

Things you didn't know about me:

I can't wait for the Summer, just so as I can make a jug of Pimms.  I grow two sorts of mint in the garden, one especially for it.  The other is for making fresh peppermint tea.

I love to be by the sea shore - right by the water's edge, when it's blowy, but sunny.  I don't mind Barbados, which ticks all the boxes.  Otherwise, the sea at the end of our street is fine.

I always fall for the Saxophone player in any band.  It doesn't matter how ugly they are.  It's probably a good job I don't get out much nowadays.

I have an ambition to learn to play the piano one day.  Don't know when.  Don't know where.  Don't have one yet. 

I have been to Australia, Russia and China, worked in London and New York (plus a bit in Switzerland and Los Angeles) and spent four years living and working in Jersey, Channel Islands.

I love Reflexology, Shiatsu and all things massage, facials, waxing and relaxing - anything that means I can lie down in the middle of the day, but am well out of practice, just as it would really be of benefit.

I am already programming my seven year old to find a good woman and get married so that he can give me granchildren before I pop off the planet.  That's what happens when you don't become a mum until you're 41.

I am already programming my three year old to play cricket for England, or at least get him and his brother (equally as good at his age and still brilliant but not as brutish) into Scholarship Private Education.

I don't write anything on my blog unless I think it will make you laugh.

Hand soaps - the posh smelly ones - I love 'em, but won't buy them unless they're on offer and then I end up pining for them (excuse the pun!).

Whilst plundering my brain for these silly somethings, it has sprung to re-mind me of a similar Seven Secret Things tagged post too, if you haven't had your fill.

Looking forward to my chums' stuff now!

Things That I'm Rubbish At - Weight Watchers Review.

Weight Watchers sent me an enormous hamper while I was laid up recovering from a blood transfusion, after which I was supposed to re-build my strength with lots of food containing iron and get plenty of rest.  The last thing that would have been good for me or my health was to start dieting.  And I'm rubbish at it anyway.

For me, the answer to losing weight has always been exercise, plus for many years I have found it preferable to eat less dairy and wheat than most people do and avoid sugar where possible (turning a blind eye to its sky high content in wine).  But I've been rubbish at that lately as well.

Middle-Age spread has well and truly set in, together with post illness lethargy and lots of cake eating for the first time in my life.  It's rather a revelation - a joy even, but is undoubtedly responsible for my clothes shrinking.

I couldn't quite get to grips with the famous Points System that Weight Watchers use.  Call me old fashioned but I'd rather be counting calories (or not) than calculating points (or not!) - although they do it all for you on a mobile app and their enormously helpful, comprehensive and resourceful website.

They offer fabulous e-mail support and products, many of which are available in supermarkets, neatly among our usual brands. 

The hamper contents. 

Their biscuits are in sealed packets of two within the main sleeve and are smaller than you'd expect, but you get the psychological kick out of having them.  Same with the crisps.  The portion sizes are all smaller than normal - but therein lies the biggest lesson.  You can even find their freshly made sandwiches and wraps in shop fridges - significantly less fattening than those next to them. Didn't like the wine but will use the lemonade in Pimms if / when the Summer comes.  The curry and mediterranean sauces were OK if cooking individually, which, aside from omelettes, is a rare occurrence in this house, but they offer plenty of ideas and more practical recipes for family meals. 

It's not for me, yet they have two million members in the UK and their programme is very successful for many.  It's not their fault I haven't been inclined for one reason or another.  I could say the timing was off, but, let's face it, the truth is, to be honest, I was really rubbish at it.

Disclosure - Weight Watchers sent complementary samples of their products and I was signed up for free.  This was initiated by Liz Jarvis' New Year New Body.

8 July 2012

Single Parent Positives.

My input has been invited to a A Mile in My Shoes Blog Carnival, run by Rebecca from Here Come the Girls, regarding trying to find the positive aspects of difficult parenting issues:

This is what she says:

'So many times I read about a person, who has got an awful lot to deal with and I wonder how do they cope. Then I wonder how would I cope. I wanted to share some of these stories and get a glimpse at what it’s really like, both the positive and negative. The thing is parenting is hard, damn hard. That’s when you have one child with no additional needs, surrounded by help.
I’m not going to lie: these posts are so truthful they will touch your heart – and a couple might just break it. But that’s what makes them important and necessary.'

I don't talk about being a single parent very often because I believe it doesn't define who I am, but here is my view:

I find being a single parent incredibly exhausting, but there are lots of positives to be gleaned.  I know people who are deeply unhappy in their relationships and, having been there, am aware of what a struggle this is and the enormous impact that alone can have on your relationships with everyone else -your friends, family and work colleagues, even cliques at the school gates, not to mention any children - including other peoples'!   

If you can't be yourself, properly, at home, then all your relationships will suffer.

Since becoming single - and the trauma of the transition has passed - the people who benefit the most are my boys. I am in a much happier frame of mind.  I know where I am.  My expectations are mainly only of myself.  I have learned to lower them.  I have learned that peace is more important.

Don't get me wrong, it's not the way it's meant to be, that's for sure.  There is a good reason it takes two to make a baby - because, in my opinion, for everyone to remain healthy and to be happy, it takes at least that many people to be involved with their rearing.

Most parents - single or otherwise - benefit from other family members to help, lean on occasionally and learn from.  Everyone gains in this situation.  Sadly, some of us single parents became quite isolated at the hands of previous partners and don't always have this luxury.  This is where friends can be lifelines.  Even at invitation to tea will invoke gratitude of a magnitude you could not imagine.  To let someone else take the strain once in a while can be magical, restorative and life affirming.

A lot depends on the ex involved regarding finances.  Mine was all right until he met another woman - and this is commonly why everything that has previously been amicable, or at the very least agreed between you, can go tits up.  As it happens, him deciding to give up work and state that, maintenance wise, 'The Well is Dry,' backfired on him big time.

It worked out to be the best thing that ever happened to us - I took in a lodger, who swiftly became a real and wonderful partner, with the advantage that the children and I had already known him as a friend for a while and it was something that took us both by surprise, plus we have taken a series of Foreign Language Students who have been a real asset - playing with the kids in the universal language that is football as well as providing them with opportunities to explore and converse in their own.

However, as hands on as my boyfriend is (and having raised a family already and truly knowing the ropes), when he feels like a lie in or ducking out of the morning mayhem /  bathtime bedlam, he just can.  He doesn't have to ask or even liaise with me.  It's at times like these though, it still hits home that it will always all be down to me.  At least he has the decency to feel guilty and occasionally make it up to me, which is more than you can say for some husbands!

Autonomy is the greatest pleasure of doing it on your own.  It's also the most trying part of it.  The practicalities are tough.  Early nights can be sanity savers and early mornings makes things easier, but I've never been very good at those.  Too much wine.  I could recommend long, hot baths instead.

The hardest periods (and there are many on your own with a baby and a four year old) have been made infinitely lighter to bear by employing a cleaner regularly, but my age might be a contributory factor towards that.

My advice would be to make the most of a period alone with your children.  You will all come to treasure this time. It will be special.  (I remember it well from when I was young, with my mother and my sister, fondly, when it was just the three of us for a while). 

And to stay in touch with people who love you.  Have them over, talk, even if it's on the 'phone.  It alleviates the loneliness and helps you recover from the day, let alone the split of your family.  Your freedom comes at a price.

Encourage those who offer to help - they actually enjoy it! 

Anything is better than being unhappy in your own home, trapped in a dead relationship.  You need to be yourself.

6 July 2012

This, That and the Other.

After confessing to all and sundry that I didn't possess a proper 'phone for Tweeting, hence my periods of 'disappearing,' the shame creeping up on me evermore seriously since my eldest started his new school in a much more posh area, and eventually getting the better of me, we have lift off. I have downloaded the Twitter app. but it's nowhere to be found on the screen yet and I haven't dared actually try to do anything with it, plus I have discovered the joy of reading blogs while I'm out and about - just don't expect a comment any more.  This, undoubtedly, is the scientific explanation of  the general lament of Bloggers that while their stats increase, the number of comments doesn't.

I can't quite get over BritmumsLive.  I am still finding washing in the most bizarre places.  It was only two days, but dirty childrens' clothes have surfaced on the kitchen counter top - under a hillock of various papers and stuff, as well as being hung all over and up and down the stair bannisters, plus it has emerged from all corners and crevices in their bedroom and under the sofa in the sitting room. What's that all about?  The laundry bin was empty.

I've been quite dismayed at some of the negative coverage of what was, in my opinion, a well thought out yet too-busy-for-me event, but if you didn't go, here are the things you need to know:

Kate Takes 5 is really pretty and petite.  Motherventing is elegant and tall.  Older Mum is not old and is actually a cool cat - she's D-Jayed her way around Europe so undoubtedly always will be.  Ageing Matron is as timid as her writing isn't, but just as lovely as it is.  Ellen wasn't in a Bundance whatsoever - she was sassy.  And Ellie Stoneley had Baby Hope at 47!  Plus Karin from Cafe Bebe spent the entire time working really hard on her laptop social media-ing. Much of it was American. I didn't mind the half-naked waiters. I minded not being able to get a drink because I couldn't find one, then spent much of the party on the phone to my children.  Many people didn't wear badges (and looked worse for wear!) on the second day - they must have been hello- ed out.  That was disappointing.  More than 1% of attendees were too 'up themselves' to speak even on the first - word of my video had obviously not got out far enough (or perhaps it had?!) To this extent Mostly Yummy Mummy left and never came back.  The 'Butterflies Stand' didn't materialise because all the space was taken up with a grand list of sponsors instead.  This was a real pity.  On the whole it was a bit stilted and unfriendly - arguably intimidating, but, nevertheless, supremely well organized throughout, extremely professional and, ultimately, a rather impressive and, secretly, thrilling experience.      

The Other!
It's been almost a year since my lodger moved in and we're still together.  I've never regretted breaking the Never Bonk Your Lodger rule, but Rebecca from Here Come the Girls has asked me to write a post for a Blog Carnival she's running about parenting in difficult situations and it makes me wonder - not for the first time - whether I can still class myself as a Single Mum.  It would be great to know what you think.

I've just heard that Netmums is running a Mobiles for Meals Campaign - asking for unwanted, abandoned or even broken mobile phones to be donated to help feed hungry UK children through the wonderful Kids Company charity.  Some unused 'phones will apparently provide nutritious meals for a month and there are about 15 000 000 out there, so if you - or anyone else you know - can dig one out to help,  please do.  I feel less ashamed of my old one already!

Mobiles for meals
Camila Batmanghelidjh, Founder, Kids Company Charity.