GIRLS’ FOOTBALL WEEK

It’s Girls’ Football Week

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to Wembley by the FA to learn all about Girls’ Football Week.  Our two eldest were so excited and I’m gutted to report that on the actual day of the event I’d been up all night with sickness and was far too unwell to drive the 4 hour drive down to Wembley nevermind the journey back again.  One of those moments were you’re actually devastated as it felt like such a once in a lifetime moment and the girls would’ve remembered it forever.  However, bless them, without complaining off they went to school instead.

Determined to make sure that the girls still got to try football as this opportunity had shown me how much they were looking forward to it, I was straight on to the FA’s website to find somewhere local that the girls could play.  The first thing that I noticed, there are so many local football teams.  Being a Mum of predominantly girls, and not having the desire to watch football after moving out from a football crazed family home, I had become a bit delusional in my mind to just how much football infiltrates our society.  It is definitely our nations passtime and there are literally hundreds of opportunities within half an hours drive for anyone of all ages to get involved.

I managed to find an all female team for both of them to be involved in for their first attempt, both within 10 minutes drive.  At Isis’ age (10) it can be a bit more difficult as a lot of teams by this age can be well established.  They allow for mixed teams (where boys and girls play together), but at this age for a girl to play in a mixed team they tend to be a girl that can dribble the ball like she has glue stuck to the side of her boot.  I found it a little bit more difficult to find a suitable beginners team for Isis to join but by a little bit more difficult, I mean that involved maybe a couple more phone calls.  The community is great and tight knit.  The gentleman who runs the team that Shayla was trying out for knew of a contact for me to try for Isis.

On Thursday evening after school, Isis was excited to go and see what all the fuss was about.  Having kicked the ball around a bit at school, she was interested in football but wasn’t sure how much she would enjoy it unless she had a proper go.  This is why I am so thrilled about Girls’ Football Week it is so good to raise awareness and remind us that girls can play too.  We set off early so that we could go via Sports Direct to pick her up some supplies.  The basics for a first week would be comfortable clothing, trainers, shin pads and a bottle of water.  Having already expressed an interest we decided to kit Isis out properly.  A gamble I know as she may have hated it, but I sensed her excitement and went for it.  New football shorts, shirt, socks, astro boots, shin pads and a water bottle.  She was all kitted out.

We arrived at a local high school’s astro pitch and I introduced her to man in charge.  He had a girl in her late teens helping out, she ran the warm ups for the girls.  Having been a dance pupil of three disciplines for many years I was shocked how much of it transferred.  Before Isis started dancing she had two left feet.  The co-ordination involved in dance seemed to apply to all the football warm ups.  The way she was able to balance, follow instruction, fitness levels, it all seemed so similar.  If you have a girl who isn’t interested in dance at all but would want to play football, I can imagine that the skills learned from football would transfer if they ever wanted to dance in the future.  Being able to utilise your body and control a football is such a skill.  It requires power, balance and grace.  How are they not female qualities?  Women are so often overlooked when it comes to football (I hold my hand up and say I played into that belief myself), and yet there are currently more than 5,900 women’s and girls’ teams playing affiliated club football.

Isis had an amazing time.  She was thrilled, she made some friends, she slotted in like she’d been playing a while.  I was actually really shocked at how well she did, that sounds terrible doesn’t it?  but I knew that she would either love it or hate it.  She LOVED it.  We will be going every week, and as a family with four children that can no longer afford for everyone to do 3 disciplines of dance I am thrilled to find something that breeds so many of the same principles.  Team work, skill, balance, poise, athleticism, fresh air and exercise….what more could I want for such a small amount of finance, £2.50 a week.

Girls’ Football Week is a fabulous initiative that was started last year to raise awareness that girls can play too.  I’m so pleased that they did.  Had this not prompted me we may never have decided to give it a go…. and who knows?  Maybe Isis, Shayla-Rae or Eden could be the next Kelly Smith and get to play football for England one day.  If you want to find out more head to http://www.thefa.com/girlsfootballweek to support this initiative.  There are so many ways to get involved, head to http://www.thefa.com/play-football to find a local club for you.

This will definitely be an ongoing part of our lives for the foreseeable future.  The girls will just be training now until season starts, but Nanny and Grandad are already excited to come and watch their first game.  So, what are you waiting for?  Find out where your littles can play, or where you can, and if you try this week make sure to tag the FA in your photos by joining in the hashtag #WeCanPlay

Football is definitely not just for boys and I’m so grateful to Girls’ Football Week for opening up my eyes and expanding my girls opportunities.

*We were asked to write about Girls’ Football Week in exchange for a visit and tour of Wembley as guests of the FA, however, we were unable to attend and so posted this because we think it’s an amazing initiative and our girls will be football lovers for years to come.

A LITTLE PINK COAT {THE ORDINARY MOMENTS 16 #4} | LITTLE PINK COAT

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A Little Pink Coat {The Ordinary Moments 16 #4}

I remember the day that we bought it for Shayla-Rae while we were in Debenhams.  I remember being gutted that they’d sold out in Isis’ size.  A little pink coat with hearts, and a swing style flare.  It was the most adorable thing we’d ever seen her in.  Shayla-Rae really suits pink with her bright blonde locks, big blue eyes, she is a true summer and suits all of these beautiful bright colours.  When she grew out of the little pink coat we made sure that we put it away in case we ever had a girl.  I had a baby Judah when she’d grown out of it, but I don’t think we had any plans for anymore at that point.  We just kept it anyway.

Along came Eden, the baby that just wouldn’t grow.  She finally weighed 10lb when she reached 1 year old.  So I don’t think we ever imagined the day that she would fit into the little pink coat that we loved to see Shayla-Rae in so much.  James went to put it on her recently and I said, don’t be silly, it will never fit.  Ok, it hangs longer than it’s meant to, but it still looks absolutely darling on her.  She’ll be able to wear it even longer than Shayla so long as it doesn’t get ruined.

Eden loves her little pink coat and is constantly wearing it even in the house, she’ll wake up and go to find it and put it on.  She gets attached to things this way.  This child is the ultimate girly girl.  At heart, this is who I am, but this isn’t something she’s learned from me, she’s barely seen me dress up or wear make-up since she was born.  Running around after a toddler and a newborn didn’t really allow the time.  Not to mention the postnatal issues.  Now, with two toddlers and bad anxiety, she sees me in make-up and dressed up even less, but it doesn’t stop her.  She is like a magpie when it comes to anything girly.  She is drawn to handbags, tutus, jewellery, make-up, asks me to do her hair, and paint her nails.  I did give in and paint her nails once.  I didn’t like it, she’s far too young, but it made her so happy.  I think I will need to invest in those children’s versions that pretty much wipe off.  They’re not cheap considering that they don’t last but for the smile it placed on her face… this will need to happen at some point soon *goes off to google the brand again*.

Seeing Eden in this beautiful little pink coat at the weekend really cheered me up and I couldn’t help but snap some pictures of her, as we convinced her that if she stood on a plastic bottle top someone had carelessly discarded in the woods, it would make us all dance and sing.  She loved her magical button (the bottle top) and we were able to capture quite a few pictures of her with this lovely sunlight coming through behind her.

She is so loved and I love seeing her in something pre-loved by one of our elder daughters.  They have a great attitude to the hand me downs that they get.  It makes them really excited to receive something they’ve coveted for a while.  We only pass down the beautiful things, and honestly Shayla has more clothes than anyone in the home because she has all of Isis’ old clothes and all of the new things that she gets often too.  Shayla loves that Eden now wears her little pink coat.  It’s funny isn’t it, how something so simple, made us all smile so much?

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Linking up with Katie and The Ordinary Moments over on her beautiful blog ‘Mummy Daddy Me‘.

WEEK ONE #CELEBRATINGMOTHERHOODIG ROUND-UP | #CELEBRATINGMOTHERHOODIG

Week One #CelebratingMotherhoodIG Round-Up

Wow, considering that I only announced the #CelebratingMotherhoodIG and #CMDadsCorner  instagram communities on Thursday (what was I thinking saying I’d do a round-up this week?) I have been so pleasantly surprised to see that not only do I have enough participants to have a round-up I was ridiculously stuck trying to choose just four.

I have been good and just chosen four over all, but I’m also going to feature here my #CelebratingMotherhoodIG picks and then the #CMDadsCorner choices separately too, as we had enough to choose from in just two days.  Thank you so much guys.  It means a lot to have people get behind me as the word spreads.  I have had nothing but positive comments here on the blog and over on my instagram feed too.  So thank you, really, from the bottom of my heart.  I was petrified about doing this, especially on my own without a co-host, but I realised that this is the purpose of my blog and it’s about time I stepped out and started showing it.

#CelebratingMotherhoodIG, #CMDadsCorner, instagram community, week one round-up, I'm Every Mum, Parent blogger, Celebrating Motherhood

#CelebratingMotherhoodIG

There were so many lovely Mamas pics to choose from I don’t know how I will do it next week when there are more.  This week I didn’t have to.

#CelebratingMotherhoodIG, #CMDadsCorner, instagram community, week one round-up, I'm Every Mum, Parent blogger, Celebrating Motherhood

Gorgeous Katie and LL from @mummydaddyme, the ever helpful Lily from Lucy @hellobeautifulbear, little Ladybird enjoying a swim from @ladybirdsadventures and the beautiful Millie with her teddy from @tanyaallman91

Thank you so much to all joined in.  Please continue to tag any images you feel encapsulate parenthood for you.  Don’t forget each month I will draw from the tagged photographs to choose someone to celebrate…. just because.

 

KNEE HIGH BOOTS FROM START RITE | KNEE HIGH BOOTS

Knee high boots from Start Rite

Not so long ago I blogged about how Isis had out grown all her shoes and we had bought her a few new pairs including these beautiful knee high boots from Start Rite.  We had bought them all some new black patent Dr Martens and I also bought Isis a pair of party shoes and these gorgeous tan leather knee high boots from Start Rite as they looked like they would go really well with a lot of her new clothes.

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Last weekend was the first time she chose to wear them, teamed with this gorgeous check dress shirt from Next Autumn Winter collection 15/16 I could see that my days of guiding her fashion choices is long becoming a thing of the past.  Gone are the days of crazy thrown together outfits that looked like a rainbow had thrown up on her.  As happy as those outfits were, she has developed a great little style all of her own.  Choosing clothes that she likes when we go shopping together, her taste has really matured, but she still looks like a little girl.  Eek, she’s growing up too quickly.  Scary really.

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These boots are a great staple to a wardrobe as in this colour and fabric she could wear them with casual midi dresses in the summer months.  She can wear them with skinny jeans tucked in, underneath boyfriend style jeans (although they’d be wasted hidden, she has plenty of other shoes she could wear with those), with city shorts, skirts.  They’re just so versatile.  The most important thing of course is that she fell in love with them as soon as she saw them.

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The great thing about buying knee high boots from Start-rite is that Isis says they are really, really comfy.  You’ve got that great support and well fitting shoe that they need while their feet are still growing with added style.  I would never have expected to find knee high boots from Start-rite, I just didn’t associate the brand with fashion.  I imagined all the pairs we’ve bought from them over the years.  Great for little ones that are learning to walk and especially up until about age 7 as their little feet are so precious and the bones are still soft.

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We bought these from Alex and Alexa but you can find the style ‘Gallop‘ available elsewhere.

Fashion Friday on MummysGotStyle.com

#CELEBRATINGMOTHERHOODIG AN INSTAGRAM COMMUNITY | CELEBRATINGMOTHERHOODIG

#CelebratingMotherhoodIG an Instagram Community

I have seen lots of  instagram communities arising recently.  Two of my favourites are #LittleFierceOnes hosted by Amy and Aby who are fast becoming instagram royalty, and also #LifeCloseUp hosted by the beautiful Jenny at Let’s Talk Mommy.  I LOVE instagram.  I have nowhere near as many followers as most instagrammers do.  Not even close.  The purpose of this is not to build up my instagram.  The purpose for this community is plain and simple.

There are too many forums and places in this world where we all are too quick to jump on the bandwagon and judge other mothers.  Motherhood means many different things to many different people.  There are Mums out there who will never see their angel babies again in this life.  There are foster Mums, step Mums.  Mum’s who needed to adopt, or chose adoption first, Mum’s that may have needed help with fertility.  There are single Mums and single Dads.  Our eldest girls will tell you they have three Mums.  They have lived between two homes for 6 years and in one home they have two mums and in our home they have their Dad and I.

Every household looks different these days.  I want this blog and this instagram community to reflect those differences.  There is no way that’s ‘right’ anymore.  What’s right is the environment created to encourage children to flourish through security, love, encouragment and freedom to be whoever their little hearts are telling them to be.

What I LOVE about instagram is that it’s a place that is relatively open to all these days.  All you need is a smart phone and the ability to download an app.

It’s difficult sometimes to feel that you connect with the blogging community, especially if you’re not a blogger yourself.  I know a lot of the readers here at ‘I’m Every Mum‘ are non bloggers.  After a few messages recently from people who want to know how to get into blogging… I usually direct them over to Aby and her ‘Blog Club‘ (so helpful if you want to learn about starting to blog and all that it entails) posts, they’re so informative.

There’s something so beautiful about a parent and child bond.  I LOVE seeing all the little squares filled with love popping up all over my instagram feed and I wanted to do something to celebrate that parent bond.

So… how do I join in?

It’s quite simple really whenever you take a photograph that symbolises parenthood for you, that could be a picture of yourself as you are a parent.  I could be a photo of your child, it could be a picture of a snowdrop (when we lost our first baby in the womb this is what we named them), absolutely ANYTHING that symbolises parenthood for you.  All you have to do is add the hashtag #CelebratingMotherhoodIG to that picture.  You can add as many pictures as you would like.  There is no limit.  If you are a Dad then we have hashtag for you too, all you need to do is add the hashtag #CMDadsCorner.  I know that my husband will be joining in with this.

Each week on a Saturday I will share my favourites in a #CelebratingMotherhoodIG round up post here on the blog and also over on my instagram account and each month there’ll be an extra special announcement.

What’s in it for me?

This is where you’d expect me to say ‘well, nothing really, the chance to be part of a beautiful community and celebrate each other’, but that’s not true.  Each month I am going to select a photograph, or rather get my children to, out of a hat (I’ll probably post the selection process with a mini instavid) and that person will receive a little something in the post.  Something you may not purchase for yourself, to make you just feel appreciated for being Mum or being Dad.  I will tailor them each month to the winner so I can’t say what it will be exactly other than if you join in… you’ll find out.  So Dad’s don’t worry if you join in you won’t be winning a beauty box.

I don’t make any money from instagram, I don’t really make any money from this blog yet, I just want to let you all know that you’re appreciated and this is one way I can make a start.

So what are you waiting for?

Get tagging for a chance to be featured this Saturday morning in our first ever #CelebratingMotherhoodIG round up.

#CelebratingMotherhoodIG, #CMDadsCorner, instagram community, I'm Every Mum

5 THINGS I’M GRATEFUL FOR

5 Things I’m Grateful For

I have been feeling so rubbish for so many reasons recently but after having a good old vent to a blogging friend (the beautiful Vicki Psarias ‘Honest Mum‘) about how I can’t blog when I feel like this, I was encouraged to focus on the positives in my life.  All the things that I am grateful for.

Such wise words, and also what my Mum told me to do.  Great minds think alike.

So here are 5 things I am grateful for right now:

1 My health

Ok to look at me you’d be like, lady, you look like a walking heart attack.  It is true I am clinically morbidly obese, extremely so, and I struggle to walk because of the weight and the way being pregnant battered my body.  I am not designed for pregnancy, although I do make beautiful babies.  However, by some miracle in all other areas I am ridiculously healthy.  If my best friend is reading this, she’d be like ‘no you’re not, you always get colds and tummy bugs.’  Ha, ha.  My immune system is worse than most, BUT I have low blood pressure, no issues with cholesterol, my body is strong.  It just buckles because it’s designed to carry about 1/3 of the weight that it does.  I can lose weight.  There are so many people who are struggling with their health at the moment all around me.  I had a cancer scare recently, and although they’ve still not diagnosed the actual issue, I am completely cancer free and there are so many beautiful people in my life who are not….yet.  I will continue to pray for them and remember that I am so fortunate that my body copes the way it does.  I don’t want to ever take it for granted.

2 My husband

I know what it’s like to have chosen badly (my first husband).  I also know when I’m being ridiculous in finding fault with the amazing husband that I have now.  You know the scene when Bridget Jones is locked in the Thai prison and they’re all chatting about how their boyfriends made them take drugs, beat them, sold their bodies to make money, and she’s complaining about Mr Darcy folding his underpants?  Yep, that is me sometimes.  To be fair, I don’t really whinge about my husband to other people as I seem to realise when I start to say it out loud, how fortunate I am, and how much I sound like Bridget in that scene.  I do however pick at him FAR TOO OFTEN.  It’s really easily done when you have too much time to think on your hands.  A wise friend told me MANY YEARS AGO to choose your battles.  This is not something I have been great at recently.  When I’m feeling low, I am ridiculously picky.  Chatting it through with my Mother-in-law the other day I realised how petty it all sounds, and how there are some things I just need to let go.  Yes, it MASSIVELY bothers me when he leaves full cartons of milk out to go off,  yet somehow always puts empty cartons back in the fridge!!! Ha, ha.  But seriously, do I need to start a World War over it?  When he is taking on so many extra tasks because of my debilitating anxieties somedays…..Hmm….. NO!  I just want to take this moment to tell him…. James you are amazing and when I’m being a bitch  meanie, please, just ignore me.  I’m trying to get better at it…. honest.

3 Our home

We are renters, but I am so grateful that we live in a country where the ability to rent such a beautiful home is possible.  I’ve not physically been able to care for our home the way that I would like to in more recent months.  In truth be told, I don’t think we’ve ever had this house how we’d like it since we moved in, it is HUGE and a mammoth task for someone who has 4 children (2 that were under 2, and are now two crazy toddlers) and a back that likes to give way after 5 minutes of me trying to do anything.  Yet, it is our home.  We have an amazing landlord who on the more difficult months was lenient with us if we ever needed to ask for an extension.  If you’ve ever rented, you will know, this is ridiculously rare and he is so lovely to us.  He brings the children sweets at Christmas, his wife wants to come and see the babies when they come to do annual checks, they really are the sweetest couple.  So many places in the world people struggle to even find shelter.  We are so lucky and I never want to overlook the privileges we have just from being born in our country.

4 My Camera

Ok, this may seem insignificant compared to the things that I’m chatting about above, but I LOVE technology.  I am a techno geek, always have been.  Put me in a room with any equipment, pretty much, and I’ll figure it out.  I guess growing up singing and understanding PA equipment and sound desks started this love affair early.  I’m so grateful to have belonged to a church that would teach me about these things rather than shun a young girl away.  I certainly by no means have the fanciest camera on the market.  It’s a pretty standard entry level DSLR.  Again though, how blessed am I to live in a country where this is so accessible and affordable.  That I’m able to take beautiful photos of our amazing children.  To capture memories that will last forever.  I NEVER want to take that for granted.  It seems so normal in the blogging world, but, when you look across the face of the earth, I am in the minority to have this priviledge.

5 Our children

Seeing how the Facebook ‘Motherhood Challenge‘ affected so many people this week in different ways really highlighted this to me.  It is such a blessing to be able to have children so easily.  I don’t ever want to forget to be grateful  There are so many people who desperately want children.  We have lost two angel babies in pregnancy but we also have four beautiful children.  We are so fortunate that aside from inheriting my terrible immune system (despite being breastfed, breastfed babies can have shocking immune systems too – just a little shout out there to all the Mum’s with healthy bottle fed babies) and my asthma, they all have their health also.  I may be shocking pregnant and two years later Eden’s pregnancy is still massively affecting me, but goodness me, I would go through it all again in a heartbeat.  There are couples, singletons straight/LGBT all over the world that would PAY everything in the world to go through what I did and a thousand times worse to be a parent.  I will never be able to understand the unfairness of it all.  I just know that being a Mum is something I never want to take lightly.

Here’s a photo my husband snapped this week with the two youngest while the girls were with their Mum:

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You Baby Me Mummy

LAZY DAYS {THE ORDINARY MOMENTS 16 #3}

Lazy Days

These lazy days  are becoming a lot more frequent in our home as of late.  The horrible wet weather plus an anxious disposition has meant a lot more staying indoors.  A lot more reading books, playing games, watching programmes, singing songs and cuddling in our pyjamas.  It has been really nice to just be and not feel the pressure to do anything.  It was hard at the weekend as it was my beautiful sister-in-love’s baby shower and I just couldn’t muster up the strength to go.  I had been looking forward to it for ages, and I am beyond ecstatic about becoming an Auntie for the first time.  I just couldn’t go.  I kept trying to get ready, but things were getting in the way and causing HUGE panic attacks.  In the end we stayed in and once again had another lazy day resting and snuggling.

James has been doing so well keeping us all afloat while I have been struggling and he had been through a pretty awful ordeal at work this week so I told him to go out if he needed to, or have a relax as the children and I were happy just chilling together.

I put so much pressure on myself, I always have, as a Mum.  Being part of the blogging community can really help, but can also highlight it sometimes.  I want to do amazing things with my children because I love them, and I love having little adventures.  I love taking pictures, I love looking back on the memories.  When you start feeling like you need to go out because you won’t have anything to blog about then you’re kind of losing sight.

Getting out and about with the camera is normal behaviour for me, I couldn’t even remember where mine was the other day though, which told me that it had been FAR TOO LONG.  James needed to rest at the weekend and that had to take priority, and I just didn’t feel up to taking four of them out on my own.  So Saturday we all just cuddled lots, and watched programmes, and then I let Daddy disappear for a few hours.  He had a relaxing bath and watched some anime or whatever it is he likes to watch that I don’t like.

Monday I decided I HAD to get out of the house.  I kind of had a now or never moment looking at the weather forecast for the week.  To be fair there has been some beautiful afternoons despite the drizzling rain throughout the day.  The sun beams gloriously through the windows at around 3pm and it’s beautiful.  So we’ve been trying to get out of the house at around this time.

It took us longer than we meant it to on Monday so we didn’t catch the gorgeous golden hour but we did play on an empty park, all to ourselves (mostly) as the beautiful pink and purple skies enveloped the setting sun.  It was so lovely.  Reminded me on everything I’m missing while hiding in my home due to this anxiety.

I want to live, desperately, to live joyfully and full of life and energy and love.  I will fight for it.  It may take me some time to regain strength but I will get there.

One thing I have realised though on these lazy days is that all these little ones need to be happy is food, shelter, water, hygiene, security and love.  I am so blessed that even on the most difficult of days I am able to offer them this.  There are so many people who aren’t as fortunate.

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I am linking this post up (although I’m very late) with Katie for {The Ordinary Moments} as for me, right now, our lives don’t get more ordinary than this.

THE DIARY OF A WORKING MUM {PART FIVE}

The Diary of a Working Mum {Part Five}

Do you have an only child?  Have you thought about whether to have another one?  I’m sure that you’ll have been asked.  The final instalment in this series from our beautiful guest blogger Heather.  I bet you all wish Heather would start a blog now right?  I’ve so enjoyed reading, typing out, and seeing all your reactions to Heather’s writing.  In this last instalment Heather looks at the question that follows everyone who’s ever had a baby ‘Are you having another?’.  I don’t asked that as much having four children in tow, if you want to know our answer to that question though you can read about it by clicking here.  Read on to discover Heather’s response and thouroughly thought out answer to whether to have an only child or siblings.  I’m sure that it won’t be the last that we hear from Heather over here at ‘I’m Every Mum’.  Thank you Heather.  You are loved, appreciated and so very talented. xxx

Are you having another?

If I had a pound for everytime I’d been asked that question…

The short answer is a resounding “No.”

For those crying out “WHY?” Here’s the long answer:

As I have said in an earlier post, I am one of 3 (with acute middle child syndrome) and Nick is an only child, so between us, we have experience from both sides of the argument.

My sister Louise is 2 years older than me.  I was the baby of the family until I was 7 when my Mum and Dad held a ‘family  meeting’ in our childhood home to ask me and Louise if we’d like a little brother or sister.  Unbeknown to me Mum was already pregnant with my brother Mark at the time.  If I had known this, my answer would have probably been a bit more tactful.  In my defence, since I wasn’t equipped with this knowledge, my reaction was not a positive one.

I was the baby of the family.  I adored my Dad, he was and still is one of my favourite people in the world.  It’s fair to say I was a bit besotted with him as a girl.  I used to sit in my roller boots at the top of the slip road of Junction 8 of the M61, waiting to see his car coming home from work then hold onto the spoiler of his Sierra, Marty McFly style, as he went at a snail’s pace back home.  If I had had ‘words’ with my Mum that day, I’d be eager to get to my Dad first, to give him my version of events before Mum told him the truth.  My dad used to work in a very high pressured job all day in Advertising and PR, then come home to 3 hormonal females all vying for his attention.  The poor man couldn’t win, but he was so awesome in my eyes.

I remember the morning we found out Mark had been born.  I had convinced myself that Mum would remain pregnant forever, and that this new sibling would never actually materialise, anything to deny the fact that a change was a-coming.  As per usual I ran into Mum and Dad’s room that particular morning to inform them that I was awake, only to find my Granny Ruby and Grandpa Bill sit bolt upright in Mum and Dad’s bed.  Mum had gone into labour during the night and my Grandparents had driven over to relieve them of their duties at home, so they could get to the hospital.  As I made my way downstairs that morning for Grandpa to take us to school, just prior to leaving, my beloved Dad burst through the door and sobbed ‘I’ve got a son…at last!’ – ERRRR WHAT?  AT LAST?  AT LAST?  I did NOT like his turn of phrase, and I certainly did not like this new addition to the family.  Mark’s already questionable popularity was waning by the second.

At school that day, I managed to put on a brave face, even when the teacher invited me to tell everyone about ‘my new little brother’.  I managed, through gritted teeth to fane how ecstatic I was and how I simply couldn’t wait to visit the little darling in hospital after school, all the time fighting back the tears that had been stinging my eyes since Dad’s excited morning outburst.  So off me and Lou went to see my weary mum and my increasingly proud Dad in Chorley hospital to come face to face with this grenade that had gone off in my life.  As we opened the curtains to the ward bed, there was my Dad sat holding Mark with a face that was beaming so bright on that dark and dreary February afternoon, I thought the clocks had been brought forward early.  Louise stepped up first asking to hold him, so with careful tuition from Dad on ‘how to support the head’, she had her first cuddle with her new brother.  Next it was my turn.  I’m ashamed to say that I purposely ignored all the tips my sister had so dutifully followed and let the head loll about on my nonchalant knee to the point where Dad gasped ‘Support the head Heather!’ then eventually took golden boy off me as I clearly couldn’t be trusted.

I was not number one in my Dad’s eyes anymore.  I’d had my crown as the Sprakes baby rudely stolen off me when I wasn’t anywhere near ready to relinquish my reign.  A week later (they kept Mum’s and Baby’s in longer back then) Mark Cameron Sprakes arrived home to the box room of 12 Linden Grove and to 2 sisters, one of which didn’t want much to do with him.  Mum and Dad must have noticed that I had a face like thunder most days and called me into the kitchen for a ‘little chat’ a few days later.  What they had to say went some way to making my sad little self feel a teeny tiny bit better.  It went along the line of ‘We appreciate that you may have had your nose pushed out of joint a bit by the arrival of Mark, and we want you to make sure you tell us if you are ever feeling out or jealous because we still love you the same as before and nothing will ever change that’.  It took me all of about 5 minutes after I left the room to burst back through the door declaring that I felt left out and jealous and they needed to do something about it.

Of course I eventually came round to the idea of being a big sister and as it turned out I ended up being pretty crazy about my brother, and I still am to this day.  I was lucky in a sense because I had a childhood with just me and my sister, a stretch of us as a three, then a good few years where it was just me and Mark because my sister married at 22 and I stayed at home as long as I possibly could (age 29 was when I finally left having been at home periodically throughout my 20’s).

So I come from a relatively busy family and Nick’s family is the polar opposite.  I liken the time when we first met each other’s family to that scene out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  The Sprakes’ are all about the food, noise, chattering and laugher, whereas the Wolstenholme’s are quiet, calm and still.  Nick is an only child and he loves the chaos of our family and I love the peace of his.  I guess we all crave a bit of the opposite don’t we?

One of the main things that Nick and I share in common is our need to have time on our own, apart from each other.  Nick was used to this growing up without any siblings, and I craved it in the madness of our house.  Yes we are married, but we have friends and interests independent of each other, and we enable each other to spend that time being something other than wife, husband, mum and dad.  Nick loves to read, run, go to the football and have an ale or 2 with his mates.  I love the gym, doing the food shop on my own (bliss), cleaning in peace and quiet and catching up with my friends.  I think that is so important.  We are not 2 halves of one whole, we are 2 whole people who have a partnership.  Nick doesn’t complete me (I wasn’t incomplete  before I met him), he enhances me, and I hope I do him.

I digress.

Even a week after the birth of Martha, I received the first ‘Are you having another’ question.  My newly born daughter wasn’t even out of hospital and I felt under pressure to go through the trauma again.  I must admit that the thought has crossed my mind since Martha’s birth.  But only fleetingly.  I think the first time I thought it was on maternity leave when the whole job issue was up in the air and I didn’t know what I was going to do.  Then I realised that I would be using having another baby as an excuse for not going back when I was questioned by others, because I’d be embarassed to say ‘I’m a stay at home mum’.  Again, can I reiterate that there is nothing wrong with that, it’s just not me.

There are many reasons why we won’t be having another.  Firstly my age.  If I was considered a geriatric mum before, you can add 5 years onto that, I would be considered extremely high risk due to Martha’s prematurity combined with my age if I were to become pregnant again.  I don’t want to be knocking on 50 at the school gates either, but that’s more vanity than anything else.  I honestly don’t believe it’s fair to put Nick, Martha and myself through that anxiety again.  I am a Mum and a wife and I am incredibly lucky to have what I have and to have come through the other side of Martha’s birth relatively unscathed.  I want to enjoy what I have and to be the best Mum I can be, and I know that another pregnancy would jeopardise that.  It’s a gamble that I’m just not willing to take.  I choose the safety of what we have not the unsafety of what could be.

The other big decisive factor is cost.  I never knew how much a child would cost financially.  When Martha was in nursery and before we got the 15 hours free per week that all parents do when their child is aged 3, we effectively had 2 mortgages.  It was hard but manageable, though I wouldn’t have liked to think about paying for 2 children.  My grandpa always told me never to do anything unless I could comfortably afford to do it (House and car excluded).  I couldn’t live with myself if I bulldozed ahead and had X amount of child, then expected the state to help me pay for them.  Nick and I rightly or wrongly also have a standard of living we would like to maintain.  Selfish?  Maybe, but being able to do the things we do like going on holiday and for meals out as a family, is extremely important to us, and to Martha.  She loves nothing more thatn ‘getting dressed up fancy’ for a meal out, or packing her own suitcase for holidays.

Nick and I are acutely aware that Martha is an only child, and we encourage her as much as possible to recognise that she is incredibly lucky to have what she does.  We can afford treat days, holidays, nice clothes, exciting experiences, and we want to make sure that Martha appreciates the value of these things and not take them for granted.  I actively encourage Martha to invite friends along with us when we go out so that she learns it is ‘not all about her’ – something she regularly repeats to me when I tell her I need something ‘It’s not all about you either Mum!’  I must admit that I often wish she had a sibling and friend like I have in my sister and brother, but then I remember that it doesn’t automatically create a harmonious relationship between the two (Louise and I barely looked at each other let alone registered each others existence during our teenage years).  There are many positive reasons to have more than one child, and I wouldn’t change my upbringing for the world.  As we grow older, people have even suggested that ‘it would be better to have more than one so Martha isn’t burdened with you both in old age?’ – what a marvellous rationale for having a baby?!

I think that as long as we remain aware of Martha being an only one or ‘The One and Only’ as I call her, I honestly think she will be okay.

So no, there are no more babies for us.  And as for our twilight years, instead of burdening Martha, we will actively do the exact opposite whilst residing in a lovely retirement village, wreaking havoc with our friends, crown green bowling, shoplifting, dangerous driving, farting in public and all the other wonderfully un-burdoning thing OAP’s get up to regardless of how many children they had.

WHEN I GROW UP I WANT TO BE DADDY

When I Grow Up I Want to be Daddy

Our little cute man is going through a phase where if you ask him who he wants to be his answer will be ‘Daddy’.  This fact was discovered by my sister when she asked him while he was staying with my Mum last week.  This made it even more special for me as it wasn’t for James’ approval, or mine, it was his genuine response in the midst of playing and laughing with my sister when she asked him.  Probably expecting him to say ‘a dinosaur’ or one of the characters from ‘Paw Patrol’, that’s what I would’ve expected.

I’m so lucky that my little man looks up to his Daddy so much that he wants to be him.  I’m so lucky that our girls want to marry someone like their Daddy.  I’m ridiculously lucky and will never stop being grateful after my past experiences (you can read my Life as a Domestic Violence Survivor post if you’re new to my blog and want to know what I’m on about) that I am with someone that I would love my baby boy to grow up to be like, or for our girls to model their future husband requirements on.  There are so many good men out there, but it was a long time before I knew and believed that.

He is such a sweet big brother.  He can be a little monster at times.  He’s going through a phase where he really doesn’t like to share and his two year old little sister will hand things over to him to stop him crying rather than the other way around.  He punched an 8 year old at soft play once though because they pushed Eden over.  We were gobsmacked and obviously told him that he shouldn’t hit anyone but also secretly proud that he was fearless in the face of someone twice his size when it came to protecting his little sister.  Of course I don’t want him to grow up to use his fists but I think at 3 you’re not sure how to express yourself sometimes and just use your body or your mouth to shout when you don’t like what’s going on.  It’s definitely not something he’s ever seen at home.

He is the sweetest and cheekiest little man, who can be found snuggling in bed with me around 8pm each evening as he just won’t settle in bed.  We used to try and get him to stay in his own room, and settle him there, and sometimes he will ask to do that with his Daddy, but no matter what we’ve tried, no matter how much his bedroom looks like the Blackpool illuminations, he still has a fear of the dark.  So, after lots of tricks we decided to just let him fall asleep with us and then we put him back to bed.  He will usually appear in our bed in the early hours of the morning and then we just co-sleep.  We weighed up the options, and I know some may think it’s not the best idea to let him have free reign in his bedtime routine but we decided that as much as we would like our bed to ourselves and for him to settle easily in his own room (the girls are all great at going to bed), it is most important to us that he feels comfortable, safe and secure.  It’s not like he’s going to be in our bed when he’s a teenager.  Once he’s old enough to get over his fear he’ll probably not want to come and snuggle in with Mummy and Daddy.

He gives the best cuddles this little man, gently stroking the arm of whoever he’s wrapped up with.  Even Eden does it now.  She’ll cuddle him and stroke his face.  It is the most adorable thing to see your 2 year old cuddling and stroking the face of your 3 year old and vice versa.  They care for each other so much, it’s adorable.  So gentle and tender.  You wouldn’t think it when they’re squabbling over toys but they really and truly love each other so much.  I pray that it always stays this way.

I pray that he always wants to be just like his Daddy, whatever form that takes, whatever job he wants to do, whoever he grows up to be, whomever he chooses to love, that his character would be gentle, kind, supportive, and free to express whatever he chooses to express.  My husband is the most liberated, free of inhibitions person that I have ever met.  I really pray that all the children get that quality from him.  I’m blessed to have one in a million and four gorgeous, loving children.

He is the light in my eyes, my only son, and the sunshine that breaks through the cloudiest days.

Judah-1

THE DIARY OF A WORKING MUM {PART FOUR}

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The Diary of a Working Mum {Part Four}

It’s been a while since I posted one of these instalments.  Christmas and all the advent festivities took over my life in December.  I wanted this to have the attention that it deserved on my blog space.  My beautiful friend Heather sent me this blog a while ago now and I’ve been loving reading every single one.  Heather could have her own blog space easily if she had the time to maintain it.  Every time she sends me a message via facebook (our usual way of communicating when we’re busy) it’s like diamonds drip from the page.  She always knows exactly what to say to speak into my life.  One of the most honest, direct and beautiful writers I know.  When I read this the first time I was in tears, so have your tissues at the ready as Heather takes us through the dilemmas we go through as Mum’s that work to provide the best for our family.

The second longest week of my life

The August before I went back to work, we went on holiday with some friends of ours to Spain for a week.  This would be the first proper holiday we had as a family (having already trialled Center Parcs in the May which was a roaring success even though I detest Center Parcs).  As our confidence grew as parents, and Martha was passing all her checks with flying colours; we decided to treat ourselves to some sunshine after a somewhat dramatic year.

I don’t know why it changed, but up until that point Martha had been catching up magnificently with her adjusted age, then suddenly she stopped being interested in food.  As any mum of a prem knows acutely, the desire to get your child to ‘catch-up’ with other kids their age can at times be all consuming, and I was no exception.  I was obsessed with how much Martha ate, I was obsessed with her weight, and I was obsessed with getting her up to speed.  Again it probably stems from a guilt on my part for not getting through 9 months of pregnancy and a determination to right that wrong, as I saw it.  This is why I couldn’t bear to go to Mother and Child groups; I hated the constant comparisons and measuring up to others that consumed my thoughts.  I can remember getting myself so worked up in the days between weighing clinic, desperately trying to feed up Martha so she would have gained.  Oh the elation I felt when she had put on ounces, and the despair that consumed me if she had maintained or worse still lost.  I cried at each weigh in, joyous or disappointed tears.  My obsession was becoming unhealthy and thank God one of the Health Visitors recognised this in me because she gently took me to one side and said ‘I don’t want to see you here again, you are doing a brilliant job.  Go and enjoy your baby!’  And that’s what I did in the most part, although these creeping fears would be in the back of my mind and they usually revolved around Martha’s food intake.

After our holiday we had a month or so before I started work, and I hoped that the eating thing would rectify itself once she started nursery.  Seeing other children heartily tucking into their dinners, might encourage her to do the same.  It didn’t and what we initially hoped was a phase, is still something we as a family struggle with every meal of every day.  I occasionally stumble across pictures of Martha from back then and my heart breaks a little at how skinny she was.  She wouldn’t eat, so she would wake in the night hungry, she would be grumpy in the day and get tired easily; as would I, and all the time I was trying to stop myself screaming ‘YOU NEED TO EAT!  PLEASE, PLEASE EAT SOMETHING, ANYTHING!’  I would enviously look at other babies with their rolls of fat and their curiosity at new foods, their willingness to put things in their mouths and the speed at which their mealtimes happened.  Whereas Martha could take up to an hour and a half to put 1 spoonful in her mouth, and that was after a copious amount of encouragement.  It was so frustrating.

The eating thing levelled out and we attended various feeding clinics and paediatric appointments to monitor her food intake and to encourage a healthy eating environment.  Yes, she was small, but she appeared healthy in every other way and Dr Yadav at the hospital prescribed her iron to boost her appetite, and we worked out a special meal-plan with the chef at nursery so she was getting familiar meals that she enjoyed.  We did everything we could, but her lack of interest in food made her susceptible to illness and infection as she just didn’t have the reserves to fight a lot of normal childhood illnesses that came her way.  A common cold would knock her for six and for weeks on end, and it was exhausting for all of us.

Just before Martha’s 3rd birthday, we went to look round a potential school for her in Blackrod village.  She’d had a restless night, and she was crying and moaning throughout the presentation the Headmaster gave.  I was worried about her.  She seemed weak and distracted but I had to drop her off at nursery because I needed to get to work that day too.

At about 12 midday I got a phone call from nursery saying she was struggling to breathe and that we needed to get her to hospital.  I fled from work and organised for my mum to collect her and meet me at Chorley Hospital (I work in Blackburn so this would be half way and save time.  Nick worked in Manchester which would take too long).  As soon as we got there, they decided to admit her to Bolton Hospital and they ambulanced her there as a matter of urgency.  A chest x-ray showed that she had pneumonia and we would be staying put until she stabilised and her oxygen levels improved.  She was fitted with a cannula and put on oxygen and Nick rushed home to get me some essentials as I would be staying with her overnight and for the foreseeable next few days.  It was hell.  There is nothing scarier than seeing your child so ill and being utterly helpless to do anything.  My heart was broken.  How had I not seen she was so ill?  I was a crap mum, and her lying there hooked up to a machine brought back those terrible memories from not 3 years earlier when we didn’t know what to expect.  We were right back to square 1.

I sat up all night holding an oxygen mask over her little face and chastising myself for not making her stronger to fight things like this.  The next day, she had improved slightly and by late afternoon we were told that if she ate something and her levels stayed the same for the next few hours, she would be allowed home.  We managed to get her to eat a small bite of a fish finger and we were discharged with an inhaler and a list of things to look out for which would mean her being readmitted.  She survived off milk and the odd cheesy wotsit for the next week.  I have a picture of her from that week with her Dad in a little beret and scarf and she looks so thin it still makes me anxious when I see it.

After a week of me taking emergency leave to care for her, she finally ate a bowl of meatballs and seemed to be picking up; the relief for me was immense.  I had kept work up to date with her progress and I knew I needed to get back to work and let go of Martha a little bit again.  She only did 2 mornings and one full day a week in nursery so the next Monday we decided to let her go back.  She was welcomed into pre-school with a round of applause and a present as they had all missed her so much.  She proudly showed the staff how to use her inhaler and was ecstatic to see her friends again.  I on the other hand got half way to work, and had to pull into a slip road because I was sobbing so much and my tears were blinding the road ahead.  What was I doing???  I phoned work and turned my car around so I could go and collect Martha at lunchtime and have her safe in my arms again.  I ached for her.

I needed comfort so I called my Mum, but comfort was not what I got.  I won’t relay the full conversation because what was said made me so angry and hurt me so much that I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  Basically my mum told me that my little girl needed me, I should give up my job, I had to put her first, nothing was more important than her health, etc etc.  I stupidly tried to justify myself with arguments such as ‘how will I pay for my car?’  ‘How will we afford to carry on saving up for the deposit for a new house so she can run in the garden?’ all of which were met with counter-arguments like ‘you don’t need a car!  I never had a car!’  ‘I never worked!’  ‘You don’t need the extra money’  ‘she’s ill, you’re her Mum, and you need to look after her’ ‘nursery is full of germs’ ‘she needs to go to a child minder instead if you won’t look after her, there’s less germs there’.

Whether it was an accumulation of shock at directness of what she had said, heightened emotions after the horrendous week we had just had or the fact that I was just so emotionally fragile at that time, but her words were like a knife to my heart that kept stabbing me over and over and over again.  The timing of it was just utterly terrible.  I understand that my mum had been frightened and worried too by the recent events and that she was only thinking about Martha’s well-being, but the fact that she had failed to see that I was already such an emotionally frail state, and she seemed to suggest that if Martha got ill again, it would somehow be my own doing, was simply more than I could bear.  After her phone call, I cried those tears you cry when you are little, and you can’t catch your breath and you honestly think you’ll never stop crying.

I couldn’t get the words out when I phoned Nick.  I was so angry, so distraught, so devastated that my Mum had suggested that MY choices had made my precious baby poorly.  But I knew, I knew that my mum knew too, I was a good mum, that I loved her with an intensity, with a passion, with an all-consuming unconditional force, and I didn’t need to prove that to anyone.

Nick was amazing with me.  He calmly took the argument out of my hands and he dealt with the situation privately by speaking to my Dad.  I had a moment of clarity when he did that.  I should be looking to my husband for this support.  Not my Mum.  My lovely husband who had gone through this journey with me, experiencing all our hopes and fears with me, finding his way as a new father whilst supporting me and championing me at the same time.  I had again neglected to believe in the unit we are as a family of 3.  To stand strong in our choices.  I had sought affirmation, acceptance and approval from somewhere else, when I had it right next to me all the time.  As I slowly let go and forgave my mum (after a week of silence) and myself, I was ready to get back on the rollercoaster.