There’s a politician who seems to be very happy to use his platform as a member of parliament to share his very conservative points of views. One of his latest comments was about the compassionate and uplifting view British foodbanks gave. Mr Rees-Mogg’s opinion

I can see merit in what he says. Foodbanks are non-profit, donation based enterprises. The fact that the British people continue to pop some beans or a box of teabags into the food bin after a shop when their budget is stretched to it’s thinnest is incredibly heartwarming. Every penny counts and still we try to make sure those who don’t have a slice of bread or the bashed up can of beans that stays on the shelf for it’s entire 4 year shelf life, get given food to see them through the next few days.

That doesn’t mean that it’s okay that Mr Rees Mogg says what he does. He is part of a government which seems to be hell bent on pulling the rug out from under the feet of the nation, a government who year after year reduces the real term money in the budget of nearly every family within the UK. It will never be okay that he talks about how inspiring the great British public is whilst he sits in parliament and almost consistently votes for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. Voting history of Mr Rees-Mogg

I hold my hands up. The Mr works extremely hard but with my disability we are increasingly reliant upon the benefits system. This isn’t ideal. It was never meant to be this way and every time we make headway something happens to kick us back down. We have never been at the point of need so bad that we have visited a food bank, and it is largely thanks to family and wonderful friends that this is the case. Our budget is able to stretch further having to not buy a whole new wardrobe as a child grows, because of the generosity of pre-loved sofas and kitchen tables, because our friends are in similar positions themselves and we have all recognised that it is through the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers, that our world keeps turning.

With every passing bedtime I breathe a sigh of relief. We made it through another day and no one went to bed hungry, they might even have managed to have dessert too. I’ll ignore the hole in my shoes, the lack of a coat that fits, I’ll cut my hair myself again and continue to cut the rest of the families too. I don’t even mind that this is the state of our life. We feel blessed everyday to be able to love our beautiful children and our ever growing circle of nieces and nephews. We are healthy(ish) and (mostly) happy but of course there are ways we could be happier.

We could reduce our significant debts for example. We are trying to count every penny and be held accountable for our “luxury” purchases like new stacker shelves for the understairs pantry and a hot chocolate on the go. Having so many appointments at hospitals means I do spend whilst out and about and I should get better organised but I’m also tight so settle for hospital hot drinks or a Maccy Ds hot chocolate with the hope of saving enough stickers to get my free drink! No fancy Costa drinks with marshmallows for me any time soon.

The Mr is trying too. He’ll buy a pile of microwave dinners and a bunch of bananas for the week – cycling backpacks aren’t very useful for taking in a homemade lunch – and he is quite adept at spotting special offers on crisps which makes him a fairly happy chappy.

I know we aren’t alone in a budgeting stresses and I recognise that there are families out there who think we are extremely fortunate and, I guess, in lots of ways we are. Mr Rees Mogg might not have any clue about the majority of people and how we live. I’d happily show him how it works for our family but I doubt he’ll be slumming it in South London any time soon. The frustration will continue and the families struggling now will also be on this treadmill in a year, five years, ten years time. It is the fallout from austerity and the penny pinching from the poorest whilst shoving the pounds towards those at the top. We live in a democracy but so many don’t know how or just won’t vote and it is so frustrating. The people have decided that this government is fit to serve the people but it only has those that already have in their sights. The have-nots will continue to pinch every penny they see, just like us, and our Prime Minister and her cronies will fill each others’ bank accounts ready to see out their days never needing handouts or suffering from NHS funding cuts and the continuing fall in student nurses and teachers because you can earn more on the till of your local supermarket than ensuring the educational and health needs of the next generation. 

How did we end up in this mess? And is there any way we can get through the next decade without watching our children going to school filthy and hungry? I am fairly certain Mr Jacob Rees Mogg doesn’t have a plan for the foodbank users of the 21st Century.  

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Past, present, future

There is a great movement on twitter at the moment from @mamas_scrapbook called #mymindfulseptember.

As much as I’m not going to participate because I’m completely forgetful and I’ll beat myself up for not finishing, I do very much approve of the idea.

I spend all day, everyday attending the needs of my family. One day it’s about doing far more driving around than is good for me but seeing your eldest off for their first grown up residential is worth a day of feeling exhausted but it could also be about back to school shopping, concentrating on helping our Chatterbox practice her SaLT words, or being the first person on your nephew’s calling list when, at 19, he discovers a disaster waiting to happen in his first ever flat. I always try my hardest to be there for them all if they need me, I consider it my job!

I also have to accept that I am only human. My childhood wasn’t easy, at times it was downright awful, and I still feel the effects to this day as a recent photograph search made all too clear. 

There is a photo of my parents and my maternal family on their wedding day. As with us all, too many have passed away now and stories have been lost that may have shed light on my Irish heritage.

I loved and feared my grandmother. I was not her favourite and I was very good at pointing out the injustice my four year old felt as my little sister was snuggled on her lap and I was sent back to bed. Oh woe is me!

There is a photo of my paternal grandparents with my older brother and sister. This was my favourite Grandad. He taught me how to knot a tie “properly” and how to take it off without needing to redo it the next day. He grew tomatoes, strawberries, and beans in his garden. He made sure we had mega family holidays to remember him by when he was diagnosed with Leukemia. I miss him greatly. I miss them all. I wish they all had the opportunity to call themselves Great Grandparents because they certainly were.

I often remark to my Mr that we come from opposite ends of what makes a family. His family consists of his brother, his parents, and his grandparents and their siblings. He has no cousins, their holidays were small, calm affairs but full of love and support. He lost his grandfathers as a small child but was blessed to have his grandmothers until his late teens. I loved getting to meet them both and it gave me great joy to see his Grandma hold our first born. Her battle for cancer was swift but she had 6 wonderful months getting to see the baby as often as she could. I miss listening to her stories. She reminded me of my Nanny F and it is a shame they never got to meet.

When I watch my own family grow, when I admit to myself that before too long I will be a great aunt and, hopefully, a nanny too, I want to use the wonderful memories of my own families to create memories worth keeping.

Life is too short for some. I don’t want to spend my time worrying about what went wrong, holding on to a grudge I only half remember. 

I tell my children as often as I can how I love them. If they know that, if they truly feel my love the way I remember the love from my grandparents then I think I’m doing an ok job. 

So now I want to spend time taking photos, to continue to help with the needs of each, to treasure the laughter and wipe away the tears and to enjoy the last days of a beautiful golden Summer.

Shall I compare thee…to your siblings?

Everything I know about parenting I learnt by being a parent. I do have younger sisters but we are close enough in age that we didn’t take on any significant “parenting” in the true sense although my little sister (not my baby one!) and I are only 18 months apart and we have had to keep each other safe over the years, stepping in when, for whatever reason, our own parents couldn’t or wouldn’t. We’ve had each others’ back and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You’d think that would make us very similar but we actually more like our opposites. We know how to push each other’s buttons but equally, we complement and counterbalance each other which allows us to be very different and yet both very positive and, hopefully, good mothers.

Now I know all this. I can see how siblings don’t necessarily follow each other, how we all learn, interact, play up, in our own unique ways. So why do I continue to compare my own children? There are 8 of them, of course they’re all going to plough their own paths, it would be madness to think otherwise. I think I must be mad.

I find myself constantly doing it; did The Boy walk this early? Did The Prefect ever miss a joke this badly? Are the smalls even cheekier than the bigs ever were? Oddly, the only time I didn’t was the one time that it may have been most beneficial. 

When The Newstarter was about 18 months, I realised that her speech was a little less recognisable than I recalled the older children being. I then reminded myself that each was unique and that I shouldn’t judge based on my experience with the bigger ones. By the time we got to 30 months, with the babbles of The Baby coming along, it was clear that her speech was definitely being stubborn. She could say plenty, I could get what I needed out of her to make our day easier but I began to take note of the words she could and couldn’t say. 

When she started nursery, the first thing I did was raise my concerns with her new teacher. She took some time to settle her in and make an evaluation. Miss Teacher seemed to think she had quite a severe need for a SaLT referral and made noises that suggested that there may be some learning delay. 

I’m mum, I might not have rushed to the GP with concerns but I have done this a couple of times. At home, she would tell me the colours, some simple counting, she had a fantastic group of little friends who would play some crazy games and she got herself understood as well as knowing exactly what others were saying to her, she sang nursery rhymes and could puzzle away like she had the answer sheet! If anything (mummy bias & sibling comparisons) she is actually a faster learner than some of her older siblings. I am in no way worried about her progress.

Back to nursery. We took the school’s advice and went to a play & stay specifically aimed at children with SaLT needs. We arrived and were invited to play. The girls gravitated straight to the play kitchen where they made us cups of tea, cake with vegetables, and even did some ironing – that’s quite scary because only Mr Dad irons and it normally occurs when the smalls are fast asleep. I have no clue where they picked up such great ironing skills!

I spoke to an assistant therapist, we discussed a few things, bit more play, a sing song and a brief overview. In its simplest meaning; she’s doing fine, stick with what you’re doing, ask the school to continue as they are, come back if you need anything else.

It was a little frustrating. The therapist agreed that there was definitely an issue with her speech but, unfortunately, there just aren’t enough funds to justify further support at this stage beyond what we were already receiving via the nursery staff having the training to help the two children at the nursery in need of support. Mostly, I’m okay with that. 

Don’t get me wrong, if they offer us further support moving forward, that is amazing and an opportunity we would welcome but at the grand age of 4, we’re okay. She’ll meet with her new teacher soon, we’ll go through all the questions, hear the “oh gosh!” when they understand that she is 7th of 8 children, and we will eventually get to the part of her story where we discuss any additional needs she may have. It’s at this stage where I will explain her “school passport” which has a detailed account of last years progress. I’ll tell her of our wonderful holidays where we tried to engage The Newbie in conversation wherever we could, my eyes will glisten when I recall how much she impressed us with her talk of the “blue humped big whale” or how well she is doing going from her short, easy to say name, to her long, tougher to say all the syllables full name. We’ll work on a care plan, The Newbie will smash it out of the park and we will sail through Reception with as much ease as any of her siblings (see, I did it again!)

Next month marks another milestone in my life. Another small person starting school and I’m left at home with just The Baby who seems less baby like with every passing day. She’s a huge part of us identifying The Newbies speech patterns, mainly because she never stops talking! I will have a whole year getting this little jumping bean up to speed ready for nursery but I don’t think it will take more than the first term of school, she has all the makings of being just as sponge like as her biggest siblings! Oh darn it, I just can’t help myself.

So on the last note for today’s ramblings, The Big Boy did himself proud. A couple of A*s, a B, and a lot of As. I keep telling him he can be whoever he wants to be. These results are going to make it so much easier for him. He has poured all of himself into his GCSEs and now he can “relax” as he starts his A levels. He thought he’d kick it off by joining an elite group of teenagers all trying to discover how best they can support their communities and being Advocates for those who have been or will be victims of bullying or discrimination because they dare to stand out from the crowd. 
It is my honour to be his mum. It is my honour to be a mother to each and every one of them. Any burden I carry easily, safe in the knowledge that my little people will always fight for themselves and for those who need help. They are all utterly beautiful inside and out.

The Hormonal House

As you may imagine, our house is often the place to find hormonal outbursts. The four bigs are all of an age where you can very easily say the wrong thing and find yourself on the receiving end of a mouthful of upset. It isn’t fun and it isn’t pretty. With hindsight, it was The Boy’s extreme reaction to teenage hormones that was the precursor to his looking for answers and working out that he was trapped in the wrong body. 

We went through a hellish two years when periods arrived that I’m very glad not to have gone through again just yet. We spoke to a GP who claimed that it would take a few years to settle down and she wasn’t prepared to offer anything to help until then. We were a year in and stuck in a 3 weeks on/ 5 days off cycle. Blood tests confirmed anemia and we added iron tablets to the multivitamin morning regime. I should point out that this mirrored my own journey through the menstrual maze; the cramps, the heavy flow, the feeling that I was always restricted by the blood. At first, we felt that this contributed to the negative cycle he seemed to be caught in, and in many ways it did, just not in the way we thought. The joke many women scoff at about men coping (or rather not) with periods and giving birth seemed to be the case. My child confided in me that he was a boy and suddenly the extreme reaction to starting a period *again* made sense. Periods – the thing that only little girls have to get used to and my son had to cope more often than most. The hormonal outrage that we had been struggling with was a constant reminder for him that he was being punished by his female shell and my little teen was lost in the emotions of it all.

One of the first things we discussed at Tavistock was the need to control periods. He was desperately trying to embrace his male self when he was woken in the night by cramps and the need for a bath. Amazingly, they offered an easy solution straight away. I had explained to him that I wasn’t aware of a pill that stopped the period completely and we were both a bit frustrated. The psychologist explained that they often use Nerothisterone, a progesterone only tablet commonly used by many to delay a period for a few days but that, when taken delay, can delay menstruation for a considerable time. This tiny little pill was a game changer. He started taking it a few days later and has been relatively happy with it ever since. Every few months he has to stop taking it and have a breakthrough bleed. This week isn’t very pretty. 

So, moving forward. We have finally had the recommendation to be moved on to blockers and his relief is palpable. He will spend the next 6 months to a year exploring life with all his birth hormones blocked, a journey to hopefully get him closer to testosterone – what he’s wanted all along. By this time next year he will be well on his way to the Adult Team where the truly complicated stuff happens.

In preparation for the next year we have been advised to talk to a fertility specialist to talk about long term options. Unfortunately, we don’t have much information about the risks of long term testosterone use on ferility. Although we have had transgender persons for quite some time now, the use of testosterone in young men who are still considering the changing path of transition and their ability to have, or not, there own biological children is still a very new concept and mostly unknown. Lets be honest about this, the ferilisation of an egg for someone for has never taken T is a miracle in itself so we can only give a best guess for what the chances are. That sounds a bit doom and gloom so let me pair it with the following.

There have been quite a few stories of transgender families having biological children this past year. UK ftm Dad had his daughter earlier this year and this lovely couple shared their joy at their son’s birth just this month. These are very encouraging stories and will give many trans teens hope for the future. Whether or not it gives hope to my Boy, I’m not sure. So many conversations over the past three years; adoption, fertility clinics, turkey basters, online sperm donations, helping family or having family help out…. I can’t imagine him making a firm decision within a year and yet he has made decisions this past year which I couldn’t believe possible from my baby, but I guess he’s not my baby anymore, not whilst we move through these hoops and jumps on his path to transitioning into a grown man.

He is far braver and far wiser than I could ever be. His level head, the way he considers others whilst making decisions (mostly), his flourishing independance and even knowing when he still needs his mum. I’m so proud of him and right now, with the three biggest all arguing in front of me, I say that with ease. 

We still have the hormonal rages from the Bigs. Not really emjoying this part of the parenting rollercoaster but in for a penny, in for a pound 😉

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

A bit long for some but worth a read – here.     The premise is that we learn to talk *with* “problem kids” rather than *at* them.

Many of us fall into bad habits when we are looking at behaviour we consider poor or bad but perhaps it is time we tried to see things from the child’s perspective and took the time to ask them what we could do to make the situation better for them.

Our classrooms seem so full today with Miss Prim’s class sometimes having 32 kids but the other class sometimes accommodating 35 kids at any one time! (I was one of 28 and then one of 18)

It must be extremely difficult to effectively cater for the many needs of so many different personalities and learning types, it is no wonder that we are failing so many of those children who have specific needs not best handled by overstuffed and understaffed classrooms.

Our dreamer most likely has some type of learning style best met by people who have the time and passion to engage with her. One of her former teachers was so rigid in his style that she failed to make any progress in his class (good job she started ahead of her peers) and when I discussed the issue with him, on more than one occasion, he nodded and agreed to try a few different techniques. By the end of the year I had been accused of bullying him and had resigned my position on the school governors board as the school stood by the style of teaching which had hampered more than just my child. Had I needed further proof, when Miss Prim entered his class the following year, she too made no progress but was blessed by having that cushion of accelerated learning that years of fantastic teachers had encouraged. Miss Prim, definitely not “one of those” children, failed to make progress in his class and yet I couldn’t get any of the senior staff at the school to take my concerns on board. 

Perhaps schools get stuck in the patterns of behaviour that see our children being put on the path that ultimately leads them to falling short of their true potential. Who do we blame for this cycle of failure? Is it the parents who don’t press the school to seek out new and improved models to help deal with the frustrations of our children? Is it the teaching staff who fail to recognise their own limitations and also fail to see that a different approach could make the world of difference not just to the “problem” child but to their classmates and even to other individual children who are finding things tougher than they can verbalise and who would also be helped by a method which removes some of the pressure from a younger age and actually engages with them in a way that ensures each and every child has the skills and environment necessary to reach their full potential?
Are we too late? Have we failed a whole generation who we should have taken the time and care to understand and to better support? When I look at my dreamer, I wish I had done more. She lost more than that one year. It took a great deal of excellent compassion and conviction from her next teacher to not only raise her attainment to the expected level but also to surpass her expected standard. This fabulous teacher – newly qualified – took the time to get to know her and encourage her. When our daydreamer drifted off to the land of make believer to stare at unicorns and wizards, Ms S was able to bring her back to the real world and take a moment to reassure our dreamer that she was capable, she could and would succeed, and they would find the solution together if necessary. 

I’m not sure if she will continue to get top scores as her secondary life continues, I guess it depends on if any of her 12 teachers (or more if they continue to drop like flies) has the ability to see their students as individuals or if they feel like the only option in our oversubscribed schools is to teach in hopes that 80% of the class manage to get something out of the lesson.
For some it may well already be too late. My lanky nephew has already had his education restricted by being put in a class with those students they consider to be a distraction, too violent, or just too “lazy” to teach. 

When my stepdad died when Lanky was 10, it hit him hard. He had lost his own father to a “new family” a few years previous and Pops was the only male role model he had (because my Mr is basically a big kid ;-] ). He really didn’t cope with the destruction he saw within his home life and with a diagnosis of Aspergus, education seemed to be unimportant and fairly useless. An outburst after he was mocked put him into special measures and he was left there to rot. This isn’t for dramatic effect. He was put into a class with all the other disruptive elements, many of which also had an ASD diagnosis with learning and/or behavioural concerns. They only had to be at school for 3 hours each weekday and they were assisted in their learning by an unqualified teaching assistant. They weren’t encouraged, they weren’t listened to, their parents were left with no answers and no way to make school life worthwhile for their sons. No one knew to try a different direction, no one knew to take each student as an individual with his own needs, his own learning methods, and his own future to help shape. It is unlikely that Lanky will ever be able to reach his full potential now. He has reached the age where he is now an adult and has been labelled as vulnerable. He is going to need additional support and assistance for the foreseeable. He had the ability to go far and do very well for himself. Now he feels like he isn’t capable of doing more than existing. He felt so low that he turned to the streets, began stealing from family and using “legal highs” to escape his existence. 

We’ve made progress with him, we might yet be able to find a way to move forward so that he can find a job, support himself in time. We had to go through months of hell first, we had to witness *him* hit his rock bottom and there was very little we could do but wait to help him get up. My darling nephew, once this happy, lively, sensitive, passionate, and creative young boy is now barely a shell. He has abused alcohol to the point of damage which might not be repairable, his heart is being closely monitored because his valves are no longer functioning as normal, he is finally getting help for his depression and, oh, he just turned 18. 

Is he the lucky one? We’re all here to support him in any way we can and it looks like we can keep him out of prison. Some of his classmates have already found their way in front of a judge.
I don’t yet know what the best way forward is but we have to do something soon. It isn’t just the lives of the children who are being labelled that is at risk. The entire lifetime of those yet 

to be educated is at risk and with it, our society as we know it. We have ignored the needs of our education system for too long. 

Our teachers need better pay and smaller workloads, our TAs need continued training and support to best aid the teacher and the student body, our schools need fresh equipment and more adequate learning spaces and our class sizes need to be reduced. 

Do we not want the best for those yet to come? Why are so many happy to sell out our children and grandchildren and what are they gaining in return? This isn’t a party political issue, this is a national travesty! There is so much to be gained if we only invest our time and our funds in the next generation. 
It looks more likely that we will leave not only “those children” who present as an issue in the classroom to flail in the system but the majority of the population which some are banking on to pay for their retirement. 
http://www.filmsforaction.org/articles/what-if-everything-you-knew-about-disciplining-kids-was-wrong/

You had a bad day

First up, sorry if you now have an earworm. If you don’t know the song, here you go!

It is Friday evening here and unusually quiet as half the kids have gone for an overnighter with the Best OutLaws Ever! Yes, I used the term out law instead of in law – long story for another day. Anyway. The two littleuns, the Lawkeeper and the Selfie Ginga Queen are away for the night ready for entertaining their fabulous Grandparents and volunteering out in the community tomorrow. The Duke of Edinburgh awards have been fantastic for helping us help our community and I personally love to see the rosie pink cheeks of a good day’s work on our children’s faces.

Our biggest Sometimes Ginga has been hard at work these past few weeks with GCSE hell but I’m quietly confident that he has put in all of the groundwork necessary to obtain the best results he can, honestly, and that isn’t just as his mummy but his teachers are also sure of his abilities. I’ve been really impressed with his dedication, timetabling, responsible attitude, and general restricted flapping. He’s got this!

We’ve had a long May with a virus circling the household and I fear I may have been the main culprit having not had a moment to rest with a Birthday full month. I’m ending the month with a sinus infection to add to my general bleurgh feeling and the inability to shift illness like I once would. I was one of those annoyingly healthy kids where I would watch my siblings in bed with coughs and colds etc whilst I ate dirt and bogies and the yuck of life which makes most adults squirm. Now, as a fully grown person in my own right, I seem to have been dumped with this autoimmune disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndome, fibromyalgia blanket as a 30 something and my dirty faced childhood is a distant dream. 

As a mother, I have always tried to just get on with things and I spent far too long ignoring depression and refusing pain meds which seemed to just make matters worse so I probably lived with a great deal unnecessarily until I sought help in 2010. Since then, I have never visited a GP so frequently and the added bonus of telephone consults has been an absolute body saver. 

** yep, this is a catch up on a blog I fell asleep writing and we are now half way through July **

I am now less than 48 hours away from meeting with a consultant to discuss my Fibro and all which comes with it. I am extremely excited and terrified in equal measure. It has been so long since a specialist took a look at me that I’m a bit worried that they’ll tell me that there is something else at work with my body and if they had known then I could have started this miracle cure years ago. That, of course, might just be wishful thinking. 

As I type today with just a few of my fingers because it is too sore to use more, I am also suffering from some type of trapped nerve type pain in my shoulder that has been persistent for a few weeks and it is now travelling down my arm. This same arm is being traumatised by pins and needles and also a sensation like a twisting burn across my wrist. It is the most irritable of symptom clusters and is slowing down my creative crafting to a crawl. No good to me at End of School year gifting.

I also feel like I need to “crack” my ankles – you know, when you flex your fingers and they all “crack” and feel better for it. I’m walking around, almost collapsing every few feet as my ankles seem to fail under my weight. I’m also experiencing hideous cramps which I try to rub and ease but, more worryingly, these spasms which are catching me off guard are taking my feet and making it point in funny directions or forcing my toes to spread out and it is taking all my resolve not to cry and swear.

Blimey, I sound like a right moaning Myrtle! That isn’t quite what I meant to do. With all this moaning and groaning it is also important to remember the positives too. I have 8 beautiful, healthy children who all got fabulous school reports and performed wonderfully in the exams we already have the results for and most importantly they’ve ended the school year as better people! Their generosity and kindness has been exceptional this year and they’ve all offered clothes and toys for children who were left homeless in London, pennies into collection pots out and about, and even offered many suggestions for fundraising this year. 

Our children have so little in the grand scheme of things; we don’t have holidays, our bikes and clothes are mostly secondhand or hand-me-downs, even toys are often sourced from charity shops and Facebook selling pages. The fact that they feel they have more than enough to give back to others is extraordinary to me and I am often humbled by their generosity. They don’t limit this to our wider community either. They have been playground friends, members of the school councils, advocates for improving LGBTQ+ awareness and support, and generally being “good people”. 

There is so much to be glad about in this world and it is easy to forget in my daily world of pain just how wonderful this world is. There’s another ear worm and is quite apt given that Pride is being celebrated around the world right now with beautiful rainbows being flown high and wide! 

I am Proud of so much and have always been. We are blessed beyond measure and as long as we hold that love for each other close our days will never be as bad as we think they may appear to be.

I’ll be there for you…

There are some thoroughly wonderful people in this world, I mean seriously awesome individuals. These people go out of their way to ensure someone else has what they need to do more than just exist. They are rare diamonds. Most people lack the courage to take the first step. That doesn’t make them lesser examples, it just means that they will, hopefully, one day find the moment they need to step out of their comfort zone and make a difference in another’s life.

I don’t have an abundance of friends, I have always found it difficult to do the groundwork on a friendship, I’m socially awkward and emotionally wary but this means that the firends I do have are the absolute best. These last few years I’ve had to lean on these angels and the support has been, without exception, tremendous. They have dropped plans, arranged sitters and have rushed to my side in order to prevent any harsh sanctions from Social Services or the hideous punishments that a person can give to themselves when they feel that they have done something out of line. They saved our family.

Last September, the Little Man was being a right toad. This isn’t unusual, in fact, this is our normal afternoon expectation and he’s old enough to try his hand and young enough to get away with it. Last September I also found myself at the start of the worst flare I have yet head. It wasn’t the pain this time, I’ve got much better at coping and masking the pain, it was the Chronic Fatigue, Insomnia, and as close to influenza as I have ever been. I wasn’t full of germs but my body’s immune system reacted as if it might as well have been. I still haven’t fully recovered. My body has gained the shakes, hot & cold flushes, eye sensitivity, tinnitus, temperature fluctuations, and a general feeling of lugging around the whole world by your shoulders. 

So, the story goes that I was sat on my armchair, nursing the baby after dinner as was our routine, Little Man went up the stairs and come down via the window. Completely heart stopping and utterly unbelievable as he didn’t have a mark on him and literally walked away with a tiny fracture on his inner hip/pelvis. We called for an ambulance and unfortunately the wait was rather worrying – well over an hour – but I kept him as still as he has ever been and eventually he was taken into A&E before being kept in overnight as a precaution. 

What happened next was actually more scary. My Fibro wasat breaking point, I had applied for disability benefits just a week earlier and this added stress tipped me over. The biggest Mr took the older children for a visit with Little Man and I was left with just the two smalls. I was serving a tomato based dinner so all clothing was removed – have you ever seen how much mess an almost 2 year old and a 3 year old can make? Not pretty – and because of my zinging muscles and nerves we ate in the living room. 

Two social workers turned up “just policy” and decided that they would take us on. For the next 9 months we walked on eggshells. I was crtiticised for not making the smalls “cover themselves” when they arrived. Apparently the house smelt of cat urine, which is somewhat true. We had brand new kittens and a mummy cat I was trying to keep inside. This leads to many smelly indoor litter boxes hidden out of sight from small fingers. They also said that the sheets were dirty on the beds. It is possible that we were at the end of the week before stripping, I can’t recall for definite but when their report again mentioned dirty sheets I was very cross. We had made sure that the newly rearranged beds (another criticism being that we had too many children in one room) had fresh linen the afternoon before their visit. They only had their word against mine but it is now down on record! A rather ridiculous thing to get hung up on it but that seemed to be their biggest issue. That and the smalls not wearing nappies on their initial visit. My perfectly potty trained smalls were perfectly innocent to two strange women in their home just before bath time but it was a huge concern for them. Their other main issue was making sure that the children had access to counselling via school. Yeah, in this time of money savings my children don’t generally hit the benchmark for *needing* counselling but the lack of movement from the schools meant that we had to live under constant fear of the unknown for months. It was completely stressful and is probably a major aspect of my continuing poor health. 

I still have nightmares of the children being taken into care because my health – which I have little to no control over – being blamed as was the case for us. If I was too ill to properly supervisor my children then I shouldn’t have had them to begin with. Not quite the exact words one of the social workers used but not far from it. That being said, I’m not sure what my health had to do with anything. I was downstairs looking after those who needed the watchful eye. My 8 year old son is more than capable of using the toilet by himself unless they felt that my time was better spent watching his urinary output but no one would actually answer that question.

No one else had any other concerns for how the children were being cared for and my darling, beautiful, wonderful friends who came to our rescue and sorted out the mess that was my crafting area, and rearranged bedrooms that I had been unable to help with for a while, and the declutter(!) It is so easy to slip up when you a. tend to hoard always fearing the worst and b. have a “reduce, reuse, recycle” mentality which means you gladly accept hand-me-downs and save money on school jumpers for years on end. They saved our family from still having to deal with the red tape monster that Social Services can so often be and it meant that our slightly alternative, every so subtly ‘abnormal’ family was kept together and on track. 

You know who you are. I love each and every one of you xxx

Honest Blogging

Today, I don’t feel like I measure up. One after another after another I have in someway hurt and upset my children and I find myself wondering, at 11.13 on a school night, how do I fix this? 

I am not the kind of mother I thought I was going to be, indeed, I am not the sort I once was in any shape or form. 

In the beginning I was caught up in my situation. We had planned the making a baby part but hadn’t considered the affording part as well as we might have. Two young adults, studying at college, both realising what we wanted and how staying at school wasn’t going to achieve it. It is, therefore, fairly accurate to suggest thatg we jumped into things with both feet whilst wearing blindfolds. 

I am not a lover of pink and I moved any pink outfirs to the back of the wardrobe when our first born arrived. We let them choose their own path and we encouraged building blocks, train tracks, dolls & prams, fairy wings, and all things Winnie the Pooh – a childhood love I was glad to share! I was never anti “girl” toy, I just really don’t love the colour pink and on little chunky babies it can have a hint of marshmallow about it (sorry not sorry).

By the time we got to our Little Dude we had a great set up which included Barbie having a tea party with Action Man as well as I fantastic train set that wound around the Grandparents ground floor visiting the teddybears picnic and Megabloks mountain before stopping at the Fairy Pirate Ship! Our aim as parents was to show each of our children that they weren’t restrained by what was expected by society and they showed us that they would each take and leave what they wanted from the choices available to them. I think we ended up with a healthy bunch of well rounded individuals who are liked and respected by those who count and mostly by those who can help them to achieve and succeed. 

The downside to our regime is that our children also have healthy debating abilities, a knowing sense of how to use their argument, and unfortunately, the acting skills to throw a tantrum with great ferocity and ear-splitting volume. They learnt the skills in toddlerhood but perfected them with their early teenage showdowns. 

It has meant a fair amount of biting of tounges and the occassional parental blowout of frustration. This fabulous Summer heatwave has made our wonderfully full household very tetchy and irritable, more mistakes than normal are being made, and butting of heads, egos, and emotions has been a major downside. 

We have had Sports Day x2, Theatre Performances, Proms, Duke of Edinburgh trials, Year 6 Journey, Pride, Award Ceremonies, New School Meetings, Tavistock groups, GP appointments, and my FMS/CFS consultants appointment which falls on Leavers Assembly/Leavers Disco Day. As a parent my life is extremly hectic and my feet are hurting and my body is aching, and my mind is melting. 

I don’t know how I am going to keep on top of everything that needs to be done and I’m snapping like a crocodile. Everytime I turn around someone is asking me for the impossible or shoving another form in front of my nose and more money is being asked for. I’m stretched to breaking point and so is our budget and, as most adults know, when the pounds are no longer stretching every single penny needs to be counted and preferably not by somebody else’s bank account.

We’ll make it work, we always do. My mental strength is recovering after my mindless spending on rucksacks, prom shoes, and kitchen utensils since loosing Vic. My physical health being so low helped to make the slip easier and hopefully my new ‘specialist’ should aid some recovery, with luck anyway. 

I just want to be able to be an active mother, to be able to keep a standard of tidyness so that I’m not tripping on teddies and hairclips, to be able to get back to cooking and baking, to spend quality time listening to them instead of wincing in pain whilst waiting for meds to kick in. I want to be a “normal” mum (if there is such a thing) and not the one with the funny walking and grimacing expression. 

And tea. I’d like to do it all whilst drinking a cup of tea that is just too hot to be around small people with vie like grips.

Failing all that, is it bedtime yet?!

V is for Vanishing

I’m sorry to have been quiet for so long but it has been a long and difficult month here in the Bear Cave. I actually have 3 or 4 half finished blogs that I should finish and edit and will try to soon but for now I just want to reflect on the passing of my beautiful friend, Vicky.

We had such a hot headed relationship with many ups and downs but since she died, I keep thinking about are the times when I must have hurt her and she never deserved it. Like the time I slapped her when we were in year 9. She called me a b****, and rightly so, but in my defence she had taken my diary and showed my crush all of my embarassing teenage ramblings.  We were besties again by the end of the day and she never got the £5 she was promised for nabbing it. Ha! Then there is the hilarious start to our friendship when rival school girls join forces against the kids from schools we had never heard of. We complimented each other in many ways, she was the Ying to my teenage Yang and we were both thoroughly happy about it. I miss her so much it hurts, physically hurts. The morning of her passing, I had planned to visit with her again. Once a week, at the very least, I’d drive in tears to the St Christopher’s hospice, I’d wipe away the tears, plump my cheeks and slap on my smile. We had our “smile” in common too. We both used to hide behind a perfectly performed smile for decades whilst our insides were crying and screaming for help. For decades, we had both lived in the shadows of our depressions, we learned how to live without having people see the dark circles from restless nights and we hid our secret food consumption, although some would argue that point and our expanding waist lines would back them up.  Vic knew my deepest, darkest fears and never once did she tell of my feast and famine relationship with food. 

When I had counselling as a young person, it was Vic who I told the whole truth too. I was scared of my dad being told about how hard I felt the breakup of my parents’ marriage, how lost I felt when we were pushed from pillar to post and from one girlfriend to the next, and why I missed my kind, sensitive, generous Grandfather who provided the stable father figure I desperately clung to and who had been cruely ripped away by Leaukemia just as I hit double digits. Vicky heard all of my woes, she held my hand, and she helped me past the worst of the pain. 

I wasn’t the adventurous one of our small group. I was stable and quite happy to keep my feet on the ground where they belonged. Our friend, El, would talk of climbing mountains and flying planes. Vicky would listen with wide eyes and awe whilst I stood shaking my head with a big fat nope. It was no surprise to me that she abseiled down one of the tall buildings of London and she thoroughly loved every minute. Last year she would recall in great detail all of her many adventures in her “Not a bucket list bucket list” and we would swap names of complicated pills on our joint efforts to combat our painful bodies. 

At out last gathering of friends, she giggled over the silliness of the two children now exploring her house and laughed with delight as the smallest of them climbed on to the cat’s radiator bed and found herself in a miniture swing. We had to stop for a photoshoot before the little madam squawked and asked for help! Vic was in such high spirits but we could tell that the cancer was winning this time around. She was repeating herself and not making complete sense. We were watching her slip away from us as the brain tumours took her from us.

I spent a few hours in her company that penultimate Saturday. Her darling Mummy was on hand and also one of her newest and inner circle friends was ready and willing to chat for a while and share stories of grey iced cupcakes with brilliantly colourful cakes underneath. She told of many tea and cake catch ups and the ease in which their friendship blossomed but that was Vicky summed up. Fiercely loyal to her friends and no time sinkhole people who took more than they would ever give. When we found a moment, just Vic and I, the words fell from my lips onto sleeping ears. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her, that she meant the world to me, and that the last three years were the best of gifts from her to me. I needed her to know that we would all miss her terribly and that it would take an enormous truck to fill the gap she left in our lives. 

I said goodbye to her that day not knowing if it would be the last time I could. When I got the text from her sister letting me know that they had got the final curtain call, I dropped. Here ended the best of people. She vanished like the light from a candle in fresh summer breeze and blessed us with this most beautiful summer sun. It was no surprise when she arrived for her greatest ever party, that she did so with style and a huge splash of pink flare! I managed to sit on the chair with the best view of her. I listened with thrumming ears as her wonderful friends spoke fondly and with love, I sang through the songs as they played not caring if anyone else would mind and my Natters and I clung fast to each other. 

Afterwards we shared great stories, laughed and cried together and toasted this amazing example of what the human race has to offer. Mother Nature, God, Allah, Zeus, the little green aliens… I don’t know who exists and who doesn’t but if there is an almighty (or several) they have a very odd way of sorting the curds from the whey. The Die of Destiny has been rolled and mistakes have been made. 

Vicky was one of the good ones. She filled our lives with pink and fluffy and cats. I owe her my life, truly. She stayed with me when she had no reason to and I love her for it. 

Vicky, I miss you. If there is an after, I hope it has cats, cake, and a lovely pot of rosie lee. It needs to have deck chairs and the sound of the sea lapping on the shore, fish and chips in the paper wrapper, and cheesy love songs, lots and lots of them. You will stay with me forever and a day. Love you xxx

Peace be upon us all

I had the opportunity to have a thorough run through of the 10 commandments and how they relate to my life. I very much enjoy being able to explore my spiritual beliefs or lack there of. 

To make it clear. I would place myself somewhere between Atheist and Agnostic. I explore as much religion as I can and consider if there is a place within each that might fit me. I’m still looking.

Predominantly, I look towards the Christian faith. I grew up with a fabulous grandmother who was very firm in her Catholicism and she enjoyed scaring God into us. I can’t say she was very successful but she stayed true to her faith until the end. She was a stern and complex individual who fled her home in Ireland to offer her illegitimate son a better life. She married my grandfather and raised a total of four siblings together in the best way they could. My grandfather seemed to shun religion, he openly scoffed at Sunday Best and I don’t remember him visiting Church except for hatches, matches, and despatches. Only one of the four children seem to have a connection with religion today and her own children have found Allah. Islam has brought peace upon them and they are active, happy members of their communities. I love that my cousin seeks comfort from her maker and leads her life in a way that honours his teachings. Her quiet faith brings strength and support and, I imagine, brings its own questions and a journey to the answers. 

We grew up being brownies and beavers – both branches of organisations with God, Queen and Country at their cores. The Girl Guides, 1909, was started to respond to the specific needs of girls and young women, whilst the Scouts was started the year before. Robert Baden-Powell wanted to encourage young people to be responsible, capable, God lead individuals. I spent week after week pledging to live my life under a code of honour which I never thought twice about. I would follow my dad to the Methodist Church for Mothering Sunday and other calender events before hot footing it to the Salvation Army to take part in the tambourine performance and hear another beautiful sermon about the Lord. I admit to finding great comfort within the church walls, I learnt things that school would never teach me and was read stories of a time long ago with men and women of courage and faith. If I hear the choir sing today I can feel my heart swell and my own voice joining in. 

As an adult, it is from the communities with ties to the Church that I receive greatest support and love. My friends, religious and otherwise, welcome me into their homes and into their hearts. They stand shoulder to shoulder with my family offering them unconditional love and an overwhelming sense of being welcome – mostly. 

I spend my time between the fantastic congregation of the Salvation Army, I listen with an open heart to the words and with an open mind to their structure and then willing give more of my time with my Baptist family in the hopes that their love and guidance will sink into our family as it did with myself as a child. 

The youngest Gingerling very much thinks we are Christian. We go to church sometimes and we close our eyes when Mr A (for Awesome) tells us to open our hearts to the Lord. She’s a very astute nearly, nearly 7 year old (6 and 4/5). She has been told that good Christians go to Church and listen to what the people say. Our dear friend and Major Redhead always spoke in a way that our Little Sponge understood and would have her listen intently before asking what a word meant or by nodding with a “we do that, don’t we mummy!” by way of acknowledging the words flowing into her. 

I can see the older girls all seeking something, all listening, all questing. They, like myself, are willing to listen, to feel God in their lives. In many ways I hope they do find what they are looking for. The way of the Lord sits so well with our church family, the glow of his wisdom is beautiful to behold. If only it was so easy for us all.

Whilst talking to the Good Rev about the commandments I found it easy to answer his questions truthfully and whole heartedly. He makes it very comfortable for me and I respect him greatly for it. I fear that he could not support my son with such easy grace. His Lord made it very clear, 2000 years ago, that there is no place within his heart for my boy. And yet, if I apply the 10 commandments to my son I can see that his place in heaven would be well deserved. A kinder, more sincere and honest a human being would only be found amongst other beautiful young people. They live their lives by a code of conduct that is based upon the words spoken by our parents, grandparents, great grandparents. Do no harm. Do not lie. Do not steal. Do not cheat. Respect your elders. Protect those who cannot protect themselves. They don’t even use any Lord’s name in vain preferring the plethora of profanity in the English language or the good old almost swear “oh for pete’s sake”, “frickin’ heck” or “fiddlesticks”! 

Why is my child not welcome? I can’t ask this of the Rev just yet. I want to know but I also don’t want to hear that my child is somehow less worthy of any God’s love because his inner being has been nestled into a body that feels alien in nature. I do not know enough about Islam, Jehovah’s teachings, or other holy scriptures to know how my boy would be seen or received. All I know is that he is pure and he is good and if a god does not love him for that then he cannot be the true saviour of which I seek. 

And there in lies the conundrum. I look for a place of belonging, not just for me but for my children too. I cannot listen to a chosen mouthpiece of God and have them tell me that my child is not worthy, not welcome. My understanding of religious faith and doctrine is too limited. I have yet to find my spiritual leader, I know not if I ever will.

So many lives have been lost this past 24 hours. Some to life limiting conditions, some to old age, some to war, some to famine, some to disease, some to a violence without a name, and some because of a man who seems to have lost his way and may have uttered the name of a Lord he may or may not believe in. The loss of so many children, possibly 25,000 every single day, is not easily reconciled. I imagine God has been listening to many prayers today. I hope that many of those prayers have been answered in one way or another, that those mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, doctors, nurses, friends, emergency service personal have the comfort they seek.

Perhaps we all (okay, maybe 90%+) seek answers from a higher power when times are tough. I am open to seeking the truth, the answers, the continued questioning. My love is with you all, always. I will not stop seeing you as my family and any Lord I find will welcome you too.