Tag Archives: good life

Pay it forward

Every now and again I stumble across a post on social media or a blog and I find myself relentlessly scratching an itch which may well lead to being blocked or worse, the ending of a friendship. Hopefully, this evenings’ itch won’t have gone so far but it has left me wanting to try and release the valve without hurting any feelings so here I am again, writing on my very dusty blog, trying to sort out the different threads of thought that are weaving loosely around the jelly of my once firm memory bank. Ho hum.

I love teachers and teaching assistants, playgroup volunteers and nursery staff, scouting and guiding and cadet leaders; all of those adults who are still so passionate about preparing the next generation for adulthood that they give up *extra* time and energy on top of their working hours to mark out a path of safety, strength, education and futures. I adore them all. With the restrictions and paperwork now in place it is often a thankless and penniless vocation.

Do you know what else is taken for advantage? The modern parent. Often, all of those people who take care of our children in ways almost unmeasurable, are also parents. They are people who lose time with their own children because they know how much they have already benefited from their passions. For example. I have spent all of my “spare” time this past month trying to get a Stay and Play group up an running. Unfortunately, because of my Fibro and my new meds still trying to settle, my spare time has often been squeezed into family time. Whilst my kids enjoyed a movie put on in the local community, I sat in a side room typing up safeguarding policy. Of course, knowing my own children and husband, Mr Bear sat watching the movie (and multitasking with a game on his mobile) whilst the majority of our Cubs did not. A lot of hummous and PomBear crisps were consumed. I like to mix the good with the bad. There was also birthday cake and pots of yummy olives. See? Ying Yang all the way.

This dichotomy is probably seen more often in my day to day life. I do not have enough hours or enough energy to do more than try to keep the balance as much as I can. I fail miserably far too often. I lose it and shout at my smalls. I have to nap leaving my bigs to be young carers. I forget to collect my meds to the point that I count out the pills to ensure I have enough to last me the next 24/48 hours. I say “maybe” far more often than I am happy with because I just don’t know if I will be up to taking them all to the park after school. I am constantly on technology too and this has reached breaking point this last month.

I use modern tech for as much as possible. To remember my meds, I have an app on phone that rattles away in the same way I imagine my insides to do. I make use of the Google calendar. I have a personal list, a family list, a husband list, a school list (or three) and all of the public holidays to point out how terrible I am that I didn’t remember to send Mothers/Fathers Day cards etc. I also play memory games because if I don’t use it, I may just lose it! I catch up on my friends and loved ones that I don’t see daily via social media accounts. I stumble over delicious vegan recipes to keep my Big Boy happy and exquisite brownie recipes to please us both. I get my daily news on the web. Seriously, I do. I also listen to the local talk radio that helps but I definitely don’t buy newspapers anymore. My diary often rambles into my blog these days and any letter I may have once handwritten is now neatly typed and emailed to those people who need to read my nonsense. I also find communicating with the secondary school teachers extremely convenient (hopefully for us both) and I prefer to have a “good old fashioned” paper trail (or internet bits…)

I organise our entire life via my mobile and laptop. Sometimes, I even find myself tapping away or catching up with Person X, Doctor Y, or Teacher Z at the school gates.

I know for some, this gets a few points knocked off my mummy scorecard. I’ve stopped caring, to be fair. Occasionally, 3:15 is the only time for these things to happen. To some it will look like I am not paying close enough attention to my 5 year old who has exited her classroom full of the joys of Year One and, maybe, they will see me again at 3:25, two more children in tow, still desperately getting stuff done on my phone. I’m sorry if you think that makes me a lesser mother. Actually, scrub that, I’m not sorry.

You aren’t walking in my shoes. You aren’t taking my meds. You aren’t making sure my kids are fed each and every day and you are most definitely not parenting my children.

You never knew that day when I was on the phone to my husband that our benefits were cut.

You were never told when I was speaking to CAHMs about the mental wellbeing of my older child.

You didn’t see the fridge the day I was on the phone to the Supermarket pleading with them to please try my card again so my children’s dinner would still be delivered.

You weren’t aware that my friend’s baby arrived safe and well that very day after a terrifying pregnancy.

You wouldn’t have noticed me wince as I turned my head away so my children didn’t see as my back spasmed at just the wrong moment.

You couldn’t tell that day when I had just found out the devastating news that my friend had terminal cancer.

Sometimes, it might not have been quite so life changing but you didn’t know it wasn’t when you judged me, either.

I ask my children every afternoon how well their day has been, what new fact did they learn, what did they most enjoy, what did they wish they could change. Every night, I kiss them and wish them sweet dreams. Some days, these things will happen from my bed which I haven’t been able to leave, I wonder if I still get judged as a stay at home parent when I don’t collect my own children. What do you assume I am up to when I don’t even turn up to collect them? Or, worse still, the days I can’t leave the car to walk them in.

If I had known seven years ago just how much our lives would change, I might have done things differently. Woulda, coulda, shoulda and all that.

When I see you, I wonder how you fit in the time to complete your makeup, and I am in awe of your organisational skills.

When I see you talking on your phone again at 3:15pm, I wonder if I should offer to help you with the pick up so you have an extra few minutes to talk in uninterrupted sentences.

When I see you push to the front of the queue, I wonder what you have cooking for dinner that means you’re in such a rush to get home today.

I look at our children and I am thankful that they are here, happy, healthy, educated, fed and loved. I don’t want to question your choices because I don’t want the reasons to be anything like my own. I don’t wish my medical restrictions on anyone. Nor do I want to imagine that a loved one is in pain, although please feel free to spread the joy of a new baby!

The world is so full of judgment already. We are constantly split into groups, measured by the colour of our skin or the jobs that we hold, divided by the haves and the have nots, forced into political camps that label as Lefty Liberals, Far Right Racists, Crunchy Greenies, even Recycling Rebels (but at least that’s better than the Breastapo or Feminazi. Urgh.)

Be kinder to eachother, please. Life can be so cruel all on it’s own that the idea of us biting and clawing at eachother chills me to my core. Spread the love not the fear, smile if you can, and remember that even rainstorms can bring rainbows.

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Congratulations, you didn’t get ill this year…

Tonight was our termly ACE awards – Academic and Character Excellence – it is a superb event to highlight how well some of the students are doing. Overall, I support and encourage these events and I encourage the children to always try their hardest and set their lives to their own code of character. They are helpful (we’ll ignore their home chores), polite, kind and caring, considerate and a pleasure to be around.

I am privileged to be raising fantastic human beings. They trust us, as parents, to meet their needs, they rely on us to take care of them when they’re poorly and stand up for them when there is an injustice.

That’s what I am doing now. We’ve had occasions when one or two of the children have managed to stay healthy the whole term long. That’s fantastic. It’s also potluck. They had absolutely no control over their immune systems, they just happened to miss the seasonal flu and the stomach virus which took the rest of us out. It isn’t part of their character not to be ill, it’s just luck.

I remember being a fairly healthy child and missing very little school. My elder sister had nearly the whole school year off after an accident at home broke her lower leg and put her in plastercast. She got a nasty infection, there were multiple attempts at repairing and reducing damage. She had all her class work brought in to the hospital and managed to learn what was needed to see her through the school year. My younger sister was born premature and it had a knock on effect on her health. Ear infections, Mumps (despite having all our MMR jabs – it happens), chest infections, asthma. It meant many appointments and many missed days at school.

This year hasn’t been The Boy’s month. He has been constantly “under the weather” since Christmas. Most days he gets on with it. He has a bit of a temperature, his throats a bit sore, and every now and again, he’ll vomit. Our school policy is 24 hours. He has missed one day a week all this term. This is really not what I want but rules are there to protect others and I would feel utterly guilty if my Boy’s bug made another child seriously unwell. Then you have the Big Boy. Numerous appointments with various services and they all operate on a 9:30-4:30 timetable. The Big Boy can’t control when he has to have his blockers or the fact that we have to go into Central London because our GP doesn’t support the treatment. He has very limited control over his mental health and a bad dip can creep up and take hold. He can’t just pull up his socks and keep going.

Essentially, my children won’t be winning the top notch award because you have to show academic progress, character excellence and, crucially, 100% attendance. It doesn’t matter that their teachers are super proud of their achievements. It won’t count if they have the most positive points in their year group. They could rescue ducklings, feed the homeless, and be the personal assistant their teachers always wanted. As soon as they catch that bug, their chances of gaining the best possible praise award is finished.

How is that fair? Our very own Teacher’s Pet was doing really well. She had made it through 5 out of 6 of the half terms and had nothing bigger than a sniffle. One Tuesday morning, the boy sitting next to her vomited next to their desk. His parents were called to collect him. They weren’t able to get back to school any sooner than the end of the school day so he was *sent back to class*. He spent the next 4hrs sat next to one of the most wonderful students you could wish to meet. Come Thursday morning, around 3am, my poor 11 year old was green and heart broken. She knew it would mean not going into school and her hopes of the 100% attendance award was gone. Oh yes, the poorly young boy from her class? He stayed at school all week despite having spent Tuesday and Wednesday running to the toilets. He got his 100% attendance award whilst our family got tears and a nasty bug that we didn’t shift for over a month.

Why do we continue to praise attendance so highly, even higher than a person being in good health? When my child is having a panic attack, their breathing becoming difficult, their face clammy, their head pounding, and their stomach churning, what learning are they going to done in a class with 25 other wonderful children and 2 cruel and unkind children who use bullying tactics to tear down my child’s defences? Why is my child’s mental health not worth protecting?

Do I want my child to be considered for the top spot *despite* missing a day or two from school? Yes, of course I do. I want them to be able to gain first place in any race. Am I going to send my ill child to school to keep them in the race? Nope. That accolade just isn’t worth it. Maybe, if my children were struggling academically or having problems finding their feet as a growing individual, I *might* consider making sure that we keep on top of things as parents; help them learn, explore, grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally but I can’t see myself being the parent who leaves their child at school unless I truly don’t have any other choice.

Please, teachers, take the time to praise our children, we love that you do but try to do it without putting a special shiny star on the 100% attendance thing. For my physically disabled nephew, for my gender dysphoria suffering son, for my daughter who just has to listen to a sneeze before becoming unwell, for my elder sister and her accident, and my younger sister and her premature system, for all those children who are genuinely ill and whose parents have the facility to keep them home and wrapped up. For everyone who has missed out on that 100% attendance award. Your worth will never be valued, by me, by how well your immune system fights off bugs.

New Year, Old Musings

December was a funny old month. I spent far too much of it sat on a hospital waiting room chair, I had tests that left me in crisis where I had to leave the site or vomit all over the shiny clean floor, and meetings with Consultants who basically told me that my condition is still mostly invisible and even my new secondary condition is playing spot the inflammation. Yay.

In order to stop wallowing in my own room of pain and because it is 6 am on a Sunday morning where sleep played hookie for the night, I have decided to muse on something my big boy happened to say the other day in an off-hand, barely a thing, way.

“I was more scared of telling mum I was a vegetarian than telling her I was trans!”

Say what?? I have always felt that our parent/child relationship has been good and solid. We are open, honest, challenging, thought provoking. I never knew that one of them might have been scared to tell me something and if my outspoken, head strong, opinionated, first born can’t talk to me, what on Earth are the others holding back?

Don’t get me wrong, I know that children aren’t going to tell their parents everything and there are certain things I am not yet ready to hear, yet I didn’t realise I had ever said anything to make at least one of them wary of my reaction. And of all things, vegetarianism. That’s their hot button? Wow. How had I let this happen?


Admittedly, food is a big for me. I like my food, my belly fat rolls are a prominent reminder but I only ever discuss it in terms of eating healthily, looking at where your food comes from or how it is harvested. We even “enjoyed” watching Kill it, Cook it, Eat it on the beeb and would warn the children before giving them the option to stay up late to watch it. I’m fairly certain that it was these series that set my Big Boy on his path to being a (new) Vegan and, he suggests, probably a Raw Foodie or whatever the term will be in a couple of years. He is passionate about it to the point of becoming very upset with himself for fearing he isn’t getting his message across. I love his enthusiasm, his thirst to do what is right before what is easy. He sees a challenge and he drives himself to do his utmost in the name of his cause.


I had mentioned that I would rather he didn’t become a Vegan whilst we were still paying the shopping bill. The alternative products can really stretch things out. When I was following a popular diet for a while, moving from cow’s milk to almond milk was way outside my comfort zone but I found I quite enjoyed it and was able to eat porridge (cold with a little syrup or honey) as a breakfast meal once again. Pregnancy and hyperemesis really took its toll on my dairy intake and looked elsewhere for extra calcium yet never explored “milk” alternatives, I just did without them. However, it was an expense I couldn’t justify as my diet slowly moved back to the family norm. The cheese is another woah product. I put my Bursar hat on and tut loudly knowing that for his little block of cheese I could buy two thirds of the family block of cheddar. I have absolute joy in buying extra olives, chickpeas, lentils, and mushroom. It is fantastic to see my kitchen once again being used for the purpose of proper scratch cooking. I miss the fun of combining ingredients and enjoying new flavours, a joy which not being able to stand or sit upright for long periods has robbed me of. The eating of extra veggies, beans, pulses, and whole grains really doesn’t bother me at all. I dislike the pushy, judgemental, vindication which I have often come face to face with from Vegans. I want my children to make decisions based on the research and evidence of their own making rather than because one of their favourite YouTubers decides that the grapefruit cleanse is the best thing ever. Perhaps, somewhere along the way, that message was somehow lost. I’m really quite uncomfortable with that realisation.


If such a simple “you do you” message was lost, what else have my children decided to say or not say? If he had said “I was scared to tell dad!” that would make perfect sense. MrBear is a card carrying, bacon worshipping, veg avoiding, meat eater. The more meat the better. ALL of our friends know that if they want to thank him meat or some kind of alcohol will do the trick. If he can have it with extra hot spicy sauce then you will probably be in line for next Mrs B, should I ever shuffle off first. Seriously. The man lurves his meat smothered with chilli. I have never understood it. I openly say, in front of the children, that that is a very bizarre way to maintain ones body and taste buds. It is even more annoying because given that he gets to eat twice the adult male calorie count for the day thanks to his epic cycle commute, I’m the one who carries every excess calorie he seems to consume. To say in his presence that bacon is no longer an option is to open yourself up to all kinds of not funny jokes and “all the more for me” boasts.


Perhaps, what I was unable to convey to my wise Big Boy, is that when I ask “why?” to each of his statements, it is because I want to hear his sound and reasoned argument. Maybe I have lost the ability to ask those questions without them sounding loaded or like I have an agenda. I could live without meat. After a while, I would most likely no longer desire to add chicken to my salad or minced beef to my cottage pie. I can see myself quite happily eating in a meat free manner. Perhaps I have never actually said that to him.

I know I often speak in ideals. Our own little homestead. Chickens for fresh eggs, a goat to milk, pigs to harvest and swap with other homesteaders for some of their own produce, a polytunnel to fend off our beautiful English weather and a greenhouse to potter around in. In my dream making, it is entirely plausible that I failed to set straight my views on animal cruelty, testing on animals, forced breeding in dairy cows, dire battery cages of egg layers and the by products of these animals so widely used that the meat is now the by product. I don’t see how but I have to concede that I don’t always know the answer and I certainly have become less proficient at getting my words straight when my pain levels have begun to rise. I know that he feels genuine distress when he considers the lives of animals within the meat industry and I am completely on board with his choice to become a vegan. I’ll manage the cost, I’ll encourage new foods, I’ll search for better footwear, and I will stand beside him whilst we tell his father to stop being such a tit. He deserves my support and he has more than earned my respect. Can I say that we will never again butt heads or talk with great passion about the view from our side of the fence? Heck no! I doubt that he would actually want me to stop. The challenge I bring in to our conversations is a tool I will continue to use to better equip him for the world. His father is not the only one who will put down his life diet choice but he will probably be one of the only ones to turn around and stand up to any other tit who dares to tell our Big Boy that he is wrong in those choices. He is a daft so and so at times, my Mr, but his heart has been owned by our children since the day I sent him a text with one simple message, “Hello daddy”.


No Spend November

I’m going to say it as it is – I’m useless at saving. Everytime I attempt it, something happens and all the pennies get spent and more goes on the credit card too. It sucks to be in this cycle of never ending debt and not being able to see a way out of it. I want to start with the small things. We regularly change service providers, we aren’t Brand Snobs, and we walk or cycle whenever possible. It wouldn’t have been unusual for us to do a good walk to The OutLaws of a weekend although, sadly, my fibromyalgia means that is now a complete no-go. Having access to a fabulous car has been one of the only positives but it is amazing to have a brand new car covered for breakdowns and repairs with no hassle or concerns. It has meant we don’t have to worry about a possible vehicle problem and the expense that would incur because it is All Inclusive. A major weight lifted off us.
We do have bills to pay, a car to fuel, school trips to cover, and every week essentials that we can’t buy in advance for one reason or another. There is also every chance of an emergency and the only thing we can do about that is suck it up as usual. I can, however, do something about the kitchen which is what my No Spend is going to cover. I will have a strict list of essential buys and that’s it. I’m not going to cave to any more Christmas pressure either. I have everything I need to make it a wonderful family gathering with heartfelt, handmade gifts. If I go near Wish or eBay I know I will crack so I am taking them off my homescreen and I’m going to turn off notifications for the next month at least. If I can avoid my usual pitfalls, I truly believe I can do this (gulp).

Whenever you try to complete an exercise like this, I find it useful to make the rules that work for you, after all, no two families are the same and when you’re catering for 10 people you can be dealing with figures that others might find appalling. Hey ho, nothing I can do about how others tick, I need to focus on our kitchen for now.

So here are my basic rules;

~~Essentials covers milk, bread, eggs, ham (The Boy will eat it all if I buy in bulk), salad items, fruit

~~Essentials does not include chocolate, crisps, snack foods, lunchbox fillers, The Mr’s lunch (he buys his own Up Town to save the cycle legs)

~~List the food you have in already – pantry, cupboards, fridge & freezer

~~List the meals you can make with what you have – pasta with sausage, chicken and chips, veggie bolognese with spaghetti…

~~Try something different or one of your “once in awhile” specials (corn beef hash! – but I don’t have any corn beef in. Boo!)

~~Have Meat Free Mondays (Vegan for us with The Big Boy now opting for that choice)

~~Have Leftovers Clearout – all those one meal portions you freeze for lunches you never get around too

~~Take note of anything you really miss so you can PLAN future meals – the Ginger Teen loves pulled pork but will have to wait as we don’t have a joint in the freezer this month

 ~~Get Creative – fancy crisps? Cut and bake a tortilla, use the popcorn kernals, bake bread, bake chickpeas for a “nutty need”, soak the bag of beans that you’ve stockpiled “just in case”

~~Minimise your shopping trips –  I get easily distracted by the middle aisle of Lidl

These are not hard and fast rules but you need to control the things that might lead you astray. The Mr loves his crisps. We have some crackers but he’ll either go without or get inventive. The Mr also likes to rest with some cider, wine, or whisky. Good job we have a cupboard of alcohol that could do with finishing off ready for a fresh New Year collection. 

I also have to consider things that could potentially lead us off course. I’m going to a Baby Shower on the weekend and will need to contribute a few bits. We have a stockpile of Baby wipes thanks to Amazon Subscription so they can be passed along, I have rice and seasonings, we just had a Muscle Foods delivery so there’s chicken to use. I don’t think I need anything extra except some lemonade so I added that to our last essential’s online shop due in the morning. Sorted. I have also arranged for a trip to Primark up town. They’ve decked it out all Hogwarts themed and I’m bound to want something. I figure a set amount plus a birthday gift for Ginger Teen and The Mr. That should make things less stressful but I’m going to be drooling for sure over just about everything.

The Big Boy and Grandan have birthdays at the end of the month too. Presents are sorted. I know there are cards somewhere in the draw. I even got fancy birthday candles in Poundland so the only thing I have to consider is cakes. As eggs are essential in our household, I think I can make it work. I’ve also got a nice store of vegan friendly alternatives going with the new change and a bag of semi-sweet vegan chocolate chips so I’m sure I can knock up some kind of yummy cake-like affair for Himself. 

I’ve also got change enough to buy Poppies, a complete essential for us although a white poppy is important for me too. 

That about wraps up what I’ve worked through this far. I admit to going back and streamlining the online shop. The whole point is to use what you have in the cupboards and here I am loading up on the things we buy regularly but that I don’t know if we are actually using completely. The other household Fibro Hangup is my lack of kitchen time. I love to cook, from scratch and with enjoyment. I know we have ingredients in the cupboards that, quite frankly, scare the Whoshamaflips out of the children and The Mr. They are improving, especially with having to cater for a vegan and a pescatarian, but there is a tin of mixed beans waiting to be turned into a chilli and some sardines which could be turned into a delicious pie with the right TLC and a bit more imagination. I need to show the children how exciting a meal can be when it isn’t chicken, tomatoes and pasta. It won’t be an easy adjustment but it is a much needed one. When they tell me we have nothing in for dinner I have to laugh. My issues mean there is always something to make a meal, it just might not be to your liking on that day. Eat It or Don’t. There are no second options this month.

Wish me luck, I think I may need it!

Opposites, emotions, unique, the same

Sometimes I wonder if I am too emotional. I react with great empathy and cry at most things unashamedly. People I know and love look at me like I have 2 heads or something but I can’t help it, my heart has always ruled my head.

This year I have noticed a few things that have niggled at me but because it is my children who will have been hurt I have chosen not to react but to step back and allow the anger to subside. I can’t work out if this is the right course of action or not and, as I’m also a dweller,  chew it over and over, getting more and more upset, until eventually I have a huge cry and everything gently returns to normal. 

Some would have me believe that I am too emotional, that I shouldn’t take everything to heart, that I am weaker because I show people my vulnerability whilst they hide their emotions from the world and, often, from themselves. One person in particular is always tutting and scoffing at my perceived injustices and, quite frankly, I want to bop them on the nose! There you go, another example of my emotional brain working. I can’t help it. They make me feel stupid for living via my emotions but it is also my emotional brain that they lean on when they need my help and support. I will always help, that’s my character. I don’t want to see anyone in pain especially if I can do something about it.

I constantly second guess myself, maybe this is why people say that I am too sensitive. I consider why something was said or done, how I may have caused the outcome, how or what could be done differently to get a better result, and on and on and on. I need to mentally resolve a situation in the hopes that the upset can be avoided in the future. Resolution is extremely important to me. Perhaps having only a few events reach an end point in my young life means that now I need to get things done and finished.

Life is rarely that simple. There are many things that just have to naturally fizzle out and that should be okay. I have to knowingly allow that to happen though because I want to see the ending to know that it is done and dusted. It is quite annoying and mostly frustrating. 

The Mr is the complete opposite. He rarely allows his emotions to rule his life. I can recall only two occasions where his emotions led our family path. When holding the eldest after my emergency c-section he told me I could have as many babies as I wanted. This was a huge shift from the “woah! We might have a few but let’s have this one first.” The second time was also child related when an event happened abroad resulting in the death of a group of school children. He felt so blessed to have our family safe and well that he agreed after 18 months of “we’re done” to have another child (2- I dislike odd numbers of children). 

It was a healthy mental contemplation to get married, it made sense, it was what adults do. It was sensible to get a good, solid job in IT rather than spend a year or three studying and enjoying being able to travel and see the world. It was responsible to trade in the sporty little car for a large family vehicle. It can often be very dull. 

He doesn’t do romance, he rarely gives compliments, and he is practical whenever I suggest something spontaneous and fun. He goes along with it because he loves me and wants me to be happy and then he ends up having a fabulous time too. 

I have often looked at our relationship and been plagued by doing what is right for us and what is best for us. He will patiently listen to me mulling things over, trying to decipher what I’m getting at and why it is very important that I talk about this NOW. He tries very hard not to fall asleep during this process because he prefers to wrap himself in the duvet at night and, with my insomnia, he tends to find his portion of the duvet on my side of the bed. He brings balance to my chaotic emotional life and he, mostly, gets me well enough to see why I am upset, excited, happy, annoyed etc. 

After talking with him earlier, I found myself in a better place with less anxiety over the situations I cannot and should never control. He asks so little of me and I take a great deal from him. He is the rock that I anchor my emotions to and we are both stronger for it.

Am I too sensitive? It is possible, and yet, I don’t see it as a bad thing. If we were meant to live our lives in a practical only existence we wouldn’t have our emotions. Yes, I take things to heart but that is because I care, because I want to help and make a difference. It is okay if you see things differently, if you prefer to calculate and live on a practical level. I adore the way we are all unique, it makes us all richer, especially when you find a Yin for your Yang. 

Nice people have nice thoughts

I’m fat. I get it. I look at myself every single day. I don’t need you to tell me. More importantly, your kids don’t need to tell my kids. They know I’m fat too.

This morning, whilst driving to school in more pain than is good, my little fiery Redhead told me that her friend had called me “oomph”. I explained that as her wonderful aunt was also “oomph”, I was obviously in good company. Miss Redhead then explained “yes, but you’re still more oomph”.

That’s what you call a kick to the gut. 

This evening, my wonderful Unicorn obsessed daughter explained that she is writing a poem inspired by “Truth”. She has to write about a secret those at school won’t know. She has chosen to write about me and my Fibromyalgia. She has chosen to write about being bullied because her mum was so fat she needed a minibus instead of a normal size car.

A kick to the guts and ice cold shot to the heart.

My baby was bullied because *I* am fat. Nothing she could do would stop those children from finding me a funny one liner to hurt her with. Kids are cruel. That doesn’t just happen. Normally it is a sign that an adult they spend time with speaks with such prejudices and insults that it becomes a normal way to talk to others. I want to be angry at these little snot noses but I can’t. I feel sorry for them. To be 9/10/11 years old and already be aware of language that you know will cause mental anguish is such an unfortunate roll of the dice.

I have tried to raise our family in a way that allows them to see others in a positive way. Isn’t it brilliant that they also have a large family. How cool is it that she has Minion glasses. Perhaps we could give our old clothes to the charity shop so other families like ours can get good stuff for cheap. They give pocket money to all the charity pots they see, they offer help to anyone who needs it, they look after the local green areas, and they stand up against bullies, casual racism, slurs against a person’s shape and size or mental capacity. These kids don’t kill spiders even though they give some of them the curly whurlies. With all the good that they are, it is that very kindness and compassion to others which leaves them vulnerable to attack from kids who haven’t been taught that it is never okay to make fun of another person who is just trying to live their life.

I get it. I’m fat. I’ve always been the biggest of my siblings and I have spent my whole life learning the ever new and imaginative insults to the fat girl. Guess what? You insulting me isn’t going to make me magically drop half my body weight. I spent so much of my teen years hiding from mean girls; what insult would they use today? Are they going to aim for my weight, my second hand clothes, my intelligence, my big feet, my body odour? Maybe today would be a wonderful mixture of all of the above. I never once found their insults the key to change. Instead, I would hide inside myself, gobbling as many chocolate bars as I could afford and wiping snot on my unironed shirt, picking at threads on my washed grey black skirt and bashing the heel of my ugly clown shoes on the floor over and over. Trust me, I didn’t go running through the park home to fix up a tasty salad. 

A few years ago, I decided to improve my health. I walked for miles and miles, even completed a Race for Life 10k fun walk. I made sure I ate three meals a day, including loads of lovely veggie goodness and drinking at least 2 litres a day. I had pain but I was managing it well. I finally, for the first time ever, felt in control of my destiny. I lost 3 stone and maintained the weight loss through pregnancy to be my lightest since baby number 2, over 11 years before. Then the fibro took an evil twist.

I had a contraceptive implant, started 4 different regular medications as well as daily painkillers. I have a long list of terms to describe my condition and none of them pretty. I’m depressed, sleep deprived, in pain, and uncomfortable. Seriously, I know I’m fat. I am trying to get a hold of my physical health, to work on my mental health, to get back my fitness. My insecurities are not going to disappear with your “you certainly like your food” comments or the “now you reach for the diet drink” said under your breath and probably never meant to be heard. You can’t taunt me skinny anymore than you can tell an anorexia sufferer that they “look fine, definitely not fat”. 

Please don’t tell me what works for you or tell me what to try. If I want your help I really will ask for it, like I have done with my close friends and family. When the time is right, I will be able to get off meds that seem very much connected with weight gain, my already fairly good diet will realign itself and I will stop squirrelling chocolate bars in my bedroom, until then, try not to openly say thoughtless things in front of your children and try teaching them that we are all unique and all the more wonderful for it. Talk to your children about why we are all different and how when we assume something of a person, we may be doing them a disservice.

My disability is invisible but it’s symptoms are not. I’m fat. I live with it every day. I will one day fix it. Perhaps, one day, you’ll learn to be a bit nicer to the fat girl at school, to the short man at the shop, the kid at the park who can’t help being clumsy, or the person in the town centre who you can’t work out if they are male or female, as if their gender should ever be any of your business.

I’m fat. I’m disabled. I’m a human being. I’m also kind, considerate, and polite to strangers. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and a member of the human race. 

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.  

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.

Picking Favourites

For quite some time now, my eldest daughter has been slinging ‘ the favourite’ card at me. This is usually connected to the future CEO – daughter no3. I can see why she says it, to a 13 year old it would seem that I am unfairly favouring a sibling who is frequently rewarded. I guess this is where carrot not stick falls short. 

Here I am, asking the kids to help with the household chores. I don’t think I’m being unduly harsh on them for asking that they pick up after themselves, make their own beds, bring their own dirty clothes down to the basket, take clean clothes upstairs again, load or unload the dishwasher, help with lunch or dinner. Please remember, they aren’t doing that all day every day. I’ll allocate 3 or 4 jobs each. Easy tasks which are all connected to themselves. The screeching from Miss Hormones, the stamping from Miss Dreamer, the pursed lips and folded arms from the youngest Gingerling, and the boys both conveniently disappear siting homework as the reason. The only child who is likely to just get on with it is Miss CEO. Occassionally we get the odd “it’s not fair!” from her, afterall, to her it feels like she is the only one doing anything (because she is) but then she gets the reward which I have stated repeatedly, is open to all helpers when they’ve finished their jobs. The reward can be *helping with the shopping!* which will often lead to a small treat of new colouring pencils or a pretty hair dye, or maybe getting to choose the movie night treats, or even just getting their hair plaited which is now quite a rarity with my fingers cramping up. Nothing is extravagent, they all get the same chance but the results are the same. It will always be the tweenie who helps, you know, the child caught between their care free childhood and the peer pressures of the teenage years. 

This stage of life is actually the easy bit but it doesn’t last for anywhere near long enough. It is the last year of primary and life seems to go through like a bagillion changes, or so Miss CEO seems to suggest. As a mother, always fostering independance whilst slowly letting out the apron strings, I’m no longer surprised that we are seeing a gluttony of depressed youngsters. The demands our children are under starts before they even start school at 4, constantly being tested, watched for errors, placed on tables relating to how well they do or don’t stick to the lines when colouring… 

I am not a keen results reader, I much prefer to sit with a teacher who knows my child and who can tell me who their friends are, what their favourite topic is and how wonderfully knowledgable they are about Minecraft, Peppa Pig or the rights and responsibilities of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead I get to go in, interrupt the teacher who has their parent’s evening chit chat memorised and say actually Mr Teacher, would you mind if we can talk about how my child feels isolated and threatened whilst in your care? I have to explain that, yes, I understand that Miss CEO has a very secure sense of The Rules, how society should behave and, unfortunately, how it actually behaves. I have to again suggest that perhaps “ignoring” the problem is making it worse and that, perhaps, if the children involved were pulled to one side and asked to follow The Rules as they are supposed to. I don’t want to know that she must be popular because she was chosen by her classmates to be class rep, it doesn’t alter how much my book worm, mathematics enthusiast, teacher’s pet has changed, how now we talk about why it is important to attend school instead of why she can’t possibly be ill because she has to go to school. Even speaking with the Head didn’t help. One particular child is a handful in class and particular hurtful to Miss CEO because his mother doesn’t agree with the School Behaviour Policy!?! (I still can’t get my head around that one.)

I am more than aware that no child is an angel, I’m not overly concerned by the fact that all 8 of my children are unique and fall across the behaviour spectrum, but I am concerned that one after another my children have felt bullied at school and it is at those moments that my tweens, as each has been when this occurs, naturally demands a little more of my attention, an extra squish before school, and a touch more responsibility and praise at home to remind them that their beautiful nature and enthralling character is worth so much more than this bully or bullies will have them believe.
So, no. I don’t have a favourite child just a favoured child at *this* time. It will soon change. The bullies will lose and my little Future Leader will regain the confidence at home to be a stroppy dot again reminding me that we are doing a good job with our kids – they fell safe and secure enough at home to push the boundaries and ignore the mess *just* long enough to not get in to real trouble. At this point I think it worthwhile to point out to my eldest two (who have both acknowledged having a nose) that I still love them just as much when they are being messy, antisocial, food demanding, adolescents. But I also really would like you to bring those messy cups and plates down, thanks muchly.

I am utterly proud of my children, it would be impossible to pick a favourite. Each child is maturing into beautiful examples of what people could be, I am enjoying seeing them grow, change, tweak their own world view map, bring new insights to our family table, and even behave in an adorable childlike way whenever we find a bridge over a stream to play Pooh Sticks or a particularly interesting looking tree to climb.

I have many favourite moments, my children feature in all of them.