Muddy boots

Muddy boots
Messy hands

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Back to my roots

Today I am embarking on a journey,  a physical and metaphorical one. I am leaving the bosom of my family for a couple of days to visit some special people in my life.  I have been meaning to do this journey for some time but it comes with very mixed feelings. 

I will miss Mr green and my incredible edibles (Cheese, Apple and Sausage) very much. And of course my furry woofhound. I am not used to being away from them and it feels very strange.  I know that Mr Green is ultra capable when it comes to childcare,  but since giving up work and spending so much time with them I feel it is me that is aware of their foibles, sensitivities and needs and me that can read their signs and plan ahead for their needs. It's me that understands the hideous monsters that are the clean and dirty washing piles. And me they want all the time. This is another good reason for me to go - I can feel swamped and suffocated and Mr Green can feel rejected.  The children adore their dad but if I'm around he often doesn't get a look in. So, we will miss each other (and I will very much miss Mr Green! ) but they will be fine and we can all have a good cuddle and catch up when I am back.

I am also excited to be seeing my lovely friend whom I have missed very much since moving.  She is someone I can be myself with and I can't wait to see her. I wrote recently about friendship in my post "let's be friends" and if you have read this you will understand how much this means to me.

And now for the tricky part. I am going to visit my dad. My dad who has lost himself to Alzheimer's disease. I don't want to visit him because it is so very painful seeing someone you love decline in such a cruel way. But I do want to see him because he is still my dad and I love him. He is in there somewhere. He doesn't know who I am anymore but I know who he is and I care. A lot. We have been through some tough times but he has done an awful lot for me over the years. If I didn't appreciate it at the time I certainly do now. And I am so glad that he and I resurrected our relationship before he became ill. I was able to tell him I loved him while he still knew what it meant and who I was. I was able to give him three grandchildren. So now when I see him I find myself thinking about the man he was before he was ill. Before he had children.  About the adventures he had and the challenges he overcame.  And I think about the love and care he has been given by my lovely step mum. We are both lucky to have her.

The final leg of my journey will be going back to my childhood home.  Back to where I grew up. The house carries some powerful memories and emotions for me and it has been several years since I stayed there.  I am looking forward to embracing the memories rather than fearing them, and looking forward to time with my step mum. 

Family is important.  Families can be odd, difficult,  annoying and hard work but they can be fun, comforting, helpful and a source of joy. It is easy to criticise people when you haven't been in their shoes. Parenting is one of those things. It's so easy to be hard on your parents but when you become one yourself you understand their struggles and understand that like you they are real people with their own needs, desires, dreams and worries. And you understand the enormity of the parenting role. So, why not be kind to ourselves and each other. Show our appreciation before it's too late. And spread the love :-) x


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Let it flow

I have always been a creative person but have often struggled to find the right outlet.  At school I loved English and Art and did very well in those subjects. When it came to choosing A levels I found it really hard because I wanted to pursue a science career but didn't want to let go of the Arts. Let go I did however as there wasn't space to fit in these other subjects and it wasn't seen as appropriate to mix the two disciplines.  

As I embarked on my studies through college and University I took delight in making careful drawings of cells, insects and fungi,  but that was the only drawing I did (apart from illustrating the letters I sent home). I continued to read novels but missed discussing them. Science was great though and I had no regrets.

Fast forward several (ahem) years and I find myself between careers. I have worked in science and healthcare and then decided to take time out to look after the children.  Over the last couple of years I have been feeling increasingly creative.  I have tried several things including starting a novel, blogging, making novelty cakes,  bento lunches,  loom bands (!), weaving and felting.  I have found a love for felting and really enjoy the magical process of turning a pile of fluffy wool into a beautiful creation. I am self taught and have recently taken the step of trying to sell my work at craft fairs. I have had a lot of positive feedback about my work and it's great.  I have struggled with perfectionism and low self esteem all my life and it took a lot for me to show my work in public.  The fact that people have bought things and ordered things has given me some positive affirmation.


I love the creative process and would continue regardless of possible sales. But I can't help dreaming and wondering whether I could turn my hobby into something more. And, furthermore,  what direction should my career head in next? Do I return to health / science,  or try something new? I have learned a lot about myself during this hiatus and I fully admit that I don't cope well with 9-5, 5 days a week and I do bring work worries home and take on board a lot emotionally. I also need to be around for the children. I will need to work when Sausage starts school as we need the money and I need to do something meaningful. But I need to fit in work around the family. I do genuinely experience a sense of flow and positive energy when creating, so it would be wonderful if I could incorporate this into a career.  Who knows what the future will hold. I'm ready for a new challenge.  Who's with me...?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Birthday bonanza, not blues

May is a big birthday month for us so it is busy, expensive and fun. Very soon it will be Cheese' s turn and he will be 12. I cannot believe he is nearly a teenager. I bought him some new shoes the other day and they are almost big enough for me! How on earth can I have a child who is nearly as tall as me with huge feet? A child who goes to the park to meet his friends without me. A child with his own debit card! It is amazing how time flies with children.  

People always tell you to cherish the early years but it wasn't that simple for me. I really,  really wanted a baby but from the moment he arrived my body,  mind and life were completely changed and although this happens to every new mum I really,  really struggled. The tears came on day one and didn't stop. We went home on day 4 and I clearly remember sitting down at my kitchen table for dinner and properly breaking down. I was monstrously overwhelmed and couldn't believe what we had done. I loved him and was happy he had been born but oh my goodness I felt awful!  And then I felt guilty. Mr Green was great,  a natural father,  and I was a mess. When I was left alone after paternity leave I had no idea what to do with this screaming bundle. I was incredibly isolated with no family around,  my friends were all at work, I couldn't drive and the nearest bus stop was 20 minutes away with an hourly bus into town. I would find myself crying while he was crying.  He wouldn't be put down,  would only sleep on the breast and for the first few weeks feeding was agony. I used to find myself feeling 'locked in' - I would summon the courage to go for a walk but would find myself unable to go beyond the end of the lane.  One day the health visitor arrived and found me crying inconsolably on the sofa. Generally she was pretty ineffective but she did put me in touch with a local mum who agreed to give me a lift to baby group and also invitef me for lunch. She was lovely but her baby was 'easy' and I don't think she understood my difficulties.  I met another lovely lady at baby club who became a friend but again her baby was also 'easy'. I would marvel at the way her baby would sit in his bouncy chair gurgling away while I endlessly paced around with Cheese or fed him. Again.  I honestly don't know how I got through those months. I felt lost and useless and exhausted.  I also felt incredibly lonely.  

When maternity leave ended I was sad and worried but once I was back at work and Cheese was at nursery I felt that actually the nursery staff could look after him far better than I could.  He was the one child who cried when I picked him up. It became quite embarrassing. I didn't ever want Mr Green to do anything without me at weekends because I felt I couldn't cope alone. I didn't feel comfortable being alone with Cheese until he was at least 4, maybe 5. So no, I didn't cherish those early years.  They sucked.  And I regularly worry that our difficult start has / will have affected him. But here we are, birthday time again.  And the years have not been without their troubles but I have a loving,  intelligent, caring boy and I love him immensely.  So I am living in the present and looking to the future.  I hope he knows how loved and treasured he is. Life is for living and for learning and loving.  So I will do my best to be the best mum I can and when his birthday comes we will celebrate heartily. 

An interesting point to note is that when I started this post it was completely different in my head.It was to be a light hearted, brief post about family birthdays with no mention of pnd or struggles. I let it come though,  as it seemed to be necessary.  I hope maybe some of you reading may be encouraged or that it may help to provide understanding. I hope I haven't depressed anyone.  But hey, if you're out there let me know.  And take care x Happy birthday! 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Go bananas!

Good morning.  On this drizzly day I thought I would share a couple of recipes. Bananas feature heavily in our househould and the fruit bowl is rarely free of them. I eat them fresh,  but only when they are perfectly yellow as I find them far too sweet when overripe. The children are less fussy but don't like them too brown so we often have squidgy specimens perfect for baking. 

I have been eating banana cake all my life.  My grandma was a great cook and her banana cake was the ultimate comfort food.  It was simple and only adorned with a few flaked almonds but the whole family adored it. When I left home for Uni she presented me with a handwritten copy of her recipe and I have been baking it ever since.  Sadly,  with the passing of time I have lost the original recipe and having modified it over the years I don't properly remember it. So now I make a version of a basic sponge recipe with a mashed banana added.  It's nice but bit tired.  I have recently developed a new, lighter version of a banana cake using oil instead of butter.  It's lovely topped with a white chocolate and honey icing. If I can ever master how to add pictures to the blog using my phone I will include one, but until then I will just share the recipe with you. Here it is:

Banana cake

2 medium ripe bananas
125g brown sugar
180g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
100ml oil (sunflower works well but you could use coconut)

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees c (160 fan). Mash the bananas really well then whisk in the other ingredients and mix well. Add a pinch of cinnamon if you like.  I cook in a round baking tin for about 45 minutes.  Test for springiness or a clean skewer. Leave to cool then top with icing of your choice or leave plain.  I melted white chocolate with honey,  a little butter and milk and sieved in some icing sugar.  I'm sorry I can't give you quantities but I tend to make icings by eye. Enjoy.

The next recipe is for a banana granola.  I love granola but don't love the cost and sugar content so this home made version is great.  It's not very sweet so you may want to add more honey or syrup.  I like it how it is and Cheese and Apple love it.

Banana granola

1 ripe banana, mashed really well
Approx 300g / 3 cups oats
60ml oil (sunflower / olive / coconut - I use sunflower)
80 ml maple syrup, honey or a mixture
Approx 100g / 1 cup nuts and seeds of your choice
Vanilla , cinnamon or other flavourings - optional

Preheat oven to about 150 degrees c (140 fan), grease a large baking sheet or line with baking paper. Mix the bananas with the oil and syrup then stir into the oats with the nuts and seeds. Add spices if using. Mix everything really well then spread out on the baking tray. Bake in the centre of the oven for approx half an hour but check and stir at least every ten minutes to allow even cooking. It needs to be a lovely golden colour but burns easily so be careful.  It will crisp up as it cools. Eat with milk, yoghurt or nibble from the tub! Keep in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Let's be friends

Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult?  I know it can be hard for children too, but generally things get harder once you leave education.  It doesn't help if you lack confidence or have anxiety issues. Some people say it's easier when you have children as you have a route into conversation and at least one thing in common.  If conversation dries up you can always bring up topics such as sleep,  eating,  bowel and bladder functions or school / nursery places and quality.  But I think it is still tricky and complicated by the fact that either you or your potential friend has to run off every couple of minutes to wipe a nose / bottom / item of furniture,  push a swing,  solve an argument or dry tears. When your child is hitting,  blowing raspberries, being rude and / or not taking turns the stress levels can reach new heights. The internal panicky self talk doesn't help as you desperately try to recall the correct positive but firm phrase that will effectively guide your child towards the right course of action.  what kind of judgement is your now slightly less potential friend making about your strength of character, parenting skills and moral fibre? What do they think of your child?  And why is their child so bloomin well behaved? So many times I have scuttled away after hastily making excuses and dragging Sausage away from the situation.  

I don't know what it is that helps you get past those first few awkward encounters and really get to know someone well enough to call them a friend.  To know that they 'get' you and you can let down your guard.  I have never had lots of friends but really value those I have. Since moving I have met several nice people but there is nobody I can yet really relax with. I miss those easy conversations and exchange of gossip, advice  and ideas. I miss the company of women in general and I miss my mum. 

So, who is out there reading this?  Do you struggle with friendships? Does anybody have any advice?  I think as mums we especially need to be understanding and kind to each other. We need to be more forthcoming and honest.  And we probably need to leave the kids with a significant other from time to time so we can bond over a child free cuppa or glass of wine!