Massage For Anxiety and Stress

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What seems like a lifetime ago; I got sick.  This was something that never happened to me, I was never sick; coughs, colds, flu, but never actually vomiting.  I milked the whole experience and felt very sorry for myself.  After a day I stopped being sick and went on with my life.  8 months later I was in hospital (I remember the timeline so vividly as it was New Years Eve when I got sick and August bank holiday weekend when I found myself in hospital.)  A month later I was released to the full-time care of my Mum; poor Mum thought I was off her hands and suddenly there I was needing 24 hour a day care.  6 months later I returned to work on crutches and 10 years later I was finally signed off, drug free and back to full health.  What is the point of this mini drama, I hear you ask and I’m getting to it.  I had an autoimmune disorder, I won’t bore you with names and details, but it was something I should not have got in my early 20s.  It came after a period of intense stress, anxiety and depression.  I would not say that I recognised the depression at the time, but looking back it was definitely there.  I felt in a constant state of panic and did not know which direction the next problem was coming from, but I knew it was coming.  Though there might have a been an underlying genetic connection; it is highly likely that my body reacted so badly to the virus because it was under too much stress to fight it.  There were dramas in my life, but the main issue was that I had not found a way to deal with stress or pressure; I left every issue spiral out of control.

head in hands

Stress really is the root of so many problems both physically and mentally; we always look for that cause and explanation for ill health, but sometimes it is as simple as forgetting to relax and switch off panic mode.  Stress has its place; you will probably have heard of the ’fight or flight’ reflex where the body gets into readiness for action against danger, stress or physical challenge.  It is useful; it helps us cope with the challenge ahead, but what happens when the reflex is not able to switch off?  This is when health is put at risk.  In fight or flight mode, the heart rate is elevated to pump blood to the vital organs; none essential functions slow, or stop until the risk goes away.  It goes back to our primitive selves, when we fought the danger, or fled for our lives; if fighting for survival, there was really no need to be digesting food at that exact point in time.  But we need food to survive, we need the nutrients from the food and we need to expel the waste, so if the digestion slows or stops, that process is stalled and ineffective.  The immune system is another system that takes a back seat; at that exact point you are fighting for your life, does it matter if the little cells are fighting off an illness?  Not that point, no, but eventually you need your immune system back up and running or the whole bodily system will fail.  Equally, the raising of the hear rate caused by panic, anxiety and stress is useful to help us cope in the very short term, but must then return to normal to avoid undue stress on the heart muscles.

There are many ways to relax, but having a massage has got to be up in the top 10 of most effective ways to relax the whole body.  Relax and give into it and you could find that even the brain quietens down while the muscles are warmed and stretched out.  Whatever your stresses and pressures; always make time to switch off the stress.  So easy to say and so difficult to do, but remember you only have the one body.  If the body fails you then strangely all those pressures and strains will no longer matter.  Take time out to relax the mind and body; the effects may be surprising.  It is easy for the mind to become congested and stalled; solutions and actions fail to happen, the problems magnify, the stress raises and suddenly the way out seems too far away to reach.  STOP, RELAX, REGROUP and start all over again; you may find an answer staring you in the face or you might just feel stronger and more able to carry on.

Manage your stress and protect that vital thing that is you.  A holistic massage works on the body as a whole; in a consultation we will look at your daily routine, your current and past health, medication, issues you are aware of and possibly, we will identify issues that you are not aware of.  If there is a back issue; we will bring the arms, neck, legs and head into a massage to assist in releasing the tension in the back, not just work on your back.  Focus on the body as a whole because it is an integrated system, so finely tuned that one small fault is enough to upset the whole system.

Breathing is a huge part of relaxation and stress relief; think of that body in panic mode and you will think of panting, gasping, short, sharp breaths.  Stop for a second and take a deep breath, right into the stomach, fill out that stomach as much as you can, then slowly release the breath.  We regularly forgot to breath deeply, especially when anxious, so try taking a moment to breathe deeply and see how it makes you feel.  For one thing, stopping and thinking about breathing gives you a moment of respite from thinking of the thousand and one other things on your mind and the other part is the healing effect of filling your body with oxygen.  In massage, you will find your breathing gets deeper and deeper, as we stretch and work your muscles, we will ask you to breathe deeply and slowly.  The aim is that you will walk away feeling both physically and mentally refreshed, rested and relaxed.

Letter To The Teacher and Their Response

Free stock photo of wood, pencil, school, numbers

Dear Teacher

Welcome back from your holiday, it probably seems like a distant memory already.  I know you hear this all of the time and it is the same for everyone but, please hear me out.  My children are not babies, it is not the first time I am releasing them to your care, in fact they couldn’t wait to get back to you and their friends.  But please understand that every September for me is like letting go all over again.  I waved a fond farewell to Infants in July and now my big grown up girls are both in Junior school.  ‘Just let go!’ I hear you cry; if only it were that simple.  They are older, but they are still young and I want them to stay children for as long as possible.  Independence, resilience, maturity are all brilliant things to learn, so please teach all those, but don’t make them old before their time.  We are a long time grown up and let’s be honest, it is not always fun being grown up, there are tough times ahead.

My children have bounced around a few schools so are used to this change of scene thing, but not all children are the same, change is hard.  You know that just as much as they do, as you face a room full of new children, new names, new behaviours to learn, and all that is ahead of you this year to come.  Please welcome the new parents too; we didn’t all have the greatest time at school and every time we step foot in those grounds, our memories come flooding back, we don’t talk about it and probably no one knows the things we went through, but take heed, some parents may feel like children again when they are in that place you feel so at home in.

So, care for our children, share with us, don’t shut us out and we will support you as much as we hope you will support us.  Some will judge, but I will try not to, some will compete, but I will try not to, some will complain; don’t take it personally.  I will come to you when I need to, so please come to me when you need to. If there is something that my little darlings are doing that bothers you, then tell me, as I am possibly blind to many of their faults, but probably not.

My biggest and final request is that you help them maintain their individuality, keep being who they are and support them in being proud of everything they will be.

All the best

Yet another new parent.

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Dear Parent

For some of you today will be a complete relief, you have been planning for this day for 6 weeks and welcome the return of that unique routine.  For others it will be the end of something wonderful and a heart-breaking wrench.  I get that you feel lost without them, that you are worried they feel more for me than you, but believe me, they really don’t.  All I ask of you is take your share of the load, please teach them respect, empathy and all about your world.  Do remember that most of their behaviour is a mirror of yours, if you are believers in tough love, then possibly this will show in their behaviour towards others.  Teach them to care.  I will teach them about reading writing, the big wide world out there and all if has to offer, but I can’t do it alone.

I am nervous too, it is new for me, 30 or more new names to remember, plus their parent’s faces.  I need to remember that K has an inhaler, that A uses an EpiPen, M is allergic to nuts, E is allergic to dairy, L has just moved here and has little or no English, N is currently in foster care pending an investigation about his parents, R has behavioural issues as a result of previous issues at home …… these are just the ones I know about.  (Obviously these are made up children, but not made up issues). When you make a judgement about R and how his behaviour impacts on your child, please think about why he is the way he is and ask your child to support him.  I will never be able to tell you the issues and the reasons, so I ask you to respect everyone for who they are and teach your children to do the same.  In their adult life, your children will come across all types of people, so learning young how to react and behave is so important.

I will care for your child and I am not alone, we are one big team and no one here is more important than anyone else, we work together as one; staff, pupils and parents.  But your child is not the only one; I will try to remember every little detail about them, but please be patient and remind me sometimes.  I welcome notes about things that might impact on their school day, I might not have time to speak to you individually every time, but write it down and I will read it and get back to you.  In a class of 30, they are all priority but there is only one of me, I will not neglect your child or favour another, even though you might think I do.  I will do my very best to be there for them all, every single day and if not me, then one of the school team will be there.  We will look out for their wobbly moments, we will check in on those that are not always the first to speak, we will try so hard to give everyone a chance to be part of everything we do.  Trust us, support us and we will do our best to look after your precious little people.

All the best

Your child’s new teacher.

THE DAY ONE OF THEM BROKE AGAIN….

Dealing with a sick child is something every parent has to deal with at some point in time and and we all hate doing it, it’s the worst feeling of uselessness.  I don’t know about anyone else but I always wish it was me and that I could take it away.  I’m going to talk about the day one of them broke …. again.  It should have been a fantastic day, we were going on holiday; a holiday that had been a nightmare to plan and was long awaited.  So why was there weird grumpy feeling going on?  We received a bonus bit of cash and it was just enough to pay for a week’s holiday.  But because of a house move their Dad’s holiday was limited to just a few days, so we had to work it all around a friend’s wedding, as well as packing for a holiday birthday for our youngest.  It had been so stressful getting all the finer details sorted that by the time the day to travel arrived, I was feeling pretty flat about it all.  This is so not like me as I love to get on a plane; I would be happy to just fly somewhere and straight back; flying is a hobby of mine (or was before I became a cash strapped parent, actually it was a job of mine too, once long ago).  I love the sun too; it was going to be a sunny holiday, so why was I not bouncing off the wall with excitement – could it have been the parenting six sense?

I had arranged a catch up with a friend and her two boys for the morning, we weren’t leaving until the evening, so there was plenty of time.  I can’t imagine I was much company as I felt quite detached; probably just tired.  The children were playing on some wooden play equipment; regular kids stuff, a bit of sibling squabbling, but nothing too major.  I barely glanced up from my phone as the bickering was fairly standard.  I looked up just in time to see my oldest girl trip over the weird rope and wood thing, it kind of resembled floppy low level parallel bars; to this day, I have no idea what the designer expected kids to do with the thing.  I won’t name and shame or show pictures as it really was just an accident.  It turns out that as biggest DD jumped over the ropes, the slightly p**d off littlest one pulled the rope tight and tripped her over.  It should not have been an issue, but as she fell forwards, she must have landed awkwardly and out came the scream.  Now those of you who have been through this, would recognise the sound and remember the feeling of adrenaline kicking in and the rising nausea that follows.

Suddenly, well and truly with it, I jumped up and trying to appear calm walked over and took her arm, slid up the sleeve to see a really dodgy looking elbow joint.  My friend was there and 2 very kind onlookers offered us some paracetamol, so it was nice not to be alone.  I had this brilliant (not actually that brilliant really) idea to carry my, luckily very skinny, 6-year-old probably about a mile back to the car, rather than try to get an ambulance out to the middle of a country park.  That was the longest walk of my life and she felt incredibly heavy by the end of it.  She was moaning, I mean actually moaning, not complaining about stuff, I was shaking, the other kids were just confused.  My friend led the way to A&E in her car, while I followed, trying desperately to keep her awake as she just kept drifting in an out of consciousness.  We managed to find a parking space near to the door; total result.  Paid parking – got to love the hospital parking system!  Carried my, by this time, limp child through the doors and was told, by the woman behind the desk, to take a number and a seat – was she actually having a laugh?  Luckily, I was called back to the desk pretty quickly and was able to explain that though I didn’t think she hit her head, that I could not keep her awake.  She nodded and took details, showing little or no emotion and I was told to sit down again.  It was only a matter of minutes before I was asked to carry her through some doors into another waiting area, to sit again, but then taken through to the cubicles pretty swiftly.  It all seemed very surreal and as I was so high on adrenaline that I don’t remember feeling much until they told me she had broken what I had hoped was a dislocated elbow.  She slept through pretty much the whole event, except for one brief moment where she woke up, projectile vomited over the floor and then went off again.  I have since been told that this reaction is shock, but it is really scary to see, as it just seems so strange that she does not stay awake during trauma.

The day after – waiting to go home

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What followed was a long wait for surgery in a well organised set up.  The staff were incredibly friendly and supportive, despite being obviously cash strapped and short staffed.  The ward could have done with a refurb, but it had everything we needed.  There was this weird drop down wardrobe bed that actually turned out to be pretty comfy. Not that I got much sleep as I waited for her to come back from theatre.  Because she was an urgent case they operated on her arm in the middle of the night.

There is this complete feeling of being a useless, spare part; it feels like there is nothing that you can do.  I had an overwhelming need to take over and take away the pain, but it’s just a matter of stepping back and letting them do their jobs.  I was grateful for a well-known coffee shop in the main reception area that kept me fuelled through the waiting.  Of course, I am beyond grateful for the amazing team that supported us during and after it all.  In the follow up appointments, every time they looked at an x-ray of the damage, there was much sucking of air through teeth, along with the comment, ‘I’m glad I wasn’t the one that had to operate on that!’

Little sis having slightly more fun at the hospital

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Things went well and though it was a slightly longer road to recovery than we would have hoped, she is now back to full fitness with nothing but a memory and a scar to show for it.

Now the bad parenting truth comes out; this was not her first broken incident, or trip to theatre to be fixed!  I know many of you will have been there and support me in the fact that children, with their soft bones, can break quite easily, but don’t worry they fix quickly and are really resilient little things.

I had always felt really guilty about the first break, I have since worked out that I was deeply into post-natal depression.  I was barely present; I could see the world happening around me but just wasn’t part of it.  She was playing with a friend’s son and though they were getting more and more manic, I just sat there and let it all unfold.  They were running a circuit around the room, culminating in a leap from the arm of the sofa.  Both were 3 years old, so it was always going to end badly, and so it did.  I should have stopped her, looked out for her, but I sat there and didn’t move.   Until the scream, (maybe that was me that screamed though, as it was my friend who initially jumped to action) then the adrenalin kicked in and I was back in the room.  I still don’t feel OK with the fact that I didn’t stop them, but what’s done is done and all that.  So, when it happened again with this weird feeling of lethargy all over me prior to the accident, imagine the guilt!  I should add that it really was an unavoidable accident and even if I had been a little more present, I would not have foreseen what happened.  Didn’t stop me buying her a rabbit out of guilt though; still paying for that 2 years later!

They break, they get sick and then they grow up; apparently it gets no easier when they grow up though.  I wouldn’t swap them for the world, stress and all, but I would love a magic wand to invisibly fix them.

“Look, I’m a Tellytubby!”

Im a teletubby

 

 

 

Our Journey Between Schools and How We Got Through It

The History

We formed a plan when it came to schooling and like many well-made plans, things changed and the plan fell apart.  We relocated to get a bigger house, this meant the 4th change in nursery / pre-school but it was going to be worth it as this was to be our house for the duration of their schooling.  The girls started their new pre-school after we moved, this led into the village primary and all was going to plan.  Then, the next move happened, unexpectedly.  It was too big a move to remain in the school, I think 1 hour 50 minutes each way is just that little bit too far!  So, began the hunt for the new schools.

Close-up of Woman Working

The Practicalities

It is immensely stressful moving house, which I knew as I had done it many times before.  But suddenly I had to factor in the switch of schools when we were,

  1. so far away from the new house,

and

  1. at the mercy of everyone else in the house sale chain as to when things might happen.

I began to panic about finding suitable places, you are not actually able to apply for the place until you have a completion date on a house sale.  I am quite keen for my children to have the perfect attendance record, as their little faces when they didn’t win the award for attendance was heart breaking.  Don’t get me started on that one though; they didn’t ask to be sick, but that’s one for another time.  I then started to get mad images of children’s services knocking at my door because they had not got a new school place, so I knew I had to find a way to sort things quickly.

Contact with Schools

I dealt with two local authorities as were moving to a house on a county border; I found both to be equally helpful.  Though you need to make a formal application to the authority, once you have your sale completion date, or proof of moving address, you can speak to the schools before that time.  I rang around many of the local schools looking for places and they could not have been more helpful.  They are not able to talk about waiting lists but can tell you about spaces they currently have.  Schools with spaces will take children out of their catchment area, so as long as you are willing to travel, then the choice is yours. We had done our research prior to moving and knew the school we wanted, so we put in our application as soon as we were able, knowing full well we would be placed on a waitlist.  Waitlists are complex things, there are so many rules as to how to they decide your place on the waitlist, it is hard to know where you will end up.  The schools are able to tell you where you are on the waitlist, but it can change daily as people move in and out of the area.

The Long Distance Transfer

Microphotography of Orange and Blue House Miniature on Brown Snail's Back

I found the stress of the timings too much to bear, so after some discussion with the children’s teachers, I decided I would home school for an interim period.  The aim was to take the pressure off us and give us time to do things calmly.  It was a simple process as we were moving out of area, all I had to do was put the request in writing to the school and they did the rest. I set up my home school kit and on the day of the move, the children waved goodbye to their school friends and we started our short home school adventure. It wasn’t a huge challenge as they were only in Year R and Year 1 at the time.  The main thing was that it gave us breathing space to find the right place for them.

Choosing the Right School for The Children

I am lucky in that I drive and was able to be available to drive them to their new school, however, I didn’t really have a choice as there was not an available place within walking distance.  I believe that transport could have been provided but as we chose a different school to the one we were offered, that was not an option for us.  As soon as we arrived in our new home, I started calling around the schools to see what places were still available.  It was a challenge to find a school that had places for both children, we considered splitting them up but the logistics of that made it expensive, even impossible in some cases.  We found a few schools and took the children to see them, we wanted them to feel like they were involved in the choice.  Eventually, we went to visit one in a nearby village, which fitted the bill.  They both enjoyed their visit and said that they would like to go to the school.  By this time, they had left their old school, so didn’t have that difficult issue of leaving behind something they loved and replacing it with this new school.  Home school was going OK, but I could see that they missed the company of other children.

Settling In

Free stock photo of wood, pencil, school, numbers

Whatever the reason for a move, whether it be good or bad, it is essential to be as upbeat and positive about the move when the children are listening.  Make it seem like an adventure, highlight all the positives that the school may offer – great playground, sports facilities, anything that might appeal to your child.  Hopefully they will like the new uniform and getting all new things can be quite exciting.  You will understand that I am talking about younger children here, I doubt that a teenager would be quite so easily convinced.  Communication is key, keep talking to them, make sure they understand the process and when things will happen.  We arranged two settling in sessions with the school, which were brilliant.  The girls knew they were only there for a short time and the whole novelty factor really helped.  When it came to Day 1 for real, they were excited about going as they had tried it out and had fun.

What Happens When the Novelty Wears Off?

To start off with there will be a huge novelty factor for everyone involved.  The children will be the interesting newbies and the other children will be fascinated by that.  The teachers will make a real effort to settle them in and communicate daily with you about their progress, the other mums will welcome you in and hopefully you will quickly find out the lines of communication.  Facebook or WhatsApp groups are a life saver for newbie parents as you find out so much from them.  The biggest issue about joining a school without all the usual introduction is that there is so much general information you won’t know, so other parents are key to information.  But eventually this wears off, the children return to their clicky groups (as do the other Mums), the teachers stop communicating quite so frequently and no longer make that extra special effort with your child, general day to day life kicks in.  This is when things get tough for the children and parents / carers have to up their game:

  1. Playdates – arrange ways of making friends outside of school, don’t force them to play, but try to find out who they would like to invite to their house. The usual school etiquette is that the favour will be returned, so that means at least 2 playdates.
  2. Clubs and activities – if you have an outgoing child, sign them up as quickly as possible to activities, where they can meet new people and generally feel part of something. School clubs might already be full, so make sure you book in for the next new term. If your child is less keen to join things, it could take a while but Google all the local activities and research options until you find something that works for them.
  3. Talk to teachers – don’t be in their face every day, but do keep up to date with them, push for information if you think there is an issue. If your child is unhappy or worried about something, the teachers need to know.  They can’t prioritise your child but will make sure they deal with any issues that arise as long as they are made aware.
  4. Do your bit as a parent / carer – get involved as much as you can. Volunteer in class, at the PTA stuff, try to socialise with other parents, get to know people.  This bit is tough if you are working and can’t get to the school, or just too shy to talk to other parents, but keep trying and it will happen.  Not all PTA events are in school hours, you might be able to help out at a weekend.
  5. Most importantly of all, find a way of checking in with your child. Sadly, “How was you day?” probably won’t cut it as a starting point for a conversation, you need to get clever.  Timing is everything if you want a child to talk to you, wait until they are relaxed and not busy doing something more interesting.  One of mine is easier to read than the other and has certain physical complaints when she is worried, so I generally know when I need to delve into the workings of her brain – believe me it can be a challenge.  The other one is very secretive, so desperate to please that she pretends she is happy, so as not to upset us.  Sometimes she seems flat and lacks enthusiasm, I know this is when she has a worry, but getting to the root of it can be difficult.

Resilience

Girls on Desk Looking at Notebook

Children are far more resilient than we realise, they cope with so much by just getting on with things. Having placed them in an interim school, we had to make the move to our preferred, local school when the places came up.  This meant a separation, which was really tough, but they got through it.  Eventually another place came up, so they could be together once more. I was terrified that this next move was going to push them over the edge, but if anything, they have come out fighting.  Stronger, happier and achieving more than ever before, this took just under 2 years though, so it was a long road to feeling settled.

It is never easy coming to terms with a move and leaving behind something familiar, surprisingly though, you, and they, can get through it.

 

How Did I Become a Walking Stereotype?

Woman Carrying Baby Boy Wearing White Tank Top Infront of White Curtain Inside the Room

I wouldn’t say that I set out a plan to live a life quite like this one, but here I am.  I was brought up with a strong female influence, to go out and be who I was, irrespective of my gender.  But over the last few years I have found myself living the old-fashioned ‘gender appropriate’ role of Mother and home maker.  For me, the reasons behind this are sound and not gender related.  My husband earned far more than me when I got pregnant.  Hastily adding that it is not because he is a man, he is better educated, good at this job and in his own words, ‘had a few lucky breaks.’  I on the other hand am less educated, less focused on the whole work thing, plus I had more than one unlucky break that set back my career to a level that I felt was successful but, was not exactly bringing in the big bucks.

So, AB (after babies), it fell to me to be the one responsible for the children during work hours.  It is 100% my responsibility, with favours being called in on certain days and use being made of his rather generous holiday allocation.  I have found that the secret is not to try to pin him down to a weekly / daily commitment, but to sneak in the occasional, becoming more frequent, favour.  But in the children’s eyes it is Mum, the woman, doing the school runs, sorting out their lives, cooking, cleaning and all that fun stuff that goes with having children.  In fact, on the days that he does pick up from school, you would think that a minor celebrity had arrived in the playground!

After baby no.1, I found it difficult to go back to work as I was so focussed on bringing along baby no.2.  This happened fairly promptly and there was a part-time job covering the pregnancy, with childcare for 1 child not being quite so depressingly expensive as childcare for 2. Then baby no.2 arrived and that threw up so many complications – childcare costs doubled, Grandparents backed off at the prospect of 2 rather than just 1, post-natal depression, mad business ideas to work around the children, etc.  My husband had to take on the main, sometimes sole, wage earner and all that brings with it; long hours, travel, stress, etc.  My mad business ideas brought in dribs and drabs of money, but nothing that could justify calling me a working parent.  I fell deeper into the old-fashioned female stereotype, until it became apparent that whatever role I took on, it would need me to take responsibility for the children and the home, as well as the job.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not 1952 in our house; he does his bit; he is doing the bath routine as I type, as tonight was an earlier one than usual for him.  But would he remember to make their packed lunches, sort their uniforms, know what homework was due when?  Sadly no.  Me, on the other hand am typing this, cooking dinner, making packed lunches and putting the rabbits back in their cage, not sure about the hygiene of all this at the same time though.  Now I’m wondering if anyone has fed the fish.  Darling Daughter no.1 has just arrived to tell me that I may heat her milk now; lucky me.

This is the sort of routine that my 2 daughters see every day; what they don’t notice is the work strewn across the table that I have done while they were out at school and, will return to after they go to bed.  They also don’t seem to understand that I work while they are at school in those rare and precious jobs that allow me to work school hours only.  What they see is the woman staying at home and keeping house.

Now to the tricky part, how do I teach them to be who they want to be and not fall into a stereotype?

  1. I bang on and on about my work at every opportunity, it’s pretty much white noise to them now, but maybe one day they will take it in. The dream is to write for a living, but for now, I will do whatever I can find to keep some money coming in.
  2. That brings me to 2; dreams and aspirations, in our house we bring them on in bucket loads, who cares that they change daily? They can have what they want in life and it’s my job to help them get it.
  3. Gender appropriate clothing – we are late to the game with gender neutral, it’s too late, the word is out that they are officially girls. I never wanted pink princesses or dolls in the house, but what do we have? Pink everywhere and scary looking dolls poking out of every drawer, not to mention the herd of unicorns that is now filling our house.  They choose what to wear; I am entering the, “You are not going out in that!” phase.  It would seem that 8 is the new 12; cropped tops and hot pants are in – now I am sounding very old and like my Mum here, but I thought we were covering up in these UV damaging days, apparently not!  I will always encourage their unique taste in fashion and long may it last, but I would like a bit more coverage when possible. Their tastes are currently girly, but that may change.  I would like it if they designed their own style, as that is something they showed interest in previously.  I will encourage their individuality every day. (This is not actually one of mine, but they would love this:)
  4. Gender Appropriate Careers – there are no men’s jobs and women’s jobs in our house, there are careers and jobs to enjoy. This is ironic as I am talking about the old-fashioned woman’s role of mother and home maker and sounding like I am putting it down. I truly am not, as I love where I am right now, but I have lived a different life and I want them to know there are so many options out there.Free stock photo of earth, space, working, united states of america
  5. Making the dreams a reality – at the moment, they are still quite young so dreams and focus change daily, if not hourly. What I now recognise as missing from me, is focus and drive (along with a massive lack of confidence, see point 6). I am a terrible role model for sticking with things, so this has to change as they become more impressionable.  I need to prove to them that sticking with things, working hard, being driven and focused is all that they need to succeed.  Along with a healthy pinch of luck.
  6. Praise and encouragement – I am crap at fake praise, they just know when I really like something and when I am just going through the motions, but is that a bad thing? Life is hard work and they need to know that getting what we want is not always easy. I am also a strong believer in making mistakes to learn from. Praise them for effort, urge them on, pick them up when they fall and boost them up high at every opportunity.  There are too many people in the world who are quick to put others down, I need to bring up resilient and confident women, who will not let others bring them down.
  7. No Excuses – being a woman is neither a hindrance, nor an excuse. We don’t need excuses, we need solutions. Whatever the problem is, the aim is that they will be able to solve it, sometimes with our help, but frequently without.
  8. Self-Image – we live in a society that is incredibly body image obsessed. We are driven to look a certain way to attract the opposite, or the same-sex, impress our peers, or to just look perfect for ourselves. But is looking perfect what life is all about, do we waste too much time on it?  Image is not just about how we look, it is about perception of who we are.  I know that I feel guilty for being at the school gates, as much as I feel guilty when I am not.  I sometimes feel that I have failed womankind by not being a mother and having a career at the same time; I worry that people see me as that failure. I often chip in that I have been at work, when we are waiting for the school door to open, just so that other Mums don’t judge me.  It is me who is judging though, not them!  But why feel that guilt for doing the wrong job, wearing the wrong thing, daring to get old?  It’s just a waste of effort that should be going into fulfilling the dream and living this all too short life.
  9. Careers / Life Choices – I will in no way force opinions on them, they will make their own choices, but I want them to know that the choices are out there. No pressure, but if you want to be an astronaut, then be one, if you want to have a house full of children, then do it. But most of all know the choices and the options, then decide.
  10. Last but not least is something that as a parent I am going to find hard to encourage but I have to do it; they need to take risks, try new things, experience it and live it. Life is not about taking the safe option, sometimes we need to stand on the ledge to see the world below. I doubt they will see silly old Mum as a risk taker as I pack their lunches and iron their clothes, but girls, “Never judge a book by it’s cover, open it up and have a read.”

 

An Almost Trip To Hampton Court – The Ordinary Moments

Day 1 of half term and the plans and we had an unexpected day off from Irish Dancing, the sun was shining, so a day out was a definite must. We had suggested Hampton Court when we met some friends recently, but the group decision was a beach trip instead, so I thought, why not go for Hampton Court this time. It is a bit of a journey over there, but the girls are not too bad at travelling and are entertained by I Spy and singing. The challenging was something beginning with CS, which turned out to be steering wheel.

Hampton court

There was quite a queue to get in to Hampton Court car park and though we knew about the overflow car park, we had mistakenly thought it would be signposted, but no, that would be far too easy. So, we ended up frantically trying to find this illusive car park and ended up in a park, which on googling, turned out to be Bushy Park. I was then told that the fountain was called the Diana Fountain, which came as a shock from my geographically challenged husband. It turns out that he had seen it when he was checking out the area earlier on google maps. I thought it was all about Princess Diana, but it was actually the Greek, or is it Roman, goddess.

diana fountain

Bushy Park is a beautiful expanse of green space with trees, a fountain, play area and deer (who appeared in the evening). We decided to get started with our day there, so we got out the picnic there and then. There was an ice cream van in permanent residence, so we promised them an ice-cream if they had a bit of a run around first. After about the thousandth, “Can I have an ice cream now?” I gave in. DD2 is a fussy little beast and didn’t fancy anything from the van, so we headed off to the café, so she could get an alternative. Sadly, she was met with the same choices, so had to make do with a Magnum, such first world problems and so young!

The Not So Ugly Ducklings

swan babies

After playing on the basic, but fairly well-equipped play area, (there was a huge sandpit that we managed to avoid, but highly recommend for the younger traveller), we thought we should go over to Hampton Court as that was why we had come. It was a 5-minute walk to Lion Gate, which is right next to the maze. We walked over to the Magic Castle as we didn’t have a ticket for the Maze but found that the entrance fee for the magic Castle and The Maze was going to be £27 for all 4 of us. The girls were already a bit floppy and asking to be carried; no, we didn’t carry them, but nice try for asking girls. They decided that they were too hot to play and fancied a boat trip instead. What a result. I like the Maze but on a hot day, I’m not sure I can raise the enthusiasm, so was quite pleased I didn’t have to do it.

We walked through the gardens, down to the riverside and hopped on a boat to Kingston. I fancied Richmond but we decided the 1 ½ journey time was just that bit too long to keep them entertained, so opted for the 30 minutes to Kingston instead. It was not crowded and we got a great seat by the window; the girls hung out of it and I took photos. There were a few lone, slightly rounder men in speedos sunbathing on the banks; bit random and not exactly photogenic, which the girls found hilarious, “Look at that man Mummy, he is naked!” snigger, snigger. That happened about 3 times, what was that about? It was a really lovely trip though, so relaxing and just the right amount of breeze on a hot day. It cost around £36 for the four of us, but as we had not had to pay for parking, or entrance to Hampton Court, we didn’t mind paying.

boat trip

I’ve not been to Kingston for years, so it was good to have a wander around and inhale the amazing street food aromas. I found a gluten free bakery and succumbed to some fantastic cupcakes, definitely going back there. After just over an hour, we caught the boat back to Hampton Court, they only ran until 5 pm so we didn’t get much time in Kingston. Bit smaller boat this time and the girls were not so entertained by river watch; they decided to play musical chairs instead. That filled the 30 minutes quite easily, without having to resort to speedo watch again.

By the time we got back and had another play in Bushy Park playground, it was getting quite late and with the hour journey home, we decided to call it a day. But the park was coming alive with families and groups of friends having late picnics and popping prosecco corks, that’s one for another time. Just as we got back to the car, the deer had come out to eat; they were so tame, we could almost touch them. The girls thought it was fantastic, even though they were a tiny bit nervous. “Mummy, do deer antlers feel like Sylvanians?” that is actually a pretty good way to describe antlers.

deer

All in all, an ordinary day, but these are the highlights of their childhood. I hope they will remember these simple days forever.

Suicide – Let’s Break Down The Silence

There have been some high-profile suicides lately and even Coronation Street have run a slightly clumsy story line on it, so I thought now would be a good time to talk about looking out for each other. I will not go into the details, but there are statistics out there on the amount of recorded suicides in the UK.  It is incredibly sad to know how many people are out there, that are so desperate, they decide to bring their lives to a close.

I am in no means an expert; my experience comes from losing family friends to suicide, dealing with my own mental health issues, as well as my helpline experience.  But it is all too easy to brush it under the carpet and say, “Well I don’t know anything about it, so what can I do to help, surely you need to be a professional to help?”  Though the professionals are the best people to help, access to them is limited and can often be out of the reach of people in need, so it is down to us as family, friends, strangers, members of the human race, to reach out and be there.

It is often thought that a person in the depths of depression will seek help, how often do we hear the comment that a suicide attempt was a cry for help?  Actually, when we are that low and deeply into our depression, conscious and logical thought processes go out of the window.  It is sometimes only when looking back that hindsight that gives us the clarity to recognise what happened.  But some people don’t get the opportunity for hindsight.

People with depression are amongst us all, living every day lives, getting on with things, seeming happy.  Many people with depression will do an amazing job of hiding it, putting on a brave face, even appearing like they don’t have a care in the world.  We all see the happy Facebook posts and know that they are not a true representation of the person’s life, well the same goes for that smile on their face.   Not everyone with depression will be suicidal, but it is likely that someone with suicidal thoughts will be suffering from a mental health condition, such as depression and anxiety.

One thing that everyone can do to help is talk to people, really talk and show a real interest.  We all ask people how they are, but do we wait for the answer, or listen to the answer?

If you are a relative of someone with depression then you might find they don’t talk to you.  It is not about lack of trust, it is about not wanting to bring other people down, not wanting them to be worried or scared, or maybe not knowing what to say.  Sometimes the words do not come, or they are held inside, for fear of not being able to stop it all flooding out.

The selfishness of leaving behind people who care – it is incredibly hard to explain how a person can leave behind people they love in such a terrible way.  Do they really care and love their friends and relatives?  The answer is a resounding yes!  They will feel that they have so little to give and are so useless, that the people will be better off without them.  I know this sounds ridiculous when you think of losing anyone that you care about, but that is what thought processes do to you when you feel that suicide is the only way out.  The demons tell you that your existence is pointless, that you are damaging other people by just being around.

I can still recall the last conversation that I had with a work colleague before he killed himself, it will haunt me forever.  I wish that I had done more, picked up on the signs and offered a helping hand or a listening ear.  I would be hugely over estimating my part in his life to think that I could have stopped it, but maybe if I had just taken a little more time to listen, then things would have worked out differently.  I’ve taken every opportunity ever since to listen and be there when I can.

What can we all do to help? Simple things, there is no need to over complicate this, we are not therapists or professionals, if you are, then you already know what you can do:

  • Smile, make eye contact, nod, say Hello – anything that makes an impression on someone.
  • When we ask how someone is, take time to listen.
  • Ask questions and wait for the answers. If someone is not ready to talk, then just be company, there is no need to force conversation, companionship in silence is just as beneficial.
  • This might sound a strange suggestion; talk about yourself; involve others in your life – it is great to feel that someone wants to share their time and their life, it makes us feel good to interact.
  • Look for signs – look when they think you are not looking, check that the smile doesn’t slip, look in their eyes; sadness hides in the eyes.
  • If someone is angry or stressed, don’t get angry back, think of the reasons why, try to find out what is troubling them, diffuse the situation. Anger is a good way of shutting people out but try to get through the barriers.
  • Look for behaviour that is out of character, it may be something really small, but if you see it then make sure you check in on them more often.
  • We lead busy lives, that is why this needs to be a group effort. It is too easy to find our cliques and stick with them; try to reach out to the people outside your group, you might find they have an interesting story to tell.
  • Be brave; it is easy to run when you find the going getting tough with a friend or relative, feel that your own problems are already enough to cope with, but be brave and take on both, don’t abandon someone because you are struggling, maybe you can struggle together.

Here are a few helplines and contact details for people in need, they will give support to friends and relatives too.

Samaritans – for everyone
Call 116 123
Email jo@samaritans.org

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 – 5pm to midnight every day
They have a webchat page too : https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/webchat/

 

Papyrus – for people under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 – Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Text 07786 209697
Email pat@papyrus-uk.org

The Silver Line – for older people
Call 0800 4 70 80 90

Check out MIND too, they have some great information on their website

https://www.mind.org.uk/

And for those left behind, this is a useful website:

https://uksobs.org/

Is it still a wedding anniversary?

Green Tall Trees With View of Mountain and Sun Peeking Through

Today is a day of reflection as it would have been my 20th wedding anniversary with my now, ex husband.  It feels strange to think that without the twists and turns of fate I could be in such a different place to where I am now.

I am not going to disrespect the time we had by talking about what went wrong, as today is about remembering the good times.  In fact, I don’t think I really know what changed between us, it was probably just us.  Life is stressful and hard, so people change, the best of friends become strangers, lovers become haters and the cycle starts anew, that’s what we call life.

Our wedding day was a day much like any other, there was nothing momentous about it, there were friends and family all gathered together, which made it a day to remember.  It deserves noting as part of what made me who I am today, not in a resentful or angry way as often happened with other anniversaries.  I focused on the bad memories and life is just too short for the negativity of hurt.  For had it not all gone stale, I would not be in the place I am today.

We parted friends, but sadly the friendship turned sour and we drifted apart.  My biggest regret is that we didn’t get chance to put it all to rest before he was laid to rest.  Our petty squabbles were so insignificant in the greater scheme of things.  I went on to experience the life that I felt I was missing out on and I hope that he did too.

I have a new wedding anniversary now, of a day that really was one to remember.  My children were born into this happy relationship and our family is now my world.

For those of you who are at that time in your lives when things are falling apart, take some comfort from one who has been there, it does get better and it does get easier.  I did not going out looking for my next husband, I went out looking for me.  Believe me there was a long time that I didn’t like what I found.  Eventually I grew to acknowledge that I can appreciate what I have and that is when I found someone that appreciated me too.  I can’t tell you what would have happened if I had not met my now husband, but it took time.  It wasn’t a time of solitary misery that’s for sure, so in no way am I saying that I needed a man to complete the story, he just came along to help with some of the chapters.  So if it is your time to break up, then welcome the dawn of a new day, it’s onward and upwards.

 

 

Introducing Theo aka Fifi

fifi

My little old man

I thought I would take a little time to introduce the other man in my life; Theo the cat.  He is now affectionately known as Fifi, not sure how that happened, it just did.  I had many ups and downs on my road to parenting.  Back in 2008, I began to think that the end of the road was in sight and that babies were just not going to happen.  I decided that a child substitute was needed in the form of a cat; I had always pictured myself, in later life, as a mad old lady surrounded by cats.  So, I took a look through the local paper; old skool, I know.  There was his ad, which I responded to and 9 ½ years later, here we are; 2 children, 2 rabbits, 6 fish (it was a different 2 fish that bred like rabbits, then there was an unfortunate boiling incident, so 6 new fish have just arrived), have all been added to the family, along with Fifi.  There was briefly another cat but her taste for bats was more than we could bear; after removing countless bats from the bedrooms in the middle of the night, not to mention the remains of a billion small rodents from the carpets, we decided to wave the other cat off to our saviour, The Cats Protection League.  So little man Fifi became a lone cat once again.

He was gorgeous, I even used his photo on my promo material for mad venture number 1; the pet sitting and dog walking business.  That lasted all of 30 seconds, as I hadn’t exactly thought through the challenge of transporting dogs in a tiny Toyota Yaris.

cute fifi

He was playful and little bit bitey, but kittens are, aren’t they?  He was timid, very nervous around strangers and wary of other cats.  In the early years, I opened the door to find him pinned to the front step by the neighbour’s cat, after that he became victim to every local cat bully and has been hideously tormented, until, that is, the recent arrival of the marvellous invention, the microchip cat flap!  No more uninvited feline visitors.

It was ‘radiator cover gate’ that gave us some cause for concern about his aggressive behaviour.  We thought that covering the horrible old radiator in the hall was a cheap way of making things look better, but we didn’t get around to fixing it to the wall.  We were fairly unaware of how precariously balanced it was until I heard a crash and Fifi came flying through the house, with blood dripping from his tail.  Sadly, he had pulled the cover on top of him and cut his tail quite badly.  Off to the vets we went for a quick operation and a lovely overnight stay in Hotel De Vet.  The operation went well as general anaesthetic is an amazing thing; but the next day, I received a call telling me to collect Fifi immediately, he was a terrorist and was being expelled.  He had apparently turned rogue on the vet’s nurse and was blacklisted for life.  How could they say such a thing about our cute and gorgeous little Fifi?

He was still a little bitey sometimes, he liked a rough and tumble play with me; I think I might have been a surrogate sibling for him.  That was all fine though.  Along came baby number 1 and he was fine with it, he used to sit in her room meowing and rub himself on my legs, when I was holding her.  Sadly, she wasn’t then, and isn’t now, a cat fan, she needs help to walk past him, over 8 years on.  Baby number 2 was a step too far for him and he has ignored her since birth.  She lets him into the cupboard under the stairs when he shuts himself out, so she has a purpose in his eyes.  She, on the other hand, is not too sure of his purpose.

 

young fifi

Still cute as an adolescent

I can’t remember when killer cat mode kicked in.  It was definitely there all the time we lived in Wiltshire, and possibly even before then.  After we moved 2 years ago, he seemed to chill out, until yesterday that is.  Sometimes, he starts off all friendly, then suddenly the ears go back, the heckles (is that a word?) go up and he makes this sound like he is hissing under water. Then he attacks with claws and teeth, my ankle is his favourite, but if I fend him off with my arm, he goes all koala on me and completely wraps himself around my arm, using both teeth and claws.  My husband has developed this technique of blowing in his face to get rid of him, but I’m not sure what that says about his breath as it doesn’t seem to work for me, in fact, it just makes him madder.  All this came to head when we lived in a 3-storey town house for a while.  One child was a nightly waker, so one of us had to go down a floor to collect her, this would often be me.  Until, one night, Fifi decided that this was a reason to attack me, the attacks then continued most nights.  I would be pinned against a wall, child in arms, with a grey furry thing physically attached to my ankle, calling out for help in a sort of happy style, so as not to scare the child.  Only me, I might add, no one else. Does this mean he loves me most, or the opposite?  Eventually, I had to stop the middle of the night child run, oh what a shame!

Things settled down and it was just the occasional over exuberant play session that led to killer cat re-emerging.  But then yesterday, I was met with the usual squiring session that always greets me when I get up.  I usually give him a quick stroke and then head down to the kitchen to feed him.  But not yesterday, totally out of the blue and for no reason killer cat reared its ugly head; I had to be rescued, dripping blood from my arm and leg.  After it all calms down, he is sorry and rubs himself on my legs, follows me around, turns up wherever I am for a head to head session, where he rubs his head against mine, if I am particularly lucky I might get hair chewed too.   This went on for the whole of yesterday, until the evening, when he decided he had done enough grovelling and returned to his spot on the sofa next to the other man in my life.

cut arm

One of the wounds

Why he does this remains a mystery, he never does it to anyone else.  He is a lover, not a fighter and usually runs inside like Usain Bolt if approached by another cat.  But I get to bear the brunt of his testosterone fuelled outbursts, lucky me.  Isn’t being owned by a cat great?

Next time I will tell you all about how he loves his cuddly elephant, just a little too much and very regularly.