Lessons I've Learnt At School...So Far

As we approach the end of Jack's first half term at big school I thought it might be nice to reflect on everything we've learnt on the journey so far. I say we because although he's the one spending his days in a classroom, it's definitely been a big learning curve for me too. Here's what school has taught me so far.

You will cry. A lot.
On the first day it's kind of a given. But I was still getting emotional by the end of the week and beyond. Every morning as he lined up with his friends and blew air kisses to me as he walked inside, I felt like I was in some emotional goodbye scene in Dawson's Creek. I just about regained composure in time for the first sharing assembly (turns out they share awards, not germs) and he got an award which set me off again. I even got weepy when he wrote 'goat' for the first time. GOAT, FFS! I swear I was never this much of a wuss before school.

Goat! He wrote goat!

Uniforms will be destroyed in days if not hours
Despite practically owning shares in Vanish at this point, most of Jack's light blue polo shirts are already stained with bean juice, paint and other unidentified filth. He managed to decimate a pair of brand new, mid range school shoes within the first week. If scuffing and staining were recognised topics in the curriculum, he would be top of the class.

Jolly phonics is life
The jolly phonics song is one of those things that I can see myself gradually beginning to despise. But for now it's pretty catchy. Don't be suprised if you find yourself absentmindedly singing 'I am clicking castanets...c...c...c' while jiggling your junk every now and then.

Cursive handwriting causes all of the drama

Who knew flicky M's could cause so much controversy? The school's policy to teach joined up handwriting in foundation year seems to have prompted mass uproar from parents. Is it an S? Is it a J? Who knows. But cursive handwriting is talk of the playground and everyone has an opinion.

What even is this?!

You will know nothing
Most of our after school conversations go like this:
'So what did you do today, Jack?'
'Who did you play with?'
'Don't know.'
'OK, what did you have for dinner?'
'Salad and gravy.'
'Is that true?'

The tiredness is real

The new, demanding routine is tiring and will invariably lead to all sorts of crazy behaviour. Faceplanting grass verges on the walk home is not uncommon these days and my heart goes out to the lollipop lady who's expected direct a bunch of overtired, hysterical children among traffic safely. This post school outfit (which he chose himself) pretty much sums up his after school mindset.


You will experience pride like never before
It's not just about the awards and the parents evening reports, although it is lovely when someone else recognises and rewards the qualities you've worked so hard to instill in your child - especially important things like kindness and good manners. But for me it's more about the development. Seeing spider scrawl morph into proper letters/numbers and marveling at how quickly his little brain is soaking up knowledge. Looking at him and thinking 'I made you and now you're a person in your own right, you don't even need me.' It's bittersweet but gosh, it makes you proud.

It's been fun so far, here's to next term!

Turning 30 vs Turning 20

Last weekend I turned 30.

I'll be honest, it wasn't a milestone I was particularly looking forward to purely because I knew it meant that I'd be leaving my twenties behind. My glorious, drunken, (partly) obligation-less twenties.

With that in mind I've been thinking about how I celebrated my 20th in comparison to how I celebrated last weekend. Unsurprisingly there have been some changes but I guess that just reflects the way my lifestyle, personality and priorities have changed over the past decade. Here are some of the ways that I found turning 30 different to turning 20 and what I've learnt from it all.

The birthday gifts

Turning 20: GHD's, Topshop vouchers, spending money for upcoming holiday to Magaluf, loads of alcohol. 

Turning 30: Light box, Yankee candle, money towards new curtains, the Unmumsy Mum's book, loads of alcohol. 

Moral: As you begin to build a home and raise children you'll find that soft furnishings and parenting manuals will replace the fun, selfish stuff you used to ask for. Except alcohol. There'll always be alcohol. 

The night out

Turning 20: University flat party and pre-drinks before hitting Nottingham city center. Necking pints of Old Rosie, stopping for a battered sausage interlude between bars and probably ending the night flinging yourself around the sticky dancefloor of Rock City to the sweet sounds of Fall Out Boy. 

Turning 30: A civilised meal in the small, market town of Brigg. Afterwards you'll head for a drink in Wetherspoons where one of your party orders a pot of tea. You'll discuss the pub's refurb, talk about your child a lot and, despite your best intentions of 'going dancing' afterwards, somehow end up at home in your new Matalan slippers before midnight. 

Moral: Your nights out will become tamer - fact of life. But that doesn't mean there has to be any less laughter. 

The guest list

Turning 20: Anyone in your halls who got wind that there's a party going down. Drinking games with the visiting friends of the spotty boy from the flat above whose name you can't remember are always fun. Oh, any whoever else you had the foresight to invite via the medium of Myspace. 

Turning 30: Despite setting up a Whatsapp group 3 months in advance, your annual birthday outing yields a grand total of 9 friends. There would have been more but one couldn't get a babysitter and another has just given birth.  

Moral: Your social circle will shrink but the friends that are still around on your 30th birthday are likely to be friends for life. Quality over quantity every time. 

The outfit

Turning 20: Something loosely styled on Kate Nash/Mischa Barton in The OC. Probably too short and likely to have the tag still in it so it can be returned the following day. Fo shame. 

Turning 30: A nice, knee length floral dress. Long sleeves and black tights because it's October and getting chilly. Bought weeks in advance to avoid any last minute meltdowns about having nothing to wear. You learnt that lesson years ago. 

Moral: You'll discover your own style (or lack thereof) as you get older but - regardless of what you're wearing - you'll feel more comfortable in your own skin.  

The hangover

Turning 20: Despite drinking several liters of budget cider and 47 shots of Dooleys toffee liqueur your hangover is nothing that can't be cured by a breakfast at Scream. Round two anyone? 

Turning 30: How is it possible to get alcohol poisoning from 3 glasses of wine? I will NEVER drink again. 

Moral: It's a cruel fact that getting older somehow impairs your ability to metabolise alcohol. And if that isn't off putting enough then the special hell of dealing with children while hungover will persuade you to drink sensibly...most of the time. 

To summarise...a lot of things have changed in the last decade and I'd like to say that now I'm 30 I'm much wiser and know exactly where my life is going. But not only is that cliche, it would also be a big fat lie. I've realised that getting older doesn't necessarily mean having the answers for everything, it just means that you have more experience under your belt to help you figure out the next set of challenges life throws your way. I look back at some of the things I did during my twenties and cringe so I guess I have learnt something. In other aspects I'm still as clueless as ever.

What I do know is that I've been blessed to get this far and have what (and who) I have in my life. Turning 30 felt like the end of an era and in a way it was. But now I'm excited to see what the next one has in store.

So come at me thirties, I'm ready for you.

30 and still a massive twat

#RoaldDahlDay and the Importance of Reading

Today is Roald Dahl Day - 100 years since the birth of the man himself - and so I thought a reading related post might be in order.

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge bookworm. I studied English at uni, I read whenever I get chance and I also write book reviews for Judging Covers - a collaborative book review blog. But there is something about re-reading all of my childhood favourites with Jack that is really special. Books, like songs or smells, have a way of taking you back to a certain place in time. For me, Charlotte's Web and The Silver Sword still conjure up images of sitting cross legged on my own classroom carpets and listening intently to how the stories would unfold.

Roald Dahl was always my favourite though. Those books were often devoured in the armchair of my childhood living room or under the duvet long after I should have been asleep. I remember receiving a compilation book that included Matilda, The BFG and George's Marvellous Medicine for Christmas one year. I read it so many times that the spine eventually broke!

I've always hoped that Jack would follow in my bookish footsteps. Ever since we established the bath/bottle/bed routine he has always had a bedtime story. When he was tiny it was just another element in his bedtime routine but as he's grown it's been lovely to see him beginning to engage with the stories, picking favourites and, most nights, conning us into reading 'just one more.' We go to the library regularly where he loves to choose his own books and now he's at school he brings new ones home daily for us to look at together.

I'm no expert but research seems to suggest that reading with kids doesn't just improve language, communication and academic skills but it also helps to reinforce a strong bond between parents and their children. That in itself is a good enough reason for me to keep reading with Jack but in a world where kids often opt for TV, video games or tablets over books, I also think it's really important that children are encouraged to use their imagination and concentration to actually enjoy reading. It really is one of the best ways to have fun...in my opinion anyway!

But back to #RoaldDahlDay. Jack is still a little too young to appreciate the works of this legend but in keeping with the theme of the day I thought I'd have a bit of a trip down memory lane by writing about some of my own personal favourites. It's been hard to whittle it down to five but here they are:

1. Matilda (1988)
Matilda was always one of my all time favourite Roald Dahl characters. She was so brave and determined but also sweet and kind despite basically being abused by all of the authority figures in her life! Her love of books rivalled my own and one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes ever comes from this book.

2. The Witches (1983)
Has there ever been a more terrifying villain than The Grand High Witch?! Although the premise of children-hating witches secretly living among us and trying to eradicate all children from the face of the earth is kind of sinister, this is still one of my favourite books. I was always transfixed by the idea of the little girl who was put into the oil painting where she moved, grew and eventually died!

3. James and the Giant Peach (1961)
Orphans seem to feature heavily in Roald Dahl books. After James's parents are eaten by a rhinoceros, he is sent to live with his evil aunts Spiker and Sponge. But all is not lost...he embarks on an adventure all the way to America with a giant peach as his mode of transport. I think I also liked this book so much because of the way that the insects become his new family (especially ladybird, she was lovely).

4. The Twits (1980)
What a pair of shits these two were! Horrible Mr and Mrs Twit were gross and mean but so funny with it. Although this is one of the sillier stories (and that's saying something) it does contain a powerful message about true beauty coming from within.

5. The Swan (1977)
This is a short story which was originally part of a collection of stories called The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. These stories were aimed at an older audience and were a lot darker than his other books. The Swan is a particularly harrowing tale about a boy who is bullied and subjected to some horrible abuse from two other kids. Not sure if it's a favourite as such but definitely one that's always stayed with me.

Happy Roald Dahl day! What are your favourite books?

Read With Me

On Your First Day At School


Tomorrow is your first day at school!

Come tomorrow morning you will be another little face in a sea of anxious foundation-ers in oversized uniforms and I will be another mummy, waving you off and trying to hold in my sobs (at least until you've gone inside). Truth be told, I'm freaking out. But I'm trying not to let you see that and instead I keep reminding you about how awesome school is and how much fun you're going to have there.

The new routine will give the days of the week more meaning and you'll soon get to know about stressy Mondays and happy Fridays. You'll become familiar with the smells (floor polish, cabbage, wet coats, grass, coffee) and the sounds (ringing bells, shouting, hymns, clippety cloppety heels on wooden floors) too. You'll begin to learn and grow, discovering where your interests lie and shaping your own ambitions for the future. You'll learn how to read all by yourself - something I know you're very excited about. You'll make important friendships, some that may only last a short while and others that will stand the test of time. There'll be singing and PE and school trips and, if you're really lucky, maybe even chocolate concrete and pink custard at lunchtime.

It won't always be easy though. There might be times that you find yourself on the outside of certain friendship circles. You may become frustrated and overwhelmed by what's being asked of you (if you're anything like me that'll happen when it comes to learning about fractions...yuck). There will be times when you just don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning. I'd be lying if I said I haven't worried about how you'll cope with the transition but deep down I know you're ready.

I'm just not sure that I am.

Starting school marks the end of an era for both of us. My best friend (your Aunty Lucy) started her maternity leave on Friday and I remarked at how strange it felt that she is finishing work just as I'm about to increase my hours. Her baby years are just about to start while ours are well and truly over. But gosh, how I've loved them.

I will miss picking you up from nursery on a Wednesday lunchtime then having the rest of the week until the following Monday stretching out ahead of us. Nothing in particular to do and nowhere in particular to be. I will miss our lazy Thursdays, our Friday café dates and our impromptu trips to soft play and the park. I will miss afternoon naps, making your lunches and snuggling up in front of Disney films on rainy days. I will miss you.

But this isn't about me. It's about you and the next chapter in your life. This is your time now. You'll learn to be independent and you'll need me less and less. I just hope you know that, no matter how old you get, I'll always be here waiting to hear about your day.

I don't know if you'll ever read this but if you do I want you to know that you are ready to start school, you are happy about it and I have every faith that you'll handle the transition just as well as you've handled all of the other challenges you've experienced in your little life so far. I am so, so proud of you and I can't wait to see how the next few years unfold for you.

Have fun little one, I love you.

Your mummy xx

Saying Goodbye To Nursery

As the end of August draws closer we are preparing to say goodbye to the nursery that Jack has attended since he was a baby. We already had tears (mostly mine) when he left preschool at the start of the summer holidays but knowing that the friends he made there will continue onto school with him (and that he'll still be able to wave to his teachers over the fence) made that feel a lot less final. Saying goodbye to the private nursery is another matter.

I remember his first day there so clearly. He was just nine months old. Still having two naps a day, still in a strict routine with his bottle feeds, still teething. Still a baby. Me going back to work was never in question and up until that point I had been pretty OK with it. But on that first morning when I  handed him over and walked away, everything about it felt wrong. I remember pulling over in Aldi car park on the way to work, unable to hold back the tears and ringing my mum for reassurance...was I was doing the right thing?

Over the next few years there were many times when that question reared it's ugly head again. The time when he had two bad falls at nursery in the same week and came home looking like he'd been wrestling with a rottweiler. The time another child bit him. The horrific sickness bugs he brought home and infected us all with (the most recent of which was only a few weeks ago!) The times he'd cling to me and cry and I'd have to walk out with 'DON'T GO! DON'T GO!' ringing in my ears.

It wasn't always easy but now I can look back at that question and I think yes, actually I think I did do the right thing. The right thing for us at least. I reduced my hours after having Jack but I still kept my foot in the door at work. Now that school is just around the corner, the opportunity to pick up more hours has come about and that's a positive thing for us all.

More importantly it was right for him. I drop him off now and there are no tears. No clinging. No need for hugs with his key person. His friends rush to greet him in a flurry of hugs and cries of 'JACK! JACK!' and he skips off without a backwards glace. He has learnt to be independent and sociable in equal measure. He listens and cooperates and willingly eats meals that he'd never touch at home because, quote - "I only eat nursery shepherds pie, yours is yucky." His head is full of stories and games - space ships made from boxes, treasure hunts, tadpoles and secrets that his friends have told him. He has flourished. Maybe that would have happened without nursery, who knows. But given that (at that time at least) I had few friends with babies or young children and was never a fan of a toddler group, I do think that nursery gave him the opportunity to socialise and learn in ways that he might not have had otherwise.

With school imminent, a lot of my focus is on the future. The next chapter. But before we close this one I need to say thank you to the nursery for taking care of my baby in my absence. You didn't just do the basic things like feeding him and changing him and picking him up from a fall but you helped shape him into the bright and happy little boy he is today. Neither of us will forget that.

Transition day at nursery vs. transition day at school...*sniff* 

Baby Showers: Commercial Crap or Important Occasion?

When I was pregnant I specifically forbade my friends from throwing me a baby shower. In my eyes, the concept was commercialised, cliche, American rubbish and I could think of nothing worse than sitting around with all eyes on my ever expanding belly while awkwardly accepting gifts that I didn't feel I deserved.

In their typical fashion, they completely ignored my wishes and threw me one anyway. Afternoon tea at a fancy golf club no less (I would have preferred Pizza Hut) and in the end it turned out to be a very pleasant afternoon - apart from the horrific moment when I opened a 'gift' from my 'friend' Ben in front of my Nan which turned out to be a packet of extra safe condoms to prevent any further 'unexpected surprises'. Cheers for that. But still, my perception of baby showers remained unchanged. I just wasn't really a fan.

This weekend I attended the baby shower of one of my oldest and bestest friends. At 33 weeks pregnant she is now just 6/7 weeks off joining the (mother)hood. Her baby shower was a much more laid back affair - a little garden party at her parents' house. And honestly? It was a beautiful afternoon.

When I had my baby shower I couldn't understand the need for it. At that time my circle of friends were still tight. We lived nearby and saw each other regularly so why did I need a designated, Cath Kidson themed event to celebrate my pregnancy? But now, over four years on, our lives have all moved on. Work, kids, relationships and distance all mean that we don't get together as much as we'd like to - such is life. At some point during Saturday afternoon it occurred to me that this might be the last time I see my friend before she becomes a mum. It's almost certainly the last time we'll all be together before then. It was quite emotional.

And while the bunting and the games and the Pimms in mini milk bottles were all lovely, I think the occasion represented more than that. It was a last chance for us all to be together, along with the yummy-mummy-to-be's family, before her life changes immeasurably. An opportunity to mark the closing of this chapter of her life and celebrate the one that is about to start. The biggest chapter so far!

I'm still not completely sold on baby showers and I don't think I'd ever be able to eat a cake that was designed to look like a vagina. But having had such a brilliant time at my friend's, I think I've become at least a little less Scroogey about them.

What are your thoughts on baby showers? Commercial crap or an important occasion?

Preparing To Move House...Mum Style

A house move is on the cards.

The details haven't been finalised but if everything goes to plan we could be in our new home before September. And while it's all very exciting, my brain is well and truly frazzled just thinking about it. Although I've moved house lots of times, this will be the first time I've done it with a child (and all of his belongings) in tow. Of course I'm being super organised and super productive and I'm definitely not in TOTAL DENIAL about everything that needs to be done in the weeks ahead *nervous laughter*

These are just a few of the ways I've been preparing.

Creating Pinterest boards
Mortgages? Surveys? Solicitor fees? Nah mate...I'm focusing on the important stuff: colour schemes, gallery walls and cushion covers. When moving house, your first priority is to turn to Pinterest for lots of interior design inspiration even when there a million more important and grown up things to worry about. These Velux blinds, a Kallax cubed storage unit from IKEA and a rose quartz/lilac grey colour scheme in the bedroom are all on my wish list. In case you were wondering. (You weren't).

Collecting boxes
I have found some comfort and reassurance in collecting boxes. If I am collecting boxes then I am doing something useful. It doesn't matter if nothing has yet been packed into said boxes and that the boxes themselves are actually creating more clutter and chaos. Boxes are good.

Awkward telephone calls
Having never bought a house before I'm embarrassingly clueless when it comes to speaking to estate agents and solicitors about the proceedings on the phone. Kind of reveling in the fact that I'm a proper grown up now, kind of wanting to hand the phone to my mum to deal with all the really important stuff.

Trying (unsuccessfully) to de-clutter
We've been lucky to rent a house that has more space than we need but it has encouraged me to keep hold of a lot of unnecessary crap. We are overrun with plastic tat that Jack hasn't played with for several years and yet when I discreetly try and put it in the charity shop box he suddenly decides 'but I love it mummy.' Which, in fairness, is very similar to how I am when attempting to throw out some of the dresses I haven't worn for a million years.

The charity shop box - full of forgotten tat treasures
Getting emotional
I tend to get emotionally attached to places I've lived in for any length of time and often leave subtle mementos behind for the next inhabitant - a string of heart shaped bunting in my old uni room, a penciled scrawl of 'Lozza was 'ere 2k+3' in the airing cupboard of the bungalow I lived in with my mum as a teen. I can already feel myself getting emotional about leaving the house I brought Jack back to as a newborn baby. The kitchen floor where he took his first steps, the living room window under which his moses basket used to sit, the stains on the carpet from spilled drinks and projectile vomit. It'll be hard to say goodbye but it's also exciting to think about moving on to the next chapter of our lives and building what will hopefully be our forever home.

One For The Stepdads

The shelves are lined with socks and gardening equipment and bottles of real ale and cards with watercolour pictures of golfers on them. This means two things: parental, gender stereotypes are still rife and Father's Day is just around the corner.

For me, Father's Day is less about celebration and more about contemplation. Year after year I have the same internal battles with myself about who to buy for. I get myself in a tizz about a concept that, for most people, is pretty straightforward: go to shop, buy Father's Day card, give Father's Day card to father. Simples. But that's the trouble with these newfangled 'blended families'...nothing is ever simple.

If someone could brief me on the etiquette of celebrating Father's Day when you're no longer with your child's father I'd appreciate it. What's the deal? Does card buying still come under my remit? Or is it a job for his family/girlfriend? I still don't know so just to cover all bases I tend to throw some card and felt tips at Jack and instruct him to 'draw daddy something'. This way I don't actually have to spend any money or pore over lovey dovey cards, but I don't look like a heartless cowbag either.

Even more confusing is the etiquette of buying for stepparents on the big day. In the 20+ years that my own stepfather has been in my life I've never once bought him a Father's Day card. That's not to say I don't value him and everything he has done for me over the years. From giving me endless lifts, to lecturing me about working for a living, to chatting about football with boyfriends I've brought home and bunging me the odd twenty quid here and there - he has done everything a dad should do. And while we haven't always seen eye to eye (in my angsty teenage years there were more than a few Zoe Slater esq 'YOU AIN'T MY FARVA' altercations) I appreciate it all more than he'll ever know. It's just that...he's not my dad. We all know he's not my dad. I've never called him dad. And Father's Day is for dads isn't it? Even now I still don't quite know how to mark the day or show my appreciation. So I do nothing. I'm as clueless at nearly 30 as I was at 13.

Just to add further confusion to the tangled web of mixed genes and different surnames, Jack has a stepdaddy too - my partner Carl. He has been around since Jack was 18 months old and they have a lovely bond. Jack understands that he isn't his father, but he is something else of great value to him: his buddy, his wrestling opponent, his ally when mummy is on the warpath. 'My Carl' is what he calls him and for someone who kind of wrote herself off when she found herself becoming a single mother with a small baby, this makes me very happy. Carl treats Jack with all of the love and generosity of a father and I class us as a family even if we don't share the same DNA. But still, is a Father's Day card appropriate when Jack has a loving dad who is still very much around? Again, I can't answer that question so Carl usually just ends up with a tongue in cheek e-card or meme tweeted in his direction:

Every year I bemoan the lack of 'Happy Stepfather's Day' cards available at this time of year. More to the point, I wonder why there is no Stepfathers/Stepmothers day? Cynics may argue that the concept of mothers/fathers/valentines day is a load of commercial bullshit and we should appreciate those we love on a daily basis, not one dictated to us by Hallmark. Nevertheless, they exist as a time for us to show our gratitude and boy oh boy do stepparents deserve some gratitude.

Because how difficult must it be to play that role? To become an authority figure to a child you have no authority over. To take on all of the harsh realities of parenting - tantrums, sleepless nights, early mornings, trips to soft play, Saturday morning birthday parties, teenage attitude, ultimate self sacrifice - but never truly receive any of the glory. To willingly step up to a parenting position while also knowing that there will be times when you'll have to respectfully stand down because no matter how hard you try, your genes will never match so your input just doesn't count as much. To risk falling in love with a child you'd have no legal rights to if everything went wrong, no matter how much time and effort and love you'd put into forging a relationship with them.

That, to me, is something worth acknowledging too. So this Father's Day I'll be celebrating the men who are there out of choice, not just biological obligation. Probably as quietly and as cluelessly and as awkwardly as every other year. But celebrating nonetheless. Because stepparents rock.

The Blame Game

I nearly didn't write this post. It is such high profile and emotive story at the minute. There'll probably be lots of people who disagree. But I've dipped in and out of a few rage inducing Facebook conversations surrounding it and just felt the need to jot down my thoughts.

I am, of course, talking about the four year old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati zoo over the weekend. In order to protect and rescue the boy, zookeepers had no choice but to shoot the gorilla - a decision that has sparked worldwide outrage. And what does the world do when it's outraged about something? Find someone to blame, of course.

Before the dust had settled and the facts were revealed, the vitriol had started. I'd say that about 80% of the blame, the anger and the passive aggressive memes that I've seen via social media have been directed at the parents of the little boy rather than at the zoo who housed a 450lb gorillia in an enclosure that was penetrable to a four year old. At best there have been accusations that the parents were negligent, at worst some pretty sick (hopefully not serious) suggestions that they should have been shot instead of the gorilla. And in between there has been a shit ton of superiority and judgement and 'I would never have let that happen to MY kids' remarks thrown in for good measure.

When horrific accidents happen to children it's OK to be shocked and upset. It's also OK to feel outraged at the senseless death of an innocent and endangered animal who did absolutely nothing wrong. But why do we always feel the need to look for blame? And why does that blame always seem to end up with the parents?

None of us keep our eyes on our children 24/7; it's just not possible, especially when you're supervising more than one. I admit that I've felt that gut dropping, spine tingling sense of fear when I glanced away from my son in a park once - just for a split second - then looked back to find he was out of sight. It happens. My mum works on the customer services desk of a large supermarket and says that you wouldn't believe the amount of children that turn up there having being separated from their parents. Nine times out of ten they'll be quickly reunited and nothing catastrophic will happen. Nobody bats an eyelid. But when something does go horribly wrong do we offer support and empathy to the unlucky ones? No, we hound them, abuse them online and tell them they're shit parents. As if they're not already thinking that themselves.

Parent blaming/shaming bothers me. It takes seconds to write something online that will dent a parents confidence forever. We all know it is the toughest job in the world so why do people seem to take such glee in telling others how bad they are at it? Almost reveling in the knowledge that nothing like this ever happened to THEIR children. Well done. You're a great parent. Let's hope it stays that way.

Eyewitnesses of the incident in Cincinnati say that it happened in the blink of an eye. This doesn't sound like a case of a mother being neglectful. It sounds like an unfortunate accident with tragic consequences. She already has to live with the sickening image of her child being dragged around like a rag doll by a gorilla, not to mention the guilt about what could have happened and what did happen. Does she need to deal with blame and abuse from millions of strangers too? It won't solve anything and it won't bring Harambe the gorilla back. Let's just hope lessons have been learnt so this never happens again.

When genuine accidents happen it's easy to ask why and how. But don't automatically point the finger of blame at the parents. They are responsible for their children, yes. But they aren't superheroes who are exempt from the dangerous unpredictability of the world. Support them. You never know when your split second error of judgement could lead to an accident too.

Things I've Thought At Birthday Parties

Ahhh the joys of kids' birthday parties. Because there is literally no other place that I'd rather be on a Saturday morning than in a sweaty village hall surrounded by 30 children who are all off their heads on Fruit Shoots and party rings. Here are just a few of the things that have crossed my frazzled mind while attending birthday parties with Jack.

"At what age is it acceptable to drop and dash?"

The answer to this is apparently not 4 although surely it won't be too long before I can abandon leave my son in the care of the suckers hosts?

"Is this real life?"

You see some pretty weird stuff at kids' parties. A few weeks ago I was at one with a very hungover friend and our kids (obvs) when two giant minions entered the room dancing to Whip Nae Nae. She looked at me as if to say "is this really happening or am I still drunk?"

"Am I allowed to eat that?"

The delicate etiquette of the buffet means that no-one wants to be the first parent to dive into the sausage rolls and quite literally take the food out of their child's mouth without being 100% sure that the offering is intended for the adults to chow down on too. The shame.

"Whose mum are you?"

When you get talking to another mum and the polite moment to ask "sorry, remind me...which one of them is your crotch fruit?" has passed.

"Why is he so miserable?"

Birthday parties are hard work when your child isn't a fan of enforced fun. In fact I'd go as far as to say that Jack is usually that child at a party. You know, the one who stands in a corner looking sad, clings to the parcel instead of passing it and only really starts to get into the party spirit when he finds another equally anti-social child to chase around and batter with balloons. Yay.

"You attach a stuffed horse to my midriff and call it fun? Bitch, please."

"How is the hokey cokey still a thing?"

Wikipedia tells me that the Hokey Cokey has been around since 1826! You'd think that after all these years there might be some newer, fresher party tunes to torture people with. Same goes for Black Lace's Superman and the Conga.

Then someone plays the Crazy Frog and all is forgiven.

"Is it home time yet?"

Although they typically only last for a couple of hours, I've found that parties become a vortex through which time passes unbelievably s..l..o..w..l..y. There's always that crushing moment when you think it must be time to leave and then realise that the cake hasn't even been brought out for everyone to sneeze on sing to yet.

Reasons Why My Kid Is Cooler Than I Am

I'll happily admit that I've never really been one of life's cool kids but it comes to something when your 4 year old son can out-swag you. I've suspected it for some time now, so here are some of the ways that my kid is cooler than I am. Sob.

He rocks the headwear
I've always dreamed of being able to pull off a baggy beanie but alas, I'm just not a hat person. Jack, however, suits a variety of styles. Here he is rocking the 90's indie band bucket hat, the badboy-backward-cap and the Dappy from N-dubz bobble hat.

He is socially confident
I'm not exactly an introvert but I do find speaking to strangers a little awkward at times. Not Jack. He will happily force himself on approach any child who takes his fancy, introduce himself with a suave 'I'm Jack and I like Batman' and join in with their games whether they want him to or not. Last week at soft play he found himself a few playmates and when I asked him to come out and have some lunch he replied with 'I can't mummy, I'm busy with the fellas.' #mandem

I love nothing more than a good belly laugh but you very rarely see grown adults full on guffawing in public, probably because we feel self conscious about being loud, toothy and silly in front of other grown ups. I think it's a shame that we censor our happiness like this and I'm pleased that Jack (and most other small children for that matter) will unashamedly laugh REALLY, REALLY LOUDLY wherever and whenever they want to.

He's a better dancer
It could be break dancing or it could just be flinging himself around the floor like a rabid squirrel. Either way, it beats my moves.

He's so sassy
I sometimes wonder where he gets his attitude from. Definitely not me. With his catalogue poses, cheeky eye rolls and top bantz, he definitely has more sass than I ever will.

He doesn't conform
There's something quite endearing about a social rebel isn't there? Not the criminal kind; just those who don't conform to social etiquette because they give zero fucks about what anyone else thinks. This is my son when he loudly chants Jingle Bells in a monotone voice as we walk around Tesco. In March.

He's so laid back
I am a flapper. I flap. Faced with a tricky situation or in the event of things not going quite how I'd planned I get all red faced and flustered. It's not a good look. Jack, however, takes everything in his stride. He just adapts and gets on with it; out of the two of us it's usually me who panics and cries. He has all the chill.

He's never had a bad outfit day
Not many people can get away with socks and sandals, shorts and wellies or pirate hats in public. But he can quite easily commit these crimes against fashion and still look cool while doing so.

"Yeah I'll be with you in a minute mum, can't you see I'm chatting to my bredrin?!"

Primary School Places: The Wait Is On...

Before I had Jack I never understood why parents seemed to get in such a flap about primary school places. In my pre-parenthood eyes, a school was a school. Of course some are ranked higher than others but providing your child comes away with a decent education, why does it matter which one they go to? First choices? Appealing decisions? Pfffft.

And now here I am, anxiously counting down the hours until Monday when I already know I'll be hunched over my work computer hitting refresh every 5 minutes, impatiently waiting for the news that will determine where the next seven years of Jack's educational life will be spent; hoping for our first choice and not really knowing what to do if we don't get it.

And I know lots of other parents will be doing exactly the same thing.

Jack's current situation is that he attends two 'settings'. He goes to a nursery (as he has done since he was 9 months old) for the first half of the week while I go to work. This is a private nursery that stays open through the holidays which is obviously helpful for childcare purposes. He also attends the local village preschool on a Thursday and Friday morning during term time. He doesn't need to go there. There are no childcare issues on these days and he's already interacting with children at the other nursery. But although the preschool is a separate entity to the village school, it is located within the same grounds and is made up of local children. Basically I wanted him to go there (and have paid outside of his funded hours for the privilege) so that he could get to know some of the kids he'll eventually go to school with and become familiar with the surroundings.

And while the private nursery is lovely and I'll always be grateful to them for taking such good care of my baby when I had to go back to work, out of the two settings, preschool is where he seems happiest. It is here that he's formed the friendships that he comes home and raves about. Here where the invitations to birthday parties and play dates come from. Here that I have taken the most notice of the faces of kids and parents alike because these will be the faces we'll see everyday come September. It never occurred to me that it would happen any other way. It is a village school. We live in the village. Done deal.

But apparently not. Although being in the catchment area gives him a high chance of getting in, the intake for this year is huge. I remember how there were so many pregnant ladies in the village at the same time as me. I remember thinking how nice it would be for this influx of children to grow up together. I never considered the logistical challenges of school places. Of there simply not being room for them all. And it's worrying. Not only because the school is rated highly, has some great staff and because I'd really like him to go there. But more importantly because he wants to. Because he's made these little friendships that seem to mean a great deal to him. And because whenever we pass the school playground to get to preschool he points and shouts 'I'll be going there soon won't I, Mummy?'

I filled in the forms to the best of my ability. I have my fingers crossed. Soon the results will be in.

Like so many other aspects of parenting, it's only now that I'm faced with these situations that I can fully understand the importance of them. Because they all go some way to shaping his future.

This primary school placement thing is some nerve wracking shit.

Film Review: Zootropolis

One of Jack's favourite rainy-day-things-to-do is go to the cinema so last week the two of us went on a date to see Zootropolis.

By now, I know the drill. Fill handbag with snacks from home. Balk at ticket price. Reminisce about the good old days when you could go the cinema with a fiver and still have enough left over to buy a box of toffee Poppets and get the bus home etc etc. Sit in dark room and prepare to lose two hours of my life to garish animation and singing animals. Only this time, the film was actually really good. So good, in fact, that I decided to write a review.

So Zootropolis is a mammal metropolis where animals live together in harmony. They wear clothes, go to work and, most importantly, have evolved into no longer eating one another. Yay! Judy Hopps, a small town bunny, dreams of becoming the first rabbit on the police force and heads off to the bustling municipality of Zootropolis to fulfill her ambitions. Here, she becomes embroiled a mysterious case involving a missing otter and a bunch of predators who appear to have reverted back to their primitive, murderous ways. It seems like someone is trying to cause a divide in Zootropolis. But who? And why? Forming an unlikely alliance with con-artist fox, Nick Wilde, Judy sets about cracking the case and does so in spectacular CGI style.

At its heart this is a tale of friendship; Judy and Nick are natural enemies with preconceived ideas about one another based purely on their species (dumb bunny/sly fox). But eventually they break down these stereotypes and work together to solve a conspiracy that threatens to destroy the peace and equality that Zootropolis is built on. Adults will definitely appreciate the themes of discrimination, racism and corruption that you wouldn't usually associate with a Disney movie...but it's not all political agenda. With an arctic shrew mafia boss, an impossibly slow bureaucratic sloth and a singing Youtube sensation called Gazelle (she is a gazelle,) plus tons of pop culture references, there are lots of fun moments too.

Visually it was stunning, although as someone who grew up with a VHS copy of Mary Poppins that was so over watched it eventually wore away, I'm always impressed with what CGI can do these days.

Jack loved it - even though he said that the  police chief (a surly cape buffalo voiced by Idris Elba) was 'angry and mean' - but I think maybe I loved it a little more. Partly because in the absence of the traditional Disney love story, we are presented with a political message that is important for little people and partly because it's one of the few kids films we've seen at the cinema that hasn't made me want to claw my eyes out half way through. That alone makes it worth a watch.

Have you seen Zootropolis? What did you think?

On Your Fourth Birthday

Jack, today you are four and I can't quite believe it. At three I could still just about class you as a toddler (albeit a very large and shouty one) but at four there's no denying it...you are boy.

At four you are really coming into your own. You are clever, funny and so sweet natured. You are beginning to show a real interest in reading and writing. You can just about write your own name now (although you write your K backwards and tend to get the letters in the wrong order - Granny says it's something to do with you being left handed) and you love stories. Julia Donaldson is a big hit at the moment but you've still got a soft spot for Hairy Maclary. You love the library and the other day you got really cross because - I quote - 'I can't read yet! WHY CAN'T I READ?!' I'm still not a fan of a tantrum but that, that I'll allow.

You are still a collector as you always have been. No favourite toys, just a small collection of interchangeable possessions that you religiously carry around in your plastic doctor's case or one of my old handbags. You've long since ditched Mr Tumble and you're now into Star Wars and The Avengers (Carl's influence). You have a best friend now - he's called Jack too - and you tell me that the pair of you 'don't like girls because they're poo poo heads' but I suspect this will change as the years go on. You are so kind and thoughtful towards others that I sometimes forget you're still so little. A few months ago your nursery teacher told me how a little girl had cried because a boy had taken her seat so you built her another one out of big blocks (so much for not liking girls, hey?!) You're a gentleman in the making with such as sweet heart; it makes me so proud.

Four will be a very exciting year, you know. It's the year you'll start big school. And although the prospect seems to frighten you a little bit right now, I know you'll be in your element when the time actually comes. As for me, well I'll miss our weekday afternoons together. Our swimming trips, our walks, our library visits, our cafe dates. But I'm so excited to see how the next phase of your life unfolds.

Your birthday is a little different this year. You've been on holiday with daddy this week. You're coming back today so I'll get to see you later but I wasn't there this morning. I wasn't the first to wish you a Happy Birthday and kiss your beautiful, four year old face. That feels strange and a little bit unnatural to me but you're what matters and I know you've had a lovely time this week. I'll never be 100% OK with saying goodbye to you for any length of time but I can put my feelings to one side as long as I know that you're happy. And you are. You take everything in your stride and have always made my constant worrying seem unfounded. You honestly amaze me. Some days I look at you and wonder how I possibly created something so brilliant and brave and perfect.

The more you grow, the more you learn about the world and the more I learn about being a mummy. I wasn't too sure about it at first but four years on, I'm convinced it's the greatest thing I've ever done. You are an absolute joy, Jack. Happy birthday.

All my love,
Your mummy xx

Little Loves #2: Dark Woods, Painting By Numbers and Chicken Pox


This week I started (and finished) In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. It was one of those books where I read the blurb and immediately had to buy it. It's about a group of twenty-somethings that go into the woods to celebrate a hen party but there are a lot of old grudges and things go very, very wrong. I couldn't put it down but the ending was a bit of an anti-climax. I'll pop a full review up on Judging Covers shortly.


In case you haven't seen my last post...Jack has had chicken pox! He escaped with a fairly mild case in the end but it still meant that we were confined to the house for a few days. I tried to limit TV/iPad time as much as possible but there are only so many ways you can occupy a toddler indoors and we inevitably ended up watching quite a lot of Cbeebies and also Ryan's Toy Reviews on the iPad. I'm not sure how Jack stumbled across Ryan but the kid has over two million Youtube subscribers just for playing with his toys! Jack loves watching him and often talks about him like he's a close personal friend.


You know when you've been holed up indoors for so long that even getting in the car to go to work feels a bit exciting? That. I have a DIY CD in the car with a real eclectic bunch of songs on it. This song by 90's indie band, Space, is one of my favourites. Even though it's 20 years old I think it's one of those songs that would still do well if it were released now. It was nice to crank down the windows and sing along.


Another indoor activity we did this week was painting by numbers. I used to love doing these as a kid but unfortunately the concept was a bit lost on Jack who didn't really stick to the numbers and just splodged wherever he wanted!


Finally the spots cleared up and we were able to wear our coats, hats and wellies and go for a muddy stomp around Normanby Hall - a local stately home with lovely gardens. We saw some peacocks, fed the ducks and even saw a baby deer trundling around. Frankly it was just nice to be back in civilization.

And lastly...

Had to share this. After a rubbish week Carl brought me some 'romantic' gifts to cheer me up. If you can call Fridge Raiders and films about mutant cannibals romantic that is! Still, the wine went down well.

Happy Friday and I hope you all have a lovely Easter x

10 Things I Hate About Chickenpox

Of all the disgusting bugs, viruses and diseases that Jack has brought home, I think chickenpox has to be one of the worst. This is why:

It's sneaky
Chickenpox is one tricksy little fox. It starts with non-specific unwellness. An isolated bout of projectile vomiting at 5am one morning. Whinging about 'hurty legs'. Tiredness and grumpiness with intermittent bursts of hyperactivity. I thought he was run down. We continued to go about our daily business, oblivious to the fact that the pox was at its most contagious at that point and systematically trying to infect everyone we came into contact with. Sneaky fucker.

The spots
The spots arrived a few days later and then it all made sense. Urgh, the spots. My mum said there's always one massive one - the queen. We found it. It looked big and bulgy. And they get EVERYWHERE. Have you ever seen the film Stand By Me? The scene with the leeches...that was my face when I realised that the spots can and will pop up anywhere.

The conflicting information
'Once the spots are out it's not contagious anymore.'
'No, when the spots have scabbed over it's not contagious anymore.'
'Well I was told that I had to wait until the spots had faded altogether before you're allowed out again.'
Give. Me. Strength.

The quarantine process
Being in a quarantine situation is never fun. It's even less fun when your child is no longer ill, just spotty and angry about not being allowed to go to pre-school or soft play. They think they are being punished for something and make well meaning promises 'not to share their pox with anyone' and you feel wretched for them.

The cancelled plans
Of course the pox will never strike on a week where you have nothing on. Birthday party invitations have to be declined (cue more tears/displaced anger from child) and I missed the work bake sale which really took the biscuit...or not, in this case.

Calamine lotion
For 28 years of my life I genuinely believed it was called camomile lotion. Jack thinks it's called pantomime lotion. If nothing else, this journey has been a learning curve. Regardless of what you call it, it stinks and I'll be happy if I never have to see the poxy, pink gloop again.

The alternative treatments
Oatmeal?! Baking soda?! We're dealing with a plague here not baking a cake!

Desperate attempts to occupy
How do you occupy a sick toddler who isn't really sick when you are confined to the house for this length of time and hate crafting?! There are only so many times you can call an afternoon bath 'water play'. We have baked, built lego, hunted earwigs, kicked footballs, painted by numbers (or ignore the numbers and just paint where you like in Jack's case,) spent far too much time on the iPad and grown jointly sick of the sight of Jeremy Kyle. I got nothing left.

The false hope
Ooooh the spots are just about scabbed over. We might be able to go out tomorrow. FREEEEEDOOOM. Then comes the second wave. Jack wakes up proudly pointing out all of his 'new pox' and I die inside as I realise we've got another 3 days minimum of incarceration to look forward to.

It broke my phone
As if there hasn't been enough pain and suffering this week, yesterday I smashed my iPhone in an unfortunate incident in the garden. If it weren't for the pox I wouldn't have been in the garden. I would have been at work. At my desk. Where my phone would have been safe. The pox has cost me my phone as well as my sanity.

A self portrait of Jack with chickenpox, by Jack with chickenpox.
(Apparently that is me on the left. I don't know why he appears to have drawn me holding a knife. Honest). 

John Lewis and My Toddler's Top Three Public Meltdowns

We've all been there haven't we? Maybe a risky dash around Tesco a little too close to naptime? Or a bit too long spent trawling a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon in search of a fancy dress costume for next week's preschool party? Maybe it started because they were tired or bored or because you refused to buy them a Kinder Egg or maybe for no other reason than they felt like being a bit of an arsehole. Toddlers can be like that. The bottom lip goes, the whining becomes a wail, limbs start flailing and before you know it, you're dealing with a code red tantrum in the middle of the confectionery aisle. The back of your neck prickles and you suddenly feel very hot. Panic rises in your chest as you attempt to pull this squawking, faceplanting human to its feet. You become acutely aware of strangers around you looking, eyerolling and, in some cases, even tutting as you fail to restore order. You know that you are at best being stared at and at worst being heavily judged on your ability (or lack thereof) to control this demonic creature whose extreme decibels are disturbing their shop. And it's horrible.

I was dismayed to see the story about a mother being asked to leave John Lewis - a 'family' store that will quite happily take parents' cash for a Jigsaw Junior kimono or a dolly furniture set - because her toddler was throwing a tantrum this week. Worse still were the comments accompanying the story. So much intolerance. So much judgement. Lots of 'I don't want to hear a child screaming when I'm doing my shopping' or 'why didn't the mother just take her out' and even a few 'bad parenting' remarks. Seriously, shut up. Controlling a tantrumming toddler is like trying to bath a rabid squirrel. And it's stressful and humiliating enough without such a lack of empathy from grown adults who (unlike small children) should be slightly more aware of the feelings of others.

Being in the chaos of a public tantrum can be a daunting and lonely experience so to show my solidarity to the poor mum who was unceremoniously chucked out of John Lewis, I thought I'd share my top three most excruciating tantrum experiences and how I dealt with them badly.

The one where I covered him with groceries to drown out the noise
My first ever experience of a public screaming fit (I'm not sure that babies can be classed as tantrummers?) was when Jack was just a few months old. I'd taken him to Tesco and put his car seat in the trolley as I shopped. For the most part he'd gurgled happily but by the time we reached the checkout he was writhing and grizzling and just as I was packing my shopping all hell broke loose. And we all know what an ear-piercing baby cry sounds like don't we? I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. The noise was deafening. The groceries were hurtling towards me and piling up. He was turning scarlet. People were looking concerned. The checkout lady said 'Do you want me to give you a minute so you can pick him up?' and I replied 'No, no keep them coming, he'll be fine,' as I frantically stuffed my shopping bags full then placed them around him in a bid to somehow drown out the noise! I probably looked quite insane and very un-motherly but this was first experience of public meltdown and all I could think about was getting out of there and never setting foot in public with him again until he was a teenager.

The one on the plane
Is there a worse place for a toddler to kick off than on a plane? No option to 'take them outside' then is there? Just you, your screaming child and hundreds of pissed off passengers in a confined space at 30,000 feet. Joy! In fairness to Jack, he wasn't tantrumming out of naughtiness or defiance that time. We discovered in a Spanish doctors a few days later that he had an ear infection so the flight was probably very painful for him. Not that that would have placated the holidaymakers in the row in front of us. You could practically feel the 'FFS why us?' vibes radiating off them as he squealed and sobbed no matter how much I rocked and hushed and tried to distract him. At one point I took him to to sit behind the cockpit to escape the furious glares and over-animated temple rubbing of the other passengers and would have quite happily skydived out of the misery had I been offered a parachute. Of course I understand that listening a to child cry all the way to Majorca is not a pleasant way to start your holiday, but it wasn't particularly enjoyable for me either especially when there was no obvious reason for it so I was scared as well as headachey. When we got off the plane an elderly couple asked if he was OK, they'd been worried. And that made all the difference.

The one where I cried in a car park
This happened fairly recently. I'd taken Jack to soft play by myself and although he's been potty trained for ages now, something about the excitement of the ball pool and bendy slide often leads to accidents while we're there. I'd gone prepared but after two trouser changes my patience (and my emergency stash of baby wipes) was running out. After the third accident I'd had enough of this shit (literally) and so I calmly told him we'd have to leave. This did not go down well. Juggling his bag, my bag, his shoes and our coats I managed to drag him out of the door without too much trouble - after all soft play is full of screaming kids anyway. It was when we got to the car park that things really turned sour. Not only did he attempt to run amongst moving vehicles but he managed to get me with a cracking right hook to the jaw as I wrestled him into his car seat. I shouted then. Really shouted. Then leaned against the car and burst into tears as he thrashed about and banged on the car window like something out of The Walking Dead. Another mum approached me to ask if I was OK and that just made it worse. I muttered sorry to her about twenty times then got in the car and sped off, before she could get my number plates and report me to the authorities for being a shouty, snivelling wreck of a mother. We didn't go back to that soft play for months as I was so worried I'd see her again.

So there you have it. My toddler's top three, most memorable public tantrums. Every time I felt humiliated and crap and out of my depth. But luckily, amongst the judgmental stares, there were people on each occasion who offered kindness and helpfulness too. I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if I'd been confronted or asked to leave somewhere. So the next time you see a mum out in public with a tantrumming toddler, try to remember that however annoying it is for you, it's a hundred times worse for her. She isn't a bad mum, it isn't her fault and her toddler is actually doing something quite normal - albeit shouty. Offer her a smile instead of a tut. The world works better when we are kinder and more tolerant of one another.

Little Loves #1: World Book Day, Happy Valley and Mother's Day

This is my first time linking up to Little Loves but I think it's a great idea and hopefully it's one that I'll stick with it. Here's what I've been loving this week.


This week I started Season To Taste by Natalie Young and my goodness, it's not for the faint hearted! Little overview - a woman murders her husband and tries to get rid of the evidence by cooking and eating him. Yep, really. In places it's actually quite stomach churning and difficult to read but also weirdly compulsive. I'll pop a full review up over on Judging Covers when I've finished it.


I'm a little bit addicted to Happy Valley at the minute. I thought nothing would top the first series but the second one is just as good. If you've not seen it, it's a police drama starring Sarah Lancashire set in West Yorkshire. The second series in particular has an amazing cast including Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) and Shirley Henderson (Moaning Myrtle) from the Harry Potter films. I also quite fancy the villain, Tommy Lee Royce played by James Norton, which makes me feel bad as he's so convincingly evil in this.


Capital Yorkshire have been running a 'throwback' feature over the past few weeks and it's been fun to hear some old relics on the radio when I'm in the car or sat in the office at work. This morning it was Beautiful by Akon which took me right back to my partying days.


I'll admit that I'm a pretty lazy cook. If I can use a packet or a sachet as a shortcut then I will. Recently I've been trying to stick to a Slimming World diet though so I decided to make a Slimming World friendly shepherd's pie without the aid of a Colman's sachet and it turned out so well. I used tinned tomatoes, passata, beef stock, dried mint and Worcester sauce. Hardly revolutionary, but not bad at all for my usual standard of cooking!


As I'm sure you're all aware, it was World Book Day yesterday. Unfortunately I was one of the unorganised parents who left getting a costume until the last possible minute. Jack is really loving Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson at the moment so I thought he could go as one of the animals from that. Luckily I was able to pick up this cat costume at short notice (yes, I know it's the cat in the hat minus the hat!) and also painted some whiskers and a 'red little catty nose' (his words) on him. He loved it and had a brilliant time at preschool.

And lastly...

I know it's not Mother's Day until Sunday but Jack made this at nursery during the week and I nearly shed a tear when he gave me it. The bit about giving him fruit cracked me up...I do give him it but whether or not he eats it is a very different matter!

What have you been loving this week?

The Last Time

Last week I opened the car boot to find that Jack's pushchair had been left folded up and unused in there for so long that it was beginning to grow a layer of mould. Grim, I know. At first I was annoyed with myself and started trying to think of the best ways get it clean. Then I realised that it actually doesn't matter too much since Jack probably won't use it again now. He turns 4 next month and prefers to walk everywhere. And as his build is closer to that of a 5 year old, I doubt he'd fit in it even if he wanted to.

It dawned on me that my pram pushing days are over. And honestly, I felt quite sad about it.

We've had the same pushchair since he was born. It's one of those three wheelers that reclines when they're babies but is essentially a stroller that will also see you through the toddler years. I remember the first time I ever took Jack out in it. He must have been a week or so old and I think it was the first time we'd left the house since he was born. I was still achey and sore from the C-section but I wrapped him up in a woolly hat and cardy and we trundled up the road to my mum's house. All the way there his dad and I bickered about who would push him - "you've had a go, it's my turn now" - occasionally veering off onto a grass verge while this tiny little boy-child slept soundly inside.

Of course, the novelty wore off. Folding and unfolding, strapping and unstrapping, hauling it in and out of the boot of my Nissan Micra all became part of our everyday routine. Soon I was a pro at weaving in and out of shop rails, navigating us into the last tiny space in department store lifts amongst the other buggies/wheelchairs and balancing everything from shopping bags, teddy bears and swimming towels on top of the pushchair. The miles I must have wracked up wheeling him around shopping centres, car parks, supermarkets, seasides, garden centres, country paths and convoys with other pram pushing mothers. The pushchair came abroad with us twice and I still remember the sickening moment I struggled to push it up a particularly steep hill in Whitby and, for a split second, genuinely believed we were both going to roll backwards.

It seems silly to get nostalgic over a mouldy old pushchair. But I suppose it symbolises something more. It got me thinking about a poem I've seen doing the rounds on Facebook lately called The Last Time - you can read it here - which is basically about appreciating every moment because all too soon your kids will grow up and you'll never get this time with them back again. It happens so quickly, sometimes without you even noticing. I think my heart broke a little bit when I read the part about putting them down one day and never picking them up again. I might remember the first time I took Jack out in the pushchair but I don't remember the last time, even though it must have only been a few months ago. I certainly didn't realise it was the last time. If I had I might have walked a bit further or made him cackle by running down some ramps or just sat and marveled at how his long legs, hanging off the end of the pushchair were only inches from the floor now.

So although sometimes the days feel long and draining and unrewarding, I'm going to try to appreciate every one because honestly, you never really know when the last time is going to be.

Romance Through The Ages

As it's Valentines Day I thought I'd jump aboard the lurrrve boat and write a romance related post; more specifically, about what love and romance have meant to me throughout the different stages of my life. It's normal for our perception of something to change as we grow up and experience more of the world. Much like I look back and cringe at what I wore in my yoof (Argos jewellery/Reebok classic combos, double denim before it was cool, feather boas long after they were cool) it's also quite startling to recall what my definition of love and romance meant back then too.

When you're at school it doesn't take much. Holding hands on the way to assembly or being presented with a Bubblegum 'groovy chick' keyring from Clintons on Valentines Day was sufficient enough evidence that someone 'proper liked you'. When I was about 14 or 15, I remember a boy proclaiming his feelings towards me with a geography based anecdote. He said (and this is no word of a lie):

"Laura, you are my gravel." (Stay with me here) "All of the other girls are sedimentary rock and metamorphic rock. They get worn away. But you'll always be there because you're like gravel."

I remember that tenuous little speech, in which I was compared to an aggregation of small stones, with such clarity because at the time it was just about the most romantic thing anyone had ever said to me. That was until a friend told me to get a grip, reminding me that gravel wasn't just common but something that people tended to walk all over. That kind of burst my bubble. Unsurprisingly it didn't work out with Gravel Boy but I still think of that little spiel with a chuckle and an eye roll. I guess when you're that age, you can find the romance in just about anything if you persuade yourself enough.

As my teens progressed so did my standards - thankfully. Like most teenage girls, I was heavily into American, teen movies and soon began basing my ideas of 'the perfect man' on the likes of Freddie Prinze, Jr in She's All That which was, admittedly, aiming a bit high. Still, those teenage romances were the best. MSN conversations that went on late into the night when the words seemed to flow far more freely than they ever did when you'd bump into one another in the college canteen. DIY cassettes recorded off the radio. Butterflies in your stomach. Passing your driving test and spending hours in Mcdonalds car park laughing over chocolate milkshakes. Those relationships were often short lived but it was still a special time when romance did feel a bit like those American movies. It was something new and exciting and you were free to explore it with little or no pressure.

University was weird. I went through a big break up during that time so I was generally of the opinion that love sucked and all men were the spawn of Satan. Once I was single, I can't say that much romance flourished out of the nights spent in sticky floored clubs necking Cheeky Vimpto as if it was going out of fashion (it was). There were 'couplings' of course but I'm not sure they could be described as the romantic kind. However, quite a few of the couples I knew at uni have gone the distance; some of them are married now. I guess for some people, those are the years when you lay the foundations for your future. For others it's a time to experiment, go a bit crazy and see your last few years of responsibility shirking out with a bang (quite literally, for some). I was a big fan of The Arctic Monkeys at the time and that lyric 'there int no romance around here' probably sums up my uni years quite well.

In my mid-twenties I fell pregnant. But this time, it wasn't like the movies. There might have been a baby but there hadn't been any romance in that relationship for a long time. It didn't work out but (this is going to sound ridiculously cheesy) having Jack made me aware of a higher form of love. One where you put someone else entirely before yourself. My heart was too full with that to be worrying about finding a man and in between early mornings, nappy changes and sterilising bottles I didn't have much time for romance anyway. Dating was off the agenda unless it involved another mum and a soft play centre. And for a while that was all I needed.

Then Carl came along. We'd been following each other on Twitter for a while but the first time we met he was DJing in a bar and I was on a rare night out. Totally off my face on cheap Pinot, I staggered over to his box and slurred something along the lines of "'iyaaa, it's Laura, off of Twitter." He looked confused and a bit scared but with those immortal words a seed had been planted and now, two years on, we're still together. These days romance is found in the day to day. Letting me have a lie in while he gets up with Jack. Bringing me home a bar of Milka just because. Putting up with my horrific PMT. To quote another musician (because it's Valentines day and I'm allowed to talk through the medium of love song) 'it's not always rainbows and butterflies, it's compromise that moves us along.' I think there's a lot of truth in that. He's definitely not Freddie Prinze, Jr but he's still pretty cool. It's also his birthday today so if you're reading this (which I know you will be you blog stalker) Happy Valenbirthday, I love you.

Whatever your perception of romance is, I hope that you have a lovely Valentines day.

10 Signs That You're a Working Mum

Regardless of your employment status, being a mum is a full time job and a constant juggling act. But if, like me, you're a mum who also happens to go out to a conventional workplace for part of the week (where you're usually required to give the impression of being competent and professional and awake) then things can definitely get tricky. There will almost certainly be some giveaway signs that you're a working mum. Here are some I've experienced.

1) No matter how early you get up in the morning you will always arrive at work at least 10 minutes late as standard. On the mornings when you're running particularly late your child will refuse to go into nursery unless you spend 20 minutes kissing and cajoling him.

2) You will regularly arrive at work with spatterings of your child's breakfast and/or bodily fluids somewhere on your person. You won't notice this until mid morning by which time you've greeted most of the management.

3) You know the true meaning of the walking dead when forced to attend a 2 hour, AM meeting on fire safety after being up all night with a poorly toddler.

4) You often reach into your bag for some work related item and instead pull out Buzz Lightyear.

5) Your packed lunch will usually contain all one of the following: Pom Bears, a Milkybar or a fruit bag (because nothing says sophistication like some pre-sliced apple in a cellophane packet with waving fruits on it).

6) You will find yourself humming 'Hello, hello...how are you?' in the photocopier room more often that you'd care to admit.

7) You have the most productive lunch breaks ever. This is your prime opportunity to cram all of those mundane but necessary jobs into one, toddler-free hour. These may include hair cuts, smear tests or Tesco big shops.

8) On a Sunday evening you secretly feel a little bit excited about the prospect of a solo wee, having adult conversation and drinking a coffee while it's still hot.

9) You feel like a rubbish mum when you leave your child to go to work.

10) You feel like a rubbish employee when you leave work to go to your child.

Are you a working mum? Do you juggle the two roles successfully?

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows