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Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas morning - in solo style

This is my first Christmas morning without the kids. Either my bodyclock has naturally adjusted over the last seven years or I drank too much last night - because I haven't been able to sleep properly and so I got up at 6am and started the washing up.

Over the last couple of weeks when I've told people I'm not having the boys for Christmas day I get two questions:
1. Is this your first Christmas without them?
2. How are you feeling about that?
(The second question is asked with a sympathetic head tilt or small frown.)

Yes, it is my first Christmas without them. I'm not sure if that is supposed to make it worse or better. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a big fan of the novelty factor, and to be honest, it being the first one actually makes it a bit easier. I've not been sure how I was going to feel or what it was going to be like so I've pretty much sat back and gone with the flow.

Christmas Eve is my favourite night of the year. It feels really magical, watching the kids get so excited, listening to Christmas songs on the radio, all the preparation and anticipation... And yesterday did feel a little odd, not putting the boys to bed and then yelling at them that if Father Christmas won't come if they don't go to sleep.

Instead, we went to the pub, met up with old friends and I got sloshed. Very grown up Christmas.

A few people have said that they would never be able to let their ex have their kids on Christmas. I can understand it, and maybe this makes me a totally crap parent but - I am actually not upset or down about it.

I also don't want to be the kind of single parent who jealously guards Christmas time with the kids. He is their Dad, and he has much right to spend Christmas Day with them as I do.

I've spoken to the boys this morning on the phone, and they're really excited about coming home tomorrow to more presents, and they're excited about Christmas Day with their Dad. Meanwhile I have been thoroughly spoiled by my fabulous boyfriend, and have had a perfectly lazy and relaxed start to the day.

I knew this Christmas was going to be different and I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. But so far, it is still just as magical for me. Christmas is about the kids, yes, but it's also about the grown ups. I am embracing my lovely day with my gorgeous partner and entertaining his Mum, something I am really looking forward to. And, as it's ten past twelve, and I don't have to worry about being too responsible, AND the nasty after effects of last nights festivities have totally worn off, I'm going to have a glass of wine.

Merry Christmas to you all!


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

12 things... updated

It's been a really really long time since I revisited my 12 things to do in 2012 list, so here's an update:

1. New tattoo - done. Twice in fact! One on my back, and another on the inside of my left wrist. I love them both, they make me feel proud and individual and they are such a public celebration of things so personal to me. I just love them.

2. Go Kayaking - I am actually going to do this at the weekend!! Weather permitting. I have a child free day, and my best friend suggested we give it a go. I'm glad I'm going to be going out with her, as she's done it before which will stop me feeling totally and utterly clueless. I'm excited, and scared in equal measure.

3. Pitch a freelance article - well, hmpf. No, this isn't going anywhere. One of the worst side effects of my depression is Writer's Block, which hits me hard and fast. Add to that my total lack of confidence in ANYTHING I do at the moment, and it's a no go really.

4. Sing on a stage - Still working on that one too. Maybe Rock Choir in September? Surely there must be a way.

5. Find a hobby - I'm no closer to this either really, unless you count eating out or watching a lot of movies on DVD.

6. Visit a country I've never been to before - Yes, another one done! I went to Germany with the kids and one of my friends and her family and it was fabulous. One for another blogpost.

7. Drink more - nooo, although my new tablets mean I can't drink wine so I am drinking a lot of Coke and Appletiser in the evenings. Does that count?

8. Walk from Bishopstoke to Winchester like I used to with Dad - This is so easy to do, WHY haven't I organised it yet? I must.

9.  Read a classic novel - Having softened myself up by watching the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice  (Colin Firth is luscious) I am about to start the book today. Wish me luck.

10. Lose three stone - HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA

11. See a Shakespeare play - No, and again, this can't be that hard! I will organise something. I must.

12. Take the kids to the Isle of Wight - I was talking about this at work today. I am very very determined that we are going to do this. I have no idea when or how to pay for it.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Depression is...

I saw this on Mumsnet today, and it struck a chord with me, so I wanted to share it. According to the poster, it's by Marisse Murphy:


"Depression is humiliating. It turns intelligent, kind people into zombies who can’t wash a dish or change their socks. It affects the ability to think clearly, to feel anything, to ascribe value to your children, your lifelong passions, your relative good fortune. It scoops out your normal healthy ability to cope with bad days and bad news, and replaces it with an unrecognizable sludge that finds no pleasure, no delight, no point in anything outside of bed. You alienate your friends because you can’t comport yourself socially, you risk your job because you can’t concentrate, you live in moderate squalor because you have no energy to stand up, let alone take out the garbage. You become pathetic and you know it. And you have no capacity to stop the downward plunge. You have no perspective, no emotional reserves, no faith that it will get better. So you feel guilty and ashamed of your inability to deal with life like a regular human, which exacerbates the depression and the isolation. If you’ve never been depressed, thank your lucky stars and back off the folks who take a pill so they can make eye contact with the grocery store cashier. No one on earth would choose the nightmare of depression over an averagely turbulent normal life.

It’s not an incapacity to cope with day to day living in the modern world. It’s an incapacity to function. At all. If you and your loved ones have been spared, every blessing to you. If depression has taken root in you or your loved ones, every blessing to you, too. No one chooses it. No one deserves it. It runs in families, it ruins families. You cannot imagine what it takes to feign normalcy, to show up to work, to make a dentist appointment, to pay bills, to walk your dog, to return library books on time, to keep enough toilet paper on hand, when you are exerting most of your capacity on trying not to kill yourself. Depression is real. Just because you’ve never had it doesn’t make it imaginary. Compassion is also real. And a depressed person may cling desperately to it until they are out of the woods and they may remember your compassion for the rest of their lives as a force greater than their depression. Have a heart. Judge not lest ye be judged."



Saturday, 28 July 2012

Low Ebb

I do normally try and celebrate all the joys of being a single parent (I know it may not seem like it) but today, well today is low ebb. And quite frankly, I'm not feeling it today.

I have just got back from taking the boys on holiday for five nights to Germany. We stayed on a fantastically family friendly farm, with one of my friends and her partner and children. By the third day, I was reduced to tears by the constant misbehaviour of my eldest son. Later that night, over a glass (or several) of wine, I confessed to my friend that quite frankly, I wanted to hand him over to his father. It killed me to admit it, I don't think I could ACTUALLY go through with it, but I'm exhausted. Bone bloody tired, and he is wearing what little there is left of my fighting spirit away. I cried again, when she said "I get it - we've always thought it was because he was over excited, or tired etc. But this is your life, every day." The fact that finally, someone whose judgement I really trusted, who spoke honestly to me, said to me: "Yes, your life is really fucking hard. It's not normal, or ordinary, and you are not making a fuss. It's hard," just made me break down.

The end of the week improved a small bit, then we're back at home and I have one, maybe two days of respite before his behaviour flares again. Then my youngest, probably feeling attention starved, plays up too. On top of this, today I spent the best part of £100 on shoes for both of them. That means I need to spend £30 less on food for three weeks to cover the extra expense. I'm only spending £50 max at the moment anyway.

Meanwhile, my ex tells me he has booked a holiday. So far he hasn't responded to my question about whether he now has enough annual leave to cover the rest of the school holidays. Did I mention that while we were away, he forgot we'd gone? He didn't know his own children had left the country. Jesus wept.

So today, in a bloody fury, I pummelled my hand into my kitchen cupboard, and broke down in frustrated tears at what feels like an endless bloody battle at the moment. I know that my mental state is not as steady as it was. I know that my depression makes everything seem harder than it actually is. I know that crying about it isn't going to make it any different. I know that my poor little six year old boy is struggling with his emotions, learning to adapt to one parent and testing his boundaries. But what I want to know is: Will it ever get any bloody easier?

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Clash of the worlds

Hmm, exactly a month since my last post, where I talked about redressing the balance between work and home. Clearly, I've epically failed at that. I am not surprised.

Today I had a classic case of my worlds clashing together, in a way that when I try to explain to people they don't really understand why it makes me so anxious. Today was a huge event at work, in which I've been a central point in planning, organising and pulling off. I had to be at the office at 8am, and I knew I wouldn't get out of there before 4pm. This is my third event at work in three weeks. Meanwhile I also have to do all the other stuff I usually do, and facilitate a re-brand. Does that sound like a lot? Maybe it doesn't, maybe I'm horribly underachieving but the last six months have been exhausting, terrifying, exciting, challenging and a huge learning curve for me. All in 25 hours a week. And all this culminated in today, this final event of the year.

My Mum agreed to meet me at quarter to eight at mine and take the boys to various people for the day. I left for work at quarter to eight. My Mum is quite famous for not understanding why I get so stressed by my children. Last week, on my birthday, she told me the reason my kids get carried away and are so loud and hyped is because I'm 'harrassed' all the time. I frequently get told that when SHE has them, SHE just TELLS them, and they KNOW.

At half eight, as I ran from a marquee to the main hall, carrying chairs, umbrellas, and with seven people asking me questions, my mobile rang. Mum couldn't remember where she was supposed to be taking eldest, and he'd played her up so she was late and she was really sorry but she'd had to tell eldest off quite badly because he was just a NIGHTMARE.

(I had my phone clenched to my ear by my shoulder as I poured squash for 200 children.)

I asked the question: "Mum, what would you like me to do about this now?"
Her: "Nothing, I'm just telling you."

Ha.

Later that afternoon when I picked the boys up (the event went really well by the way, I feel vaguely proud) it turns out she'd told everyone; Mums in the playground, my childminder, that my eldest had been a nightmare and that's why she was late.

Thanks Mum. I am now the working mother who is too busy to deal with her children, who are so bad even their own grandmother won't look after them.

What I find hard about being a working Mum is that the good scales are never even. Either it's working at work, or it's working at home. Sometimes it's failing at both. But I never feel like it's both working.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Getting back in the swing

I've been feeling a bit rocky recently, and trying to figure out why. I think I've now managed to put my finger on it.

Since I graduated from Uni I've put a lot of pressure on myself to get a career off the ground. Then my husband left, and since then I have really been trying to just keep all the balls in the air until some nameless date in the future when I'll feel like it's all come together. I always seem to spend my life waiting for something, and not really appreciating the 'now'.

I've spoken to some of my friends about this, and it seems to be a common problem. As the generation raised to believe we can have everything, we are rarely actually satisfied.

At the moment, my life is pretty good: I have my kids, my home, my health, a job that fits in around my kids and my new relationship is bringing me a lot of happiness. So why do I still keep finding myself feeling so stressed?

I think the problem is that I'm not good at dividing my life equally, and so I feel like I'm short on everything. The weeks seem to disappear: I can get to Friday and realise I haven't heard my eldest read, or practised his spellings with him. I will, however, check my work emails when I get home, only an hour after leaving the office!

So I need to redress the balance. This week, I'm going to attempt some changes:

1. I am not going to check my work emails from home, or do any extra work at home.
2. I am going to put a restriction on screen time for the kids, so I don't rely on the TV to entertain them from getting home till bedtime - we waste too much time in front of screens in this family!
3. I am going to have at least half an hour to myself each day, without the TV or laptop on: I can waste a whole evening on Mumsnet, Facebook and Twitter, and then realise that I've done nothing...
4. I am going to use my time more effectively, try and keep on top of the housework etc, so I don't feel like I have a mountain to climb at the end of the week.

I'll check back in at the end of the week, and let you know if I feel a bit more focused on the important stuff, and less stressed!


Thursday, 7 June 2012

I have a secret to tell you...

... I am still a romantic.

I've always been a romantic - growing up watching eighties movies and reading Sweet Valley High books made me think I'd marry my teenage sweetheart. Unfortunately, I was so desperate for this to happen I managed to hook up with quite a few weirdos in the meantime. But then I did really fall in love and had a healthy happy relationship for ten years. And no, I didn't think it would end how it did and I'm still pretty sad about it, but I don't regret it. I married for love, and I don't think that's something I need to apologise for.

Anyway, I've made quite a lot of noise over the last eighteen months about how I WILL NEVER GET MARRIED AGAIN, EVER. I spent frequent Sunday mornings laughing at Steve Wright's Love Songs show, and in particular making up cruel alternate endings for the people who left dedications. A bit like this:

Radio: "Dear Steve, please will you tell my wife Doris that I lurve her more than anyfink, she is my world. Thanks, Dave."

Me: "Ha! Dave is SO cheating on Doris with Marge from the Co-op. Just sayin'. He is trying to throw her off the scent. Bastard."

I also now watch eighties movies and make snarky remarks about "That's right, you've discovered eyeliner and stopped wearing your hair in a ponytail, now he will DEFINITELY LOVE YOU FOREVER!!! Or until College you dozy high school girl, you!"

As you can see, I am a barrel of laughs to have around. Friends swarm to me on Valentine's Day - honest.

But look, this is all a front. I still believe that you really can meet someone and love them forever. Like in 'Up'. And I'm in that daft just started a new relationship thing, where I think about him all the time, and want to talk to him about everything. I'd love to think that I will feel that way forever, and maybe I will this time. See, even having my heart trampled on hasn't dimmed my romantic hopes.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Three Confessions

1. Boyfriend, I use your shower gel as bubble bath when you're not here. I have not yet used your razor on my legs, but lets face it, it's just a matter of time.

2. Mum, Yes I was upset the other night when you called, I don't actually have a cold. But I still don't want to talk to you about it.

3. Kids, I love you so much. But I cannot WAIT for you to go to your Dad's for a week so that I can catch my breath and tidy the house.


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Financial crisis... ish

Has it really been two weeks since I posted? I'm sorry, that's lazy blogging. Time just seems to be running away with me at the moment. And it's taking all my money with it.

A service and MOT on my car last weekend landed me with a bill of over £500. Thank god for credit cards. But I'm painfully aware that the car, my plans for the garden, and my trip to Germany later this year are hanging heavy over me. I've done some maths and while I can afford these things, I need to be pretty careful with my cash and a bit more sensible when it comes to my shopping habits.

I have a pretty bad relationship with money: My parents are keen savers, and as such we were never given pocket money, or allowed to spend our birthday money on fripperies. I'm sure their plan was to make us appreciate the value of things: Actually all that seems to have happened is that now I'm at last in control of my own finances I have a "I want it; I'll have it" attitude. I've had REAL financial troubles in the past though, and I'm keen not to repeat those. I hope I'm getting to a point of balance.

I hate to turn this into a "Why single parents have it so tough" post, but I do feel the weight of financial responsibility pretty heavily. A colleague at work yesterday told me how her husband had paid off her credit card for her. HA! What a fantasy life that would be!

It's not so much the money - it's the fact I have no one to share the burden with. I believe that's one of the toughest things about being a single parent: I have no one to cry over it all with at the end of a day when I've cancelled the direct debit for the gas so I can pay for the electric (NB - It's not that bad really, not yet anyway).

As part of my economy drive, I'm back to meal planning, shopping online, voucher hunting and generally being thrifty. More veggie meals, more home baking instead of buying snacks and I may even begin darning our socks.

(I have no idea how sock darning is thrifty. Or even how you do it.)

Monday, 30 April 2012

Mythbusting about Single Parents... About time

Just wanted to share this fantastic article from Gingerbread, an amazing charity which does all it can to support single parents in the UK

Luke, I am your father...

Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown (7)

I love this. You can get a whole book of these on Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darth-Vader-Star-Wars-Chronicle/dp/145210655X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335795566&sr=8-1 I hope my ex-husband doesn't read my blog, because I sooo know what we're getting him for fathers' day now!!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Weird conversations you thought you'd never have

My ex and I sat down today and discussed our impending divorce.

I couldn't maintain eye contact with my ex-husband up until about four months ago. The sight of him on my driveway, or in the car made me feel sick to my stomach. My throat would ache with tears that someone who I had loved so completely could now be such a stranger to me. My blood would boil that someone could make me so ANGRY. Every time I spoke to him, I'd go away swearing and cursing his mother for ever having borne him.

That all changed a couple of months ago, when we had to meet and talk about eldest's schooling. We went for a coffee, and it was awkward. Eventually I had to ask him the questions that had been on my mind for over a year: Does he think I still want him back? Does he think we could have made it work, if we'd given it more time or waited? What did I do wrong in our marriage that made him leave? Did he ever really love me in the beginning? Does he ever worry that he won't find anyone else who made him feel the way I did in the beginning?

No. No. Nothing, we grew apart. Yes, completely. Those were his answers.

Also, he told me he had worried that he wouldn't find anyone and feel that connection again - then he had it with someone, he thought it was going to work out, but it didn't.

Somehow that conversation had to happen - I had to get those answers to move past it. I drove away and had a few tears, but on the whole I felt free and light and happy for the first time.

Today was more evidence of how comfortable we've become with each other. We chatted about our new relationships, laughed about our marriage and our divorce, chatted about the kids and how we can make it easier for them. We've reached a point where we can admit that we'll always care for each other, always want the best for each other.

Essentially, no matter how angry everyone else seems to be about the end of my marriage, I'm at peace with it. I'm happy, I know it was for the best, and I wish him well.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

CHOCOLATE

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE

I may have missed it a bit. Nuff said.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Just needed to share...

That I had my last therapy session today (which was a follow up really, rather than a full on therapy session) and have been officially discharged from the service!! My therapist congratulated me on using the tools I've learnt at CBT to combat some of the things that have cropped up over the last three months.

I look back on the last year, and I can't believe how much things have changed - How much I've changed! I think I've earned the right to celebrate. :)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

What do you want?

Someone asked me yesterday: "What are you looking for?" I found it a really tough question to answer. Maybe I'm not sure myself? I don't know if I am looking for something - but I know there's stuff I want. I've been thinking about it ever since, and here are some of the conclusions I've reached:
  • I want to fall in love again, properly and completely and a bit scarily.
  • I want to be loved again, properly and completely and a bit scarily.
  • I want me and my children to stay healthy.
  • I want to travel.
  • I want to learn about stargazing.
  • I want to be able to change a spark plug (Do cars still have spark plugs?)
  • I want to not have to worry about money - I don't mind being thrifty, or saving but I don't want to be plagued by money worries.
  • I want next door's kids and dogs to shut the hell up.
  • I want to walk the Brecons again.
  • I want to see my grandchildren.
  • I want to feel safe.
  • I want to always be able to remember all the words to "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams.
  • I want to not always be thinking about food, or calories.
  • I want to live in France for a bit, and have a push bike with a basket on the front for me to put my baguette from the bakery in.
  • I want my life to be filled with family and friends and laughter and hugs.
  • And beer.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Dear Me,

This is a letter I wrote to myself in the future - in about ten years time, when my boys will be 16 and 14. It was inspired by threads on Mumsnet about teenagers, and how horribly unloveable they can be.

Dear MMM,

I’m writing this letter to you now, because I’m worried that when the boys are teenagers, and they’ve been insulting you or ignoring you all day, you won’t be able to remember these things. So when the eldest has slammed his bedroom door shut for the umpteenth time, or comes home stoned, or leaves a pile of crap in the kitchen for you to wash up, or ALL of the above, read this letter.

When you were 13, you used to go up the woods with a packet of B&H, a lighter, and a can of Charlie red. You lied and sneaked, and thought you were really clever to get away with it.

When you were 16, before you moved out, you once tidied your room by piling a load of stuff into the corner, and putting a blanket over it. You thought that was acceptable.

When you were 15, you stayed out till 3am regularly, without telling your parents where you were, and you didn’t understand why they were so cross. Now, you should know that that anger was really fear.

Just before your sixteenth birthday, you asked your Mum if you could stay at your much older boyfriend’s house, all the while knowing that even if she said no (which she of course did, and rightly so you little tart) you would find a way to stay out even if it meant lying about it.

You did stupid things, like putting tippex on your fingernails and lighting it, and playing about with candles ALL THE TIME, with that incredible arrogant belief that all teenagers have: That bad things happen to other people.

You always stole fags, and you only felt mildly bad about it: Not nearly as bad as you do now.

You never did your own ironing or washing until you left home. And, yeah, Mum hated you touching the kitchen and would have moaned about anything you cooked, but you still should have tried.

You thought you were cleverer than Mum, and you looked down on her because you knew you could argue better than she could. You bragged to your friends that you were more logical than she was. You were a supercilious shit quite regularly.

You lied. All. The. Bloody. Time.

When you argued with Mum or Dad, you went up the woods and cried and felt so terrible about it. Because fighting with the people you love the most is horrible.

Is eldest still in his room? I wonder how he’s feeling.

You should also remember that Mum and Dad weren’t perfect or always right (even though they wanted you to think they were), and that sometimes, all you wanted them to do was admit they might be wrong.

Or you just wanted them to just leave you be, until you came to them.

Or you wanted them to look at you, and see the adult you thought you had become.

I hope these memories help you remember that yes, you really WERE as bad as they are now.

I hope they help you to be patient, and more than anything, I hope that they make you laugh, and stop you from crying in frustration and feeling like you’ve failed the kids.

You haven’t failed them, they’re just figuring out who they are, like you had to. And you didn’t turn out so bad.

(Unless you're reading this in a prison somewhere. Then maybe you did).

Friday, 30 March 2012

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Sorry I've been away readers, I've had a lot of things on my mind lately and blogging hasn't been one of them.

In fact the biggest thing that has been on my mind this week has been my date! Yes, last night I met up with a guy that had messaged me on the dating site I signed up to - www.mumsdatedads.co.uk

Part of my CBT was to look at my automatic negative thoughts and challenge them with evidence. So, for example, my thoughts about the date were:

- He's going to be a weirdo (he must be if he's interested in me)
- It's going to be awkward and we're not going to have anything to say to each other.
- I'm going to totally embarrass myself
- He's actually NOT going to be interested in me, and he's going to leave early.

Even a couple of days ago, I was exhausted by this whole dating thing, and that I was definitely just not ready for it.

I followed my CBT instructions - challenged my thoughts by thinking it's just a date, that I'm good at talking to people I don't know so there's no reason for awkward silences... and it worked.

I've never been on a date - I've just kind of moved from relationship to relationship so never done the dating thing. So when this fella asked if I wanted to go for a drink, I had to do a couple of deep breathing exercises before I said yes!

I've spent all week trying NOT to worry about it, and decided early on I wasn't going to fret too much about what to wear. The text conversation between me and him at times made me worried - thinking he was going to come on too strong, or was looking for something that I wasn't. But (like everyone has been saying to me this week) I told myself it's just a drink and I should just go and enjoy it.

I decided that the most important thing was that I felt comfortable - so I went for jeans and a black tshirt. It sounds a bit tragic but I was really proud of myself that I didn't give in to my usual insecurities and dress up more! That's a big step for me. I was, naturally, ready an hour early and got to the pub 15 minutes early. Some habits are just too built in!

I sat there, waiting for my date to arrive, and had that nervous, tense feeling in my stomach. A couple of times I wondered if I should go through with it, or if I should just text an apology and go home to the cats! But I knew I'd be there early, and I knew I'd panic, so I'd bought a book to read to distract myself. I can tell you, I have no idea what I read. But it did stop me starting the car again.

Said date arrived and we did the awkward talking over each other, embarrassed laugh thing. He said it's his first date for a long time too, which helped because it made me feel more comfortable.

Long story short - I had a really nice time! He was sweet, charming, a total gentleman and we talked for three hours! Drove home with a huge smile on my face and I'm looking forward to seeing him again.

I went on the date (felt the fear and did it anyway!) I had a really good night, met a lovely guy and realised that dating isn't anywhere near as scary as I thought it was.

I know I was lucky to have a great first date experience (and I know from Mumsnet that a lot of people end up with complete crazies through net dating) but also I'm so pleased that I managed my fears, and didn't miss out on a really lovely night because of my irrational fears.




Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kids viruses, talking about hobbies and other stuff...

Well, it looks like the kids are ill again... Last week I dodged taking time off work thanks to ex-husband's handy shift pattern but I'm not sure I'll manage it this time. And it's Parents' Evening tomorrow. Looking like a long day.

So, the internet dating thing, we haven't revisited that for a while. I'm nearly at the end of my time on the site and so far I've met NO men. I am texting a couple of guys, but it's a bit awkward. How do you manage a conversation with someone you've never met? All of a sudden hobbies, interests and tastes in films and TV become very important, because those are the questions you ask. I am suddenly defined by my TV planner. Yikes.

My least favourite text-date type question is: "So what are your hobbies?" because quite frankly, I don't really have any. I watch DVD boxsets (usually quite bad ones, at the moment it's Ghost Whisperer because I've run out of Grey's Anatomy that I can watch legally) and I surf the net. Occasionally I remember to blog. I enjoy cooking, but that's mainly because I like eating. I have made two pairs of earrings so don't think I can claim that I enjoy jewellery making as a hobby.

I'm a bit disturbed by the fact that I don't have an 'activity' that I enjoy. Other people (read: normal people) seem to have a sport that they like to do. I've yet to find a sport I can suffer through enough to call it a hobby. I'm enjoying the challenge of the exercise DVD (yes, I am still doing it) but is it a hobby? Not really.

Other than the fact that in dating terms, that makes me about as interesting as magnolia paint, I'm also concerned by what this says about my quality of life. Essentially, due to the lack of a hobby, I'm filling my days with work, the kids and the house. WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY TIME?! I have no idea!!

This is why number five on the list is so important! I must find an activity that I actually like. And that I can actually maintain. And preferably, one that will mean I meet some new people. Surely it can't be that hard?! Suggestions in the comment box please, folks.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Growing up

Well, the jewellery making kit has arrived!

I must admit, it's a bit smaller than I'd envisaged, but I'm still looking forward to having a go. So far I've not had time this week - I've been really busy.

I'm a creature of habit and I love patterns and routines in my day. For example, morning routine goes; shower, dressed and ready, breakfast for the kids while I make lunches, get the kids ready, washing up and set off for work. I get very upset if anything interrupts me - In fact, I refuse to answer the phone during the morning routine.

As part of my plan for this year, I want to lose two or three stone. I'm following the Weight Watchers plan (after Slimming World and it's denial of bread proved too tough to handle) and I'm also trying to factor exercise into my lifestyle. Weight Watchers seems to be working for me because I love the routine of how many points I have, what I can eat and just doing the totals in my head. I'm feeling motivated for the first time in ages - I hope I can stick it out this time!

To speed the weight loss (and increase my general quality of life) I'm also trying to enjoy exercise. I spent my PE lessons coming up with a book called "101 reasons to get you out of PE" and I am still scared of the Sports and Public Services team at work. At the age of nearly 30, I've yet to find a form of exercise I actually enjoy.

So, I followed some Mumsnet recommendations and I'm trying the 30 day shred. Essentially it's a 30 minute high intensity workout. And when I say high intensity, I mean by five minutes in, I'm huffing and puffing and sweating in a rather unattractive fashion.

I'm now on day four, my legs are aching and I'm even more tired than usual. But I have a massive sense of achievement. For me to keep this exercising up is like a personal Mount Everest.

This year is a big learning experience for me - I'm really starting to figure out who I am and what I like. I'm challenging myself, not for anyone else's benefit, just for me. I think that I'm becoming an adult. It's only taken 30 years (and funnily enough, the kids and the marriage didn't speed it up any!)


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Update on The List

So, you all know about the list

I just thought I'd give you a quick update.

Sadly, the rock climbing still has not come to pass. I don't want to ask my Mum to babysit, because she and my Dad are in such a funk lately, and I hate having to rely on other people. Plus, it's an awkward time of day. That's not to say I've written it off completely - I just may find out if I can do a one off taster session instead.

So, that means number five is still undone. But, I think I may have found a solution...

My ex-boyfriend's cousin, who I have a bit of a life crush on (she lives abroad and is beautiful and has amazing tattoos, and a really really interesting blog ) makes gorgeous jewellery and sells it online.

Having spent this weekend trying to find some earrings that I like and that don't cost lots and lots of money, I decided to give jewellery making a go myself. I have happy imaginings of me, listening to cool music on my ipod and fashioning gorgeous creations that my friends ooh and aah over.

(I suspect I'll get bored or cross, or the children will eat my beads. This is why I prefer my imagination.)

So, I've purchased a beginner's jewellery making kit from Ebay - it comes with all the bits and tools, and a book to get me going. I'm actually quite excited about it!

In other list news, I was doing really well on the lose weight front, and then yesterday I ate at Fire and Stone, which is yummy pizza place in Portsmouth. Then I had some cake too. And a glass of wine.

So I had large quantities of my hair cut off, should definitely be a pounds worth.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Low expectations

My eldest son was ill this week. I had a phone call from the school right before a really important meeting at work - he'd thrown up in the office and obviously needed collecting.

I called my ex, and he was off work, so he went to collect him. He also had him the next day so that I didn't need to take any time off.

Does that make me lucky?

A couple of people have said that to me this week - "Oh, that's nice of him." or "You're lucky that he will do that for you."

I don't usually say any of the responses that are running through my mind, I usually just say "Well, he is their father."

Does anyone say to a working Dad, whose wife takes days off work when the kids are sick that he's lucky? Or when she works part time so she can pick up the children after school - is he lucky that she's doing that so he doesn't have to?

In my mind, this is part of a wider problem - we have low expectations of fathers, and even lower expectations for single mothers.

Society expects that a single mother will have troublesome children. It expects that she will be on benefits. It expects that she is responsible for all the 'feral' children (And don't even get me started on that load of claptrap).

No one seems to be expecting anything of the single fathers. (Who, for the record, don't stop being fathers just because they leave the family home.)

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Congratulations HSBC

I got a press release today from HSBC - Because I've not written any magazine or news articles for a while I usually delete them, but this one caught my eye...

HSBC is set to offer all new parents a part-time role at a pro rata salary
and the same level as their original role following maternity or paternity
leave.


The bank will offer returning parents a part-time role equivalent to at
least two and a half days a week in a bid to help their employees balance
the demands of family life with their career development. Under UK
employment law there is no obligation on employers to provide part-time
work although every parent is entitled to request it.

It's not usual that I congratulate a bank but this impressed me. I'm fairly sure there will be a lot of contractual clap trap which means this isn't going to work for everyone (after all, it's a bank, and I'm a cynic) but at least it's a step in the right direction.

I'm lucky enough to have a part time job, doing what I love and what I'm trained in, but I do know my chances of progression in another role would be small while I still have to leave at 3pm every day.

Working part time doesn't mean other people have to take up 'the slack' at work to cover for me. It just means I have to be twice as productive and work even harder than I ever did when I worked full time. I work harder, and at a higher level since having children - nothing taught me about multi-tasking like changing a nappy one handed in the dark.

So well done to HSBC from me!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Sundays are my nemesis

Do any other single parents feel this way?

When I was married, Sundays were my favourite day of the week. Lazy morning followed by a long walk with the dog and a roast dinner at about mid afternoon. Then we'd all fall asleep in front of a rubbish film, and I would feel so content.

Now, Sundays are about grim survival. The boys have swimming lessons at 10am, which means I sit in a room full of other Mums, and a few Dads. This room is tiny. None of these adults ever thinks of getting out a chair for anyone else, or that sitting smack bang in the middle of the room so that we have to ask them to move to get to available chairs, might possibly be a bit inconsiderate.

Getting both kids out of the pool, away from the overcrowded showers full of precious Sebastians who cannot possibly get changed without shampooing and conditioning the whole two inches of hair they have, is a mission. My four year old is obsessed with having a shower at swimming. At home, if I put the shower on he screams the house down. At swimming, he screams when I tell him he can't have a shower. Give me strength.

So I manhandle screaming four year old back to the overcrowded changing rooms. Attempt to dry and talc both boys as quickly as humanly possible and wrestle them into their clothes. On a weekday, it takes my six year old 45 minutes to get dressed for school, so leaving him to it is not option if I want to be home in time for the Eastenders omnibus. My teeth are already on edge from having sat through an hour of listening to all the other parents moan about the school not enforcing veganism, or something.

We get to the car (usually running, through pouring rain) and the whole day stretches out in front of me like a Maths A-Level. If the weather's nice, we can go for a walk, or the park or just anywhere. If it's raining, like today, we are on enforced home detention, because I can't afford the small mortgage downpayment that constitutes an hour's soft play.

We usually end up going to see my parents, but recent history tells me this is an exercise in having all my enthusiasm quashed for anything, ever. It also means I feel that the kids are annoying everyone, and go home feeling even more sorry for myself.

Today, because I am holding it together by a thread we've come home and they're watching Dr Who on DVD in the lounge, while I chicken out in the kitchen and try not to cry. I want to cry because I feel like a crap parent, that I can't even bear the thought of one whole day at home with the children. I thought I was supposed to enjoy this bit? It all feels like an uphill slog, right now.

So, I am going to make myself a cup of tea and possibly a bacon sandwich. I'm going to have those, then go upstairs and do some ironing for two hours, while the kids are down here. Then this afternoon I'm going to teach the eldest to play draughts, and maybe do some Lego.

This is how I survive Sundays - by having a plan to fill the void.

P.S So far online dating is making me think I will be single forever, unless I want to settle down with a 53 year old tractor enthusiast called Nigel from Leicestershire.

On a lighter note, the book is quite good.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

I may be some time...

As I am reading a book, in an attempt to develop the amount of time I spend at home, not on the internet.

I'm a cyber addict, and while that has it's bonuses, it's making me really dull, insular and a bit of a navel gazer.

I took a trip to the charity shop today and spent six quid on five books, all of which I genuinely want to read. The list is:

1. A tiny bit marvellous by Dawn French
2. Atonement (that famous one)
3. The No1 ladies detective agency
4. The Slap
5. Chocolat

Voila. I started the Dawn French one today and shall report back.

Friday, 2 March 2012

So, what was I thinking there, then?

Crap bags.

I have signed up to an online dating site. I decided to have a go and just see how it turns out. Nothing to lose etc. So far (and it's been about 8 hours) it's mainly made me realise that I am completely and utterly not ready to date!

I've never actually dated, at all, not ever. I always got into relationships with people who I met through friends etc, got to know them a bit and have never actually done the whole "So, what kind of music do you like? What do you do for a living?" kind of questions.

I'm feeling very wobbly. So wobbly, in fact, that I promptly called to cancel my membership, so I only have to be on the site for a month.

(Of course if I meet my soulmate on there, I will be retracting said cancellation, toute suite!)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Climb every mountain

Number 5 on my list of 12 things to do was to get a hobby. As I said in my original post, I’ve been considering rock climbing.

Most, if not all, of my happiest memories as a child usually feature me in a tree. I was still climbing trees at 14 and 15, even if on some occasions it was simply because it was the best place to have a crafty fag. I really loved climbing, I loved being in the trees and experiencing the height. My best friend and I would climb anything we could – holidays to Wales and day trips to the Dorset coast saw us scaling craggy cliffs and caves in shorts and t-shirts. We loved it.

Because, other than reading, I have struggled through most of my adult life to find something I really enjoy, I decided when coming up with a hobby idea to go right back to my childhood and climbing was the obvious choice.

The main problem with that, is I’m a damn sight heavier than I was at 15, so I think trees are pretty much out. Most people suggested that Calshot would be the nearest place with a climbing wall.

However, a quick Google later and I discovered this place. I sent an enquiry through the website and they have been very helpful and encouraging – acknowledging that I’d confessed to being a complete beginner, and mentioning that their beginners courses would be filled with sociable folk who will all be in the same boat.

So, on the 7th April, I’m hoping to begin my wall climbing adventure. A three session beginners course is just under £50. I'm really hoping that the fact I have to pay for it means I won’t wimp out and not go when the big day arrives.

I’ve also struggled to fit it in around the kids – had to ask Mum to babysit, which prompted the question of Why, which prompted a “What do you want to do that for, then?” conversation. Can you hear me rolling my eyes? Fairly sure my mother could.

I am really excited though. Even if I’m bloody terrible at it (and I probably will be) it’s nice to break out of my usual routine and challenge myself. Cant remember the last time I did that for fun…

Monday, 27 February 2012

Depression, revisited

Usually, it creeps in. I notice that I’m struggling to laugh at things I’d normally find funny, or that I want to be alone a bit more. I start to sleep more, I can’t seem to get interested in TV. I recognise that I become listless and I can’t focus on anything – even things that would normally have me totally gripped. I eat more, and I make bad choices about what I am eating – I just want chocolate, because I know it’ll give me a quick high. And I can’t have just one bar, I have to have ten.

Everything starts to irritate me. Things that normally I could shrug off, or laugh about, make me furious. The kids, (Goddess love them), make me crazy. I shout and get cross at them and really expect far too much of them.

Then the sadness sets in – I get sad because I’m being unreasonable with the children but I can’t seem to stop it. I feel guilty because I can’t bring myself to go anywhere with them, and if I do, then I feel guilty because I was cross and ruined it for them, or because I didn’t enjoy it.

I start to think that the world is a horrible place, and what’s the point, really? This can be kicked off by something as small as a couple of people not giving way on the road when they should, or today, a guy who didn’t use his indicators once in a three mile journey on local roads. He was also really slow. But, Christ, if everyone is like that, just so freaking oblivious to other people, who just don’t do what they should do, then what’s the freaking point? The world’s just full of horrible, money grabbing, selfish people.

See that sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it? But honest to God, the lack of indication on a roundabout can set off that train of thought, and send me into a spiral.

I come home, put the kids in the bath, and sit on my bed with my throat aching with tears I can’t bloody cry. They just won’t come. I WANT to cry, because I think that might make it all feel a bit better, but no.

The radio goes off in the morning and I lay there, and every song reminds me of the bad times in my life: my sister dying, my husband leaving. Or I lay there thinking that I’m a really bad person, because I don’t want to get out of bed today.

I do the school run, and compare myself to all the other mums, and find myself lacking. My shoes aren’t right, you know. Oh, that mum met up with that one over the weekend did they? How come I never get invited? Oh yeah, it must be because they know what I’m like, really.

I go to work, and what the hell is the point in that? My job is never going to be finished, and it’s never going to be good enough. I’ll just be back doing the same thing again tomorrow. Why? Really, WHY?

I come home, and I can’t face the kids, I just can’t. So I tell them to watch TV while I hide in the kitchen, and my throat is aching again, but what can I do?

They go to bed, and I realise I haven’t read with them, or practised spellings or sums, bloody hell, I can’t even look after them. I really AM a terrible mum. They’re going to grow up and remember all this like a black cloud over their childhood. They deserve better.

I’m so tired, the TV doesn’t hold my attention, so I go to bed. Sleep is a gorgeous release, until I snap awake at 4am, and the fear grips me that I’ll feel this way forever, and end up alone because of it.

And the whole pattern starts again the next day.

That’s how depression is for me.

I used to believe that depression was an excuse, a weakness. Now I know it’s a horrible, debilitating ILLNESS which comes into your life uninvited and tramples all over it, a self feeding monster. It shouldn’t be trivialised, it shouldn’t be seen as something that happens to other people. It needs to be recognised as an illness, so people with it can know it CAN be treated, to prevent that 4am fear.

I also want to link to this amazing blog post about depression, in case anyone wants to read anything else about it.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

History

For the last week or so, I've felt depression nipping at my heels, watching me around corners and just generally rearing its ugly head.

I first sought help for my depression last year, six months after my husband and I split, and not long after I was told I was being made redundant. The day I accepted I needed help, the clutch went on my car and I had to get the train to work, with a reluctant three year old in tow. I sat at my desk once I'd dropped him at nursery, and burst into tears when someone asked "How are you?"

I made an appointment, and went to the doctors. It took me a week to get an appointment, and by the time I was actually on my way to see her, I felt a lot more upbeat - my car was fixed, at least. I was actually afraid I'd just grin like a loon and say "Why yes, I think I'm depressed, ho ho ho!"

Actually the conversation went more like this:

>In I stroll, mahoosive smile on my face, stupidly nervous and scared<
Dr : "Hello, come in."
Me: "Oh, thank you. >ahem<"
Dr: "So what seems to be the problem?"
Me: "Well, I'm probably being pathetic, but basically, I've lost my job >voice breaks< and my husband's left >seriously wobbly now< and I don't really like my children very much."

Full on wailing.

She had to give me tissues. I NEVER cry, especially not in front of people I don't know. I kept trying to stop crying, because I was embarrassed, but that just made me cry even more.

My doctor told me she wasn't surprised I was finding things tough, and referred to an amazing service called iTalk, where I had CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) for seven weeks over the phone, and then ten weeks of face to face sessions before I felt that I could fly solo. I'm due to meet with my therapist next month and talk about how I'm using the strategies I've learnt at therapy, and generally how I'm feeling. Then, if I'm ready, I will be fully discharged.

I will undoubtedly talk more about my depression and those strategies I learnt in other blog posts - but this one is just about how, after a good two months of feeling on top of the bloody world, Im having a wobble.

What therapy taught me is to identify why I'm feeling this way: Well, I recently ended a relationship, and I'm still waiting to find out what's happening with my job as of next year, so that's probably attributing to it, even if, I largely feel positive about these things.

But what I've been feeling over the last week, is a sense of not belonging. I met up with old friends last weekend, which was great. It was so good to see people, see how they're getting on. But almost all of them don't have children, and are fully enjoying the benefits of being single and having a disposable income (remember those, parent readers?)

I couldn't help feeling on the outskirts of them - I was convinced that they were sure that because I had been married, and had kids, we had no common ground. Which made me really sad, because actually I'm a lot more than an ex wife and a mother. I'm also someone who likes to sing, and talk politics, and debate and argue and laugh, a lot. But somehow, it was a bit awkward. Probably because of my pre-conceived assumption that they would be awkward with me.

See, that's something I had to get past in therapy - (stay with me here, this gets a bit complicated) That I assume I know what people think of me, I assume that people are judging me, and I assume that they will always find me lacking. Therefore I automatically become a bit shy, a bit awkward, and don't know how to talk to people. I either behave like a bit of a bitch and make nasty (but on the whole, vaguely amusing) comments or I just get tongue tied, and can't really think of anything to say. My whole head literally fills with "Oooh, I bet she's thinking you're looking fat. And I bet he thinks you're boring and ugly. And THEY don't even want to talk to you cause they've got NO idea what to say to you cause your life is so SUBURBAN."

In therapy, I was told to challenge those automatic thoughts, which I've actually got quite good at. But I haven't practised it in a huge social situation before, with people who have known me for 15 years. It was really, really hard, and I came away feeling sad and pathetic.

So then I spent some time with people I know with kids. Wow, they're all really very married aren't they? And, pretty much all of them have money, and cars, and nice clothes. So, I came away thinking they were pitying me, and again, didn't really know what to say to me.

In the end, today I went to see my parents - HA! Yeah, I love them a whole bunch, but that's really not home anymore.

So here I am, at the end of a really rough week, and I'm going to put the kids to bed in a minute, and then have a bath, a hot chocolate, and watch a DVD like I do every other night. And I'm feeling a bit lonely, and sad. I'm not sure where I fit anymore. I'm too single for the committeds, I'm too committed for the singles.

This is very self indulgent. I'm assuming a lot, and feeling a bit (read: a LOT) sorry for myself. Reading it back, helps me realise that I'm being OTT, black and white, making assumptions - all those things I am trying not to be, thanks to my CBT. In fact, I can already see that I need to cut myself some slack.

Hey, if you read this, you were just part of a CBT exercise. Cool, huh? :)

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Memory lane

I was organising my blogs last night, the equivalent of a blog spring clean if you will, and found this. It was really nice to read it again, and refresh my memory. Made me a bit wistful, a bit sad, and a bit proud of how far I've come:

I have a lot of things to blog about today. So brace yourselves.

1. Tomorrow is results day. (I think - there's been some dissention - it might be the 16th instead) I finally find out what the last four years have amounted to in academic stakes. It's touch and go - either a low first or a high 2:1. People keep telling me that either way it's a fantastic grade, especially when you consider I'm not your average student. The truth is though, I want that first. Last year it was totally do-able, I got firsts in all my units except one, if I remember correctly. But this year I got a bit lazy, a lot distracted, and stopped pushing myself quite so hard.
I could cut myself some slack. And look at my children and tell myself that I had a lot on this year. But actually that would be complete rubbish. If I had sorted myself out, and worked harder, I wouldn't be feeling quite so anxious now. I only have myself to blame, and there are no excuses. If I do get a 2:1, I will forever think I could have done better.
Or will I? I know I don't care as much about my GCSE grades now as I did then, nor my A-level results. I am prouder of my A-level results: Going back to education was a huge deal for me, and I'm proud of how much harder I worked at evening classes than I did at sixth form. It reminded me that I can do it, that I am relatively bright, and pretty academic.
So this degree... Parts of it were hard. But not as hard as I'd anticipated a degree being, to be fair. Only on a few occasions did I get confused by abstract thinking. I have learnt a lot - especially about politics. And I love the fact that I now understand the British political system and can talk about current affairs with some confidence. My writing is different - neater, sharper and cleaner (although I still love my commas and exclamation marks) and I know how to find sources, case studies and experts.
My degree's given me a job I can do from home - I won't get rich at it, but I enjoy it (most of the time) and feel like one day I will feel like a real freelance journo as opposed to someone playing at it.
- Slight aside - I sent off some more freelance work today, and wonder if I will ever send work away and not feel a bit sick about whether I've got it right or not?
My degree has given me some really great friends - people who I hope I will stay in touch with forever. It's also introduced me to some people who, if I ever see on an interview panel, will make me run screaming from the building.
It has changed me. It's nearly cost me my marriage (although the degree is not solely to blame for that one - we need to spend more time remembering who we are, aside from Mum and Dad, PC and Journo). It's made me review my choices, my expectations and my standards. It's made me feel middle class (horrifying) and a bit clever.
So, I guess whether it's a 2:1 or a first is a bit irrelevant really in the grand scheme of things. Hopefully in five years, I won't care.

On another topic entirely, here I am in full on Stay At Home Mum mode. So far, I can say I haven't settled into it too well. I've forgotten how to play, how much cleaning to do and I'm thinking I should make a star chart at some point. I miss the routine of uni - knowing where I was going to be, having a framework to build the week around. At the moment it's too easy to spend all day watching TV cos it keeps everybody quiet and entertained. (Although right now it's Deal or No Deal, GOD the people on this wind me up...)

Freelancing seems to be the worst of both worlds - I'm stressing about deadlines and having to conduct phone interviews while using my foot to gesture for silence to the kids. Plus trying to remember when husband is working a night shift or a late or a day... It feels pressured. I'm not proud to say that I'm fantasising about an office job just to get me out of the house on a regular basis, some adult conversation.

I'm pretty sure I was good at this two or three years ago. I was never going to win Mum of the Year, but I wasn't so tense, so aware of my mistakes. I relaxed into it. Days didn't feel wasted. I know that sounds shocking, but that is how I see it. I'm not working towards something for the first time in a long time, and I'm struggling with the change of pace.

I feel like I'm waiting, holding my breath and just hanging on... until IJ starts school. Until Alex starts playschool. Until we move. Or until I find a job.

Or maybe just until results day.

Friday, 24 February 2012

12 things in 2012

So, I’m thirty this year.

I’m fine with that.

>This is my mantra<

No honestly, I’m fine with thirty. I’ve got my lovely children, so no biological clock issues for me. I’m not desperately seeking a relationship because I’m quite looking forward to some time on my own. I’m happy in my professional life; so thirty doesn’t seem so daunting.

In fact, this feels like my year. I am really excited about what opportunities are out there for me.

With that in mind, I wrote a list a few weeks ago of 12 things to do in 2012, as I’m out of time to do 30 things before I turn 30. So I thought I’d share it with you, and I’m going to be one of those boring people who blogs about what they experience as they try these 12 things blah blah etc etc.

12 things in 2012

1. Get a new tattoo (I actually knew this would be an easy one, as I’d already booked the appointment when I wrote the list. But it’s so nice to start writing a list and ticking something off straight away!)

2. Go kayaking

3. Pitch a freelance article, and actually get it published.

4. Sing on a stage

5. Find a hobby (At the moment I’m contemplating rock climbing).

6. Visit a country I’ve never been to before.

7. Drink more (juice or water, not alcohol or tea. At the moment I average two cups of tea and one coffee a day. Not enough!)

8. Walk from Bishopstoke to Winchester along the river again, like I used to with Dad.

9. Read a classic novel.

10. Lose three stone.

11. See a Shakespeare play (actually on the stage. Movies don’t count!)

12. Take the kids to the Isle of Wight. It’s madness they haven’t been already!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Why my parents amaze me...

I graduated on the 3rd of November 2010, having worked my backside off to get a first class honours degree in Journalism. (Sorry, did that sound smug? I am smug, that first took a lot.) Having gone to the ceremony with my husband, children and Mum, my Dad rang me on my mobile (unheard of!) to congratulate me (also unheard of!) I can remember exactly what he said “Well done, I’m proud of you. You really seem to be on your way – two smashing boys, a degree, a new job and a pretty good marriage. Well done.”

Two weeks later I was crying in their living room as I had to tell them that my marriage was over.

Growing up, my parents never hid their opinion of single mums. As a young child, I definitely assumed that single mums were “bad”. Divorce was not the norm, and somehow women without their children’s Dad were somehow less than we were.

As an arrogant teenager I would challenge my parents’ views. Conversations would go like this:

Me: “so-and-so’s mum is really cool. We were talking about X and she said Y”

Mum: >Sniff< “Well, she’s a single mother, isn’t she?”

Me: “So? What’s that got to do with anything?”

Mum: “Well… What’s she got to brag about?”

Me: “Argh. You’re so old fashioned. And hard.”

Hard would definitely be my word of choice – quick to judge, and with no thought as to what may have happened for so-and-so’s mum to become single. Not that one reason is really more worthy than another. I struggle to believe anyone becomes a single parent for the larks.

My Dad’s attitude, when challenged about why they never mentioned the fathers who left these families, just the mothers, was: “Well she picked him, didn’t she? What does it say about her?”

With these memories ringing in my ears, I had to tell my parents that it was over – that I had become what they had never wanted for me: A single mum, working full time.

I was shaking when I walked into their lounge.

My Dad tried to get me into marriage counselling, was furious at the ex-husband. He was neglecting his responsibilities apparently. I tried, in vain, to explain that this was an equal split. My Dad was horribly biased. Naturally, it was all ex-husband’s fault, I was blameless. He still sees things that way, and I never stop correcting him, to no avail.

Mum, who had always seemed to delight in other people’s misery, turned to “It’s no one else’s business, is it? It’s just one of those things.”

How times change. How my parents must love me, to take such an about face on their frightening right wing views. They have their faults, but I can do nothing but love and admire them for their support. This is unconditional love – something I had never felt I had from them. I was so wrong. I only hope that when my kids challenge my core beliefs, I can be as strong as they are.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Apologies for my absence..

Yes, sorry - I've been ill. And busy at work, combined with illness and the kids means I like to sleep from about 7.30pm to 7am. Little time for blogging.

Today I got to venture back into my comfort zone for a bit. Someone came to me about a news story at work, and I had to grab my camera, dash off and meet people I didn't know, and then find out all about them. I also got to advise some students about how to write a press release.

It's been ages since I got to think about whether something was newsworthy, or how your third paragraph should always be a quote. I walked back to my office and caught myself planning my opening para. I felt that excitement at what words to use, how to best structure a sentence. Advising the students felt fantastic (I like nothing better than to be seen as knowledgeable).

A couple of weeks ago I indulged in some wine (as I often do) and wrote a list of 12 things for 2012, because it's too late for me to do 30 things before I'm 30. Number 3 on the list is to pitch a freelance article, and get it published.

I've been published before, I've been told I have the makings of a good journalist, so it's about time I took hold of my destiny and stopped wimping out. Which is exactly what I am doing - I'm so scared my stuff isn't good enough, I daren't even try.

But today I remembered that I love it. And sometimes you have to do something just because you love it, not because it's taking you anywhere.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Baking... and other half term madness

Every time a school holiday rolls around, I think "Hmmm, we should do some baking."

I have no idea why this idea occurs to me every time. I don't have any happy memories of baking with my mother. Mainly she would scream at me that I was sifting the flour wrong, or sigh about the mess, and generally the whole thing was a stressful experience. By the age of about 10, I realised the most sensible option was to read a Sweet Valley High book in my room and come down when things smelt nice for taste testing. It was an effective strategy.

So today I decided that as I don't want to have to go out anywhere due to midnight wakings because of a certain toddler climbing into my bed and snoring in my ear for a few hours, we would bake. Carrot cake muffins and welsh griddle cakes, both Weight Watchers recipes so I can feel a bit less guilty.

No more than ten seconds in and DS1 has dropped a bag of flour and DS2 is proceeding to try and spoon it back into the bag. I managed to bite my tongue the first time round. I set DS1 the challenge of grating the carrots, but that swiftly proved to be "too hard" (i.e. takes a bit more effort than waving a spoon at the sugar) and whining ensued, so I took that over. More flour spillage.

"Put the bowl on the floor and then sift the flour into the bowl DS1."

"Okay Mummy."

"NO! Not like that!! You're doing it wrong!!"

Eeek. The metamorphosis into my mother is clearly almost complete.

An hour, another bag of flour, several eggs and a stack of washing up as tall as I am later, we have the muffins. They're... interesting looking. They taste OK though. DS2 ate half of one and then wandered off. Thankfully they freeze well apparently, so ten of them are currently wedged between low fat sausages and a weight watchers garlic baguette.

The welsh griddle cakes are more of a success, because the kids walked away as soon as I started singing about us all doing the washing up together, so I got to do those myself. In fact, they're so tasty I've had to put them in a tupperware box on top of a cupboard so I don't scoff the lot...






Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The best bits

There are a few really good benefits for me being a single parent.

Financially I’m better off and because I have control of my money, I can budget effectively and I don’t have to ask anyone’s opinion or permission before I book a holiday.

I have considerably less washing and ironing to do than I used to.

I can cook pretty much whatever I like for tea – including fish and pasta as much as I like (Ex-Husband was really not a fan), or even just soup and fancy bread if me and the kids fancy it.

I don’t have a living room full of wires and consoles, or have to fall asleep to Xbox war noises, or watch really, really dull films about gangsters or ones with people losing limbs and things.

Essentially, I largely get to please myself.

But above all, my absolute favourite thing is the weekends when he has the kids.

I love my children. They’re great fun, and I love taking them out at weekends (swimming lessons not included) or sitting in and building Lego houses.

But… I LOVE being able to stay in bed on a Saturday morning instead of having to leave the house at quarter to nine for martial arts. I love being able to sit and read my book in silence, and actually finish a whole chapter without being interrupted. I love being able to watch grown up telly in the day time. I love meeting my childless friends at the pub for a quick half on a Sunday afternoon. I love being able to just walk out of the house, and not have to organise two other little people.

I know there’s a danger of becoming a martyr parent, and that’s not what I am at all. I made the choice to have my family, and I really love it. But I acknowledge how lucky I am, to be one of the women whose kids’ Dad wants to see them, and the freedom that gives me every so often.

That said, I still can’t wait to get them back after a weekend to myself. Because nothing beats a toddler cuddle in bed on a Sunday morning. Or having a valid excuse to watch Spiderman cartoons.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Incredibly trite things I wish someone had already invented

1. Nail varnish which sticks to the nails, but not the skin. Lo - amazing instant nails!
2. Calorie free chocolate cake.
3. Calorie free cheese.
4. High calorie burning massage.
5. A magic sober up drink which works instantly.
6. A money tree.

Please feel free to add your own, invisible followers...

Monday, 13 February 2012

Soft play, and how times change

Before I had kids, soft play seemed like the most amazing thing, like EVER.

Slides, ball pits and crawly tunnels big enough for adults to play in. How much fun is that?

Then I had kids. I became too old overnight to find the curly wurly slide entertaining, and instead harboured dreams of sipping cappucinos while the children merrily exhausted themselves.

With my first born, trips to soft play were summarised in feelings of guilt and shame, and fear, as I ran round after a slap happy toddler who seemed set on being "that child". When he was small, I was always afraid to leave him in case "bigger boys came", so I would traipse around after him.

Give or take a few years, and he is one of the "bigger boys". Oh the shame.

With my second born, I had all of the above, but I also had to keep him from dashing into the bigger kids area with his older brother, and getting stuck on a rope ladder, or at the top of the big curly wurly slide.

Today, however, we braved the outside and headed for soft play to meet with friends. For the first time ever, I had an enjoyable soft play experience. No one came out bleeding, vomiting or in tears, and both are now big enough to manage the rope ladders and curly wurly slide unaided.

I got to sit and drink coffee and have a good old catch up. It was one of those afternoons where I felt the rare sensation of "Yes, this is what I thought parenthood would be like."

I also came home and the kids fell straight asleep after tea, meaning I now get to relax with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Win win.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

My love affair... with food.

When I moved out of my parents’ house at 17, I had no idea of how to cook. Mum was incapable of letting us doing anything ourselves and making mistakes, so we never really went into the kitchen. I could fry eggs, reheat beans or soup, but had no idea how to cook proper, real food.

I was also really, really poor. Essentially, for about two years, I lived off of roll up cigarettes, chicken roll and mayonnaise sandwiches, and soup. Therefore I was a size 10. But horribly unhealthy – I had chilblains, a constant cough, and terrible, terrible skin.

After about a year, my recipe repertoire involved Shepherds Pie, fry ups, stew and things made with sauce from a jar. And that was about it.

I really started learning how to cook when I fell pregnant with my youngest son. We were poor, really dirt poor, and with a little person to feed, and carrying another one (and also unable to treat hunger pangs with a fag) I needed to eat more than chicken roll and mayonnaise sandwiches.

So I started to watch cookery programmes, and adapted recipes to fit our incredibly limited budget. I could make a vegetable curry for about 50p a portion, and we would eat it for a couple of days at a time. Likewise Spaghetti Bolognaise, pasta in sauce dishes, and anything I could make with a value tin of chopped tomatoes. I could make a chicken feed the three of us for four meals. I have never eaten so well, before or since.

Now that I’m a lot more financially comfortable, I can really go to town with recipes. However, I’m also on a diet. I want to lose two stone before my birthday in July. I cannot be fat and thirty.

I have a total love affair with chorizo, which, if I could, I would eat with just about every meal. I haven’t made a chicken pie for a while because I’m on a diet, but just thinking about rolling out that pastry makes me weak at the knees. As soon as this two stone is off, I will be on a baking frenzy, making banana and honey loaf, chocolate fairy cakes and Victoria sponges to take the sight from your eyes.

Oooh, I’m dribbling a tiny bit. Anyway – currently in my slow cooker is a butternut squash, red lentil and chorizo (yum yum yum) stew. It’s making the whole house smell so delicious… I can’t wait till teatime.

Anyway, as this week is half term, and I’m feeling a bit flush, I’m going to try some new recipes. Things the kids can get involved in and will enjoy making with me.

Tuesday – Slow cooker chilli with nachos and tortilla wraps (the kids love it when there’s loads of plates for them to choose from!)

Wednesday – Chicken and bacon lasagne (A recipe I found online today that sounds lovely)

Thursday – Weightwatchers quiche recipe with salad

Friday – (We’re off to London on Friday. I could pretend I won’t have a cake from a fancy London shop…)