Saturday, 30 August 2014

The most natural thing in the world

Being a mum is the most natural thing in the world. But you don't want to do it too young, so we'll put you on the pill before you have your first serious boyfriend. It'll help with those cramps too.

Being a mum is the most natural thing in the world. But you don't want to mess up your studies, so we'll keep you on the pill, even though you're practising safe sex. It'll help with those cramps too, because the painkillers don't.

Being a mum is the most natural thing in the world. But you don't want to screw up your first proper job, so we'll keep you on the pill, even though you're not in any sort of relationship.  Cramps? You don't have those any more, do you?

Being a mum is the most natural thing in the world. But you don't want a bump on your wedding pictures, do you? We'll keep you on the pill, you wouldn't want to be bleeding on your honeymoon, after all.

Being a mum is the most natural thing in the world. So finally, you come off the pill.  You don't so much have cramps as want to claw your own uterus out with a rusty teaspoon. After missing 3 days work a month for 6 months due to haemorrhaging so badly you pass out, your employers start to lose patience.  But still, every month, without fail, along comes good old Aunt Flo.  Your friends announce their own pregnancies and elderly relatives start asking questions about when you'll follow suit.

You visit the doctor. He gives you painkillers. You become an expert in prescription and over the counter painkillers, their interactions and side effects. You become the person in the office that everyone comes to when they've got a headache as you have a better supply than the local chemist, on the days you're there, anyway.

Image credit

You cry. You go to the doctor and cry some more. Eventually he listens, and refers you to the hospital.  You get your appointment letter, and turn up on time. For a scan. In the ante-natal unit. Surrounded by happy, glowing pregnant women stroking their growing bumps. You cry as they scan your still empty womb.  And you still miss three days of work a month.

The specialist talks you through your options. Someone decides that surgery is the best step. You don't know who, you're too busy holding back the tears.  You go in for surgery. The ward adjoins the maternity ward, and you spend a sleepless night before surgery listening to the cries of other people's newborns, and drift off to sleep somewhere around 5. At 6 you're woken by a nurse with an evil glint in her eye and a single blade razor, who instructs you to have a shower and give yourself the kind of shave usually favoured by porn stars.

After surgery you learn that you're going to spend the next 6 months having a happy fun free trial temporary menopause, to allow your insides to heal. Someone sticks a needle in your bum, and slaps a plaster on your thigh.  You spend three days a month in bed with a migraine. Work remain unimpressed with your attendance.

A friend announces their pregnancy with their second child.  You cry.  That same friend loses their baby during childbirth. You cry again.  You cry for them and their loss. But you also cry for yourself. You're actually jealous. At least they can *get* pregnant in the first place. You hate that you feel this way. You cry because you're a bad person, feeling jealous of someone who has just lost their baby, for goodness sake.

Finally, they stop the injections, the patches, and you're left to nature. And when you're in what the specialist has said is the absolute last chance saloon, a miracle happens.  Somehow you're growing a new life inside you. Work are less than enthusiastic, but they've not seen much of you lately anyway.  Pregnancy is hard, childbirth traumatic. But at the end of it, you're left with the baby you so wanted. Who doesn't come with an instruction manual, and has a new challenge for every day of your life. Who turns your world upside down in ways you hadn't even considered.  Your friend goes on to have more children, and never even knows about your reaction.

Being a mum is the most natural thing in the world. But why did no-one say it would be so hard?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Tiptoe Quietly Through The Forest

We had another little adventure recently, Squeaky and I, along with PirateGirl, MiniMe and their outrageously glamorous MummyMandy took off to Mountain View Ranch, just outside Caerphilly for the day.  Somewhere I'd never even heard of until a couple of days before.  As with many of our adventures, it started out with hurtling down narrow country roads feeling like a rally driver before screeching to a dusty halt in the car park.

Blinging Birdhouse
For somewhere we never even knew existed, it was a definite hit.  The girls took off immediately into the outdoor play area, smeared liberally with sun cream, and spent a very happy hour climbing, swinging and sliding while we caught up with a chat and lots of cries of "higher, faster". We rented a trolley cart to pull along our bags and/or children, possibly the best £2 ever spent, as it seems an hour of playing takes it's toll on little legs, and even a picnic and decorating gingerbread men can't revive those achy feet.

There were three in the trolley, and the little one said...
We pressed on, exploring just part of the ranch's grounds, with the aim of exploring the Fairy Forest. Well, did you think three small girls would be able to resist that?  And truly, it was magical. A clearing in the forest, fairy doors in the trees, a few hidden fairies watching over us, the blingiest birdhouse I've ever seen, and even a grumpy looking frog as guardian of the fairy realm.  We could happily have spent all day in this one section, looking for more evidence of the fairies, and running around the trees.

We finally left the fairies in peace, and headed back to our cars, well and truly exhausted, with plans to return another day.  There's bunnies to be petted, ponies to be groomed, High Ropes & Segway tours for the grown ups (though I'm not sure my balance is really up to either of those), so we'll have to pop back in the autumn to explore some more, as I know there was lots of the site we didn't see.

But for now, I'm away with the fairies, as if you didn't already know.

I'm linking the fairy adventure up with Coombe Mill's Country Kids linky. 
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Disclosure: I paid for our tickets to the Mountain View Ranch myself. I have not been asked to write this review, or offered any compensation for doing so.  All opinions are my own, and links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate schemes and will not receive reward for their use.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Not blogging enough

There are a million posts I should be writing right now. At least 2 reviews, a couple of adventures into the big wide world, and the contents of my head, which are not always a clever place to be. Instead of this, or stripping wallpaper from my living room in advance of decorating next week, I gave consumed Australian Riesling, pork scratchings and pop tarts, and watched Gypsy Weddings USA.

And rather than a real, content heavy post, I've decided to share with you an unedited photo from my phone's memory. I can tell you're filled with joy. Calm down and sip your tea a bit slower.

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago at a vintage concert in our newly reopened town hall. I love the double meaning of it, something I hadn't really seen in the posters of this era before. And no, this mum's not so dumb. Next time, she might even be in period dress.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Life Lessons - Level Crossings

I remember in the dim and distant past of my childhood, amongst the Public Information Films about things like flying kites near pylons and always telling your mummy before you go off somewhere, seeing films about safety at Level Crossings.  Level Crossings themselves are a rarer breed than they were during my childhood, but if news items are anything to go by, there's still a need for education about crossing safely. There's so many videos shared on facebook and YouTube of people risking their lives in near misses on level crossings, and I'm sure in part it's due to their decreasing numbers.  To be honest, thinking really hard, I can only think of 3 I know the locations of; one just outside a holiday camp, one in an oddly busy town centre somewhere on the south coast, and one just up the road outside a local fruit farm.

It was the last of these that Squeaky & I, along with PirateGirl, MiniMe and Mummy Mandy found ourselves last week. We had planned to go fruit picking, but sadly the farm had a bad crop last year & don't do pick your own any more, so instead we had a happy hour sitting in a vineyard drinking coffee & eating ice cream.

It was, however, a good opportunity to teach the girls about Level Crossing safety, and what an opportunity. The crossing is a properly manual one, with gates you have to open and close yourself (and I'm too scared to drive over), and the line is really quite busy, with around 12 trains per hour going through. That meant that there was every chance of a train being due while we were at the crossing, giving the girls a real understanding of the crossing, what to do, and why.  And the trains came through, as if we'd planned it. Standing at the crossing gates, checking the lights, and waiting as they has turned to red, along comes a train, whistling through (ok, honking his diesel horn) while we watched from yards away. And then we waited, as the light stayed red, and a second train passed through in the opposite direction. Once the lights changed to green, the girls behaved beautifully, held our hands and walked quickly and carefully across to the other side where we'd parked our cars.

It's not something I would necessarily have thought about, but the increasing rarity of level crossings means that people are less aware of their correct use, putting them at more risk of injury or death.  Hopefully this impromptu lesson will be one our girls retain for the future.  Is this something you've done with your children?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Astral Cream - When will it take you?

Olfactory memory, scent memory, is an amazing thing.  A single sniff of certain scents can transport you to times and places you wouldn't otherwise have thought of.  With that in mind, I was happy to see when and where Astral moisturiser would take me.

Astral has been around for over 60 years, and while the pot has undergone a little bit of a makeover, the formula remains the same soft and creamy moisturiser it's always been.  With a scent that takes me back to playing supermodels in my childhood friend's kitchen (though I think they were just called "models" back then), caking ourselves in makeup, teetering around in high heels and the kind of early 80's fashion mistakes that no revival is ever going to bring back.  Once we'd finished our show, we were restored to our infant school glory by liberal application of Astral on a cotton wool ball to remove the make up and leave us fresh and moisturised.  The scent lifts me there in seconds, close my eyes and there are 7 year old giggles ringing in my ears.  And I'm sorry to disappoint, but I was young long before digital cameras were readily available, and there are no photos for you to laugh at.  Instead, look at my finger!

I love the little pots, they are so handy for in the car and at work. While the cream doesn't have an SPF, so I wouldn't replace my facial moisturiser with it in the daytime, it's a great product to have around after washing up, running from place to place, or to deal with itchy dry knees and elbows all year round.  Miss Squeaky is away at my folks' for a few days, but I've no doubt when she returns she'll love the idea of a grown-up cream that she can share as well. That's the thing I really like, I'm confident that Astral is safe on her skin, as it's tried and tested through time, and I can maybe give her the same olfactory memory I have of growing up with it.

Would I buy Astral again? Definitely, it's so soft & gentle on my skin, and the smell is so reassuring and calming, just what I need when work is getting too much.

Astral is available from many high street retailers in 50ml (pictured), 200ml and value 500ml sizes.

Disclosure: I was provided with the above pictured products free of charge for the purposes of this review. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own. Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme and will not receive reward for their use.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Through Another's Eyes

We went on a day trip last week with the preschool group Squeaky's been part of over the last while.  Nowhere is more likely to appeal to me than a day at the seaside, particularly in Weston-super-Mare, as I grew up just down the road and spent far too much time there in my not-so-wild and mis-spent youth  And the thought of someone else coming up with an idea for how to fill an entire day of the seemingly endless school holidays is very attractive indeed.

So, onto the coach we climbed, and headed off for our adventures.  Riding the donkeys on the beach (it's the law!), a lovely lunch with my parents (who still live just up the road), a trip on the merry-go-round, and an afternoon in the splash park meant we had a wholesome and fun filled family day out in the sunshine.  It didn't cost us a great deal, just a couple of £s for the rides, and more importantly, it didn't take huge amounts of planning from me.

Our new friend Fred

In fact, Squeaky's very favourite part of the day was climbing onto, and jumping from a large rock in the playground of the splash park.  The local council spent thousands on converting some old wasteground into a fantastic park, and she's more interested in a rock.  Figures.

Rock, obvs

My favourite part, on the other hand, was chatting to some of the other parents on the coach, and hearing what they had to say about Squeaky.

I mean, I know that much like Mary Poppins, she's "Practically Perfect in Every Way", but when you hear from other parents that their children say to them that "Squeaky's a big girl, but she still talks to me, I like her", or that they report back every day on whether she was at the group that day, and are really sad on the days she's not there, it's quite a thing.  (And for full disclosure, as I was writing this longhand in my notebook at the local soft play, when a grandparent came up to me and complemented me on how nicely Squeaky was playing with her much younger granddaughter)

There are times when I worry about her, that she seems shy, or doesn't seem to know how to ask to join in a game with others, and finds herself left on the sidelines.  But really, it seems I have nothing to worry about.

Our day in the Somerset sunshine is linking up with Coombe Mill's Coutry Kids Linky.  
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 8 August 2014

Bonmarché, a real Good Buy

There, a bilingual joke. That's as academic as this blog is ever likely to get.  Well, you certainly didn't come here to read my so-called comedy, so on with the post.  I was honoured, yep actually honoured to be invited to the official opening of Bonmarché's brand spanking new Cardiff store last week, in the presence of gorgeous bloggers JoKate, and genuine real life celebrity in the form of David Emanuel.

With David Emanuel (and Peter Rabbit!)
If you haven't visited Bonmarché for a while, you might not know that David Emanuel, famous for designing Princess Diana's wedding dress, has teamed up with the store to create gorgeous and affordable clothes for each season. And who can resist the glamour of a designer name tag?  In fact, in a very strange coincidence, the day that my invitation arrived, I was wearing a top from one of David's previous Bonmarché collections.
So, it was clearly meant to be.  Squeaky and I bowled up to the store, just a little bit late because school holidays = chaos, and were greeted by a veritable crowd of people waiting to brush shoulders with fame, and get their hands on the latest collection.

A few of the pretties that caught my eye
Now, despite saying above that I've already got a few items from Bonmarché, I'll be honest and say that in my head I was expecting a mixture of basics and pastel cardies.  My auntie has a Bonmarché loyalty card for goodness sake.  However, I couldn't have been more wrong. Beautiful jewel brights, co-ordinating outfits and accessories, and fab wide leg trousers that are a million miles from the pension book crew.  Honestly, whatever you were thinking, forget it.  The store feels far more upmarket than I ever expected, with chandeliers & silver dressing tables, it seemed perfectly in keeping with the St David's centre, which has undergone a real swishing up in recent years & is home to a great selection of big names (and some equally big price tags!)

Boutique stylings
We were each invited to put an outfit together, and took off to the changing rooms in a whirl of giggles and cameras, much to the confusion of other shoppers. Apparently "it's ok, I'm a blogger" only goes so far in the real world.  But we did our thing anyway.  And I channelled my inner Toddlers & Tiaras and hammed it up for the camera, because, well, why not?

Don't laugh. Please.
We've got a branch of Bonmarché in my local town centre, though I'm not sure it's got the full range that I saw in Cardiff, I'll definitely be popping in.  Especially now I've got my own loyalty card - they're not just for aunties any more!

Disclosure: I was invited to this opening event and gifted with an item of my choice from the store's range in return for my honest review. I was not told what to write and all opinions are my own.  Links are provided for convenience only, I am not a member of any affiliate scheme and will; not receive reward for their use.