Why I won’t be having a party for my 40th

When a friend posted on Facebook about her birthday, asking friends whether she should party or cry, I began to think of my own impending big 4 – 0 at the end of this year. Party or cry? Which would I do?

How do I actually feel about turning 40? I think on a subconscious level, I’m not too happy about it. There’s this big thing about turning 40; a big taboo that says once you turn 40, you’re officially OLD. Your youth is behind you and you’re in that realm of being past your best. Your body is getting tired, and it’s beginning to slow down and not work quite as effectively as it should. I think a lot of this thinking stems from the unavoidable female CHANGE that we all must go through at some point, some earlier; some later than others. It’s the end of an era, the end of your ‘womanhood’ as you know it.

But think back to when you were only just a teenager, before puberty. Were you any less of a girl? Did you not have the latest crush pinned to your bedroom wall, or write and swoon about THAT dreamy boy in school who never looked twice at you?

Self-Development

I’m a big fan of self-help books; of the ones that focus on developing the self. Recent additions to my read-books (yes, I’ve actually started to FINISH reading books again!) collection include The Miracle Morning by Hal Erod, which promotes the fact that we can achieve so much more each day by rising early and with PURPOSE and passion for the day ahead (as opposed to repeatedly hitting the snooze button and delving further under the duvet); and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. One of my favourite aspects of this book is the concept that you can’t find true happiness without sacrificing what you want NOW for what you want LATER. For example; I want to be a bestselling author. But it’s not going to happen overnight. I need to work on, and hone my craft. I cannot stop working on developing my skills and improving myself, because I won’t become a bestselling author without all that hard work. The point is, we need to keep our end sights in goal and continually work towards that end goal. We live in an instant gratification society and want material items and results NOW, but the truth is we can’t have them without putting the work in first. You want the latest iPad? You’re going to have to earn the money to pay for it first. And that’s a much better feeling than paying for it with credit and then living with that nagging guilt that you now have a debt to pay off hanging over your head, because you WORKED for it.

A new era

I’ve recently gone back to work full time, which means certain things are having to be put on hold while I settle into a routine of juggling full-time work, motherhood, and everything else that comes with running a house and managing the lives of small people. But for me, it’s a period of self-development, of self-discovery after 6 years of being out of the workplace. Much has changed, but then much hasn’t. As a person, I have changed. I’m a mother now, and my life isn’t just about me anymore. I go to work, and yet I have to consider the small people either side of the work day. I can’t simply go into work early, or stay late. These things have to be carefully planned, like everything else in life.

But, returning to work after a period of full-time motherhood and focusing primarily on the children is like a period of rebirth. Much like when I went back to work for the first time after 6 months of chemo, it’s like starting work for the first time. It’s a chance at a new beginning; a new era of your life.

Failing at life

My twenties were a whirlwind of unfulfilling jobs, of failed relationships after failed relationship, of death and grief and losing loved ones, and a huge life-wake-up call of being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. It made me question why I was the person I was. Why did bad things always happen to me? Why did life keep failing me? In fact, I had been failing at life. I had no clear vision of my own values, and no self-worth. I didn’t realise that I was deserving of great things, and that it was within my own power to make my life great, until I was faced with that ugly word; CANCER. It’s a word I associate with death and decay, a disease that feeds off negativity. But that diagnosis forced me to stop. My body was sending me a very clear message: STOP. Slow down. Stop the self-neglect and PAY ATTENTION. Cherish your body, and nurture your soul. Much like cultivating a garden, I needed the right levels of nutrition, plenty of water, the right amount of light, and the right position to flourish. There are few plants you can leave on their own in the wrong conditions, and expect them to live without care and attention, and I’m grateful for that life-changing grenade which forced me to take stock, pick up the pieces, rebuild and change my direction and perception forever.

Learning curve

My late twenties/early thirties were a learning curve of marriage and motherhood. I gave up work at the age of 32 to focus on being a full-time mother, and went on to have two more babies, one of whom we heartbreakingly lost at 27 weeks. Dear Poppy was born prematurely through illness, and survived just 40 minutes while they attempted to resuscitate her. But she had foetal hydrops, and there was no way on this earth they could inflate her water-logged lungs. The kind of grief a mother goes through is one that can not compare to any other. You pine for your missing baby. Your body knows you’ve given birth, and so your milk comes in. You desperately want to feed her, to hold her, to comfort her. But your body doesn’t know that your baby isn’t there to lap up the nourishment, to grow and flourish from the liquid gold it is ready and waiting to deliver. You feel as though a part of you is missing. But slowly, over time, the pain lessens. It never goes away, and bringing it to the surface HURTS. So I don’t think about it. And I don’t think about having had cancer. I don’t dwell on the fact my dearly missed dad and step-dad are no longer here, missing out on their granddaughters who will never meet them. Or my dearly missed grandparents who I can no longer just pop in to see when I feel like it.

I don’t think about these things, because I always look to the future. I always look to what’s next, not what’s behind me.

Riding the rollercoaster

Life is one big rollercoaster and you can choose terror, or exhilaration. Which is why I’m not having a party for my 40th. I’m going to do something exhilarating instead. Maybe not quite a bungee-jump or parachuting out of an aeroplane (I’m not as crazy as my husband – and I have kids). Maybe a half-marathon. Or a trip to Niagara Falls. Something INCREDIBLE.

Because we only have one life. And we only have one chance to enjoy it. Turning 40 doesn’t mean the end of your youth. It means maturity and understanding. It means beginning. And it means new adventures.

It’s my life, and I dare to dream… Then live it. ❤️

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Will you make it through half-term?

The October half-term holiday.

That came around quicker than most of us expected, and if you’re like me, you probably haven’t made any solid plans yet. When it comes to work, planning is something I’m on top of. And yet when it comes to family life, we kind of fly by the seat of our pants. Well, you have to, don’t you? Who knows what’s going to crop up during the course of a day, or a week.

You could plan your days and weeks as meticulously as you dare, but it’s unlikely to stick.

But still, when it comes to the holidays, you find yourself wishing you’d set up a more solid plan and had a few days out tucked up your sleeve.

So, here’s a plan.

#WikiVentures!!

Are you on Instagram? If you are, you might be familiar with the various challenges you see crop up in your feed.

When Wiki Places For Kids mentioned a parenting/half-term holiday challenge to me and suggested that parents set their own challenge, I wanted to share this idea with all the other parents I know to join in the fun.

It’s a simple concept. Make memories, not stress.

To make your half-term holiday one to remember, rather than one fuelled with hair-pulling (that’s you, not the kids). A holiday to help you enjoy your children and cherish the short time you have with them. The short time before they morph into unresponsive teens independent young adults who want to do their own thing, and think parents are embarrassing (sadly, it happens).

5 themes. 5 days. 5 challenges

  • Indoor Play
  • Forest walk
  • Park time
  • Animals
  • Culture

They can be anything.

Indoor play doesn’t have to be expensive soft-play. It might just feature den-building indoors with some cushions and blankets. Or you could use the site wikiplacesforkids.com for some pointers on where to go, if you need to take the kids to burn off some energy and love to get involved in the soft-play antics.

Ed's Play Barn

Round up the kiddies and take them to your nearest forest, to see how many different shaped leaves you can find.

Child woodland walk

Take them to the park at least once in the week.

Russell Park Bedford

Go animal-spotting at a zoo, an open-farm, or even on a woodland walk. You could even write a list of common animals for your children to spot, and have a prize for the winner (and something for the runners-up, because no-one likes to be a loser).

animal hunt

Experience some culture. Visit a museum. Your local library.

MK Museum

The linked photos are just a few ideas to kick-start your thought process.

It’s a simple process; make memories, not stress.

So go on, get involved, and share your adventures with WikiPlacesForKids on social media, hashtag #WikiVentures and be part of something fun!

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This post was written for WikiPlacesForKids.com, THE place to go for epic days out, or that much needed hour out of the house. 

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Lose the guilt… 

Today, I went shopping.

No, not food shopping.

Clothes shopping. You know, for me.

How many times have you been shopping with your little one, only to get hot, get frustrated, throw an internal tantrum and come home empty-handed?

Because no matter what you try on, it looks shit, nothing fits, your stomach has swollen to six-months-pregnant size, and your toddler is squirming and whining and shouting ‘I hungreeeeee!’, or ‘I wanna waaaalk!’, so you thrust the clothes back on the changing room rack, do a 360 with the pushchair, and storm out of the shop feeling totally deflated and demoralised. You justify your lack of clothing with the following reasons:

1. You’re not totally without clothes (despite the fact most of them have holes in, are out of shape, or barely fit you anymore) and don’t really NEED anything (apart from bras – but, well, you have bras and it’s not life and death);

and…
2. You can’t really afford it (Not to mention the hassle of trying all those clothes on with a restless toddler in tow).

So you visit the children’s section and buy your kids something (you can afford that – they need clothes more than you do).

This is me.

Pretty much every time I go shopping.

Apart from today, where I took great pleasure in a THREE-HOUR shopping trip with my littlest shopping assistant.

It was one of those rare days, where she sat as good as gold in her pushchair (Minnie Mouse and Upsy-Daisy can take some credit for this), joining in with the changing-room selfies. There were a few cries of ‘I want to get OUT!’, which were met with firm replies of ‘No,’ and promises of going to get a little treat when we’d finished.

Of course, once I’d tried on 7 dresses in two different shops, the infamous call of ‘I need a weeeeeee!’ came from inside the pushchair (I realise this makes her sound like a tiny thumbelina-type child. Actually, she is a little dot, but she’s not THAT small), and so we left the shop (minus any dress), and circled round in search of the toilets.

If you don’t have kids, you can stop reading now (because, quite frankly, you might think me sad for gushing about this).

But, if you’re a mum with young children, read on.

The new toilets in the Centre:MK are amazing!  

There’s facilities, and then there’s facilities – with kids in mind.

There is actually a dedicated child/toddler/baby change/general hangout-area within the huge, purpose-built conveniences.

Really, the American term ‘rest-room’ has to be the best way to describe it.

In addition to the main toilets, there are toilets for little ones in two dedicated unisex rooms, with a full-sized loo and a miniature one for the miniature people.

Then there’s the baby-changing area; the food-heating facilities, the private breast-feeding cubicles, and the AWESOME touch-screen TV and other play-points for the older children to entertain themselves while you feed your baby. I breastfed my own children, and I recall the struggle of desperately trying to relieve their hunger while stressing about whether anyone was watching; could they see me, would they judge me? I could never relax, and the experience of attempting to be a normal person out shopping with her baby was stressful enough to make me avoid going out.

 

Truly, I was impressed, and just had to share this on the Wiki Places For Kids site. Mums NEED to know about this place if they don’t already. It’s what we’ve been crying out for, for years.

We finally got out of there (by bribery of sweets from Mr Simms’ sweet shop for being such a good girl and getting back in her buggy), and continued our search for the perfect dress.

Three hours and some stress-less shopping later, I left the shopping centre with a luxurious dress from Coast (oh, how I have missed that shop Pre-Motherhood), and a shiny new notebook and pen. In reality, I would feel guilty. But it was such a successful shopping trip – I needed a dress for some upcoming events, I never spend money on myself, and my sweet little button was so good, we walked out of that shopping centre with smiles on our faces.


So no, I’m not going to feel guilty about indulging on my recent shopping trip. And neither should you.

Lose the guilt.

When’s the next shopping trip…? 😘

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Has Being A Stay At Home Mum Affected Your Confidence?

You’ve had the maternity-leave send off.

The baby shower.

The baby.

Your little bean is finally here – lighting your house, bringing so much life into the four walls you occupy with this little miracle – and definitely not such a ‘little bean’ anymore. Every visitor you’d ever imagined has come to meet your new arrival, and actually, you’ve felt like royalty. Everyone loves you and your baby, and you feel amazing! Life as a mum is everything you hoped it would be, and more.

Gradually, the visitors dry up. Dad goes back to work, and it’s just you and your baby. If you’re a first-time mum, you’d better hold on tight, because you’re about to ride one huge learning curve. Continue reading

Days out with kids: Brixworth Country Park, Northampton

This isn’t the first time we’ve been here, but as the girls totally loved their ‘grand day out’ (which was meant to be Brighton, but that’s another story), I felt compelled to share this little gem for anyone looking for a spontaneous free* day out.

Situated just outside of Northampton, Brixworth Country Park is free to use, with a choice of three walks, each one a different ability level/distance, so you can determine which route to take before you set off. The shortest route says to allow around 30 minutes, but it took us only 20 minutes. Continue reading

Days out with kids: Milton Keynes Museum Review

 

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A.E. and S.H. Chapman Wheelwrights – hubby’s great-grandfather

We visited the MK Museum for A Victorian Family Christmas at the beginning of December, and were pleasantly surprised at the vast amount of artefacts, displays and historical re-enactments available for the whole family. A ticket into the museum grants you repeated access for 12 months from the date of purchase.

Stepping back in time as we entered the house, we found ourselves transported to the Victorian era where crackling fires, carols and parlour games greeted us in one room, while gramophones and organ grinders entertained us in another. The rooms were small so pushchairs are not advisable, and I would recommend keeping your little ones close by to avoid small fingers grabbing at valuable relics! If you have toddlers you may want to visit the museum at a quieter time when the organisers aren’t running one of the many exciting events presented throughout the year, as space is quite tight in places. Having said that, all of the staff are incredibly welcoming and helpful. We were welcomed through with a warming glass of mulled wine, which we enjoyed while the kids did some colouring and created their own Christmas crafts in the old recreated school room, giving us a chance to peruse some of the material on display.

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Toy General Store

From here, there were classic toys – ancient rocking horses (not to be climbed on!), Victorian dolls and many, many more that your children will love to see – and probably want to touch. Some items can be handled, however others will have obvious signs if they’re out of bounds.

There was a wheelwright’s workshop (below), an old laundry room, a fire grate in the ‘kitchen’, where the youngsters could have a go at making some toast, and beyond here we marvelled at the old-fashioned shops, including a replica of a local chemist, a pub, a Post Office (selling sweeties in a jar), and a cobblers, to name a few. There is so much there to see and do, you simply can’t see it all at once.

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Wheelwright’s workshop

Older children will be fascinated by the history found in this museum, while younger children will love role play with the endless number of telephones on display here. As mentioned before, it’s perhaps not a great place for unruly toddlers, but generally speaking (if you’re not of a nervous disposition or have very well-behaved small people), this is a great way to keep the whole family entertained, especially if you’re looking for an unconventional few hours away from home.

This review was written for Wiki Places For Kids – for parents who are looking for a stress-free time out. 

Poppy’s poem

A single flame wavers gently in our living room tonight, in memory of Poppy Chapman.

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Today is pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day, and across the world at 7pm, candles are being lit for all those who have lost a baby before or after birth.

For those who don’t know, we lost a baby in 2013 at 27 weeks, to foetal hydrops. I won’t go into the details but I did want to share a poem I wrote for her during the worst point of bereavement, when we had the impossible task of arranging her funeral.

It’s raw, and a little piece of me I only feel able to share now, over 2 years later. She’d have been 2 last month, if she’d not been so poorly and gone full term. We now have another beautiful girl, who is 8 months old now and keeping us firmly on our toes.

But Poppy will always be in our thoughts, and forever in our hearts.

This poem is for anyone who has felt such incredible loss, and I hope they can find a little peace from it. Xxx

Wild flower, free spirit;
Dance lightly as the summer breeze
Caresses your petals
Like Mummy’s breath on tender cheeks

Butterfly wings; rest on blossoms
Of Endless Love and Little Kisses
In the garden grown for you
Filled with memories and wishes

Shimmering star; shine for us
High up in the night sky
Glistening like a suspended tear
Pleading ‘Daddy, do not cry’

For you’ll be with us always
We’ll never be apart
Until we meet again
You are forever in our hearts

Good night little petal,
love Mummy and Daddy
Sleep tight little flower,
Our beautiful Poppy

Donations can be sent to SANDS (Stillbirth And Neonatal Death charity) by texting WAVE15 and the amount (e.g. £5) to 70070. Proceeds go towards improving bereavement care and funding research into preventing baby death. http://www.babyloss-awareness.org