snow days.

What do you think of snow? Personally, I am not sure. I never have been really.

I love it the first day it falls – the day that you can get out and have a snowball fight, go sledging, make snow angels or just snuggle up inside with a hot chocolate and watch it fall magically to the ground.

But the day after? When the stark reality hits and you have to actually leave the house and DO STUFF?

Then I start to absolutely hate the stuff!

We had our first snowfall of the year this week, and I can’t honestly remember the last time I saw so much of the stuff. It was ankle deep here in Lichfield, and I don’t even think Ruby remembers seeing it like that before. I however, remember vividly trying to shove her pram through the fields to get to a baby group when on maternity leave (yes, I was one of those idiots!), so perhaps it’s around 4 years since we last had so much?

School was closed.

And we had to do the thing that everyone loves, but dreads on days like this – work from home!

Yep, both of us, and two children. In the house. Together. All day.

It was interesting.

Not least because Mr O scarpered upstairs at the very first opportunity and spent most of the day on conference calls…Henry dragging up memories of that bloke on the TV whose kids barged in on his television interview when he escaped my clutches as I used the loo and made his way upstairs to declare to Daddy that the “Christmas tree lights are on!” Thankfully that particular conference call was with just one person who totally understood!

The people that heard me shouting about yet another spilled drink probably weren’t so perky about it…oops!

Though I loath to admit it, our children spent pretty much the entire day watching the TV. Something that they never, ever get to do – so much against brain rot are we (usually!).

However, when you’re a working parent, you don’t have an endless supply of holiday days, you don’t have alternative childcare on-hand (aka Grandparents!) and you can’t afford to take the day unpaid – what else are you supposed to do?

There was no way either of us could get into work, and so we were incredibly lucky that we have such understanding workplaces. Not everyone is so lucky.

The anxiety, stress and worry that a day like this puts onto a working parent who doesn’t have the “luxury” of flexible working is palpable. And it shouldn’t be like that. Just because we’re parents doesn’t mean that we stop caring about work – far from it for most people. It makes us even more determined. Makes us want to achieve great things to provide for our children and to prove that we’re so much more than just a parent (although why we feel we have to do that is a different story completely!).

And that’s why I think we should all be supporting Mother Pukka’s #flexappeal campaign, speaking to employers about and requesting flexible working – for all actually, not just parents! To make sure that everyone can comfortably avoid perilous journeys into work on a UK snow day! And not feel bad about having to look after their children and still being able to work!

And then I think maybe, just maybe, even with all the nightmares that it brings, snow isn’t such a bad thing after all?

It got us out into the fresh (bl**dy freezing!) air, spending time together as a family. It was fun and something completely new for both our little ones…

…And snow angels are the most fun thing in the world (when you’re five and you don’t care about getting freezing cold and wet through)!

**Disclaimer – these images were taken on the Sunday before the ‘Working from Home’ Monday. We did work. All day. And didn’t spend the day playing in the snow with the kids! I promise!

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oh christmas tree.

I’ve been obsessed with Christmas trees and decorations for as long as I can remember – but I’m not one of those that puts theirs up in November and feels that Christmas should be all year round (you know who you are!).

Nope.

Christmas is special. And from getting so excited whenever the pink ladders came out and my dad carried our tree down from the loft to unwrapping my mum’s glass baubles and placing them ever so carefully exactly where she told me to (yep – she’s one of those mums!) I have always, always enjoyed the decorating side of things.

Mr O’s family always had a real tree when he was growing up, so as part of our new family tradition we head to Cannock Chase and choose a real tree to bring home.

This year was particularly special for the children (note I say the children – much like sand, I also quite dislike snow!) and I managed not to be the grumpiest Grinch in the forest – until Henry came out from behind a tree covered in mud from digging!

The tree was selected quite quickly this year to my amazement – a 6ft fir just bushy enough to look awesome but not too bushy that we wouldn’t be able to hang anything off it!

And then the decorating fun began!

We bought our first tree from Focus DIY (remember that!), along with the star that we still use every year – long after that artificial bundle of brilliance has gone.

The baubles were bought from B&Q because, well, they just were!

We still use them now, but as the years have gone by (and as the children have come along) our collection of special ornaments has massively increased – so much so that now our tree is pretty much full of personal, individual to us baubles and trinkets that each have a meaning.

Most are from my mum. My wonderful, brilliant mum who buys me a special bauble each year either from a trip we have been on together or one that she has been on with my dad. And so putting them on this year, now that the children can ask questions about where they come from or what they mean, took pretty much a whole afternoon!!

Here’s a glimpse at some of the most special ones…

This is Henry’s. It was on a gift from my parents for his first Christmas. Whenever it comes out I wonder if one day I will give them their baubles – but then I think, nope. They are staying on our tree until the day I pop my clogs…then they can have them!

Father Christmas comes from Villeroy & Boch and was bought for us by Graeme’s Grandma Sylvia. He’s our only ‘traditional’ bauble, and is very special for that reason.

We have eight of these stars scattered around our tree each year. They are from The White Company and were bought for us by Graeme’s Auntie Eileen. She has a knack for finding fantastic gifts – and the fact that you can spritz these with their ‘Winter’ room spray makes them even more special. They make the house smell wonderful.

A personal favourite of mine, this is a Limited Edition Swarovski Christmas bell from 2015 (the year Henry was born). My mum bought it for me. I have to admit, this is the first year I have put it up – simply because I have been too scared to get it out before! The children know not to touch this one!

You can just see Ruby’s 1st Christmas bauble in the background of this shot – she hung this herself this year, it was the first to go on the tree and I love how bright and colourful it is…just like her personality, it really shines through.

Two very different baubles now…a glass hand decorated one from Gisela Graham bought in Liberty London the year that I was pregnant with Ruby and a hand painted bauble from Germany that I love because, when you hang it in front of a light, it looks like the village is all lit up and cosy.

This is my brand new for 2017 bauble! It’s gorgeous isn’t it. Handpainted and all the way from Russia – my mum and dad bought it for me whilst they were on their cruise. Mum said that some of the baubles were so intricate that she couldn’t believe her eyes. I love the way this one twinkles and glistens in the light.

Another of Henry’s baubles – his first Christmas one, bought for him by Graeme’s parents. I love that it has his name, birth weight (shudder!) and his date of birth. The snowman’s cheeky face always makes me laugh too!

Another Gisela Graham number – this time from Fortnum & Mason when me and my mum were on one of our trips to London. And a cheeky Santa dangling behind! This one came from our next door neighbours at our old house. They gave us a number of interesting decorations…this one and a cracker are the ones that made it through to the tree!

Another gorgeous Swarovski bauble from my mum. This one is so pretty and my camera doesn’t do it justice – but it shines and shimmers and with the snow outside today it has really made me feel so totally Christmas-sy!

We’ve also got so many of the children’s handmade decorations on the tree this year, which I just love. They were so proud, getting them out of the box and putting them on the tree.

And once it’s decorated…it is Ruby’s job to put the star on top!
With Daddy’s help of course!

Letting go of control of the decorating, and watching the smiles on their faces was 100% worth it.

And the tree looks pretty darn awesome!

Do you have any special ornaments? How do you decorate your tree? I’d love to know.

Speak soon,
K

loneliness.

I’ve been listening to Radio 2 a lot this week whilst I’ve been commuting and travelling to meetings.

They are using this week to highlight loneliness, and to explore what it is exactly that is causing this silent epidemic that seems to be gripping so many British adults these days.

The theme has really struck a chord with me, as loneliness is a feeling that I’m all too familiar with, sadly – a feeling that I first experienced when I started University back in 2002.

I had gone from a small town in Lancashire, where I’d spent the past 7 years with pretty much the same people every day of my life to the comparatively huge city of Liverpool where I knew no one and felt like a complete fish out of water.

I felt so lost that my friends could have been a million miles away (they were actually just in Lancaster and Leeds – but still!). I felt like I’d been dumped on Mars and there was no one I could talk to. My flatmates were lovely – they really were. But they weren’t my friends and I wasn’t at home.

I spent my days wondering if I’d made the right decision and my nights wondering why I didn’t feel like going out like everyone else did. Everyone else was having a great time, they were making loads of new friends, they were brilliant. Was I an oddball? Why couldn’t I enjoy myself? Why couldn’t I make any friends? I decided that it just wasn’t for me. The loneliness I felt, even in a crowded room, used to swallow me up and I would often cry myself to sleep.

How I got through those first six months I don’t really know (my poor mother’s phone bill must have been huge!). But I did get through it, and after that first Christmas I snapped myself out of it and I started going out and having fun. Making a real effort. Making friends on my course and getting to know my flatmates – who I was certain thought I was a complete weirdo by that point, but who made me laugh and helped me overcome my loneliness.

One thing I often regret is not talking to anyone about how I felt back then. I kept lots of things to myself and I think that probably stopped me making friends more than anything else.

I often think that, because I didn’t really talk to people much, they must have thought I was such a moody sod. That I didn’t want to join in or that I was boring (reality hits: perhaps I was!). When really, all I wanted was someone to talk to me properly. To laugh with me and to be my friend.

It was good to hear on one of Jeremy Vine‘s show’s this week that I wasn’t alone in how I felt back then. So many students go through the same thing. We didn’t have Social Media back then (just MSN Messenger and some crazy new fangled website called MySpace!) so keeping in touch with friends was much more difficult than it is now – but I caught trains and traveled all over the country to catch up and re-connect whenever possible. And it was like we’d never been away from each other. Loneliness gone. 

I’m thankful now that I can say that I haven’t really experienced loneliness on that level since those early days of University.

There have been times, especially in those long winter months after having Ruby (being at home all day with a baby, no adult company and no family or friends close by to call on or help out), when it all became a little too much and loneliness began to creep in again…but that’s when I would get out, send a message to one of my new NCT group friends and head out for cake.

Glorious cake! Cake solves lots of problems.

I was still lonely (almost 1/4 of first-time mothers in the UK admit that they feel lonely after having a baby), and there were days when it was really difficult but the difference this time was that I talked to people about how I was feeling – I spoke to people who told me that they felt the same!

And a problem shared became a problem halved, literally.

4

So…I guess what I am trying to say is that feeling lonely does not make you unusual. This week has definitely taught me that. Finally. After all these years.

No one should ever feel like they can’t admit that they feel lonely.

And what I want you to know is that if you ever feel lonely, let me know and we’ll sort that right out!

 

 

 

 

five. 

Do you know how much I love you? Probably not, with all the shouting I seem to be doing recently. 

You turned five two weeks ago, and declared to me and your Daddy that since you were now a “big girl” there was no need for us to worry about you anymore. 
I smiled inside as I told you that I believed you. That I knew that it was so true that big girls like you can look after themselves, that big girls like you are strong and brave and so very clever. And I smiled as I told you that you might just need to keep me around for a little while longer though, because whilst you might not need me anymore, now that you’re five and all…I still need you. 

And how true that is my darling girl. 

I need your smiles. 

I need your cuddles. 

I need your laughter. 

I need you. 

You see, I think I’ll always need you my love. To remind me how precious life is and to keep me going when times get tough. 

Five. 

Gosh, I can’t believe that you’re five already! 

I looked back through my old posts the other day and found four. My letter to you from one whole year ago. And whilst the shock that yet another year has gone by already is still the same (about as bad as finding that additional wrinkle on my face, or your Daddy pointing out a grey hair in the back of my head!), and the question “how did we get here already?!” remains…somehow five doesn’t seem too bad. 

You are reading. So brilliantly. 

You are writing. So neatly (massive brownie points from your neat freak mother there!). 

You sing at the top of your voice and you don’t care who hears you. 

You twirl and skip whenever you can. 

You love your brother so fiercely, and probably wish he didn’t exist so fiercely too! 

You are becoming you. 

And it’s a thrill. 

It’s bloomin hard work, because you’re stubborn as a mule and so very opinionated, but you make life better.  You make everything better. 

So, from one pain in the backside to another…welcome to being five. I hope it’s all you dreamed it would be. I hope you learn so much and dream so big. 

Happy Birthday Ruby Roo. 

I love you so much, forever and a day, xxx

we stand together.

I feel lost. Lost at sea.
What is happening to this world?
Where will the next attack be?

Children. Sweet children. Alone and in pain.
Fire. Nails. Bolts. Ripping things apart.
For what? What is there to gain?

Sometimes I wonder. But do I want to understand?
What goes on in their heads.
Why they have done what they have meticulously planned.

My children. My life. My day to day.
Everyone lives life differently but we are basically the same.
So why were these people targeted?
Who am I to say?

No man is an island.
No one better than the rest.
Each of us is valuable. Memorable.
Let us not put that concept to the test.

It doesn’t bear thinking about.
What might happen next.
I just hope we see peace on the other side.
So that my children never have to hide
From whoever they become. Wherever they end up. Whomever they love.

Peace. Tolerance. Understanding.
Respect for one another.
How to live as best we can
Mother. Father. Sister. Brother.

I weep today for those that have died.
So many tears I have cried.
And have pulled my children in extra close.
Because they are the future.
And they need to understand love and tolerance the most.

So let us stand together. One and all.
We won’t be beaten. Not ever.
We remain proud. Fight harder. Stand tall.

Value all that is right and good.
Never stronger
Never better
Than what we are together.

Always.

To those that have died, are injured and are still missing.
#westandtogether

manchester1

the test.

We are definitely being tested right now.

Someone, somewhere thinks it’s time to give us a right good kick up the backside.

It’s like they’re saying, “Oh, so you think you’re having a good time!? Here’s ten tonnes of melodrama, stroppy almost five year old and a whole heap of guilt just to ice that cake of yours!”

Thanks for that. Whoever you are.

Ok, so I’m being dramatic.  

I guess the first thing to say is that I know my daughter is not naughty.

I know full well that she is a gem, and that she is so lovely.

So the next thing to say then is this…

How do you discipline someone who is, on the whole, really lovely, when all of a sudden they start constantly doing things to upset their little brother? When they just refuse to listen? When they backchat you all the time? 

Yesterday I tried some discipline. Yesterday I followed through on the threat to send Ruby to her room if she continued being naughty and didn’t eat her dinner properly as she had been asked to.

And my word. The tantrum that ensued was immense.

Immense.

I instantly felt absolutely awful. Like the worst Mummy in the world.

What had she actually done wrong? Was I overreacting? Had I made a mountain out of a molehill?

I am still questioning myself, even now, 24 hours after “the incident”.

Because this is what being a parent does to you.

The worst thing about it all was that when she had actually calmed down and I started to talk with her about what had happened and why I have to start following through on punishments with her, was what she said to me.

She wailed, “But all I ever want to do is make you happy. And all you do is yell at me.”

Is this true? Have I become the worst Mummy in the world? Are the thoughts I have at the back of my mind actually true?

I cried.

I cried in-front of my daughter.

And I hugged her and squeezed her and told her the following:

“I love you. I love you more than I have loved anything or anyone in the whole entire world. I love you so much that sometimes my heart feels like it will burst. You also make me more cross than I feel I have ever been. Not because you are naughty, but because I want to do the best job of being your Mummy that I possibly can. So that you can become the best grown-up that you possibly can.”

Her breathing became slower and we hugged even closer.

“It’s not your job to make me happy. It’s my job to make sure you are happy. To keep you safe and to show you how to be the best Ruby that you can possibly be. Do you think I would be doing a good job of being a Mummy to you if I just let you do all those things that are naughty, or dangerous or mean to Henry?

She said no, and that she understood.

And we hugged even closer and I told her I loved her some more.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen very often. In fact it’s really rare that she is this “naughty”. Like I said, I know my daughter is a lovely little girl.

So when it does happen I find it difficult. Really difficult.

Parenting is no easy ride, and whilst it’s fair to say that we chose to put ourselves in this situation, it’s also fair to say that sometimes? Sometimes it is so hard work. And that’s alright. It’s fine to think like that. 

Her behaviour is testing us to our limits at the moment. But we crack on, and today has been a much better day.  

We are doing the best we possibly can, and hopefully in years to come when all this is a memory and I am wishing, wishing, wishing that we could have this time back again she will understand that she is the most precious thing to me.

I love you Ruby Roo.

Always.

 

now you are two.

It’s such a cliche to say that I can’t believe how quickly time has flown by. But it’s the absolute truth.

I think, in all honesty, that time actually seems to have gone by faster with Henry than it ever did with Ruby.

And all I find myself wanting to shout is “SLOW DOWN!”.

True, there are some days that I wish time would go faster so I can get home from another day at work/get them to bed because they are behaving like beasts/have some time on my own for once…but the vast majority of the time I wish it would just slow down.

It’s already been a week since Henry’s second birthday, and I wanted to mark the occasion properly on my blog last week but, as usual, I just didn’t get the time.

So here it finally is, some thoughts on our son…now that he is two.

Monday’s child is fair of face…

You were born on a Monday. Monday 4th May 2015, at 2.15pm.

And whilst you looked more like a smushed up, puffed up frog when you were first born than a glorious beauty, you have always been incredibly fair of face my love.

There are so many different things that I could say to you, now that you are two. But the one thing that I want to say most of all is how proud I am of you.

You have been through so much in your short little life so far, yet you still manage to smile and laugh and charm your way through the days. Like nothing ever happened to you. I hope this zest for life and your fighting spirit follows you though the rest of your days – because you will go far, my son, if it does.

Whenever you’re being an absolute devil-child (throwing food around screaming that you “like it” which, for you, means that you don’t/hitting your sister/throwing yourself out of your cot/terrorising the cat etc. etc.) I sigh and think back to the time we nearly lost you. To when you were so tiny and so poorly. And I remember that we are lucky to still have you (and that I am a short-tempered, overreacting, strop-monster that needs to take a step back and remember that you’re just a two year old!).

I love how you chuckle. That whole body shake chuckle that shows you find something really funny. I love how your face paints a thousand words, and the cheeky expressions you pull – especially when you know you’re not meant to be doing something! I love the way you poke your belly button and giggle. I love your obsession with blueberries. I love how much you actually love your sister. I love how you snuggle into my neck. I love the nicky noo noo dance you do with Ruby. I love how you love to play!

Time is indeed flying by, but with each and every day that passes you become so much more to us.

And if time has to carry on whizzing by, then so be it. At least we have you here with us, and at least we’re trying everything we can to make the very best of each day with you and your sister.

So my little man…if nothing else, then please remember this. You have brought such joy into our lives. You have made our family complete, and we love you so so very much.

Keep on being cheeky. Keep on being so happy you could burst. Keep on babbling about nothing in particular yet making it sound like the most important words anyone has ever uttered. Keep on laughing at your sisters jokes. Keep on secretly stealing fruit from the fridge.

Keep on being you.

Our Henry.

We love you.