Joan's Top 10 Time Tested Rules of Shopping

I previously wrote about my mum being perfect. Perfection is a subjective concept but my mum is definitely objectively stylish. She has been ever since I was a kid, when big hair and bigger shoulders were all the rage. My mum has made me promise never to write about her on my blog but she also doesn't read my blog, so you snooze, you lose Joan. Also everyone deserves to know Joan's time tested rules of shopping - the lessons that have kept her looking fierce, since before fierce was a thing...

EAT BEFORE YOU GO My mum's not a big eater. She's one of these, food is fuel, I forgot to eat freaks but before she goes shopping she will make sure she has something hearty - usually porridge. She gets well irritated with me because I want to stop for coffee and cake about eight minutes in; after getting stopping to snack, it's hard to get back on track.

SALE STUFF IS STUFF OTHER PEOPLE DON'T WANT Joan doesn't tend to mess with the sales unless it's a high end brand. On the high street she thinks it can get a bit jumble sale and being a size 10, she often finds they don't have her size. I love saving cash so I'm all about a sale rack but I have taken from Joan that there's no point buying something just because it's a bargain.

YOU CAN'T CARRY COLOURS IN YOUR HEAD You will be convinced you can. You will tell yourself that those shoes are the exact same shade of yellow as your new skirt* but then you will get them home and find the shoes are banana and the skirt is mustard and end up having to wear your ballet flats for the millionth time.

GO BIGGER. One of the beautiful things about humans is we're all unique but shops can't stock enough lines to accommodate all our lumps and bumps and sometimes you might find you are one size on top and another on the bottom or, like me, often feel you'd be more comfortable in a size 13. If this is the case Joan says size up rather than down. You will always look more stylish if you wear clothes in an unrestrained, insouciant fashion rather than if you wear trousers that mimic sausage casing.

NAVY IS ALWAYS CHIC. Navy can look less harsh than black. When properly cared for black is very chic but when you're a slob like me, black can look a bit teenage goth. Unless teenage goth is your thing try navy (think bags, shoes, trousers) it gives things a softer, vintage feel.

DO SERIOUS SHOPPING ALONE. Shopping with girlfriends is fun but think of it as that - a fun activity in and of itself. Shopping with any real purpose is better done alone. You need to be able to circle back on yourself; you can't afford to stop whilst your friend buys a new watch battery. Worst of all, said friend may convince you to buy something you don't really want. Just share your shopping success over a spritzer when you're done.

RETURN WITH ABANDON. Joan returns a lot, almost as much as she buys. If she is unsure of a purchase she will think nothing of having it hang at home for week to see how it feels in her wardrobe. Return unapolegetically - 'gone off it' is a perfectly reasonable reason to want to take something back.

MAKE THEM WORK. Sales staff might look like they're there to plan their Saturday night out but they're actually intended to help you. Feel free to ask for other sizes and if your size is not available get them to call other branches, other towns, other countries (okay not countries). Ask to see the manager, contact head office if you have to, nothing should come between you and the pursuit of fashion. Offset this by being ridiculously gracious to everyone that serves you and telling supervisors or store owners when you have received particularly good service.

WEAR THE RIGHT BRA. And pants and shoes. If you're going shopping for a white shirt don't wear a flourescent pink bra. If you know you're going to be wearing an outfit with heels slip some in your bag, you don't want to miss a great outfit because you're distracted by visible panty line.

MAKE A MOVE. A lot of people make the mistake of looking at themselves in the changing room mirror and thinking they're good to go but life tends to be more animated than that so try and replicate some real life scenarios - bending down to pick up some lego, sitting at a bus stop, doing the Dougie - whatever you find yourself doing most, give it a go because clothes were meant for living and with these rules you can shop like your life depends on it. 

*Although I would question the prudence of pairing a yellow skirt with yellow shoes 

Please imagine my depression is asthma

I've had depression since before I knew what depression was. Actually my primary affliction is anxiety and my unwanted thoughts make me feel despondent but the intricacies of other people's melancholy are really boring so all you need to know is, sometimes I feel rubbish. 

I've been to GPs over the years and been offered variations of 'chin up love' but after I had Roscoe, tiredness and hormones made my crazy hit factor batsh*t. My baseline mode of low level anxiety, mixed with parenting anxiety, led to anxiety squared and I became convinced that a series of terrifying but ridiculously unlikely things would occur (think tsunami in Brighton) and I didn't want to tell health professionals about it because I was anxious about their reaction. And so I wrote down what I was feeling (something I recommend if you're feeling anything similar) and took it to see my GP, Dr Punja and he said, 'Mate, you're obviously depressed and I can offer you therapy but to be clear you're 37,567th in the queue, so I'd recommend these drugs.' And it was one of the happiest days of my life. 

Those pills made me feel seen; they made me feel heard; they made me feel validated. Prior to recently I didn't really talk about my depression because I acknowledge I am in a very privileged position within the world of mental illness - I have supportive friends and family and I can function and hold down a job. But also, there's always an also, I didn't really talk about it because depression sometimes seems so basic; like such a soy latte, cracked iphone screen cliché. 

I decided to start being more upfront about it because this blog is about truth and this is my truth and also because my antidepressants felt like a badge of that truth, unexpectedly my prescription made me more likely to speak about it and not less but when I started to speak I got some curious reactions. I got a lot of... 

'I don't believe in drugs.' 

'I think you should try to get off them.' 

'They're really addictive.' 

'Drugs are over prescribed.' 

'Have you tried yoga?' 

'I don't think you're depressed.'

'Have you tried cutting out dairy?' 

This is not a post in which I criticise my friends, each and every one of them cares about me dearly; it's because they care about me that they are perturbed by the idea of me taking drugs. I don't want anyone not to express themselves, I hate those posts that are like 'don't you dare ever say these things to a pregnant women/mother/Take That fan', all I want you to do is consider if you would still make those comments if my depression was asthma...   

My asthma is so bad today, I can't get out of bed. 

I'm knackered, my asthma kept me up all night. 

I'm gonna be late for work, I had a really bad asthma attack this morning. 

I've been given new asthma medication and had a bad reaction. 

I take this medication once a day and it totally keeps my asthma under control, I feel wonderful.

If my depression were asthma and I told you that corticosteroid was keeping my alive, would you still encourage me to ditch it?

Nine out of ten people who experience mental health problems say they face stigma and discrimination as a result. This can be even worse than the symptoms themselves. Time to Change is England's biggest programme to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. 

Run Jump Scrap!

Cuddle Fairy

Brilliant blog posts on
Diary of an imperfect mum
Admissions Of A Working Mother
                                           photo credit: Asthma Inhaler via photopin (license)

Mission Acceptance - Accept you can connect

Why is motherhood so lonely? I think perhaps with most other major life changes you're doing it with others to support you - your flatmates in the first week of university; your manager in a new job role. Of course mothers have many places to get support, which we would do if only we weren't so tired. And so we don't do the things required to connect with people - like get dressed and leave the house and as a result we feel lonely and then the loneliness makes us feel down and when you're down you don't feel like connecting with people etc etc etc. 

And then there's people like me, I quite like the isolation of motherhood. I appreciated the rest from the sometimes exhausting process of dealing with other people in a socially acceptable way but even people like me sometimes get up in the morning and realise that their cat is their only friend and even she doesn't like them very much. So this week's mission was to accept that I could connect, that it isn't as big or as daunting a task as I sometimes feel it is and to try and initiate a positive interaction with a new person every day. 

DAY 1: I go to my favourite coffee shop and order an americano to have in. The barista tells me he'll bring it over and as he lays it down I say, 'Thank you, Mike.' 

'You know my name!' He says in surprise.

'Well, you're my favourite,' I say, 'so I took note.' He asks me my name. He recommends the eggs. He looks totally chuffed and I receive a warm glow from witnessing his joy. 

DAY 2: A guy is sat opposite me on the train. He is wearing a ridiculously sharp suit. I ask him where he's going and he tells me to a wedding. I compliment him on his suit and ask him if he is in the wedding party. He says no, he wonders if he's overdressed based on my comments. I reassure him he is not. We wish each other a good day. Many pleasantries are exchanged.

DAY 3: My laptop needs a clean so I take it to the repair shop that brought it back to life recently. The guy in there looks harassed and doesn't have much to say to me as he sorts out my order. I tell him that he sounded so warm on the phone and that now he seems stressed. He shares with me that he's being asked to do the job of three people and feels under appreciated. I tell him I appreciate him and he gives me a discount.

It's at the this point I notice something. I am cheating. I am not really connecting, I am flirting. What my sneaky subconscious has done is found a way to connect whilst limiting the chance of rejection. Everyone loves someone thinking they're attractive, whether they're interested or not, they're likely to respond positively. The next day I am determined to connect without the sex. 

DAY 4: I'm in the coffee shop again, I leave the barista alone. A woman comes in with a ridiculously cute baby. Like, Pampers ad perfect. He smiles a gummy smile at me as his mum gets settled. Once sat down she notices me looking and shoots me half a smile. I wonder what she's thinking, can she tell I'm a mum too? Would it make a difference? The kid continues to babble and wave at me. I imagine he's saying, 'Come here! My mum is friendly! She's just been up since 5AM!' I don't have the courage though. The woman seems engrossed in the paper - perhaps this coffee is her most treasured time of day...

DAY 5: I decide to get real, my real life real. There's a blogger I've been fangirling for weeks. She lives near me. I know from the (obviously completely accurate) representation online that we have much in common. I think she is the kind of mama I want to connect with. So I send her a message. I try and fashion it to be less stalkery than what is written above. You know I'm super casual and cool, like. She responds to my offer to connect with 'erm maybe'. I won't lie I'm gutted. I feel like someone has looked at my life, my style, my soul and stamped it with a big red NOT GOOD ENOUGH. I remember why I hated this connecting malarkey in the first place. 

DAY 6: I still feel like crap. I'm trying to think about how not to feel like crap when I bump into my friend Nina. Nina is unashamedly positive. She tells me she has exactly 44 minutes before she has to catch a train and she wants to spend them with me! In this time she regales me with several hilarious stories about love and life and gives me a spiritual kick up the hiney. I realise that connecting with people is not like a game of Pokemon Go, you don't need to run around catching as many new people as you can. When you need to connect you can aim to strengthen the relationships you already have. So I message another mum I've been meaning to hang out with and get a firm date for Monday, 'only if there's wine' she sends back, much to my delight. I book in a dance class I've been promising I would do with my friend Rhiannon and I tell my Mum to come and spend the weekend whilst my dad is working the night shift. I feel like a girl who went all the way to Oz and only had to click her heels three times to get home. Connection may not always be easy but it's probably closer than you think.

Have you found parenthood lonely?

It's been pointed out to me that I'm about halfway through my mission so I'm having a review this week. If you have any ideas for future missions, let me know in the comments. 

Petite Pudding

Pink Pear Bear


A quick love your life tip - oil pulling

Earlier this year I became a bit obsessed with my teeth - you wanna know what happened, I'll tell you what happened. I was eating a slice of toast made out of this particularly wonderful, chewy brown loaf that they sell at a criminally expensive health food store round the corner from me. Seriously it costs £3 for a small loaf and that works out at about 25p a slice, so you better believe I was loving the hell out of that toast when suddenly I happened upon a particularly chewy bit, a bit so chewy I was forced to spit it out (in a delicate, ladylike way) and what I found in my palm was a good chunk of one of my molars. What resulted was pure panic. I was already freaking out about aging and when your teeth start falling out of your head during a routine breakfast that's a sure sign that you're getting a bit long in the tooth. Not only that but my smile is my thing. I might have piggy eyes and a saggy tum but even though it's crooked (thanks to eleven years of thumb sucking) I have a cute smile. I know because builders thoughtfully tell me so. So obviously I hot footed it to the dentist. 

My dentist is very good, if you're looking for a new practioner in Brighton. He's also a hottie. If you have any dentist fears please try getting a super hot dentist, it's a helpful distraction. Anyway he assured me I would not need dentures in the next year as long as I laid off the Skittles and flossed more but I insisted I needed to turn the clock back a few years and invested in a teeth whitening kit but it was fussy and expensive and involved going to bed with a super sexy mouth tray filled with gunk. I wanted something a bit more practical and a bit more purse friendly and then I remembered oil pulling. 

I heard about oil pulling from Gwyneth Paltrow, like most people I dismiss everything Gwynnie suggests as completely impractical in a real world scenario but MY TEETH WERE FALLING OUT MY HEAD. I was desperate. The theory behind oil pulling is that you take a tablespoon of coconut oil first thing in the morning and swish it around your mouth for twenty minutes. It's supposed to have all kinds of magical detoxifying properties but I'm only in it for the teeth bit. It tastes a bit like wallpaper paste but you get used to it, now it's a regular part of my routine, I don't do it for twenty minutes because nobody has time for that but five minutes seems to do the job. I genuinely feel I have a brighter smile and cleaner mouth and I also get that smug 'I'm just like Gwyneth' feeling. 

So put down that teeth whitening Groupon, you can keep your smile looking sweet with a quick trip to ASDA. Give it try you've got nothing to lose just spit that ish in the bin, you won't be smiling when you have a clogged drain. 

My Petit Canard

My Kid Doesn't Poop Rainbows
photo credit: Dầu dừa via photopin (license)

Treat Yo'self with KAYA (UK Giveaway)

Like many women my age for a long time I worshipped at the church of Sex & The City. There is an episode called - A Woman's Right to Shoes in which Carrie has her Manolo Blahniks stolen at a baby shower. When the host refuses to pay her back for her footwear and tries to shame her for buying such expensive things for herself she realises a woman has a right to shoes.

My friend Sophie married herself last year complete with beautiful dress, a gaggle of bridesmaids and a fabulous party; she did it because she no longer felt she had to wait around for someone to give her the experience.

I think it's time that we women take control of what we want and go out and get the things that make us feel good for ourselves -  no more carefully placed magazines left open at just the right page, make the decision to treat yourself and with KAYA jewellery mums have hundreds of ways to do it. You don't even have to endure the mama shopping guilt because they have a mum and girls collection, Mum & Me that technically counts as shopping for the kids.  

Also you know I got your back girl so this week you can win £40 to spend at KAYA just by entering the competition below. Just leave a comment letting me know how you like to treat yourself.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


What advice would you give to parents who feel pressured after making the decision not to vaccinate?

We have decided not to vaccinate because of the ingredients in them, we currently feel he is too young to have poison put in his body. Whether he will have them later in life or never is our decision but every time we go to the doctors we feel under pressure and scrutinised by them. What advice would you give to parents who feel pressured after making the decision not to vaccinate their children? And is there any safer alternatives that don't have mercury in? - Hannah


I don't know, like I don't know in the most shameless, wide eyed emoji way. I'll tell you how much I don't know. I didn't even know mercury was in vaccines until you mentioned it and even if I had known I wouldn't have known it was a bad thing and now I can't look it up because my kid has been vaccinated up to his eyeballs and I don't want to scare myself. And to a degree no one ever knows anything as a parent, we can just make the best decisions with the information we have available to us and hope for the frickin' best. In a few years time we may decide that breast milk is evil or pushchairs induce anxiety in children and we'll all be screwed, so the only choice you have is to believe what you believe and believe it to your core. 

Start by creating a list of why you've made the decision, actually put pen to paper or finger to iPhone or whatever gets you going. Create the most comprehensive, unemotional itinerary of why you've chosen to protect your child in this way. Then, and this is the important bit, never mention any of these reasons to anyone. Reasons, however rational, sound like justifications and justifications look like an open window through which people can shove their own agendas. From this position if anyone tries to raise their concerns or voice their opinion you will be able to shut. Them. Down. Here's what you say to anyone that questions you, 

'We've made the decision not to vaccinate.' 
'But I'd like to draw your attention to research that says blah, blah, blah...'
'Thanks but we've made the decision not to vaccinate.' 
'Perhaps you would like to consider blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...'
'I understand but we've made the decision not to vaccinate.' 

Do this with a smile. I know this sounds alarmingly simple but sometimes life is; in the absence of abuse it's actually nobodies business how you raise your child but your own. Eventually those dissenting voices will feel like PPI calls - mildly irritating but almost instantly forgettable.  

Other voices on vaccines:
Why my kids do not get vaccines  
Childhood Vaccinations - A homeopathic view

Want to protect your kids? Enter my giveaway to win a parents first aid class from Mini First Aid

Mission Acceptance - Accept that you should listen

One of the reasons my son is currently undergoing an assessment for autism is that he has trouble engaging with others. He'll be playing with his train or flicking a light switch on and off (and on and off) and he won't realise that he's expected to stop and pay attention. When we need to have his focus we cup a hand around our ear and sing, 'lis-ten!' He smiles and most of the time he tunes in. The thing is sometimes I feel like doing that with the adults around me and I'm sure people find themselves wanting to do it with me. I've always loved that saying, most people aren't really listening - they're just waiting for their opportunity to speak and although I don't do that, I will admit I'm multitasking as you speak. I'm analysing what you're saying, I'm looking for the meaning behind the message, I'm trying to formulate a kind way to say, 'Giiiiirl, you got problems.' I've always been verbose, I've always had slightly too much to say. As a child I think this served me I was labelled clever, confident and mature - attributes we seem happy to assign to kids that talk to darn much. It also got me in trouble - school report after school report would state that I would do so much better if I just listened more. I remember starting each school day thinking, I just won't talk today and failing before first break. I'm a grown up now though, I have a mortgage and self control. Surely for one week I can listen more? So this week's mission was to sit tight, open my ears and close my mouth; only offer up an opinion if one is requested and accept that I need to listen. 

It immediately becomes obvious that old habits die hard. I can't help but launch on people as soon as I see them, particularly after a day alone with a toddler - the first adult I see it feels like the words that have built up all day have to come out. After every bout of verbal diarrhea I feel a bit annoyed with myself. I write on my hand LISTEN in biro and it works for a while but the thing about personal hygiene is that biro is not a very efficient recording system, and as the letters fade so does my resolve. 

I decide to start small and spend a day really listening to Roscoe, not ignoring his requests as the nonsense (although they mostly are). It's actually quite lovely. He has very strong opinions on which way we should walk in town and prefers to go 'down, down, down' hills rather than up, which would be fine if we didn't live at the top of a hill. After a lovely but pointless stroll we get the bus home. I feel like he tries to communicate with me more, I guess because he has more faith I will listen. He gleefully tells me his 'chips are finished' and 'daddy's there' and rather than dismiss him I give him a high five, daddy is indeed there you wonderful boy. 

I take my new found skill to work. I work with supporting people so we have to communicate a lot to do the job properly. We have a team meeting every morning and I jump in enthusiastically with my insights, 'You're so loud.' says a colleague unprompted and she actually winces. Think it's safe to say I'm failing at my mission then. Her comment it quite the slap in the face and for the rest of my shift I concentrate really hard and I think I'm successful but a strange thing happens, people start expressing concern. I'm repeatedly asked if I'm okay, what's wrong with me, why I'm not my usual self. I tell them I am my usual self I'm just trying to improve myself and listen more. This comment is generally met with some variation of stink face. I see from this I have lost my way, my missions are about acceptance not shoehorning myself into some acceptable cookie cut version of me and so I give up. I shout, I laugh, I banter. I repeatedly do my snorty laugh and offer over-complicated stories with over the top hand gestures but in between I keep listening. I tune into a rap song that comes on the radio and realise the lyrics that I assumed were misogynistic are actually quite uplifting; I eavesdrop on strangers on the train and learn that the sort of guy you would assume is loving life is actually riddled with insecurities; I lay still in the morning and listen to the song of the blackbirds or the pigeons or whatever they are. I find that I can accept the loudmouth that I am and still listen - who knew I was so multifaceted.  

You can follow Mission Acceptance here. It also serves as The Moderate Mum newsletter and gives you an automatic entry to all my giveaways of which there are many coming. I'm giving away a two hour first aid class for parents now! Just scroll back a post. You know you want to.