Learn to Love Christmas - GIVEAWAY

I hate Xmas, lots of people do but generally they have loss and/or grief associate with this; I'm just a miserable cow. Kids love Christmas - they love the magic and the mystery; the glitter and the lights; the silly songs and (climate permitting) the hope of snow. I actually like all those things too but just not all at once. That's what I find hard, the excess of it all. I get that too many minces pie feeling in November. But I got a kid now and what is motherhood but faking enjoyment? So here's how I plan to learn to love Christmas.

Decorate - Acknowledge the season with a few subtle touches at home, you don't need to dive in with a life sized Santa straight away, these days you can get pieces so lovely you'll want them up all year. Hema have some really cute and quirky Christmas decorations but check out Homesense for things you'll look forward to getting out every year.

Be giving - The end of the year is a great time for a clear out. I don't know about you but I get so much satisfaction from sorting out a much neglected drawer. You can give all the stuff you don't need to charity to remind yourself and your children what the yuletide is really about. Smart Works donates high quality interview clothes to women in need and keep your local toy library going with your no longer loved play things.

Be rebellious - My favourite Christmas was probably the year that I ran away to Goa, it felt so cheeky eating a lamb curry in the blazing sun. Sometimes Christmas can start to merge into one big festive fuzz but when you break the rules you create a holiday to remember. For an escape the kids will give a big thumbs up to try CentreParcs.

Start a tradition - It wasn't until I started writing this post that I realised I already have a Christmas tradition. On Christmas Eve I stay in bed and watch a full season of Sex and the City; that's what's important to remember - traditions aren't about the time of year, they're about you. So have a make your own pizza night on Christmas Eve or host a silly socks contest. I'll probably switch out Sex and the City for a more child friendly film fest, no Christmas movies allowed. 

The best way to beat Christmas stress is to get organised so I'm giving away an Organised Mum life book diary. It's changed my life, let it change yours. Head back next Tuesday for another post and another giveaway - see I do love Christmas :)

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Make up therapy - GIVEAWAY (UK & IRELAND)

My relationship with make up is like  a bell curve (okay Mrs Bates, I did use it). When I'm feeling really down, like Orange is the New Black, season 4 finale, low, I wear no make up. There doesn't seem to be a point, in anything, let alone lip liner. When I'm feeling okay, I like to stick on some slap; I'm motivated to cover up some of the dodgier bits of my mug. When I feel really, really good; I'm talking Beyonce level fierce, which is rare but it has happened, I go bare faced again because why do I need it? I'm fabulous already.

Make up often gets a bad rep, it's seen as silly and frivolous and ridiculously overpriced. I agree with the latter but I for one, do not think the investment is a waste. Most women have a very personal history with make up but for some of us it's a genuine form of support. Here's how I use make up as my own personal therapist. 

EXHAUSTION: Make up took on a whole new meaning when after motherhood. It's bad enough spending every day feeling like you could fall asleep standing, without everyone pointing out how exhausted you look. There are some amazing concealers and highlighters that can help you reconstruct eight hours. 

YSL TOUCHE ECLAT is the original and the best but I also like SLEEK LUMINAIRE HIGHLIGHTI for a cheap as chips alternative. 

LOW CONFIDENCE: Nothing says 'I'm a strong independent woman' like a strong lip. Let's be honest it was Candace Brown's lips that was the real winner of Bake Off. The great thing about a brilliant lipstick is you barely have to bother with anything else. Jeans, T shirt, messy bun and bright red lips - so French chic darling. 

MAC RUBY WOO is a gorgeous, brick red lipstick. It's matte look gives it a really retro, film star quality. If that doesn't float your boat something from MAX FACTORS THE MARILYN MONROE LIPSTICK COLLECTION will. 

FUGLINESS: I think if you're feeling low on self esteem, it's all in the eyes. Go for something that will make you feel all fluttery and girly and like bluebirds are waiting to help you hang out your washing. 

If you haven't tried THEY'RE REAL! PUSH UP LINER today is the day. This is the only product that I have been able to get that flicky, sexy liner look with. It's sister product THEY'RE REAL LENGTHENING MASCARA makes my eyes water but I imagine they're a powerful combination. I've never been able to get the hang of falsies but now I've found JML MAX LASH FIBRE LASH EXTENSION MASCARA (yes the mop people!) I won't have to.

DISORGANISATION: When I'm low my ability to organise is the first thing to go and it isn't that hot in the first place. When I need to feel put together, I always paint my nails. Go for glossy, grown up colours for that, I'm busy and important vibe. 

I fell in love with CHANEL ROUGE NOIR when I was fifteen but I still can't afford it so MAYBELLINE COLOR SHOW BURGUNDY KISS makes an effective alternative.

I'm giving away a tube of my favourite red lippy - Mac Ruby Woo. To win leave me a comment and let me know your favourite part of your makeup routine and/or watch the video below and let a comment to let me know something about your everyday routine.


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Cuddle Fairy
photo credit: AnnieAnniePancake Summer Make Up via photopin (license)


Don't have kids, do this instead

There are a few people who read my blog who don't have children. I don't know why they read or maybe I do. Maybe, like I did, they are searching for an answer, an answer to the age old question - should I have kids? If you have the means to do it and you are standing on a cliff edge, looking down into the sea of parenthood then just jump; I promise you will not regret it. I have worked with vulnerable families for many years and have only met one woman who regretted having her child and even she regretted her circumstances and not the adorable boy she was raising.

I didn't always think like this, a few weeks after my son was born, when I reentered the world of adults, many people took me aside and asked, should I do it? Exhaustion is real people and at the time I told them, 'No. Unless you feel a burning, unshakable need, do not destroy your life in this ridiculous manner.' Whilst I don't necessarily think this way now, I don't think you have to have a child to reap all the benefits that having one can bring. If you are a child free reader looking for answers consider this one - don't have kids, do this instead. 

PLAY It's hard to take life too seriously when a toddler is trying to convince you that Sainsburys is a good place to get naked. I've probably laughed more in the last three years than I have in the all the years previously. Adulthood is filled with so many responsibilities - work, bills, chores. Having a child reminds you that even with all these things there's always time to be present and have fun. I don't think it's a coincidence that in motherhood I have become my most creative; I think when we're playing we move closer to our truest self. So run, skip, shout, dance in your kitchen; forget about being a grown up for a bit, stop pretending and just be.

GET UP EARLY Number one in the top ten of parenting complaints is the fact that kids aren't partial to a lie in. I love my bed, I love my bed more than some people and yet I have created a situation in which everyday I must leave it long before I'm ready. Here's the thing though, nothing gets done whilst you're asleep - your novel doesn't get written, your body doesn't get exercised, your dreams don't get initiated. Get up and get out, the world is waiting for you to show up. 

COMMIT When you have a child you have no choice but to commit. There is no waving a white flag and calling it quits when it all gets too hard and believe me it gets hard. This, in my opinion, is probably the most wonderful thing about parenthood. Little is more affirmative than tenacity and it's the things we hold on to tightest that flourish the most. So make a decision to commit to the things you care about whether it be your relationships or your audacious ambitions. You will not regret the time and effort if you put in everything you've got - for eighteen years at least.

LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY My son was the first thing I have ever loved without ever expecting anything in return and it was wonderful to love so freely. Cherishing things in this way means never feeling left down and never feeling your care is wasted. The other thing I found was it was easier, far easier than all the unspoken negotiations of my other relationships. Choose to love others unconditionally and the irony is that you will get back more than you could ever imagine. 

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7 things I miss about my marriage

I said I probably wasn't going to write about my separation because my ex was all, hashtag boundaries but I'm going to bend the rules a little because this isn't really about us, it's about me. It's about the little losses I'm feeling right now, aftershocks following the earthquake. And it's also about you, if you have a partner it's a reminder to stay present and look after the little things because if you're very lucky, the big things will look after themselves. 

A COLD CUP OF TEA On mornings when I was struggling with the whole life thing my husband would bring me a cup of tea in bed, a caffeinated nudge and a small act of love. Almost always I would fall right back to sleep and wake thirty minutes later to something cold and film covered. This was the best bit, knowing that someone cared for me enough to make me tea that I would forsake. 

SITTING IN SILENCE WITH SOMEONE I'm an introvert of sorts, I love people but I do find the experience of interaction draining sometimes. For a person like me it is wonderful to be with someone and feel no pressure to say or be anything. 

MY SNACKS GOING MISSING My ex is a very healthy eater, I am not. The cupboards were a food war with quinoa jostling up against Monster Munch. Sometimes I would come home to find that my biscuits had been snaffled or a Terry's Chocolate Orange had found its way out of the fridge. I take a slightly sick pleasure out of corrupting people and it saved me some calories. 

TEN MINUTES Raising toddlers is like living through a storm, you try and plan for it but you really have no idea what destruction will ensue. Having someone to whom you can say, please just take the child so I can pee/get milk/stand in the garden and cry, well that's shelter from the storm. 

POCKETS Why don't chicks clothes have pockets? Infuriatingly many of them tease you with fake pockets. Sometimes you don't have a bag that goes with your outfit and you need somewhere for your phone and your lip balm, that somewhere was my husband.

WORK ANGST ABSORPTION No one cares about the petty dramas of your working day except the people that work with but you can't talk to them about it because that would be like, so unprofessional. Your partner is contractually obliged to pretend to care about that nonsense and now I'm practically bursting with unexpressed office angst; so if anyone wants to hear about what Dave turned 'round and said to me on my last shift, drop me a line. 

SNORING My husband snored sometimes (all the time but he'll want me to play it down). It was so annoying. Sometimes I'd go to bed first praying I would be unconscious before the evening's snuffling commenced, I never was. Now I miss the steady rhythm of the sound, like nature's white noise machine, reminding me that even in the dark, even in his sleep, he was always there. 

If you are going through a separation or divorce here's a video what I did on how we're trying to co-parent positively.

Women I love writing about separation: 
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How an angel helped me to realise that my son's disability is what he's got and not who he is

Birthday boys 

It was my son's birthday yesterday
, he was three. I have to say I'm loving this age, he dances so beautifully between baby and boyhood. I am aware as I do many things - carry him on my hip; spoon the last few mouthfuls of yoghurt into his mouth, that it might be for the last time.

We stayed at my parents house as it was also my brother's 29th birthday. As well as a birthday they share a love of Thomas the Tank Engine and mum had got them two lovely Thomas cakes. When Roscoe and I stay at my mum's she basically takes over and I become relegated to helper. I don't really mind as helpers don't usually have to get up in the morning.  Yesterday, when I did finally surface, my mother told me she had laid out some clothes for Roscoe. I took him upstairs and found the freshly washed and ironed outfit - some stripey leggings and a T shirt with the word 'GENIUS' printed on the front. I immediately felt stung. When you think of a sting you sometimes imagine a short, sharp pain but what actually happens is a moment of bewilderment, before the shock of pain, followed by a nagging throb. At least that was how I was feeling when I confronted my mother, 

'That's very dark humour,' I said. My mum looked at me blankly, 'A T-shirt that says genius for the kid with special needs.' Mum immediately dismissed me, 

'Don't say that. I don't think of him like that, he's just my grandson.' I was undismissable, 

'He is your grandson that has a disability, it's part of his identity. I'm sick of people denying that.' Mum assured me that she wasn't denying anything, she just didn't like to think of him as anything other than Roscoe. She told me she bought the Tshirt ages ago, long before his diagnosis and it hadn't occurred to her he shouldn't wear it. I let it go because, birthday cake, but I was still smarting. 

The train on the way home was very crowded. Roscoe started to become agitated and I did my best to calm him with bread sticks but sometimes your best is not good enough. Waiting for the lift to get out the station a woman said to me, 

'Does he have autism?'

'Yes,' I said, 'what made you ask?' She said she had taught children with special needs for forty years and recognised his vocalisations. As we parted ways outside the station she said, 

'Don't let anyone convince you to hold him back, just because he learns in a different way doesn't mean he can't learn. If he's not ready now try again in six months, it just might not be the time for him.' 

'Okay,' I said. Perhaps sensing I was a little unconvinced she added brightly, 

'Half of NASA have autism!' Before walking away. 

I'm unsure of the accuracy of this statistic but I do know that within NASA is many a genius. 

My Mum watches the unfortunately named show 'Touched by an Angel'. In it a celestial being is sent to earth to convince a mortal to see the error of their ways. My encounter with this woman made me rethink the legitimacy of this concept. Had this woman been sent to Sussex to show me that rather than convincing others to embrace my son's condition, I should stop using it to limit him? I hope so because the alternative is far scarier - my mother is always right. 

Some other Mamas blogging about autism:

Touched by an Angel is currently showing on TrueEntertainment

You don't have gender disappointment, you need to get over yourself

Over at Channel Mum we've been talking about gender disappointment. Whilst this is not something I would wish upon anyone, I don't think it's so big a deal. I mean it's gender disappointment, not gender trauma. I felt disappointed on Thursday when I was informed that Starbucks have discontinued their Rise and Shine muffin but I tell you what, that was 48 hours ago and I'm over that shit.*

You too will get over any gender angst you have, primarily because gender is a construct. I appreciate that this is a very casual statement and perhaps an easy one for a cisgendered woman to make but simply for the purpose of discussing this topic I'm trying to make the point that you actually have a sex preference and if you start saying to yourself and others - I really hope my child has a penis, you'll realise how silly it is.

Have a good think about what you're so attached to. Do you want your girl to have long hair and wear cute clothes? My son has a head of bouncing curls, wears leggings everyday and looks like a rock star. You want a boy so he can play sports and rough and tumble? I mean have all those sanitary towel ads taught you nothing?

At the time that gender preference rears it's ugly head, it has nothing to do with your baby, he or she probably hasn't even developed sex organs yet! Of course it's all about you. In what ways did you feel limited by your gender? What negative experiences have you had with your less favoured sex? What messages from the world have you received about men and women? If you get to the root of these questions, you may find your gender goals shift dramatically. Now this is a case of do as I say and not as I do because I openly and ardently wanted a boy and what I got was a....ROSCOE. Or as his father described him recently a 'gorgeous, strange, train obsessed, beautiful, little bag of autistic joy'. And I wouldn't change that for the world.

If you have experienced or are concerned about gender disappointment please watch my video on why it's a good thing - I swear 'tis guvnor!

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Why three kids can be easier than one

Almost a decade ago my partner begged me to let us get a cat. I was dead against it. I knew it would be the classic case of him having all the fun and me doing all the work and I wanted to avoid that or at least delay it until parenthood. After a year or so he wore me down and I reluctantly agreed to adopt us a fur baby. At this point my partner informed me that some genius had told him that if you have one cat, you might as well have two - you already have all the paraphernalia, it's just one more fluffy creature to love; so we got the demanding Saffy and her independent sister Rosie and what I discovered was two cats just meant twice as much poop to scoop. I often think of this when people I know have two, three and four children - I've experienced motherhood, it's like a chocolate coated hell, why oh why would one make that more difficult? Eventually we decided that two cats was one cat too many for our small first floor flat and we gave Rosie to our mate's ex-girlfriend, where I'm told she lives a lovely life but it's not really practical to do that with children. Given this I reckon there must be a reason people keep popping out the sprogs, beyond some innate biological need designed to further the existence of humanity and I think this might be it - having more kids makes parenting easier! And here's why...

STUFF JUST HAS TO GET DONE. As I lay with my son for three hours as he sings 'Old McDonald' on repeat until he passes out from exhaustion, I wonder how parents with more than one child do the bedtime thing but the truth is they just do. They don't have a choice. You can't afford to pander to one child when his or her siblings also need your attention, the kid goes to sleep because other people have to go to sleep, that's just the way it is. Less indulgence, more independence can only be a good thing. 

YOU LEARN TO SAY NO. When you have one child you can sometimes get caught up in the belief that you should do everything you did before but with a child in tow. Sure I'll come to your wedding in the Outer Hebrides! Absolutely I have time to listen to you break down your seventy sixth break up from your sociopath boyfriend. When you have several children, the limitations of time and space mean you have to put boundaries in place and this means saying no. Saying no is like a muscle, the more you do it the better you get and soon you're finding yourself saying no on a daily and boy does it feel good. 

YOU LEARN TO PRIORITISE. It's a lot of hassle organising a big family, so it gets to the point where you only do things you only really have to do and by and large those things are the things that really enhance your life and so you find yourself living your best life.

YOU GET ORGANISED. If you want your children to enjoy all the wonderful stuff life has to offer you're gonna need to run a tight ship because play dates and parties and after school activities do not organise themselves. It feels really good for everyone to know what's coming and when but particular for the person that's supposed to make it happen.

YOU DON'T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. Sometimes we get it wrong but when you're a parent of more than one child you don't really have time to dwell on it because there's someone else that needs you, so you learn from your mistakes but there isn't time to dwell on them and this is good because wallowing in mistakes is not a fun time. 

Given the above this is what I plan to do, rather than have another child, I will behaved AS IF I have more than one child and in doing this I hope to beat the system! If you would like to practise your multi-child parenting skills, I have a tot you can borrow.

Cuddle Fairy
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Diary of an imperfect mum