Drive Safe this Christmas with Chill Insurance

I've spoken before about how Christmas isn't my favourite time of year but if I'm honest my issue is more with the build up. Once the day arrives I usually find myself having a festive time, like exercise and taxes the anticipation is worse than the thing itself. And the worst part of the Christmas experience? Getting there. Like many, I've moved around a lot in my life and no longer live walking distance to the bosom of my family. Most years this has meant a long drive home for Christmas. As a family we've never had a car so it has meant hiring one and taking on the stress of navigation, packing and weak bladders that can come along with family car journeys. For families like mine that don't often take long journey's it's so important to remind yourself of car safety before any trip and for everyone it's crucial to take extra care during this season of adverse weather and long, dark nights. That's why I'm collaborating with Chill Insurance to offer some really great car safety tips:

Drive significantly slower: I know you're in a rush to get this partay started but it's better to be late and safe than not arrive at all. Face it, the party never starts til you get there.

Approach bends and corners with care: When you go back to your home town you can be lulled into a false sense of security. You may know these roads like the back of your hand but you don't know what's round every corner. Drive as if you don't know the roads even if you've driven them most of your life. 

Avoid driving in foggy conditions unless it's absolutely necessary: No, Auntie Pam's Christmas cake does not count as a necessity. 

Slow down before driving in large puddles: Racing through puddles is not fun and it's not clever. Just because it's the party season doesn't mean we have to be silly. 

Plan your route: We've all come to rely on technology for, well everything but SIRI can't replace some good old fashioned planning. Make sure you check reports about accidents and weather conditions before you leave and plan the safest, not the quickest, route. 

Pack an emergency kit: Blankets, jumpers, torch, water, snacks because car's don't always break down in convenient locations. Your emergency kit should be your priority packing, your sisters new hair straighteners won't keep you safe on a deserted country road. 

Please download Chill Insurance's ebook containing a complete overview of winter driving safety and whilst you're there check out their super cheap car insurance. Wishing you a wonderful, safe Christmas. 

This post was written in collaboration with Chill Insurance

photo credit: midlander1231 The Struggle via photopin (license)

A quick love your life tip - face yoga (WEATHERED PENNY GIVEAWAY UK & IRELAND)

I found Face Yoga when I was in one of those YouTube black holes, you know you can't sleep and you realise you've always wanted to know how cerviche is made and then you find yourself watching a pie eating contest and then you find yourself watching an extreme makeover and then that leads you to Face Yoga. At first I watched it with bemusement, how could moving your face around make you look youthful? I mean I spend all day gabbing and eating - I should look like a toddler. Still I watched and I listened and Fumiko, the face yoga expert that I had stumbled upon seemed filled with so much joy that I couldn't help but believe there was something in it. Anyway what did I have to lose? The worst that could happen was I look like a bit of a plonker in the privacy of my own home. The great thing about face yoga is it really is a no excuse beauty regime - no equipment, no outfit - just a few minutes and your face. In order to test the method I have been trying to tighten my chin for a month. Is it tighter? I believe so. Is this change noticeable to the casual observor? I very much doubt it. I mean I'm fairly confident I could achieve much more dramatic results with a contouring kit and a steady hand but I'm still going to keep up face yoga for the following reasons:

REASON ONE: It feels like I'm being proactive. I'm trying to look aging in the eye and say you don't scare me!

REASON TWO: It feels good. I'd love to work out every morning but until that happens this is a step in the right direction in terms of getting the blood pumping.

REASON THREE: It's a nice ritual. Doing the same thing every morning and night creates a nice bookend to the day. Face yoga, like yoga yoga is quite relaxing.

REASON FOUR: I'm fairly sure looking like a plonker is good for the soul.

If you want to try Face Yoga this video will show you how you've been putting your moisturiser on wrong all this time!

Leave a comment telling me your favourite beauty tip and have a chance to win this lovely pendant.

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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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photo credit: Caro Wallis Humbugs Revisited via photopin (license)

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. 

photo credit: cody10414 Dutruex via photopin (license)

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: 
Post Comment Love

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
Run Jump Scrap!

Diary of an imperfect mum

How do I talk to my 8 yr old boy about private time without embarrassing him?

Here's the thing, I'm not sure what you mean by 'private time'. Do you mean sex? Do you mean masturbation? Do you mean lying in a bathrobe eating family bags of Skittles, cause that's my idea of private time. The fact that you have asked the question in this coy manner suggests it is not your son's embarrassment you need to consider but how to keep your own self consciousness at bay. Children are born pretty much immune to embarrassment, have you seen a toddler? They scratch, fart and pick their bogies with abandon. It is us grown ups that teach them to be ashamed of their thoughts and their bodies; sometimes this is a good thing but not always. 

I have always known about sex or more accurately, I have no memory of learning about sex because there was no fanfare, no sitting down to have THE CONVERSATION. I believe sex and relationships talk should be littered into daily life in the same way one talks about the benefits of eating your greens - not necessarily the most exciting subject and in no way off limits. You want the tone to be honest, frank and really matter of fact; you don't want your child to think this is something to be fearful of overexcited by, the facts of life are indeed just a fact of life. 

You might want to practise this, think about some of the more common questions your child may have and consider an honest but child centred answer you would feel comfortable delivering. Most of the awkwardness is generated by the shocked silence following a child's question about sex, be prepared and you can eliminate this potential pitfall.

A child is usually ready for answers when they start asking questions so in the meantime I think it's best to just show yourself to be an open, approachable parent. Have regular dialogues about friendships and feelings and make it clear that your child can ask you anything. If you are forced to confront an issue before the child is ready (say they walk in on you and a partner) simply stick to the facts necessary to avoid confusion. Again I would try and make it low pressure, you don't want the child to feel that they have done anything wrong. A friend once told me to approach awkward conversations from sideways, in the same way you would approach a horse (not that I ever have or would approach a horse but I can imagine). So activities that create connection without necessarily having to make eye contact - driving, cooking together, taking a walk - these can all be great opportunities to drop some knowledge on your kid, without them really noticing. 

If you find that no matter how casual your approach your son shuts down and as he approaches his tweens relies on counsel from Google, buy a big notebook and tell your son that you want him to be able to come to you with any questions and if there is anything he wants to know to jot it down in the book and leave it in an agreed place. You can then take your time to deliver him a positive, empowering message that he can take in in his own time. He may never use this notebook, and that's okay, the important thing is that he knows that it's there. 

Why I couldn't find the shame in breastfeeding

In the parenting blogging community there is a lot of noise made about the shame breastfeeding women experience. Constant judgement from others forces women to hide in toilets and wrestle with elaborate cover ups to disguise the task. I decided early on that I wanted to breastfeed my son and after a difficult initial month we did so happily for almost a year. I fed him in the bustling crowds of East London, where we lived and in quiet leafy suburbs when visiting his grandparents. I fed him in supermarkets and restaurants in planes, trains and automobiles. In fact I would schedule my feeds to be in public. If we were heading somewhere I would plan my trip to include a feed on the train, this would keep Roscoe quiet throughout the journey and meant he would be content on our arrival. I figured given a choice between a screaming child and a flash of my nipple the latter would win for most commuters. Of course I was aware that I might be offending people but I was ready, I had planned a handful of one liners to rebuff anyone that would dare question my decision to breastfeed my child. I was ready and yet what I experienced was...nothing. 

I'm sure some people did a double take but from my experience British people are very skilled at politely ignoring the obvious. The only stares that I noticed were from children watching in unbridled fascination, which made me very sad - they literally could not comprehend what I was doing. In the many months that I breastfed in public I received two comments:

1) A man in a health centre waiting room asked if I'd like to move to a room with more comfortable seating.
2) A woman in a pub saw me feeding as my chips went cold and when I had finished she smiled and said, 'Now he's eaten, you can.'

So why are so many women expressing that they find the breastfeeding journey so complicated and shameful, when what I found was a whole heap of nothing? These are my thoughts:

They're not ready for it. I was so firm in my belief that I was doing the right thing, that I was completely ready to give what for to anyone that would dare to question me. To be honest, I kinda secretly wanted it. When you're secure in what you are doing, I think people can sense it. Bullies pray on the vulnerable - believe in yourself and your boobs.

They don't love their body. I'm no Kim Kardashian, there's plenty about my body that I'm really not okay with but I accept it as the body I've got to work with. I think I'm lucky that I grew up in a pretty naked household, boobs and bottoms weren't seen as shameful things. If you believe that your boobs are something shameful you will subconsciously seek out confirmations of this from society.

They have experienced too much privilege. Living in this wonderful country many of us live a pretty blessed life. We all have our challenges but for a lot of women breastfeeding is the first time they have experienced negativity from complete strangers and that must feel pretty affronting but to be honest it's not that big a deal. There are idiots everywhere, it's not about you, it's always about them. The other day I was called n*gger in the street (thank you Brexit) and I thought, I'm so happy I live in a place where that numpty is an anomaly. I'm not saying to dismiss the negativity, I'm saying there are women in the world that are worrying about protecting their children from war and famine, not a dodgy look from a lady at the bus stop. We owe it to those women to keep on breastfeeding in public and doing so with pride. 

Did I just get lucky? What were your experiences of breastfeeding in public?

Admissions Of A Working Mother

The Sluttish Girl's Guide to Glamour

I'm a bit of a slut. A lot of a slut actually. Meant in the original sense of a woman with low standards of cleanliness. Actually this is a lie, I have high standards, I just can't be arsed to do what needs to be done to achieve them. If you're someone that feels the same - you would like people to see you as a cool, sexy, accomplished women, without actually putting in any graft, here's my sluttish girl's guide to glamour.

White Sheets. White sheets look divine even on an unmade bed. If you know you're laundry habits can't accommodate white, grey is an acceptable alternative.

Nice underwear. Glamour starts from the bottom up. Even with saggy tracky bottoms on you feel gorgeous if you know you have nice lingerie underneath. Also if anyone is lucky enough to get under those joggers, what a fabulous surprise.

Clothes hamper. A nice wicker clothes hamper hides a multitude of sins. If you have space to go for two, one for dirty clothes and one for clean. We all know 50% of mess is discarded laundry. This system works just as well for clothes, shoes and small children.

Toenail polish. So your friends and family greet you thinking, man is she a hot ol' mess and then you slip off your shoes to reveal perfectly polished toes. Everybody instantly reconsiders the birds nest hair and eyebags, if you've got a good pedi you must have your shit together! This doesn't work with fingernails as they chip too easily and reveal your inner slut.

Mismatched crockey. If like me you break a  piece of kitchenware at least once a week, keeping a full set together can be a hassle. I circumnavigate this problem by buying individual pieces from vintage markets - its not chaos, it's curated clutter.

Great perfume. Apparently smell is the most evocative of all the senses.You might look like trash but if you smell like a goddess that's what people will remember. Go for something really decadent like sandalwood so that people imagine you spend your evenings sipping fine champagne rather than horlicks.

Febreeze. If your hamper is hiding all your clothes you might not get round to washing. You can fix this fast with a spritz of Febreeze. This miracle in a spray will give your skinny jeans an extra day's *cough* week's life.

Soft furnishings. The devil's in the details. Get yourself some gorgeous throws and your living space will always look sumptuous. You can also chuck them over mess and hide stains in emergencies.

Red lips. Is there anything more glamourous than red lips? I don't think so. Spend some time finding a shade that suits you perfectly and you will always have a quick glamour fix right in your handbag. 

Do you have any other tips for keeping your sluttish ways under wraps?

 photo credit: Lipstick via photopin (license)

My 7 year old thinks bedtime is a personal sleight - Jennifer

What do I do with a stroppy 7-year-old girl who truly believes bedtime is a personal sleight? I let her stay up until 9:30 last night and when I came to tuck her in she said "I wish I knew what I'd done wrong so I know why I have to go to bed." Upon telling her it was just late, she said that wasn't her fault! - Jennifer 

Imagine you're at your best friend's wedding, the whole day has been a wonderful, joyful experience; you're drunk on life and then just before the cake is cut the bride approaches you and asks you to leave. You protest of course, 'I'm just getting started', you say, 'I still plan to do shots and teach all the twenty something's the moves to Saturday Night!' The bride continues to insist that you've had enough and you're forced to go home - you'd be confused, you'd be hurt and you'd be really, really pissed off. This is what children experience every night at bedtime. For a child the world is still an amazing place and every day another adventure and you are the centre of that world. She may never admit it but you are her best friend and so bedtime feels like a loss no matter how you dress it up. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs in my Care Bear pyjamas listening to the sound of my parents laughing and Babycham bottles popping and thinking, how could they leave me out! During the day I was the main attraction and then the sun would go down and I became irrelevant.

I want you to approach this issue from this headspace, it might not change much but it could help you experience the situation with a little more understanding. She's right, it's not her fault that day turns to night and humans need sleep to regenerate. If she fusses a little this is a good thing, it means she loves her life. Just give her a cuddle, keep it light and reassure her you love her. If you really want to try and reduce the sense of injustice why not try these tips.

Focus on tomorrow: Make the main goal of sleep to get to tomorrow faster. Remind your daughter of all your fab plans; promise her a fancy hairstyle upon waking. Think of Christmas when kids want to fall asleep as fast as humanly possible, bring a little bit of Christmas to every day.

Make bedtime boring: Your child needs to get the sense that at bedtime the day ends for everyone. You might want to go the whole hog for a week or two and get ready for bed yourself - let's face it you could probably do with a few early nights. If you don't want to do the pantomime make sure the house is quiet and activities are kept low key until later on in the night. If your kid gets out of bed she needs to find you listening to a podcast on war crimes not watching TV and mainlining chocolate hobnobs.

Say it with stickers: I'm always amazed by how much can be achieved with stickers. It's not the sticker themselves, it's what they represent - acceptance, approval and tangible evidence of how well you've done. Your girl might be a bit old for stickers (although I am of the view that one is never too old for stickers) but I'm sure you can come up with an incentive for a fuss free bedtime and don't forget to reward yourself, can I recommend cake. 

photo credit: Daddy-David After a long weekend of camping... via photopin (license)

10 Reasons Why I Ain't Gonna Stop Whinging About My Kid

A lot of the birth of my son and the early days of motherhood are a bit of a daze (thanks entonox) but I have one memory that is especially vivid. A friend was visiting and I was doing the new parent thing of pretending I wasn't going slowly insane. My boy was having one of those, there's nothing particularly wrong, I'm just gonna scream my lungs out moments and I was desperately trying to jiggle him into submission. After several minutes I muttered to no one in particularly, 

'Why won't you stop crying.' My friend took my son from me and said calmly, 
'Because he's a baby.' She had not meant to be accusatory but that's how I took it. I carried the guilt for a long time. This was supposed to be the most joyous event of my life, I had no right to complain.

Fast forward several months and a friend of mine had had her own child. We met for a coffee in a local cafe, she arrived twenty minutes late with a grizzly baby and a glazed look in her eyes, 

'Why didn't you tell me,' she hissed at me, 'Why didn't you say how awful it is!' In that moment I decided I was gonna start whinging about my son - about the long sleepless nights, the food battles and the sheer bloody mindedness of him. I love him but occasionally being a parent does my head in and here are the ten reasons why I'm not gonna stop whinging about it.

It's the truth. Can we all just start being honest? It's something we all want for our children, why not practice what we preach? It's not always easy telling the truth but in the long run everyone reaps the rewards. 

It's supportive. One of the primary concerns of mothers with postpartum depression is that everyone else is getting it right. Why not help alleviate some of that concern by making it clear that everyone struggles. If I had told my friend what she was letting herself in for she might have felt less blindsided or made the decision to become a lion tamer rather than a parent. 

It's bonding. When you meet up with other parents of course you should share your joy but how fun is it to bond over the trials and tribulations. Add a glass of wine and you've got a good old girls night in. 

Kids need to be comfortable with criticism. Life is full of knocks and if the first time little Freddie hears anything negative about himself is his first day at work, it might just set him on the road to ruin. Teach your child that life isn't easy but that the best thing to do is face up to the crap bits.

It makes praise more significant. If children only hear positive things about themselves it can become a white noise of 'good girls'. Being told you've done brilliantly is even more wonderful if you can compare it to how you felt when you were told that you were a little tyke. 

It makes me a better parent. The odd little whinge is very cathartic. Getting it out of my system allows me to let it go and start the day afresh. If I bottled it up, it might all explode, probably in the cereal aisle at Morrisons.

His flaws are my flaws. Let's get real your kids are you. They are a reflection of your hopes and fears and if you're finding their behaviour troublesome, it's probably something that's come from you. Whilst you're complaining about the fact that your child won't eat his greens you can take some time to consider how often he sees you sitting down and enjoying a healthy meal.

It makes me confront challenges. If you sweep everything under the carpet eventually you're gonna trip on a lump. Dealing with difficulties head on leads to healthier, happy families and the first step to doing this is to let everyone know just what you've got a problem with. 

It's rebellious. I was raised to toe the line and not stand out from the crowd but I've since learned that it's the risk takers that get good outcomes. Don't bow to pressure to represent yourself as a perfect parent, the best parents are real ones and real parents whinge.

It's British. I'm very patriotic and if there's one thing us Brits can do it's whinge. Show your dedication to the nation - stay calm and keep grumbling.

How do you limit the amount of time your children spend in front of screens? - Ellen

My older brother went through a stage of being obsessed with Snickers. By the way, this was so long ago I think they were called Marathon but that's by the by. Anyway he would save a bit of his lunch money and wolf down at least two bars on the walk home from school. Inevitably he wouldn't be able to eat the nutritious dinner prepared by my mother (and occasionally not so nutritious - Findus Crispy Pancakes anyone?) which would leave mum, who was working and raising children and trying to maintain a healthy soap habit, annoyed to say the least.

As anyone who's been cheated on by a guy knows - they never hide the evidence; so when my mother found all the snickers wrappers stashed in my bro's school trouser pockets, she realised her corned beef hash had been usurped by nougat and marketing. My mother is a canny lass and she has always believed that revenge is best served cold and the next evening it was. Instead of meat and two veg she served my brother three snickers bars fresh from the fridge. He thought he had won the lottery! The next evening she did the same and he ate his peanut and caramel based meal with a little less gusto; by the third evening he was begging for spaghetti bolognaise. To my knowledge he has not eaten a Snickers since.

You know where this is going right? If you're concerned about how often your kids choose to be parked in front of a screen, pick a period of time you're comfortable with (I'm thinking at least a weekend) and declare it a screen feast. Tell your children you trust them to self regulate and you never know you might find they can.  Our greatest fears are usually only terribly poor predictions, who knows with unfettered access sitting in a virtual world might not be as desirable? Perhaps not, maybe they'll play Minecraft for 48 hours but the beauty of that is when you next impose a cap you can say, 'Darling, when I let you choose you forgot to eat, so I think I'm gonna need to help you with this.' Kids have an inbuilt fairness barometer, nothing sets that thing off more than being told to do something just because adult says so. Being able to give them a tangible reason for denying them what they want can make things a lot easier.

Finally make sure your own house is in order. Are you asking your kids to do something, you can't do yourself - do you send them off to bed  and then settle down for three hours of mindless telly? Are you providing healthy, fun alternatives to screen time? Are you trying to sell homework over Super Mario Kart, coz even I'd rebel with that choice!

If you find a screen feast does nothing to alleviate your tension remember that you're a parent, not a psychic - who knows how your children's passions may shape their future. Perhaps your little addict, is a budding TV producer and what if your boundaries stop them from achieving their dreams and making the millions that will keep your heating on when the government has run the county into the ground? Okay this is very unlikely but the thought might stop you from tearing your hair out.

My Petit Canard

The real reason you're a bitch

I know what you're thinking, I'm not a bitch, I just know a little bit better than everyone else. Get real. If you ever speak negatively to anyone or about anyone and feel a frisson of satisfaction, you're a bitch and that's okay, most of us are. Perhaps bitchiness is an evolutionary advantage preventing us from focusing on our own inadequacies; certainly some people have made quite a success of being a bitch and more power to them. The key thing you have to acknowledge is why you're a bitch and the answer isn't because the world is full of idiots.

You're insecure. And aren't we all a little bit low on stock in the self worth department sometimes? However, if your self esteem is so low that the only method you have to address it is pulling other people down to your sad little level - you're a bitch

You hang with bitches. Lie with dogs and you get fleas as the saying goes, just like biting your nails or leaving the tiniest scraping of butter left in the tub (what is WRONG with you people) bitching can be a bad a habit we pick up from the people around us. I experienced this when I first started reading blogs and discovered the site GOMI. The site was started to call out the of bloggers for their often shady practices. I always applaud a bit of accountability and soon I was logging in daily; before I knew it I was joining in with the commentary and to be honest it felt pretty good. Then a story surfaced about blogger Emily Meyers, who had shared a post about her husbands cancer diagnosis. The GOMI girls accused her of fabricating the illness for cash money and page clicks and the site users became a virtual hate mob. Sadly it was only at this point that I realised that I was not involved in idle gossip but that I was playing a role in attacking vulnerable families and I moonwalked out of that shit. Months later Emily's husband passed away. If you have found yourself in the situation at work or amongst friends where bagging on other people has become par for the course, it might be time for a bitch cleanse.

You don't know any better. The Apple doesn't fall far from the tree and sometimes it just lies there and rots. The people who shape our early years shape it for the good and the bad. Do you remember your mother sniping about the neighbour's front garden? Or feeling gleeful as your grandmother expressed how badly behaved your cousins were? You can end the cycle. Let the next generation know that positivity reigns.

You're bored and you're lazy. If you can't be bothered to shake your booty and create positive change in your life don't make that someone else's problem. I have been known to have a little swipe at people that like long distance running - how boring to spend all that time alone, just putting one foot after another. Of course it's so much more stimulating to watch episodes of Judge Judy that YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN. If you have an itch to bitch don't ignore it. It probably means there's something in your own life that needs a fixin'. Why not put the energy you would expend being negative into sorting your own stuff out. 

If you liked this you might like this: Accept you have an inner mean girl
photo credit: Hello there! via photopin (license)

3 myths about the little blue pill

The little blue pill, otherwise known as Viagra, is an effective erectile dysfunction (ED) treatment that is used by many men to help tackle their sexual problems. Also sold under its generic name sildenafil citrate, Viagra can help men get and maintain an erection that is adequate for sexual intercourse.

Viagra is a popular prescription-only treatment that has been around as an ED medicine since the late 1990s. Men can be prescribed Viagra by their GPs or by a medical professional via an online pharmacy such as Online Doctor Lloyds Pharmacy. However, despite the fact it’s been around for many years, it can be difficult to decipher what’s true and what’s not when it comes to the little blue pill. So, let’s debunk some of the myths associated with this particular treatment.

The more pills people take, the more effective it is

A major Viagra-related misconception is that the more pills people take, the more effective it will be. In actual fact, men should only take one pill within a 24-hour period, and they shouldn’t take it alongside any other ED treatment. For best results, they should take the pill on an empty stomach about an hour before they intend to have sex and avoid drinking more than two units of alcohol as this can make it less effective.

It gives an instant erection

Another common misunderstanding about this treatment that it instantly gives an erection until it eventually wears off. In truth, it’s only possible for men to gain an erection after taking Viagra when they are sexually aroused. Without stimulation, the penis will remain flaccid. The effects of the treatment can last between four and five hours. It’s important to note that this does mean an erection will last this long - it simply means men should be able to gain an erection within this time frame. Also, Viagra is not immediately effective - it can take just under an hour to work if taken on an empty stomach.

It can affect fertility

It’s assumed by some people that using Viagra can damage sperm and lead to infertility. The reality is, the little blue pill has not been proven to harm a man’s fertility. In fact, it’s more likely for Viagra to have a positive effect on fertility due to the fact it can make sex easier.

While this post may help bust some of the most common myths about the little blue pill, it’s important that anyone planning to take this treatment reads the instructions carefully before use or speaks to a medical professional if they have any further questions about it.

This post was in collaboration with Online Doctor Lloyds Pharmacy
photo credit: Viagra mit Lupe via photopin (license)