Thursday, 28 November 2013

Today I'm giving thanks… for Christmas :o)

Noel table of sweet Christmas treats

I went along to the Britmums Xmas do on Monday which I was very excited about as I don't have a work do any more what with not having a job right now. It was a great chance to catch up with some bloggers I know and to meet a lot of others who I don't know. The room was absolutely crammed with goodies and I have to admit that I did wonder how I'd find any room for fruit cake and mince pies so early on a Monday, but I did manage a mini mince pie and a chilled glass of very nice white wine too.

Christmas table with cakes and mince pies from Morrisons

Morrisons provided the food and drinks and Neil Nugent who is one of the chefs there talked us through some of the most common errors that people make when preparing Christmas food. I took away these top tips:

  • Never use foil on the turkey - it steams it and causes overcooking and dryness.
  • Pick up the turkey by it's legs and shake them to relax it. I say this as a vegetarian - honestly, I'm not making it up - it means the heat will distribute more evenly round the bird.
  • When making roast potatoes use Maris Pipers and don't boil the spuds, just simmer them so that you don't have mushy roasties.
  • You can prepare all the veg before the big day and keep it in the fridge or freezer (according to Neil the freezer is a chef's best friend !)

cakes, gingerbread and cupcakes from Morrisons range christmas sponge cakes from Morrisons
The festive feel of the morning was helped by some little ones who were running around entertaining us. My favourite was a toddler wearing a santa hat who kept stealing the limelight from Jen and Neil when they were speaking. I hadn't been feeling too Christmassy before this event, but I've since booked my boy in to have breakfast with Father Christmas, he's going to a meet Santa event and we're going to see Reindeer and hopefully go on a husky sled ride too. The tree will be going up on Sunday and I've got far too many advent calendars !

Britmums xmas do goodie bag I came away from the do with a stash of goodies including a chocolate Rudolph cake complete with chocolate antlers. My son loved the decorate your own gingerbread trees and the mini sponge cakes in Santa, reindeer and snowman shapes are a lovely alternative to fruit cake.

I was really surprised and inspired by the range on offer and will definitely be checking out the Christmas goodies in our local Morrisons.

Thanks Britmums for such a fab event :o)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Do something amazing and save a life

Blood transfusion service lorry
I'm always banging on about blood donation and how important it is, but to show you how easy and non-scary it is I thought I'd take some pics while I was giving blood this evening. Honestly it's really simple to book, you can do it online and there are sessions all over including in local church halls and some workplaces too. I went to a local church where they have a regular session every few months.

The reception area for donating blood
When you arrive you will be greeted and asked to read a booklet explaining what happens and what the restrictions are on giving blood - this can also be checked online to save a wasted journey. If you are at all nervous or if it's your first donation this is the time to say so as they will make sure you are taken care of and that you're not put off. I am not a fan of needles, but they are very professional staff who make it as painless and simple as possible.  Once you're booked in you will be asked to wait so bring a book in case it's busy.

The pinprick test to give blood

You will be called up to have a pinprick test which will determine if you are able to donate blood during your visit. If not they will explain why and you may be referred to your GP for further tests to ensure you are well. Otherwise you will be directed to wait until called up.

Water urn and plastic cups for donors

While waiting you should drink plenty of water to help the blood flow - it is a good idea to stay well hydrated during the day before you attend a session too.

Tilting chair for donating blood

When there is a free chair the donor carer will call you over and prepare your arm and make sure you are comfortable. The chair lies back flat and you can pretty much relax while it all goes on - this evening my donation took under 5 minutes so it's not a long process at all. They will ask you to sit and rest before you go so that there is no risk of you fainting and if they are in any way concerned about you they will make you wait until you are fully well before leaving.

Tea, biscuits and crisps

Now the best bit of donating - the tea and biscuits !! The only time I eat full fat crisps is after I give blood and it's kind of medicinal so I don't feel bad about it at all. You can also book your next appointment while you are having a drink and snack so that you don't have to think about it. They will send you a letter of confirmation by post so it couldn't be simpler.

I go on about giving blood because so many people who could donate don't. Blood stocks run low at this time of year, but the need does not so the blood transfusion service really do appreciate every donation. It took under an hour for me to donate this evening so time is no excuse.

My boy got this lovely sticker. I want him to grow up knowing how important it is to do something that could save a life.

A sticker for my boy

If you would like to find out more or to find a local donor session please go to

Thank you :o) 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

We were going out to dinner... I was choosing some earrings to wear that would look pretty, but not get stuck in my hair or fall out of my ears (this happens frequently). We'd arranged to meet at the restaurant - well calling it a restaurant is a bit much as the service is pretty lax and the food variable at best, but it's local and serves the kind of italian food you know you'll enjoy anyway.

The first time we'd eaten there I'd asked for the gnocchi and they said it wasn't available that evening. A few days later Hubbie (then boyfriend) was making me some dinner at his flat. He made gnocchi because, "I wanted to make you happy." It was a pretty foregone conclusion that we'd be married after that. We still went to the restaurant every week despite them forgetting our starters, regularly having only two thirds of the menu available and occasionally just not remembering we were even there. It's safe to say it wasn't the busiest place in Battersea.

After only a year of being married we were still holding on to the romantic rituals and habits that we had started when we were first courting. The regular meals out, the walks along the river on a Sunday, city breaks and holidays during school term time. Ah the bliss of the childless. Not that we didn't want children of course, we just hadn't had them yet and it was only a matter of time.

We had been trying since before the wedding and while we hadn't expected to get the jackpot honeymoon baby we were just wondering if there was something going on that we should know about. In fact we both went to see our respective GPs to check that all was ok with us and had various blood tests, which for a man who hates the sight of blood was a bit of a trial really. Hubbie was going to see his doctor after work for his results then coming to join me for dinner.

I put on lip gloss and mascara and checked my reflection for any smudges. A whole day at work can do weird things to a face and no amount of candlelight can disguise it, so I was relying on the magical power of make-up to give the illusion of natural beauty. I heard the double beep of a text message coming through. As I picked up my coat and went to the door I glanced at the screen. "I'm finished here. See you in ten xx"

As I walked I saw the evening runners in Battersea Park wearing reflective gear, bobbing along like fireflies. It was one of my favourite places to run too and I loved living so close that I could go there before work. I had encouraged Hubbie to run with me and he'd become quite a keen runner himself. He was even training for the Windsor half marathon.

By the time I got the restaurant he was already standing outside and he smiled as he caught sight of me. He held the door open for me and I joked that I hoped he'd had a snack on the way just in case. We sat at a table by the window - a mistake, they never see you sitting there, but you can watch everyone else walk past. I asked if he'd had a nice day and he smiled again. The waitress came over and took our drinks orders. My coat fell off the back of my chair so I went to retrieve it from the floor and realised I hadn't asked and he hadn't told me. "What did the doctor say ?" "Oh not a lot really." "Ok, good or bad news then ?" I laughed a little, he didn't. "He says it's highly unlikely we can have children." The waitress came back with our drinks. She asked if we were ready to order yet. We both shook our heads.

Now I looked a little closer I could see behind his glasses that his eyes were red. He still had his coat on and he hadn't looked at me since we sat down in the restaurant. I reached out to put my hand over his on the table. After some time he said, "What do you want to do ?" After a bit more time I said, "Well I'm going to order the gnocchi." We both smiled, he took off his coat and we raised our glasses to each other.

This post is my entry for the Mumsnet Blogfest competition using Lionel Shriver's favourite first line from a book. 
Fingers crossed :o) 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Why my boy is like a tiny Russell Brand

www.crapmamma.comIt's been a difficult few days with my boy. His tantrums and moods have been almost constant. He pretends not to hear me and turns his back when he doesn't want to do something. He shouts and yells and runs off. He pushes me to the end of my tether (which is unsurprisingly short right now) and then looks really hurt when I am upset with him.

Then on Thursday we went to see my sister for her birthday. I was really worried about how he'd behave as he'd been horrific that morning and by the time we got to my Mum's house he hadn't improved any at all. I was so tired out that I left them to observe his 'naughty day' and didn't say anything to him and let them do all the repetitive instructions, 'don't touch that, put that down, etc.' Then my other sister invited us to come to the theatre where she works to watch Room on the Broom based on the book by Julia Donaldson. I've always said that I wasn't sure he'd have the concentration to sit through a show so we've not taken him, but this time I had my Mum and both my sisters to help keep him in check so I thought I'd risk it.

We made it just in time for the show, found our seats near the stage and he sat in his seat with his legs folded and his beloved bear clutched to him. Then it started and the actors were talking to the audience and he interacted. When they imagined a witch flying overhead he looked up. When an actress asked who'd like to try some of her porridge his hand flew into the air and he mimed catching it, eating and said it was "yummy." My boy was a delight and he was singing the songs in the car on the way home.

Then yesterday and today he was back to his belligerent self and I just shook my head and gave up. This morning he woke up yelling at 4am and I went in to check on him. He went back to sleep and so did I. Then at 6am Hubbie woke up yelling, so I tried to work out what was wrong with him too, he went back to sleep, I sort of did too. I was glad I had plans without them today. I needed to be away from them both just for a few hours and Hubbie always takes him out on a Saturday anyway so I didn't feel too guilty.

Tonight the boy was erratic and tearful at bedtime, he ran off and went up and down the stairs and I was so fed up with it all that I said I wasn't going to have our sitting in the chair bedtime chat tonight. He said that was fine. Then a few minutes ago - after we'd finished watching Dr Who we heard some squealing from the monitor. I turned the sound on the TV down and it was the boy crying and calling, "Mumma." I took a deep breath and went upstairs to see what new antics these were.

When I got to his room he was standing on his bed shaking and crying and clutching two bears really tightly to himself. I held him and managed to prise one of the bears from him and held him close and asked if he'd had a bad dream. Eventually I calmed him down and sat with him in my arms singing softly until he'd stopped shaking and was ready to go back to bed by himself. I recalled how I'd had a nightmare the other night that left me shaken and confused - I'm 43, he's only 3.

Russell Brand
So however hard I'm finding his emotional outbursts or his seeming belligerance I have to remember he's only 3. I also have to remember how amazing it felt to watch his imagination in full flight in the theatre the other day. I have to remember what Russell Brand said about the death threats he received when he was planning to do some comedy gigs in the Middle East, "I'm just trying my hardest."

When I find my boy wearing or taxing or just a bit too much I'm going to think of him as a tiny Russell Brand. At times he's unpredictable, his hair looks crazy, but he smiles a cheeky smile and wins over a lot of people. He's just trying his hardest.

I draw the line at him wearing snakeskin boots and skinny jeans though. Oh, and the public nudity. 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Some children you never forget

I've been thinking about some very special children recently.

In Romania:

Bobby the Roma child who was in the street one night when a woman I know asked him if he'd eaten and when he said he and his sisters and brothers had no food at home she gave him some money. As she went about her shopping she was aware that he was carefully choosing bread, fruit and milk to feed his family. She came outside to find Bobby waiting there and she asked why he hadn't gone home yet - he held out his hand to her. "I had to give you your change."

The three Romanian children who had seen their youngest sibling killed in an institution from which they were adopted. The family who adopted them decided to have them baptised and after the service they spoke for the first time about what had happened to their brother and disclosed that it had been a member of staff who had been responsible. When they were all in a cab going home to their adoptive family the oldest child told the social worker that they had had a lovely time and to thank the kind people for taking care of them. They thought they were being sent back for speaking up about the murder.

Gaby who was adopted at 18 months and her adopted parents thought she had no memories of the orphanage until they took her to visit the children's centre. As soon as she saw the white tiled floor she began screaming and fitting as she thought it was the orphanage and she was being taken back there. Her parents never took here there again.

In Sierra Leone: 

The boy who witnessed his entire family being macheted to death by rebels who left him for dead in a pool of his own blood. He was rescued barely alive and now has gouges in his back where they hacked at his body too. He is a humble, quiet young man who bears no malice towards those who left him orphaned and who is making a future for himself without any family at all.

Visiting a refugee camp where children came up to tell us they had been soldiers. They were now going to school and being fed and were no longer given drugs or abused in order to get them to take orders from young men no older than them. A child aged no more than ten who could assemble an automatic weapon in the time it takes to boil a kettle.

In the UK:

The boy who came to school in dirty and smelly clothes and unfed most days. Teachers would bring clothes for him and his siblings to wear and soap for them to wash with at school as well as bringing in food for them to eat - this was before breakfast clubs in schools were in existence.

The three children who we were asked to consider for adoption. Twins under a year old and a sister aged 2 and a half who had learning difficulties. I still lose sleep worrying about whether they were split up in order to find a suitable family for all of them.

All of these children are real. They have all left an impression on me and I still think about them. Not every day, but sometimes the feelings I had when I met them come flooding back. I have met a lot of children whose lives have been difficult. Children who have seen more pain and violence than anyone should ever see. Some make it through and grow to become adults who don't let the pain of their early lives define them. Some don't make it.

When I think about them I hope that they are living happy lives and that they are loved.  

Monday, 18 November 2013

Personal Planner review and giveaway

personal planner
Now I'm not working I don't have meetings and appointments to keep a note of, but I do already have something in the diary for Nov next year (as it's a birthday pressie for Hubbie I can only tap the side of my nose at this point - sorry). This is a bit organised even for me, but I am a big fan of paper diaries and keeping a note of my 'to do' lists where I can see them - even if I don't tick anything off !

I also record how far I've swum or and how long I've been running for - it's supposed to help with motivation apparently. Also I've signed up to do the half Moonwalk for Breast Cancer in May so I need to remind myself how far away - or close - it is !! Occasionally I'll also keep a note of social events like meeting a friend for afternoon tea or something even more momentous like a holiday - no such luck so far on this one sadly.

Usually I plod round the shops looking for a suitable diary and end up with something temporary only to have to buy another one a month later. Thanks to the lovely folks at Personal Planner I chose a personal planner that was custom made for me from the front cover - which you can personalise with your own image - to the individual pages. I was able to pick all the sections and the layout of the pages so I don't have random bits that I never use and I can record things like my list of jobs for the day and if I've done any exercise or not. The hope is that if I have to put it into my planner I will be more likely to actually make time to go for a swim or a run - let's see shall we ?

The pages have plenty of room to record what I want to be reminded of and there's even a calendar so I can plan ahead. It's the kind of diary and planner that I need and I designed it myself.

Every year I have a trauma finding the right diary for me. In the past I've tried the larger ones with fabulous photos, but they were far too big for my handbag and I ended up replacing them with a small handbag diary that was functional, but not all that nice to look at. You can choose all the accessories too like the ruler that I have inside mine to mark the pages and in case I need to measure something - well you never know do you ?

The best thing about the personal planner is that I know it's suitable for my needs. I chose a design that is compact enough for my handbag and that has all the prompts I need for my life. You can have a look at the full range at the Personal Planner Website

The Giveaway:

Well actually the best thing is that you could win one of these beauties for yourself.  WOO HOO !! The lucky winner of this giveaway can choose a planner in any size and design and it will be sent to you postage free - in around two weeks - so in time for the New Year if you are quick enough !

How to enter: 

All you have to do is leave me a comment about what helps you to plan.
If you tweet about the giveaway too that would be lovely and you can have an extra entry into the draw. My twitter handle is @swazirodgers and the personal planner one is @pplannerUK.

Closing date: 

I'll get my boy to pick a name at random from a Santa themed hat on the closing date of Fri 13th Dec at midday - lucky for someone.

Good luck !!

Disclosure: I received a free personal planner code as part of my goodie bag at Britmums Live this year. I have not been paid for this review, but have been provided with a prize to giveaway to a reader. 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Attachment parenting: I swear by it.

I'm not going to get into it about the Peaches vs Hopkins TV 'debate' on attachment parenting. I didn't follow it and neither woman is a parenting role model I'm about to emulate. I am all for attachment though and was listening to Oliver James talking about lovebombing on Radio 4 yesterday afternoon. As a result today has been spent loafing around and doing as little or as much as my toddler wants to do. You see I like the idea of responding to what my child is interested in, but I'm not about to advocate my skills as a parent above anyone else's. I'm doing my best and I sometimes over-do it or get it wrong. Mostly I am just glad that he's a happy child and that he loves us. 
Baby boy on reins
If anything I've probably been over-attached. I never left my son alone at all when he was first born. I would shower while Hubbie was home either in the evening or stupidly early in the morning. I honestly thought that if I left my baby for longer than it takes to make a cup of tea he was going to roll over (which he'd never done) or stop breathing (he's still here).  Of course I do still check on him - old habits and all that - but now I stay in bed rather than shower at 6am. That's hardly tiger mama behaviour is it ? 

As he's a toddler now I do go and shower and leave him to his own devices (watching telly, creating a 'traffic jam' with his toy cars or playing with the hands free soap dispenser if I've forgotten to put it high up) for around 5-10 minutes. I do have to keep calling every 30 seconds to check he's still in the house though as he can't be trusted not to open the door if someone knocks. Grandma was babysitting on Halloween night and as she is quite hard of hearing he heard the door knock and went to answer it - only to be confronted with two rather terrifying teenage boys in masks. They didn't get any sweets, but the boy got a proper scare !!

The other night Hubbie opened a belated birthday card he'd received that had been sent to the wrong house with the wrong age on it. He affectionately called the sender a nob - supposedly out of earshot of our boy - only for the boy to start saying 'nob, nob, nob, nob' in a sing song voice. I gave Hubbie my 'silly boy' head shake and he responded with, "actually, he may have heard that before in the car driving to football." I suppose it could be worse. I'm not sure how though.
my boy in baseball cap
Up until now my son's idea of bad language has been to point at me and say 'Oh. Dear.' forcefully as that is what he thinks swearing is. We're also working on discouraging the 'toilet talk' which he loves right now. As an example.
Me: "What did you do at nursery today little bear ?"
Toddler: "Bum Bum."
Me: "I don't think you did. What did you have for lunch ?"
Toddler: "Poo Poo."
Me: "Ok that's enough toilet talk for today."
Toddler: "Wee Wee."
Me: <sigh>

I'm not expecting a call from anyone asking me to share my parenting secrets any time soon. I am, however, expecting to be embarrassed by my son's vocabulary some time in the near future. 

When If he calls Santa a Nob Poo Poo I'll look around pretending he's not with me, but that's when all my attachment parenting will come back and bite me in the 'bum bum.'

Peggy O'Mara Quotation

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Is it just me or is blogging a white thing ?

Orchid in a potWhen we first moved into this area we went to do some shopping at the local Waitrose and Hubbie commented that it was 'very white.' I remarked that the green and white decor signified freshness and cleanliness and he clarified by saying, "No, I meant the people. They're all white." I looked around. "Not everyone, the counter staff aren't."

It wasn't a judgement, just an observation. One that I hadn't made. In the same way I didn't notice until someone pointed it out to me that my chosen profession was staffed almost exclusively by women who were white, blonde, 20-something and (in the old days) trustafarians. It wasn't an issue as it didn't stop me doing my job so I thought nothing of it.

Then at the weekend I was at a blogging conference, my third in the last 12 months. At the first one I was far too dazzled by it all that I barely noticed anyone else (well apart from the fact that the beautiful woman sitting next to me turned out to be Prof Tanya Byron). At the second I became aware that the majority of attendees were white women. This weekend I was there with a friend who is also not white and she noticed it too. At one point she joked that we had to attend different break out sessions to make sure that there was a fair representation and spread of ethnicity.

Before my remarks unleash a barrage of criticism I'd like to explain that I am a big fan of the blogging networks that hosted these conferences and I don't think it is their job to explain who attends. They aren't excluding anyone so it's up to those who are interested and who blog to come along. That's what I did. It was just very obvious to me that only a few non-white women were there and I'm wondering why.

Flowing from this is the question, is blogging mostly a white pastime ? I can't believe that it is. I blog about my son, my family, my life in general and occasionally I review stuff on my blog too. I rarely blog about my ethnicity, but it underlies my writing because it's who I am. It's also half of my son too and I want him to understand both sides of his heritage so occasionally I'll write about Diwali or what it's like when we go to visit family in India. My ethnicity doesn't define my writing, but informs it. I don't speak on behalf of anyone else or their experience just as a blogger who has 3 children doesn't speak for all parents of 3 children.

So do we have a secret underground movement of non-white bloggers who just can't or won't attend conferences for reasons of cost or timing (which can apply to everyone I know). And more importantly why does it matter ? It isn't just so that I can identify with more than half a dozen people in the crowd, honestly.
  • Blogging is a democratic thing isn't it ? If you have access to the internet - and I know for some this is an issue - it's pretty much open to all. So is it about access or education ? 
  • Companies who clamber for product testers and brand ambassadors do know that parents of every ethnicity spend money and buy stuff for their families don't they ? 
  • I refuse to believe that in this day and age it isn't possible to find panellists that are representative of a wider experience. It seems that having a man on the panel is more representative than a black woman. 
  • It's important because a panel discussion about feminism descended into purile comments about jam and heels when we could have covered so many others such as FGM and education for girls. Issues that maybe don't personally affect anyone in that room, but affect all of us as people. 

There was a session that talked about blogging changing the world. Well, I'm keen to know if the blogging world is inclusive to start with.

If you have any thoughts on this topic please do comment - I'd love to hear what you think.

Jars of quince jelly

Monday, 11 November 2013

Blogfest 2013 was like the sixties, if you can remember it you weren't really there.

When I worked in an office Monday morning was the usual, "good weekend ?" "Yeah it was ok, and you ?" "Oh not bad, painted the living room green. Went for dinner and watched Homeland." "Yeah I keep meaning to watch that too. Tea ?" "Oh go on then." I don't work in an office now, so the only way I get to tell anyone what I did at the weekend is to blog about it - well unless I bore the staff at the swimming pool in the morning or at Waitrose when I go to pick up my free tea that is. They smile politely, but they're not interested really.

canal boats in Kings Cross So at an unearthly hour on Saturday morning I got out of bed and checked what time my friend Soraya was getting into Victoria Station to meet me and Jennifer. I tried to be as quiet as possible so the boys wouldn't be woken up by me, but when I left they were awake and wandering round too. I reminded Hubbie what was for breakfast, lunch and dinner and left the house for my day at my second Mumsnet Blogfest. With free tea from Waitrose in hand I met the others who were Blogfest virgins and we made our way to Kings Cross. I don't mean to be rude, but I was propositioned outside the station years ago and it now looks like a modern and fabulous European station so it feels like it's a million years away from its past. The venue itself is a big glass building with a terrace that overlooks some lovely houseboats - nothing like I expected for Kings Cross.

Having been to the first blogfest alone I arrived and stuffed myself with pastries. In keeping with tradition I did the same this time too. I also managed to find myself sitting next to Professor Tanya Byron last year so I raced down to the front hopefully. I didn't get a celebrity seating pal, but did have a prime seat to watch the first panel featuring a real life Mark Darcy and some cracking discussion with a live twitter feed running along the back screen. I will admit it was so exciting to see my tweet appear that I was only half listening to the panel, but I caught the jist which was Toby stop being daft and Stella the room loves you so you don't need to play to the crowd so much. It was refreshing to have a lively chat about internet trolling though as the subject is pretty dark and upsetting.

The think bombs from Prof Tanya, Dr Sue Black and Jon Ronson were fabulous with some food for thought as well as a new found hatred of algorithms (who knew I had feelings about those ?) It reminded me that years ago I had my first and only letter published in the Guardian Weekend magazine in which I mentioned Jon Ronson. I'm sure it's as memorable for him as it was for me. I attended some really interesting and engaging sessions and how delightful that a fellow blogger got a whoop from the audience while sitting on a panel of well known comedy writers (way to go Sonya !!) Of course Lionel Shriver's pink wellies have now become legendary, but AL Kennedy with her dry delivery is surely the only person who could rock that fabulous tank top and flat cap combo.

windsail posing
I was far too nervous last year to talk to the sponsors, but this time I decided to go up and introduce myself. This meant I was trying not to knock out others with my Hondamums vanity plate for the rest of the day - sadly it can't actually go on my car, but I've given it to my boy and he's delighted with it. When I popped over to see the nice chaps at Mark Warner Holidays I was rewarded with a cocktail (or two) and a photo of me on a Windsail (not looking especially athletic it has to be said !) It also enabled me to check how to enter the competition to win a fab holiday ! For the record my top tip for a family holiday is to make sure there is a pool as all of us love swimming and even if it's a rubbish resort we'll spend hours splashing around having fun on our hols.

[For more tips on how to entertain the kids on your travels, the kit you absolutely shouldn't leave home without and more visit the Mark Warner blog]

me and Soraya being the Village People doing 'YMCA' The afternoon session has been written about so much that I'm not going to add anything to the debate by going over it here. Personally I wasn't offended by the panel discussing whether a Mummy blogger can be a feminist. I didn't walk out, find myself shaking with anger, feel the need to shout from the balcony or quote Joss Whedon. Maybe that was the numbing effect of the alcohol or maybe it was the taking down of the live twitter feed during the more heated part of the debate as I sent my pithy contribution to the discussion by tweet. Whatever the case Jo Brand brought the day to a fine end and my friend Soraya prodding me to go and talk to her in the bar afterwards was a stroke of genius. Just before leaving we went into the photo booth run by Talk Talk and decided to pose for our quartet of photos as the Village People - no, please don't ask !

It feels like such a lot to take in and yet the time flies past. Meeting bloggers I feel I know intimately from reading their posts and following them on Twitter was a bit weird, but tapping badges so that we could exchange contact details meant I didn't have to panic about not being able to keep in touch with anyone. I'm reinvigorated and revitalised by it all (although I did spend most of Sunday in a daze and lolling around the house like a student on reading week) and raring to build on my new links and knowledge.

A special thank you to Jennifer and Soraya for hanging out with me and keeping me company on the journey there and back. Please pop over to visit their blogs and say "Hi" from me.

Blogfest badge Swazi Rodgers

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Adoption week: Our story then and now...

national adoption week logo
If you've been reading this blog for a while you will already know that adoption is very close to my heart. This week is National Adoption Week and there will be a great deal going on to raise the profile of adoption and to - hopefully - encourage more people to consider adoption.

We are very well versed in the process of adoption in our family. I have worked for children's organisations over the years where I've witnessed how life-changing adoption can be for the children and the parents who take care of them either as foster carers or adoptive parents. I also know that it isn't all shiny and lovely and often children have experienced difficulties and losses before they find a family that they feel part of and safe in. Sadly, for some children this never happens and the prospect of a 'forever family' is one that they can only imagine. It is because of this experience and my passionate belief that taking care of each other is what makes us stronger as a society that when I met Hubbie I explained that I would like us to consider adoption. He had never thought about it before, but was open to the idea.

Neo the cat on the fence Our cat is an adoptee from Battersea Cats & Dogs Home. He lived with other families before us, but has adopted us as his family now and we seem to have passed his test for humans he can live with. When I go out in the evening he stands outside in all weathers waiting for me to get home. Last week me and Hubbie went out for the evening leaving Grandma to baby and catsit. Sure enough when we  got back there was the cat on the front step waiting for us to get indoors safe. Grandma told us he'd been going in and out of the house to check where we were all night. This taking care of each other is a two way street you know.

As you will already know we did not have the most straightforward time starting a family and made a decision to adopt rather than pursue assisted fertility or any other options. There is no judgement implied or meant, that was just our choice. It was also empowering as we felt we were making a positive decision rather than waiting for something to happen to us. So we decided that we'd go ahead as we had talked about adoption anyway so why not just do it. It wasn't such a big leap from wanting to be parents to making an active choice to see if we could adopt, but there was a lot more to it than either of us had expected. The preparation course taught us a lot about each other's motivations as potential parents and the whole process of being assessed by our social worker was thorough, but ultimately we understood how important it was to ensure we would be suitable parents.

By the time we went to the panel in March 2009 we were prepared for all and any questions. For some reason we had 13 people on our panel (that is far more than you would expect) and it was quite intimidating facing mostly strangers who held the keys to our future as adopters or not. Thankfully we were approved and the long wait to be matched with children began. I thought that the panel was going to be the toughest part, but nothing prepared me for the waiting. The stories of how children came to be looked after broke my heart and every single child we were asked to consider I wanted to adopt. Hubbie spent many hours consoling me as I wept for the children who were kept waiting too.

Baby hand in adult hand
It felt like a long time, but while we waited to be matched we found out we were expecting our beloved boy - this is not uncommon apparently. So we moved on from prospective adopters to prospective parents. Since then the process has been streamlined and the time it takes to be assessed is shorter now. As we consider adoption for the second time we are in a new situation as we also have a toddler in our family now and his needs and feelings have to also be taken into consideration. Helping him to understand and participate in the process will be challenging in a whole new way, but having done some of this before I think we will be ready to help him with an exciting new phase of family life.

If you are interested in finding out more about adoption and how it works please listen to this interview I did on my radio show with an adopter and an adoption social worker: Adoption podcast

It is also worth taking a look at

Monday, 4 November 2013

I'd like world peace of course (and a flatter stomach)

To do list
Like most people and every Mum I know I have a to do list that is constantly updated and not always completed. I function better with a list of tasks to achieve and it is very satisfying to tick them off even if it's just 'feed the cat' rather than a proper job like 'change the sheets' - this one sits there almost as long as 'clean the fish bowl.'I don't cheat by adding jobs to the list that I've already done (mentioning no names Gemma !!!) but there are some that have been on there a long, long time. 

So, the latest *big* list is - in no particular order - as follows:

  • Find a job that I love to do and that pays something - not a fortune, but enough for nice things like Waitrose shopping and a holiday. I love producing and presenting my radio show and writing this blog, but neither of them generates any reward beyond sheer joy that anyone is interested in them :o)
  • If I can earn some money it will give me back some financial independence too. When I had my own flat I also had life insurance and Hubbie would like me to have some again so that he and the boy taken care of if anything happens. Life insurance tends to be tied to mortgages so if you're not the main breadwinner it's not considered a priority, but it doesn't seem strictly fair on the boys in my family if I don't have any, so I'd like to sort that out.  
  • Lose weight - I know this is a very common wish amongst the women I know this one. I am so fed up with being chubby and it is as simple as stopping stuffing my face and getting off my butt to just do it. To motivate myself to achieve this I'm taking part in Walk the Walk next May with the lovely fellow blogger and real life friend Soraya to raise money for Breast Cancer charities. I'd better get fit by then -  even if it's only the half one - I did the full one a few years ago and it damn near killed me !! I'm also part of Team Honk's blogger relay from Lands End to John O'Groats so I'm not going to humiliate myself with all those super fit Yummy Mummy bloggers taking part. 
  • Get the garage project started.  It's been on hold for 2 years now (ie. since we moved to this house) and we knew that the garage had to be rebuilt, but we just haven't got round to doing it yet. As I'm not working full time I should just get on with it really, but I know that it won't be a quick thing and I'm dreading the mess and chaos. 
  • Decorate the boy's bedroom. I feel so guilty that we've never decorated his bedroom, but I didn't want to commit to a design scheme then have him decide he doesn't like it any more. I have mentioned before how the Barnaby the Bear wallpaper I'd loved aged 4 waned a little when I was 12. We are aiming to put his 'grown-up' (toddler) bed in the room and decorating it in time for Christmas. That way he will have a new room and lots of lovely presents all at once.

self photo drinking a cocktail Finally, I would like take better care of myself. To get more sleep, wear my nice clothes rather than my comfy ones and think about my appearance again. I used to take time to choose what a I wore, my accessories, make up and hair and I just throw on what's closest (and clean) now. It's not good enough really.

 I'd like to make the effort a bit more so that Hubbie doesn't see me as a frumpy, grumpy wife and my boy doesn't see me as a lumpy, dumpy Mummy.

So there it is. Yes I'd like world peace, but for now I'll take a flatter stomach :o) 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Pinch Punch first day of the month (and no returns !!)

Decorated elephant in London park
I know it's past midday, so strictly speaking I can't do the whole pinch punch thing, but I'm going to anyway. Who made that rule by the way ? Does anyone know ? Is it universal ? Anyway, that's not what this post is about. Like a lot of people I cannot believe it's November already. Not just because this means it's Hubbie's birthday next week and my sister's birthday later this month, but because it means we're almost done with this year. I still haven't got the hang of writing 2013 yet and before we know it's going to be over. Maybe that is a good thing as I might do better with 2014 than I did this one. Last year was signified by the Olympics and Paralympics, but this one didn't have anything quite so grand going on so it seems to have just gone past without any particular fanfare.

In addition to family birthdays this month we also have Diwali which is a big thing in my family and I'm excited that my boy is old enough to enjoy it this year. We're taking him to visit my Mum on Sunday and he'll be fed to within an inch of his life and he'll get showered with presents. My own memories of Diwali (in common with most indian celebrations) are all about the food, but here's my beginners guide to the festival of lights:

1. There will be food. Lots of food. Most of it sweet, or fried, or both. If you're going to visit indian people don't eat beforehand. Seriously, you may need a stomach pump if you try to be a hero. Hubbie learned this on his first visit to my parents and has never made the mistake again. He prepares by fasting for around a day and a half before a visit to the in-laws now.

2. Presents. You get them and give them and hence it's known by some people as the indian equivalent of Christmas - it's not, but I won't go into that here. It is, however, a chance to buy and wear shiny new clothes and for the indian lads in Southall an opportunity to drive slowly up and down the Broadway calling out to all the girls in their finery. It is primitive I know, but hilarious when the feisty girls put them down in their inimitable fashion.

3. Cleaning. Now if you know me at all you'll know that I am partial to a bit of cleaning so this is almost my favourite part. The idea is that you clean the house from top to bottom in preparation for a new start. I'm doing it tomorrow - I'm really looking forward to it. Don't call me, I won't reply, this is my therapy. I feel you judging me - I just don't care.

Indian Diva lights4. Lights. On the actual night we put a nightlight in every room in the house and some outside the doors to welcome the light in and keep the darkness out. It's a lovely tradition, apart from the one year that the nightlight burnt through the toilet cistern in my parents' house and I woke my sisters up as I'd smelled burning - we didn't have a smoke alarm - it was all a bit dramatic really.

5.  Fireworks. When we were kids we always had two bites of the cherry with fireworks as we'd have some on bonfire night and even more on Diwali. My Mum would always buy twice as many and we'd choose the best ones to save for Diwali night. You know the catherine wheel and rockets and stuff. Sparklers and bangers were just the opening act. My Dad went all primal with the fire side of things and it was truly terrifying watching him ignore all the safety rules, but he remains intact so his dangerman approach did no harm in the long run I guess.

If you're celebrating Diwali I hope you have a wonderful time. I'll be telling my boy all about it and hoping he's as excited as we used to be about it all. I know he's going to love the food, the lights and the presents.

In that - at least - he's proper indian :o)