Sunday, 29 October 2017

Mythical creatures make for magical family adventures.

Years ago when I wrote reviews for the uni newspaper the best thing was the amount of time I spent at the theatre or cinema seeing shows and movies. I knew how lucky I was and now I'm able to share this luck with my sons (and their friends) when we get invited to fantastic productions for families with children.

Pokemon Movie: I Choose You - Nationwide release


On Friday evening I took Brown Bear to watch the new Pokemon Movie: I Choose You with two friends from school. He's not a Pokemon officianado so it was interesting to see what he made of it as a first timer. It helps that the film is the origin story of how Pikachu and his trainer Ash met and became friends. I liked that fact that it starts at the beginning and explains who they are and what the Pokemon world is about. There were a lot of well informed people in the audience whose reactions to scenes suggested they have a history with the characters that gave them a deeper insight into the story than we had.

Brown Bear and his friends loved the trading card games they got before the film and the Poke ball with mini figure was a bit hit. It was certainly an exciting story with lots of positve themes about friendship, loyalty and a big helping of magic. They boys didn't stop talking about it on the way home or the next day with the oldest comparing it with the resurrection story. It is an epic tale and the storytelling is engaging.

Watch the trailer below to see what you can expect when it opens in cinemas on the 4th November.

The Hunting of the Snark - Churchill Theatre Bromley 

The Churchill Theatre in Bromley is one of my regular venues to see shows and I particularly like taking my boys. It's closer to home than the West End, they serve slushies (which Brown Bear is a big fan of) and the boys really enjoy the shows they have seen there. Churchill have a great programme of family friendly shows including the upcoming production of Hunting of the Snark. Based on the poem by Lewis Carroll this production was a huge success when it premiered in Cardiff, has been on tour to Hong Kong and comes to Bromley on Sunday 5th November.

The Boy, The Banker, The Butcher, The Baker, The Bellman and The Knitting Beaver set off on a journey to search for the mythical Snark. On their subsequent adventure they meet the Jub Jub Bird, the Bandersnatch and the dasterdly Boojum. It's a wild ride with witty songs, high energy performers,  puppetry, witty songs and plent of daft humour.

We can't wait to see the show which promises: All aboard ! The ship is departing ! All children, animals and silly people welcome ! 

Tickets for The Hunting of the Snark are available from: Box office

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Is this it ?

I think of myself as the hardcore parent in our family. The one who lays down the law, sets boundaries and follows through with consequences. However, this week I've seen this challenged and I feel a bit deflated. Brown Bear has surpassed his usual levels of self-importance and taken to just completely ignoring me. Blue Bear, however, has been with a childminder who told me he is a 'real pleasure to look after.' He has been playing with older children and growing in confidence by the day.   When I got him ready to have a bath last night he told me he could take off his t-shirt by himself and demonstrated very ably. Brown Bear, however, spent more time just doing his own thing and searching for TV programmes I'd asked him not to watch. By the time we all woke up this morning he was overtired and grumpy. As a result I was too.

I don't do well when I'm tired. I shout even more than usual and make ever escalating and insane threats. By the time I dropped him off at half term camp at 9am I had taken away the chance of going to McDonald's ever again, given all of his birthday presents to charity and banned all of his favourite programmes. It wasn't my best day. I came home from dropping both boys off and had something to eat. I felt better. If I'm running on empty I can't do this. It's not rocket science, I know, but sometimes it feels like I just don't know anything. 

Talking to another parent yesterday afternoon after a day spent with 'not my children' doing fun outdoor activities I wondered if my expectations of my children are too much. Maybe it's enough that they are happy, vibrant, funny and independent. It doesn't follow that they will also be good listeners, tidy or able to be together without duffing each other up. I have to get past thinking that everyone is looking at me and thinking, "wow she's so useless, her kids just don't sit still and listen."

Today has been a low point. I've shouted, misdirected my anger and broken down in tears. I've also upped my dosage in order to deal with my own emotional state. It might not help, but it can't make things any worse. I need to have something other than this anger and feeling of uselessness. Being mum is just not enough right now. I'm sorry.  

Monday, 23 October 2017

Halloweek and Halloweden in Cornwall

We've already had one week of half term and spent it in Cornwall. I love taking the children there and we have a few days out that we do every time we go.

The first is Lappa Valley which is the most wonderful day out for a family with train obsessed children. The steam engine takes you from the starting station into the valley itself and we rode on Ellie to get there, passing the boating lake and taking in the scenery as we enjoyed surprisingly good weather for October half term. We've been to Lappa many times before so the boys know pretty much which things they like to do and where to go first. We changed things up a bit this time though with a trip on the diesel engine which runs along a track that goes through forest land with some animal figures hidden in trees and on branches on the route. The day we went the train was held up a few times by 'leaves on the line,' but our driver was very patient and good natured about it and soon got us moving at speed again. Straight afterward we went on the intercity train that does two loops of the park and we spotted a shark in the pond !! Blue Bear did point out to me that I shouldn't be scared as it wasn't real.

As well as the trains there is a massive play area at Lappa Valley with practically a life size pirate ship and the best castle and pipe slide I think I've ever seen. The boys love it there and even on poor weather days they are happy to run around and play on this for ages. It's a great place to run off a lot of excess energy and with a cafe serving cornish cream teas and ice cream you can quite easily let them do their thing while enjoying the break. Well until the inevitable, "Muuuuuum, he pushed me," shatters the momentary peace that is.

For half term Lappa are celebrating Halloweek with spooky trains and plenty of themed events to celebrate Alongside all of the regular great attractions will two Spooks trails, one for Little Monsters (3-5 years) and for Big Beasts (6 years plus), children’s Halloween quiz, spooky colouring and a prize for everyone who comes in fancy dress! All of our activities are very family friendly and suitable for young children.  Best of all, all additional activities are included in the standard ticket price and it's such good value for what is always a great day out for us.

Lappa valley opens at 10am and Halloweek runs until 29th October.

I've been visiting the Eden Project since 2000 when it first opened and love it so much. In the years since my first visit I've seen the site grow and change and now I have children I also enjoy sharing it with them. Last week we booked a rainforest trek and Brown Bear and I walked for 45 minutes with our knowledgable guide Adam. We learned so many interesting facts about the rainforest and Brown Bear was fascinated and asked lots of questions. This is the longest he's spent in the rainforest biome as he's always found it too hot before, but the added interest of learning about the plants and ecosystem kept his mind off the heat.

Every time we go to Eden we have a few traditions. Hubbie goes to the Pukka tea tasting (and often has a pasty too), I get to have a cup of tea and a slab of delicious cake and the boys have delicious Cornish ice cream. One of our favourite things is storytime as the storytellers are amazing and really capture the magic and intensity of the spoken word. That's why I am so excited that Eden are hosting the first ever Halloweden event to celebrate half term. The Roald Dahl themed week of activities includes some of the best loved stories brought vividly to life in this brilliant setting. You can find a giant sleeping in the grounds, learn how to spot a witch and of course there is the Little Monsters Halloweden ball and disco on Saturday 28th October to celebrate the end of half term.

The ice rink is now open for the winter season and we have been a few times. There is an additional charge for ice skating and it's a good idea to pre-book as it can get busy. On the day we went the toddler session was about to begin and it's a non skating session for under 5s to encourage them to play safely on the ice. We asked Blue Bear if he fancied it, but he was adamant he didn't want to go. Maybe next time.

The Eden Project is open from 9.30-6pm and Halloweden is running until 29th October.

Disclosure: The lovely folks at the Eden Project offered us a family ticket to visit. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Adoption Week: Making memories

We've been away for a week and in the first three days the boys slept at my parents' house then at the in-laws' house then in our holiday cottage. Even tonight they were really unsettled and wouldn't go to sleep until quite late. Blue Bear asked me for a "really long hug Mummy." We're very strict about bedtime and when Blue first came to live with us we introduced him to our routine which is a bath, warm milk and bedtime stories. It took a while for him to get used to this way of doing things and now he even takes himself upstairs some evenings declaring, "I tired, I go to sleep."

There is so much he's adapted to and so many things he deals with brilliantly. When he has a blip it catches us off guard. Being in a place he hasn't been to before, seeing a lot of new people or travelling somewhere new. All of these cause anxiety and we see a side of him that we almost don't recognise. Recently when we've been going out he is insistent that he hold an adult's hand the whole time. He clings on tightly and becomes agitated about being safe. This is the child who scooters to school at top speed and waits for no one. He has his own friends and a social circle both inside and outside school.  I forget that there are things he's not ok with and this week has been a stark reminder that familiarity is really important to him.

He's never stayed at my parents' house before and he was really excited about it. I rang in the evening to see if he was ok and then in the morning. He came to the phone - reluctantly - and said, "Not again !" It was adorable and cheeky, but a relief that he was ok. He's slept at Grandma's house quite a few times so that was fine. It was being in a different cottage from last time that really caused ructions. We try not to overwhelm Blue with too many new things and this is the same place we stayed in July. We couldn't stay in the same cottage and this time the boys were in bunk beds - which was always going to be a bit of a drama. However, visiting places we've been to before was a revelation. When we were in Polperro Brown Bear said, "We had crinkles for a snack when we were here last time," as we reached the top of the harbour. As the tide was out we went to the beach this time and the boys remembered that we couldn't last time due to a high tide. At the Eden Project the boys noticed that a bicycle they had ridden before was in a different place. At Lappa Valley they noticed the new swan shaped pedaloes.

Noticing and recording memories is something we take very seriously. There is a chunk of Blue Bear's past we weren't part of so since he's been with us we've taken photos and kept momentoes of everything. I show him photos of when he first came to us and we talk about what he was like when he was a baby. Just like I do with Brown Bear. We remind him that he brought Dog Bear with him when he came to live with us. We keep in touch with his foster family as they are the vital link between birth family and us. They also love him very much and seeing how he is doing in his forever family and with his brother makes them so happy and proud. We haven't talked about adoption with Blue Bear yet, as he is still very young. However, he is a bright boy and it is not something we intend to keep from him. On holiday this week I noticed that he goads his brother now. He still worships Brown Bear, thinks he's wonderful and wants to be just like him. However, he's also braver and will jump on him knowing it's going to get a reaction. It has been lovely to see how much fun he is. On long road trips he would chat to us at the front by pointing out the sheep, or the windmills he could see out of the window. This afternoon when we passed a field of pigs the boys spent about ten minutes oinking and laughing. I tried to point out Stonehenge as we passed it, but the pig impressions were far more fun.

That's what makes being a family for me. Stupid jokes and animal noises. I hope that the boys will remember family time in their own ways and look back with joy.

It's National Adoption Week: There are over 2000 children waiting to be adopted in England. 61% of these children waiting to be adopted are in sibling groups so it's vital to find families for some of the brothers and sisters who desperately need them.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Adoption Week: How TV gets adoption so very wrong

Whenever adoption is depicted on TV and in films I find myself becoming annoyed. Often it's a sideline story littered with inaccuracies and often just downright made up. Further down the line - if it's even referred to - there are no repercussions and it's all but forgotten that adotion ever took place. I've become agitated seeing Stella take in a looked after child without any assessment whatsoever and not so much as a visit from a social worker. Apparently all it takes is a phone call to say that he can stay with a random adult he once knew and it's done. Hollyoaks always used to leave me bemused as vulnerable young adults would wind up living with a family they had no connection with other than living in the same made up soap land. We are so used to seeing american imported TV shows that I suspect there are people who have an entirely erroneous idea of how adoption works over here. If you believed shows like Friends or Modern Family you'd be forgiven for thinking that adoption is like a shopping expedition. Monica and Chandler were interviewed by an agency - who they lied to by the way - and were chosen by the birth mother despite their lies. The day the twins are born they go and pick them up and bring them straight home. No assessment, no home visit, no paperwork, nothing. When Cam and Mitchell adopt Lily she is brought home and again we don't see any follow up at all. At the very least this is poor safeguarding for the children involved. 

I'm going to be honest with you about the reality of adoption. There is a lot of bureaucracy. I mean loads. We had so many visits from social workers that we amended our shopping list so she could have toast during our morning assessments and biscuits on afternoon visits. I developed a system of biscuit management. The simple biscuits for the regular meetings (ginger nuts, rich teas, digestives).  chunkier cookies for the really nice social workers (Waitrose oat and fruit ones) and chocolate biscuits if they were coming to give us good news (Foxes ones in a pack with foil on). At one point I honestly thought we'd never see the end of this process. You know how contestants on the Apprentice talk about proving themselves worthy ? Well that's how we felt. And when the idiots in the jungle undertake disgusting bushtucker trials I can empathise with the bad taste in their mouth in order to achieve a greater good. And let's be truthful it is for the greater good. If you're too lily-livered for the assessment process you just won't cut the mustard as an adopter. 

Another area where the media depiction of adotion veers wildly from reality is post adoption. We rarely see children struggle with a new setting. The sleepless nights, the anxiety, the fears and unknown monsters from their past that you didn't know about. Within weeks of being placed with us we learned that our boy was afraid of the dark when he freaked out in the theatre as the lights went down. We found out he wouldn't sleep on his own and had to reach through his cot to check I was next to him - all night. I realised that he would not be held if he didn't want to be and would make it very clear that he wasn't going to co-operate if anyone tried to impose on his personal space. The relationship between him and our older son was also far more fraught than I had anticipated. They both felt displaced and wanted me all to themselves. It was a constant battle to provide reassurance to both boys and they fought bitterly and cried and screamed and generally made me feel like the worst mother in the world for not being able to keep them both happy. One would push the other one out of the way then the other would hit back. At the lowest point I would close the door to the kitchen as soon as Hubbie got home so that I could just cry and be away from the pulling in two directions. No TV show depicts adoption breakdown. Or the possibility of it happening. 

Today I watched my boys running around chasing each other and play fighting. I saw Blue Bear's adoration of his older brother and Brown Bear's faux annoyance at his younger brother. He secretly loves being a role model and takes it very seriously that he can influence someone so impressionable. Blue Bear has developed an excellent skill of 'managing up' and flatters his brother's ego knowing he will have far more fun that way. I see his skills are so different and his personality is adorable. He feels safe with us and is clearly marking his place in the family with his sense of humour and stubborness. The jealously still rears it's head, but not so much any more. Hubbie worked away overnight a few weeks ago and I whispered to Brown Bear that when his brother had gone to sleep he could sleep in my bed just this once. He was delighted - he got to be my baby for one night. The other night Blue Bear woke up scared he called for me - he usually calls for Daddy. They both know that I am here for them and that I love them equally. It's taken time and hard work and is still a work in progress. 

Adoption is not the easy choice. It's not even the only choice. What it is though, is about the right adopters being matched with children who are waiting for a chance to live in a family. In some cases for the first time in their lives. I didn't learn about adoption from watching TV. I learned by living it. I am still learning. 

It's National Adoption Week: As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. There is now clear evidence that decisions for adoption and placement orders are on the rise. With this in mind, National Adoption Week 2017 is focused on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Adoption Week: Brothers, Sisters, Family.

During the assessment process for adoption we were told that sibling groups are harder to place than single children. It makes sense really. If you have no children to start with taking on 3 or 4 of them, possibly all different ages and stages and with differing needs can be a daunting prospect. I know that when we saw the profile for a group of three children including twins under two and a toddler sibling it felt like an impossible ask. The oldest child already presented with special needs and the younger ones had yet to be assessed. I wasn't sure I could manage so many children at once and I worried that if all of them had additional needs it would be a struggle to give them all the support they needed. 

Not all sibling groups can be placed together. We also saw a profile for a group of 4 children who had 4 other siblings. The 8 children ranged in age from 2 to 10 years old. The two groups of 4 were being fostered close to each other and were being kept in contact with each other. It was anticipated that they would continue to see each other post adoption and that they would remain in contact in the long term. The foster carers were actually related so it worked well. 

In yet another case there were sisters who were being fostered together and who were to be placed for adoption together. One was a white child, the other was dual heritage. Considering how adamant the social workers seemed to be that we had to be an exact match to the ethnicity of the children we wanted to be matched with I was interested to see how they would choose to match these girls with a forever family.

Yet another pair of brothers were living together in foster care and were still seeing their birth mother. The boys had different fathers and the second one was a stark reminder of the difficult relationship that he was born into. The mother did not want anything to do with him and it made him a very anxious child. 

We had made the decision to adopt two children because we knew that multiple children wait longer and that it is more difficult to place children as they grow older. It was our decision to offer a home to siblings, but it was the decision of the social workers to not choose us. I understand now that it was for the best. Our road to being parents was different from what we expected. It wasn't what we had planned for, but it was just right for us anyway. 

I hope those children all found forever families to care for them. That being in a group did not put off potential parents. If it's possible to have a great outcome I really want for those children to have had that. I know that when I look at my birth son and adopted son I see my children. My family. These boys are my life, my soul, my very heart. I hope that the children who did not come to us are loved as fiercely as my children are. 

It's National Adoption Week and this year the theme is sibling groups. There are still over 2000 children waiting to be adopted. 61% of these children are in sibling groups which is why this year the emphasis on helping to find forever families for some of the brothers and sisters who desperately need them.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Adoption Week: What, again ?

Yes it's that time of year again when adoption agencies and organisations seek to publicise the importance of matching children who wait with families who can care for them in the long term. In case you have 'National week' fatigue please bear with me.

National adoption week is a reminder that there are still children who do not live with their birth families - for any number of reasons. That as a society we overlook children and young people who do not have security or long term prospects. It is also a way of educating people who have very little idea about what adoption is or what is involved. I have a personal dislike of inaccurate portrayal of looked after children in the media. Whether it's on an advert or a TV show or in a children's story I find it really difficult to tolerate the depiction of children are 'in care.'

Earlier this week I listened to a radio show presented by Lemn Sissay called Origin Stories. In it he talked about being in foster care and how he chose to see it as a superpower. Then he retold the Harry Potter story from the point of view of the Dursley's who 'fostered' Harry when his parents' died. It was a far more sympathetic portrayal than JK Rowling chose to depict. It also gave credance to the notion that just because a child has had a difficult past it doesn't mean their future has to follow the same negative pattern. The longer a child waits to be placed in long term care the harder they become to match with suitable carers. We were told that once a child is over 5 years old their 'appeal' to prospective adopters plummets. This is a person we're talking about here. A child who has already experienced loss and separation and trauma.

When we first approached local authorities to be assessed as potential adopters they just didn't want to know us. Hubbie and I are different ethnicities and they told us they wouldn't have children who matched our racial mix so it wasn't worth us being assessed. No, seriously they said that to us for real.  It beggars belief that this is even a concern, but hey I've got all week to tell you about that.

So,  I'm going to post about adoption this whole week. I have so much to say about this topic and I hope you will find it interesting. Maybe you could even share the posts if you can - that is the whole point of having a 'national adoption week' after all.


National Adoption Week 2017 will take place from the 16th to 22nd October. As in previous years, the need to find families for some of our most vulnerable children remains at the heart of this year’s event. National Adoption Week 2017 will focus on the need to find the right adopters for sibling groups.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

How many women have to speak before one is believed ?

The news that women in Hollywood are coming forward to disclose sexual abuse has uncovered a surprising variety of unreconstructed and frankly misogynistic attitudes. I've seen tweets attacking male film stars for not doing anything. Online comments directed at the wife and the women involved suggesting they knew what they were doing and were complicit. Heard interviews with 'insiders' who claim he was a bully, but they never saw anything like the alleged abuse. It's baffling how much talk there has been and now he's been fired from his own company, his wife is leaving him and he's apparently going into therapy.

There is so much to unpick here, but let me begin with the much discussed issue of who is to blame for this.

No, it is not he fault of all those 'insiders' who hid the truth

No, it isn't the fault of the actresses who didn't warn other women about him

No, it's not the fault of the studio executives who allegedly knew

No, it's not the fault of the actors who allowed it go on and helped cover it up

It is entirely the fault of the man who committed the acts. It is his blame alone. He did these things to women knowing he was able to get away with it. He chose to use and abuse women and to punish them if they tried to speak out against him. He knew what he was doing was abusing his position of power. That is why he targeted young women who were in a vulnerable situation knowing he could take away their careers.

You see when a man is a sexual predator he doesn't believe that he will get found out. It is unrelenting arrogance that a man who would do this then ensure that the woman knows she will not be believed. Not many men have the capacity to have an entire industry turn a blind eye, but remember that in this industry secrets are kept like in no other. Rock Hudson was only publically outed as gay when he died - everyone who worked with him knew, but it was not made public.

To blame everyone around him is to allow these repellant accusations to be dismissed as mere fantasy. I'm choosing my words carefully as he has not been charged with anything. We know by now that just because many women accuse a man of assault doesn't mean that he will face any consequences. The fear of not being believed keeps the cloak of silence firmly in place and even once there are others coming forward it might be years before anyone actually takes action.

Initially he apologised for any pain his actions may have caused - as if he'd merely inconvenienced someone rather than tricked, assaulted and humiliated them. Then he issued a denial, claiming that it was consensual sex and he had not been predatory in his behaviour. Now his wife has left him and he  has taken refuge in therapy where he can appear to be doing something while planning how to mitigate the damage to this career and reputation. Now he has claimed he is seeking help for a sex addiction. What about his addiction to abuse of power ? The deception he has perpetrated - repeatedly - and the humiliation he visited upon the women who have made allegations against him ? How about seeking help with the complete lack of capacity to accept personal responsibility for his own actions ? Making excuses will not change what has happened I find the abuser portraying himself as the victim unplatable at best.

Earlier this year we found out that someone we have known for over a decade was arrested and imprisoned for predatory sexual behaviour. It was such a shock and to be honest I still find it difficult to believe he was able to hide it and get away with it for as long as he did. A mutual friend found out and quite thoughtlessly asked if I genuinely had no idea. Surely I must have known something ? Well you should be proud of me for not punching his lights out, but instead I explained that if I had even an inkling of anything like that I would have done something about it. I am not a bystander. I do not allow wrongdoing past me. I challenge and report what I see and hear. Not everyone does, but I do. Had I any idea he was a sexual predator I would have confronted him and reported him. I did find him odd and often remarked on it, but put it down to my being a bit oversensitive. His partner was lovely so surely I was the one who had it wrong ? I could not have known what he was doing. He hid his actions and got away with them for many years. An abuser will do that.

The news items about this will be hard for anyone who has experienced sexual abuse to hear. I am struggling to keep my composure when I hear about his pathetic attempts to guilt women into having sex with him. Sitting and crying that a woman wouldn't sleep with him because he was fat - maybe it's because a woman has the right to say no. That being powerful and dominant in the industry in which that woman wants to work does not give you the right to take liberties with her. I veer between feeling revulsion and biting anger. The powerful women who have come forward to tell their stories can do so now because they are free of his tyranny. They have made a career and been successful - in some cases because of him - and can speak up. If only they had felt able to do so earlier because they would be believed and respected for speaking out.

Women involved in this are being treated with such shocking disregard and it shames us all. No one should feel they cannot report a sexual assault for fear of being treated with contempt, or threatened or because they will have their character called into question. This is not how we should treat people in a developed society.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017

Today is World Mental Health Day and it's taken me all day to decide to share the post below that I wrote a few months ago. I didn't post it back then as it didn't make sense to me why I'd share it. Now I see that it shows how all over the place I can get. The anxiety and depression I've lived with since childhood manifests in different ways. I can be fine for ages and get things done then I might go through what I'm experiencing at the moment which is a debilitating sense of failure and lack of motivation. Don't get me wrong I can still function. The boys get fed and picked up from school and the cat gets taken to the vet, but in between is a blur. I have to remind myself to eat food, make myself go for a swim and run otherwise I find my moods are too extreme. I lose my shit because someone hasn't put the bread back in the bread bin. I burst into tears in the car the other day because I heard Sam Smith's new single. It opened an old emotional wound at that moment and I couldn't stop myself. So that's why I'm sharing this now:

"You know that thing when someone asks, "how are you ?" and you say, "I'm fine." If you are British that's as far as it goes. Unless you reciprocate and ask how they are and you both nod in recognition that things are fine and move on to talking about tea or the weather or something equally important. My father in law is much more Eeyore like and when asked how he's doing will often reply, "Oh you know, hanging on by a slender thread." Now I just say, 'hanging in there Grandpa ?" to save him the trouble.

So the reason I've mentioned this is because at the moment when anyone asks how I am I'm struggling to reply convincingly. "I'm ok" is as far as I can manage and at least one of my friends has already questioned further. To be fair Jo has known me nearly 30 years so it takes some to get anything past her. A more honest summary of my state of mind right now might be, 'a bit like Brown Bear's room.' ie. untidy, messy, full of noise and scattered with random unrelated items. Frankly, I'm not doing well right now. Partly it's the long summer holiday - which I always find challenging. Mostly it's a lot of factors that are causing stress and anxiety in my life right now.

Blue Bear is joining his brother's school next week and he's very excited about it. I am too and have been trying to get back to work as both my boys will be in school during the day now. So far I've had nothing but rejection and it's really getting me down. Most of my working life I was blessed with the ability to get an interview for a job and often to get a job offer. Since becoming a Mum this skill seems to have completely vanished and I'm baffled. I was aware of the phenomenon of the 'motherhood penalty,' but I had no idea how insidious it really is. My confidence is completely shot and I find myself wondering if I'm doomed to a life of rearranging the furniture and sorting socks - which frankly could be a full time job in this house. I've got lots of lovely friends (and lovely Hubbie) supporting me with this and advising me on how to keep positive. It all helps - to a point - but each time I get a rejection it leaves me feeling despondant.

Taking on other people's stresses is something I have always done - not deliberately you understand. It's just that when someone close to me has something painful going on in their life I take it on emotionally as well. When one of my lovely friends was diagnosed with cancer I talked to her while she was undergoing treatment to help her process the emotions and practical things that were going on. We talked, we shared and we laughed. We celebrated her successful treatment by taking part in the Moonwalk three years ago. Then earlier this year she found out that she was ill again. It just seems so unfair. She is amazing and pragmatic and - at the risk of sounding like a terrible cliche - incredibly brave. I'm very lucky to know her.

When my loved ones are struggling it breaks my heart. It also breaks me physically, but it takes me ages to notice myself. I've been taking care of myself and eating well and running again so that helps. I'm not much fun to be around right now. On edge, shouty, quick to tears and completely unpredictable. I don't know what to do to make things better. I wish I could fix the things that are making me feel like this, but some things are just out of my hands."

So that's how it feels in the middle of it all. I'm not entirely sure why it happens or how to get past it, but I know it's a moment in time. Sometimes the moment goes on for a while. What I do know is that I can do this. However difficult it seems at the time I always get through it.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Watching Strictly with my boy is fab-u-lous darling

Brown Bear has been singing a particular song recently - it's not one I know, but the constancy with which I've heard it has lodged it in my mind. Last weekend Hubbie said that one of the dances on Strictly had featured Brown Bear's song. I showed him the dance tonight and he loved it. Then he enjoyed watching the comments afterwards and before we knew it we'd watched all of last week's show. He enjoyed the scoring - he's a big fan of numbers - and particularly liked predicting what scores the judges would award.

Once we'd seen the 'D'Esposito dance' I asked him if he would come with me if I won tickets to watch the show live. He thought about it and replied, "Only if they do this song again. " It's probably just as well that it's unlikely I'll win any tickets.

Susan Calman appeared and he asked me why she was called Susie on the show and I explained that the song title was about Susie. Then he said,
"I know her - she's on Top Class."  When the shot panned across the audience I pointed out Susan's wife. Hubbie walked past and I said, she looks different from when we saw her.
"Did you see her in real life Mummy ?"
"Yes sweetie, she did a show in Croydon."
He looked pretty impressed.

When we saw Jonnie Peacock dancing I said Oti (Jonnie's partner) is Daddy's favourite dancer. Brown Bear asked about the blade Jonnie was wearing and I said,
"It's like the one that Jim wears at the swimming pool isn't it ?"
"No mummy his is different, this one is bigger and looks like a blade."
"Yes that's true, but they are both artificial legs or 'prosthetics'"
"He's dancing very fast."
"He's a runner and was in the paralympics. We took you to watch some of the events at the paralympics when you were a baby."

As I mentioned we watched more dances than I had intended and he was really getting into the show.
"Mummy are they married to each other ?"
He asked about each couple.
"No, they're just dance partners. Bruno and has a boyfriend and Craig does too. They're not married to each other."
"What language is Bruno speaking Mummy ?"
"He is speaking english, but it sounds different and when he gets excited he sounds even more italian."

Brown Bear was keen to skip straight to the scores, but I like hearing what the judges think of the dances. "Why is Craig horrible to everyone ?"
"Well he takes it seriously so he tells them when they get it wrong. He's being honest."
"He's not nice to them."
"When he likes the dance he does tell them, but he also offers some advice on what they can do better."
"I've seen Craig before."
"Yes we saw him in Peter Pan last year - he played Captain Hook."
"Oh did we ?"
"Yes, you met him after the show. You had your hook on your hand and he said how cute it looked."

So a new strictly fan has been created. He already asked me if he can watch the next one and as Hubbie is out tomorrow evening I've promised he can watch the results show with me. I might even wear sequins.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Music makes my world go around

You remember how last year was an unrelenting series of obituaries of people who were legends and each one was a bigger shocker than the last ? Ok so the big one was Bowie and he went in January, so that was pretty major right there. Well, as a radio presenter it meant I played music by a lot of artists who I may well have neglected for years and maybe even forgotten (apart from David B of course). 

This week as I prepared for my new radio show on Radio Lewes I heard on the Today programme that Tom Petty had died. My entire plan for the show changed immediately as I made a new playlist featuring songs by him and all the members of the Traveling Wilburys - the 'supergroup' he was part of with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Bob Dylan. If you haven't heard of them - well, shame on you - have a listen to their solo efforts. 

Tom Petty - Free Fallin'

Geroge Harrison - Got my mind set on you 

Roy Orbison - Oh Pretty Woman 

Jeff Lynne - Don't bring me down

Bob Dylan - Blowin' in the wind

I'll be live on Radio Lewes on Saturday morning with fellow presenter Ben and we'll be continuing the tribute to Tom Petty so do join me if you can: Radio Lewes

And when you're done take a listen to my latest show: Something for the weekend