May kids reads

So, mid-May and we are in the final countdown before little girl #3 comes along. Having lost a baby last August I am definitely ready for my baby to be here. I know how lucky I am but this pregnancy has been proper stressful. I am at that strange third trimester phase of being excited and also terrified of change. Typical cancerian, change is a little scary for me!!! ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜ฑ. Next week we are off to Mousehole in Cornwall for our last holiday as a 4. Definitely the last time we can all fit comfortably in the car. I am completely ready to have some proper family time. Sandcastles, crab salads, ice cream and hopefully some good books.

  • The Railway Children by E Nesbit.
  • E Nesbit died 4th May 1924.

โ€˜โ€œOh! My Daddy, my Daddy!โ€ That scream went like a knife into the heart of everyone in the train, and people put their heads out of the window to see a tall pale man with thin lips set in a close line, and a little girl clinging to him with arms and legs, while his arms went tightly round her.โ€™ โค๏ธ๐Ÿš‚โค๏ธ๐Ÿš‚โค๏ธ๐Ÿš‚โค๏ธ๐Ÿš‚โค๏ธ๐Ÿš‚

Not a review but who doesn’t have fond memories of The Railway Children??? We used to have it on cassette and it was definitely one of my favourite. I also loved the film. Mr Perks has to be one of the best characters and I remember loving the part when the Old Gentleman sent the hamper when mother had influenza. Just beautiful.

  • Peter Pan by J M Barrie.
  • J M Barrie born 9th May 1860.

‘”Wendy,” Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, “Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”‘๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

I wonder what Mr Barrie thinks of the legacy he left behind? I remember my dad taking me to see it at the cinema….it must have been re-released as this outing definitely didn’t happen in 1953. Following the Leader is a song that we probably sing everyday in my family!!!

  • Toto. The Dog Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo.
  • L Frank Baum born 15th May 1856.

From master storyteller MICHAEL MORPURGO, and illustrated in stunning colour by the award-winning EMMA CHICHESTER CLARK, comes a surprising, charming and uplifting twist on The Wizard of Oz, told by a very special and unforgettable character: Dorothyโ€™s pet dog, Toto. A perfect, collectible gift for all children (and children at heart).

โ€œI was there,โ€ Papa Toto said, and those magic words sent shivers down my spine. It was going to be the Wizard story. โ€œDorothy and me were both there.โ€
We were all silent, snuggled up together, waiting, waiting.
Then Papa Toto beganโ€ฆ

When a twister descends on their Kansas farm, Toto and his owner Dorothy hide in the house โ€“ only to be plucked into the air and whisked away!

Coming down with a crash in the mysterious land of Oz, the pair meet a series of extraordinary characters: a scarecrow who believes he has no brains, a tin man without a heart, and a cowardly lion who may not be as cowardly as he thinks he is.

But Toto and Dorothy are desperate to return home โ€“ after all, home is home, and home is best! So they set off with their new friends on a journey down the yellow brick road to find the only person who might be able to help them: the Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

But what they find might surprise them. And on the way, all of them will learn that what they think they are missing might have been there, all alongโ€ฆ

Beautifully illustrated throughout, this is an unforgettable telling of a classic story, and a must for every bookshelf.

I was really happy to discover this book and it would be a perfect gift for a Wizard of Oz fan. Telling the tale from Toto’s point of view is a fab twist and Chichester Clark’s illustrations are beautiful and colourful. Unfortunately, Edie (6) was a little young to appreciate it….you know when you have to skip bits or use ridiculously exaggerated voices to hold their attention??? Yes, I felt that I had to do that a lot. Anyway, I think it would be brilliant to read aloud to a 7/8 year old. Lovely book.

  • The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem.
  • Jill Barklem born 23rd May 1951.

If I had to name a book or series that summed up my childhood it would be the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem. When my sister and I were little we lived in a village outside of Market Harborough. My paternal grandparents lived in Carlisle so seeing them was a big treat. I remember when we woke up in the mornings we could get into their bed and Grandma would read to us. Grandpa who was a typical dour Scot would try to grab our legs under the covers….I remember always being a little scared of him. Coming from a family of boys he found the idea of granddaughters pretty terrifying. Not so my Grandma. I used to love her reading to me and Brambly Hedge was my favourite. I loved the idea of the mice having their whole world under our noses. The illustrations were absolutely wonderful – really detailed so there were always new things to spot. I think my favourite was Winter Story. This one really captured my imagination….the mice find a forgotten part of the house which is full of old toys and dressing up clothes….what child wouldn’t love this?!?!? My idea of heaven.

The Well-Loved Tales from Ladybird are a massive hit in our house. I remember loving them as a child so every time I pass a second hand book shop I scour the shelves. Ceci completely adores The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, The Three Little Pigs and also Rapunzel. Edie is more of an Elves and the Shoemaker kind of girl. I also remember having a lot of these stories on cassette….the accompanying music was always something by Beethoven….did anyone else have the same tapes???

  • The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside.

Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her – in a big blue bag. They are with her all the time – at school, at home, when she is watching TV and even in the bathroom! Jenny decides they have to go, but who will help her get rid of them?

A funny and reassuring look at dealing with worries and anxiety, to be used as a spring board into important conversations with your child.

13th-19th May is Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I should post a book that helps deal with anxiety in children. With the imminent arrival of our third daughter, I wanted to read a book which would prompt the girls to tell me their worries about the baby. Brownie points go to the emotional and hormonal mum but my girls weren’t interested. No worries apparently. ๐Ÿคฐ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฐ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ. So instead of pressing the issue, I read the book in bed with a nice cuppa. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ˜‚The illustrations are lovely and itโ€™s perfect for KS1 and 2 children who like me are worriers. ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธI have had depression on and off since I was 16 years old. It is not something I am ashamed of. Itโ€™s something that makes me me along with a wobbly mummy tummy and small boobs. I used to feel guilty that I had no โ€˜reasonโ€™ to be depressed but now I accept that itโ€™s just down to chemistry. (I always hated chemistry at school so itโ€™s probably karma๐Ÿคฃ). I have taken Citalopram but am currently taking Sertraline for my depression. Both have worked well and I have always been able to come off them easily when I have wanted to – MYTH 1 BUSTED. ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ

I am getting on well with Sertraline and still able to get emotional when my daughter sings songs from The Greatest Showman. Your drug of choice DOESNโ€™T have to make you feel like an emotional desert – MYTH 2 BUSTED – If your medication isn’t working for you, try something else. ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿ™Œ

I think the important word in MHA Week is to be AWARE. Be pro-active about your mental health. No one should feel hopeless and like you are at the bottom of a dark well. No one should feel ashamed when they are struggling. Please ask for help. Go to a doctor or a counsellor. You have one life. Live it! Learn what keeps you sane. For me itโ€™s books. I need the escape a book provides me, I need the feeling of achievement finishing a book gives me and most of all I need the solitude that reading provides. ๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ“š๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ“šPlease donโ€™t suffer in silence.

Right that is all from me this month. I am currently writing this from our tiny cottage in Mousehole Cornwall. Ozzie has taken then girls rockpooling so I have about half an hour before they return overtired and probably with bleeding knees!!!!

December Beauty

Well tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and to be honest I am well over the Crimbo Limbo. It’s a funny old time of year isn’t it??? I am well happy to kiss goodbye to 2018 which in many ways has been a bit of a shitter but I am a little scared of what 2019 will bring. I mean January?!?! What is that month about?!?!? Does anyone like January?!?!?

My hopes for 2019???? A cure for my crater like open pores and maybe just maybe I will embark on some Botox. Maybe. I’m not sure. Maybe .

  • Sand and Sky Australian Pink Clay Mask. ยฃ39.99

There has been a ton of hype surrounding this product. By hype I mainly mean that each and every time I log onto FB the adverts come up practically begging me to buy it. My husband calls me an advertisers dream. To be honest, if a product promises to reduce my pores then it’s bought.

As ever, I embark on products like these completely believing that it will change my life. I’ve now been using it 2-3 times a week since October. The little pot has lasted really well, mainly I think due to the brush you use to paint it all over your face. I bloody love the ritual of using the brush over my face…..the lack of mess is brilliant. The mask tingles a bit and dries very quickly. The flannel/sponge thing takes it off beautifully and my skin looks glowing and clear after removing. Are my pores reduced???? So, having become a bit of a product queen in the last couple of years, I wonder if the open pore holy grail exists. Maybe I am actually needing a miracle. After using this, my pores aren’t massively reduced but this is a bloody good mask that leaves my skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and looking lovely. I will continue my quest for the grail but I have a feeling I will definitely repurchase this product.

If there was any product that has changed my 2018 it is hyaluronic acid. I wish I had discovered it years ago, maybe I would still look like a 16 year old. So, over the past few months I have used 3 bottles of hyaluronic acid serum. Hands down the best was Pestle and Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum ยฃ36/30ml. The consistency of this was the thickest out of the three and therefore the product just felt more substantial. I used it twice a day and my skin immediately looked plumper, more refined, glowing and felt like velvet. The Poppy Austin Hyaluronic Acid Serum ยฃ15.49 for 60ml, although being really good value was my least favourite. It seemed to work well but for me, the consistency was just too thin and watery. That being said, for those among you who like a product to be pretty much immediately absorbed, this could be the one for you. For me however, I like to feel that I am getting a little more bang for my buck.

The Viola Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid is the cheapest of the bunch at ยฃ6.85. Although cheap, I have been really pleased with this product. Skin feels hydrated and looks plumped. The addition of Vitamin C has helped to fade the pigmentation I developed in my last pregnancy. Nice consistency too. I mean for ยฃ6.85 I can’t really complain!!!

Right off I trot to walk the dog. I am trying to do more daily exercise to avoid getting back on the anti depressant wagon. Not 100% sure it’s working but I’m going to persevere.

I hope you all have a great night tomorrow and a fabulous, wrinkle free, clear skinned 2019.

Somewhere over the rainbow. My miscarriage story.

It’s been a couple of weeks since I landed in this strange bubble world of sadness and disconnect. On the 11th August we lost our baby of 20 weeks. Two weeks on and I feel just as sad and empty but with an added fear that the world is still turning and at some point I have to start turning again with it. I just don’t feel ready to do that yet.

This is a very personal but necessary post to write and for me it has been really therapeutic. Late miscarriage is thankfully rare. At the doctor’s surgery last week, I was told that I was the only late miscarriage they had had this year. Last year there was only two. I have joined a couple of late miscarriage Facebook groups and the support the ladies give each other is invaluable. Still however, the group is full of questions and not many answers. Last night a lady posted who had lost her baby at 17 weeks. She was due to go into hospital the next day and she had no idea what would happen. She was terrified. If this post lifts the shroud of secrecy, mystery and darkness around miscarriage then it’s done it’s job. If it helps one person then great.

This baby would have been our third daughter. I have always wanted a big family. I remember my husband being more reticent: we have 2 beautiful and healthy daughters, why ask for more????I have crap pregnancies, why go through it again???? I saw his logic but I couldn’t shake the image of myself as Ma Walton or Sally Field in Brothers and Sisters. I want a brood of children. I don’t want it to be neat and tidy. I want a mess of emotions and megabloks united in a big family. I got my wish. We got pissed one night and I got pregnant. Easy.

This pregnancy fell under the radar a bit. I didn’t worry. In fact I was blasรฉ. I knew the drill, I had done it twice before. I was so busy with the girls and work I didn’t really think about it. I had a bit of a wobble before the 12 week scan when I was a little worried my age (37) would increase the risk of downs etc but generally I took it all in my stride. When I lay on the bed and saw our little bean on the screen, I cried. It was moving about like something possessed. My blood results came back and there was minimal risk of any genetic problems. Suddenly seeing the baby on the screen made it so real. I realised we were so lucky to be in this position again.

On the 9th August it was raining….maybe that was prophetic after weeks and weeks of blazing sun. My 2.5 year old and I went to me routine midwife appointment. She used the Doppler to listen to the heartbeat and couldn’t find one. I knew then. She sent me to hospital for a scan. I left the midwife and tried to call my husband who eventually answered, left work and rushed to meet me. I remember walking through the hospital thinking ‘in 5 minutes I will know and I will either be devastated or beyond relieved.’ In 5 minutes I did know. The baby had died. “It’s not good news” said the man doing the scan. My husband arrived just after I was told and we just sobbed.

We were ushered out of the room, past the couples who were waiting for their scans of their living babies and into the counselling room. Midwives and consultants came in and apologised for our loss. It was a blur of words and despair. I was advised to come back on Saturday and be induced. I was given a pill to stop the pregnancy hormones. I was given tea with sugar and then we left, clutching my maternity notes that 6 weeks previously showed the scan of our baby and now listed the sad words intrauterine death.

On Saturday we arrived at the Delivery Suite and were shown into a room called The Forget Me Not Suite (I mean really?!?!?!?). I remember walking in and being overwhelmed by the sight of the bed where soon I would be pushing out my baby. My midwife Anne came in. What a shit job that must be. I wonder if they had drawn straws to see who had the miserable task of manning The Forget Me Not Suite that day. As she was trying to find a vein to insert my cannula I asked “Do you get many of these?”

“Tricky veins?” She answered.

“No,” I replied. “Dead babies.”

“No, not that many.” I couldn’t work out whether to be comforted or gutted by her response.

There was a TV in the room. Thank God there was a TV in the room. Rather naively, my husband and I had no idea how long the whole process would take. It’s long. Arduous. I was given a tablet every 6 hours. We arrived in hospital at 8am and my Labour didn’t really start until 8pm. We spent the time drinking bad cups of tea and watching totally random shit on tv….power walking, endless gardening. Daytime TV on Saturday is bad. My husband was angry and frustrated that we weren’t prepared for how long it was going to take. I was grateful that I didn’t know.

The day passed in a bit of a blur. I remember feeling so sorry for the lady who came in to take our food orders. You could tell she was terrified what she would find behind the door of the Forget Me Not Suite. At 19:30 a new midwife came on, Araminta. This midwife found it harder than Anne. I called her at 20:00 when I went to the toilet and had started bleeding. Araminta found me sobbing on my husband. This was the bleakest time for me. Usually labour pains signify the start of a new phase in your life. I remember in NCT being told that every contraction brought you closer to seeing your baby. This time every contraction was bringing me closer to the end of something I so longed for. Araminta helped me into bed, cuddled me and had a cry herself.

Labour pains weren’t as bad as the previous times. I guess due to the fact that I didn’t have to get to 10cm. Earlier in the day I had been completely torn about pain medication. I was in such emotional pain should I use meds to dull the physical pain? Alternatively would the physical pain give me a good excuse to scream out some of the emotional pain? In the end I plumped for co-codamol and gas and air. In previous labours, gas and air made me feel a bit sick. This time however, it made me feel just out of it enough that I could almost disconnect with what was going on.

Labour proper started during the film Pitch Perfect 2. Ironically I had been discussing the merits of the Pitch Perfect trilogy only a few days earlier with a colleague. A few days earlier, when I was happy and confident I was carrying a healthy baby. When the baby came out, Araminta kept saying “sorry, sorry, sorry.”

I saw my daughter. Initially I was too scared. I was worried that every time I closed my eyes, she was all I would see. The midwife told me she was beautiful. I didn’t like the idea that she would only be seen by the midwife. I had to see this little life. My daughter, my little girl. She was beautiful. Tiny. The size of my hand. She won’t ever know her big sisters, she won’t argue with them about whether to watch Dugee or Ben and Holly but for a little while she was alive and because of that, as her mum, I had to see her.

After she was born we had to wait for the placenta. Because the umbilical chord was so thin there was a worry that it would break. After numerous attempts to extract it manually I was taken to Theatre and the whole thing was over at 6:30 am.

So what have I learned? I am now a member of a quiet, sad group of women who are praying for their rainbow. This word has a new meaning now (rainbow is a baby conceived after a loss). I now know what all these initialisms mean: BD (baby dance….sex), TTC (trying to conceive) and MC (miscarriage).

I have learned about grief. At 37 I realise I am pretty lucky. My parents are alive and well as are my husband’s. Life has been good to us so grief is an emotion I haven’t had much experience with. I knew I would go through feelings of anger. I was expecting these feeling to be aimed at people who were pregnant or those with newborns. This hasn’t been the case at all. I don’t want their babies. I want my own. Surprisingly, in the beginning I was angry at the baby I miscarried. I feel there is a bit of a non written contract when you get pregnant. I, as the mother promise to eat the right food, drink the right drinks, exercise when I am knackered, inject myself with blood thinners (to stop clotting), take daily vitamins, puke my guts up etc. You, as my baby just have to stay alive. Keep that heart pumping. If the worst should happen, please miscarry in the first few weeks (the pessimist in me expects that). Please don’t die at 20 weeks and give me no indication of your passing. I feel almost wrong footed by the baby. I turned up at my midwife appointment, with my 2 year old, confident that all was well. I think partly this grief is tainted by shock. I was confident in this pregnancy to the point of almost being cocky. I had two successful pregnancies this baby would be fine. The fact that this has happened and I was so unprepared has shocked me to the core.

What has been hard??? The day my husband went back to work was horrid. Seeing people carry on with life is awful when I feel like I am permanently on pause. People saying “it just wasn’t meant to be” is horrid. Being exhausted. Grieving is utterly knackering. I spend the day in a constant haze and then when I crawl into bed I am wide awake.

There has however been humour. Pretty dark humour granted but there have been some laughs. I had my first counselling session the other day. The lady gave me a diagram about how men and women grieve differently. Apparently at the moment I am floundering in ‘The Whirlpool of Grief” while my husband is trying to stay afloat in “The River of Life.” There have been a few jokes about this….mainly sung either to the tune of The Rhythm of Life or The Circle of Life.

People have said I’m brave and lovely as that is it’s one thing I’m not. I think you are brave if you choose to do something that scares you. I’m not brave. I had no choice but to go through this and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I know with time it will get easier but at the moment I don’t feel like the girl I was 3 weeks ago and at the moment I am trying to work out where I fit in a world in which I feel so disconnected.

Just trying to keep up with life

Today is one of those days when I get on the tube and breathe a sigh of relief and then remember it is only Tuesday. How is it only Tuesday??? I feel like I have been running at 100mph so how can it only be Tuesday. Then I think ‘Come on Els. Don’t get too excited for the weekend. They aren’t how they used to be.’

Writing this, I now feel unbearably guilty that I have kids, a fab job, lovely family, husband, friends etc and still have low times. But this, I’m afraid is a low time. I can tell I’m low because the slightest thing added to my already full plate is enough to send me potty. This morning it was an email from Amazon reminding me to return an item. It is now all I can think about. I guess because the little things (like the amazon delivery) I feel I can control. It’s the Hamster Wheel of Life I feel that I have no control of and I just want to get off for 24 hours.

Every morning the same. Youngest child comes into our room and only wants me. This should be nice and I should love it but sometimes it’s just exhausting. Eldest child has the same strops I used to have as a child….my tights are uncomfortable, my hair has bumps. There is a scene in Sing (which we watch every day) when Rosita the knackered-mum-pig makes a recording of herself so she can leave the house and do something she wants to do. That’s what I feel like doing for the morning routine. I swear I say literally the same thing everyday at exactly the same time. 7:52 is the row about tights and 8:01 is the row about bumps in hair. Eventually they look presentable and we head downstairs to have a row about breakfast. “No you can’t have f&@ยฃing chocolate cake.” 10 minutes later….”fยฃ&k it. Have chocolate cake but make sure you have a banana with it.” We leave the house. Youngest child is insistent on bringing a telephone on a string everywhere we go…consequently we are late. Have I mentioned that I still haven’t had a shower and I have last night’s dream dribble crusted around my mouth????

Finally I get on the tube to work and I start breathing again. Wow. Sometimes I feel like I’ve totally got it. Other times I feel like I am just pretending and I need someone to lock me in a room for 24 hours where I can just rock and hum random tunes to myself. The funny thing is, that this 100mph living becomes the norm. Almost a habit, so it becomes almost impossible to relax even when I have the time to.

I guess this is why blogging helps. For the last 15 minutes I have ranted at my 30 followers and I now feel better. So thanks guys and if any of the rest of you feel like exhausted hamsters, please know you are not alone and I feel your pain.

Motherhood Reimagined by Sarah Kowalski

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this novel.

This is a book which will stay with me for a long time. This is the first book on fertility issues I have read but the book was calling to me as I am now at slap bang in the โ€˜baby phase.โ€™ My friends and I have moved on from weddings and we are now at that stage of having and trying to have babies.

Fertility is something which is taken for granted. When you first become sexually active you spend your life trying not to get pregnant and living in fear that a โ€˜mistakeโ€™ would be made and you would fall pregnant. As young women, we brazenly go through life assuming that we are all fertile goddesses and, if you happened to have unprotected sex, you will become a mother nine months later. When you plan your life do you ever allow for infertility problems, divorce, illness? Of course not. You assume you will breeze through life unscathed by the ups and downs. They happen to other people. People on Eastenders and Hollyoaks. Not to people like you.

Sarah Kowalski was one such woman. As a child, she loved children and assumed she would always become a mother. Like a lot of modern women, her career and life in general took centre stage โ€˜somewhere between my rocket-speed career and my jet-setting, single life, Iโ€™d completely lost my resolve to have children.โ€™ She became a high powered  corporate litigator. However disaster struck and she was diagnosed with a type of repetitive strain injury called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. She went from an energetic, sociable woman to someone who was in constant pain. She didnโ€™t have the strength  to wash her own hair or even put her key in the lock. She left her job and started to research alternative therapies like Feldenkrais and Qigong. It is through Qigong that Sarah met the most patient man in the world. Chris. Through Chrisโ€™s Qigong sessions Sarah decided she would start the journey to motherhood and she embarked upon Project Baby. As any woman knows, when Project Baby starts it is completely all encompassing. 

This is when the book became slightly frustrating for me. As a woman who struggles with depression, I have always gone for the quick fix….medication. Counselling didnโ€™t work for me. I didnโ€™t want to chat, I wanted a cure. This is where Kowalski and I differ.  I struggled with Kowalskiโ€™s initial objection to IVF, donations and her disregard to the information provided by the medical experts. The odds were so stacked against her, her time was running out and it was incredibly unlikely that acupuncture and Chinese herbs were going to make a difference. But that was her journey, and although the constant sobbing phone calls to Chris were irritating for me as a reader, Kowalski felt she had to run through all her options before she moved onto donation. On finishing the book, my feelings of frustration changed into feelings of respect. This was a process that Kowalski had to go through. She felt she had to exhaust all her options before she moved onto IVF and donation. Luckily Kowalski was not constrained by her financial situation. Money was no object in quest to have a baby. This is obviously not the case for a great many women out there and I wish Kowalski had acknowledged this. Her route to motherhood would not necessarily have been the one I would have taken. but it was herโ€™s and that was an inspiration. 

I use the word โ€˜journeyโ€™ because that is really what this book felt like for me as a reader. Fertility is such a massively contentious issue. I was lucky enough to fall pregnant easily but I know a lot of people who didnโ€™t. As one of the ones who didnโ€™t struggle, I often feel like I am not qualified to have an opinion on fertility issues and I am so scared of saying the wrong thing. All I can say is, as a mother I can only imagine how it must feel when you are faced with the very real possibility that you might not have children of your own. For those amongst us who have always planned to become parents, to discover that you might not be able to fulfill that destiny. When you feel your body isnโ€™t doing what it should. When everywhere you look, you see pregnant people. Utterly heartbreaking. 

Sarah Kowalski is a woman we should all admire. To go through this journey alone is utterly inspirational. In a sense Chris almost became her partner. Lacking the steady constant a partner or family member would provide, Chris took on the role. He helped her choose a sperm donor, channeled her anger and was even present during her labour.  I wonder had Sarah had that sounding board in the form of a partner maybe she would have come to the decision of donation quicker? If she had that person who could literally take the decision out of her hands things may have been easier. I wanted her to have someone to say โ€˜Stop. This isnโ€™t working. Letโ€™s try something else.โ€™

As I have made clear, this was not an easy read. I feel like I went through the whole range of emotions with Sarah. Hope, frustration, excitement, disappointment, happiness. This was the kind of book that made me actually audibly react on the train which was often embarrassing. I also often felt quite stressed on arriving at work having read a few chapters on my journey. I want to make it clear that by no means is this a criticism of the book. I completely engaged with it and learned a lot. This book should be read by anyone who wishes to become a parent. Who knows if your journey will be easy but if itโ€™s not I am sure Kowalskiโ€™s book will offer hope and comfort.

Thanks again to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

The Angry (But Utterly) Brilliant Chef

There is a man who I work with whose sole purpose in life (apart from singing very loud and very high) is to say controversial things. For the purposes of this post, lets call him Frank. If I say black, Frank says white. If I vote remain he votes leave. Firstly, I would like to say that Frank isn’t a person I dislike. I actually have a bit of a soft spot for him. When work gets dull, it is exciting to anticipate which ridiculously controversial statement will come out of his mouth at the most inopportune moment.  As controversial as Frank is, he creates a sense of camaraderie amongst his colleagues.  It is nice to have someone at work who we can tut about and raise our eyes to heaven. During a particularly dull moment at work, I heard Frank discussing The Angry Chef with a colleague. Said colleague is forever trying new diets and eating fads. Atkins, gluten free, pale, clean eating. She has tried them all, presumably because none of them have provided her with the results she was needing. Frank was telling her very loudly that ‘diets were all bollocks. You should read this book and you’ll see.’

I have never been someone who has dieted. Not because I have the body of a goddess….I could definitely do with losing a bit of weight, but mainly because I love food. Interestingly, I work in an industry where how you look is important. No-one wants to stand on a stage in a costume you have been made to wear and feel hideous. The world of opera has often been associated with fat singers with horns on their heads. Although there definitely are overweight singers, it is important to singers to be healthy and to be able to move about the stage with ease. Gone are the days of stand and deliver performances. That being said, working anti social hours does lead to unhealthy eating habits. I always have a bag of haribo on my desk, and a quick sugar hit is the thing I usually crave. A lot of my colleagues are looking for that quick fix diet that will help them lose a bit of weight whilst maintaining the energy to do a demanding job. Warner speaks about how all these diets work on the assumption that if we make black and white choices regarding our diet then we can be in control of illness and obesity. He says companies work on the idea that ‘cancer. type-1 diabetes, mental-health issues, obesity and the common cold are all neatly blamed on the individual, all wrapped up in a neat package of self loathing, designed to inspire us to change our behaviour.’ The point Warner is making is that it is not that simple.

I decided to take Frank’s advice to see if it was all ‘a load of bollocks’ so I got the book out of the library. There is no denying Warner has the knives out. Indeed the cover of the book is emblazoned with knives and endorsements from respected cooks and chefs written on the blades:

Thank God for the outspoken, intelligent, well informed Anthony Warner. Someone had to say it (the Clean Gut cult is tosh) and he does – forcefully, amusingly and convincingly. Prue Leith

Anthony Warner is a professional chef and blogger. He has a degree in biochemistry from Manchester so he is qualified to debunk the ‘dangerous dumbfuckery that has come to dominate the discussion of food and health.’ I must admit, I often found the science bit in the first half of the book, difficult to follow. It often felt slightly like being back in chemistry class when we had a young, hip supply teacher in who used words like bollocks and fuck. Peppering chemistry with expletives still makes it chemistry in my book and it took me back to double chemistry last thing on Friday when I just wanted it to be over. Like double chemistry however, I persevered and although I’m sure a lot washed over my head some things did remain.

For me, Warner’s most important point is that diet companies play on the vulnerable. This resonates with me hugely. As a mother of two young daughters, I am terrified of my children hearing the latest ridiculous diet fad and thinking that because it is endorsed by a celebrity then that is the way to be beautiful. Indeed, it happened only the other morning. Having finally wrestled my 4 year old into her chair to eat her cheerios before school, my mother in law breezes in and tells me she has just read online that eating breakfast is bad for you. “Why mummy?” says Edith. “I don’t want to eat breakfast if it is going to make me fat.” Slow hand clap for Grandma and the idiot who put that on the internet. Worryingly, this exchange has an influence in my 4 year old and also my 65 year old MIL who is constantly on the quest for skinny. In my opinion this is where Warner’s book is so emphatic and utterly brilliant. He says:

These thoughts of toxicity, sickness and danger are driven by the media, by the diet books, clean-eating blogs, detox gurus, by sugar-shaming, fat-phobic bigots, selling us lies and ascribing morality to perfectly normal dietary choices. No food should be feared, no choices deemed ‘wrong’. We should be free to embrace the huge variety that the world of food has to offer us, not restricted in our choice based on the moral values and pretensions of others. The end goal of all eating should not be a good-looking Instagram shot. The pleasure of eating should be embraced for what it is: variety, joy, precious moments shared.

This book should be a must read. I am making it my mission to spread the word of the Angry Chef. Thank you Anthony Warner for this brilliant book and thank you to Frank for once saying something that I completely agree with. I am now off to buy this for my MIL.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

3 Books. Common theme….children

Hi readers. Hope you are all well and having a good week. I am struggling to find the energy to get out of bed this morning. My mum is here for a couple of days as she wants to spend some time with my eldest before she starts school this week. God 4 years have gone crazy fast.

Anyway onto the books….

Oh God this book frustrated me sooooo much. I believe life is too short to finish books that do not give you pleasure. Reading is my treat. It’s something I look forward to doing every day. I dreaded picking this book up and reading it made me really irritable. Therefore I am giving up and leaving it on the tube so hopefully it can be matched with a reader who will appreciate it.

I picked up this book because I wanted to learn more about the Mormon Church. Although I come from a family who believe in God, this belief hasn’t shaped our upbringing. I now go to church on a Sunday because I want to. I have found my faith myself and it’s not something I have been indoctrinated in. As a mother I want my children to make their own decisions about God. Therefore I am really interested in Orthodox families whose faith has shaped their whole lives.

My problem with this book is that I don’t think I am any the wiser about Mormon life. I have read a few reviews of the book on Goodreads, and a lot of Mormons have reviewed the book and LOVED it. In fact, I read one review that actually said that this book would be better understood by Mormons. I really believe this to be the case. To me, it felt like each chapter resembled a short story with an ‘in joke’ that a Mormon would understand but I was not ‘in’ on the joke. Maybe I just picked up the wrong book but I feel that I found out nothing apart from caffeinated drinks are not allowed and Mormon women have to be married to get into heaven.

I think because this book is a memoir, I was expecting to find out how Joanna Brooks felt about her religion. It all seems so peripheral and slightly detached. I wanted to know how aspects of Mormon doctrine made her feel? Views on women, homosexuality?? When Brooks goes to university, she becomes a feminist and chooses a self imposed exile from the church. She lists mentors and lecturers who were excommunicated by the church for their beliefs but it is never more than a list. Yes, these excommunications and sackings fuelled her decision for self imposed exile from the church but I really wanted to know how she felt about the elders of her church making these choices. How did it make her view her faith. The faith she and her family lived and breathed until now without question.  The book seems like a selection of statements and stories but nothing deeper. The most baffling moment is when she hints at some kind of sexual abuse

It was only after my mind had caught hold of all the corners of all the dim memories: when I was six, the face of the neighbour girl’s father looming high above me; when I was thirteen, the neighbour boy catching me on the street in broad daylight on my walk home from cheerleading practice and forcing his grubby hands down my pants; what it was I had not been feeling in the back seat.

She doesn’t go into anymore detail and it is not mentioned again. Whaaaaaaat????? Joanna, how did this affect you? How did this make you feel? I want to know!! It’s like reading poetry which you pretend to understand but you blatantly don’t.  I wanted to be on her side, I wanted to pity her, be angry for her, be happy for her when she succeeded. All it made me feel was pissed off with her. I felt she was keeping something from me…like I wasn’t allowed to be part of her gang. ANNOYING.

Moving on…..

Hands down this is my favourite book of the year so far. Kevin Wilson is fab! This is the second Wilson book I have read. If you are into books about dysfunctional, kooky families he is your guy.  The Family Fang and Perfect Little World, centre around really cool ideas. Fang is about 2 children who’s parents are performance artists. The kids are reluctant  accomplices in their parents art concepts and the book is about how this has affected them throughout their lives.

Perfect Little World involves an equally cool subject. How would you feel as a new parent if your partner, yourself and your new baby joined another nine couples and their babies in a specially designed compound and all raised your kids as one extended family. The thinking behind this is in the past it would take a community to raise a child. Parents would live closer to extended family, friends etc and everyone would play a part in the raising of a child. It takes a village to raise a child.

Dr Grind is the leader of this project. He and his colleagues pick the families to enter the astro-turfed, all expenses paid, snazzy apartment. The experiment is funded by a lady  who was raised in an orphanage and had a very positive experience, being raised by numerous care givers. Interestingly, Doctor Grind’s childhood was also an experiment. His psychologist parents raised him using The Constant Friction Method. This concept involved occasionally tripping up the toddler, attaching weights to the crawling baby, buying Preston a dog which was taken away after a couple of days. All ideas used to create a child which is more resilient to stress. The combination of Grind’s flawed parenting and also the death of his wife and child in a car accident make Grind a really interesting character.

This brings us to Izzy, the protagonist of the novel. It has been a while since I have loved a character as much as Izzy. She is one cool girl. Izzy is the youngest member of the project, having become pregnant by her art teacher who subsequently commits suicide. Izzy is the only person who enters the project as a single parent. She herself comes from a pretty dysfunctional family. She lost her mother at a young age. Her father never really recovers and essentially drowns in his own grief.

What I love about Izzy is she is doesn’t moan and she seems to be no bullshit. She is also really witty with a dry sense of humour which I really admired. When explaining to her art teacher about her pregnancy:

Five pregnancy tests, all stolen from the drugstore because they were more expensive than anything that depressing should ever be. Let the people who wanted a baby pay for them.

I felt she was a really inspiring, strong woman and I was really rooting for her happy ending. If you are interested in parenting and family dynamics please read this book.  It is a total pleasure.

And finally…….


My 4 year old told me the other day that she didn’t think she was pretty unless she wore at least 8 hairbands at a time and bright pink lipstick. She is 4! 4!!! This prompted my to read  Raising Girls by acclaimed Australian child psychologist, Steve Biddulph.

I am not someone who reads a lot of self help books and I often find parenting manuals are talking basic common sense. However I think if you even take one thing away from a self help book that changes something for the better then that can only be a totally positive thing. After having written Raising Boys, Biddulph decided society was crying out for the equivalent manual for girls. As a mother of two daughters, the focus of his book is utterly relevant and something I am concerned about. Bringing up children in today’s society where mobile phones, iPads, TV are devices that children are used to and are frequently proficient with, means that as parents we have to be prepared for these devices to have a considerable impact on our children’s lives. My daughter’s obsession with how she looks without a doubt comes from TV. Even at such a young age, girls are influenced by the adverts in between Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly. Beautiful girls advertising Lelli Kelly shoes, adverts for kids lip gloss, all play a part in influencing children.

A lot of the book would apply to parents of boys as well as girls. Biddulph encourages parents to find a child’s ‘spark.’ Something that ignites a child’s imagination. I think this is where it went wrong for me as a child. My ‘spark’ was Music. I went to a very academic, girl’s school where although Music was taught, there was no emphasis on performance. There was no choir, orchestra and Music was just theory. I completely lost my way and after missing a chunk of my Lower Sixth due to glandular fever, I was told that I needed to re-sit my year. The thought of doing this tipped me over the edge. Re-sitting a year in a school full of cliquey girls would have finished me off. I left the academic all-girls school and I achieved a Music Scholarship at a mixed sex school. I started to perform and the teachers found my ‘spark.’ I am now an professional opera singer in a chorus at a London opera company. I hate to think what my life would have been like if that ‘spark’ hadn’t been discovered.

Like the majority of people, I am busy. I am a mother to two girls, I have a full time job with often very anti-social hours, I also struggle with depression and I am very guilty of giving myself a hard time for not doing everything perfectly. This book made me slow down and stop. Spend time in the moment with my daughters. Dance in the kitchen, find the joy in being a mum. This isn’t time I am going to get back. Put my phone down, turn the TV off. Stop trying to multi task playing with the kids whilst simultaneously tidying the sitting room. Take some time and at least I will know I am giving the mothering all I’ve got.

Thanks so much for reading. I am now off for a bath to start a new book.

Next 3 books are…….