Archive for December, 2011

What Makes Christmas Christmas? – Listography

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Everyone probably does their Christmas in their own way. What makes Christmas Christmas to me?

1. The Tree And Decorations – I like all Christmas trees whether real or fake. Our current one is champagne coloured and bedecked in an eclectic mix of baubles, stars, angels, beads, bells and ribbons. The lights went on today and are great ones that change colour all the time. Other decorations appear on hooks, on the mantlepiece and on our shelves. I always think it is so sad when all that colour disappers on Twelfth Night. I imagine many people would find my decorations tacky which is fine because I would probably find theirs pretentious.

2. Sprouts – I am huge fan of sprouts, possibly my favourite vegetable of all. I really don’t get why they have such a bad press. If you don’t like them, I will eat yours for you.

3. Children – For me, Christmas became as wonderful as it was when I was a child when I had my own children. They help you to buy into the magic of it all.

4. Stockings – I always had the same stocking, a plastic one with various festive patterns on it. When I returned home from my first term at university, it was not hung up. My Mum explained that she thought I was probably too old for it. I was so distressed and insisted on it going up. I buy stockings for my children and love their colours and wondering what surprises they will hold on Christmas morning.

5. The Christmas Story – I really do feel that it is important to remember what we are actually acknowledging. I love how the Nativity plays at school really remind you of the true meaning of Christmas. The Christmas story needs to feature whether listening to carols, attending Midnight Mass or reading a book about it.

This is one of those Listography topics where it is tough to stick to just five. Close runners included …

1. Terry’s chocolate orange
2. The spirit of giving
3. Opening presents in age order
4. Pantomimes
5. Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
6. Leaving out a drink and snack for Santa
7. Compilation albums of Christmas songs to get even the grumpiest in the mood for festive frolics

and lots more to boot.

Yes, I have really bent the rules this week but, hey, it’s Christmas.

Now get ye across to the olde blogge at Kate Takes 5 and see what everyone else thinks makes Christmas Christmas.

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What Am I So Cheerful About?

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Here are my very good reasons to be cheerful this week. It is always good to focus on the positive when we can but particularly lovely when thinking of the good stuff is really easy to do.

1. Him Indoors took notice of me and booked plenty of holiday to help me with Christmas shopping and preparations. We have had lots of fun out and about in various towns selecting gifts for family members and getting into the festive spirit. We have also enjoyed two lovely greasy spoon breakfasts together something we used to do lots back in that getting to know you period many moons ago. It is rare for us to have time together as a couple without other people and we are loving it.

2. We are going to the Pantomime tonight. Oh yes we are! It is the local one and then we get to go again to the big celebrity one that we won via Netmums later on in the year.

3. We have secured our holiday cottage of choice for the Christmas period. I am really looking forward to a change of scene.

4. I had a brilliant birthday with lots of lovely little treats that are still going on throughout the week, the latest being a pencil drawing of the lovely Freddie Mercury.

5. I got a surprise parcel yesterday with lots of Christmas essentials in it.

6. All my children did really well in their school plays getting their words right, projecting their voices well, singing and cossack dancing to boot.

7. Having started the whole shopping thing for Christmas late this year, yesterday I realised that it is all under control with most things in place.

8.. The Gods are smiling on me. I went on a tombola yesterday and said I wanted one prize in particular, a lovely illustrated hardback version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. The first ticket was the right one for that prize and out of the other 3 tickets, two were winners too! On returning home, a brown envelope was waiting for me with the news that I have a big tax refund coming before Christmas. You can rest assured that this little windfall still has me rocking around the Christmas Tree.

Now head ye over to the little olde blogge at http://mdplife.blogspot.com for more happy people sharing their joys.

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Remembering Mum And A Surprise Christmas Present

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

I guess those of us who have lost a loved one find ourselves reflecting on them lots generally but particularly at Christmas.

I went to my children’s school play earlier this week and saw my pre-teen son dancing away without any obvious embarrassment. It made me smile to think that having spent so much time in my late Mum’s care, he would have seen many a merry dance over the years. She did go dancing socially all her life but also was prone to launch into song and dance at all sorts of everyday moments.

I came home and told my Dad about his grandson and the dance. He said “So long as he does not pick up all her bad habits. She once got so sloshed that she was buttering the bread board forgetting to put the bread on it to make sandwiches with.” It is an old story, told many times but it made us laugh together.

I needed that laugh. School plays remind me of times when Mum was there in the audience so very proud of her grandson and helping me cope with out of control younger children. Those are some of the harder moments when you feel a strange feeling catch at the back of your throat and the grief feeling threatens to encompass you totally. Just as I was feeling the loss, along came Mum’s favourite Christmas story of “The Little Matchgirl” followed by her favourite carol “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem”. Another sense of her pulling the strings from afar.

Later in the week, I went charity shopping and bought two deep soup bowls for my Dad. He has wanted some for a while and these were perfect. When I gave the to him, he immediately turned them upside down to look for the maker’s name. I do that too purely as my Mum always used to do it. A tiny legacy but still there and a reminder of how much we take from our parents.

Penny over at the Alexander Residence blog talks this week of her family’s foodie connections. My Mum was a cook by trade working in schools, hospitals and social clubs and it was her passion in the home too. At this time of year, she would not stop with a constant round of baking and preparing meats for Christmas.

I take a more relaxed approach and this year am escaping wider family tension by going to a little cottage in the country for a few days with my immediate family. It is expensive at this time of year. Yesterday, I came home to a letter from the taxman. I don’t know about you but these always strike fear in my heart.

Amazingly, this time it is good news with a huge tax refund heading my way. Just in time for Christmas and perhaps an early Christmas gift from my Mum, still playing those tricks from afar. Maybe from where she is, she can see very clearly what is happening unfairly in our lives and is determined to redress the balance. Well, I like to think so anyway.

Pop over and share special memories from lovely people.

@AResidence

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Are You A Mum Ready For A Christmas Challenge?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

With Christmas just around the corner, it is a funny question to ask Mums if they are ready for a challenge? Don’t we spend most of December trying to manage budgets, negotiate Christmas lists, curb family conflicts and try to live up to some society-imposed ideal?

However, this blog includes encouragement to mums who like to make changes in their lives and put themselves first occasionally so challenges it has to be.

Here they are …

1. Set aside a 3 hour time slot between now and New Year’s Eve which is just for you to do what you want when you want how you want and where you want. Diarise it and try to stick to it and insist on it.

2. Think about one element that has never featured in your Christmas Day and see if you can incorporate it. It might be going for a walk, breaking with tradition, attending a church service, buying a gift for yourself, you get to decide but just do something different.

3. What can you do to honour a good cause this Christmas? Could you set up a standing order for your favourite charity? If money is tight, can you give your time in some way either to an organisation or to an individual who might appreciate a friendly word or visit?

4. This post is part of the #groovingmums initiative. If you blog, why not consider setting up your own initiative that brings bloggers together?

5. Buy yourself a journal or notebook where you can record thoughts and feelings as you start to make positive changes in your life and world. You can jot down inspirational quotations, nice things people say about you or whatever helps you most. It would be a good place to write down the #groovingmums challenges too. Give some thought to what sort of notebook, pretty, funky, stylish, you decide and then share a picture with us.

As for me, I am still on the journey towards the groove losing weight, getting out more and so on.

I had one of my best birthdays in a long time yesterday knowing I have made such progress and many new #groovingmums friends since this time last year. I took my birthday money and look what was waiting for me.

In fact, I seemed destined to find lots of items with various “groove” related words on them – a mouse mat, a plate etc. I just bought the mug and am very happy with it. It makes me smile and think of my new cyber friends.

Today has worked in my favour in both expected and unexpected ways. More about that tomorrow when I blog my reasons to be very happy indeed. I blogged yesterday about whether #groovingmums makes participants lucky or not. At that point, I did not know about the rather lovely surprise in the post today. Christmas looks like it will be very Merry indeed. Ho, Ho, Ho!

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Is The Grooving Mums Blog Hop Lucky For Some?

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

It is a momentous occasion. It is not only my birthday but it is also 13th day of the month and the 13th week of the #groovingmums blog hop.

For the uninitiated (where have you been?) #groovingmums is all about mums finding me time, rediscovering themselves, reinventing themselves and just generally getting a bit of a personal revival going on in whatever individual way makes sense to them.

In the last 13 weeks, a diverse group of #groovingmums have taken up courses, looked for work, flashed their pants, bought lovely shiny things, volunteered for good causes, lost weight, exercised, danced and all manner of things all in the name of highlighting the va-va voom of life.

Some have taken tiny steps and some huge ones in the last quarter of the year but all have made meaningful progress and today I celebrate that along with not feeling down and out at 43 years of age.

One mum said quoting the weeks the blog hop has gone on for sounds a bit like Emma’s Diary where you look at how a pregnancy is going. If we use that analogy, we have got over the yucky morning sickness that is realising it won’t always be perfect and fun but it will be worth the end result. We are probably starting to show too whether in terms of lost weight, fitter bodies, revived spirits or whatever.

So what do you think? Do we make our own luck? Has participating in #groovingmums being lucky for you? I guess my learning is that external events will impact on us but we can choose how to react to them. We can also decide to change and make proactive steps towards a new future.

Here are some recent stories from some of the #groovingmums. In no particular order except the first one who gets top spot the most special reason.

http://ourpeagreenpod.blogspot.com/2011/12/hello-world.html

http://www.caughtwriting.co.uk/?p=240

http://curlymum.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/getting-back-to-grooving/

http://theramblingpages.blogspot.com/2011/12/grooving-mums.html

http://glasgowmummy.blogspot.com/2011/12/grooving-mums.html

http://www.mammasaver.com/1/post/2011/12/reduced-to-tears-in-the-cut-price-section-of-co-op.html

I have not being the best #groovingmums guru or queen (those are terms the #groovingmums have used so don’t blame me) in the last couple of weeks and that is OK. Sometimes we struggle a bit but we are all here for each other. Here are some fab mums who join in #groovingmums a lot or a little.

Please make a special effort to visit and leave a comment on these blogs as sometimes silence means people are either stressed, busy, depressed and/or in need of a kind word. In this festive season, let’s reconnect with old friends.

http://mishmashmum.com/2011/11/29/grooving-mums/

http://www.chickenruby.com/2011/11/kates-weekly-challenges-on-groovingmums.html

http://mrsshortiesmind.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/im-trying-to-be-a-grooving-mum/

http://mummyplum.blogspot.com/2011/11/getting-back-in-groove.html

http://myprincesskingdom.wordpress.com/2011/11/24/looking-like-a-rock-star-2/

http://www.lilguy.co.uk/

http://oldermum.co.uk/blog/

We welcome interest in #groovingmums from a blogger worth checking out over at

http://margot-and-barbara.com

If you want to get involved, drop me an email over at mums-the-word@live.com and I can explain all. All mums are welcome and you will find those who take part to be a really useful support mechanism if you need that in your life for whatever reason. Most #groovingmums are on Twitter and easily found by putting hashtag #groovingmums in the search box.

Right, my birthday cake is calling so if you are looking for the photo of my birthday purchase that reflects #groovingmums or this week’s challenges or my personal journey, you will have to wait. Even a guru is allowed a day off on her birthday.

Raising a glass to all #groovingmums, regulars, one-offs and those with potential to join us.

Cheers!

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The Birthday Blog

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

It is my birthday today.

I was not looking forward to it to be honest. However, against the odds, it is turning out rather wonderfully.

I thought I would blog about birthdays of the past. A bit of fun to reflect on my life and times to date.

My actual birthday was spent in Essex. Yes, believe it or not, I am an Essex girl. I was a lovechild too and my existence was being denied here, there and everywhere. My grandparents never knew I existed.

On my 1st birthday, I was a foster child living in Yorkshire. I got lots of toys.

On my 2nd birthday, I had my own adoptive family and lots more toys.

On my 7th birthday, there was a party for my school-friends. In those days, you had them at home with your relatives too. There was a home-made cake with candles, sausage rolls and probably jelly and ice-cream. Two friends from then are still in my life which is rather splendid.

On my 18th birthday, I worried for weeks because there was much passing of notes between my friends as they made their plans. They did me proud with a huge pink teddy bear, a pub and nightclub crawl, a tape of birthday songs and even an Ode dedicated to me and a completely fictional crush on a teacher. “There must be something who causes your head to whirl, sends your pulse racing and makes your toes curl. You’ve kept us all guessing, you must think we’re thick, we’ve known along his name’s Mr ?” I am not naming him in case he sues me for defamation.

My 21st birthday was spent in my hometown when my friend Rachel from college came to stay. She was a vegetarian and wore Doc Martens so my Mum did not really take to her at all well. Things got worse when she put her boots on my Mum’s sofa. So it was all a bit fraught and we went down town for a mega charity shopping exercise to cheer ourselves up and then got hammered on bacardi. Fortunately, I had my 21st birthday party earlier in the month at college and it was fabulous. I had a jewel-encrusted strapless silk number on and lots of peach schnapps.

My 22nd birthday was spent with the girl I was sharing a house with and a lad from the parallel street. We went to a posh hotel restaurant out in the country. I remember going there in the lad’s mini and just hitting it off with him and he had the same birthday too. We went back to his place and the girl I was sharing with went home. By the next morning, somehow, I had agreed to move in with him and did.

My 25th birthday was spent whilst I was a lodger in a house owned by a journalist. He was bisexual but hiding that fact and his gay lover. Lots of people assumed we were having a thing which we weren’t despite my very best efforts. I had a party at the house with a mix of friends from college and work. I remember a barrister friend turning up with a bright yellow sports car and lots of people oooing and ahing. I remember this was the period where I made a big error of judgement and allowed an evil bloke into my life. I was told he was sinister and did not listen. We live and learn.

My 27th birthday was spent with the said evil bloke, now my live-in boyfriend. He said all the right things and pressies tended to be lovely. I won’t drag this post down with all his misdemeanours.

My 30th birthday was spent with my next boyfriend and now husband. My parents had stopped talking to me due to me getting a new boyfriend I think so I remember being quite upset. I seem to remember one of my stepdaughters getting me little ornamenal teapot things. Tacky but I guess the thought was there.

You then hit the period where the birthdays that you remember are your children’s rather than your own. Lack of babysitters mean you don’t get out to celebrate, you are bogged down in responsibilities and so on. When you are not busy planning the next child’s birthday celebrations, you are arranging birthday treats for your partner.

My 40th birthday was spent moving house after yet another little life crisis. I did get to sit down with Baileys and watch the X Factor Final though. You know, back in the days when the X Factor was good. I remember Mum saying that not to worry that it had not being the best 40th and that she would make it up to me the next year. Neither of us knew then that for her, my 40th birthday would be the last she saw.

This year I had an early birthday treat when I got to see “We Will Rock You” in Leeds. Then last week, I had a lovely night watching the Young Voices concert in Sheffield. However, since those events, I have had illness and emotional upheavals to boot.

I guess sometimes we get to have the best birthdays when we don’t expect them to be all that. I woke up and on opening eyes saw Him Indoors presenting me with a lovely bouquet of flowers in white, pinks and purples. Brownie points for the purple as that was a colour at our wedding. All my cards gave a sense that they had not just being chosen randomly but selected especially for me. Two of my children sang “Happy Birthday” to me without any prompting at all. The other gave me a big hug and a book on werewolves (?).I got some money too which I have already spent on lots of totally unnecessary but fun things.

I even bought something that is so apt for the #groovingmum that I am. Will be posting later about that in my #groovingmums post.

I am not sure what the rest of the day holds. Probably a meal made by Him Indoors with all my favourite things. A tea party with the children and maybe, just maybe a sneaky drink or two. A few more birthday messages via tweet and email.

Today, of all days, there is reason to focus on how lovely it is to just be an ordinary family that like most of them, is also quite extraordinary in its own way too. Here is to memory-making and special days.

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How Is My Weight Loss Journey Going?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

It is Monday so how am I doing on the weight loss front?

Well, I have given myself a bit of an easier week and had a few treats in the hope it might kickstart the metabolism.

I have lost one pound this week so a little amount but in the right direction.

I am not at all sure I will reach my New Year target but am trying to not put my whole reason for happiness on that issue.
I might do it. I might not. Healthy eating is a new lifestyle and I will continue with it.

On the inches front, my waist has gone down almost an inch in a week but let’s call it half an inch so it is now 34 and a half inches.

My boobs are about the same and I have had a little loss off the widest part too. So let’s say they are the same at 38 and 45 inches respectively.

Once again, these measurements are taken in the way that makes them as small as possible as I find that keeps me motivated.

I can certainly feel another pair of jeans hurtling into the too big category and bagged up 4 bin liners of too big clothes at the weekend. They will be winging their way to the charity shop.

As for Him Indoors, he said the other night that my tummy feels different. When I pushed him, he said it felt “less squishy”. High praise indeed. He is a man of very romantic words not. However, I was really pleased to see him noticing a difference especially on the yucky tummy front.

I have had a tough couple of weeks both physically and emotionally. I am proud that I have not gone into a big self-sabotage routine on the eating front.

I will be celebrating by buying a very festive outfit and publishing the picture on here in due course.

It can be done when the time is right.

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They Are Growing Up Too Fast

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Aarrgh!

It appears a whole new chapter is starting.

At the Christmas play yesterday, there were sidelong looks between my eldest son and one of the girls. When challenged today, he admitted there was a little probably mutual crush going on.

That is it young man. Consider yourself grounded for the next decade.

Tidying my bedroom, I came across papers saying “I have to be careful that Mum does not find out I have a boyfriend” written by my daughter.

My youngest son has only recently got over proposing to a girl at school and her saying no way Jose!

Who are these creatures and where did they come from? I did not have a boyfriend till I was way into my twenties and even then, it was one enormous disaster.

It is sort of hilarious and terrifying to realise my children are developping interests in the opposite sex in equal measure.

I was just getting over this when my son announced he was a lesbian cos that means I am gay and I am always happy. Oh Lordy!

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When A Child Is Born

Friday, December 9th, 2011

The funniest thing about finding out I was pregnant was how Him Indoors spoiled the grand announcement by not having his glasses on. He was in the bath when I did the test. I skipped in full of delight saying “What do you want for Christmas?” It does help if you give your partner the script as they tend to get their lines wrong. In this case, he answered “A mobile phone”. Cue massive strop from mum-to-be.

When I became pregnant with my second child, I had the most awful cough and turned down a night out at the pub. When my partner was asked where I was and explained, the landlord said “So long as it is just a cough and not a baby”. Mystic Geoff.

With my final baby, again a cough heralded his arrival.

My first experience of childbirth was not at all bad. In fact, I spent the next 3 years saying that I did not know why women complained about the pain. I spent most of my labour in water which I think helped a lot. I did a lot of screaming initially but only because that is what the telly had taught me childbirth was all about. I also got a bit looney and started singing Queen songs at one point when the gas went to the brain. There was a little bit of splashing water at Him Indoors too.

When they handed me my son, as an adopted person it was the first blood relative I had met and it was so meaningful and lovely. I was incrediby joyous and the photos from the time really capture that. I think my partner went into shock for about a week. Partly at starting a new family and partly at finally getting his son after 4 daughters.

My second experience of childbirth was gruesome and certainly showed me that women sometimes complain for a reason about the pain and indignity of it all. My daughter was two pounds bigger than my son and I really felt the difference. It was one of those births where they bend you, shake you, anyway they want you and still the babe won’t shift. She did eventually of course and I swear the only reason I forgave her was because she was the little girl I longed for. It was a good job she turned up when she did because seconds later, my Dad was on the phone saying effectively that he had a message from my mum to get a bloody move on and stop messing about.

Number Three was different in that I was alone through the whole thing as my partner had to stay at home to look after the other two children. It was a little bit of a traumatic birth and resulted in an emergency Caeserean which was no bloody surprise when my second son weighted in at 11 pounds and 8 ounces. Ouch!

My little girl was still so young that I don’t think she had realised fully that I was going to have another baby. Her first words to the new arrival were “Stab baby”. Charming. I guess that is what is known as sibling rivalry.

My first son was dressed as a pirate when he visited and seemed genuinely thrilled to have a brother.

I think we are only truly right in our heads when a baby is born or when we lose someone we love. That is when we are crystal clear on what really matters. In between, we talk, think and feel a lot of shit. Some of us even blog it lol.

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What Are My Reasons To Be Cheerful?

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Lordy, haven’t I being an old misery lately? Where did my groove go? What depressing stuff I have imposed on my poor blog readers. Time to be a little chirpier methinks. The Reasons To Be Cheerful blog hop helps with this.

So what is there to smile about this week?

1. My daughter did so well with her choir performance at the Young Voices concert at Sheffield Arena. She did not get unduly nervous and just seemed to take the whole event in her stride from start to finish. As for me and her Daddy, we loved the whole thing discovering new bands to follow and jigging and singing along with the best of them.

2. I had a lovely fish and chip lunch with my Dad and we talked about my late Mum’s frustrations in her lifetime. There is more on that in my Little Legacy post below about why I am “anti-men”.

3. When I was struggling earlier in the week, I got several emails from lovely #groovingmums as well as Twitter support. It is lovely to realise that through blogging people will come to you to offer friendship, support and ideas. Thank you ladies – you know who you are. Thanks also to L for the emails which arrived at exactly the right time.

4. I have found somewhere to go for Christmas and you can read how I came to the decision to jump ship this year in my post from earlier today. I now feel confident of having a very lovely festive season indeed. Being assertive works for me. I must do it more often.

5. I had some very intense discussions with Him Indoors. We have moved on to a new understanding and are treating each other more kindly.

6. I won a competition on Netmums so am now the holder of a lovely family ticket to see a pantomime in Bridlington.

7. I got my Criminal Record Bureau clearance through so will be able to take up volunteering in the New Year.

8. I got my first Christmas card from my old college. 22 years after I left at the age of 21 and I am still a member of the very loveliest community. So looking forward to hooking up with former fellow students in 2012 at the reunion.

9. One of my adult stepdaughters is opening up via her writing in a way that although painful is also very healthy.

10. I am putting myself forward for something that I can’t talk about now but it makes me realise that I am taking on new challenges. This is a very good reason to be cheerful.

11. I have told two people in my life that asked what I would like for Christmas and my birthday next week. Both gifts are completely unecessary and hence, vital!

12. I have a cunning plan to show off my weight loss this year in a very festive way. What fun!

This has being a terrible week but when I look back, it has had some really good stuff in it. So next week where I am going to have a blast of a week, watch out for the longest #R2BC post ever.

Now pop ye over to http://mdplife.blogspot.com where there are a whole load of merry gentlewomen giving it large about their happy times.

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