New blog hops will be hosted by this blog as I fancy jazzing things up a bit, finding new blogs to read and remembering to visit my favourite old-time bloggers.

I have a lot of ideas and have decided to go with this weekly selection of blog hops.

1. Blogging to Jogging – a weekly blog hop about healthy living including weight loss journeys, exercise and fitness posts and healthy eating recipes. Will open for business every MONDAY.

2. Births/Deaths/Marriages/Birthdays and Anniversaries – the life events that really matter most of all. Will open for business on TUESDAY on a revolving basis so one week it will be births, the next deaths (tributes to our lost loved ones) and so on.

3. It’s all about me! I want folks to link up posts that are about themselves as individuals away from parenting duties – hobbies, work, fashion and beauty or anything that shows what an amazingly ordinary/extraordinary person you are. Open for business on WEDNESDAY

4. Thematic Thursday – I will set a theme and ask folks who have blogged or want to blog on that theme to link up. Open for business on THURSDAY.

5. Mummy Me Time – a blog hop to encourage mums to carve out time for themselves and to tell us what they did with that time. Opens for business on FRIDAY

6. All Change – a blog hop where mums can say how things could be made better for mums and families. In the hope that policy-makes at all levels will sit up and take notice. Opens for business on SATURDAY

7. Showcase Sunday – a free for all where you can link up ONE post old or new that matters to you.

Hope to see some of you joining in and know it will help my blog organisation so win-win.

The Playground Mafia is a book I received as part of my membership of the BritMums Book Club.

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I love the club as it leads me to read books that I would not normally select. It is so easy to get stuck in a rut with our reading choices.

The Playground Mafia: The Essential Guide to Observing, Identifying and Managing Playground Mums (and the Occasional Dad) was just released by John Blake Publishing.

I have mixed feelings about this book.

At best it is a bit of fun that certainly can lead to a smile or two. Watch yourself identify with one of the Mum Types and then realise you also have aspects of some of the other ones. I do have a tendency to take things too seriously and on that level, this book was very different for me and a bit of a tonic on a cold morning. I think it is great that this is a book that you can dip in and out of as the mood takes you.

Stereotypes do serve a useful purpose in our everyday lives. We don’t have the time to get to know the life stories of everyone we meet in the playground or in the street. However, we can judge too quickly and miss out on great potential friends. Worse still, we can write ourselves off all too easily and put up such barriers that nobody feels able to approach us. I know I have been guilty of this so many times.

When I did not have children, I used to watch mums turning up to deliver and collect children at the school across the street. It looked lovely and friendly but I recognise now there was a bit of naivety on my part. Playgrounds can be a very political place. I have found them daunting especially when beset with depression. So on that level, I have an issue with the book as sometimes the playground is not a funny place to be at all.

Then I wonder if I am thinking all wrong. In fact, I can see a really useful place for this book and making parents comfy with each other. I envisage schools putting on workshops about the book where parents can get to know each other and break the ice using the book as a tool to laugh and to relax.

The Playground Mafia by Clare Christian and Elisabeth Kent is published by John Blake Publishing. RRP £5.99

Read With Me

Here is something I do on the blog every year. It is good to look back and reflect on a whole year. It helps to put things in perspective. I always tag people to do a post using the same questions but anyone should feel free to join in. Just take the questions and answer them in a way that makes sense to you and preferably although it is not a rule say that the idea for the post came from this blog.

Here is my 2015

1. What was your happiest event?

Moving house away from that rotten place to a city by the sea and into a house of our dreams.

Seeing people’s real joy in my weight loss with a special thanks to Katy Hill who gave me the self-belief to start the journey in the first place.

2. What was the saddest thing to happen?

Learning my brother is very ill and also knowing that I am unlikely to see him again.

3. What was the most unlikely thing to happen that actually went ahead and did?

Losing so much weight. Hugging Caprice. Attending my college reunion. Telling Carol Smillie I was an expert in wet knickers.

4. Who let you down?

I don’t think anyone let me down although perhaps this year I started to learn who my true friends are and who is along for only part of the ride.

5. Who supported you?

My husband and children.

My brother.

Special thanks to blogging friends as always but this year I really valued the support given to me by friends from school and college days.

Aunties SJ

Bloggers. So many do this throughout the year. I look back and remember so many encouraging tweets, offers of telephone numbers, emails and comments. I appreciate them all. They sustain me.

Home educators

The people in my local community who chat, call me “Sweetie” and make me feel that I have found the right place for me.

6. Tell us what you learned

That I have spent far too many years focusing on the past or the future rather than enjoying the present.

That life circumstances can change very radically and quickly and in the most unexpected ways.

That people were there all long just waiting for me to tap on their door.

That people who know me via social media and the blog often have a very restricted view of who I really am.

That I am becoming less comfy with sharing heart and soul stuff with people who are fundamentally strangers.

That I am rich in the ways that matter to me.

That those who have everything may still be deeply unhappy.

7. Tell us what made you laugh

Laughter is a huge part of our family dynamic. We do a lot of analysing of current affairs and television shows complete with strong opinions, wit and voices.

My undergarments falling off whilst I was facilitating at BritMums Live and thinking if they actually hit the floor at least it would e proof positive of the substantial weight loss.

Political cartoons put together by my left-wing teenage son and his general questioning of authority.

My tween son’s comic faces.

My tween daughter’s language.

Memories.

8. Tell us the things that made you cry

Reflecting on how much time I have wasted thinking I am not good enough when it is now clear to me that I am more than good enough and I make a contribution to the world just by being in it.

Missing people.

9. Tell us three things your child or children did to make you feel proud.

My oldest son is easy to be proud of – handsome, intelligent, sensitive and caring. I was most proud when he summoned up the courage to ask someone out and she said yes! I also love how he regularly gives his spending money to homeless people and charities.

My daughter takes no prisoners and I love seeing that in her even if it is sometimes not easy to deal with. She remains creative and the best story-teller in words, films and songs. She is very political and I enjoy that she has firm opinions even when I don’t agree with then.

My youngest son remains gifted and good at everything he tackles. He is gorgeous, funny and a master at all things gaming.

10. Tell us the things that made you proud of yourself.

Discovering the old me by sticking with my medication. It is good to have me back.

Keeping on keeping on through challenges.

Relaxing more about home education – a work in progress.

Losing loads of weight and inspiring others to do so.

Feeling the fear and attending the college reunion anyway.

11. Tell us the challenges you overcame

Moving away from an awful area.

Pushing myself outside my comfort zone.

Juggling it all and I have a lot to juggle.

12. Tell us the things you would like to change about your life in 2016

1. New challenges in my working life.

2. To continue to lose weight and get fitter.

3. To forgive myself and others for their imperfections.

4. To continue to build on friendships old and new. To learn who is worth investing in and who is not.

5. To inject more fun into our home education efforts.

6. To be more organised with domestic stuff.

Overall to build on the amazing progress made on so many fronts in 2015.

Over to you. Any blogger or reader can have a go at this one if they fancy reflecting back on the year. What were your highs and lows of 2015?

Are you a confident parent? When did that feeling kick in?

confident mum

Taking a new baby home is a milestone in itself. I remember the lovely outfit I had bought for my son whilst pregnant being way too big when it came to the time to put him in his car seat for the first time. Car seats can be a challenge too for sure! I am the first to admit I was not the most confident new mum having not spent any time around babies before. My husband who had children from previous relationships seemed to know how to do things so much better than I did. The first nappy change my son experienced was by my GP as it was all too much for me to take in. I quickly worked out I was a clueless rather than a confident parent.

I was very quick to handover daily childcare to my parents so that I could return to work. That worked really well for all involved although I did sometimes miss moments that matter.

I read up about every parenting book on the market and slowly learned to distinguish between different sorts of cry. There is a great joy in being able to second guess why your baby is distressed. Like most things in life, you get better with practice.

I also made great use of online networks like Mumsnet where you could share openly and learn from others with more experienced and confident parents.

I guess my most important tip for new parents is to seek support and to recognise that doing so is a sign of great strength. None of us can know everything. Not all of us have the best support networks. It is OK to be unsure and if you are asking questions, you are showing that you are parent who cares.

The team at Nurofen for Children say, “it’s no surprise that in our survey almost nine in ten first time mums reflect on having a baby as a life changing experience as they rework their normal routines to take care of their little one. During their baby’s first year, mums say they felt the biggest impacts on their relationships work life and friendships[1]. Our research shows that on average, it takes a first time mum six months to feel confident as a parent[1], and for almost half (47%), the health of their child is one of their biggest parenting worries[2]”.

This is important – let’s realise that if we struggle we are not alone!

As time went on I loved that I knew my baby put his arms back when he was ready to sleep, got red cheeks when teething and only wanted a cuddle when he was poorly.

Take a look at Nurofen for Children’top 10 tips for becoming a confident parent.

They say that 38% rely on the advice and experience of their own mothers, and one in five turn to other parents for guidance. My Mum brought up babies in the Fifties so some of her advice was a little dated. I was terrible at reaching out to mums in the real world but did seek support online as 12% of survey respondents did. You can be that much more anonymous online and feel less judged.

19% mentioned taking the advice of a GP. I found my GP lovely but unhelpful when I sought help and he did not pick up that I was experiencing depression. 9% of respondents mentioned a pharmacist as a source of support and it never entered my head really to reach out to a pharmacist although I know my husband did.

My oldest child is now a teenager and I recently outlined my ideas on how not only to be a confident parent but also a happy mum because I think children need to us both confident and happy.

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to blog about a specified subject or review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have been entered into a prize draw to win a £100 voucher as a token of thanks for this post. Find out more about Mumsnet Bloggers here. And to see the other posts about this topic, see the linky here.

Please note that this post is not intended to contain any medical advice. Always contact your own doctor or health professional if you have any concerns about your child’s health.

(i) Survey of 2,000 parents with a baby under 6 years old, commissioned by Nurofen for Children (May 2014)
(ii) Survey of 2,000 mums by One Poll, commissioned by Nurofen for Children (October 2013)

What is the best way to learn about maths?

I had a difficult day on the home education front as I tried to teach maths to my daughter.

It got me thinking about what is the best way to learn about maths.

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I look back and I remember playing shops with my Mum before starting school. I also remember having a little blue circular container for holiday savings. Mum went mad when she found out I had being dipping in regularly for Chewitts so there was not much left at all by the time the holiday came round. An early and valuable lesson about saving, spending and the need to budget for special occasions.

Moving onto primary school, the only clear memory I have is of doing regular speed tests in arthimetic. At the same age, my daughter according to Key Stage 2 needs to know about numerals, digits, integers, graphs, percentages, fractions and a whole lot more besides. I learned about integers this week for the first time as far as I can recall.

At secondary school, I hated maths lessons more and more as the years rolled by. I could see no point in most of what we were learning. I was bamboozled when numbers became letters in algebra. I was more interested in chunky chicken pie than Pi. I used to spend maths lessons moving my ruler about so that light would appear on the blackboard and distract the teacher. I still managed a disappointing but adequate B grade in my O-Level.

At university, when I got into money trouble, I knew Dad would write a cheque or the bank would lend me money. My only real concern about figures was how college could justify charging 20 pence for a portion of vegetables.

In my working life, if any job description mentioned financial management, I would avoid it like the plague. I did help families with their budgets and carry out calculations of welfare benefits and debt repayments whilst working as an advice worker.

In a later job, a boss said quite casually that I had a learning difficulty around numbers. She was bright so presumably knew what she was talking about.

At the moment, my children are doing daily worksheets on maths set by myself and guided by Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum requirements.

My daugther loves art and I have learned this week that there are ways to harness that passion to get numeracy across to her. My son, like his Dad, is keen on maths anyway so they work together a lot.

Both children are using maths games online too which captures their imaginations.

We bake which involves loads of maths and we go shopping comparing prices in different stores, working out how much things add up to and how much change we are due.

What is the best way to learn about maths? I still don’t have the answer but finally I am enjoying finding out and think we are making progress as a family with this topic.

Are your memories of learning maths good or bad?

How do you help your children with numeracy?

What do we really need maths wise to succeed in the real world?