One of the Girls…

In my teens, I wasn’t really “one of the girls”.

Although I hate the term, I was a bit of a Tomboy. What does that even mean, anyway? Why not a Daveboy or a Geoffboy? But really the question should be, why not a Jemimaboy or Sandraboy? If you’re a girl that acts more like a boy “should” then you should be called a Girlboy.

Also, while we’re on the subject of stupid sayings – “Cheap at half the price”. No. Cheap at TWICE the price.

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I digress.

I had female friends but it speaks volumes that I am only really close with 4  from my school years. It’s more than just a shared history of stupid in-jokes – they are awesome people who are as fabulous and awful as I am.

In the main, though, I gravitated towards boys. Not in a flirty way (well, sometimes, maybe a little – in case I get called out on this…), but mostly because I enjoyed the low bullshit factor in hanging out with boys.

If they thought you were being an arse, they would tell you. Then, instantly move on. You could do the same back. No grudges, the occasional dead leg, but essentially, you could live in the moment and be forgiven without weeks of bitching and moaning. A very agreeable way to spend time with people.Image result for mud

I couldn’t be arsed with girly clothes, makeup, dance lessons and anything that involved more effort than dragging a pair of jeans and a t-shirt on. I would rather be in the woods, building a den than in town trying on mascara.

I farted, swore and sometimes looked (disastrous haircut of the early 90’s – NEVER to be repeated) like a bloke.

Fast forward 20 years (shit…it’s actually more than that, but we’ll gloss over the finer details) and most of the above is still factually true.

My wind is legendary/terrifying, as is my bad language, but I have come to terms with the fact that neither of those things define what it is to be a woman (or a man for that matter!), and maybe that’s why I felt more comfortable in the company of people that didn’t think so either.

I don’t fart at work, but I do swear, a lot.  I try to curb the profanity where it offends anybody, but if they are offended by it just because I am a woman then, quite frankly, they can fuck off.

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If anyone tells you that you are not being ladylike, then you can tell them to fuck off too. I am not a lady, I am a woman. You (if you’re a man telling me that I am not ladylike), are certainly no gentleman, so please throw your jacket over someone else’s puddle.

Words are for everyone to use to express themselves.  Bums are for expelling waste and last time I checked* we all have them, male or female.

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*I haven’t checked everyone in the world’s bums, nor am I a qualified doctor, but feel 99% sure I am quite safe in this assumption.

I now have many male and female friends, but without a shadow of a doubt feel like “one of the girls”.

Maybe it’s the shared experiences of our children (school mum pals), maybe it’s getting to a certain age and realising you don’t give a shit about half the stuff you used to, but I have so many fabulous females in my life these days, it’s hard to remember why I felt so different from a lot of other girls in my teens.

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Maybe it’s a question of women vs girls and how growing up changes your perception. My own daughter’s experiences of school life and the daily dramas that seem to happen within her friendship groups are a stark reminder of how cruel and cliquey young girls can be.

Luckily, she can fart louder and smellier than I can, so I have no worries that she will come through her teens with a raft of men and women as her pals.Image result for farts

I also think that as we get older, we learn to see past the masks that everyone puts on before they show themselves to the world. The woman who always has her hair and makeup just so, may be so desperate for approval, she gets up at 5am to make it happen.

The loud, opinionated woman who always seems so sure of herself, may be faking her confidence and beneath it all, she’s just as scared and bewildered as everyone else.

The perfect mother who always remembers when it’s school picture day, always bakes the best cakes and puts you to shame – she might just be trying for all her might to give her children the childhood she never had.

Everyone has their own private battles going on, and whilst that doesn’t help your own insecurities or problems, knowing that everyone has that at least in common, makes the world seem a slightly better place.Related image

What has this got to do with women in particular being so amazing NOW, I hear you ask? (You know who you are…) The truth is, that I know and count among my dear friends, lots and lots of fantastic men.  The point is, that we probably would have got on like a house on fire when we were teenagers, on the same level as we do now, but the relationships I have with the women in my life are so much richer now than they ever were before.

As I wrote (and deleted, and rewrote) that last line, it made me want to be a bit sick in my mouth, because I don’t usually go in for all of that schmaltzy crap – but I can’t think of a better word for it, because it’s absolutely true.

We talk about things we would never have discussed with anyone in our late teens/early twenties (unless we were REALLY drunk). Relationship problems, but also successes. Problems with our kids, but also how fantastic they are. Sadness, grief, anxiety, love, happiness, joy, hobbies we would have thought achingly uncool 20 years ago…the list goes on.

I think the epiphany for me though, is that we can talk about all of our messy, complicated feelings, but we can do it in the pub over a beer/wine/gin.Image result for booze

We can be excited about mascara, but also about how quickly we can run a 5k.

We can compliment each other on a lovely outfit, or looking hot or doing a great job at work, but we can also fart, laugh long and loud without caring what we look or sound like, and then tell each other to piss off.

Being a woman is not one dimensional.  There is no right or wrong.  We are all; kind, spiteful, amazing, dreadful, bonkers, falling apart, keeping it together – sometimes all in the same day.

Being “One of the Girls” no longer feels like a pejorative to me and I couldn’t be prouder to be a fully paid up member.

P.S. I am most definitely still “One of the Boys” as well…

Parklife

Look out of your office window. If you’re pretty much anywhere in the UK at the moment, you will see blue skies dotted here and there with cotton wool clouds and the promise of an actual summer’s weekend looming large.

Petrol station and DIY store managers alike are rubbing their hands together with glee at the prospect of the inevitable rush on charcoal briquettes and firelighters on the drive home from work.

It’s not yet reached the balmy “hotter-than-Ibiza” temperatures promised for the weekend, but nevertheless I’ve taken the opportunity to sit in the park on my lunch break to soak up some rays – even if it is in my jeans and boots, because I’d been so convinced we’d never have a summer I didn’t invest in a decent pair of sandals…

As I sit on one of maybe 20 park benches, gazing across a freshly mown grass bank towards a gently flowing river, it strikes me just how lucky I am. How lucky we all are.

I spend a large proportion of my day whinging. Moaning about work, about housework, about how little sleep I got last night, about how I haven’t had time to watch any of the crap I’ve recorded from the telly and that my library is hovering dangerously at 94% full with several hour long programmes left to record this evening. The list is endless.

And yet. I have a job. A job that I can take a lunch break from. A park right next door to that job, where I can sit and feel fed up about all of these things and more; knowing that my only real worry in that blissful half an hour of escape is whether the bench I have chosen to sit on has any bird poo on it.

At home we have the choice of 3 parks – admittedly not with rivers, but all within walking distance and all offering green spaces and a breath of fresh air. My children can play, run, ride their bikes and kick balls to each other – their only concern will be dodging the occasional dog turd in the sand pit or being cross that they are too big for the swings now.

All of our everyday stresses and woes are valid. Every car breakdown or lost wallet or mug of coffee spilled onto your keyboard is just another brick, building up that wall of doom and gloom – held together with the mortar of demanding bosses and unarranged overdraft fees. There are countless things going on in our lives that affect us more than we’d like to admit, but sometimes, just sometimes you have to take a moment and acknowledge how privileged we really are to live in a place where the worst thing that happened to us today is running out of fucking milk halfway through the afternoon drinks round.

I cannot for one minute imagine how life must be for those families, sat under the same sun as me, but living in squalor, caked in mud when it rains, and dust when it doesn’t.  How must they feel, squeezed into the refugee camps across the world, endlessly waiting, hoping for someone to help them.

How do they escape their “everyday”? How do they find the positive in their lives, when they have no idea where their children will end up in a few months’ time – let alone whether they will ever feel the wind rushing through their hair as they push themselves joyfully back and forth on a swing?

It seems utterly preposterous, obscene even, that we live in a world where we are so blind to the incredible good fortune we have, that we would rather those families stayed in that hell, when we have budget enough for gardeners and benches and bandstands and trelliswork?

We have millions of pounds available to print and distribute propaganda, explaining why we are stronger as a collaborative group of nations or arguing about how we want to “take our country back”, whilst simultaneously denying these children the right to a safe – even happy – childhood, simply because we have no room?

Well I can see lots of spaces for blankets in this park. Room for balls to be kicked and minnows to be spotted and sand to be squished between toes.

Maybe if our MPs had to spend a week or two in the refugee camps over their summer break in order to earn the right to their salaries and cars and expensed flats in Zone 1, they would start to feel differently about denying other people’s children the luxury of freedom they afford their own offspring.

Maybe if they had been made to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – not to get their next FitBit badge, but to get clean water, or a scrap of food for their families, they would have voted differently.

But maybe if we weren’t all so greedy, so consumed with our own individual, selfish needs, we would have voted differently too.

So enjoy your parks. Don’t moan about the sweary teenagers, or litter that ruins your view. Just be grateful that your children have the freedom to run and play and nag you for an ice cream.

Be grateful for the clean water they have to drink and bathe in and the bed to sleep in when they are tired out from their day’s fun. Because for some other human beings, that is literally all they want for their children this summer.

Trump Towers

After the last fortnight of complete and utter madness in British politics, I feel the need to jump on the bandwagon and wade into the argument up to my armpits.

The trouble is, I think that I may start writing and never stop. Like a stream of furious consciousness that can’t be stemmed; a blog post that you would give you scrolling-finger-RSI just trying to get to the bottom of it. Nobody wants that.

In fact, I can probably avoid that whole shit storm with the following summary of my political and ethical leanings:

EU – IN

TORIES – OUT

REESE’S PIECES – IN

MUSHROOMS – OUT

FARAGE – SHAKE HIM ALL ABOUT

There are so many things that enrage me at the moment, that I can only pick a minute portion of them to focus on, or I might actually lose my mind, so I have decided that this post must be on the very real problems facing women today.

Farts.

Those close to me, will be surprised that this subject has not been covered before now, but I feel that the time has finally come.

Passing Wind, Trumping , Farting, Blowing Off, Cutting the Cheese – call it what you will, it is a fact of life.

Is it gross? Yes. Is it funny? Never not so.

Is it something that happens to anyone who has an arse? Absolutely.

Do women have arses? Yes. FACT.

I have long been known for my prolific wind. It’s something I have always been proud of, from my laddish teens to my embarrassing-mum thirties and every age in-between.

Sometimes I wish my body was not so ridiculously full of air. It can be awkward and painful when you find yourself in a non-farting situation, for there are many rules with farts.

For instance – never at work, never at a dinner party, never in a lift, etc.

Apparently, noise that smells of poo isn’t a ladylike thing to release into the world. Ladylike? This argument makes my blood boil. As if letting one go in Sainsbury’s is gentlemanly?

Never have I found myself in a situation where I needed to adjust my petticoats and do a deep curtsy, whilst gently fluttering my eyelashes, AND do a giant fart.

It irritates me beyond all belief when someone (usually an older man) tells my daughter that it isn’t very ladylike to sit with her legs apart if people can see her pants. Now, I’m not for one minute saying I want her to be flashing her pants all over the neighbourhood, but she is 8. She’s sitting comfortably because…it’s comfortable, not because she gives a toss if it is ladylike or not.

Ladylike, by the way, is defined in the dictionary as the following:

“appropriate for or typical of a well-bred, decorous woman or girl”

It also comes from a time where everyone wore corsets and ate water and got consumption. Oh, and got married at 12 to whoever their father thought would be the best match financially or politically. It is not a phrase that should be relevant to WOMEN, that’s right, WOMEN.

Interestingly, the definition of gentlemanly is the following:

“chivalrous, courteous, or honourable.”

Gentlemen are described as, “gallant, noble, polite”. The word gentleman has evolved and now means a really lovely bloke who is kind and decent and probably holds doors open for you – whether you are a man or a woman.

Ladies on the other hand are defined as, “polished, proper, dignified”. That conjurs up pictures of chiselled, robot like creatures who know their place and know when to cross their legs in public (only at the ankle dear, NEVER at the knee)

Well I call bullshit on the whole thing. I am a girl, a woman, or any other word you want to use to describe my gender – so long as you aren’t using it as a pejorative.

We have so much that is different from men, and we should celebrate our differences every day, but just a few of the many, many things that we do have in common physically are as follows:

Stomachs, bowels, intestines, bums.

Like it or not, this means that we fart too. And, when you get right down to it, us girls have MORE internal organs to squeeze into that body cavity, what with all the wombs (most powerful muscle in the human body, FYI boys) and everything… Surely that means there is less room for gas to be floating around in there?

*Scientific fact alert*

Women and men produce exactly the same amount of gas (half a litre a day approx.) but women just hold it in more. Why? Because it isn’t ladylike…

I have known women who say they never fart. I just really struggle with believing that, but maybe I am blinkered to my own daily guff experience, so I will let their fantasies go unchallenged. What I do find completely shocking is the number of women who say they don’t fart in front of anyone at all. Not even/especially their husbands or partners.

OK, if you’re trying to impress someone on a first date, I can see that the rules of farts might stretch to cover not letting off a stink bomb in Pizza Express. But really – do you want to spend hours a day with someone you can’t trump in front of?!

Whilst my husband is regularly unimpressed by my overactive bottom and I am sure he would rather not have to deal with the resulting pong, he NEVER feels the need to not do them in front of me. Why should he have all the fun? And why would I want to be uncomfortable in my own living room, holding it in to create the illusion that I don’t have a digestive system?

The stench of a morning-after-a-curry fart might not be the thing that sets the mood for a night of passion, but then again, not being able to have sex for fear of farting in the middle of it must surely be worse? And for me, a sense of humour in the bedroom is a bigger must than a sense of decorum.

Someone very wise once said, “If it doesn’t pay rent, it must leave” – a rule I plan to enforce with my children as well as my wind.

To date, the only person I have met who can match me in the noise, length, variety and stench of my gas is my delightful daughter. She is a tiny slip of a thing with the ability to fart better than any BBQ scoffing, beer swilling bloke I have ever met.

She is kind, clever and friendly, has a wicked sense of humour, knows not to do it at the dinner table, loves make up, shoes and notebooks. Any body who wants to be with her when she grows up will be extremely lucky to have her as their girlfriend and will treat her with the respect that she deserves.

They will also have to be fully prepared to pull her finger and if they get past the first few dates, quite possibly mine too.

I have spent a very fruitful (sorry) 20 minutes, googling celebrity fart videos to really highlight the fact that we are all human, no matter how hot, cool, blokey or girly we are. Aside from the fact that it made me laugh until my sides hurt (never not funny…) there are some people in particular who highly recommend farting.

Eva Mendes. Hot? Er, yes. I would…

Whoopi Goldberg – my hero

Brad Pitt – extols the virtues of farting and eating ice cream in bed. Helloooooooo!

Charlize Theron

Cheryl Cole (seriously, look it up)

Jennifer Lawrence…the list goes on.

None of these people would be kicked out of bed for, well, farting.

There is even a video of Hillary Clinton letting one rip, which I have to say looks like it might be a fake – but even if it wasn’t, I know which Trump I would want running America.

Hint: farts aren’t racist, ignorant bigots.

So, in conclusion, women and farting are part of everyday life. If you can’t get your head around that and would rather that women were seen and not heard (or smelt), then perhaps you would prefer to remember that until a week ago, we had a male prime minister who had put his penis into a pigs head. Mind you, at least he wears a tie…

Fucked up priorities might just be why we are where we are at the moment.

 

Putting my foot in it…

All talk in recent weeks has been about high heels and the outrage we (quite rightly) felt on behalf of Nicola Thorp when she was sacked for refusing to go out and buy heels to replace her smart, but flat, shoes.

Maybe I’m naïve, or maybe just optimistic, but I found it almost impossible to believe that we had reached 2016 without already dealing with this, quickly and quietly, or that it was something that needed someone to organise a petition over.

Anyone who has ever happened across a vintage book in a Charity Shop, or more likely, a reprinted, repackaged version of the same book, sold as a hilarious joke wedding present, will surely have expected such a ridiculous “rule” to appear within its pages. Perhaps alongside this little gem from an article in Housekeeping Monthly, May 1955, advising women on the best way to greet their husbands when they returned from work:

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

Maybe that is where the rules on heels came from in the first place. Maybe all of those poor husbands were tired of seeing work-weary people and needed their offices jazzing up with a secretary in a heel or two. Not over 4 inches mind you – you don’t want the women looking down on the shorter chaps in the office.  That would be degrading and terribly upsetting for them.

I have no doubt that sanity will shortly return a semblance of order to the workplace chaos – either by making it illegal for women to be forced to wear heels in the office, or by making it a legal requirement for Bob from Accounting to do something about that terrible nose hair.

My problem with shoes is far shallower than the current political furore, but just as important and irritating to me.

They don’t fit.

Everyone has one foot slightly bigger than the other – boobs as well, but that is a very different issue.

Not only are my feet at least a half size different to each other, they are larger than most other ladies apparently, leaving my affordable, comfortable and appropriate footwear choices mainly in the flip flop and low heeled boot racks.

Trainers are OK, after a lot of padding and fiddling with laces and insoles.

Heels in a Mary Jane style with a strap to keep the smaller foot securely in place work too.

Flip flops and sandals in similar open-heeled territory seem to be OK, as long as I scour the length and breadth of every Accessorize in the land to find the LARGE size in the style that I want.

Because, as with bras (I seem to want to talk about boobs here too, don’t I!) I am most definitely “in between” with footwear.  My closest actual shoe size is a 7½, but that is a rarer gem of a shoe to find than a Nick Clegg supporter .

Yes, I want fashionable shoes – is that a crime?! Having a pair of mismatched, large feet most definitely is it seems.

Every wedge, every kitten heel, every biker boot I pick up is a size 5. Literally. Every. One. Occasionally M&S comes to my rescue but inevitably the shoe itself, whilst a decent fit, lacks a certain je ne sais quoi in the desirability category.

So, I head over to the retailers dealing with the larger footed ladies. This means you are either 6ft tall and have feet starting at a size 9 (nope to both of those) or you are in the plus size category and therefore have very wide feet (nope to that too). Just in-between!

And so to the bra comparison. As with having size 8 feet, the retail universe has decreed that if you need a bra that is 38 inches round, you must therefore have massive knockers of at least a D cup, but more likely a double J. (Nope – only for about 3 days when I was pregnant)

Oh! Sorry…then you must require old lady underwear with no underwire, lace or sex appeal. (Again, nope.) Please check the adverts in the back of your puzzle magazine for details – why don’t you order a stairlift while you’re there?

Seriously clothing makers. Either get more stock of the size 8’s and the 38C’s or stop taunting me with those charts on the back of the labels telling me you do make them in the sizes I need!!!

Anyway, back to the shoes.

I am constantly left having to try on every type of shoe in every store in a 7 and an 8 – if such mythical sizes were to exist – in the vain hope that one style in one of those dimensions might be suitable. It very rarely is.

The one bastion for modern women in the shoe department has to be the Ballet Pump. A simple, often cheap, yet flexible option for adding the perfect detail to an outfit. Not a heel in sight, an acceptable bedfellow for a trouser, jean, skirt or dress – this must surely be my Hero Shoe?

I’ve avoided them for many years, what with the size disparity between my feet, but this summer was going to be different, I thought. After the merry dance around the high street, I finally found a smallish size 8! They felt OK in the store – looked good with my skinny jeans – and so I fell for it. Off to the till went I, proud ballet pump owner and wearer!

Fast forward a day of “wearing them in” around the house. What I actually did was mostly sit on the sofa in them, occasionally trotting off to the kitchen to make a coffee, which is very much NOT the same thing. Nevertheless, it gave me the bravado to don them for a weekend BBQ, 7 doors up the road. How very stylish I looked.

An hour later…

Awful, hateful things. Scrunched up toes, desperately trying to cling on to the sweaty inside of one shoe, whilst with every step, the heel on my other foot was wincingly friction burned before I’ve even made it to the kitchen to refill my Pimms.

If alcohol doesn’t help with uncomfortable shoes you haven’t even had to walk to the train station in, then you know you’re not going to win this battle.

Fortunately, I was only 7 doors away…so I went home to change into my LARGE flip flops from Accessorize. Bliss.

When I am rich and famous, I am going to have my shoes handmade in the right size for each of my feet, but until that day I am going to have to be satisfied with an annual proportion of 10 months in boots, 2 months of flip flops with a couple of evening heels thrown in for good measure.

Almost forgot my guilty pleasure…wearing Crocs to put the bins out.

Onesies for grown-ups have happened. One day my pretties we will be acceptable in public, one day…

Run, Fat Girl, Run!

Exercise. Bleugh.

Really, that could be the end of this blog post. It would have been, 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. Exercise was something that fit people did, because they were fit. Dur….

I get it, I really do. Eat less, move more. But when you really HATE exercise, it’s not that simple.

Why do I hate it so much? It’s a complicated, many pointed star of an answer.

Sweating

Yeah. Not pretty. Also, for a fat bird, it unusually doesn’t come that easy to me. If it’s unexpectedly hot out and I’m caught in a jumper & jeans scenario that cannot be de-layered, there may be a little small-of-the-back moisture going on, but mostly I just go red.

Not pink cheeked, not English Rose, but Heart-attack red.

It’s my body’s natural state of being. From the everyday resting heart rate of rosacea, to the first glass of booze on a night out and all of the mildly embarrassing or laughing too loud moments in between.

Exercising is the worst culprit – I frequently have to reassure people who don’t know me that I am not about to collapse at the end of a class and several dog walkers have stared at me with that “I’m going to need to use my first aid knowledge from last week’s WI meeting” look in their eyes.

But it hasn’t been until fairly recently that I have really been fit enough to sweat properly – you know, where you’ve got patches like they have in the movies. I never had enough puff to be exercising for long enough to squeeze the liquid out of my pores!

Although it’s not pretty, I feel like it’s my badge of honour. Like I really have worked out, done some good, shifted a few ounces.

Wobbling

Dear Lord, the wobbling. If you’ve never been overweight and you’re firmly in the “fat people are lazy bastards” camp, then

a) fuck you,

b) you’re right and

c) have you ever tried running with a melon sewn onto your tummy?

I take full responsibility for my gut. It’s not fair that all my weight gathers round my middle like it’s the kitchen at a fat cell party, but that’s my cross to bear. For others it’s their bum and thighs, for some it covers them like an Ant and Dec fat suit, but for me it’s the belly all the way.

However, when you have a million stone to lose (OK, not a million, but it might as well be), the hardest thing in the world is to lace those trainers up and get your butt moving.

In a class, you’ll make a tit of yourself. In the gym, the bunnies will whisper and point at you. On the road, cars will honk their horns and shout insults. Will they? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it’s all in your head, but whether it is reality or not is irrelevant. Somehow, you have to get out there, wobble your bits around for long enough and on so many occasions that they start not to wobble so much.

That, people with no wobbly bits, is fucking tough – even if it is our fault in the first place. An alcoholic drinking orange juice in a pub would be applauded. A smoker slapping on nicotine patches would be encouraged. If you see a wobbly bits person working on getting fit – do the right thing.

COMPLETELY IGNORE US.

We’ve already made up our minds about getting out there. We’re already doing it, we’re already imagining you laughing at us and we either choose to accept it and get our heads down, or (and here is where it gets good, fellow wobblers) WE DON’T CARE ANYMORE!

Yep. I really don’t care. Mostly…OK, I do. Just don’t tell my brain.

How many fucking calories did I just NOT burn?

You’ve done it. That first Zumba class, that first step on your Couch to 5K app. And now we have the benefit of technology to let us know just how many calories we have burned. FUCK ALL. That’s how many.

Getting up, organised, into running gear, trainers on, headphones in, arm bands secured, running watches charged, water bottles filled, laces done up, laces undone again to tie your door key into them…

You’ve spent time, money and effort doing all of that exercise and the technology tells you you have burned as many calories as you could eat in 12 seconds. Bastards.

And that friends is the worst thing about exercise. If you only do it to lose weight, you’re on a hiding to nothing. You will never and I mean never, lose weight by just doing a bit of running around. You can dress it up however you like, enter races, call the classes at the gym increasingly terrifying names like “Puke” and “Death”, but unless you are doing it every day for over an hour, you cannot, I repeat cannot eat what the fuck you like and not be fat. Scientific fact.

So, I bounce along, wobbling my bits, safe in the knowledge that if I never put on my trainers again, it wouldn’t make me fat enough for an ITV documentary. I am just not devoted to it enough for it to have that much effect.

Do I come home from a run and think differently about what I put in my mouth afterwards though? The answer to that is yes. Mostly, I hate exercise soooooo much, that the thought of committing myself to doing it and then spoiling all of that effort with a hastily inhaled Dairy Milk bar, stops me in my tracks.

For some, exercise is reward in itself.  There is talk of endorphines and other things that make me go, “Meh.” Am I proud of myself for getting up and doing something I don’t want to do? Yes. Do I feel good for the 2 minutes after I have finished? Yes. But only because I know I have done it, at least for today.

And then, the dread creeps in a few hours later. That chunk of pain is safely in the bag…when are you going to face the next one? When, Molly? WHEN? Because if you don’t do it tomorrow, then you have work and then clubs to ferry the kids to and then, and then, and then, and then you will not have exercised properly since CHRISTMAS…which is pretty much what happened this year.

I’d like to think that one day I will grow to love exercise. I am currently really enjoying Clubbercise – mainly because it’s mad dancing, waving a glow stick about in the dark. Nobody can see our wobbly bits – GENIUS.

But the truth of the matter is, that I am lazy. If I could get away with not doing exercise ever again, I would totally take that option. Just like if smoking had to same effect on my body as lettuce then I would be Pat Butchering it up in a second.

I lied though, because I do sort of like exercise. I like that I am doing it. I like that I am the healthiest I have ever been – not just since I was a teenager, not just since I’ve had the kids. Ever.

I like that it is a bit sociable, sometimes. I like that I can run about with the kids now and whilst they can definitely catch me, there is a little bit of plot action before the story is over.

I like that I can do something physical that my husband can’t. Apart from have babies, that is. He doesn’t run. Nope. Weights, punch bag, skipping – yes. Running – no. I’m sure he could if he really wanted to, but he doesn’t, so I am taking the win.

I’m off for a run now. Don’t laugh at my wobbly bits if you see me. The kids do that enough for all of us…

 

 

Sick of it all…

For weeks now, my Facebook memories have been popping up with statuses from 2 years ago like, “When will these horrible bugs leave our house?” and “Unclean, unclean”.  Fate tempting bastards.

March is like Christmas to disease in our family.  As soon as the February pages on the Minecraft and Disney calendars flip over, you can almost hear the bugs rubbing their hands with glee, ready to rush towards my unsuspecting kids as they sleep.  As usual, this March, the kids and Paul had fallen headlong into the coldy-coughy lurgy, but I had managed to avoid it.how-to-fight-germs

Or had I?  Was it just lurking in the wings? Did I have too many things to be getting on with to be ill? Was it just waiting until I relaxed, let my guard down, before pouncing like a bastard?  Yes.

Bank Holiday weekend had begun, shopping needed buying, DIY needed doing and then the loveliness could start.  It lulled me into a false sense of security, this delightful bug.  I truly thought I had escaped with my health in tact and everyone else was better enough to enjoy the festivities.  Fool.

Look.  I’m not saying I was the sickest I’ve ever been or ever will be, but when you spend the first half of your holiday weekend feeling like you’re fighting something off and then it lands slap bang in the second half, you’re allowed to be pissed off.

So.  There I was. Throat coated in razorblades and ears full of itchy monsters, with enough fruit and herbal tea to keep a hippy commune hydrated for a month. Fortunately I also had my dressing gown, pockets full of half empty blister packs of painkillers, previously hoarded in handbags, drawers, pockets and gloveboxes for just such an occasion.

What I had in addition to this was a husband and children that couldn’t really give a fuck.Breaking-news-i-don-t-care

Sure, they made the right noises occasionally.  The kids would come and give me a hug or plant a kiss on my forehead and say they hoped I felt better.  Then they’d want to play Minecraft.  And also moan about how sick they are/were. I’ll give you a clue – it’s always sicker than me…

This particular morning, I was waiting for the surgery to call me back to triage my illness and assess whether I was, in fact, sick.  (Because I love to spend time at the doctor’s when I’m not sick – where else would I catch up on magazines telling me who was looking like the favourite for Strictly Come Dancing 2012?)

When my lovely doctor called and confirmed she wanted to check out my razorblades to make sure there was nothing she could do for me, I had to hustle them out of the door within 20 minutes.  That meant putting the Playstation controllers down.controller

You’d have thought I was chopping their arms off/locking them in the bathroom all day so I could go to the pub.  My youngest even looked at me once I’d got dressed in something more appropriate to face the world at large and sneered, “You don’t even look sick.”

I can assure you that, even with the removal of my pyjamas and the addition of some jeans, I did not look on top form.  I also couldn’t have cared less whether I looked like something from the Walking Dead or not, but clearly my darling daughter wanted me to be sicker than I appeared, to justify disturbing her beloved computer time.

And then there is their father.  An extremely loving, kind and caring man.  Without an ounce of sympathy when people are sick. Sickness to him and more importantly, giving in to sickness is a weakness. You cannot allow the sickness to beat you.  You must never, repeat NEVER have a sick day. It is tantamount to high treason.  If you are sick, it is your duty to still go to work.  You are being paid to do work. Do it. Even if you have to be sick in the loos and then carry on with your work.

You must also not take any medicine. I have never been sure about the reasoning for this.  Is it unmanly to admit you have pain and want not to have pain? Not that I give a fuck about why he doesn’t want to take it – you crack on and be in pain if that’s your decision. His justification is always that if you have a headache, it is a symptom of something and covering it up using painkillers might be dangerous.

Nothing to do with not being able to swallow tablets…4-paracetamol-capsules-jon-stokes

Either way, unless I have broken something/am bleeding profusely/at death’s door, his sympathy level = zero.

This also lets him off the hook when the kids are ill. Regardless of their complete lack of fucks given when I am ill, they expect nothing but the gold standard of care when they are poorly. Daddy occasionally telling you to drink some lemon squash just doesn’t cut it.

Cue a recent 48 hours of poorly boy, demanding that I not leave his side for even a moment to wee/make myself a cup of tea/sleep. It was unpleasant and knackering, but even if I could pass the baton of vomit to my other half and toddle back to bed, it would never have been allowed.

I clearly have made a rod for my own back, but I am hoping that I will reap the rewards when the kids grow up to earn megabucks and my Mother’s Day features a brand new convertible/trip to New York…

As I shuffled around in my dressing gown and pyjamas feeling sorry for myself however, the universe righted all of the wrongs by providing me with a wonderful  network of family and pals.

They allowed me to wallow in a bit of self pity on the sofa whilst they amused the kids, brought drugs and laughter and generally accepted the fact that when a Mum gets sick, it’s REALLY serious. Sod Man Flu, Mum Flu is the worst…sick

But then, if I wasn’t a Mum, I wouldn’t need help with the kids. I wouldn’t need someone to do the school run. I wouldn’t appreciate my own Mum as much as I do. And I wouldn’t have met all of the amazing Mum Squad members that I have.

That’s worth the occasional dose of Mum Flu.

Sometimes though it would be nice to be the one getting a full night’s sleep because they, “just want Dadddddddy!!!!”

Camping beats Glamping any day of the week…

There are many things that have changed about our lives since our delightful rugrats made their arrival.

Ironically though, for us, holidays aren’t really one of them. Yes there are fewer lie-ins, and the hunt for a pub that caters for 3 fussy eaters instead of just 1 takes a little longer, but essentially we’ve just bolted our kids onto our annual West Country pilgrimages down the A303.

For us, there is nothing better than a country cottage, with an Aga (actually no – Agas are a fucking nightmare to cook on) and a log burner, preferably next door to a pub called ‘The Blacksmith’s Arms’ or the ‘Duke of Cornwall’.blacksmiths

Small Wildlife Park nearby that pretends it’s a Zoo? Tick.

One roomed “museum” with a fake suit of armour on a wall and a gift shop with over 50 different types of stationery items emblazoned with their logo? Tick.

Field with a few sheep, a llama, a wallaby (or is it a small kangaroo?) and a large barn with a “death slide” in it and no health and safety guidelines, calling itself a “theme park”? Tick.

We’re all fucking over it.

We did ALL of those things on holiday before we procreated. Having kids just means we can justify doing it (and we don’t get as many odd looks…)

The one exception to this no-change-to-our-holidays-just-because-we-have-kids rule is camping.Camping

In our own childhoods we camped to varying degrees – Paul approximately a million times with cubs, scouts and ventures; and me on a handful of occasions once I had turned 16. NEVER with our parents.

By the time we were old enough to choose our holiday destination, he’d had his fill of the great outdoors and I wasn’t overly enamoured with it, so once we were living in our own house and sleeping in our own comfy bed, we didn’t really ever see the need.

After all, teenage camping is basically all about having sex and drinking where your parents can’t see you – not so appealing in a leaky tent in a rainstorm when you could have been doing that at home, with a takeaway, under your own 13.5 tog duvet.

Basically, you wouldn’t have caught us dead on a campsite post 1999.

But then…children.

It has a funny effect on you – having kids. Never did I think that I would be happy to be in a field, holding on for grim death to a massive flapping bit of fabric, being whipped in the face with guy ropes, whilst we desperately battled to get tent pegs into ground that was harder than Vinny Jones.

Why so happy? Well, for one…it wasn’t raining! But mostly because of the couple of strange little people who hadn’t stopped running, laughing, falling over and generally having a bloody amazing time since we got there. Our kids.

Now, I’m not saying that they’re completely miserable when we’re NOT camping, but the change in them was instant and incredible.

They were 2 and 5 on our first camping trip, but 6 years on, the same change comes over them every time we arrive in a mole-hilled, poo splattered campsite. It’s tribal, instinctive freedom. Maybe it’s because we’re different too.kids

At home, we’d never let them out of our sight, and yet here, we positively encourage it. There are still rules though. Many, many rules.

  • Stay together – like a mini tribe or hunting party
  • Don’t leave each other alone
  • Did we mention the staying with your brother bit?
  • Also: STAY TOGETHER!

Nevertheless, they have oodles more freedom than they would at home and they bloody love it. So, by the way, do we.

Once the initial “erection” has been achieved, usually with at least 2 threats of divorce and several hundred disagreements about where the fire should be located, everyone’s shoulders start to visually drop.

The constant swiping of phone screens to make a few work calls or check emails and social media, slowly but surely decreases down to the taking of an occasional picture of the amazing job we did on the kitchenette area this year, or the swish new camping chair that someone picked up for a song on eBay.

Drinking alcohol becomes a ‘whenever you feel like it’ kind of a pastime, governed only by your mood and the availability of booze, rather than pesky pub opening times or socially acceptable “yardarm” references. It’s like the airport basically – anything goes.field drinking

However, I’ve never seen anyone obnoxiously drunk on our camping trips. There’s no meat wagon cruising past, rounding up lairy parents when they’ve started a fight by the shower block. There’s more like a constant, pleasant buzz of tipsiness, rounding off the previously sharp edges of your life.

All anyone needs to achieve in this field is basic; shelter, warmth, food and fun.

There are no tellies, very limited (or in our case, no, games consoles) and even if there were, they would be out of battery charge within a few hours, so everyone is forced to find something else to do.

Roasting marshmallows is an obvious camping must-do, but we manage to make it into an all day activity. The kids and a few key “grown-ups” i.e. people old enough to drive, (everybody mentally regresses on camping trips and the line between child and adult blurs considerably) head off to the woodpile, armed with axes and saws and maybe a bandana or 2 for effect.

They return, sometimes more than an hour later, dragging half a tree behind them. For anyone who has seen the recent incarnation of The Jungle Book, it’s like the elephants have arrived to shape the landscape of our campsite, so deep are the furrows from the heavy boughs!lumberjack

They then spend another joyful hour or two, chopping, sawing, stripping off leaves and needles until we have enough wood to stoke the fires of several royal palaces for a week. It is all burnt by the second night in a series of campfires that can be seen from space.

Our favourite site allows fires freely, and whilst you can purchase neatly netted bags of pre chopped logs for a small fee, we always avail ourselves of the free woodpile and child labour, because, you know, what else have we got to do?

Laundry? Paint the spare room? Pay the council tax? Nope.

All we need to do is get a fire going for warmth and food, or as we refer to it – CAMPING CRAP.

At no other time would we consider 3+ hours of manual labour, involving at least 5 people to be a worthwhile endeavour, when the end result is to slightly melt or (more likely) burn a few marshmallows. And yet, the kids (read everyone here) absolutely love it.marshmallow

When asked what their favourite holiday is, they always and without hesitation say it is our annual family and friends camping trip to Weymouth.

And we (mostly) agree.

For me though (and here is where our priorities differ and the line between adult and child becomes somewhat sharper again), the best thing about camping is, without doubt, the cost – or lack thereof.

We spend £80ish for 3 nights and 4 days of summer holiday accommodation (admittedly brought and put up by us, but still…)

A flat by the sea in the same season, with similarly sized rooms or even a static caravan on a popular holiday park costs a minimum of £1000 a week or £400ish equivalent for the 3 nights that we spend away.

Don’t get me wrong – we will stay in a lovely cottage – with a fire and beds and a kitchen and a flushing loo, we will have a lovely time and we will pay the going rate for it.

But GLAMPING? Really? They want to charge you even MORE!

TO STILL STAY IN A TENT…

Unless you have a “perfect camping weather scenario” – a light breeze, gently scudding a few fluffy clouds across a bright blue sky, with a temperature range of 20-22 degrees (dipping only to 15/16 degrees at night) – you will be either staying in a freezing cold or unbearably airless, stuffy tent, regardless of how much money you have paid for it.glamping

OK – someone else might have put that tent up for you before you got there, but is that really worth an extra £150+ a NIGHT? A NIGHT? Maybe it is to you. Maybe your hatred for tent “putting up” is worth the additional splash of cash. After all, it’s only 7 bottles of Bombay Sapphire a night more…but really – what ARE you doing with the time saved? Instagramming artful pictures of the bell tent that someone wanged a camp bed in and charged you through the nose for? #sawyoucoming

The whole point of camping is making the kids do annoying “getting back to basics” chores so they will be so full of hatred for you, that they will want to fuck off to the kids version of the pub (The Haybales) and leave you all in peace to drink and eat a ridiculous amount of crisps.

“Come here and hold this guy rope.”

“Get in that tent and blow your airbed up.”

“Oi! Those are NOT snacks for the children – HANDS OFF MY SWEET AND SALTY POPCORN!”

These are all things that you need to be shouting at your children, so that they get the full camping experience. They are not going to get that with a quinoa salad already waiting for them in the fridge in your tent.

Now, I have to admit here that I would quite like to go Glamping. I know, I know. But every time I look wistfully at the brochures or the quaint little caravans that remind me of Mr Toad from Wind in the Willows, I then compare the price list to that of a really, really nice swanky hotel. That has a pool. And no horseflies. And curtains.

I have friends who actively hate camping and all that it brings with it – no fridge, no hairdryers, shower blocks, no proper loos. None of the above bother me – well, they do, but not when I consider the trade-off.

Ridiculously happy children; throwing balls, grazing knees, getting headbutted by goats, discovering their independence, making new friends, getting covered in dirt (and not giving two hoots!) and learning how to entertain themselves without the help of the Disney channel. That’s worth all the tea in China (Or all the Orange Pekoe in Sri Lanka if you are a Glamper…)glamp

So, if you can afford to Glamp, then Glamp – I’ll come if you’re paying. If not, then camp. Either way, your kids will be the better for it – yes even if it pisses it down with rain all the time and you’re all cold and tired and a bit bored. Because they never remember the rain. Just the fun and the times the sun peeked out, and the views and the fresh air and supermarket brand Capri Suns and the smell of burnt sugar.

And that you were altogether.

That is priceless – no matter how much you’ve paid for it.

Things that I loathe that everyone else loves…Dishwashers

There are so many things that come under the title of “Things that I loathe that everyone else loves” that I am going to have to write a mini-series.

Top of that pile of things however is the humble dishwasher.

Now, it may be that I just come from a long line of non-dishwasher owners, or it maybe that the rest of the planet are completely insane. I know where I think the reality lies…

When we moved into a house with a dishwasher for the first time ever, everyone told us how in a matter of days we would not know how we survived without it.

Previously, if I mentioned that we didn’t have one, people would look at me with a mixture of horror and pity. “But what do you DO?!”

Well…we, er, wash the dishes up in the sink. Designed for that purpose. In the washing up bowl – also designed for that purpose. Using a couple of items to assist in this mammoth task – washing up liquid and a non-scratch sponge.

All of the Dishwasher Lovers also have these items. Why do they need them though, if the dishwasher is so marvellous? Because
surely, they are completely superfluous, no?

NO. Because dishwashers are liars. Big, fat, stinky LIARS. (I would totally have told my kids off for speaking to each other like this, but they aren’t reading this and neither are any of the lying dishwashers.)

Reasons that dishwashers are rubbish:

  1. They are just another cupboard

Here’s a day in the life of a dishwasher – it gets opened approximately 20-30 times a day. Mostly so that people can retrieve the item that they put in there earlier, because they need it again. A favourite mug, a specific knife maybe – but they need it.

Said item is then washed in the WASHING UP BOWL, using some of the magic liquid and a sponge, or dishcloth if you’re an old school purist, before being used by the retriever. Possibly this process gets repeated several times before the item is returned to its final resting place in the dishwasher at the end of the day.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t do that too – I just take the item off the draining board/rack, or give it a swill out from where it was sat on the side waiting to be washed up.  And here is the key to why people like dishwashers and I don’t though…TIDYNESS.

For the sake of not having loads of stuff cluttering up your work surfaces, all you tidy bastards spend hours bending and scraping in reverance to your dishwashers. Shin bashing, back aching, crumb dropping hours.

The irony is, you probably have loads of stuff on your side AS WELL that won’t fit, or needs pre-washing before you can put it in. This leads us neatly onto reason 2.

2. They don’t wash stuff properly

The times I have been privy to a dishwasher being unloaded where literally half the stuff has come out dirty, is unbelievable. Caked on spag bol, lettuce leaves attached to the sides of glasses – well and truly boiled to death by the steaming jets of skin melting water – but still attached nevertheless.

What do the dishwasher owners do? Well, apart from maybe occasionally pretending that they haven’t noticed whilst putting the bowls away, they just stick the dirty stuff back in. Stick it BACK IN! It’s had 2 hours of making more noise than the children do, used more chemicals than you find in a 750cl bottle of Sunny Delight and it still hasn’t got them clean. It needs sacking, or at the very least a verbal warning for not achieving ANY of the KPIs set out in the Dishwasher Manual.

When it gets loaded in the first place, there is an extra step in the process where all food must be scraped off (OK, I’ll grant you that I have to do that before it goes into my washing up bowl) and then rinsed to make sure there are no offending articles left.

Now, by my calculations (based purely on my own scoffing fury at the owners of the dishwasher rather than any particularly rigorously tested algorithm) I could have washed up half the fucking dishes by this point. They could be steaming gently on the plate rack, hygienically air drying ready for the next time I need them, or maybe even to be put away! (See previous reason for likelihood of this actually happening…)

3. Glasses…

Nothing more to say here.

4. They use an inordinate amount of products, water and time

The amount of time it takes to wash up the dishes for the day, even after a heavy pan usage dinner is about 10 minutes. If the more stubborn stuff goes in a soak for a bit whilst I am watching something obsessively on Netflix, then so be it, but actual standing-at-the-sink-washing-up-dishes-time is hardly ever more than that.

Average dishwasher cycle? 2 hours…really? I feel like doing an advert like the old Fairy Liquid one with the number of dinner settings I could wash up in 2 hours stretching out along a picnic table like a Royal Wedding Street Party.

An average dishwasher uses 16 litres of water per cycle. The average washing up bowl is 9 litres but is never full of water due to, you know, the dishes in it. Another win for Team Bowl. Plus, you can’t tip your dishwasher onto your roses at the end of the day…

Related dishwasher products needed? Well for starters there is the rinse aid, the salt, the cleaner for the dishwasher itself (SEE! I told you it was shit at doing it’s job – it can’t even clean itself FFS)

Then the tablets – should you get the powerball one? Should you get the one with added glass sparkler? Should you get the one your manufacturer recommends? Whatever you plump for, your wash is going to cost you at least £1.50 a week just for the flipping tablets!

 

 

5. They cause massive arguments

I have seen dishwashers being loaded, then reloaded and re-reloaded in an ongoing process that involves the whole household, but in particular the grown-ups.


HE put the bowls in the wrong area of the dishwasher. SHE put the plates the stupid way round. There is too much in there for the dishwasher to clean it properly (after all, the poor thing only has 2 hours to do it in…), there is not enough in there to warrant putting it on. The list of ridiculous rules is endless.

Like card games, the rules for each household vary as wildly as different religions. One person’s perfectly packed plates are another’s crockery catastrophe. If you’re washing the dishes, the only argument is who washes and who dries. In our house even that is irrelevant as we leave it all to drain. (I’m a big fan of putting-stuff-into-soak or leaving-stuff-to-drain)

6. What you miss when you’re not doing the dishes

At Christmas, it’s a way to let your food filter down into your legs, or have a sneaky turkey fart, but it’s also part of the socialness of Crimbo. Everyone sprinting (OK maybe speed walking whilst elbowing your competitors in the ribs on the way)to the kitchen to be the washer-upper (because you can sit down again when everyone else is still drying up and putting away), flicking each other with tea-towels and getting first dibs on the pudding.

When it isn’t Christmas, or another major social event though, there is a lot to be said for ten minutes of peace, standing with your hands in warm water, seeing a mess being transformed into a warm, clean stack of plates and bowls.

Depending on your view from the sink, there is the distinct possibility of seeing something you wouldn’t normally see. My view currently takes in next door’s nesting box, where some very cautious Bluetits are currently making their home. They are so careful about not being spotted by an evil magpie or an errant tabby cat, that you’d never notice them if you weren’t stood still in one place for more than a minute.

So, you can keep your extra cupboards  dishwashers and I will chuckle at you reloading the bastard things when I visit. Because my soul has been fed by Bluetits, I have at least £100 more a year from not buying shitloads of chemicals and I can feel smug about my reduction in energy usage.

You will however, have to pry my tumble drier from my cold, dead hands…

 

Don’t be a boob…

I maybe coming a bit late to this party, but I’ve been reading a lot about Jamie Oliver’s recent “boob” this week.

Don’t wade into this debate, Molly, I thought to myself.  After all, you’re not a health visitor, a midwife, a doctor or a member of the WHO (or the band either…)

I am however, a woman and a Mum, which probably qualifies me just as much as the aforementioned professionals to have a valid opinion on the subject. Also – it’s tough shit if it doesn’t, because here I go…

The thing is, the whole issue is about more than just breastfeeding. As the holder of a couple of boobs, which have been with me since birth, but more noticably since the the residential trip to Stubbington Study Centre circa 1988, where there was a big fuss about them in the mandatory mass showers *shivers at the horror*, I can’t help but get cross about it all.

I can see that he thought he was doing a good thing, using his influence to change our society for the better.  After all, it’s worked for him before.  The trouble is, boobs are a bit more complicated than Turkey Twizzlers.

For starters, school dinners and making them healthy was all about money and shaming politicians.  Nobody disagreed with him that having pizza and chips every day was a bad idea – it was just a case of getting the pennies put in the right pot and making our kids’ health a priority.

The last time I looked, breastfeeding is already the cheap option. bottle in waterThere are pretty much no downsides on paper – it’s free, convenient, you don’t need a microwave in your bag (or a thermos flask full of correctly heated water if you are still in the purist phase of bottle feeding) and you can feel like you are being the best parent in the room.

Plus, no good mother would set out NOT to make her child’s health a priority.  Of course we all want what is best for our children.

But it’s not as simple as it seems.  Buying only organic vegetables, ethically sourced meat and non-processed foods is a wonderful way to feed your family by putting in a bit more time, effort and money. Pat yourself on the back, put your order for your veg box from Abel and Cole and sit back and reap the rewards, Mum.

Or Dad. Because Dad can do that – order the food, cook the dinner, put the bins out, polish the silver, etc. etc. The one thing Dads can’t do however, is breast feed. That’s all on the ladies.  What a privilege. What an amazing thing that we can provide for our babies.

And what a complete and utter mind fuck full of pressure.  Imagine men, if you will.  You are tasked with one job. You don’t need to do anything else – nothing else matters in the world but this incredible responsibility. Making milk.  You know how to do that don’t you? No? Oh, shit…

Read up on it – that’s always a good place to start when you need to make sure something gets done properly.  What material can you find in the local library?

“Lactation for dummies” or how about the classic, “Breast is best and that’s all you need to know, man”.  Who knows, maybe there are YouTube videos, showing you techniques for latching on or how to achieve the perfect rugby ball hold?

This is probably actually a thing now, but back in the day, there was no such channel available to subscribe to. More to the point, even if there was, nobody would have told you about it, because that would be an admission that you might have actually needed some help when it came to it. That breastfeeding wasn’t all “plug and play” as they would have you believe.

Breast is best. For your baby, for you. You know it. Don’t question it. Because if you question it, you might be, you know, One-Of-Them. One-Of-Them is not who you want to be.  They are the Bad Mothers.

To be fair, I fell for it. Hook, line and sinker.  I wanted nothing but the very best for my baby. I had quit smoking before even trying to get pregnant, hadn’t had a drink since discovering I was up the duff (I had quite a lot of guilt surrounding the pre-discovery drinks though), ate no Brie, sniffed no glue – you know, the standard things.

Of course I was going to breast feed my baby. After all, that’s what boobs are for isn’t it? They are not designed for anything else – just feeding your offspring, because once you’ve had a baby, that’s all you are good for.

My boobs were many things before that point, however. A source of embarrassment in my tweens (see Stubbington shower reference above); a weapon in my feminine arsenal; quite literally a pain – before, during, after, leading up to and when my period was nowhere to be seen; an irritation when running for a bus…the list goes on.

They were however, mine. Not rented like a video on a Saturday afternoon from Boob City on Ash Road. Not borrowed from a mate to go out clubbing with. Not saved up for like Katie Price. They were mine. One larger than the other – like feet (they don’t look like feet), with repelling magnets in the nipples that makes getting a cleavage a thing of near impossibility.

Large enough to warrant the wearing of a bra, but never impressive enough for the sexy Bravissimo catalogue because having a 38 inch ribcage and boobs of less than a D cup is apparently a physically impossible combo. Still mine though.bra

Never before would I have dreamed of getting them out in public. I’m no prude, but the framework necessary for getting them in the right place in the first place meant there was to be no airing of these puppies outside of my house.

Then. The baby comes. Once everyone in Frimley has seen your vagina, worrying about getting your nipples out in public becomes less important.  Less worrying, but you still don’t go from a 25 yr-old who doesn’t show the world (and especially your mates!) her boobs, to immediately and unblushingly unhooking your nursing bra in Sainsbury’s. Let’s be honest – it’s still awkward getting your tits out.

I’d love to be the sort of person who doesn’t actually give a fuck about that sort of thing. I am, instead, the sort of person that everyone thinks doesn’t give a fuck about that sort of thing.

Seasoned breastfeeders and women who fit successfully into the cleverly designed, yet horrifically fashion-free “special tops” designed to keep your dignity safe when feeding in public will probably give less fucks.  Especially when they aren’t being harassed by stupid restaurant owners who most likely had to put down their copy of The Sun to go over and complain to the mother about getting her boobs out to feed her baby.

Let’s imagine for a minute that there was an organ that men had which had more than one function. It might not be as tricky as you think. It had a sexual use, but also was used for something else essential – for instance, I don’t know, having a wee. Upon becoming a Dad, that organ had to be exposed in public on a regular basis – in front of friends, family and complete strangers. I wonder if men who champion breastfeeding as the only option might feel differently if that was the case?  Food for thought…

All of that awkwardness aside though, you get quite adept at discreetly feeding your baby when out in public. Or so I hear from friends.

You see, I am One-Of-Them. I know. TERRIBLE isn’t it.

milk bottleOne one hand, I feel like not sharing the reasons why I am One-Of-Them. Because it shouldn’t make any difference to you, dear reader what they are. All you really need to know is that I am not ashamed of being One-Of-Them. That and the fact that my kids are happy, healthy, intelligent, well-balanced, thriving young people.

But there is one word in that last paragraph that makes me have to share those reasons. Thriving. It’s such a positive word, isn’t it? Makes you think of ruddy cheeks, grassy knees, healthy glows.

Now. Close your eyes. Not to go to sleep mind you – there has been none of that for 6 days. Imagine you have to heave yourself off the sofa to shuffle off to the toilet, where you have an uncomfortable poo due to your iron tablets bunging you up. Then inject yourself in your thigh – or your tummy, your choice – with Warfarin.

Have some toast – maybe a cup of tea.

Not the wine that people have brought over as presents, because you just can’t face that
yet. Not with all that lack of sleep – look in the mirror to see the full effects of that, together with the slightly yellow tinge you’ve taken on with the blood loss.

Then off to bed with you – your only job now is to make some milk for your beautiful baby. He was a very sleepy this evening when you cuddled him to you. Thank goodness for that – maybe he will give you a chance to get some sleep now. He’s been feeding non-stop since he arrived last week and you’re exhausted.

No such luck – another night of screaming and crying – but that’s babies for you! You have to do whatever they want, when they want it. Don’t forget as well, as your husband watches on, unable to do anything to help apart from be very tired too – breast is best!

Then imagine waking up having had some sleep – finally! You hear voices downstairs and realise the midwife has come for your daily check up. She is so lovely and kind and marvellous and today she has come to weigh your bundle of joy – to prove to you just what an amazing job you’ve been doing with your ONE TASK AS A MOTHER.

Then imagine getting dressed and packing your baby’s changing bag, as if you were going off to a garden centre for the morning for a nice mooch and a cuppa. Except you’re not off to the garden centre. You’re off to the hospital.

Now imagine in the 6 days you have been diligently feeding and caring for your helpless bundle of joy, that he has lost 20% of his bodyweight. Being the fat girl all my life I immediately got the significance of that statistic. He was, quite literally, starving.

As we were preparing to take him, the lovely midwife was there, talking on the phone to the hospital, letting them know we were on our way to them. Her tone was one I recognised. It’s the one that your parent’s use when they wanted not to worry you about something – you know the one. The one that immediately makes you worry about whatever it is they are talking about.

And then she said it.

Failure to thrive.

Never had a heard such a horrible sentence before. It cut through me in one slash to my heart. Failure. Me. Failing to not only keep my child safe, but failing to give him the one thing that he needed to survive. Milk.

So sure of myself was I, so confident in my body’s ability to do what it was supposed to do, that I didn’t even consider this to be an option. In all of my classes, in all of the books, not once did they mention that this might happen. And do you know why? In case I got a few bottles in – just in case. And became…One-Of-Them.

I like to think that I am an intelligent woman. I like to have information given to me about things, so that I can make my own decisions. In this case, I was sure I had been given all of the information – I knew all about colostrum. I knew all about how it might take a few days for my milk to come in. I knew all about the different feeding positions that I could try. Some of the antenatal classes had leaflets that were akin to More magazine’s Position of the Fortnight, I had chuckled to myself. I was in the know.

The trouble was, nobody said to me, “but along with all of that – here is the alternative.”

When I left hospital after my emergency c-section, I was given a bundle of leaflets about caring for myself after giving birth, about taking care of my wound. When asked whether I was breast or bottle feeding, I was given the correct leaflet for my reply.

Now, obviously women with normal births weren’t given the leaflet about c-sections – they were not going to change their minds one morning at 3am and go back to hospital to demand the baby be put back in so they could be wheeled off to theatre to have their section!

But I could have been given a generic “Feeding” leaflet. One that would give me all the options and, more importantly all the information.information_01

Nobody goes to the doctor or the FPC to discuss contraception, only to leave with a leaflet telling you that abstinence or condoms are the only answer. Yes – you are much less likely to get pregnant or get an STI with those methods, but that’s only if they work for YOU. You need the WHOLE PICTURE to make a decision and as intelligent, capable human beings, that is what should be given to us.

As it was, we found ourselves, helpless, watching a doctor trying and failing to get an IV into our baby’s veins because he was so dehydrated they were collapsing. But, you know, breast is totally best for babies…

When we were talked to about the situation, we were given a very basic amount of information by a simpering nurse who asked us gently if we might want to try giving some formula to our baby and could we possibly see our way to coming to terms with that.

WHAT? What the actual fuck? GIVE ME THE BOTTLE BITCH!!! Was what I wanted to shout in her face. Why did they still think that I was that person? How could anyone who watched their baby, floppy and hollow cheeked on a specially raised hospital bed not want to try anything, ANYTHING to make their child well?

They gave us a bottle and he drained it. Literally drained it in an almost cartoon like fashion. You could hear nothing but the constant stream of air bubbles as he guzzled down the amber nectar like his life depended on it. Because, you know, it fucking did.

And then they “popped” me onto the electric breast pump. Where I stayed, on and off for the next day or two, being milked like a dairy cow, whilst we all stayed in hospital, our baby downing formula like there was no tomorrow. They got exactly 2 drops of milk from each breast, mixed with the blood they also sucked from my nipples.

Now, I know that my example is extreme – or maybe it isn’t? Maybe this is the sort of thing that tonnes of us have to go through, for the best for our babies. Everyone has their horror stories.

My point though, regardless of the facts on breastmilk vs formula, regardless of your viewpoint on feeding, regardless of any of that is that I needed to know MORE. I needed to not be treated like a child and worse than that, be made to feel almost criminal for wanting more information on the alternative to boobs.

Two things were telling for me about my hospital stay. The first was the midwife who come to chat and commiserate with me. She told me she knew exactly how I felt when she had to give her son formula – like she was poisoning him. I was incredulous.

As incredulous as I was at the woman in the papers the week before I had had my emergency section, who refused point blank to have a c-section as her birthplan did not allow it. She nearly died, as did her baby before the doctors finally convinced her husband that it was the only way to save them both. How can giving your baby milk that he would surely die without, be poisoning him?
The second was that I left that hospital (for the second time) after a 2 night stay, without a single person telling me how to safely bottle feed my baby. They showed me where the door to the sterilising room was and left me to it. So I diligently put my bottle into the big jar of stinky stuff on the draining board and went and got another bottle of formula the next time I needed it. I didn’t clean it out properly, or use a bottle brush to get the milk out of the teats, meaning our baby could have wound up in hospital all over again.

For a bunch of people so intent on us looking after our baby to the best of our abilities, who show you how to clean your baby’s revolting poo off in the bath, and how to use only water and cotton wool to do it at all other times (wipes are the Devil’s work if you believe Midwife Type A), you would think it would be one of the essential tick list items before returning to your home to go it alone, no?

Instead of assuming that if you tell me that bottle feeding exists (we do know about it!) it will send me skipping off to Asda for some SMA and a packet of Superking Blacks, please credit me, and all other mothers-to-be with the intelligence to make their own decisions based on the facts.

Because the sad truth of the matter is, that I probably would have still breastfed my son had I had all the info. I wouldn’t have had to suffer the immense and crushing weight of failure and guilt, had I known that it wasn’t all or nothing. Had a known that 80/20 would probably have worked out OK for us.

As it was, my milk never came in.  I never saw anything but blood at my breast for him. Nobody told me that having a c-section can often mean that your body doesn’t realise it has given birth and that it needs to step up the whole milk making thing. Because they thought I would look for the “easy way out”.

Had I been told that, I might have been more aware of looking for milk in his mouth, might have offered a bottle earlier to watch him suck it inside out before washing it up properly and putting it in the steriliser and trying again with the boobs. I might not have had to wonder if I was going to have been a mother for only 6 days.

Instead, I might have persevered with a mixture of both and given him the best of me – from my breast and from my relaxed, better quality milk.

I also might have persevered with my daughter, had I not had such a traumatic first time experience. Instead, I had to convince myself to give it a go, against all of my fearful instincts, only to be faced with a baby struggling to breathe properly on our first night in hospital due to low blood sugar. The solution from my lovely, wonderful midwife – the same one who saw that we needed to go to hospital with our son? (she is definitely Midwife Type B) Well, the solution was to give her a little bit of formula on a spoon. And that was that for me. The boobs were tucked safely away in a non-feeding friendly bra, never to be used for that again.

Later that week, in a hot shower, my milk did come in. It was too late of course, mentally speaking. I could have gone from 100% bottle, to a mixture of both, but the damage had been done to my fragile state of mind.

Why fragile? Interesting you should ask, person-who-hasn’t-got-a-clue, as that is the only type of person who would dare to ask. Because that is the whole point about this “magical time”. Making milk for our babies is most definitely part of our job, but it is only a tiny piece of the jigsaw that makes a mother and a baby.

A mother who has just started on a lifelong journey to be the best person that they can be for their child. Who has to make hundreds of decisions on a daily basis about what the best thing is for the baby in their arms. Then about the infant crawling around their floors. Followed by the toddler picking up dog poo in the park.

And whatever we decide, the weight of those decisions is squarely with us. Do you even have a clue what that is like? If you did, you would NEVER try to make someone feel bad about their choice for feeding their child. For starters, you don’t know why they made that choice, or even if it was a choice for them at all.

Did Jamie Oliver deserve to be slated for his call for more women to breastfeed? I think even he would say the way in which he did it was slightly ill advised, but he is a kind of act-now-think-later kind of a guy and I have no doubt that his heart was in the right place.

The most important thing about a famous person diving into this debate is that people are having a conversation about it! We need to give our mothers-to-be the confidence to make sensible, informed decisions in the first place and know that whatever their choice, they are going to be supported and not judged for it and we can only get that message across if we are all talking about it.

That is something that I think we need to have oodles more of as women ABOUT EVERYTHING, not just our breastfeeding choices.

So, my request would be – give us the information we need, treat us like grown ups (if we weren’t when we conceived our children, we pretty soon will be!) but don’t ever make a woman go through what I had to, for the sake of only one of the tiny pieces of a million piece jigsaw that make up a baby and a mother.

Weigh too much information…

I’ve always been the fat girl.

fat molly
Good grief..

Sometimes I really have been the fat girl.  Sometimes I really haven’t been the fat girl. But the fact remains that if you feel like the fat girl, how fat you actually are doesn’t matter.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever not be the fat girl, but I doubt it. And that’s OK.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy – it is nobody else’s fault but mine.  Less shite in the gob and more getting off the sofa = not having to shop in Evans.  I get it.  I am a reasonably intelligent woman.

The trouble is, my intelligence usually fucks off to bed at about 9pm on a Friday night, leaving me with a bottle of wine and a “sharing” size bag of crisps.  It always returns on a Sunday evening, usually with a disapproving look, mumbling something about how I’ve ruined it all again.

Having tipped the scales at a knat’s fart off 20 stone in my late teens (and then again in my late pregnancies!), there is no doubt that there have been occasions where I really, really was the fat girl.  I was morbidly obese, on the pill, smoked 20-a-day (that was the level I admitted to my GP anyway) and did no exercise. But boy, did I have fun…

Epiphanies have come and gone and a couple of stone have gone with them.  Periods of contentment and pregnancies where I took every opportunity to “feed the baby” have added pounds back on.

Over the years, there has been a ridiculous amount of weight lost and gained and lost again , but amongst it all, I have never really felt any different than I did back then.

Yes, of course I feel better that I can walk up the stairs without breaking into a sweat.  Of course I am happy to be able to shop for clothes in a much wider variety of places.

Supergran…

For this Supergran costume I had to buy a tartan skirt in a size 18 from a charity shop and sew in a massive panel to make it fit. Yes I am glad that I am so much fitter than I ever was as a teenager.  And yet. I’m still fat.

A stone and a half fatter than my all time low (well, let’s say heavier rather than fatter, because it’s all mostly muscle you know after all my amazing exercise of late…) but a very praise worthy 6 stone less than my all time high. It’s good to remember that, but it’s dangerous too.  So many times I have said that I would NEVER go above a certain mark on the scales again…and yet here I am.  3lb over that mark.

I wish I could be one of those people who are truly happy with their bodies; wearing their stretch marks with pride, as badges of motherhood honour; accepting their fanny aprons as a minor inconvenience for the miracles of life that they have brought into the world, but the truth of the matter is that my kids have done far more mental damage to me than they ever have physical.

My stretch marks are not the stripes of a Tigress.  They are the reminders of what a bloody idiot I was (am), eating pizza for tea every night whilst pouring copious amounts of sugar into my coffee. My thigh biscuits (thank you Tina Fey for this fantastic term) are my own doing as I should just have stuck the many packets of Hobnobs consumed in one sitting, straight down my jeans. Pretty much the only physical thing I can blame on my kids are the 2 c-section scars, which are better hidden by all of my flab than anything in a Where’s Wally book.

fat molly 1
I could eat that cake in one sitting if I really put my mind to it…

I renew my vigour on a regular basis, trying to get myself back down into the “Just Overweight” category and the most recent weapons in my arsenal are a combination of a Davina DVD, a Fitbit and counting calories – all of which work marvellously from 7am Monday morning to approximately 4pm on a Friday.

The trouble with making a real effort for 80% of the time is that I feel so immensely hard done by when that 20% balls it all up.  And that is the danger zone for me.  Because it really isn’t fair that sticking to less than 1200 calories a day all week; stepping up my exercise to red-faced-breathless-ugly-panting-face levels at least 3 times a week and then having a takeaway and some wine on the weekend means I still don’t lose any weight.

Life isn’t fair though, is it.  Life will not turn around to me when I’ve chucked all of my toys out of the pram and say, “Poor Molly.  Sorry that you’ve been working so hard on being really fucking hungry all week – let me give you a free pass for the weekend…”

It’s just not how my life works.  I feel hard done by, ruin it further by ramming a load of crap in my mouth because I feel so sorry for myself and so the cycle begins again. At other times, I accept fully that to get anywhere, I need to be on it 100% of the time, and for a while at least, that does the job.

I would love to be able to blame my fat just on being sociable, but in reality I use food (and drink…) for everything – celebration, commiseration, reward, to show love, to feel loved, rebellion and because, you know, I REALLY LOVE EATING AND DRINKING.

To be fair though, it is a major factor in why I plateau on my weight loss journey *dry heaves at Americanism*. My FOMO (see Mum Tums and Cum post for reference here…) means that a potential “one in the bank” evening spent at home with a jacket potato and salad turns into a “dipping into the calorie overdraft” evening in the pub.

And here is the real reason why I am not unhappy enough with being the fat girl to really (and I mean REALLY) do something about it, once and for all. I am at the age now to know that I will probably never feel like the thin girl, the medium girl or even the slightly chubby girl. After every round of weight loss, there is the sense of achievement I get from knowing I’ve knuckled down and put the hard work in.  I feel great about getting fitter in general – it’s a fab example to the kids and they do tonnes more exercise than I ever did at their age, which makes me proud of them, and me.

But am I going to not go out for that drink or that coffee and cake with people I love in order to achieve that? Am I going to join the gym and go every night for an hour without fail? Am I going to sit in a restaurant eating a salad or not having a starter and a pudding because I am watching what I eat?  The honest answer to that is, probably sometimes – because I really cannot ever go back to the size I was.  Mostly though, I am going to have to accept the plateaus, the small gains and the feeling of never really being able to let go of the reins, because there are so many more important things in life to worry about.

If I was still 20 stone and smoking, then there probably wouldn’t be many more important things to sort out and I am grateful to the fat girl that I really, really was for being that constant reminder of how you can’t overindulge in every area without paying a price somewhere along the line.

The thing that I have come to realise though is that even if I do see a time where the number on the scales doesn’t fall into one of those dreaded orange or red bands on the horrific BMI graph, I will still feel like the fat girl.  I will still sigh at my flabby tummy and still be irritated that my sister got the boobs and the waist and the fucking eyelashes. (Nothing to do with weight I know, but it IS super annoying…)

Being fat is not great for your health, or your vanity, but neither is being a miserable, hungry, party pooper.  Someone will always be bigger and happier with themselves than you, but that girl who you think has the perfect figure feels every inch as fat as you do.  The key
to all of it, is to try and be the best version of yourself you can be, fat or thin and then love that person.

So if you feel like the fat girl – you might actually be (like me at age 20 and 20 stone) 20151122_104007, or you really might not be (like me at age 16 and size 12-14) – embrace it, let it worry you just enough to get a bit of healthy in your life, but don’t let it rule you.

Chances are, you see yourself completely
differently than those wonderful people in your life that you need to celebrate with – and they would rather have you as a happy fat girl than a miserable anything else.

When I got home today, I found a bottle of cider on mybottle doorstep with a big bow on it.  An anonymous gift giver, who obviously saw it and thought of me – l

ittle did they know I was in the middle of writing this post.

“Thundering Molly” is well rounded and medium, and she
couldn’t be happier…