Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Healthy Living Challenge : Week One

The very fabulous Oona, from Mama's Haven has recently embarked on a Healthy Living Challenge, having felt the pinch of winter adding some unwanted pounds to her waistline.  She is undertaking the 40 Day Healthy Eating Challenge in conjunction with others participating in 40 days of Lent, and her posts are a daily summary of how she is getting on; what she has learnt about health and nutrition; sharing advice she has received and wonderful recipe ideas.
I have found Oona's posts really inspiring and with a shock myself when I stepped on my own set of scales, I have decided to join her in a Healthy Eating Lifestyle change.  As many of you know I was doing well with exercise last year, but I never really changed my eating habits.  It is not so much that I eat badly in relation to what I consume, but more the quantities of what it - ie. too much. 
The winter months have not seen me out pounding the pavements (I hold my hands up here and admit, I am a fair weather runner for the most part) as much as I should, so of course, without a change in my diet / food intake the pounds have crept back on and my clothes are feeling a tad on the restrictive side all of a sudden. 
So, time to take the matter in hand.  My goals are as follows :
* Change my diet to healthier options, but more importantly to stay within my required calorie intake by reducing my portion sizes
* Become more 'calorie' aware of food (again in relation to portion size)
* To start cooking again and eating less processed foods (I was doing well with this last year but it has really slipped of late)
* To fit in my holiday clothes with comfort (they were purchased whilst I was in the height of my running last year so I would say I need to go down one dress size to be able to wear them comfortably) 
I started my Challenge on Friday.  I have to say I did think I would do it for a day or two and slip, but I haven't.  I make sure I meal plan each morning, so I do not get to dinner time, and hungry, stick the quickest thing in the oven.  When I went shopping I used common sense approach and bought all the healthier options of items (wholegrain, low fat, skimmed milk etc) thus taking the advice of Oona and removing temptation from my cupboards (luckily I am not a chocolate eater so the kids cupboard is safe).
To help me get an understanding of my calorie intake I am doing daily lists of exactly what I am eating and the portion size so that eventually it will come naturally to only cook / plate up the recommended portions sizes.  Point in case : I made a Spaghetti Bolognaise this week (extra lean mince dry fried with all excess fat drained after cooking and a low fat version of sauce - the rest of the family did not even notice).  I was horrified to realise, previously I had been plating up at least three times the recommended portion of pasta (so in plain pasta alone I was looking at 600 calories). I also discovered I was adding about 100g of cheese sprinkled on top (another 300+ calories).
I was eating over 900 calories before I even put the mince and sauce into the equation.  I ate my correct size portion with a huge side salad (I had forgotten how much I love salad) and was surprised when I found I was actually satisfied at the end of it.  I felt full, but not stuffed and uncomfortable, which i realised I had got used to feeling after every meal.
I also thought I would feel hungry between meals, particularly at the start, but I haven't.  I suppose because I am eating more whole grains etc, which digest more slowly.  I have also tried to consciously eat more slowly because I am renowned for inhaling my food at light speed.
I have given myself a one a day treat allowance too.  This has been great, because it has meant I have not felt like I am being hard done by.  Some days I haven't even wanted one.  But other days, like yesterday for my dad's birthday when I made him a 'chocolate heaven' cake, I feel I can have a slice without feeling like a failure.
I am not due for a weigh in until Friday, so I am not sure if I have actually lost anything as yet, but even if I haven't I am still pleased with the initial eating habit changes and with the things I have learnt.  Next week I hope to start some exercise into the programme too, now I have had my gym induction - it's warmer than running!
To find out more about Mama Haven's Healthy Eating Challenge and to be inspired check out her blog  I am also linking up with the wonderful Kate at The Naked Mum for #WobblesWednesday - a great blog hop for all those wanting to share their weight-loss journey and find support with others doing the same.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Times are Changing

In the midst of our lifetime, we experience many changes.  We age, from baby, to toddler, to little girl/boy, to bigger girl/boy, to teenager, to young adult and finally 'fully fledged' adult.  Certain of these aging processes can seem to take an extraordinary amount of time to get through (toddler-hood for a mother, teenager-hood for the person experiencing it). 
Adulthood, once reached, can be a mixed blessing.  Depending on if you are a glass half full or a glass half empty person, I believe, it can either loom; with things only likely to go downhill with approach to senior years or it can stretch, long ahead with infinate possibilities that can only come with experience and wisdom being on your side.  You may have once been a nervous, unconfident teenager but as an adult you may have long washed those days away and feel charged about heading into life with clear open eyes on the way of the world.
I look at my life in era's when it comes to age.  A happy childhood.  An unscathed teenage run but with a lost sense of direction.  I floundered in my early 20's, with the pressure that a lot of my friends (I realise now ridiculously) felt of feeling like a failure because by the age of 23 we were not huge successes, with our own homes and perfect relationships.
Then my world as I knew it got turned upside down.  I unexpectedly fell pregnant.  Life as a mother started for me.  Not only that, a life a special needs, single mother began.  I was only 25.  I thought that was quite old back then.  I thought I was a confident and world knowledgable women.  I wasn't. 
Real confidence for me, has only come with real-life adulthood trauma, which up until I had my baby boy I had not experienced.  My take on life now is; nothing is as hard (or rewarding) as motherhood.  I took my, meek young self and dealt with a tough hand life decided to deal me.  If I can do that I can do anything I try and drum into myself.
However, every now and then a little self doubt raises its head.  When it came to work, I had 'relative' confidence.  Many years of working in my profession meant yes, I was good at what I did.  I felt comfortable and worked my way up to managerial level.  If I didn't feel wholly confident with something, I at least felt strong enough to bluff my way through.  Therefore I found it quite difficult to understand people who would say 'Since I had my baby I have just lost my confidence and am really worried about going back to work.' 
Of course I couldn't understand it.  I didn't stop work.  I had to maintain that confidence.  Even when I did get the opportunity to become a stay at home mum, for the first year, my mind was still in work mode and I felt I could have strolled back to work and picked up where I left off.
However, it has now been more than a year since I left the world of work.  It has been over three and a half.  My days of having my youngest son by my side 24/7 are almost at an end.  We have already decided we are not going to be having any more children. 
Without me realising it, an end of an era is nigh.
Do I let the stretch of our post baby days scare me, with the big 'what am I going to do next?' question?  I can hear people saying 'Get a job'.  Our finances could only be helped by that for sure.  That very sentence has passed through the depths of my mind.
Then the fear hits.  The fear that I could never understand before.  I have been out of the workplace for over three - and - a - half - years - a statement that lurks always in the back of my mind.  Younger, more energetic models have risen through the ranks.  To be honest, I can only remember the negative parts of working in management; never being able to please anyone; staying over and above the hours you were actually paid for; taking work home in preparation for meetings I hated heading up.  And the big question :
Could I still do it?
The answer would probably be yes.  The bigger, more thought-provoking one is :
Do I want to?
The answer :
I do not wish to return to the professional from which I left.  There I have said it.  So, then the questions really begin. 
So what do you want to do?
Are you prepared to retrain?
Can you afford to not go straight back to work?
Question, questions, questions.  Heart palpatations.  Sleepless nights.  Our 21st Century life as we know it, doesn't particularly encourage us to be happy with our lot.  We are trained, consciously or sub-consciously I do not know, to always be striving for more. 
What would be your honest reaction be if I said 'Well, I have worked since I was 16 years of age, I have met my soul-mate and had children - so any child free hours are now my own to play with.'  It probably wouldn't be all that complimentary.  Would you think I lacked passion?  Would you think I was a spoilt house wife? 

I would imagine 'Well maybe she is just content.' wouldn't be something you thought.
Sadly, I wouldn't be content.  Even if we were in a place where I had a healthy disposable income and could be a lady of leisure.  But I am also not happy with the idea of returning to a profession I have no interest in.  A large portion of our time is spent in the work place, so I do not want the majority of my day to once again be filled undertaking tasks that for me hold no passion.  But I do need my own income.  Can I really make a career for myself in something I enjoy aswell?  Has adulthood so far armed me with that amount of confidence?
So as these times change, my boys growing at a rapid pace I am standing at a two pronged fork in the road.  Do I have the metaphorical balls to take that path marked 'New and Unknown'?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

This post is a little late this week but as usual things have been full on, as they are within any household with children!  This weeks Reasons to be Cheerful is being hosted by Clare at Seasider in the City whilst Michelle at Mummy from the Heart takes a break from blogging for lent.  If you want inspiring posts to uplift your mood, hop over there.
In the midst of a chilly and rather grey February is that day that people either love or hate; Valentines.  I must admit, it generally isn't something that bothers me and the Hubby and we do not go all out to do something 'special'.  We decided that as we have 'The Holiday' fast approaching we would not change that this year.
However, my parents offered to babysit Valentines evening for us as a surprise, so we had an off the cuff evening together with a gorgeous meal at our friends restaurant.  With good food and even better company it was nice to spend a few hours sans-children.
Half Term
The first one of 2013 has arrived and J1 has a few extra days this time.  The school he attends is undergoing a huge building project, and it is J1's classes turn to move to the new section.  So in order for them to pack up and re-locate J1 is getting three additional days off, which is lovely.  We are intending on taking a trip to the Zoo with our Gold Passes as long as the weather continues to be reasonably mild, which both boys love.  And it should be much easier now we have the power-pack to assist with the hills.
Exciting developments are continuing with the various 'work' projects I am pursuing at the moment.  They are giving me a real fire in my belly for making a new career - something I wasn't sure I would know how to do if I am honest.  This all helps with confidence building.
My brother and his wife have decided to get their boys Christened.  We are looking forward to a lovely family gathering in April for it.  The Hubby has always been for getting our boys Christened, but I have never pursued it.  However, the news from my brother really delighted my mum.  It turns out she is all for it and I never realised.  So we have decided to also get our children Christened later in the year.  I want to spend some time really learning about it and understanding it first.
I had a fantastic response to my call for guest bloggers for the week leading up to Mothers Day and I am looking forward to putting together an uplifting week of Appreciating Motherhood, in all its guises.
So a busy week and to wondering what the next one will bring.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Appreciating Motherhood Week

I am going to be doing a week long dedication to Motherhood, leading up to Mothering Sunday (Sunday 10 March) and would love to feature some guest posts.

If you would like more details, please email me on

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Disability Diaries : Netbuddy - A great resource

As anyone who comes across my blog is aware, disability and special needs feature a lot, because I have a son who has Cerebral Palsy and consequently disabilities and special needs.
I was recently contacted, because of this, by the website 'Netbuddy'.  They asked if I would be happy to feature an article on their behalf.  I was unsure what Netbuddy was at first, but soon found out and was more than happy to help.
Netbuddy is a fantastic resource for parents with children of learning disabilities, autism and special needs of any description.  It is a place where parents can come and share information - and as any parent of a child with disabilities and / or special needs that is vital as clear and real information can be hard to come by sometimes. 
The article below outlines much better than I can the importance of Netbuddy, as it is written by the amazing women who founded it.  Please share this post, so as many parents as possible can be made aware of this website - the more people involved in it the better it will work.

Parents are the real experts says learning disability charity founder

Deborah Gundle talks about her self-styled ‘mumsnet for special needs’ and how other parents are the key to making it work

When my oldest son Zach was born, I knew instinctively that something wasn’t right.  At 7 months old, he was diagnosed with Angelman syndrome, which meant he’d grow up with profound learning disabilities.

Looking back, I wish I’d asked for more help from my family and friends in those early years, because I know now they would have been happy to give it. It’s often hard for other people to help, unless you tell them exactly what they can do.

One of the things I struggled with when Zach was little was how much time and energy I’d spend solving day-to-day problems. Zach was still crawling till he was about seven, and I spent ages trying different things to protect his knees, which were always rough and bruised. Finally I hit on the perfect solution – goalkeeper trousers for kids, which were padded in all the right places. But Zach was nearly six by then, and I couldn’t help wishing I’d known earlier.

That’s how the idea for Netbuddy came about. It would have been so helpful to have some sort of practical handbook, with tips and ideas for all the problems I encountered when Zach was growing up. But of course nothing like that existed.  I knew other people had probably solved the same problems I was dealing with, and I wished I had access to their knowledge.

Health visitors and professionals were, of course helpful, but unless you have direct experience of learning disability – unless you’re living with it day-to-day, you can’t really know what it’s like.

I launched two years ago with the aim of capturing that huge wealth of expertise that parents and carers have, and making it easily available for other people to tap in to.  I wanted to create a place where people could submit and search for tips on a whole range of practical issues – everything from bed-wetting to coping with challenging behaviour.

Of course, when you’re a parent to someone with special needs, caring doesn’t end when they become an adult. So Netbuddy offers tips for people of all ages. Zach is 18 now, and he’s going through one of the most important stages of his life – the transition from children’s to adults ‘ services. I value any advice I can get from other parents who have already been through this process.

That’s what Netbuddy is all about – passing on what you have learned to others who can benefit from it.

Netbuddy works because people in the learning disability community want to help each other. If they can offer some support or advice that will make someone else’s journey easier, they will.

I am delighted by how quickly the site has taken off, and by the strength of the community we have already developed at Netbuddy. But in some respects I’m not surprised by it because Netbuddy fills a very basic need for practical problem-solving that everybody has.

We’ve had people writing in telling us that a tip they’ve picked up on Netbuddy has changed their lives. Sometimes it can be a really simple idea, but it might have given them their first full night’s sleep in 10 years or provided the breakthrough in toilet training they’d been desperate for.

Netbuddy has also hit a chord with professionals– teachers, nurses, therapists, support workers – who come into contact with people with learning disabilities through their work. They use the site to pick up tips and ideas for themselves, but also to pass on to families they support.

Last month, Samantha Cameron hosted a reception for Netbuddy at Downing Street. She described Netbuddy as a ‘vital resource’ for families who are affected by learning disability. It was wonderful to have that recognition, not just from someone so high-profile, but also from another parent. Having had a child with special needs herself, she really understood how important Netbuddy was.

It does feel like we’ve come a long way very quickly, but we still want to reach a lot more families and carers who could benefit from using Netbuddy. As parents, we have a goldmine of useful information at our fingertips, and it’s up to us to pass it on.

To find out more about Netbuddy, visit
Deborah & Zach

Friday, 8 February 2013

A New Generation : Top 10 Bloggers to Watch in 2013


I am thrilled and delighted to announce that Lynsey The Mother Duck has been shortlisted as one of 'A New Generation' Top 10 Bloggers to Watch for 2013 in the Parenting Category.
What makes it even better is that several of my blogging pals have also made the list.  Well done Older Mum in a Muddle, Dorky Mum and Older, Single Mum.
For all the details and to find out who else they have highlighted as 'ones to watch', in the categories; lifestyle; fashion & beauty and parenting check out the article 
Huge thanks to the team at A New Generation (@mygenerationuk)  

Thursday, 7 February 2013

What Has Made Me Cheerful This Week?

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
This has been another week that has quite literally flown by as we have been so busy.  I was worried it might be a bit of an anti-climax given the amount achieved last week but I am glad to say the momentum has continued. 
If you want to be really cheered by people doing good for the world, check out Mummy from the Heart Michelle's Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC #GoodWork #TeamHonk.  Then join up with the blog-hop once you have given some thought to your own high points of the week.  I know I say it every week, but even in the worst weeks you can generally find something positive and that helps on its own.
This week again has been a good one for family and for me personally.  The first point is something that made my heart swell until I thought it would burst, my eyes awash with tears and my mind more determined than ever that J1 will do as much as we can possible get him involved in.
* Many of you know I have recently returned to running and the story behind why I started the activity.  During my last race (back in October) I decided that I would love for J1 to be able to say he had been in a race.  He often says 'Can I come running with you Mummy?' when I am getting ready to go out training.  Obviously J1 is never going to be able to physically put his feet on the floor and run but not one to be foxed by such trivial barriers I thought about how we could make this happen.
Well of course, he can run with me.  Or, more to the point I can run with him.  Easy to say.  More difficult to actually do.  J1 is not a small boy and his chair is far from light.  My fitness is also not in peak shape after a knee problem and flu stopped me from training for three months.
Then I found, the most inspiring thing I have ever seen TEAM HOYT - I urge you to follow this link HERE and see the amazing determination of a father and son.  Read their story and have your heart filled with emotion of the true meaning of knowing no bounds of love for your child.
I am now determined to try and arrange a 'Our children will Run' race in the summer and am putting an action plan together of who I need to speak with to make it a reality.
* I am making progress on putting together pitch ideas for feature articles I would like to submit to various publications.  I wish I could work a bit faster on it, but I am still happy with the progress I have been able to make.
* I joined the Women in Business group for my local area and attended my first meeting yesterday.  It was quite inspiring and I was pleased to discover they work hard putting on events to raise money for local charities and charities close to members hearts.  The most enlightening thing about this was I attended the meeting without any nerves.  I felt confident about what I was doing - something that has somewhat eluded me in the past.
* I officially started working on my first paying clients Social Media work this week.  I have thoroughly enjoyed it and it has been good to see how I can fit it in around my main role as a stay at home mother. 
* We were scheduled for a house inspection this week, so two days of cleaning, tidying and de-cluttering were undertaken.  The inspector failed to show up and however annoying that is, it feels lovely to really be on top of the house chores!
That's me for this week, hopefully next week I will have my brief submitted for my company logo and web design.  Fingers crossed!

Friday, 1 February 2013

The Disability Diaries : Doing it our way

I haven't posted about this before, because I didn't feel it was appropriate at the time, when we were in the midst of it.  But since I had a meeting yesterday to 'close off our case' I now feel I can.
I wrote, on several occasions last year, posts on how J1 was becoming much more knowing.  It had caused me much joy and equally as much pain.  It was wonderful to see his brain processing information as it should, and him comprehending situation we wasn't sure would be possible.  The heartbreak of it throughout however, was seeing him realise - for the first time - the barriers / consequences of his disabilities. 
He realised he could not run around the garden with his brother and cousins.
He realised he could not jump on a bike and go out and play.
He realised he could not rush off to the indoor play station at our local soft play.
He realised he could not stand up and jump on the trampoline.
It was a hard summer in that respect.  If your son said to you 'Mummy could you put the cycling helmet on me, and bring the bike over here so I can hold the handles and pretend I can ride it?' Wouldn't that break your heart too?
As the reality of his disabilities dawned on J1, the realisation that he is growing up mentally, settled on me.  I deliberated on my own, talked to my husband, parents, friends and professionals at the school about whether it was time to release the apron strings a little. 
I had to assess if J1 was perhaps ready for some company outside of just his family.  This was an alien concept to me.  It was one that I found hard to acknowledge.  We had always coped between us, but was that really best for him?
We were advised that our best course of action would be to get a referral for a social worker to look at our case.  The ultimate goal was to have our case changed to 'Direct Payments' (it isn't a payment in money - you get allocated 'hours' that you can book professionals/carers time).  After much waiting we finally were assigned a social worker, who came out for a lengthy discussion.
We explained how we felt J1 was lacking support in terms of being able to enjoy some social time.  We explained how difficult it had become to even take him swimming (his favourite thing) as we needed at least three people to be able to lift him in and out of a 'normal' swimming pool. 
We explained we had tried to book a special hydro-pool, but it charged by the hour (£22) and we needed two.  Also, because of its popularity if you wanted to secure a session you had to book in blocks of four weeks.  An hours swim - the other hour was spent undressing him, hoisting him in and out of the pool, getting him dried and dressed and hoisted back into his wheelchair - suddenly cost £176 a month.
We also explained that J1 had turned from a little boy that would have nothing to do with anyone but members of the family, to really enjoying the company of other people and we felt it would benefit him to continue to encourage that, especially as he get older.
The social worker agreed that his quality of life could be improved by him being awarded Direct Payments and told us she would suggest that we be allocated three hours per week.
We waited about four months.  We still had not heard anything.  Not being overtly pushy people (we seriously need to learn that we have to be).  After much chasing we received a sketchy call saying our Social Worker would come out and visit us.
The visit came around and after a good hour of polite, if somewhat strained chit chat I bit the bullet and asked what was going on with our request.
The answer.
Denied.  You are more than coping on your own.  Maybe try again in a few years when your parents are 65.
No one had even given us the courtesy of informing us.
We politely smiled and saw the social worker off.  Then the air turned blue around me as I vented my frustration.  I went home to my husband and burst into angry tears.  I felt we had asked for the absolute bare minimum for him and had been denied - after never asking anything of them in that respect before - even for all the years I had been a single parent with him.
Yes, that was right.  I had coped.  I had stood up and said I can look after my son.  So they say, great you don't need us at all.
The next day, I found I hadn't calmed down as much as I would have hoped.  Probably because I didn't feel it was me that had been denied, but my nine year old severely disabled son.  So I did what I know how to do best.  I channelled my frustration at life, at 'the system' and set about resolving the issues on my own.
I wanted to be able to get a family Gold Pass for the Zoo.  We had discussed that if we had been awarded D.P we could have had someone help us push him around the site, therefore it would be possible for just me and my mum to take him.  We needed extra man power to get him around the un-level terrain. 
A power pack for the wheelchair. 
We looked into it.  We applied.
We were successful. 
We can now take him to the zoo, whenever we like.  So on a 'bonus' pleasant day, when before we would have said 'It's a shame we can't go to the Zoo.' We can.
We thought about the bike issue.  J1 had loved the adapted bike at Centre Parcs but they are so expensive we had always been hesitant about approaching a charity for help with one.  Fuelled by the need to make up for what he had lost out on we booked a rep and had a fun morning with the suitable options.
That afternoon we filled in our submission and once we had our quote and supporting letters from the relevant professionals we posted it and crossed our fingers.  There was quite a lot of back and forth with the application but you can imagine our sheer delight when we got a positive outcome.  The charities were helpful and understanding.  And when we told J1 about the news hearing him say 'Can I have a red one?' made me realise that it was all worth it.  For Christmas santa delivered a ride cycle helmet and a matching red bell.
Those two things will make a huge difference to us all.  But most of all it is enabling J1 to experience childhood activities, such as going to the Zoo and for a bike ride, like every child should be able to enjoy.
No bureaucratic department is going to stop us from achieving that for our son.
Now we are waiting for our new Scout hut to open and although it will probably have to be my husband or dad that attends with him I think he will really enjoy it.  I am looking into the possibility of getting him a wheelchair platform swing for the garden.  We have also discovered some great offers at our local bowling alley for mid-week lanes.
And J1 does love a game of bowling... even if it is only with his family.