The Present Panic

Every year I say it. Yet, every year, I definitely do not do it.

“This year, I’m not buying so much for the kids for Christmas.” Followed by the usual “They’ve got so much” “I need to stick to my budget” etc etc, blah blah blah.

When Lylah was old enough to appreciate presents, I started to get so excited as her birthday and Christmas drew near. They fall within 5 days of each other, so as you can imagine, it’s a busy and expensive time! At the age of 1, Lylah appreciated anything she could tear open! I got carried away in Mothercare, and was gobsmacked by how affordable cute toys for children were. This was when I was receiving a bigger pay packet at the end of every month, and a tenner for another toy kitchen accessory in the sale didn’t seem excessive.

Since then, and almost 5 years later, this time of year hurts my head. I look around my house and I’m filled with guilt at the sheer amount of stuff my children have, and I then panic about where the new stuff is going to fit. I want to spoil my children at Christmas time and on their birthdays, but equally, I believe that neither of them know the value of what they get, nor do they really appreciate when they get something new. That’s not their faults. They have grown up with everyone around them buying them whatever they want, within reason. It’s the kind of society we live in nowadays. You pop to the supermarket for milk, and think nothing of throwing in a bargain bin toy as a treat/bribe to keep them quiet. The treats become regular, and the circle becomes more vicious, as you struggle between wanting to lavish them with goodies, but also want to teach them how to be responsible human beings.

I cannot speak for everyone of course, this is just my own experience and that of a few others I know. I know there are many parents who try and bring their children up with great values. I do too, however, sometimes I let the toy sales get the better of me.

There is something that happens inside of me when I enter the bright lights of a supermarket or toy store. Everything catches my eye. I can’t ignore the shiny packaging, or the fact that the last figurine that Lylah needs to complete a collection is not only in stock, but it is half price! I constantly justify it to myself, buying things, and then telling myself the 100 reasons why we did really need that.

I’d love to have the courage to go back to basics. To scrap everything that is a Christmas commodity, and buy one, small but special present each for the children. The reality is, that will never happen. Not when I am in the position to buy them more. I appreciate how spoilt that sounds, and I know there are people who will struggle to buy just that, but I’m writing this from a place of genuine confusion. I’m torn between what I know is right, and what is another junk present for the Christmas pile. I am equally a strong believer in treating your children to nice things if you are able to. After all, my husband and I work hard, and we do it all for our children. We also save money for them, and are making sure they are set up for the future – it’s not all about the latest Barbie doll. But that doll brings a glimmer to my children’s eyes. The sight of them tearing open presents and loving them is one that can’t be beaten.

So this year, I have taken a mixed approach. I’m not going to guilt myself into not buying them the things they’d like, but equally, you won’t see a mound of presents the height of my tree. I’m not going to so mean as to start buying Lylah joint Christmas and Birthday presents, but I have explained to her that her birthday pile is won’t be very big, as the Lego she’d love costs more money and mummy and daddy can’t afford loads of it. We’ve donated bags to charity, and filled a Christmas shoe box, and I’m making more of an effort to teach my children about those who aren’t anywhere near as privileged as they are. I’m holding myself back from the Christmas aisles, flooded with overpriced goods and brightly wrapped treasures, as I know we don’t need all of that stuff to make our own Christmas special.

In a year that saw me lose my Nonno, this Christmas must be more about love and family, than large and expensive gifts. Hopefully, year by year, I can pass these values on, and my children can do the same for their little ones.



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Give and Take

I remember back to a time, before I had Lylah, where I said to my husband, “when this baby comes along, I won’t be your only special girl anymore”, or something along those soppy lines.  His reply has stuck with me.  “Of course you will, things won’t change, we will have a little girl, but I’ll still remember to give you cuddles.”

5 years down the line, and things have changed quite dramatically.  We’ve found ourselves in a place where it takes a lot of effort to think about each other, and put each other and our relationship first again.

When children come along, you are overwhelmed by the love that the new arrivals bring.  You look at your partner in a new light.  I appreciated this gift of life we had been blessed with, and couldn’t wait to spend the years raising these children together.  He adorned me with compliments, and praised how well I’d done delivering our children.  I could see and feel his love for me, and our bond was tight.

Somehow, over the years, that starts to slip away.

We take things for granted every single day, and with the sometimes mundane routine of it all, it is difficult to find the spark that keeps your fire for each other burning.  You forget about the crazy times you had as twenty somethings; the carefree holidays, the late night drinking, the romantic meals out, the weekends away, basically, everything you did before you had children and before your everyday life made you tired for your every waking moment.  Yes, there were arguments, and days when you ignored each other because you couldn’t stand each other, but once you made up, those moments had passed, and you were able to let go and enjoy each other again.

Now, every little thing just adds to the mound of frustrations that build higher and higher everyday.  Late for the school run, the pile of washing that has re appeared for the sixth time this week, the broken light pull, the spare bedroom filled with the junk you have no space for.  All part of your mundane life, with very little else to distract from it.

Before long, the husband that would’ve given you long, passionate kisses the moment he got home from work, barely gives a look as he grunts hello and dumps his bags, heading straight for the bathroom to fill the tub ready for the kids to jump in.  Then myself, who would never have dreamed of falling asleep without being curled up in my husbands arms, and hated going to bed before him, now happily falling asleep on my own side of the bed, sometimes without even a peck goodnight.

The children take over.  Their little lives are full of needs, and those needs tug at you and pull you in a million different directions.  It’s not their faults that their parents have forgotten about each other.  They need everything they can take from you, and it is mummy and daddy’s responsibility to do the hard bit.  Put in the work that a partnership requires to make it a success.

Things come to a head, and you realise that unless you take action now, life with your brood isn’t going to be the bed of roses you imagined it would be, and your naivety breaks, as you realise how it’s possible for so many families to be broken and for some many marriages to crumble under the pressure of life.

And now we work.  We put each other first and we take time for each other.  We hug each other long and hard before we part ways in the morning.  We think of each other throughout our days.  We do the small things that matter.  The cup of tea before bed or the shoulder massage it takes to relieve the stress of work.  We don’t forget the needs of our children, but we remember and prioritise once again the needs of our relationship.  We communicate what we want from each other, and we make an effort to do what is desired.

This month has seen my own parents celebrate thirty years in a successful business.  They took a chance as young couple with two very young children to work hard together to achieve their dream of owning their own business, and I’ve seen them go through the ups and downs of marriage.  On our Wedding Day, my dad gave us one piece of advice.  “Give and take”.  I have to take that advice now and make sure I put those words into practice.  Give to my husband, and take what I need, and he will do the same.  And remember, first and foremost, the reason you are here with these two wonderful children in the first place.  Love.



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A Sunday morning bath…


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This morning I had the rare opportunity to enjoy a long soak in the bath.  Chris was off work today, so after breakfast and the necessary potter around and clean up, I decided to take advantage of the small bracket of time I had spare before the food shop, to try out my recent purchase of magnesium flakes and de-fuzz my overgrown legs!

The idea of a bath is perfect.  The door shut to the world, peace and quiet all around, the hot steaming water waiting for you to sink your tired and aching body into, and the chance, on this serene Sunday morning, for me to ponder upon the week just passed and plan for the week ahead.  As well as a bit of body SOS of course.  I imagined myself emerging in an hour’s time, glowing from head to toe and looking and feeling like a new woman thanks to the magnesium!

I had not long given all of the bath toys a really good clean, and had placed them in all their shining glory around every spare edge of the ceramic tub.  I contemplated for a brief moment about taking them all off, so as to give me more space, but oh no, I decided that I, being as graceful as a swan, could immerse myself into the vat of water without knocking a single one of these rubbery bath play things off and into the bath with me.  There was a small space left for my shampoo, conditioner, leave in hair treatment, body scrub, facial scrub, razor, shaving foam, and shower gel.  Yes, I was going the whole hog, full relax and full pamper.  What could spoil it?

I hadn’t yet popped my contact lens in for the day, so glasses in the bath it was (I’ll never forget the optician telling me this was the perfect opportunity to give them a quick clean!).  The minute I slide down into the water, the glasses steam up, and I spend a few seconds wailing my hands around trying to feel where I am.  I then reach for item number 1, the shampoo, which I instantly knock onto the floor.  I sat up and looked down; it was just out of reach.  I thought about calling for Chris, but he and the kids were busy outside, and me yelling his name at the top of my voice makes not for a relaxing mood.  So I raised myself up into the chilly air, and leant over the bath to stretch for my shampoo, my glasses are steaming up repeatedly and therefore I can’t actually see, and I proceed to knock another few items off.  This is why I should have taken a mere 35 seconds to remove the bath toys.

After gathering up the fallen bits, I settle back down, and hair wash, condition etc etc.  The melodic tones and harmonies of a very chilled band were playing on the iPhone, and I feel like I should be more relaxed.  But it’s hard to get to that place of zen when the entire cast of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is surrounding you.  I had strategically moved the Ariel Mermaid styling head to the end of the bath, so I could relax my own tired head, only to realise then I had little or no room for my feet, as along with Malachy’s pirate boat, they pretty much had the monopoly of the hull on this ship.

Next thing, the door opens, and I half expect little children to come rushing in, which would bring with it their favourite game of knocking everything into the bath while mummy’s in it.  But it was Chris.  “Don’t worry love, I’m just going for a wee”.  Thanks love, thanks for sharing, and thanks for not doing the other in this hot steamy bathroom while I am trying to RELAX!

When once again, left alone, small voices start to shout my name, and I reply swiftly (but loudly) “Mummy’s in the Bath!”.  The voices trail off, and I hear Chris.  All is well.  I can begin the mammoth task of exfoliating and shaving my legs.

At this point, I realise that bath time isn’t relaxing.  It isn’t all bubbles, candles and prosecco, and perhaps the small chance that your husband might join you.  It’s a frantic period of time where you are trying to treat yourself to the basic right of being clean and hairless, in a bath that’s now geared up for your offspring.  What makes matters worse, is that when we had our new bathroom fitted, we thought we were being super trendy by not having bath taps fitted, and instead having one system in the shower that runs the water for both the bath and shower.  So safe for the kids, we thought.  So easy to use, we said.  So easy to clean, I exclaimed gleefully.  I’m now lying here in lukewarm, soapy scuddy water, wishing I could top myself up with some fresh hot clean water from the tap.  Serves me right for being so forward-thinking when it comes to bathroom trends.

After knocking a few more items off the side, and avoiding eye contact with Ariel whilst having an all-over wash, I jumped out to then rinse off and wash again in the shower.

So no, my bath wasn’t entirely relaxing, but I no longer have legs like a male footballer, so it was worth the effort.  Anyway, if I was too relaxed, I’d fall asleep, and we know that’s not wise in a tub of water.  I’m more of a shower person, I’ll save the baths for the littlies.

My bathtime buddies…22368837_10159349238370697_1728086095_o

For more posts like this, why not check out the following:

The Four of Us
The last days of childcare
Yay for the summer!
Sometimes you just have to go for it!
Those ‘non-baby’ friends…
Roll up, roll up…


Sometimes you just have to go for it!


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Sometimes you just have to go for it.

I’ve always been very driven, and ambitious when it comes to my career and the things I want to do with my life.  I’ve always wanted to do well, be successful, but at the same time I’ve always had a deep rooted sense of wanting to have a good work life balance, and be able to spend time with my family, even before children, as well as work hard.

When I first started writing about my experiences in Jugglehood, I had just returned to work when Lylah was around 10 months old.  It was my way of communicating how I felt at that time.  I wasn’t ready to go back to work, and I felt like I had been thrown back into the lion’s den while all I wanted to do was be at home with my girl.  I embraced it though and went back doing a part-time role, but still working 4 days a week, and often working on my day off.  I gave it everything, as the earning potential was good, and I wanted to help my husband provide for the family.  Now, for me, having to go back doing 26 hours a week felt like a lot, but I do realise how lucky I was to be able to do this, when I know there are lots of parents who don’t have that option, and have to work full-time and extra jobs to bring an income to support their expanded family and all the expenditure that brings.

When I had Malachy, I thought long and hard about returning to work, and what my options were.  I knew that going back to what I was previously doing wouldn’t make me happy.  There was a lot of pressure in the role, and now my priorities were different.  I wasn’t in love with that working life, so that lack of passion for it meant that it wasn’t something I was willing to sacrifice time with my children for.   Having been used to living off maternity pay for a while, I knew how much I’d need to pay the bills, put food on the table, and enjoy the occasional treats with the children, and Chris and I decided together that I could leave and look for something more part-time that worked around our family.  I had to take that jump and go for it.  I lost a company car, a good wage and job security, but I didn’t have that feeling of dread anymore, or the constant stress and pressure of meeting targets.

Doing my part-time role allowed me to develop other things around my children, and qualifying as a makeup artist was something that I’d wanted to do, and I took another leap and launched my little makeup business.  That brings me so much joy in itself, as I love doing it, but I’m proud of myself and the decision to put myself out there.

More recently I have felt that fire in my belly again, the hunger for more where my career is concerned, and less guilt at the thought of leaving the children for longer.  School and pre-school mean that I have more spare time now, and while I’d love to watch a bit more daytime T.V, I’m keen to get out there and see what else I can do.

So once again I took the leap, putting social media posts out about doing some freelance work, and all of a sudden I’ve found myself with lots of options.  My work is varied now, not the mundane 9-5 that I used to dread, but a range of things that I love to do, that fit around my life as it is now.

You have to find joy in what you get up to do everyday.  And you also have to be realistic.  Money must be made to survive, but your happiness is crucial for your mental state and wellbeing.

If you’re someone who thrives on the office life of a 9-5 role, climbing the career ladder and being promoted time and again, then you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything.  You get to be both career person and parent, and that’s amazing.  If, like I was, you are feeling trapped, and desperate for some flexibility, then take that leap, and try and do something that makes you feel excited about your day.  I’m a strong believer in destiny, and everything happening for a reason, and I also think we can be a major force in our own destinies, shaping our own futures by making the right moves at the right times.  You might come up against problems, you might even fail once or twice, believe me I have had a few bumps in the road and I’m sure there will be more.  Those bumps are what make us and what shape us to be better versions of ourselves.

Whatever you do, whatever hours you work, and however you manage that around your family, as long as you’re happy, then you’re doing it right.

If you’re dreading going to work tomorrow, stop and have a think about what you can change.

Sometimes you just have to go for it.


Follow me on Jugglehood, and follow me on Twitter @JugglehoodBlog

Read more posts from Jugglehood:

Vom Bears
Not the mummy I thought I’d be
Me and the RSVP
The last days of childcare
Dream Big Little Ones
Booby Milk – The Final Chapter



The Four of Us


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As I was getting Lylah ready for bed this evening, she looked up at me and asked whether or not she could have a little sister.

This didn’t take me hugely by surprise, as she has talked about wanting a little sister before (probably down to the fact that she is constantly harassed by her little brother), so it wasn’t completely out of the blue.

She looked up at me with wide eyes, you could see the hope behind them, watching me beadily and eagerly awaiting my response.

“Go and ask Daddy”, I said, dodging the conversation for a few minutes or so.  Off she ran and a few seconds later I heard the outburst of laughter from Chris; he probably thinks I’ve put her up to this.

I walk into the conversation and he’s explaining to her that we’re not having another baby, and I join in, reminding Lylah that I might have another little boy, so she’d be getting another Malachy, rather than the little sister she dreams of!  She kept on and on and on, and when I said in a more final voice “No sweetheart, we’re not having any more babies, we’re happy with our family”, she burst into tears!

I’m not quite sure where this has come from, but I’m probably to blame, as I’ve knowingly floated the idea past her before, wondering what her response would be.  I’m torn when it comes to this conversation, and it has been brought up on more than one occasion since Malachy came along.

Before we had children, Chris and I talked of having 4.  Boy, girl, boy, girl was our ideal and we picked all the names.  It turns out that we had a girl first, and chose a name we’d never even considered before, but after our first baby, we knew there was no doubt about having number 2.

While I was pregnant with Malachy, I said regularly that this wouldn’t be my last pregnancy.  It felt too natural.  I mostly enjoyed being pregnant, and while both deliveries weren’t without their complications, I also enjoyed the labours.  I felt that Chris was on the same page as well.  We never really spoke about how soon we’d have baby number 3, but I’d imagine it would be pretty quickly.  I think by the end of the pregnancy, we realised that 4 babies might be a stretch too far for us, but number 3 was still in our future thoughts.

My delivery of Malachy was horrible.  That’s another story that I haven’t told yet, and one day I will, but for now, just know that it left me feeling like I was the luckiest woman in the world when I got to hold my new born boy in my arms.  I didn’t want to let him go, and quite literally one of the first things I said to Chris was “We don’t need any more children, he’s perfect, I’m done now.”  I don’t know what it was that made those words come out, but I remember such a feeling of completeness and love having Malachy against my chest, and knowing that we had Lylah at home, that I felt like we didn’t need to add anyone else into the mix.  I also felt such relief at his safe arrival that I immediately thought why would I ever put us through that again?

It probably took until Malachy was around 9 months old before I began to feel the pangs of broodiness.  My maternal instinct was strong with Malachy, and I really enjoyed the baby stage.  I breastfed for a long time, because part of me couldn’t let go, and I hated the thought that I would never do that again.  Chris was different though.  He was happy with our family, and felt strongly that he didn’t want any more children.

I can confidently say that I feel 50/50 about it.  Part of me wants another baby so strongly, I regularly feel huge tugs on my heart when I even begin to imagine the idea, and the other part of me loves my new found freedom when they are both at pre-school and school, and the joy I get from the time I spend on myself now.

I have no doubt that if we were too accidentally fall pregnant that we would embrace it and expand our family, but I know that it would make me anxious in a way that the first two didn’t, perhaps feeling unprepared or fearful that we’d struggle to cope.

So it breaks my heart to to have to say to Lylah “No, mummy and daddy have made the decision not to have any more babies, and you won’t have a little sister”, but I want her to understand how lucky we all are. How lucky that she was the first-born adored little princess into our family with a mummy and daddy who think she is the most wonderful thing on the planet.  How lucky she is to have a little brother like Malachy, who, although he takes her toys and pulls her hair, loves and looks up to her so much.  How lucky that mummy and daddy are to even be able to make a choice about more children; many people don’t even have the option and aren’t blessed with one child, let alone two, and when I think of those people, I’m so grateful every day for my children and pray that those should-be parents get the families they dream of.

I want her to know how lucky we are that we are the four of us.  Picked for each other by a greater good, and how wonderful that is.


I’m a School Mum!


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I’m now a School Mum!

Well, what was all the fuss about?

I’ve just read back over last week’s article, and realise that I sound rather sad.  That is exactly how I was feeling.  Sad that it was the end of an era for me and my little girl.  What didn’t come across was just how excited I also am for her school journey.  Just over a week in, and my feelings of sadness have disappeared.  It didn’t last long to be honest, as from the minute we walked into her new classroom, Lylah has loved every minute of school so far, which makes things so much easier for the parent.

On her first morning, Lylah climbed into bed with me for some snuggles.  She fell back to sleep, and I took the opportunity to snap a picture of her, the last time she would snuggle in my bed as a pre-schooler.  Tomorrow morning she would be a school girl, having taken her first step into school life.

Lylah has taken everything in her stride, however, the reality of school life has started to settle in.  We’ve had it pretty easy so far, as we haven’t had to do full days yet, and the morning starts have only happened this week, so we are not a full-time school family just yet, but it feels like we’ve taken a huge step into our new lives and new routine.

These are some things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Don’t worry so much.  Give your children some credit and have faith that they will embrace the change of starting school.  I know there are lots of children who really struggle with change, or who are shy, or who simply cannot bear the thought of being away from their parents.  If I had to leave Lylah crying in her classroom, this would be a very different account of our experience, and my heart hurts for those poor parents and children.
  2. The teachers know their stuff.  To you, your child is the most precious thing in your whole world, and you wonder how they will survive in this new world of classrooms, P.E. and assemblies.  To them, your child, while extremely important to them, is part of another wave of children for them, that they are duty bound to guide through this process, and guess what? They have done it all before.  Your children are in good hands.
  3. There are letters in the book bags.  One evening, I text a friend about the school dinners, and when we’d be choosing the meal options.  She text me back to say there was a letter in the book bags.  Oh yes, the book bag, I must check that!  I vow to check the book bag daily and fill in forms and return slips immediately.
  4. There are rules.  Our pre-school was quite relaxed and I have to remember that at school there are rules.  Hair must be tidy, uniform correct, nail varnish removed.  Having to apologise to Lylah’s teacher in the second week of term about her nail varnish was rather embarrassing.  She was completely fine and lovely about it, but I felt like a very disorganised school mummy!  Nail varnish remover will be applied every Sunday evening, because there is no way Lylah and Mummy are missing our manicure sessions!
  5. The car park gets full.  There are a lot of cars at pick up, and I can see that running late is NOT an option.  Get there, early, claim your space, be on time!
  6. Children don’t like talking about school.  I ask Lylah every day about how school was, and she has told me most days that “it’s a long story”.  Informative.
  7. White socks gets dirty.  How her white socks get grubby when inside brand new school shoes, I’ll never know, but they do, and I think I need to buy lots of pairs so I’ll never run out.
  8. Buy lots of uniform and you won’t have to iron for at least a month.  I dislike ironing.  A lot.  The thought of ironing uniform on Sunday nights reminds me of my childhood and the creeping feeling of Monday mornings.  So far, I’m using up the new stuff, and will iron when I’ve run out!
  9. School runs are hard work with a 2 year old.  I love the idea of the school run.  Casually strolling in, having a chat with the other parents in the playground, greeting your little one with a big smile as they bound out of the classroom.  In reality, I have a 2 year old, who if you let him run free, disappears into the crowds of children, leaving me running around the playground like I’m running a PE class, or when strapped into the pushchair, screams at me at the top of his voice on repeat about how “HE WANTS TO GET OUT!”  More on this part of school life as it develops!
  10. School life is pretty fun.  So far, I’m enjoying the start of this chapter.  Ask me again at the end of the school year!

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Starting School…I couldn’t miss a post about that could I?

I wondered how I would sound different to the many parenting bloggers out there, writing emotional accounts of their child’s first day at school.  I nearly didn’t write one, because I didn’t want to be saying the same as everyone else.  But my voice and my emotions, while extremely similar to other parents in the same situation, is still unique to me and to my children.  I couldn’t look back in years to come and regret that I didn’t at least try to capture how I felt about this huge day in Lylah’s life.

So here it is…penned the night before my first born’s first day at school.

I’ve just put Lylah to bed for the last time before she starts school.  Tomorrow, I will be dressing her up in her uniform, which transforms her into a child I hardly recognise, and will take her to her first school session.

Actually…wait a minute, I’ve changed my mind.  Is there someone I can call tonight to tell them that actually she won’t be coming in after all?  I’m sure she’s not really that fussed, and would much rather stay at home with me all day, sitting in our PJs, playing board games and eating biccies.  Anyway, I’m not sure that she even needs to go to school.  She’s told me time and again that she wants to be a fairy or a mermaid when she grows up.  She has a fairy costume and looks pretty cute, so I know she can pull number one off, and she’s a pretty good swimmer, so a mermaid should be an easy enough feat as well.  There must be some courses in fairying and mermaiding she can attend when she’s older, you know, at about 25 when she doesn’t need me as much anymore.

Yep, I’ll phone her in sick on her first day and all of them after that, because the thought of departing with her at the school gates tomorrow and every day after that for the foreseeable future just fills me with pure sadness.

So, as you can see, I’m feeling pretty low about the whole thing.  I’m desperately trying not to show Lylah this side of me, as I certainly don’t want her sensitive little soul to feel in anyway wobbled on her first day.  She is feeling quite the opposite to her mummy.  As I tucked her into bed this evening, her eyes sparkled with delight as we talked about how she was going to get her school uniform on (she’s as happy as Larry with the butterfly detailing on the pinafore), and how she’d see all of her friends for a play.  Because that’s all it is to start with, and I must remember that.  A few hours a day to settle in for a couple of weeks, and even when she is full-time, the focus in reception is still on lots of play, with the added benefit of doing more of the thing Lylah loves; learning.

That is why I know I must let go.  Because my 4 1/2 year old is beyond ready for this next step in her life.  She craves to be taught by someone more qualified than me, and she’s excited to show her new teacher what she already knows.  She wants to be a social butterfly and meet new faces, and show the world just how amazing she is.

We played lots today.  It felt like I was cramming every last moment in, somehow trying to make up for every “I don’t have time” or telling off from the past few years.  When she was feeling tired mid-afternoon, we settled down and watched a film together, all snuggled on the sofa. I savoured those moments and smiled every time she turned her little face towards mine for a gentle but affectionate kiss on the cheek.  I know those moments aren’t gone, but today was the last day where Lylah was completely mine, at home, and tomorrow she will be a little bit further away from me, another step on her journey to independence.

As I gazed out of the living room window, I spotted a butterfly spread its wings and fly around in a few circles and then off into the distance.  It instantly reminded me of Lylah.  Not only for her love of them and for all things in nature, not only in it’s majestic beauty, not only in its grace, but in its flight.  Its ownership of its beautiful wings and the freedom to fly.

Lylah is ready to do the same, and tomorrow is her moment to shine.

Lylah first day.jpg

The last days of childcare

I read a great Blog post online this week about a little girl’s last day with her childminder before she moves on to big school.  It was her mother’s account of how heartbreaking a day it was for her and her daughter, and how it’s easy to forget the impact that childminders, pre-school and nursery teachers have on our children; after all, they spend an awful lot of time with them, rely on them, learn from them and grow to love them.

When I decided to go back to work, when Lylah was around 10 months old, there was no doubt in my mind who would look after her.  My mum loves my children like they’re her own, and she made it clear from early on that I wouldn’t have to worry about childcare, she was happy to help us out.  Between my husband working his days off to suit my working needs, my Nan and Grandad, and my Mum and Dad, our little girl was taken care of, while I had to go back to work part-time.  I longed to stay off work for longer, I was devastated to have to go back and just wanted to be at home with my first born, but I knew how lucky I was to be leaving her with family, my nearest and dearest, and I was reassured by the fact that Lylah loved them so much and felt so comfortable with them.

Today, I dropped Lylah off at my mum’s house for the very last time before her new chapter starts.  My biggest girl, my first born, is off to school, and she won’t need her Nonna (nan) or her Great Nanny quite as much now.  I’m not sure how much Lylah understood of this.  She knows she’ll still see everyone so often, but she doesn’t realise how things will change.  How school will be a huge part of life, and there won’t be as much playing at home, shopping with mummy, days out with Nonna.  I know it won’t be too much to start with, but the first year with the odd spellings to learn and bring home, will turn into the next years with more homework, and then years down the line, she’ll be studying for exams…and I remember how all consuming those were.

There is this tiny little chapter at the start of your child’s life, age 0-4, which in the beginning feels like a lifetime, an endless amount of time that you have to spend with this wonderful tiny human being that you have made.  Then you turn around one day and realise they are not so tiny any more.  They don’t need you quite as much, and they are about to embark on their own adventure.  Those first few years are filled with long, draining days, and nights that can feel like a nightmare, but in a flash, they’re gone.

Lylah has reached the next stage of her little life.  She is starting school, and along with that comes so much excitement from our little girl.  But there also comes some sadness, probably not so much from her, but from me, to witness these chapters beginning and ending.  To see her move along into the next stage, blissfully unaware of how quickly she is growing up before our eyes.

And along with it has come the last days of our own incredible version of childcare for Lylah.  My supportive, loving, caring and hard-working Mum and Dad.  Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to go back to work and it actually be worth my while.  I know people who don’t have the same level of support I do, and I feel immensely lucky.  Mum and Dad, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.  And to my own incredibly patient, hands on, wonderful grandparents.  You have helped us so much, and we are so grateful.  The smiles on my children’s faces in this photo demonstrates the love they have for her.  My own nan doesn’t enjoy having her photo taken, so I won’t embarrass her by publishing one, but I can guarantee you one thing, the children’s smiles would be just as bright.

To every little person and their parents leaving their child care situations for the very last time, I’m with you; and to every person out there who has helped someone with childcare so a working mummy like me can go back to work and be a parent, thank you so so much.  The effort you put into help raising our children is incredible, and you will be missed by our little ones.



Yay for the summer!

Yay for the summer holidays!  On some days you will detect sarcasm in my voice when saying those words, and on others you will hear genuine excitement.  We’re a few weeks into the summer holiday stretch, and so far it’s been pretty good, but there are already hints of the struggle that may begin to appear over the next month!

The Weather

What is going on?  Did August not get the summer weather memo?  Does this month not realise that there are children and parents all over the country itching to get outside.  No, not to jump in muddy puddles and wear jumpers (I kid you not, Lylah was in a knitted jumper whilst on a walk recently!), but to play on a sandy beach, visit the outdoor pool and play in the garden!  This weather even makes the walk from the front door to the car hard work!  Clothes freshly on become drenched and covered in splashy mud patches, and mummy’s hair expands in an instant!  The rain leads to puddles and we all know kids just love jumping in a puddle.  Which I don’t mind when they’re in wellies and waterproofs, but not when they’re sporting their newest pair of Clarks!

Rain also leads to indoor activities.  Who can tell me what the most stressful indoor activity for children of all time is?  Bowling?  No.  Cinema?  Far from it.  Softplay?  Yep, that’s the one.


I don’t understand why soft play centres have coffee shops in them, I have yet to fully take advantage of them.  We get to a soft play centre and immediately the 2 year old runs right into the centre of it, coats and shoes still on.  I then try and extract him whilst he tantrums a bit, and the 4 year old disappears into the mass of children, chatting mums, shoes, socks and dangerously placed toys.  We find a table (rarely), and unload the mound of bags we’ve brought with us.  The kids get released into the wild of the soft play land, and I try to relax.  But I can’t!  Who can truly relax when you can’t see your child because they’re buried in the ballpit?  For me, every soft play trip comes with at least one moment where I get the dreaded panic in the pit of my stomach when I can’t find my children.  They always pop up out of somewhere, they’ve normally been wedged in a  tunnel or stuck in the netting, but those few seconds aren’t fun.  I normally take food to avoid soft play prices, only to be met with disappointment because actually they would rather have a soft play lunchbox.  This, by the way, contains exactly the same food items I’ve packed for us, only I don’t have the Happy Meal style box, therefore mine’s not as good.  A couple of hours at soft play is normally enough and I’m ready to leave, but dragging those kids out isn’t easy!  So at least when the sun’s out, soft play doesn’t enter your mind.

Finding activities

I have spent an awful lot of time so far finding things on the internet for us to do.  Googling local children’s activities at National Trust and the like, planning days out and desperately looking for things to entertain the little ones to avoid too much DVD watching and the dreaded aforementioned softplay!


The summer holidays requires some planning.  I have had playdate requests, dates to meet up and days out for the diary thrown at me by lots of people, and it took me a few days to digest it all and actually work out when we are going to fit it all in.  I sat down with my calendar and phone, and  went through the entire 6 weeks, putting everything I could possibly plan ahead in so we all know what’s going on.  The scary thing is, only a couple of weeks in, we are running out of free dates!  I had visions back in June of a long drawn out summer, playing on the bikes and doing spontaneous activities when the mood takes us, but in fact it’s quite the military operation.

The Cost

I have come to realise that the older the children get, they like doing things that cost a bit more money.  I’m pretty lucky as I can still just about get away with free walks and making the most out of our National Trust membership, but I feel for the parents taking trips to Theme parks, paying for regular cinema and bowling outings, and having to pay much more for it as their children aren’t under 3 anymore.  The attractions know how to make their money out of the summer holidays, and the desperate parents looking for things to do to fill the days, don’t mind spending it.

Fighting the boredom

Unfortunately, when the weather is as bad as it has been, you tend to stay at home, which can lead to boredom for everyone involved.  The children may be surrounded by the entire contents of the Argos catalogue, but those toys just aren’t interesting enough to actually play with.   So far, we’ve done painting, magnet making, cooking, and my favourite, helping mummy tidy the house!  I’m planning pizza making, biscuit baking, den building…the list goes on, all with the aim of not putting the TV on too much when we’re at home!

I’ll update you at the end of the holidays with how its gone, let’s keep our fingers crossed the weather improves, and we can all enjoy a great summer with the kids!

The end of an era – phase 1

Lylah – first day – 24/02/2015

“Separates from mum and dad well…explores different activities and resources in the pre-school independently”

Lylah’s first day at pre-school, just under 2 1/2 years ago.  I remember it so well, and couldn’t believe how grow up my baby had become.  I was worried about her, and wondered how she’d cope on this brand new adventure, but I was also excited about the next few years and eager to see how she’d develop during this next stage of her life.

I recall feeling nervous as Chris and I dropped her off, and then feeling relieved when she’d had a great time!  A few weeks in, and she began to feel more wobbly.  This soon passed though, and pre-school became a second home to her.  She is so comfortable there and her pre-school life crossed over easily into her home life, like an extended family.

She really flourished during her time there, but as a parent, you only get a small insight into their sessions.  How I’d love to be a fly on the wall and hear all of the conversations first hand.  For the last few years however, all I’ve had is the feedback from her key worker and the odd snippet from Lylah on the car journey home.  Then yesterday, I took the time to read her full folder after it was given to me on her last day.  A thorough record of Lylah’s activities, abilities and conversations from the past couple of years.

Reading through the folder, I literally saw my little girl grow before my eyes.  In pictures and words, I can see Lylah go from the shy 2 year old little girl who could just about manage a basic conversation, to a confident bubbly 4 year old who can hold her own in most adult chats.  It’s amazing how you forget how your child was, just 2 years ago, so to have this record is amazing.

Not long after Lylah started pre-school, Malachy was born.  On the 5th May 2015 she said “Got new Baby, it called Malachy, it tiny”.  How adorable?  So innocent and wonderful, little did she know just how much of an impact that “tiny Malachy” would have on her little life.  What is really evident throughout the entire pre-school account is her mentioning us, her family, during conversations with her keyworker, and it’s amazing to know she’s always thinking of us, even when she’s not with us.

There were some real crackers in there.  Throughout the process of me reading out the captions, and Chris and I muttering “Awwww” and “Ahhhhh”, there were also quite a few LOLS.

It’s the simplest things that got me…”Alison, I’ve got hiccups…Oh dear”

And the things I never hear her say at home “Hey presto!  That’s the biggest sand castle ever!”

Hearing how Chris has forced Liverpool FC on our children “I want red.  Daddy likes red for Liverpool.”

Hearing her recollection of our family holiday to Cornwall:  “We went in a caravan.  I had my own bed, it was really snuggly.  We went to the beach”  I mean, it’s the simple things.

And the beauty in hearing how imaginative she is “Suggests blue play dough could be Elsa’s cape, then a mermaid’s tail, then finally decided to put it on a doll’s head – Look it’s a hat!”

And just how wonderfully funny our little princess is “Helps other’s to dress up.  Joins others in fast space where music is being played and says Look, let’s get this party started, come on everybody!”  That’s my girl!

Her last day at pre-school was filled with mixed emotions.  Reading the last entry from her key worker into her record book brought a lump to my throat and I couldn’t read it.  When Chris read it out to me, tears stung my eyes and I could’ve burst with pride at the complimentary words written about our little girl.

The presentation should have been wonderful, but as I have a 2 year old boy who won’t sit still and thinks its okay to shout “SHUSSSHHHH” through the pre-schoolers final rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle” (fellow parents, I am SO sorry), it was a little more fraught than I would have liked.  But that’s life.  He’s part of our family and he was there to see his big sis end this phase of her life and start the next one.  It’s not the end of pre-school for us, Malachy will be back there in September, and I still have that to look forward to, but it was the first of many lasts that I know I will experience as a parent.  That’s something parents have to get used to.  They aren’t little forever, and their early years are filled with milestones that come and go.  Cry tears of joy though, and be proud of them.  Support them in their next stage and cheer them on to success.  And just like Lylah has, they’ll make you proud.