Inviting Indulgence…

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I’ve noticed that when you’re pregnant, it suddenly become the reason for getting away with some things. Crying at adverts, forgetting your bank card when you go to the shop, throwing up in public places…! A whole plethora of ridiculousness can be put down to pregnancy.

There are some things however that I’ve realised people put down to pregnancy when we shouldn’t really need to give any reason or excuse for our behaviour.

For example, I am currently, at 10pm on a Sunday night, sat in bed with a piece of cheesecake. It’s homemade cheesecake, I made it as dessert which was served after the lamb roast dinner I made for 7 of my family members. I made this roast dinner after a busy day of working and looking after my little girl. I have been up since 7.30 and haven’t really sat down all day, even my work was done whilst walking round with, or running after Scarlett!

And it wasn’t a lazy roast dinner, I cooked roast lamb, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, made (from scratch) cauliflower cheese, gluten free sausage meat sage and onion stuffing, green beans, sweetcorn, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. I’m not complaining, I always think Sunday’s are for roast dinners (or BBQ’s!) and if I’m going to do a roast, I’m going to do it properly! I work a lot on a Sunday which therefore means it’s often in the evening but that’s my choice, no-one forces me to do a roast, I like to and I often choose to.

HOWEVER, I have made a comment to my husband, and on a group chat I’m in that I’m having a piece of cheesecake in bed at 10pm…because I’m pregnant. Which now I’m sat here eating it I’ve realised, is crap! I’m eating cheesecake in bed at 10pm because after a long and busy day, I wanted to have another piece AND I wanted to go to bed and then realised I’m a 30 year old woman who can damn well do both if she so chooses!

So I’m making a pledge, (and feel free to join me!) if I want a slice of madeira cake at 11am, I’m not going to say the baby wants it, I’m going to just sit and enjoy every mouthful! If after a long day I’ve only just finished work at 1am but I want a bath, I’m going to fill that beautiful tub with bubbles, and if I want to use my soon to be upcoming day off to sit in my pyjamas and have a nap when Scarlett does, as I have not had a full day off since the 5th November, I am bloody well going to do that! Not because I’m pregnant, but because I’m just actively choosing to!

I am often my own worst critic and it’s not as if other people are calling me out on doing any of the above, I doubt most people care where I eat my cheesecake! It’s this strange thing that a lot of women (and a lot of men) will do, we’ll do something instinctively, judge ourselves and then feel bad about it, all from inside our own heads! It’s not just a pregnancy thing, it’s a people thing!

Now I’m not saying that restraint shouldn’t be a trait, if I started eating copious amounts of cheesecake in bed every night, it would eventually lead to me being air lifted from aforementioned bed! However, we all need to give ourselves a break sometimes, what’s the point of all the hard work, long hours and hard graft if not for some rewards!

So tonight I’m eating cheesecake in bed, because I want to! It’s been a long but lovely Sunday and I’m finishing it off with a bit of self indulgent decadence! If you also tend to judge yourself harshly and not give yourself a break, why not give it a go, do something (within legal and safe means of course!) you normally wouldn’t for no other reason than you want to. In the middle of an intensely busy time I can tell you, it’s deliciously satisfying!image

Time Capsule…

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I watched a documentary where they uncovered a time capsule from 30 years ago. You’d have thought that 30 years wasn’t really enough time to see any major changes, but it was rather remarkable. So I thought I would do a little version of it for my children, should they want to see a glimpse of their Mum and Dads everyday life when they are our age now.

Home Cooking

This is last weeks dinner meals in our home! All our meals are homemade (and gluten free where alternatives are required).

Wednesday – mid week roast chicken, roast potatoes, veg, stuffing & gravy.

Thursday – halloumi and chorizo wraps with salad.

Friday – A Children in Need party buffet including baked potatoes, meat, cheese, spring rolls, onion bhajis, crisps, dip etc.

Saturday – chicken and cauliflower curry with roasted garlic new potatoes and poppadoms.

Sunday – we had the Rain or Shine theatre company round for a cast dinner so had slow cooked gammon in cider with potato dauphinois, green beans and sweet corn.

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Monday – sausage and red wine casserole with rice. (Also had a leftover gammon & potato pie with broccoli at lunchtime)

Tuesday – beef and chorizo burgers with wedges and beans.

TV programmes

These days for many busy people, it’s all about Netflix! Our ‘leisure time’ in the evenings doesn’t generally begin until about 9.30/10 at the earliest but there are a few programmes that we particularly enjoy and watch when we have time to.

Big Bang Theory

How To Get Away with Murder

Walking Dead

American Horror Story

8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown

Would I Lie to You

Greys Anatomy (although that’s just me!)

House

Films

It seems to be all about either the remake or superheroes at the moment, just a few of the big films (from our point of view!) are;

Spectre

Jurassic World

Stars Wars : The Force Awakens

Any Avengers related film!

UK

We currently have a Conservative government with David Cameron as Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth II is still on the throne and thanks to the popularity of Kate, Wills and Harry, the monarchy is enjoying a relatively popular time. George and Charlotte, the two recent Royal babies have also helped that a lot! Sadly groups like UKIP and Britain First are still giving the county a bad name but less and less people seem to be taking any notice of either group. Most people seem to be learning that ‘being racist and hateful’ isn’t a credible political stance.

Your Parents!

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Your Dad is 31 and I am currently 30. We work together running and Theatre Company and specialising in Stage Combat courses and classes. Your Dad also choreographs fights in shows and is an associate practitioner with the RSC. Your Mum is also a Forensic Psychologist and currently works within teams on various projects as well as doing some writing work. To say we are busy professionally would be a huge understatement! We are, at the moment in a particularly busy period, often catching up over a late dinner around 9.30/10pm. However we work really hard to make sure our children have the best and happiest lives possible. This often means that you are brought along to rehearsals and get to see exciting things going on on stage or travel around with us seeing the country and other parts of the world.

We are halfway through our second pregnancy, expecting your sibling at the beginning of April 2016. We’re about to celebrate our first Christmas at our first proper family home. And in February we’ll be celebrating our second wedding anniversary.

And although there were a few other categories on the programme I watched, I think I’ll leave it there! It’s interesting to look back on how things were; on a day to day basis, the changes are minute, but when you turn around you realise how far you’ve reached. That’s certainly true of parenthood, when I look back on pictures from Scarlett’s birth or when I was pregnant with her, seeing her as an 18 month old toddler wasn’t something I could even imagine! And yet here we are 18 months later watching our funny, beautiful little girl blossom into a little girl! And in another couple of years, she’ll be going to school and her sibling will be a toddler. It all happens in the blink of an eye. It will be interesting to see what day to day life is like when Scarlett’s my age, how diets will have changed, what music is popular, who will be in charge of the country. Perhaps as I’m on quite a long car journey to work tonight we’ll make some guesses for what life will be like in 2044 when Scarlett turns 30, add it as a follow up post, and look back to see how close (or how off the mark!) we were!

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Nineties Nostalgia…

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This morning, Scarlett and I were watching Teletubbies, as it was early in the morning I thought perhaps I’d accidentally woken up in 1995 which is the last time I remember watching Teletubbies with my little brother. But it seems the bear/children/robot hybrids are back, and saying ‘eh oh’! (You’d have thought they they may have learnt a few more words in the years since their absence..!)

It got me thinking of other things I’d enjoy seeing back so while I procrastinate slightly further (I’m sitting, coffee in hand with a growing mountain of work with colleagues due round very soon so I feel it’s high time for an unnecessarily compiled list!) see below for my little journey back to the nostalgic 90’s!

  1. Twist & Squeeze – regular blog readers will know that twist & squeeze is essentially what introduced my husband and I to each other back in 1990! It was a horrendous drink filled with God nows what chemicals but tasted amazing! It is now back under the name ‘Squeeze It’ and is now much less chemically enhanced although I’m not sure it’ll be winning any awards anytime soon! However, even the taste of the new version is enough to take me right back. The problem is, it’s easier to track down unicorns than Squeeze It’s so it definitely makes the list of things I’d love to have back!
  2. Gladiators – “CONTENDERS, ARE YOU READY!!” Admit it, you automatically did the accent. In the 90’s, no Saturday night was complete without Ulrika, Fash & the whole team of men and women in leotards with thinly veiled racism based names!  It was the highlight of Saturday night TV (well, my Mum preferred Casualty but frankly as a child that wasn’t quite as exciting!). They did try and bring it back in the 00’s, but it just wasn’t the same. AWOOGA my friends, a reboot didn’t work but I still pine for the original.
  3. A few other programmes not quite exciting enough for their own entry but lumped together in a Saturday night based nostalgic trip also include; Generation Game, Noels House Party, Blind Date, You Bet and Big Break. Not to mention the Sunday night Borrowers. These days, there are so many channels, you can easily avoid this type of variety based family entertainment, and I don’t watch XFactor or Strictly or any of the current equivalents so I can’t be too upset on their absence. However, the memory of all of them makes me think of family nights in! Scarlett will hopefully look on the various themed nights we put on on weekend nights we’re not working with the same fondness…hmmm…hopefully!
  4. Dinosaur shaped food – I grant you this is a bit abstract, and slightly off topic as there is still dinosaur shaped food and I still buy it, not even as Scarlett food because she eats much healthier than that. For me, when I’m poorly or having a difficult day, Turkey Dinosaurs, Smiley Faces and Spaghetti Hoops with mini sausages is just the thing to cheer me up or make me feel better! We call it ‘kids tea night’. It takes me right back to childhood meals (which let’s face it, the 80’s and 90’s were as much of a low point in terms of nutrition as it has ever been!). These days, there are MUCH better and tastier alternatives but there’s something soothing about sitting down to the same dinner you did when you were 7! 
  5. Crackle sauce – I’m not sure of the exact name of the stuff we got but it was always a VERY exciting day when Mum came home from the shops with a bottle of the ice cream sauce (mint chocolate was my personal favourite) that set and crackled on your bowl of ice cream! i realise that these days we have a plethora of exciting ice-cream flavour combinations, and frozen yoghurt and all kinds of varieties but back in the 90’s, you knew you were in a fancy, exciting household if they had crackle sauce!
  6. Calling on a friend – I’m going to sound every month of my 30 years old now but these days, children arrange get togethers by sending each other a Snapchat or texting each other. Back in our day, you legged it round your mates house, or biked it up the road and knocked on the door. You then asked their parents if they were in and if you’d managed to track them down, the fun began! If you’d arranged to meet a friend in town, you HAD to be there, you couldn’t cancel once they’d left their house because you couldn’t get hold of them to let them know. It was a simpler time! Now of course, it’s much better; it’s much much safer to be able to call someone if you get lost, or be able to get into contact with someone at last minute to make sure you find each other. The nostalgia of a time before social media was so dominant, doesn’t take into account the huge benefits a more thorough age of communication brings. So I have very fond memories of running round to my best friends house and getting to know their families and playing outside, but I was very lucky to grow up in a very safe village where at least ten neighbours would have seen me run past and kept an eye out for all of us. That was never the case for every neighbourhood. But that’s the beauty of nostalgia. Crime statistics show a real and definite benefit to a more communicative age, I can look back fondly but it’s one way in which forward is definitely best!
  7. Grandparents – Now this is a rather strange entry I know but bear with me. As a child, I not only had parents looking after me but also Grandparents. And I was extremely lucky with my Grandparents, they were amazing. Sadly all four are no longer with us and I often think of the relationships from when I was younger and miss them terribly. As a child, you feel like your parents know everything and can protect you from everything, so Grandparents are like a souped up version of that! They’re like the oracle of knowledge! I remember sitting in the kitchen with my Grandad and being regaled with stories from the past and just being so in awe of this amazing, warm hearted, loving man. When you lose your Grandparents (and get to the age where you realise your own parents aren’t totally infallible!) you suddenly realise you’re nearer the front line. YOU are now the adult and then you have kids and it’s you that’s being asked the questions! And let’s face it, throughout adulthood, we all still wish we could go and sit on Nana’s knee and get given a mint humbug and feel like everything is ok! It’s a feeling I miss terribly and one that you sadly struggle to find as an adult. 
  8. After School Clubs/Activities – When I was younger, I played the piano, so my parents provided me with a piano and lessons. When I was an older child, I fancied trying the flute so they dutifully got me a flute and lessons! After school I played netball, rounders, swam, learnt French, went to drama club, you name it, I wanted to try it! Now I’m aware of how lucky I was that I got to try and all those things but children are generally very fickle with their hobbies. As adults, this doesn’t necessarily change, what does change is accessibility and affordability! Before being pregnant I played netball every week at a cost of roughly £25 a month at the local sports club. But that’s after I set up a team with the goal of it being cheaper than average. I’d love to learn a language and play a new instrument but now I’m an adult I’m expected to pay for it myself (ridiculous!) and I can’t just turn up at my old school where there is a wealth of activities available, I have to hunt them out. AND my Dad won’t just drop me off to them anymore, I have to get there myself!! (living three hours away from me is no excuse Dad, frankly, you’ve dropped the ball on my extra curricular lifestyle!) And that’s ignoring the fact that I have no time to dry my hair after a shower with my work schedule, let alone try out the nearest ski slopes. Scarlett will soon start all sorts of hobbies, many of which (to I’m sure, the frustration of my husband and I) she’ll ditch just after we’ve spent money investing in lessons or equipment or appropriate clothing. And that’s the joy of being a child. And let’s be honest, we all miss that!
  9. Instant Cameras – The quality of photos has MASSIVELY improved and in this digital age, future generations will have a knowledge and understanding on the past (for good or for bad!) and we will no doubt learn a lot from it. My hope is that the use of social media will reach a lesser saturation point and will settle into a more suitable format but in the main, it would be ignorant to suggest it isn’t overall a good thing. However, saying that, in the 90’s, the photos you had were precious snapshots. I distinctly remember in particular a photo of myself and two friends sitting atop an elephant at the circus. I now wouldn’t attend a circus that used live animals in the way they did but back then we didn’t know the horrible conditions they were kept under and this one polaroid photo (in which the lighting isn’t even particularly good so you can’t really see us!) is an little window into that time of my life. What my hair was like, the clothes I wore (HA! Mum obviously had not won the battle with me that day because I had obviously made the decisions there!). I still have loads of pictures of me when i was growing up don’t get me wrong, but not 17 pictures of one morning like we can do of Scarlett now! I cherish dog eared pictures of my parents and Grandparents as they are all we have, there’s no digital back up, I sometimes dearly wish we had more of, for example, my Grandparents childhoods so I could know a bit more about them. That’s not a problem Scarlett will have – frankly she’ll know far too much! It’s a great time to be around in terms of how far our Western world has developed and what we can achieve but I have a real fondness for those bent and scratched from time old photos.
  10. Getting Muddy! – And finally, my Mother will cringe when she reads this one! As a child, I was notorious for being a lovely feminine, girly girl. Oh…except, in no way was I! I hated dresses and skirts, they were impractical for climbing trees or jumping in mud. I was every inch a tomboy and loved it. These days, I can sometimes appreciate being dressed up and enjoy the odd occasion to do so but my maternity wear of choice is always the faithful dungarees and when I can get away with it, I still revert to the jeans and t-shirt or now the joy of Winter is upon us, leggings and a big baggy jumper that comes down to my knees! As a child, Mum would despair at the number of times I’d come home with ripped sleeves, muddy trousers, and on a few more occasions than she’d probably care to remember blood stains from whatever ridiculous thing we’d all thought was a brilliant idea at the time! But I was only a child after all and a bit of Daz sorted that right out! These days, if I’m on my way to work and see a giant puddle, or a grassy hill that looks prime for rolling down, not only do i have to then clean my clothes myself, it is not acceptable anymore! Turning up at work with grass stains with mud and the old speck of blood all over my face and clothes is apparently not the right image. (I know, I know, it’s political correctness gone mad!) So I don’t. I walk past the hill, i avoid the puddle, and the seven year old version of me sighs another sad sigh of adulthood. Wouldn’t it be great if we could walk into a rehearsal room or a big meeting covered in mud for people to say, ‘oh wicked, which hill did you roll down, bagsy my go at lunchtime.’ Alas I fear those days have past. No longer do I wheelie on my bike (although to be honest that’s because I couldn’t do it as a kid, I was a real tryer though, although thinking back, it explains a lot of the little scars I’ve got) and only on special occasions do I participate in the kind of behaviour that turns my poor Mums hair grey! (In the picture below, that’s me in the middle, refusing to go to my shared birthday fancy dress party asa  princess and demanding to go as a genie!)

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I realise a lot of these aren’t 90’s specific and in fact some of them are more 80’s and even before that. Nostalgia is a funny thing. Statistics show that we are generally speaking all in better living conditions, living healthier, with safer streets and a much fairer way of living (UK anyway) and yet it doesn’t matter which generation you come from, you will look back on your own as the best. It’s because we all get to adulthood and think ‘what the hell is this?!’ Your memories are skewed with those glorious rose tinted glasses of childhood! So although I like to stay realistic and accept that some of the food, programmes and traits of my childhood were significantly worse than the opportunities and options for Scarlett’s generation. It’s every former child’s right to sometimes wrap themselves in a warm blanket of youth, and pretend that frankly, life now is nothing compared to ‘back in our day’!    

Dear daughter…

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03/11/15 An open letter to my daughter. (Side note: I’m hoping that by the time you’re old enough to read this, you’ve also managed to turn ‘Gaggy’ into ‘Mummy’)

Dear Scarlett (and any other child I may have!),

I hope your view of your Mother is that of a strong, confident woman who has stubbornly shown you how women can achieve whatever they want to. This is not a letter to you about feminism, or equality, or anything else socially or politically driven, sometimes I think those things put an added pressure on us all, men, women, adult and child alike.

Instead, this is a letter to you to tell you that although I hope to be a strong role model throughout your life, sometimes I am weak. Hopefully I keep that from you and you will grow to be confident and self assured, but also kind, and compassionate. But you should know there are some days when I am, frankly, an emotionally mess. In my scientific role, I am a young woman amongst many older men. In a lot of ways, it is a boys club, this is a term that I think may be less familiar when you are in the workplace. I recently had to give a presentation in a room of nearly twenty 40-something males, all of whom were aware that I am pregnant with my second child and mainly raising you, my first child between myself and your Dad. They have an ‘investment in families’ program which is mainly beneficial to working mothers, this is a great thing to help more women climb more influential career ladders but also causes some friction from the middle aged men who wonder why they don’t get extra time off for things like maternity appointments or allowances for child care. I understand that. As you know your Dad and I co-parent but legally he has significantly less rights than I do, when you were born, I was able to take a year off that side of my work and although it was a bit longer than some are able to afford to do, nobody thought anything of it. Your Dad took July off and then took extra work in August to make up for the deficit in what he hadn’t earned, and had to field questions about why he wasn’t available in late July. So I understand why for a lot of the men I stood in front of giving a presentation; they were most likely thinking that I was in the role to fulfil a quota, to make the employer look good for hiring a working Mother. I was aware that I need to work twice as hard to prove my place and with my obviously growing belly, in a few months time, I will temporarily disappear from the scene and they will be expected to deal with that without complaint.

This pressure sometimes gets to me. At the presentation in question, I know it was a damn good one. I am very good at my job. But I could feel their doubt and instead of just proving myself, I questioned myself and I (without any of them making any comment) wondered if they all thought I shouldn’t be there. This weekend both your Dad and I have some important work in London, and so your Grandad is coming to stay at our place to look after you, so although my work is one day and your Dad’s is the other, we’re away the whole weekend. And because of the type of work we both do, we quite regularly need help from your Grandparents to look after you. It sometimes makes me wonder if I’m making the right choices. Today this came to a head and I felt like not only was I not spending enough time with you, but I wasn’t succeeding enough in my career. But that’s crap.

We’re very lucky, we get to spend a lot of time with you even when we are working, I was hired because of my knowledge, experience and based on merit. My worries are based on my own insecurities, not once has a colleague made any comment about begrudging my position, and if I’m honest, I think you, Scarlett, my little lady,  benefit from having such close relationships to your Grandparents and other close family members that live near by. Do I still feel guilty for the efforts your Grandparents need to make so we can thrive in our chosen work fields? Yes of course I do, I can only hope they know how appreciated it is and how much of a difference it makes. It has enabled us to get where we are and carry on providing you with a certain quality of life. Do I still feel the pressure of our heavy workload? Of course, but I count my lucky stars that we both love our careers.

My Great Grandmother Kate set up the women’s side of the British Legion. I always used to think that she could never have achieved some of the things she did in life (especially for the early half of the twentieth century) by doubting herself or worrying about whether she was a good enough Mother or questioning whether she was doing the right thing. But thats also crap. I’d somehow put my Great Grandmother on some kind of unattainable pedestal. I look at proud pictures of her with her family, look at newspaper articles of her achievements and I tricked myself into believing that her highlights reel had no unseen backstage pass. After a day of feeling like I wasn’t succeeding enough on my own path, I had a little look through my own highlights reel. Had a little read of what you kids and your children may some day look back on. And you know, when I did that, I saw a strong, confident woman who is succeeding and achieving, having a blast doing it and sharing a lot of it with her bright, happy little girl.

So which side is the lie? Is the happy highlights a myth? Or is the self doubt, struggles and hard work the illusion? The truth is, they’re both my reality. The self doubt sometimes keeps me grounded. The precious moments I share on social media keep me motivated and the struggles remind me it’s all worth it. Every bit of it, the guilt I feel over your Grandad having to make a six hour round trip from Brighton to look after you for the weekend, the joy i will feel when i pick you up after being away from you for three days and seeing that smile light up your face, all of it has put me here.

The definition of a strong, confident person does not mean one that never doubts themselves, it doesn’t mean someone who never has a bad day or find their choices difficult. Strength is often found most in the hardest times. Someone who has constant success or continual highs has no need for strength. Someone who has never had bad times, has never needed to overcome them. As your Mother, I will fight to my last breath to keep you safe and give you as idyllic a childhood as I can but the truth is, as you grow up, the lows will be just as important as your highs for getting you where you need to be.

So I hope the view of your Mother is that of a strong and confident woman. And I will tell you about your Great Grandmother Kate and what she achieved; as your Dad and I will tell you probably countless times about all your family members. But for you, my highlights reel will be accompanied by at least a sneak peek of the backstage pass, the parts you can learn from, the bits that could give you strength. I never met Kate Lade and that’s a real shame as I would love to be able to sit down with her and find out more about how she felt when she was being a trailblazer. I’m sure there were some days when she felt weak, when she questioned if she was making the right decisions, she probably even had afternoons where she had to stand up in front of a room of men, except instead of having a respectfully quiet audience; in those days she would have had to force her way through to being heard in front of a probably rather hostile crowd! So my beautiful girl, in your weakest days, remember that you are strong. In your most insecure days, remember that you are confident. Remember these things when you can’t remember why you’re doing whatever your doing, and know that through all of it, you are unquestionably, and unchangingly loved.

All my love,

Your Gaggy, the strong wimp.