End of an Era…

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I’m back to work today, which sounds a bit odd as between my ‘maternity leave’ of Jan to June, I have; helped set up & run auditions for a Summer tour, worked on said Summer tour, assisted in rehearsals for said Summer tour, continued the admin for our family company, fulfilled secretarial duties for the Stage Combat organisation I work for, and had various meetings for my return to work! Taking care of two children under two is a full time job in itself so it’s not exactly been the quietest of maternity leaves! 
However, a lot of the above roles I can do at 3.30am while feeding the baby, or at least keep on top of on my phone while I see Justin pop up on every kids show ever made (seriously…it’s not like there’s a shortage of actors!). I will now have an additional 15-25 hours that are slightly more structured, hours I will have to work personal things around rather than being able to do them when most convenient. 

Most of all it seems like the end of an era. My husband and I decided to have a small age gap between our children so that I took time off over one bigger stage rather than interrupting work twice. It meant that we’d ‘allotted’ ourselves a few years for ‘having babies’! We were lucky that it worked out as planned, I know that for thousands of couples it’s not the case. And it’s been a really hard few years. Really hard. We underestimated and we were pretty prepared! We had no idea my epilepsy would come back, we had no idea my kidneys would get so close to failing completely and the sleepless nights combined with our hectic lifestyle meant that we were burning the candle at both ends and then lighting matches aimed at the middle as well! We’ve worked out that in total, we spent over £600 on hospital car park fees within a 4 month period (one of our more depressing maths sessions..!) and I spent a total of 40 days in hospital. It has been, without a doubt, the hardest time of our lives. We have cried together, laughed together, and at times we thought we were going to be mourning together. But between December 2013 and June 2016, our main focus has been beginning our family and dealing with all that came with it. And on July 1st 2014, and then again on March 19th 2016, we had two of the happiest days of our lives when we welcomed our two beautiful baby girls into the world.

Holly is only three months old, but the act of going back to work makes it feel like the end of that particular section of our lives. It will not by any means that life will be easy from here on it, on the contrary, we now have two young kids!! And then they’ll grow and become teenagers! And then they’ll be adults and we’ll have to hope we did the best job we could so they can go off and have lives of their own *gulp* excuse me while I swallow back tears! 

I can so clearly remember a conversation with my husband in December 2014 when we were staying at his Mum and Dads house because we didn’t have our own place, and we had NO idea what it meant to be parents. We were sat on the bottom bunk (seriously, we really did not have our crap together) and we were looking down at this blotch that looked like a weather report (that we were assured was our soon to be child!) eyes wide. We held each other’s hand and said ‘let’s do this’! And it genuinely feels as if we’re still gripping each other’s hand tight and that after today, we’ve come to the end of that stage. The brand new/creating life/meeting a new member of the family stage. I wouldn’t want to go back in time, I’m excited for the times to come. But I do envy those who have those times still to experience. To those thinking of embarking on it, know this, there is NO perfect time, it will be the hardest and most emotional time of your life and you will question yourself at least twenty times a day. The only thing you can be sure of is that you don’t know what you’re doing, and I suspect never will again!

If I sound dramatic it’s because it is, a dramatic, traumatic, emotional and ridiculous time. That time for us continues but today we poke our head above the barricade. We return fully to the life we had before children but with two tiny humans in tow. 

Until both my children are at school, our plan is that I will not work at my main job full time. Truth is, with everything else I have on, I don’t have enough hours in the day to go full time anyway. But my main role is no longer ‘new Mum’. It’s exciting, but sad. It’s terrifying, but rewarding. I left behind part of the real world in December 2013, and I’m now heading back to it! Every Mum feels the same. Even stay at home Mums experience that ‘coming up for air’ moment when you get glimpses of life before delving head first into have a child. 

I’ve had some lovely messages, and even some cards from people, mainly other Mums who get that it’s a big deal for me. My husband and I have a bottle of red wine with our names on it ready for this evening (although as he had emergency dental work this afternoon, probably just the half glass of red will suffice for him!!). 

We’re going to toast me going back to work, but more importantly we’re going to toast those two young people in their late twenties, holding hands on that bunk bed who made it. We sit here almost three years later in our own house, which we love, with two healthy, happy children…still not with our crap together but at least now we understand that’s how it works!! I’d love to be able to go back in time and give those two people a cuddle, a quick wink and a ‘you’re going to do fine!’ But I can’t, but I CAN give the same to anyone about to embark on the same journey, or thinking about it, or finding themselves on that path without necessarily meaning to head that way. Even if you’re doing it alone, with a partner or with an entire village worth of people helping, you’ll get through amazingly in a way only you could.

It will be a while before you come back to the real world, that’s what becoming a parent does for you. And it will be unimaginably difficult at times. But you WILL be fine, you’ll do great and although it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, it absolutely IS all worth it! I’m at the end of my era, and I’ll be sad to see it go, I’ll cherish the memories and enjoy making a scrapbook with all the millions of our ‘behind the scenes’ photos that we’ve kept for ourselves. 

I’m back to work and best of all, not at all ready for what’s next! 

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Growing Pains…

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To Scarlett, love mummy xx

“Wheres the pause button to push in life?

To stop everything going so fast.

My baby girls growing up so quick.

And I want all these moments to last.

It won’t be long before I can’t pick her up,

And lift her right over my head.

It won’t be long, a mere blink of an eye,

She’ll be helping me up instead.

It seems only yesterday, she was so small,

And could fit in the crook of my arm,

As she grows and she moves about much more,

I’d give anything to keep her from harm.

So while she is still Mummy’s baby for now,

I’ll make the most of each day,

And lot’s of photos we’ll take of our little girl,

So these memories never quite fade away.”

Second Sibling Statistics…

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I was recently asked to write an article about ‘the best age gap between siblings’. Many hours of discussion with Mum friends, and even more hours of research led me to my original hypothesis. Of course there’s no ideal age gap! Each baby is individual, each parent has their own original set of circumstances. Trying to plan exactly when to have a second child is as easy as stapling water to a tree, and that’s assuming that when you decide you’ve reached this magically perfect moment in your life, you can get immediately pregnant.

There are lots and LOTS of statistics for a massively wide variety of pros and cons, medically for the mother, financially, socially for the children, what parent age is best, what first sibling temperament suits second siblings better at different stages of their life. The list is endless, and I say this with confidence when I had to physically stop myself researching so I could get some sleep, the topic is so vast and I think that’s because there are no answers, only opinions.

In the same way that the discussion about religion can and has gone on forever (am I really comparing religion to child rearing?! Yes I am but I have a valid point, stay with me!) so can the discussion about parenting, ANY aspect of parenting. So although all religions can agree that loving one another is good and we should live good, honest lives; there’s always a few extremists who take things too far one way or another. With parenting, we all agree that we should love our children and raise them the best we can, and there’s always a few (slightly less dangerous) extremists who insist the nursery mix special herbs and boil them in dolphin tears because baby Jemima is to be brought up as one with the sea. 

When it comes to sibling age gaps all I can tell you is my personal opinion and assure you that whatever your personal opinion is, even if it completely and utterly contradicts mine, it is still absolutely valid and no more right or wrong. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s the bottom line. Not that it’s not really interesting to hear other people’s views, my only warning would be: stay away from the internet ‘facts and figures’. It won’t take long for every possible age gap to be far too dangerous, whether an increased risk of low intelligence, decreased risk of carrying to term, we are quickly bombarded with terrifying statistics.

On reading said statistics closely we find that often the increase or decrease is less than 1%, and with chances so slight, there really is very little use reading them, unless you like horrible dreams! 

For my husband and I, our view is this; as our siblings are so important to us, it’s a no brainer for us that we want Scarlett to have a sibling. With a smaller age gap they’ll truly grow up together, and it won’t be such a huge shock to us to go back into ‘baby mode,’ the sleepless nights, the nappies, the bottles. Financially we’re doing well, and career wise, it makes more sense to both of us to have a closer gap.

With all that in mind, it may take ten years for another baby to come along, you just don’t know what nature has in store for you. The fact remains that whatever the eventual age gap, whether we have a boy or a girl and whether or not it happens when we plan, if it happens at all, we will love any and all children we have. 

The only question you really need to ask yourself is this, “do you want another baby and do you feel as ready as you can be?” If the answer to that is yes, there is millions of pieces of information you can take into account if you want to, but really, that’s all you need to know.

Our poorly pea…

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Our beautiful baby girl is poorly, her very first cold. Not a first we were looking forward to and one we can’t help but feel slightly helpless in as she’s clearly in discomfort and there’s little or nothing we can do about it but cuddle her, feed her, and try and show her as best we can that she’ll be ok soon.

“Daddy’s on the couch with you, Mummy’s in a chair,
Taking turns to comfort you, showing you we’re there.
You’ve never had a cold before, you’re only 12 weeks old,
we’re doing the best we can for you, using tips that we’ve been told.

Your little eyes are slightly red, your little nose is too,
your little tears are heartbreaking, there’s nothing we can do.
The night feels never-ending, as we wipe away your tears,
checking for your temperature, abating our own fears.

We’ve added in a bottle, to quench your increased thirst,
Both of us attending you, baby Scarlett coming first.
We wish we could just tell you, that all will be just fine,
but we can only hug you, you’ll feel better in good time.

Some people say these moments, are too much to bear,
A night of broken hours, both parents needed there.
We used to think that also, dread the hardest parts,
But now we are here with you, you’re the best thing in our hearts.”

Get well soon sweetheart X

Baby’s Boss Application Attempt…

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It’s been quite an eventful pregnancy and our little one is determined to keep that up right till the end. In fact this week, she attempted to close the gap till to the end…sneaky baby! Dramatic and precocious just like her Mother!

I can almost hear her saying, “THEY’LL give ME an arrival date..? I don’t bloody think so, I’ll come when I please!”

The quick version of the last couple of days is that all is fine, there was a brief escape attempt that was appeased, and as we’re so near the end, we’re having a really little stay in Gloucester to ensure all is ok, which it is. And frankly a mix of injections, epilepsy meds and codeine has made my part of events relatively non sensical and in a rare ‘down from the kite I’ve obviously been flying from’ moment, I jotted down the following words, my apologies for inevitable mistakes…

Much love to you all dear friends xx

“As we kissed her big strong Daddy goodbye,
I felt a new strength I had without try,
I saw in his eyes it hurt him to leave,
As he subtly wiped his eye on his sleeve.

The monitors around do their song and dance,
Any anomaly signalled with barely a glance,
Parenthood starts way beyond day of birth,
Instinctively new family becomes guarded turf.

I fall in love with my husband again and again,
My comfort, my love, my joy and my friend,
The comraderie at midnight as we packed up to go,
A mutual understanding we felt without show.

Our baby tries best to join us so soon,
We tell her ‘not now, hold on a few moons,’
So excited to meet her but only when right,
But we’ll do what we can if she arrives here this night.

It should still be a week before two becomes three,
For now it’s still safest she stays part of me,
White coats rush around, keeping on a tired smile,
They do their best to keep her safe all the while.

Mummy and baby, looked after so well,
But the greatest protector, is Daddy we tell.
Stays by our side as long as he’s allowed,
Keeps both of us smiling, both of us proud.

Injections don’t hurt as much with him by our side,
Scans not so frightening, needles don’t seem so wide!
So whilst this all goes on, we are proved as a three,
We’re going to be just fine, baby, Daddy and me.”

Crazy Train Catch Up…

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A couple of months ago, I blogged about some of the crazy ideas that kept me awake at night, and a friend recently asked if ‘baby brain had calmed down…’ HA! No my friend, there has definitely not been a decline in the madness. I have however felt much calmer in the last few weeks now that I know our baby could somewhat safely be born even if she was born at an early stage, it’s one fear that has abated and it’s meant that despite other things, I think I have enjoyed the third trimester more than the other two.

But when it comes to crazy, well, let me keep you, dear reader, also in the loop…!

1) I spoke before about my worry that my previously ‘inny’ belly button would pop out into an ‘outy’…well, I have kept a keen eye on it since and it is what can only be described as ‘dangerously level.’ No more do I have the cavernous space I have grown up with, it is worrying close to becoming positively protruding. Let me reiterate, there is nothing at all wrong with naturally outy belly buttoned people (‘outers’…?! Is there a word for that particular sector of society?! A secret handshake perhaps to identify with? Is there an entire belly button underground world I am yet to stumble upon?!) HOWEVER, I am used to mine the way it is and just don’t want to change camps at this stage of life. There are 4/5 weeks left of my pregnancy and the observation continues…

2) I also spoke before about my crazy fear that my baby would suddenly burst out, a la the scene in the film ‘Alien,’ and perhaps when I was reading the last blog post on the matter aloud, my baby heard me and has a tricksy sense of humour because since then she has kept her head towards the top and when moving about, tends to just stick her head out as if she is trying for a mistake. I have a bicornuate uterus (my uterus is separated in the middle so there is effectively a double chamber) which in turn means my poor little one has less space than normal. As she has grown, the space has become tighter so according to the medical professionals, the protruding head is quite normal and easy to explain rationally. I, however am a first time Mother with the flair for the dramatic so I have of course settled on my original diagnosis…alien-esque escape attempt!

3) Due to the unusual uterus, the fact that baby is breech and the additional fact that I am back on medication after my old friend epilepsy made a rather unwelcome but not totally unexpected return during pregnancy; I am going to be having a c-section. At first, I was very upset by the news, I wanted to give birth to my baby, not have somebody else remove her from me. After thinking that way for a ridiculous and rather petulant 15 minutes, I realised that with my circumstances, I am incredibly lucky to have conceived in the first place. Likewise, the health and safety of my baby is absolutely my priority and therefore if that means a c-section, that us exactly what will happen. Fear of a safe birth is hardly irrational, but once I’d got a bit more information, that’s not why this passage is included in my compendium of crazy. No, this particular entry is much more crazy than that…

…after a c-section, you are left with a scar across your lower tummy. I’m not a shallow girl and the aesthetic aspect of that doesn’t bother me at all. However I have had a dream that the familiar smile shape of the c-section incision (that usually make most women feel better about it) will take on some sinister character and my tummy will somehow become it’s own entity. Is this my fears of the operation manifesting itself in strange ways? I certainly hope so or else it might be time for a psychiatric assessment!!

4) There is a common fear for some Mothers that they won’t feel close to their baby or bond as they feel they should, this fear especially common for Mothers who have a c-section. My particular brand of fear is slightly different. What if my baby doesn’t bond with me?! What if on some as yet un-understood level, I am a disappointment to my newborn?! It may seem daft but I can feel that our baby is an absolute Daddies girl already, when we go and watch him teach a class or his voice rings out above others in a room or he comes home after a couple of days or more away with work, she gets really excited! Kicks a plenty, wriggling about, the absolute love she has for her Father is measurable. He has an incredibly cool job and is an incredibly talented writer, director, stage combat teacher and fight director so growing up, he was always going to be her hero but already her favourite..? Give me a chance! Saying that, he’s the obvious choice as favourite; he’s also my hero, and I have provided so far – a uterus with so little wriggle room, at her 34 week scans she had a foot up next to her face, quite a lot of crying, and she must hear me moaning about being in pain and think, ‘for crying out loud Mother, I’m trying to grow into a mini human in these conditions?!’ She also has two sets of incredibly doting Grandparents and although I wouldn’t tell them to their face (little brothers aren’t supposed to be given too many compliments by older siblings!) I know she will have so much fun with both her Uncles. And as crazy as it may seem, part of me worries that I’ll be desperate to bond with her and she’ll have no need for a clearly slightly unhinged Mother! I am more than happy not to be the favourite, in fact one thing I am especially excited to see is that special light in her eyes everytime she sees her Daddy because it’ll be the same light I have when I look at my husband. But I am hoping to be at least up there and that on her day of birth she doesn’t look up at me with an expression that says…’really…this woman?! Do I have any choice in this?’

5) If all things allow, I would like to breastfeed. I’ve been warned that when hearing a baby cry, my breasts will leak somewhat of their own accord and to therefore to stock up on breast pads! I know that it can get painful and there can be problems with blockages and other associated issues, but none of that keeps me up at night. The thoughts that live in my dreams is that I will, once home, start to breastfeed and then for some reason, it won’t stop, like a tap with no means to turn it off. I have a horrendous image of my husband coming home to find his wife and daughter in a foot of breast milk, tears from both whilst our belongings start to float around in the uncontrollable torrent. I know what you’re thinking, ‘what the hell has she been smoking?!’ I only wish I could tell you there’s something chemical behind these thoughts – there’s not, this is in fact what goes on in this brain with no prior prompting or man made substance help.

And the breast milk tsunami is perhaps an appropriate place to leave it for now comrades! We all need a break and it only gets stranger! Sadly I have been assured by several Mum friends that baby brain not only doesn’t get any better, but simply takes a firmer hold. Which is a shame because I used to be considered quite smart, a reputation I can probably kiss goodbye to. My only hope now is that I can avoid getting to the stage where I get some sandbags in the garage just in case…!

The best piece of advice I’ve received during pregnancy is just to go with it, relax as much as possible and let it all happen. I’ve been relatively rubbish at following this advice and have managed to worry at every corner and internally convince myself of the worst even when it outwardly even seems like quite the accomplishment to have found the negative! My compromise has been to keep good humoured about it. I have been a nightmare for my poor husband who has admirably and patiently let me rant on about how the lack of uterus space will probably mean our baby hates me as she’ll remember that cramped feeling for life! But I am aware that I’m being unreasonable, which at least is something, so a decent amount of ribbing is definitely called for!

A couple of months ago I wrote about feeling slightly crazy with worries that seemed unnecessary compared to the big things, by the last stretch I assumed I’d be more concentrated on the more impending, practical issues. But it seems my brain is happy at this particular station and after much discussion with others, I am apparently not alone. So although I’d imagine your middle of the night irrational thoughts will be different (and probably a bit less dramatic!) than mine, we can all take comfort that even though as first time Mothers, we have no real idea what we’re doing or what we can expect – we WILL all find a way. Our brains are perhaps distracting us with thoughts of outy belly buttons whilst they start working on a deeper level to get us through things we couldn’t necessarily do on a more conscious level. Our new arrivals are the most important thing to any first time Mother and instinctively we will do whatever we can to succeed at our new role. So as we all get to the same crazy town station, we may as well let our brains do their thing and take in the sights! Climb aboard ladies and let’s continue to enjoy the ride!

The Idyllic Ideals…

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My brother is moving house today, to his first owned property. And as the proud (and only slightly envious…!) older sister, my husband and I are helping him, so bright and early this morning we picked up the van and now they are hard at work loading said van in the sunshine and I am…well I am sat in Starbucks writing my blog because I was told that being 8 months pregnant, although it’s nice I’m here (in my maternity dungarees, appropriate moving gear I thought..!) practically speaking, I am no use!

So I waddled on down the road and am sat in the sunshine with a Starbucks iced coffee (decaf!) in hand…I don’t know why people say moving is so stressful, I’m having a lovely day…!

Anyway, being sat in a Starbucks takes me back to being a teenager, roughly 13 years ago I practically lived in my local Starbucks, textbooks in one hand, a caramel frappuccino (with whipped cream yes please) in the other and that is where my GCSE coursework and subsequent A-Level and degree work all got done. I wouldn’t even dare hazard a guess at how much I spent on frappuccino’s, blueberry muffins and steak and cheese panini’s but those were in the good old days, I was working part time at the Disney Store and what were those wages for if not financing my Starbucks rent…! (Oh how I wish with hindsight I’d stuck to one drink, no food and saved a few pennies..! I’m not quite in the upper middle class bracket that can have lived that lifestyle and got away with it scot free, but that’s a whole other life lesson entirely!)

In those days of course, if you had the internet at home, you had to turn the computer on and have a spare few hours to wait for the internet to dial up. And then God forbid anyone pick up the phone and you’d hear the screaming tone of the internet highway as your AOL online chat suddenly disconnected, “MUUUUM!!! I was online!!!” Cue the restart of the whole process to get back to that online chat, “sorry my Mum picked up the phone,” being one of the most common parts of early online chat!

So when I went to Starbucks, it wasn’t for the wifi, but for the comfy place to sit outside of school to get work done, on a big A4 pad of paper, surrounded by several heavy textbooks. Kids these days (you know you’re getting older when you use that phrase!) aren’t anywhere near as strong now they only have to carry around a kindle to have access to hundreds of books, and that’s if they choose to use anything past Google and Wikipedia for their school work anyway!

When our little girl does her GCSE’s in 16 years time (or whatever they’re called then!) who knows how much further technology will have gone. Maybe school will be obsolete when scientists have discovered a way of simply downloading the necessary information straight into the brain. Or maybe technology will have got to a point where we’ve started to regress and pen and paper will seen as really retro and cool…unlikely but stranger things have happened, flares came back after all…

It’s all got me nostalgic about my childhood, I hope that despite the newer modern world, our little one will still love playing outside. That, for example, when she tells people she’s played golf, she means crazy golf outside and not just the Nintendo wii virtual golf! I hope she picks up French phrases from a holiday to France and not just by an app (although I have to admit that my husband and I are currently going through an online French course – one of our bucket list items was to be more fluent in a language. It’s a great tool but can’t replace going there and experiencing the culture). I’m going to try my hardest not to be one of those old people who lectures her with phrases like ‘back in my day’ or ‘kids these days have no idea how lucky they are,’ because frankly, that’s part of the joys of childhood. Every generation has it slightly easier than the one before in some ways because of medical and technological advancements but then also have their own new and difficult challenges that the generation before blissfully never had to deal with. And if I knew and understood the challenges of adulthood, I wouldn’t have any memories of an idyllic childhood and adolescence because I’d already be worrying about the years ahead! Those of us lucky enough to earn a few pounds a month to waste on Starbucks food saw the biggest problems in the world as our ‘bloody parents’ picking up the phone when we were in the middle of a very important Dawson’s Creek esque deep conversation with someone we hadn’t seen for at least an hour since the school day ended. And that’s great, I’m unendingly lucky that I could be that self involved!

Don’t get me wrong, I want our daughter to be aware of the world and to care about national and international issues in a way that social media especially these days enables everyone to be. But she’ll only have 18 years maximum not to feel like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders as the realities of adulthood and life will start to bear down on her. With the benefit of a childhood that we will make as carefree and enjoyable as possible, hopefully she’ll have a positive and confident enough spirit to stay excited about life and not get bogged down. My little brother is 20 and today on his moving day, he’s stressed about potential problems further down the line for his flat purchase which may delay getting the keys and sorting out the various mountains of paperwork he needs to be on top of etc etc. So I look back and smile at a time with him when I took him to Disneyland for his birthday, I was old enough to worry about each penny we spent each day, but he was young enough to just take in every bit of magic that Disneyland brings to a 10 year old. How awful it would have been if he was aware that when he accidentally agreed to buying something off a street seller on our return journey, he inadvertently meant that with my holiday budget spent, I could then only afford to buy him dinner and not both of us. That was my problem, not his. He has years and years ahead of him to take his niece places and internally seethe at how much a day trip to the zoo costs these days while she gazes at an elephant in wonder for the very first time. It’s the circle of life!

My supervisory experience!

My supervisory experience!

Sadly, this type of childhood is not a given for every child, some walk miles every day to try and get clean water for their family, some spend time in and out care homes, some are all too aware of how much the zoo costs because their family can barely afford the weeks food shop, let alone a family day out. In these cases, a part time job in a shop can’t be wasted on Starbucks but goes straight into the family pot out of necessity. It’s all relative.

My husband and I are in no way rich, with maternity pay and one income, we watch every penny and know where each one is going (a learning curve that shamefully took me longer than most to learn, most likely thanks to my charmed upbringing!) but we are very aware that we’re far from having a charity bake sale organised in our behalf! But our daughter will hopefully grow up having had day trips, seeing some of the world and enjoying the innocence of her childhood. Today watching my brother, it makes me sad in a way to know that he is now definitely no longer a child and has fully joined that rat race we call adulthood. But I look back fondly for him and for me at childhoods well had! I hope and pray that I can give my daughter the best life possible so that when the inevitable day comes that the weight of the world starts to impact on the magic in life, she’s ready with a back catalogue of happy days to help her carry on through with a smile!