Talking Honestly about Death

Life, Parenting

I have just listened to the wonderful second episode of Clemmie Telford’s Honestly podcast (I also highly recommend the first episode with the brilliant Father and Mother of Daughters, Simon and Clemmie Hooper). Clemmie’s Honestly podcast is about speaking honestly about those subjects which are often taboo or brushed under the carpet; subjects which can be tough to talk about or difficult to bring up, maybe a bit embarrassing to talk about in front of friends or family. But, they do need to be talked about.

This episode deals with that subject that we all avoid – Death. I know I avoid it, as the sheer knowledge that I will die one day frightens me so much that I can’t bear to even think about it. It has scared me from a young age. I recall driving home from my grandfather’s house one dark, rainy evening with my mum, dad and brother. I must have been about 6 or 7 years old. I started crying for no apparent reason. When my parents asked me what was wrong, I said ‘I don’t want you to die’. It really, really upset me to think this would happen one day and there would be no way I could stop it. The thought of living without them traumatised me.

As we get older and our families grow, we tend to change the way we feel about death. I guess, as it becomes more inevitable, we learn to accept it and face it head-on. But, becoming a mother makes the whole thing so much harder. Now we have to think about our children losing a parent as well as us losing our relatives. I don’t think I have ever really talked about this with anyone before because I am blocking it out of my mind completely as a way to avoid having to deal with such a huge fear of mine. My biggest fear. And I don’t know why I fear it. Why do I feel scared of dying? As the man in the song ‘Great Gig In The Sky‘ by Pink Floyd says, ‘Why should I be frightened of dying? There’s no reason for it, you’ve got to go sometime’. And I have lost some amazing people in my life. My grandmother died in 2002. We were close. She was strong. I thought, if she can do it, then it must be OK. And it happens so often, almost as much as people being born. The world daily death rate is 151,600 people, according to http://www.ecology.com. That’s per day!

I think the fear is the unknown. Not many people can tell us what it’s like to die. People die for a moment before being brought back to life, which is incredible, and that’s the closest we will get to being able to understand what happens. In Clemmie Telford’s podcast, Louise Winters and Anna Lyons talk openly and honestly about their jobs as an alternative funeral director and end-of-life doula respectively. Both deal with death and grief every day. Listening to their take on it all, and the way it should be discussed, was really refreshing. So much so that I had to write this blog post immediately in order to share with you, and signpost, some of the things they said. Anna Lyons’ post on Clemmie Telford’s blog, Mother Of All Lists, was mentioned in the podcast episode, so I went and had a look. It is an honest guide to death and all the things surrounding it. Here is the list for you all to read (and I feel it is important that you do): What Death Has Taught Me. I won’t spoil it for you, as it is really an amazing read, but I was surprised to hear, on the podcast and in the article, that you can have a funeral anywhere, you can be buried in your back garden and, most unexpectedly, you can remain at home after you die, not in a mortuary, as long as you’re kept cool and the cat isn’t allowed in the room (Apparently they begin to eat dead bodies after the heart stops – Ewww. Although, this won’t stop me from loving cats).

Listening to the Honestly podcast has made me think about mortality, grief and life’s fragility. These would normally be grave subjects to think about on a Wednesday morning, but today I am thinking about them in a different, new and refreshing light. It doesn’t have to be taboo or forbidden to discuss it, and I totally agree with Anna about talking openly and honestly about death with our children. I have thought about it many times, when the subject arises, but I realise that they’re not stupid and shouldn’t be shielded away from the subject of death. It will only increase a fear in them. My eldest is really obsessed with The Lion King at the moment, and he refers to the death of Mufasa as him ‘getting stuck’. So now, any time there is a perilous or sad part of a film, he asks if someone is going to get stuck. *LION KING SPOILER ALERT* We tell him that Mufasa died because Scar pushed him, and he blamed it on Simba. He understands now that Mufasa died. These things do happen, so why lie about them? I think having children has made me begin to feel differently about death – When I talk about it with them, I don’t want to scare them like it scares me. I want them to feel comfortable with the inevitability. It is inevitable and it doesn’t need to be scary. My boys will find their own way to deal with these things – the death of relatives and their own mortality – and we will be there to support them through the tough times and to try and explain things to them truthfully when they ask questions. As they say in the podcast, understanding what happens in death allows us to feel more comfortable with it. It helps us to imagine, as best we can, what it might be like and that gives us a better personal connection with our inevitable end.

I have to, finally, give a special mention to Louise Winters’ beautiful answer to Clemmie Telford’s question, ‘Death is…’

‘The full stop at the end of a life sentence’.

As ever, thanks for reading,

NSG xxx

Cover Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

Book Review: The Mummy Lessons by Helen Wallen

Parenting

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Firstly, I want to say that I only found out yesterday that The Mummy Lessons is the second book in what is hopefully a whole series, following the motherhood experiences of three childhood friends, Emily, Liz and Molly. I am clearly very late to this party! But, like many parties, it’s better to be late than not turn up at all. And, even without knowing the hosts, I still had an awesome time and ended the evening feeling like I knew them well. Plus, it left me wanting to go out and get that first book…

OK, that’s enough of the party metaphors.

It’s true that all three ladies in the book are completely different people, all doing the motherhood thing differently, but you can’t help but sympathise with them all in some way. As a mother, I have probably felt the same way as all of them at some stage in my own experience, and I think other mothers (and fathers) will find this, too. This is how Helen Wallen draws us in to the story – She makes us fully empathise with the characters. I am not going to spoil the story in any way, as that would be just mean (and make my partner, who is a writer of stories, very angry with me!), but it felt like I was reading the diaries, Whatsapp chats and blog posts (and witty poetry!) of my dearest mummy friends – Content that I’d heard, felt and seen before, but this was portrayed by other people… so WE ARE NOT ALONE then!

This is one of the main things that I loved about this book – Its familiarity. It made it a real joy to read. Even at the end of a day (or sixteen) where I have felt so tired and fed up, this book brightened me up and made me laugh out loud before bedtime. Helen’s language and her ease at telling her characters’ stories made it easy to follow and kept me entertained throughout, even when things weren’t going too well in the story (Again, no spoilers).

The book also reinforces the importance of mummy friends, and I think every mum will read this book and feel ever-more grateful for their village. I know I did. I don’t think any of the characters could have gone through these stages of motherhood without each other, and I genuinely feel this way about my own mummy group. Just reading the Whatsapp conversations about babies that won’t sleep, and getting messages at 4.30am and actually responding to them… I remember it all so well!

What sets this apart from other books of its kind is that it is completely fictional (It seems that most others seem to be either autobiographical or an advice book rather than a story), but there is still a hint of ‘hmmmm’ about whether Helen Wallen has used some of her own experiences to create the stories of her characters. I can imagine that most of the parents out there could split their crazy experiences across three separate and totally different characters and still manage to make the stories feel so real.

I genuinely enjoyed reading this book, and was sad when I’d finished it (Although I got a little taster of Helen’s first book, Baby Boom, at the end – Nice touch!). It made me feel warm and cosy, but also sad and empathetic at times. This crazy journey we’re on as parents can only be fully enjoyed with laughter, jokes, not-so-candid conversations about baby weaning and a few swear words, and Helen Wallen has brought that into print for us all to enjoy, and for really not that much money! If that’s not a tonic, I don’t know what is…

NSG xxx

Where else can you follow Helen Wallen aka Just A Normal Mummy other than physically stalking her and her family?

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  • Links to the books on Amazon can be found in their titles, above. The Mummy Lessons is available on Kindle for only 99p for a limited time only – Get your copy asap!

 

 

One Of Those Mornings…

Parenting

I know all of you will sympathise. We have just had ‘one of those days’ so far today. Some of you may have seen on my Instastory/FB Story that we had to wait for another bus while already running late as there were already two buggies on the bus we needed to catch. Well, this actually happened to us THREE bloody times today!! So, here is my checklist of things that have added up to a crappy morning…

  1. I am ill – I have the lurgy. The boys both gave it to me (mostly Nathi). I took some day nurse tablets, but they did a very lazy job.
  2. I had a scary dream about a massive, human-eating eagle. See photo for interpretation…
  3. We did really well up until the moment we had to leave which, of course, was the ONLY time Khaya decided he needed to take his Darth Vader costume out with us. And could I find it?! I also had to tell him that we didn’t have time for him to eat a yoghurt because we needed to leave NOW.
  4. We had to wait 9 minutes for a bus because of two other buggies being on the bus we could have caught which would have made us ON TIME for Nathi’s dance class. There is only one bus that can get us there without a mammoth walk at the other end. Joy.
  5. The boys both had tantrums when we arrived at the class. Nathi refused to take off his coat and shoes, and Khaya decided to stay out in the foyer. Here we were at a nice, fun dance class with lovely, well-behaved children, and my two boys are either rolling around screaming and shouting or opening the door and also pressing his face against the glass… #embarrassed
  6. One of my boys accidentally bumped into another child… and didn’t apologise.
  7. Nathi fell over and bumped his chin on the floor. At this point, I wanted to know how to reset either the whole day or all of us, one by one.
  8. We had to wait for the THIRD bus at our stop before we could get on. Bloody buggies everywhere! Even the driver commented on this.
  9. When we arrived at a children’s play cafe, neither of the boys would leave my side to go and play. Just annoying, but I can’t hold this against them. They clearly think I’m the bee’s knees.
  10. I spent £10 on two biscuits. Yep, that’s right. I didn’t even see this until I paid our bill. They were, in their defence, very beautifully decorated, but £5 each?! They’re going to get EATEN!
  11. We just missed another bus on our way home. I really, really wish I had a car sometimes…

So, that was our morning or, as I like to think of it, the universe’s way of telling us we shouldn’t have even attempted to leave the house today.

Please share any of your ‘one of those days’ with me – I’d love to hear about them! I won’t compare, I promise.

Here’s to a great weekend ahead,

NSG xxx

Cesarean Awareness Month – My Story

Parenting

After finding out that April is Cesarean Awareness Month, I felt compelled to share my story. The highs and the lows, but with a very happy ending. I just felt I should add that now before you read on.

First, a bit of birth history…

I got pregnant with Khaya about three months into my relationship with my wonderful man. The pregnancy was awesome, the birth was even more awesome. It was quick, easy and relatively pain-free. My labour started around lunchtime on a Wednesday, and Khaya was born at 6.54pm that evening! In a way, I wonder if this easy process added to the problems I had later with post-natal depression. Was it too easy? Had I been spoiled? Did I therefore expect everything to be perfect or, at the very least, easy and natural? I have been playing that all over in my head a lot over the past few years.

Fast-forward to our rather risky trip to Swaziland in November 2016. I was 7 months pregnant when we left, and the plan was for me to return to the UK in my 36th week of pregnancy, just before Christmas. I had a letter from my GP to say that I was fit to fly, and it was OK with the airline. Nothing could go wrong, right?! Well, how wrong was I…

When we left for Swaziland, I was in the process of selling a flat I owned with my ex-husband. It was stressful. I didn’t want to be in contact with him, but there were things that needed to be done in order to get the process underway. We had some viewings, some interest, and then we had an offer. It was slightly lower than I wanted, but it would still mean a little bit of a profit for us both and, most importantly, closure. Being so far away, and having minimal access to the internet, was tough. I was able to contact the agents as and when I had reception (most of the time from a local bar/cafe in Mbabane – Thank you so much to them for their help!). I remember some rather stressed conversations with the agents as a result of my ex-husband dragging his heels on some paperwork, although he denied this at the time. I then had a heated FB Messenger conversation with him about it all, and it was not a nice experience. Being 7-months pregnant and having to deal with all of this as well as the soaring heat in Swaziland was not the best situation for me to be in. I rested as much as I could and Khaya, then a toddler, was upset that I wasn’t playing with him as much anymore. I felt miserable at a time when I should have been happy.

I woke early one Monday morning, around 3am, with a very wet patch around me in the bed. I went to the bathroom and realised I was leaking fluid. At this point I wasn’t sure if it was urine or amniotic fluid. Had I just lost control of my bladder?! I was only in my 35th week of pregnancy. The baby wasn’t due yet. The fluid kept coming, so my partner found the number for a clinic to get some advice. He called the Women and Children Hospital in Manzini, a city about 20 minutes’ drive away from where we were staying with my partner’s aunt (in Lobamba, a beautiful rural area with mountain views and lots of peace and quiet, except on Sundays when all of the churches in the area would have their services). The hospital said I should rest and sleep until the morning and then make our way to see them for an examination. Khaya had woken up, too, so we could all do with a proper sleep for a few more hours. The leaking subsided a bit but it was still coming out. We got up later in the morning, got dressed and made our way to the hospital in the family car.

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Manzini’s Women and Children Hospital. I swear we spent longer in this waiting area than in the hospital itself!

As we arrived at the hospital, it looked really nice. New, clean, with a TV in the waiting area. I was happy that my partner had chosen this hospital for our check-up, despite it being a little further away than other clinics. They asked for money when we arrived. We couldn’t see a doctor until we paid. So we paid and we waited. We were called in and I was examined. The doctor confirmed that it was amniotic fluid and that I would need to be admitted because I was probably about to go into labour. After much negotiation with the receptionist and accounts administrator about fees for the admission, we finally got in to the ward where I was given a bed. They told me that I would be in for the night and would just now need to wait for labour to start naturally before they decided on what to do next. By the next morning, nothing had happened. I was induced. Nothing. Then I was induced again at lunchtime. Things then started happening. I was feeling contractions and they were getting more intense. I remember the doctor saying to me, ‘Why are you smiling and laughing? You should be screaming in pain!’. I replied, ‘I’m about to meet my son, why wouldn’t I be happy?’. But, upon examination about four hours later, the doctors found that I was fully effaced but only 1cm dilated. My son didn’t want to come out yet. He wasn’t ready! The doctor told me the words I really didn’t want to hear – ‘We are going to have to go into theatre and get this baby out. It has been too long now since your waters broke. We will need to prep you now for a cesarean’. Shit. My happy, laughing self turned into a wreck. I was completely nervous.  I felt so vulnerable – A complete flip from my first birth where I felt that my body had this, that it was working well to get the baby out naturally. Now I felt as though I had failed. My body had misread some signals and thought my son wanted to come early when, in fact, he was totally happy in there. It makes me sad to write that, you know. I still feel very sad about that.

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Waiting for our son to arrive naturally the night before he actually did!

So, I was prepped for theatre. It was the first time in a while I’d been shaved ‘down there’, which I managed to joke about to the lovely nurse who had that awful job! I also remember not having any more contractions. It was as if my body knew it could stop now. Perhaps my son knew that it was futile trying to do anything about getting out. Perhaps he just didn’t want to. I was given a gown to wear and I had to take off all of my jewellery. My partner had to sign a consent form to say he was happy for the operation to go ahead. He always tells me how frightening that was. I was wheeled down to theatre with my partner by my side (Khaya was staying at the house in Lobamba with his auntie and cousin). In the theatre I met the anaesthetist – A lovely man with a bubbly personality which really helped at a time when I was feeling so scared and nervous. Both doctors who I’d met and got to know were performing the operation. I felt safe and looked after. I was lifted on to the table and I started telling the anaesthetist how scared I was about having an epidural, as I’d heard that they really hurt. He reassured me, and we went through the process. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought it would, so I was relieved. Then I lay down and started to feel the pins and needles and numbness as it happened. First in my feet, then up my legs, then finally up to my waist. I only recall bits and bobs about what happened next, mainly involving me talking to the staff about complete nonsense and being extremely nervous. I didn’t let go of my partner’s hand the whole way through. I said to him, ‘Let me know when he’s out’, and he replied, ‘He already is!’. He had been watching the operation, like the brave bastard that he is. I saw a very long baby being brought over to us for a kiss, then he was whisked away to be checked. My partner went in to check how he was doing (asking for my permission, bless him) while they sewed up my wounds. The doctor said that she would only put a couple of stitches inside as she wanted it to heal more by itself, and then she stitched up the outside with more sutures (One of which stayed in there until a couple of months after I returned to the UK – I went to the doctor to find out what this vein was that was running across the underside of my section scar, and she found out it was a long blue suture that had been left in there after the removal of my stitches). I remember saying to the doctor that I could feel something putting pressure on my chest. It was overwhelmingly painful. She told me she didn’t know what that could be, as she was dealing with my uterus at the time. And then I started to get the shakes. Really badly. I was shivering, my teeth were chattering, and I couldn’t speak properly. They were worried about me, but I kept cool, took deep breaths, and all was OK in the end. It took a while to wear off. I think my body was in shock. My partner told me that our son was OK, but needed some help with his breathing. His lungs hadn’t fully matured, so he would need to go into ICU for at least the rest of the night. His birth time was recorded as 7.24pm, exactly half an hour after his big brother was born 21 months before, almost to the day. Once I was stitched up, I was lifted back onto my hospital bed and wheeled back to the ward. I was told I couldn’t have a pillow and that I had to keep lying flat without lifting my head for the next 24 hours. This was to avoid some major headaches, which were a side effect of the anaesthetic they had used.

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Baby Nkosinathi, only minutes old.

For those 24 hours, I mainly slept. My partner was told to go home as there was nothing he could do now. I would be asleep, and our baby was being well looked after in the ICU. My partner needed to be back with our other son at home and could come back in the morning refreshed. Poor Khaya was probably wondering what had happened to Mama, and whether there was a new baby yet! As I lay down that night, without really being able to move, I heard babies crying in the ICU. I wondered if any of them were my baby. I later found out that the staff weren’t able to pick the babies up to comfort them, and this really made me sad (Still does). When my partner came back in the morning, he went into the ICU and took videos and photos of our baby so that I could see him. He also got some updates on his progress. They thought he would be able to join me the next morning, which was great. By then I would be up and about and we could start on the feeding.

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One of the photos taken of our baby son while he was in the ICU without his Mama

That night, it was time for me to get up and start walking. I had a catheter inserted during my operation and recovery but this was removed when the anaesthetic wore off. I was then expected to try to walk to the bathroom by myself. The most wonderful nurse was on duty that night – Sister Emma. I will never forget her. She and my partner helped lift me up to sit, which was extremely tough. Then I had to step down from the bed and walk across to the bathroom by myself. I needed so much help. I was broken! Not only had I been opened up to get my baby out of me, I had also been lying down, pillowless, for 24 hours. And, yes, I still got those awful headaches which the doctors assured me would be much worse if I hadn’t laid so still for that long.

My body hadn’t caught up with the event that occurred the previous evening. I didn’t have my baby with me! My milk hadn’t started coming in yet. But, the next morning, he was back with his Mama, still connected to a drip. This tiny little skinny thing with a dented chest. He looked so unready to be here. He even seemed a bit pissed off about the whole thing. If you know him now, you could understand that – He’s a feisty and stubborn little boy! We worked on the feeding all day, and started our bonding process. It was lovely. Then, my partner brought Khaya in to meet his little brother for the first time. He thought the baby was really funny each time he moved. It was also the first time that my partner could hold his new son. We discussed names for quite a few days. I wanted one of his middle names to be chosen by my partner’s aunt, as she had been so good to us, looking after us during this hard time. In the end, we decided that the name she chose for him would be his christian name – Nkosinathi, meaning ‘God is with us’. We shortened it to Nathi.

We were in hospital for a week. I was discharged on the Friday and Nathi was discharged on the Monday. I had to make an appointment to come back to have my stitches removed and we had to come back after two weeks with Nathi for a check-up. It was all very expensive. The bills were huge. We had been told the cost of a c-section when we arrived and it wasn’t much more than a natural delivery. It was affordable. But, they added on so many things, even each pair of latex gloves used. Even way after we left they added more and more fees. We had to borrow money from all of our relatives to pay the fees.

At this point, I want to tell you what I know about births in Southern Africa. I have heard many things, but the main thing I hear over and over again is how doctors try to convince you to have a caesarean. The reasons they give probably include increased health, safety, precision, no potential unnecessary trauma, knowing the day your child will be born… The real reason is that they are able to get all of their buddies some scheduled work. The surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses… All of them would be able to book the operation into their calendars and be guaranteed a wage. Most people in Southern Africa have Medical Aid, a health insurance that covers most of their medical needs. Some people cannot afford this monthly payment towards their healthcare. These people have to use the government hospitals which have less reliable care. Obviously, the Medical Aid only covers so much. I know a family in South Africa whose twins were very premature and ended up staying in hospital for over three months. Their Medical Aid only covered a portion of the total cost of the care and the total bill came to millions of rands. I wrote a blog post (Why We Need To Vote To Save The NHS) in June 2017 about how important it is for us to save the NHS for this very reason. I have learned in our international family living that there are so many differences, pluses and minuses of both lives. The NHS is a huge plus to life in the UK and we really need to know how bloody lucky we are to have such a reliable service for those scary and nerve-wracking times in our lives – Times when reliability and reassurance are most vital.

During Cesarean Awareness Month, I will be thinking of my experience which, despite the fees and the downsides, was actually a mostly-positive experience. We were well looked after, we were safe, and we had amazing support from everyone around us. Despite all the ridiculous claims that a cesarean birth isn’t a real birth (I blame Shakespeare for this – All that shit about ‘none of woman born shall harm Macbeth‘ – It turns out Macduff’s mum had a c-section), or it’s the easy route, it is important for us all to share our stories about our own experiences with cesareans and how it really isn’t ‘the easy way out’. It has just as many ups and downs as a ‘natural’ birth and should not be seen as a failure. It took me a while to see this, as I was disappointed that this was the path we had to take in order to have our second son, but I have no real reason to feel this way. He was born, he is healthy. He might not have made it if we’d carried on trying to do it the natural way. I might not have made it either. Surely, that’s the important thing here. If there is a way to do this safely, with the best and healthiest outcome, you’d surely have no choice but to do it this way.

I hope that this somehow has a positive effect on my readers. I would hate to think that I might put people off cesareans after hearing my story. I admit I still have moments, and writing this post has been hard, but I was already suffering with anxiety, depression and stress at the time of Nathi’s birth. That aside, the birth went really, really well. My physical and mental scars have practically disappeared, and Nathi is a fantastic, hilarious and extremely strong little boy.

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Nathi today. Two years old and stronger than all the rest of us put together!

Thanks for reading, and please support/share/encourage others to talk during this month of awareness. For more information, please visit: the International Cesarean Awareness Network.

Thank you,

NSG xxx

 

 

A Different Approach to Parenting

Parenting

I have just read an article which I’ve had saved on my Facebook account for about a week (We all know how difficult it is to get around to these things!) – An interview with the psychotherapist Philippa Perry (who is also married to the rather brilliant artist, Grayson Perry) about her new book, The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad That You Did). I felt compelled to share it with you all (just click on the book title to be taken magically to the article), as it really resonated with me. I am sure some of you other parents will also feel the same way when you read the interview. In fact, the interviewer herself, Robyn Wilder, draws upon her own very personal experiences as a child and a mother.

As a mother who is sometimes, or often if I’m being really honest, lacking in enthusiasm to engage with my children, this article really struck a chord. She is completely right, of course, and I know that I have some work to do to make sure that my boys don’t grow up to be depressed, anxious and, well, like me. Although, saying that, I read the article aloud to my mother, and she only commented on the fact that she never drank coffee (See the article for context)! The truth is that my mum gave her all to us when we were growing up, and put us before everything else, yet I still came into adulthood having bouts of depression and anxiety.

During the parenting journey, we probably don’t realise that the things we do and say can have such an incredible impact on our children. Perhaps we don’t realise until it’s too late. But, what Philippa Perry says is not to fret. We all make mistakes, we are all ‘bad parents’. Even the parents we think have it all sussed out have failed now and then. Sometimes, even on our really off days, we can still succeed. In this day and age of alternative parenting techniques, often written by people who don’t have children, this is a refreshing and rather logical book of ‘advice’ coming from a psychotherapist who has been working with people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, as well as being a mother herself. Needless to say, I immediately followed the link to buy the book only to find out that it is currently not available. I hope that means that Philippa Perry has completely sold out and is now waiting for more books to be printed!

If you can, grab yourself a copy. I think it will be an interesting read for any parent and very different from the usual parenting advice books. If any of you have any other recommendations like this book, do let me know in the comments section of this post. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks!

Have a good week, followers and chums,

Not So Goldilocks xxx

What has NSG been up to this week?

Parenting

Hello followers! How are you all? I hope you’re having a good week, whether it is raining, windy, sunny, or all of the above.

It has been an interesting week in NSG Towers. Khaya turned a magnificent FOUR on Monday, and we took a rather brilliant trip to Hamley’s on Regent Street in order for him to choose his birthday present. We also promised Nathi an ‘unbirthday present’, which is a tradition in my family. Here are some of the highlights:

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We have also been busy seeing family, and making Baba Bear feel comfortable in his London home after being away for over a year.

Mama has been on a bit of a fundraising jolly, having raised over and above my goal for Ovacome through my birthday fundraiser. We now have an active family fundraiser for Comic Relief through JustGiving, which went live this evening. The boys took part in a cake sale at their nursery today, and we will all be tuning in to the Comic Relief live show on BBC1 tomorrow evening.

I was also very moved by the awful Ethiopian Airways plane crash this week. It was, quite frankly, way too close to home. Not only have we used that airline, and possibly that very aircraft, in the past, but my partner told me that he could have been on that flight if he’d decided to stay in Ethiopia a little longer for a work launch. He said that he would have flown any route to get him back to the UK that didn’t cost the earth, which very well may have included flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi for a connecting flight. I can’t imagine what the families of those poor victims are going through right now. My thoughts are with them.

I have ordered more merchandise for my company, just for me, and have been working on a business plan to find out what I can do next. What kind of journey will this venture take me on? I never saw myself as someone who would need to know anything about business, but perhaps this is what I was meant to do after all.

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I am currently halfway through my amazing Start Writing Fiction course, which I signed up for through FutureLearn. It is free, and it is run by the Open University. I am really enjoying it, and am getting lots of interesting and useful guidance for my fiction writing. And, did I mention, IT’S FREE! I urge you to go to their site and see if there is a course for you. I bet there will be. Here you go: https://www.futurelearn.com/.

And now, we are gearing up for our friends at Two Gents’ production of The Importance of Being Earnest at Tara Arts Theatre in Earlsfield, SW18, which closes on Saturday night. If you’re local and fancy a night out, please book your tickets here. It’s a two-hander, both females, and should be a very interesting and entertaining night of theatre!

So, I hope everyone has a great weekend, and please donate anything you can to our Comic Relief fundraiser over on JustGiving. It all goes to the people who need it the most and, as much as I believe that this shouldn’t be how the world is in 2019, every little will help. Thank you, and goodnight.

NSG xxx

PS. I learned a little lesson in reblogging today, and how not to do it. I reposted a lovely post that I had enjoyed by another blogger on WordPress, but hadn’t made it clear enough that it wasn’t my own post… Needless to say, I had a concerned friend contact me by text about it, so immediately took it down again. Huge apologies to the blogger who wrote the original post – I am still learning!

Red Nose Day fundraising

Parenting

Hello lovely followers!

Please follow the link below to donate whatever you can to Comic Relief through our JustGiving page. We, as a family, are aiming to get to £200, and every penny you donate will be put towards helping those in need.

Thank you,

NSG xxx

http://www.justgiving.com/not-so-goldilocks-and-her-three-fundraising-bears?utm_id=124

International Women’s Day

Parenting

Not that we need a particular day to celebrate the amazing women in this world, but it’s always nice to focus our attention to some of the influences we have as women.

This past year or so has been rather monumental with the #MeToo movement (which also included men, of course), and awards/nominations/elections being fairer between men and women. Things are beginning to change, and it’s about bloody time, too! I have always thought about how women have been treated in the past and the present. The sexual innuendoes, harrassment, and the general feeling that men are naturally born to treat women in such a derogatory manner. What gets forgotten is that, without women, there would be no men! There would be nobody. I would LOVE to see a man in childbirth. I would love to see many of the tables turned to show men how difficult it is to be female sometimes. The pressures, the pains, the constant battle to be recognised as an equal in business, the notion that we are objects of attraction, or should be, and the inability to control what happens to our bodies sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I know men have pressures and pains of their own (I, for one, would not like to know what it feels like to be kicked in the balls), and I think women are generally sensitive to those things, but it doesn’t seem to work so well the other way around. I KNOW I am generalising like crazy, so I apologise to any men or women who disagree with what I am saying. I suppose you never really know something until you experience it for yourself, so we are never going to be able to truly get men to understand that getting pregnant and having a child, or an abortion, has extreme emotional and physical effects on our bodies and minds.

Anyway, enough of the rant. What I really wanted to write about today are the wonderful women who I have been following online, and who have all played a part in influencing me and my writing, and my confidence. Here is my guide to the best women online at the moment, and why…

Sarah Turner AKA The Unmumsy Mum

Sarah Turner has been a huge influence on me (Not that I’ve had the guts to tell her that yet!). I received a copy of her first book, The Unmumsy Mum, on my first birthday as a Mama. It got me through some really tough times in those early days, and I was so relieved to see that I was not alone in feeling crappy sometimes. Sarah made it feel totally normal, and even quite funny, to go through those harder times. She has an amazing way with words, and is not afraid to tell it like it is. Every post of hers makes me laugh. She is mama to three boys, and is about to release her third book, which is on my preorder list! If you haven’t already seen her online, find her, and enjoy.

Giovanna Fletcher

This mama has done so much. Not only has she had three babies (also three boys!), she’s written books, she is an ambassador for charities, broadcasts her own podcasts, as well as vlogging and posting photos and videos on social media every day. I can honestly say that she is my mummy goal! I remember when I was in a CBT session last year, my counsellor asked me who I think is the perfect mum, and I immediately said ‘Giovanna Fletcher’. She’s an inspiration to all mamas, and I think she has completely nailed it.

Sarah Gynn AKA The Crafty Wintonian

I have a bias here, as Sarah is my wonderful cousin. But, she still kicks ass. I have been so proud of what she has achieved (Again, but I’m too chicken to tell her to her face!), and under the circumstances she has had to go through over the past few years. Sarah has two children, and decided a while ago to do something she really wanted to do – Launch a website and a business that teaches others how to crochet, knit and do other wonderful (and rather useful) crafty things through workshops across Hampshire and the surrounding area. For her, it was a way to ease issues with mental health, and she wanted to help others to get the same benefits. She also makes items and sells them at craft fairs. Her website is awesome, please check it out and, if you can, go to one of her workshops! She is a teacher by trade, so she knows her stuff.

Tova Leigh

Another mummy who just seems to have done so much! I admire her bravery, her attitude towards motherhood and her ‘mum-bod’. She’s funny, she’s bold, and she has an amazing smile. She also has a podcast, and regularly uploads videos, sometimes live. She has been through some tough times, and is a real influence to all mamas who have struggled. I suggest you check her out on social media (She’s on all platforms)!

Ellie Russell – CWP Consultant

OK, biased again, as this is my other wonderful cousin! Regardless of this, she is also kicking ass. Ellie recently lost 4 stone with the Cambridge Weight Plan, and is now working for them as a consultant to help others keep going when the going gets tough. She recently posted a screenshot of her Fitbit stats, which showed she’d done almost 20,000 steps, and I seriously have no idea how she managed to do that in one day! As someone who is carrying too much weight, and eating too much junk right now, I can’t help but look up to Ellie for making such an incredible change to her life. She tells me she feels better in all aspects, not just physically. I admire her greatly. If you’re in the Birmingham area, give her a shout!

Mandisa Mamba

Another bias (sorry!). My sister from another mister, Mandisa Mamba. She is beautiful, talented, strong and a fantastic mother to her son – My boys’ cousin Kenzo. She has raised him virtually all by herself, and he is the brightest, cleverest and most devious little man ever. She decided a few years ago that she wanted to pursue music as a career in Swaziland, and has worked tirelessly and with many obstacles to get to where she is today. She recently won Best R&B Artist at the 2018 MTN SWAMA Awards in Swaziland, and is still keeping on, writing and performing alongside her job as a mother. She really does kick some serious ass. She represents a large majority of women in Swaziland who no doubt look up to her for her determination and strength in her dreams to become a successful artist. Check out her music through the link, above.

So, even just these few women have made a massive impact on me and, most definitely, many others. Thank you all for what you have done for us mamas/women. You’re all amazing.

Happy International Women’s Day to you all!

NSG xxx

(Photo credit: Ian Macharia from Unsplash.com)

World Book Day

Parenting

I am a book lover, so is my partner. Therefore my children had no choice but to be book lovers themselves! We frequent the marvellous local libraries in our borough and we have a lot of books that we read over and over again. I wanted to use this opportunity to show you all our top five favourites (in alphabetical order, links to purchasing sites when you click on the titles)…

1. BURGLAR BILL by Janet & Allan Ahlberg

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One of our favourite books, namely because Mama loves doing the voices of Burglar Bill and Burglar Betty (Got to love a glottal stop, or seventeen!). And we love ‘Boglaboll’. Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s books were really popular when I was a child, and they always seem to get it right. Their stories are timeless, and this is one of the classics for sure.

2. CHARLIE & B by Helen Webster

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This book is very special to us. It was written by the mum of a very dear friend, who lives in Johannesburg. It is set in Swaziland, where my partner grew up and where Nathi was born. It reminds us of the wonderful landscape of the country and features some indiginous creatures like porcupines and caracals. It’s funny and gorgeous, and the illustrations by Jess Jardim-Wedenpohl really capture the beauty of Swaziland… and dogs!

3. THE GRUFFALO by Julia Donaldson

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Julia Donaldson never gets it wrong. Her stories are so easy to read, so entertaining and imaginative. The Gruffalo will be on many of your top-five lists, I’m sure. It’s a wonderful story with a very brave and courageous, and slightly cocky, protagonist!

4. POO BUM by Stephanie Blake

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I think this is my favourite children’s book ever. When I first read it, I howled with laughter. Originally written in French, with the title ‘Caca Boudin’ (which is wonderful, isn’t it), the book follows a young rabbit who can only say ‘Poo Bum’. So, when a wolf wants to eat him, he replies ‘Poo Bum’. He is then subsequently eaten by the wolf, who then becomes poorly and calls the doctor. I won’t spoil the last part of the story because you need to find out for yourselves, but I urge you to find a copy of this book asap.

5. THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA by Judith Kerr

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A childhood classic for generations and generations. I love this story because the family just seem to be OK about a tiger coming to tea. I admit I have never really understood the underlying message of the story… Is Sophie telling her daddy a story (which would seem plausible given the language of the writing)? Was it a story to cover up the fact that Sophie and her mum had a massive feast and ate everything in the house? Or is it simply a girl’s idea of what it would be like if a tiger did come to tea? Any suggestions welcome, and I’m sorry if I seem dense!

So, these are our top five. What are yours? Do you have any books that you read over and over again, to the point that you don’t actually need to physically read them anymore? I often read ‘Poo Bum’ to Khaya when we didn’t have the book, and I remembered it word-for-word. I also remember being in Cape Town with my partner’s cast mates and asking them all to take turns to read it in their own way. It was very entertaining! I think my partner reads it best. His wolf voice is perfect.

Happy World Book Day to you all, and I hope you have all had fun, not stress, getting your kids ready for the celebrations at school! Let’s all keep our libraries going by regularly visiting and borrowing books. Kindles are great, but you can’t beat a proper book, especially for children.

NSG xxx

Not So Pancake Day

Parenting

Just to be different/edgy/quirky, Pancake Day in the NSG household will be on Ash Wednesday. Mainly because neither of the boys finished their dinner last night, so I wasn’t going to give in and feed them sugar instead, despite their demands and tantrums! Sometimes it is so hard to mention these things to kids, as it completely affects their ability to do anything in the moment once they know something really exciting will happen soon. And, of course, they’re going to prefer a delicious chocolate-filled pancake rather than the (actually-rather-delicious) pie and mash that I made for their dinner.

I make pancakes quite often, thanks to an amazing recipe that I was given a while ago when cereal or porridge just wasn’t cutting it with my firstborn at breakfast time. Here is a link to the recipe I was given: 2-ingredient banana pancakes. In this recipe, they recommend many different options, and I have played around with different additions for ages. I think I have got it down now, and we love to eat them with plain Greek yoghurt and fresh blueberries or strawberries. Here is what I mix together for the pancake batter:

  • Bananas – Make sure they’re ripe to overripe.
  • Eggs (large) – Use one egg for every banana you use
  • Porridge oats (A sprinkle to thicken the batter a bit)
  • Milk (To thin it out again!) – You just need a splash or two
  • Cinnamon (Because everything should have cinnamon in it) – A pinch or two, depending on your taste
  • Raisins – Enough so that each pancake has about 5 or 6 raisins in it

Use a little butter for frying, and keep them small. I usually do about two or three in the pan at the same time. Serve them with the yoghurt and berries, and enjoy! Perhaps this may help one of you when your child refuses to eat their breakfast. If these don’t work, there is a wonderful website with many ideas for new and exciting meals for kids called My Lovely Little Lunchbox. Take a look for yourself.

Wishing everyone a Happy Ash Wednesday, and good luck if you’re giving something up for Lent this year.

NSG xxx