Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Making a Marriage Work

Ohana means Family; Family means no one gets left behind, or forgotten. 

It's funny how moving away from something completely changes your perspective on it. 

When I got married, I KNEW I'd nailed it. I married a wonderful man who was supportive and fantastic and made my heart explode. 

Now, I realise that all of those things were, and are, true; but that's not necessarily an indicator of a successful marriage. 

The older I get, and the further down the marriage road we get, the more I realise that so much of our happiness is down to luck. 

When we got married, we were in the easiest phase of life. We had no responsibilities; we had so much time. We had flexibility and lots of choices to make. 

We could make those choices without really impacting on each other. If Gary had to work, I met some friends for dinner. If I was out with friends, Gary went to the gym, or went out himself. We flexed and we made it work. 

That life was so simple. No wonder we barely argued. No wonder we loved our lives together. Life was easy. 

Married life is a little (a lot) more complex. Even without children, we are tied together in a way we weren't before. 

Gary was offered a job in Qatar, just before we got married, and we had to make that decision together. 

It was the first time that we had had to make decisions that really impacted on each other. Gary's decision to take that job, meant me giving up mine and moving to another continent. We agreed the decision together, because it worked for us both at that time. We were planning to start a family, so giving up my job wasn't necessarily that much of a hardship as I'd be on maternity leave anyway. 

Then we had children. Gary's job took him away for a week or so at a time. Now his decisions at work impacted on both me and the children. I couldn't just swan off to brunch on a Friday or for ladies night on a Tuesday. I had children to take care of, to be there for, to get up in the night with. 

He couldn't just come home from a night flight and go to bed, or sleep on a sun lounger by the pool. He came home to a tired, cranky wife, who had long since passed her point of no return with either one or two children. He had to come home and pick up the mantle of Daddy, despite being shattered, because at that moment, I had nothing left to give. 

Then Gary accepted a job back in the UK. It was a decision made because it was the best fit for us all as a family. It was an easy decision to make. 

We could get the children settled at home, before school applications were due for Miss S; I could go back to work (and boy was I ready to return to the workplace) and Gary got a great new job, a promotion, and a new challenge. 

And we did, Miss S went to school, I went back to work and Gary got on tackling his new challenge (with great gusto). We settled into our new rhythm; albeit it rather more slowly and painfully than I had expected. We made it work. 

Then we had decided to have another baby. I don't think either of us had any idea of the impact a third child would have. We were in a great rhythm and routine, one which has been thoroughly thrown out of the window! 

My pregnancies are always rotten, 9 months of hyper emesis does not make it a pleasant exercise; but this time, throw in a kidney infection and SPD along with a 4 day a week job (with a daily 3 hour commute) and it was fairly horrendous. 

During said kidney infection, Gary had to go to India with work. HAD TO. There was no one else to go, and he had to go and see to his job. 

I was beyond pissed. I saw his decision to go as a betrayal. For the first time, I think ever, I questioned whether our marriage could work. I didn't know if I could forgive him. 

My friends rallied round, taking time off work and travelling cross country to come and help; for which I am eternally grateful and can never thank them enough. But the whole time I was thinking "you shouldn't have to be here, Gary should have been here". 

I also began to question the decision to have a third child. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? 

It took me a long time to see this incident from Gary's point of view. For me to recognise that him bearing the entire financial responsibility for our family, is quite a big weight around his shoulders. That he had tried to stay at home, but other things had prevented him from doing so. 

That he had felt he had no option but to go. 

It took time, and distance from the incident, before I could even begin to try to look at it from his point of view. I think I'm only now beginning to come to terms with it. 

Sometimes the decisions aren't easy. Sometimes they are really really hard and you can't win no matter what you do. 

Little S is a truly joyful addition to our family and I love her more than I can articulate. I am so glad that we made the decision to add one more to our crazy family. 

But the pressure of three children, and the logistics that go with them, have pushed me to the edge of my mental sanity. There are nights when I literally don't know how I'm going to get out of bed (again) because I'm so tired and mornings when eating ice cream is the only way I'm going to summon up the energy to keep the ball rolling. 

Having three children has compressed the time available to us; has severely restricted the time for us to be us; to enjoy time with each other. The additional workload (both from work and family life) pushes buttons and unleashes frustrations that we have never had to deal with before. 

Now, less decisions seem easy. Gary planning out his travelling with work is difficult. He has work deadlines and pressures (that mostly I have no idea about, and do not understand) which he has to accommodate; plus he is trying to accommodate our needs (my needs) and to predict the future. 

Gary cannot know that we'll all go down with the flu two days before he leaves for a week; but let me tell you, I'll resent him getting on that plane and leaving me with a house of sick children while I'm sick myself. 

The pressure to find some kind of balance is always there, pressing on us both from different angles and different places. 

Big decisions are also harder. Miss S is settled at school and I am settled at work (with no intention of ever needing maternity leave ever again). So what do we do if Gary's gets offered another overseas posting? 

Sometimes I'm terrified that an offer like that, might cause some permanent damage in our relationship. Who yields? We sacrifices? Who is making the bigger sacrifice? What is best for the family; and how do you measure that? Does the pay increase, which provides more opportunities, make it best? Is stability for all of us for the best? Even when it leaves Gary in a position where he can't advance his career? 

It seems ridiculous to be terrified by hypothetical things, which may never happen. But I have come to realise that the reason our marriage works is because of luck. 

I am lucky that Gary sees me as an equal, that he is 100% involved with the kids; that he commits himself to work and to us and lets everything else fall, even himself. Our money is family money, there's rarely a debate about finances, other than accepting that we have overspent (again). 

Neither of us had any idea of how the other might react to the things married life has brought us. Gary could have resented paying for everything while I was at home with the kids; had expectations that I would do every last scrap of housework, as he was working full time. He could have refused to do 50% of the night feeds, because he was working. 

I am lucky that he is every bit the wonderful man that I thought he was on the day that I married him. But I had no idea on that day, how those pressures would shape him (and me). 

I know he works hard for us, and with us. I know when he internally sighs when I'm sick and he has to take up the slack, even when he is supposed to be having some time to himself. I know he gets up, even when it is my "turn" because I've been up three times already and I have lost the plot. 

A marriage takes work. It doesn't just take us working together, it takes us working individually on being the best husband/wife and parent we can be. It's about biting your lip when your partner is in a foul mood; because you know they are tired beyond belief, and that this is not how they usually behave. 

I hope Gary knows that I'm working on our marriage too. That there are times that I pretend the kids slept ok, when the truth is that I'm sitting there in yoga pants trying to keep my eyes open because no one slept and I don't think I saw my bed much at all. 

That when he is sick, I try to look after him; give him time and space to heal; even when I'm quietly furious because he's about to travel with work, and his illness is bloody inconvenient and placing even more stress on me. 

Most of all, I hope that we both know that the other is trying their best. Trying to be everything to everyone and to get done what needs to be done. That we both fall short sometimes, and that we understand that.

That even when we are frustrated and mad at each other and at the world, that we are both still trying to make it work. 

This was a reading from our wedding. I hadn't even noticed it's significance until today: 

Extract from Les Miserables
Victor Hugo

You can give without loving,
but you can never love without giving. 
The great acts of love are done by those
who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. 
We pardon to the extent that we love. 
Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. 
And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.
Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves.

Small acts of kindness. That's exactly it, I hope we continue to perform small acts of kindness for each other, even when its hard, even when it's easier not to. 

When we were planning our wedding ceremony, we wrote a version of our own vows. I have a copy of the ceremony safe in my emails, something which I hadn't opened until today. 

I meant those vows then, even when I didn't understand what they meant. And I mean them now. I know we will go through more hardships, we may lose people; we may lose jobs or money or our health, but I still promise to stay and to work, and to try to see the wonder in the man that I married. 

I, Lora take you Gary, to be my husband,
knowing that you will be my constant friend,
my faithful partner in life, and my one true love.

I affirm to you in the presence of these witnesses 
my promise to stay by your side as your wife

I promise to love you without reservation,
to comfort you in times of distress,

I promise to encourage you to achieve all
of your goals,

To laugh with you and cry with you,
To grow with you in mind and spirit,

I promise to always be open and honest with you,
I promise to be true to you

In good times and in bad,
In sickness and in health.

I will love you and honor you,
All the days of my life.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Unrealistic Expectations

Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. 
Vince Lombardi

Gary once said to me that we should always assume positive intent when interpreting other people's actions. It stayed with me, and is something I reflect on quite a lot. 

It's also the hardest thing to do, especially when you aren't feeling right, or are struggling with something and want/need support. It's easy to assume someone doesn't care because they aren't in a position to be as present or as supportive as you would like. 

The one thing that having three children has taught me, is that sometimes the weight of your own life, even when it's going really well, can be so much of a burden that there just isn't room for anything else. 

In learning that sometimes I just have nothing left to give to other people (including my kids and my husband, and even myself), it really brought home the unrealistic expectations I have often had of my family and friends. 

It has made me realise that I can often be too harsh about other people, and judge them, without really reflecting on whether my expectations are too high. 

Or, even if they are not too high, that my expectations may not be able to be met by a particular person (or anyone at all), not because they don't want to, but because there is only such much burden one person can shoulder. 

Expectations on Other People

Gary and I got married in California...

Which sounds fine, until you realise that we lived in Manchester, UK. 

We decided to have our wedding 3,000 miles from home, on a farm, in the middle of Santa Barbara, about as far from an airport/train station as possible. 

I was so consumed with having "Our day, our way" that I barely gave much thought to the pressure we were placing on our nearest and dearest. 

I felt like I was being graceful, because we didn't expect people to come. We understood that it would not be possible for everyone to come, that it would be too much of a time or financial (or both!) commitment for some of our friends and family. (I'm seriously rolling my eyes at myself nowadays). 

The only wedding I had ever been to, at this point, was my mum's wedding to my step-dad. Mum arranged and paid for everything for us, and we pretty much just showed up. So I had absolutely no understanding about the pressure of a close friend or family member getting married half way around the world. 

Because it wasn't about me being "graceful" about people not coming to our wedding. It was about our friends and family who actually WANTED to come to our wedding, who had to reconcile the enormous sacrifices of actually making that happen. 

We had thirty guests at our wedding. All of whom were cheerful and excited and said all the right things about our wedding... To our faces anyway. 

I'm sure there was quite a bit of cursing going on when they realised how much flights were going to cost to California in school holidays; and while they were trying to figure out how the hell they were going to get from LAX to our wedding venue up the the mountains. 

in hindsight, I wasn't graceful, they were the graceful ones. They smiled and didn't complain and our wedding truly was the most magical day. 

It is even more magical now, in hindsight, now that I understand a little more about the cost of our guests actually showing up. Watching our wedding video has taken on new meaning, and I realise how truly "blessed" I actually am. 

Now that I have been to a few more weddings, taken time off work, booked hotel rooms and made travel arrangements, I understand just how bloody selfish we were! How little we even considered the needs and wants of other people, when planning the logistics for our wedding.

Expectations on Ourselves

I have always considered myself to be a good friend. Better than a good friend, I would have said I was a ruddy excellent friend, thank you very much. 

I would always take phone calls, even late into the night, for an upset friend; always be there when they needed me; drop plans when they had problems. I was rocking the whole friendship thing...

Except, it's kind of easy to do that when you are in a nice easy relationship with no pressures, no real responsibilities and a pretty straightforward life with lots of room around the edges. 

I was a good friend because I had the time. I had the mental space to remember other people's job interview's and doctors appointments and anniversaries of their parent's death. 

I sent cards, flowers, presents. I was present. I knew the right thing to say, I knew when to show up, even when friends said it wasn't needed (because I knew that they did need it). 

Now, I'm not that great a friend. I mean to be. I try to be. But I'm falling short of the expectations I have for myself. 

The worst part, is that I no longer know the right thing to say. I get tongue tied and clumsy and say things that just sound weird. 

I hear the words come out of my mouth and I have no idea what possessed me. Even if the words are right, often the tone is wrong. I feel the words fall flat and I know I've missed the mood. 

I don't have the mental space to feel other people's pain in the way that I used to. I can't feel my way through it now. I no longer know instinctively what to say, or what to do. It leave me hesitant and strangely anxious and whatever I seem to say comes out wrong. 

I can't show up in the same way as before either. 

Before we had kids, my mum fell down the stairs and broke both of her legs. I got the call at 1am, and I got dressed and headed straight to the hospital. I took emergency leave from work and I stayed with her while she had surgery. My step-dad and I sat in her hospital room until 3am while she was in recovery. I ran errands, I was useful, I was supportive. 

Last year mum fell down the stairs (again) and broke several ribs. I wasn't there. I didn't get there. I didn't go to the hospital, I did visit her at home. I'm not even sure I sent flowers. I wanted to, but I didn't. I dropped the ball. 

I called and text and tried to offer some support over the phone, but I fell short of the expectations I have for myself, and probably the expectations my mum had for support from her only daughter.

One of my closest friend's husbands was taken ill a couple of years ago. Really sick. Blue lighted to hospital sick. I fell short of the expectations I have for myself. I wasn't really there. 

We don't live very close anymore, and though I don't think my friend ever expected me to get on a train (although I certainly could have, certainly should have), I barely called or text. 

I was a little bit supportive when it originally happened (long distance and by phone only), and then, I wasn't. 

My friend isn't the type to complain, or to push for support, even when she needs it the most. I KNOW that. I know that getting her to talk about what is going on with her, isn't easy. I know her well enough to know I needed to be the one calling and texting and making my presence felt. 

I didn't. The worst part is that I wasn't even aware that I wasn't doing it. I didn't realise until much later, until I realised how much support had been provided by other friends, friends who were significantly better friends during that period than I had been. 

I didn't just drop that ball, I dropped it and it rolled behind the sofa, never to be seen again. When I realised, I felt, still feel, ashamed. That's not the friend I want to be. 

Recently, another friend lost her dad. I knew he was sick, I knew she was devastated. I knew she was coming to stay with him, close to where I live. I dropped that ball too. 

I only realised I had dropped that ball when she apologised to me, for not getting in touch when she was back. While she was dealing with the prospect of losing a parent, while looking after her children, in someone else's house, she felt bad that she hadn't been in touch with me. 

All of this, it made me realise that I often judge other's too harshly. That I often get frustrated when people don't drop everything to provide support when I need it. 

I'm pretty vocal when I'm having a hard time, every man and his dog knows it, it's how I cope with it. I talk too much and nothing much changes when I'm having a hard time. 

Having three children has taught me that I need to practice what I preach. I need to assume positive intent when people don't provide the support that I feel I need. That sometimes people unintentionally drop balls; unintentionally cannot be there for you, even though they love you and want to support you. 

Sometimes a person you love isn't even on your radar, even though you want them to be, even though they need you to be. 

All my family and friends have been nothing but gracious about my inability to be the supportive person I used to be. For that I'm really grateful. That makes me realise exactly how incredible my family and friends are, and how unbelievably lucky I am. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year's Resolution - To Do Less

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. 

As 2017 draws to a close, it's time to reflect on the year behind us and look forward to the year ahead.

2017 has been a brilliant year in many ways. Little S arrived safe and sound and has been a joyful addition to our family. We've attended close friends' weddings and spent time with friends and family that we love.

But it has been an exhausting year. I am currently taking my next round of antibiotics, having come down with tonsillitis on Christmas Eve. It definitely feels like a bit of a hint from those in charge that I have tried to cram too much into the year.

I've been feeling it since about September, when Little S caught cold after cold after cold, basically leading up to Christmas Eve, when I finally went down with tonsillitis in complete defeat.

We struggled through Christmas presents opening (Gary and Little S were also down with a stomach bug) and then took it in turns sleeping/child handling. Christmas Dinner was delayed for two days and we are still nowhere near back to fighting fit.

I like to plan, and I like to see people. I love having things to do and people to see. So I plan as much in as I can, and this year, I planned too much.

I have basically, single handedly, run us all into the ground.

For all the talk back in July and August about taking care of my mental and physical health, I've done nothing but put pressure on all of us, and leave no room to breathe. It's left me a shell of myself and, worse, it's left the kids with the worst version of me. I have no patience and I have no time to play properly with them. That has to change.

We are a family, and families require maintenance to make them run smoothly. It's taken me getting sick to realise exactly how much has to change, and how difficult it is to change a mindset.

So here goes, my New Year's Resolution for 2018 is To Do Less.

Doing less is going to need to include the following:

Kids Logistics: 

Gary's work logistics are so complex that updating his calendar is literally a full time job. He, quite frankly, does not have the time to get involved in the logistics of the kids and their various activities and social lives.

It falls to me, which is fine, until I get a bit over excited and schedule in too much. I have spent the year in a frenzy of playdates and structured activities and school logistics and just more and more stuff.

We ended up just not going to some of the Christmas activities I had planned (and paid for) because we were just all too tired to actually benefit from it.

Thankfully we have already sorted the main stressor, having the kids at nursery/after school clubs. It just was not working. Gary already works in various places/abroad and long hours and along side my 3 hour round trip into Birmingham each working day, it was just not manageable.

I was ducking out of work at 5pm exactly and racing for the train, racing for the car and racing (well, crawling in heavy traffic) towards the nursery/after school clubs for the 6pm closing time.

Then we were getting the kids bundled in the car, home and then there was a frenzied hour of food, bath and bed. There are no time to play, there was no time to just be.

We had already had our amazing nanny work one day a week with us, which massively took the pressure off for us. When we got home, they are in the their pyjamas, they have been fed and bathed and they are ready for an hour or so of quiet quality time. It changed the whole dynamic of the day.

It also meant that if my train was cancelled or I needed to work late (and Gary couldn't get home for 6pm) that there was someone with them, who could put them to be if necessary. The relief that this gave me was massive. It was a huge weight off my shoulders.

So we have increased her hours for when I go back to work from maternity leave. This should give us a lot more flexibility and a lot less stress, firstly because she's incredible and secondly because I don't have to clock watch constantly from 4pm to make sure my work is done and I can be out of the door.

Here are the changes that I'm planning to implement in the New Year for the kids activities/logistics:

  • Our nanny has kindly agreed to do some of the kids washing while I am at work (which makes me have a vague hope that the mountain of washing will become more like a big hill!); she will also do some reading with the kids after school (which will help a lot as we'll have two infant school children come September) and take them to swimming straight from school (so we don't have to do it on a Saturday!); 
  • Reduce their activities to swimming plus one other. Miss S wants to do literally everything, and I've spent the last term ferrying her to and from no less that six separate activities. I am exhausted, mentally, and she is exhausted physically. There is plenty of time to add in more activities as they get older, but for now, I have to accept that four activities is enough for me to logistically manage (in terms of paying fees and organising clothing each week etc) and for us to have to shuttle the kids to and from. It's also enough for the other kids to have to stand round and watch! 
  • One playdate each a month. That is whether they go to someone's house or come to our house. I try to keep them on the same day each time, so that in one hit I've done both kids playdates. Otherwise one of the days per week that we have no activities, I'm constantly in and out of the house trying to drop off or pick up, or entertaining other children at my house. It has just become too much. 
  • Parties. Hmmmm. This one is more tricky. I want to reduce the amount of parties that my kids go to, but I'm not sure of the best way to go about it. Obviously it's rude to drop out of one party in favour of another, but currently we spend at least 3 or 4 days a month ferrying the two older kids to birthday parties, and that is only going to increase when Little S joins the birthday party ranks. I think we are going to accept the invitations from children who I know our children play with, rather than just accepting every invitation which arrives. Otherwise the first three months of 2018 may be a repeat of 2017, when we went to a party a week for 12 weeks! 

Social Life Logistics:

This is the hard one. I already feel like I barely see some of my longest and closest friends. There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day/days in the week as it is, and so I've been really reluctant to scale any of our social life back. 

But the reality is, I'm not 21 anymore. There isn't just me and Gary to think of, to take time for. We have three kids who need a lot of time. Much more time than I thought. 

Even though Miss S and Master L aren't babies anymore, they need more quality time with us than ever before. They need interaction and space to play and to return to us. This has to fit in around the inevitable life admin that needs to be done, plus carving out some time for me and Gary (together and separately). 

It was much easier when we lived in Dubai. Most of my local friends didn't work, so we used to meet up during the daytime. My international friends and family were regularly called and skyped, which tided us over until the next visit, which was inevitably months apart.

Our weekends were our own to potter about and do family things with no pressure.

For some reason, the telephone calls and skyping stopped as soon as we got back to the UK. As if we were suddenly around the corner and telephone calls were now redundant. We booked in more face to face time, just because the travel was less.

I went back to work, which moved most of my socialising to evenings and weekends, further cutting into family time.

So I've been taking an honest look at my calendar for the last few months, and have had to make some difficult choices in order to keep us all from getting run down and sick. I'm definitely going to begin scheduling in telephone calls again, and making sure I can maintain my relationships even when it's not possible to physically be in the same room.

Social life adjustments:

  • To have family/friends stay over a maximum of once a month. Due to my overzealous scheduling, we had family and friends to stay over three consecutive weekends in November. It was fabulous, but we fell behind on the washing and homework and stayed up late, and drank too much, and ate too much. I'm definitely getting too old for that much excitement! 
  • To use one weeknight a week to catch up with friends by telephone. 
  • To schedule one date night a month with Gary, so we get some time to ourselves. 
  • To go out with mutual friends once every 6 weeks or so.
  • For me to reduce my nights out to 1 or 2 a month. 
  • To go to the gym during the week, but not at weekends, keeping them clear. 

Work Life Logistics

I'm not going to lie, my first year back at work was a bit of a disaster. Trying to navigate work and the logistics of the kids and drop offs and pick ups and late nights and working away was much harder than I thought. Neither Gary nor I work a standard 9-5 job, overtime is expected and necessary, and as is some travel (Gary more than me).

The set up we had was just not working and I was the one feeling the strain, because the responsibility of all childcare essentially fell to me. Gary is the higher earner and we need him to be doing his job properly or the mortgage doesn't get paid!

My job, whilst I love it and I don't want to stop working, doesn't bring much additional income at all once we have paid for the childcare we need and for my travel into Birmingham. Obviously our childcare costs should decrease over time, and hopefully my wages will rise, but it still means that me going to work is essentially an optional extra, which sometimes we cannot afford because of the time pressures it places on our family.

Now that we have our nanny providing childcare three days per week, that should take a lot of pressure off me. If any of the kids are sick, then our nanny will be there to look after them. If it's the school holidays, the costs don't increase because we are already paying our nanny. If the trains are running late, the kids will still be fed, bathed and, if necessary, in bed at the usual time.

So that's the majority of the childcare related stressors taken care of, but what about work itself? My ability to complete my work to the best of my ability was always compromised by my need to clock watch. I had to pick and choose what work I would complete when, and there wasn't a great deal of wriggle room, when something urgent came up.

Again, most of that should now have been resolved, but I still need to build in a little more of a contingency plan. A little more dedicated time, so I know I can put more into my work.

  • Plan to work late one night a week. This means that our nanny knows I'm coming home late. So she can work towards bedtime, in case Gary doesn't get home before then. It also means that I can stay and, even if I'm not overrun with work, I can get a little ahead, building in some time for when the inevitable emergency crops up. 
  • Not having to dive out of the door at 5pm on the dot. Previously I was having to get one the first train, to make allowances for traffic, or so that if it was cancelled, I had a chance of getting on the second one and being at nursery for 6pm. Now I can stay and just finish off what I'm doing, knowing that if I don't get home until 6:10pm, the kids are fine and taken care of. 

Phew, that is a MASSIVE post. It took writing it out to realise exactly how much pressure I had been placing on everyone in the family by jam-packing our schedule in every direction with stuff. 

For those of you who will be in bed before midnight, I hope 2018 brings you a lie in! 

For those of you who will still be partying this New Year's Eve, I hope the hangover is short and that 2018 starts with a bang. 

Much love xx

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Miss S turns 5!

Let me love you a little more, before you're not little anymore. 

Miss S you have just turned five years old! I literally have no idea where the time went and I cannot believe that you have already been at school for a year and have begun Year 1. 

The last 12 months have been such a big change for you, and you have handled starting school brilliantly. You are the youngest in your year, but you took school completely in your stride and, save for the first week back to school after Christmas, you have never shown any reluctance about going to school. 

You seem to love reading, and you were asking to do your homework for most of Reception year. You even got Star of the Week for being a good example to others. 

You found it hard at the end of the school year when you realised that your class was going to be mixed up, and you aren't going to be with all of your friends in Year 1. Sade is going into the other class, and you are sad that she isn't going to be in your class everyday. 

You've discovered You've Been Framed, which has you giggling your head off! You have a really great sense of humour and have been discovering joke books, which you find so funny. You love your princess and ballerina books and anything pink. 

You are sucking your thumb again, having not sucked it (save for bedtime) for over 9 months. I think the end of the school year was pretty exhausting for you, and we have struggled to get you to give it up since! 

You are generally sunny and cheerful and you are happy to help me by fetching things and getting yourself dressed. Although you do occasionally huff and puff about having to do "chores". 

You've also just finished your first ballet show, which you did without even a backwards glance. You love being around people and have found the summer holidays hard because you were without all of your friends every day. 

We've had an amazing year this year and I can't wait to spend the next one with you. I'm so proud of the person you are and the person you are becoming. I hope you keep that sunny disposition and your relaxed attitude to all that you do. 

I love you. xx

This year I decided to begin asking Miss S and Master L some questions, so I can chart some of the things they love as we enter each new year:

What is your favourite thing to wear? 
My grey dress.

What is your favourite colour? 

What is your favourite toy? 
My tsum tsums. 

What is one new thing you learned this year? 
That now we get new home books. 

How do you like to spend your time? 
Go out with the whole of my family. 

What is your favourite time of year?
August - because that's when my birthday is. 

Who is your teacher? 
Miss Wall. 

Who are your best friends? 
Sade and Emmeline. 

What is your favourite song? 
Mary Mary Quite Contrary. 

What is your favourite book? 
My ballerina stories book. 

What did you love most about this year? 
The last day of school. 

What are you looking forward to next year? 
Doing new things. 

What are you best at? 
Playing with my friends. 

What do you want to be when you grow up? 
 A teacher. 

What is your favourite movie? 

What is your favourite food? 
Sausage rolls. 

What is your favourite animal? 

The best thing about you is? 
That I do lots of art. 

What do you want to practice next year? 
Hopping because I normally falled over. 

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A Wardrobe Overhaul - Smart Casual, with and without kids!

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they remember the woman. 
Coco Chanel

So, having talked about the quest to find my style mojo, I've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about my wardrobe and what I want it to look like going forwards. 

I've been through my wardrobe and pulled out those things that I no longer like. It's still left me with quite a big wardrobe, no capsule wardrobe for me! 

However, I have noticed that I don't seem to have versatile outfits. I have half outfits, or pieces that are good for one season but can't be transferred to another season with ease. 

So I've decided to work on adding on those things to my wardrobe which I think will enhance what is already in it, and not adding in more than one or two new outfits. 

I have also realised that I have different wardrobes for different occasions, namely: 

  • Work;
  • Going out;
  • Casual with the kids;
  • Smart casual with the kids;
  • Smart casual WITHOUT the kids. 

So I'm going to work through what I have in my (recently reduced) wardrobe, and those items I am thinking about adding to my wardrobe to make the pieces I have work a little better. 

Smart Casual

As much as I love my yoga pants, I don't really like being photographed in them! I also want to be that woman who is pristine; who always looks well dressed. 

At the same time, being a mum, my clothes need to be practical and comfortable, especially as I spend a lot of time sitting on the floor, and I get covered in sticky fingerprints. 

I feel like my recent efforts to be practical and comfortable have left me with a sensible wardrobe but it doesn't really suit me. 

I want me wardrobe to reflect me, and be able to be dressed up or down depending on where we are going and what we are doing. 

We spend quite a lot of time at National Trust properties these days, and as autumn rolls in, I'm sure I'm going to need a fully casual section of my wardrobe, fleeces and walking boots and all. 

But, we live in a town, and we also spend a lot of our time in and around town, in shops; coffee shops and restaurants. So I imagine my smart casual wardrobe is one I'm going to be wearing regularly. 

Outfit 1, 2, 3 and 4:

Quite possibly my favourite purchases this year are these jersey dresses from H&M:

When I initially bought them, I was bemoaning the fact that they didn't come in brighter colours, particularly as they were intended for daytime wear on our holiday to Spain. I do love a bit of purple, blue and red, and would love these dresses in those colours (hint hint H&M!). 

But, as the weather is turning and the clouds are rolling in a little more often than I would like, I'm starting to see some real potential in these dresses, and ways to make them befit the colder seasons. Save for maybe the pink one, that one might have to be stored away at the back of my wardrobe until the warmer weather returns and hotter climates beckon. 

These dresses are lightweight, easy to wear and hide sticky fingermarks really well. It also comes in black, but I prefer the colours above. 

Carrying kids and their endless supplies around means that I'm often hot, then cold, then hot again. So I'm finding that thick jumpers and warm coats often don't work as I'm too hot and then freezing when I take a layer off. 

So I'm hoping that a bit of layering will mean that these dresses can be worn even in the depths of winter! 

So, first things first, I'm going to need some long sleeved tops to go under the dresses. I want tops which I'm happy to wear on their own, either with jeans or a skirt. 

So far I'm looking at this double layer t-shirt in black from The White Company. They also do this in Navy, which I think may well make the list too: 

I would love this top in the dark grey too, but it's only available in a size 8 now, and so likely to be sold out by the time I get around to buying it! 

However, The White Company does have a v-neck double layer t-shirt in both a mid-grey and a navy blue, which looks so comfortable. At £55 it is a significant investment in what is a plain t-shirt, but I think it's something that I would like to try on. After all, better an expensive and well fitting t-shirt that is fit for purpose; than one which will languish at the back of the wardrobe for the next year. 

It's also very pretty and something I would happily wear with jeans or a skirt for a relatively relaxed look. 

Black tights are my winter staple with and dress and I think I'll be repurposing the 80 denier black tights from Heist Studios from my work wardrobe (if they are as good as they claim!). 


I already own a pair of black suede ankle boots from Jones the Bootmakers. They are fab, and are fur lined, so they are lovely and cosy. 

However, being out and about with kids usually means grass; and grass and mud and suede isn't really a great combo. 

I really struggle with knee boots because I have wide calves, and regular knee boots just do not fit (and wellies, but that's a whole other post!). 

So I'm undecided between these black Reflection knee boots from Duo Boots:

Or these Heavenly Soles knee high black boots from Simply Be:

Both companies allow you to measure your calves and select the appropriate width fitting; the main difference here is the price. I'm torn between choosing for these boots to be an investment piece, or whether to try to be sensible and just buy the Simply Be boots for the moment, as I have quite a bit of finishing up of my wardrobe to do. 

The heels on both of those pairs of boots are low enough for me to handle three children and a pram, but big enough for me to feel a bit more put together. 

I'm also seriously coveting several pairs of Duo Boots in tan leather, but I think I'll get more wear out of the black ones, so I'm shoving the tan ones to the back of my mind for now! 

Next up, the leather jacket. I am in serious need of a leather jacket. I wore my old one literally until it fell apart. Then we moved to the Middle East and the need for a leather jacket vanished into thin air. 

Again, there is a whole range of leather jackets out there and it's so easy to spend a LOT of money on one. The reality for me is that I need a leather jacket now, and I just cannot justify sinking hundreds upon hundreds of pounds into one at this moment in time. 

So I think I'm going for this Bella Leather Biker Jacket from Superdry: 

Over the summer, I've been wearing these dresses with my pale blue Converse trainers. I can't find the exact pair, which have pink piping, but they are similar to these:

As we may still get some sunny days, even as we head into autumn, I've added this denim jacket from Gap to my shopping list. I think it will be great for slightly warmer days, when you don't need the additional warmth of the leather jacket. 

Outfit 5:

I now own several pairs of these Gap Boot-Cut jeans. Unfortunately I promptly dropped 3kgs in weight a few weeks after buying them (which I had been trying to do unsuccessfully for some time!). 

Luckily I bought them in the sale for £15 each, so I don't feel as bad as I would have done if I had bought them at full price. I'm hoping they drop the price again in the next sale so I can downsize. 

They are really comfortable and don't stretch that much, so they hold their shape really well. 

I'm definitely a boot-cut girl, I've been embracing the skinny jean phase, but I really just don't think it suits me. The boot-cut definitely balances out my curvy hips! 

I've picked up two t-shirts from Joules, which I really like, but I'm not convinced they like me. 

I really struggle with Joules, I love their clothes on other people but I don't feel like the cut of their clothes really suit me. 

So while I'm continuing to keep and wear them for now, I'm on the look out for something to replace them, or to relegate them to the casual look!

I'm completely in love with this top from Karen Millen! They have it in three colours, but I'm hankering after the blue and the black. 

I think it will be a great pairing with blue jeans for a smart casual look, probably along with the leather jacket and my ankle/knee boots!

Outfit 6:

I also have this gorgeous dress from Oasis. I love love love it but I'm just not sure yet whether this is going to have to be relegated to a summer only dress or whether I can make it wearable throughout the winter months. 

I'm undecided on whether I can pull this off with black tights and a leather jacket; if you have any ideas, please let me know!