40th card

Learning To Love The Big 4-0!

I entered my 40th year last month and I have to admit I am still trying to get my head around my new age.  When I’m asked how old I am, I find myself imitating Rainman and pronouncing the number as if I’ve never heard it before “Four-T, Forre-T, Forrre-T”.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t lied about my age since turning 40 and in fact I did some major celebrating for my birthday, which pretty much lasted 3 weeks and all kicked off with an amazing weekend in Palma with 9 of my closest girlfriends along with my 2 gay husbands. However, since the celebrations have ceased I am now left with the uneasy feeling of being stuck with this age!

I have been trying to rack my brain as to why I feel this way.  A lot of my friends are already into their 40s, they look fabulous on it, have embraced it and have said its their favourite decade yet.  We are told that ‘Life begins at 40’ but how can that be true when its the start of our middle age?!  So, not one to be negative and in a bid to learn how to suppress a sob whenever filling out an application form and realising I’m in the next age bracket tick box, I have decided to compile a For and Against list to see if that helps.

 

Good Things

  • I do feel more of a grown up now.  I don’t tend to sweat the small stuff as much as I did in my 30s and definitely not as much as I did in my 20s when everything was analysed over and stressed about.
  • I feel more inclined to be healthier and look after myself now.  Unfortunately, it is through necessity as I consume endless information on superfoods and healthy living blogs whilst trying not to obsess about my weight/skin/hair.  I am still holding on to my skinny jeans (which are probably best donated to a 20 year old) because you never know, those sandbags I developed on my hips from my twin pregnancy might disappear one day?
  • I achieved a great deal in my 20s and 30s. I climbed the career ladder in the profession I wanted to work in, went to fabulous places/parties/concerts, met an amazing man, married him and we had three gorgeous kids.  My goals can now be adjusted to what I want rather than what I need, although glossy thick hair as if I’m in a Pantene advert and a bank balance similar to Victoria Beckham’s might be slightly out of my reach.
  • I am happy with the simple things in life.  I’m no longer desperate to wear the latest fashion, be ahead of every trend or to always have plans for a Friday and Saturday night.  Instead I love a night in front of the TV with the hubster and a nice bottle of wine, a good book, a meal in a good restaurant or a night at the theatre/cinema.  I don’t need to be the last one standing in the club anymore (although me and the girls did stay out till 4am in Palma) and now happily opt for a bar with ‘somewhere nice to sit and chat’ instead.
  • My friends are my family and my family are my friends.  Gone are my fly by night friends of my 20s and those that are still with me from that decade are like extended members of my family.  We have been through it all together and will be in it for the long run now.  Any new friends I have made are keepers too as I can only surround myself with people I have a connection with.  My beloved parents I now regard as my friends as we holiday together, socialise together, appreciate (lots of) wine together.  They have always been my on-hand therapists but now I feel I am old enough to return the therapy when my advice is needed.

Bad Things

  • I have a lot more ailments at 40 then I did at 20.  I am basically a pin cushion for my doctor now with regular thyroid tests, we discuss pre-menopause and I am also now eligible for breast screening.  No longer are my visits to the doctor for an occasional water infection from burning the candle at both ends but instead are due to irritable bowel syndrome with my metabolism giving up the ghost.  If you have period problems in your 20s the doctors are on hand to discuss options – period problems in your 40s I am told its my age and it is to be expected and perhaps I could whip it all out if I’m fed up with it!
  • Dealing with the ageing process.  Gone is the tinted moisturiser for youthful skin and now instead I need foundation that drag queens endorse to cover those rosescia and age spots freckles and blushes.  Plus the constant control of my grey hair natural highlights without looking like Paul McCartney (a la aubergine) and what is with the chin hair?
  • I can’t do hangovers anymore.  I do love a tipple or two but literally more than two or three drinks and I’m contending with insomnia most of the night, a day spent feeling like my organs have been removed and the type of alcohol blues that make me want to start writing morose poetry.

It seems that the good things do outweigh the bad things.  I think the best way to sum it up is in the words of Lucille Ball:

“The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.”

So if anyone asks – I’m 39! Which means I can celebrate my 40th again this year!!

 

 

 

beach 2016

Hello 2016

Considering it is only the 3rd of January, 2015 already feels like a distant memory.  It has been a big year in my family with me turning the big 4-0, my Mum celebrating her 70th and my Mum-in-law turning 80.  My eldest son is well settled into his sulky tweenager role having recently hit the grand old age of 12 and our twins celebrated their 8th birthdays in the summer. Time is most definitely flying by and we are doing our best to make the most of our days.  However, before we completely turn our back on 2015 and make promises of 2016 being the best year yet, I would like to walk back through some of the headlines of 2015, just as I did for 2014 (http://anounceofme.com/2014/12/31/so-long-farewell-auf-wiedersehen-2014/)

FEAR LIVES ON

Terrorism unfortunately made itself known in Europe with Isis seeming to gather momentum and slaughter the innocent on Tunisian beaches and Paris sidewalks.  We all felt the vulnerability of evil on our shores and watched helplessly as thousands of Syrians risked their lives fleeing warzones and into Europe seeking salvation.

POLITICS

David Cameron cancelled his removal vans after the SNP pretty much wiped out Labour in Scotland and the Tories returned to power without their Lib Dem sidekick this time.  Mr Cameron was smug jovial about his victory as PM until that ‘pig story’ hit the papers and it was difficult to watch him speak without feeling a little bit queasy.  Ed stepped down as Labour leader and we watched as the outsider Jeremy Corbyn, who was likened to a very unexciting Geography teacher, took the leadership role. Still, at least he’s a vegetarian so unlikely to have taken part in a pigs head initiation ceremony in his past.  Across the pond in the US, Donald Trump joined Hillary Clinton in the race for the Whitehouse.  Trump likes to offend everyone it seems from Mexicans to Muslims, women and gay people right down to hairdressers and tanning salons with the oompa loompa tan and comb over he likes to sport!  Apparently he says to prospective voters on his campaign trial “to touch my hair, its real”! Er no thanks!

R.I.P. CECIL

An American dentist became a hate figure after taking part in a trophy hunt in Africa and killed a beloved lion named Cecil from a national park. I was extremely saddened by this as I cannot see the pleasure in killing a beautiful defenceless animal, especially those at risk from poachers already! It seems that he received his just desserts as the news of him luring the elderly big cat to its death hit social media and he had to go into hiding while his dental practice was decorated in cuddly toy lions as a protest.

WHOOPS A DAISY

One of my personal lows this year was when it was announced that Dave Grohl had fallen off stage and the Foo Fighters would have to cancel their summer concerts at Wembley Stadium. This would have been my fourth Foos concert and I instead spent the whole day being a sulky teenager and trying to recreate the gig in my back garden by drinking beer from plastic tumblers and encouraging my twins to stage dive from the patio. However, it seemed to be catching when Madonna took a tumble after a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ caused her backing dancer to accidentally drag her backwards off a set of stairs at The Brit Awards.  As it was a live televised event Madge had nowhere to hide and had to scramble up onto her feet looking like Patsy from Ab Fab after a skinfull and carry on trying to sing her song.

BIRTHS, DEATHS AND MARRIAGES

The world’s media camped outside a posh London hospital awaiting the birth of Princess Charlotte.  Kate and Wills emerged onto the steps holding the new royal baby which was apparently an hour after childbirth with new Mum Kate looking as if she was about to attend a formal event rather than having just been through a traumatic event.  Her hair and make-up was perfect, baby weight well hidden in a designer dress leaving the public wondering how much of an entourage did she have waiting in the wings?!

‘Our Cilla’ took her last curtain call along with Jackie Collins, Lemmy, Warren Mitchell and Leonard Nimoy to name but a few.  The news of Cilla Black’s departure became the most Googled news item of the year showing what a mark she made on the UK, I remember fondly playing Blind Date with my cousins as we sat with our backs turned to the TV and listened to Graham and his quick reminders!

Mark TOWIE Wright married Michelle Keegan in a wedding only people with Rylan’s megawatt style teeth were allowed to attend.  Peter Andre and Jennifer Aniston went in for their second time lucky weddings (although not to each other) and Stephen Fry married his 30 years younger toyboy (go Stephen).

FINAL NOTE

Paper 2016

How I will spend most of January writing the date.

I have been trawling through the web trying to find an inspirational quote to sum up 2015.  The year of politics, of terror, of great change ahead.  I could turn to a great prophet but instead I will quote Justin Bieber, not because I am in any way shape or form a ‘Belieber’ and my eldest son will not allow his little sister to play Justin’s music EVER, but just to sum up how not to get too tied down with religion/politics I will leave you with this:

‘Like I said, you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn’t make you a taco,’ Justin Bieber 

 

The Children earning their keep!

Carry On Glamping

My hubby is buying camping gear again.  He is studying the screen of his iPad as if his life depended on it, scanning the various deals on Ebay and bidding against other Dad campers looking for the best price in portable gas cookers or enamel mugs.  It has become an addiction of his ever since I begrudgingly agreed to ‘give camping a go’. Apparently, sleeping in a home decked out in waterproof material in the Great Outdoors is fun! It will reconnect us with nature, he says, make me appreciate the peace and quiet around me and help us embrace back to basics living.  I, however, envisage a weekend of living like a survivor from The Walking Dead, looking grubby all weekend, not bothering to change out of my pyjama’s during the day and trying to make a family meal out of a can of beans and a pack of sausages.

When the whole camping holiday idea was put on the table last year it was laughed out of the room by me and my 7-year-old daughter.  Sleep in a tent? Wee in the woods? My daughter won’t even use a public toilet without moaning about the state of the facilities.  However, with two sons aged 7 and 11 with a reason to behave like Bear Grylls on holiday, not having to wash much and being allowed to wee in the woods, us girls were outnumbered and the camping gear started arriving in the post.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, for hubby’s birthday in April, I booked us 5 and our golden Labrador Chester on a ‘Glamping’ holiday.  It would be 3 days in a “luxurious home from home canvas retreat”, basically a posh tent with wooden floors, proper beds, working toilet, a shower and a kitchen.  This is how camping is meant to be done, as if I am a member of royalty on safari in Africa.  If I could hack this and actually enjoy myself then I would definitely slum it on a normal camping holiday after.

Out of Africa and into a Chicken Farm in Suffolk!

Out of Africa and into a Chicken Farm in Suffolk!

There were 5 tents situated in a large farmers field on a working chicken farm.  Thankfully, a free range egg farm, with about 3,000 chickens happily scratching about in a neighbouring field.  The tent was love at first sight with oak wood floors, thick canvas on the outer walls with huge tapestries hanging from the inner walls. The tent was decked out in shabby chic furniture and the beds were beautifully made with plenty of hanging space for our clothes.  It was, however, definitely back to basics as my eldest discovered whilst trying to plug in his iPhone.  There was no electric hook-up and our only source of heat was the Aga in our lounge area, but we did have running water which was a bonus.  I was already picturing myself in a scene from Poldark, making pies for the Aga, trying my hand at needlework in front of the fire and taking a turn round the room with hubby in the evening.

In the tent next to us, we thankfully had neighbours consisting of a family of five like us with children of similar ages to ours and even a dog for Chester to harass.  Kids being kids struck up a friendship with each other after about 7 minutes whilst us grown ups just waved and made a bit of small talk about the weather.  Despite my fears of the children moaning constantly about being bored, they instead become feral quite quickly and proceeded to build dens and climb trees and introduce themselves to the farmer all within the first few hours of arrival.  All was hunky dory as we settled down for our pasta evening meal that I had prepared on our two gas ring stove (planning on cooking my Poldark pies on the Aga tomorrow, might even bake some bread).  Hubby had got the Aga fire burning to its maximum capability and we hoped that soon the tent would warm up nicely for our first nights sleep.

After an hour or two, we realised that the heat output generated by the Aga was not really going to warm up any part of the tent and that it was mainly for show.  As the kids started to shiver and put their coats back on in the tent, I realised then that all was not well, that in fact there was quite a strong breeze coming through the gaps in the lovingly sanded wooden floors and that the sheer size of the tent meant that any heat generated was never going to be distributed.  As it was only 7.30pm we couldn’t really go to bed to warm up, so brought ALL of the quilts into the lounge to play Scrabble.  As a westerly breeze blew through the lounge, we wrapped the kids up with hats and gloves and starting to unpack our clothes so we could wear all of them.  Chester, who normally will happily sleep at our feet, climbed on top of our quilts and moaned.  The dog was even cold, this was not boding well!

We sent the kids to bed in as many layers as possible and wished them goodnight whilst trying to laugh off the fact that they could actually see the breath leave our mouths from the cold environment around us.  I was now refusing any offers of wine as I was too cold to visit the loo and against medical advice, was dehydrating myself in a bid not to have to undress at any point.  Me and hubby took our turn around the room, however, we had to do it with the throws from the couch wrapped around us and it was more of a shuffle and a shiver then a pleasant stroll.  Luckily, hubby had brought hot water bottles which was the only reason I didn’t cry when inserting myself into the freezing cold bedding.  We prayed for a sunny morning and hoped we would make it through the night without frostbite.

The Children earning their keep!

The Children earning their keep!

The following morning, we were all up bright and early.  Our neighbours had literally moved into their car so they could put their heater on.  Thankfully, the sun came out and we were able to defrost a bit. We headed off to the local supermarket and as well as our planned shopping list, stocked up on firelighters and even managed to find some long johns in the sale section. We spent all day out and about visiting the Suffolk coast and basking in the sunshine, trying not to think about another cold night in the tent.  When we returned ‘home’, Chester point blanked refused to enter the tent as if the tent had transformed into the vets.  Our host, the farmer, walked over to see us and in true British fashion we told her how settled we felt and how well we had slept, with no intention to complain, stiff upper lip and all that.  She told us of a dog friendly/child friendly pub in walking distance that we could visit that evening and with the promise of a real open fire we decided it was the best bet.

After trying to persuade the local publican to let us sleep in the pub and despite being joined by my daughter who was too cold to sleep alone and Chester who looked like he was silently weeping, we made it through our last night. As we packed up on the final day, my last glimmer of hope was that this might have put hubby off the whole camping lark.  We weren’t campers, we couldn’t even glamp! Unfortunately, it had made him more ambitious to see it through with the reasoning that normal camping is warmer!  So, in 3 weeks time, we will be taking our Ebay purchased tent and accessories and sleeping in a different field and apparently doing that whole embracing nature thing again.  Oh well, at least I have my long johns now!

Let’s Get Physical

Keep Fit.  Ever noticed how the phrase ‘Keep Fit’ sounds like a command? How Nike tells us to “Just Do It” and Adidas insists that “Impossible is Nothing”.   I’m sure most people find these slogans inspiring but I tend to find them a bit bossy!  Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a couch potato.  As most of you know I own a demented golden Labrador called Chester who I have to chase daily over the park to retrieve him from bothering other dogs/members of the public and his most recent pastime of disrupting outdoor Boot Camp classes (they pull tyres along a park, what do they expect? It’s catnip for dogs!).

However, aside from my dog walking exercise regime I am also a member of a gym.  When we moved recently, we decided it would be a nice ‘family’ endeavour to become members of our local leisure centre, we could take the kids swimming once a week and hubby and I could take it in turns to hit the treadmills and join in on the many exercise classes on offer.  This little plan of ours started last September and we were very committed for about erm…. 2 weeks, but things have slipped a little over the last 5 months or so!

In my late teens, me and my mates donned our leg warmers to eagerly jump along to my Mum’s Jane Fonda Workout VHS.  Anyone else remember Leslie singing her “Do It” song where Jane instructed us to ‘sing along to if we knew our breathing well enough’? Which was easier said then done when you are trying to follow her jumping jacks whilst whooping and high fiving each other!

Nowadays, I try to move out of the living room and into the gym itself.  When we joined our new gym I avoided the induction on offer as I tend to have a weird goldfish memory when it comes to being shown gym equipment. By the time they have talked me through how to ‘work on my abs’ or ‘boost my biceps’ with what looks like Medieval torture equipment, I have completely forgotten where I should put my peg on the weights or how to adjust the seat.  Then there is the intimidation of the masses, the other gym people who seem to look like they instinctively know what they’re doing whilst I’m desperately trying not to slide off the treadmill while jabbing at buttons to incline or speed up my pace.  With every session I tried to be bold and brave the weights or Stairmaster but normally end up in my comfort zone of using an exercise bike whilst watching This Morning.

Intimidating sight!

Intimidating sight!

But it’s OK, I don’t need to go to the gym, I can do exercise classes instead, this will maximise my monthly direct debit membership that I really can’t afford.  I started off gradually with a few Yoga and Pilates classes, stretching and meditating my way through the week.  Then decided I ought to be increasing my workout beyond working on my wellbeing and actually shift some calories.  Spinning looks too hard, particularly as you have to wheel the static bikes in and out of the classroom before and after the lesson!  Body Pump involves aerobics and weights, I have dabbled in this class before in my 20s and remember the John Wayne walk I adopted from ripping my muscles and I’m just not that committed to gaining with pain just yet.

I drag hubby along to a Body Combat class one morning which is good but too exhausting for 9am on a Monday morning, jab jab, run round the room, kick, jab, run on the spot…. Phew!  So I decide to drag my friend along to try out Zumba.  What’s not to love, twerking and shimmying for an hour without judgement!  It is fun, exhausting, challenging yes, but enjoyable.  Me and my friend hide at the back, pretty much keeping up with the quite tricky dance moves, throwing in a bit of freestyling when I lose my place but generally feeling quite good.  When Beyonce’s Crazy In Love starts pumping, I’m fairly certain I am now resembling one of her backing dances, until that is I catch a glimpse of myself in the surrounding mirrors and decide not to make any career changes just yet!

I love Yoga.  It’s the one exercise class literally anyone can do.  The best Yoga class I ever attended was with my Mum where I used to live.  As it was during the working day at an Adult Education Centre it mainly consisted of retired folk with the odd youngish Mum like me attending.  On my first lesson, it did seem to resemble a scene from Cocoon, lots of silver-haired folk who seemed strangely so much more agile and energetic than me.  I had no idea how old anyone was as they looked so youthful and were so capable of every exercise that I was still trying to get to grips with.  I have been to numerous Yoga classes over the years but none quite like this one, not only did we start with 30 minutes meditation but ended with at least 30 minutes of meditation.  Two hours of Yoga and meditation, pure bliss and well worth clearing my work schedule each week for.  I have found Yoga at my new gym but as soon as I settle down for my expected long stint of meditation, after 5 minutes the lights are back on and the next class is piling in.

My Downward (Chester) Dog!

My Downward (Chester) Dog!

 

However, today I discovered Hot Yoga.  This is not a kind of cocktail or a spa treatment, but an actual exercise class.  It is basically Yoga with the central heating on full, which I’m sure has some sort of scientific reasoning behind it, but just made me want to adopt the foetal position and sleep.

So, whether you’re a gym bunny who actually knows what to do with a medicine ball, a Zumba devotee who can get your Salsa on at any given moment, or you are closing your living room curtains so you can jump about to a Celeb fitness video, I have come to the conclusion that you must do what makes you happy as long as it makes a difference in the end.  As Jane would say “Feel the Burn!”

Joyless January

Click on me: Diet Picture Courtesy of ProPicture Plus

January oh January! This month many people are embarking on their doomed to fail resolutions, myself included! I have promised to do a dry January even with the lure of half a bottle of Bailey’s leftover from Christmas, as well as cut down on sugar and other bad stuff, lose weight, budget my finances, ya da ya da ya da. In fact, this week kicked off with ‘Blue Monday’, which is apparently the most depressing day of the year as most of us are either halfway through our resolutions and feeling deprived or we have failed them and are back to supping the wine and neglecting calorie counting. It is also really cold and you are having to wear lots of layers whilst dealing with chapped dry skin and payday feels like eons away.  But we must not let this dampen our spirits.  We must embrace our stiff upper lips and battle on through our ambitious resolutions and if you have slipped then just jump back on track. Here are my top 5 tips to see you through the last week of your hopefully not too dreadful January:

1. DIETING KNOW HOW  

Please forgive me but I’m about to quote Katie Hopkins. Her philosophy for losing weight is eat less and move more, which seems pretty obvious but she maintains 10,000 steps a day on a pedometer is the trick to making it work. So my hubby has been my lab rat this week and hitting the 10,000 a day target and it appears to be working. It may mean ditching the car and walking instead or a lot of going up and down stairs, or perhaps an impromptu rave in your lounge would help, but get those steps clocking up and see the difference.  Furthermore, chew each mouthful 40 times, I know it sounds a bit Rainman, but it will seriously help your digestive system from having to break down large particles of food as well as tricking your brain into thinking you’re fuller quicker.

2. BALANCE THE BUDGET

Every month my outgoings far outweigh my income so my tip is to have two spend free days a week. Leave your purse/wallet at home, take a packed lunch and flask of coffee/water bottle to work. It may mean at some point you will be scrabbling through your change pot in the car but try not to be tempted to have a debit card with you.

3. COUNTING SHEEP

I’m a part-time insomniac, some nights I sleep like I’m in a coma and other nights I fidget about wide awake watching the clock tick by. It’s frustrating and completely floors me the next day. According to experts, to be a better sleeper you have to train your mind by sticking to a routine with the same bedtime each night and make sure you wake up the same time each day. This means no late nights and no lie-ins at weekends, set your alarm (mine is child shouting in ear alarm) and read in bed/watch TV if necessary but don’t sleep in, eventually your body will be conditioned to sleep well during those regular hours.

4. IS BREAD BAD NEWS?

Bread gets a bad review from dieters but if you are dieting don’t completely turn your back on bread. I did earlier this week and found myself literally drooling at the window of my local bakers. According to those experts again, it is OK to eat bread if it is home-baked or sourced well as mass-produced bread has lots of nasty additives. So no more just sniffing that freshly baked loaf to get your fix but treat yourself to a slice instead (just the one slice though!).

5. SUGAR ADDICT

Sugar is bad for you, like really bad, as addictive as cocaine apparently. I mean there are times I could easily scour the streets for a fix at any price, even lowering myself to a Bounty bar if desperate. But we need to quit or massively cut down to avoid a future blighted with health problems. Guidelines recommend 5-6 teaspoons a day for women and 7-8 teaspoons for men and that includes hidden sugars in processed food. Cold turkey here I come!

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen 2014!

As you stuff down the remnants of your Christmas cheese board, all washed down with your novelty flavoured Bailey’s and the promise of a diet/detox/new you as of tomorrow, I would like to take you back through some of the events of the past year.

Just as I did last year, (http://anounceofme.com/2014/01/01/well-hello-2014/), I find it amazing that another year has passed by in a nanosecond.  My personal year has been fairly life changing, we moved our family to the countryside and the kids into new schools and I appeared on Sky News being interviewed by Eamonn Holmes as a ‘parent expert’ on technology.  The weirdest part of the experience was eating porridge in a green room at 5.30am alongside Katie Hopkins and Tony Blackburn.  But in the real world it was quite a year!

A WORLD GONE MAD

Faster Faster!

Faster Faster!

There has been many a news story this year that has tried my faith in the world.  Firstly, the ongoing horrific outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, I donated, I did as I was told by Sir Bob and downloaded the Band Aid single, then asked my 11-year-old son who half the people were and in turn explained who Sinead O’Connor and Seal were to him.  We learned that evil exists in the form of ISIS and their relentless beheading of innocent people as we continue to live in fear of their threats.  Borders in countries throughout the world were fought over and torn apart, even in the UK we watched with anticipation as Scotland voted to stay and allegedly caused the Queen to purr in pleasure of the news.  Kim Jong Un continued to pop up on the news as a feared dictator, even though whenever I see him he appears to be visiting a cake factory.  There has been a spate of plane crashes, devastating towns with hundreds of people vanishing from the skies and leaving us with the feeling that flying is not the safest way to travel.  And Operation Yewtree continued to lock up dirty old celebrities with Rolf Harris being incarcerated for his perverted actions…. Rolf Harris! Putting a whole new meaning to his catchphrase “Can you see what it is yet?”.

THE WORLD CUP RUMBA

My 6-year-old son became this man's biggest fan during Brazil 2014.

My 6-year-old son became this man’s biggest fan during Brazil 2014.

Brazil hosted the World Cup in the summer and us Brits actually were quite realistic about our chances this time round.  Only a few St Georges flags adorned houses and we were not plagued by an unmemorable football song telling us ‘it was our 1966’, in fact my two sons already had their back-up teams ready in case England went out early.  We lasted 6 days!  Most of the England fans hadn’t actually arrived in Brazil and we were already out of the competition.  You can read my blog about it (http://anounceofme.com/2014/06/20/footballs-coming-home-again/) but suffice to say we were rubbish, we lost 2-1 to Italy then lost 2-1 to Uruguay and couldn’t even hide behind Luis Suarez biting one of our players, we finished our reign of hopelessness with a goalless draw against Costa Rica, Costa who??  However, despite our early departure I enjoyed this World Cup more than any others.  The Brazilian crowd were lively and engaging, even the television coverage had catchy theme tunes.  I was almost joining the Brazilian population in tears when Germany destroyed them with a 7-1 semi-final victory and then went onto win against Argentina.  Faith in humanity was restored when it was revealed that German football star Mesut Ozil donated his prize money totaling $400,000 to Brazilian charities as a thank you.

STUPID DEATHS

The Loss of Legends

The Loss of Legends

We lost some great people this year, Lauren Bacall, Richard Attenborough and Rik Mayall to name but a few.  However, there were two passing’s that affected me greatly.  In February, one of my favourite actors Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead following a drug overdose. A waste of a huge talent and at just 46 he had so much more to offer.  A man who had battled drug addiction in his youth and had been sober for 23 years before massively slipping off the wagon and ending it all in a heroin binge during one fateful night.  In August, we received the shocking news that comedic legend Robin Williams had taken his own life.  Nothing prepared me for how I felt about this sad news.  Robin Williams was a big part of my growing up from Mork and Mindy being on the TV when I was a child to his numerous acting roles in some of my favourite films.  I consumed every news article on his suicide, unable to process the news or to understand how such a hilarious energetic man could be so sad in his private life.

AND FINALLY

Millionaires were made overnight (with a little help from my offspring) with the release of the Disney film Frozen becoming the highest grossest animation in history.  I have now watched it with my 7-year-old daughter at least 117 times, have the words to ‘Let it Go’ imprinted onto my memory and enough merchandise to start our own shop.  Also a big hit in our house and many others was the invention of loom bands, annoying little elastic bands of various colours with crochet style hooks and fastenings that captured even my 10-year-old sons imagination as he constructed all manner of bracelets, flags, ropes, etc.  Us parents in turn entered a battle of clogging up our hoovers, trying to stop small children and dogs from eating them and adopting an ever-changing impressed reaction to the many designs thrust in our direction.  I found myself on a night out putting on a nice dress, heels and then being given a guilt trip into wearing a collection of vivid loom band jewellery to complete my outfit.

Whatever your plans are for tonight, a New Year is almost upon us.  It is time to bid farewell to the woes of 2014 and look forward to the promise of 2015.  Be merry, be hopeful and try to avoid any “conscious uncoupling”!

Happy New Year!

Double Trouble – Pregnancy and Beyond

“We’re twins, and so we love each other more than other people.”  – Louisa May Alcott

Our eldest son will be 11 next month and our boy/girl twins are now 7 and fully fledged junior school attendees.  It is honestly crazy how quickly the time goes by, it only seems like yesterday that we were trying to get our heads around the news that two babies were heading our way.  Dealing with newborn twins was no mean feat and pretty much eradicated any broodiness I may have felt beforehand.  It was certainly a journey but I wouldn’t change it for the world.  I have decided to share with you over the next few posts my twin experiences.

When our eldest son turned 2 we decided that it would be nice to add another sibling to our family unit. It took a while to happen and as often is the case, once we ‘stopped trying’ I fell pregnant. Trouble is, after giving up on baby Number 2 in the November, we had booked our wedding for the following December.  When I found out that a baby was on the way it was too late to cancel the wedding and stupidly thought ‘how hard can a 3 month old baby at a wedding be?’ Perhaps hindsight is a useful tool, but at this point we didn’t realise that two stowaways were growing within!

At my first scan the nurse gave me an excited grin telling me she “had a surprise for me” and promptly turned the screen to show me two alien looking beings sitting back to back. Shock was an understated feeling that I experienced in that moment.  With my now tear-streaked Mum sat holding my 3-year-old son, I tried to reason there must be some mistake, could she scan again as twins are not in my family, must be a computer error?  With a ‘You Mums’ knowing smile she ignored this request, congratulated me and sent me on my way clutching a photograph of the phenomenon that was now occurring inside of me. My little lad was seriously confused after only just getting his head around the fact he was going to have a baby brother or sister and now it seems he was being given a bonus one! I then proceeded to tell random strangers in the hospital that “I have two babies in my belly…TWO!” as if I was some miracle mum having to bear twins for the first time in history.  As hubby was unable to make the appointment due to work commitments (he is a police officer in London) I phoned him with the news saying “They are OK, the babies, we have two of them!”  He decided it must be a wind up as my Mystic Mum had a dream that we were expecting twins and here I was making the dream a reality.  He started babbling about space in the car and about buying a new one. Car? Car! I was going to be growing two human beings in my body and providing them with their airport lounge for departure! I couldn’t think of practicalities at this point!

Being pregnant with twins is a bit like waking up one day and deciding to emulate Demis Roussos’s fashion sense. Goodbye to the funky elasticated panelled maternity jeans I wore with my firstborn and hello to kaftans and non-restrictive garments. At 6 months pregnant, when I had to give up driving as was unable to fit my ever-expanding belly behind the drivers wheel, I was often asked “how many days/weeks I had left” to which I would answer “Still have 3 months to go! There are two in there!” This answer was met with a look of horror and a glare at my stomach. Yes it really will get bigger!

Movement becomes very laboured in the final trimester, the trimester they call the ‘nesting period’ where you fix up the nursery or go shopping for baby clothes.  However, with a twin trimester I needed a cat nap after just managing to get to the top of the stairs to use the loo.  To add insult to my swollen ankles, I had my beloved and oh so energetic 3-year-old son to care for.  Not wanting to make him feel less loved I had to slap on the air hostess smile, strap on my hipflask of Gaviscon and play whatever game he wanted for hours on end. He took to asking me to lay with him at bedtime to help ‘look after the babies’.  Not one to pass up the opportunity of a nap I happily agreed.  One evening, whilst I squashed myself into his tiny bed, my phone rang downstairs, then my mobile in the next room, then the house phone again. I knew it was my Dad checking up on me whilst hubby was on nights. Trouble being I was now like a beetle stuck on my back, unable to roll over the top of my child for fear of crushing him and with no other way to pull my massive stomach into a seated position, I just had to lie there helplessly. Eventually, I heard my Dad’s car screech to a halt outside, his spare key in my lock and me shouting “I’m OK, just stuck!” to his relief. He hauled me out of the bed in a similar fashion to those diet shows where the overeater gets stuck on the sofa and they have to remove the side of the house.

The twins grew daily and I had to switch to eating little and often as my stomach (and bladder) were now squashed flat with all the room they were taking up.  One day, as I neared the light at the end of the tunnel, my daughter was on the move, my son’s head had engaged so he was in the cockpit ready for launch, but my daughter had decided to head the other way, perhaps to use my tonsils as a chew toy as she had exhausted my other organs. This, however, meant that she had pushed herself under my ribcage and I couldn’t actually take deep breaths without excruciating pain. I had to spend a whole day in the pre-maternity ward begging passing midwives to “get these babies out please” in an ever-increasing panicked voice.  My Obstetrician, who obviously had to fill her monthly quota, asked me (from a distance) to “hang in there as you are only 35 weeks and we are going to get you to at least 37 weeks”.  We? WE!! I don’t see anyone else enduring this pity party of never-ending months of pregnancy.  Thankfully, she ignored my hormone induced rants and my daughter eventually wiggled herself away from my ribcage and allowed me to breathe again.

The next two weeks went very slowly but I managed to make it to 37 weeks. I developed an amazing knack for doing things with my feet.  It was impossible to try to bend down to pick things up, or get off the floor again if I did, so my toes became very dexterous. My eldest son had become used to the hippo that was formally his Mum who now cried at most things on the television and resembled a narcoleptic most afternoons.  My bag was packed with my birth plan which pretty much read ‘Who the hell knows what will go down?’ and we were off.

I will spare you the gory details of my D-Day, apart from the fact that I pushed those creatures out naturally, pat on the back for me!  I had taken a lot of drugs, along with my hubby who was experimenting with the gas and air between my early contractions. As natural births with twins are quite rare I was asked if I would mind some student midwives observing. Obviously, asking me after drugging me meant I agreed and when it all kicked off I felt a bit like a stand-up comedian with a room full of people willing me on. My son came first and he was so tiny that the hat I brought for him was too big and he looked like a little elf. He was shown to me like a prize and then taken away as I set about getting my daughter out. However, my daughter now sensing the extra room decided to do some back flips and the nurses starting prepping me theatre and I don’t mean the kind that puts on shows. “No way Jose! You made me wait for this natural birth now let’s get her out!” So whilst hubby looked on desperately as I almost bit off my on tongue, our little lady finally arrived naturally. I was finally allowed to hold them both. It really hit me then, I have two babies, oh Jeez, how wonderful, but oh god this is going to be a challenge!

Stay tuned for my next twin instalment!