Showing posts with label kids. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kids. Show all posts

Monday, 10 May 2021

How coaching turned things around

There comes a time in a woman's life when she doubts herself. Wonders if she's made the right choices. Inevitably, she looks around at her peers and find herself lacking. I guess we've all been there, in one shape or form. 

Emily Davidson, professional coach
Emily Davidson, coach and friend
In my case, it was this: why did I abandon my career as a journalist to stay at home with the kids? What's this addiction to writing novels (and blog posts ­čśť)? How do I head off empty-nest syndrome when my babies leave home?

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Photos from home

I'm in a retrospective mood. December is a month for sorting through our photos and thinking about the year that has passed. It's no surprise the events of 2020 will stand out in my memory. A few years ago it was a road-trip through California that dominated; this year our holidays were equally unusual but somewhat closer to home (literally).

An English garden
Holidays in the garden
Scrolling through our archive, the photos reveal a few other themes too: fun in the garden during lockdown-lite (summer), new crazes for paddle boarding and home-decorating, as well as an obsession with food (homegrown veg, homemade sourdough, celebratory cakes). Towards the latter end of the year, it was the new kitten who stole the show - romping with the dog, curled up in my son's hat, or perched nonchalantly on the roof of our house (three storeys up ­čśę).

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Euphoric Recall

Someone sent me a polite message via Twitter earlier in the summer. He introduced himself as Aidan Martin and said he wanted to flag up a book he had written - Euphoric Recall, a memoir of his childhood and journey through addiction. Because of my recent work on childhood trauma, he piqued my interest.

Book cover of Euphoric Recall by Aidan Martin
Aidan's book fulfils his dream of becoming a writer; a dream he nearly gave up on when he was an addict. It took two decades to conquer his addictions to hard pornography, alcohol and drugs. His book, which publishes tomorrow (1 October), refers to a higher power that helped him overcome his demons. "I am not an airy-fairy guy in the slightest nor am I religious," he tells me. "But I do believe I am on a journey and am being guided and protected on it." 

My own book about the toxic impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) was published in May by Public Health Wales and is freely available. The book consists of interviews with practitioners - who help others to overcome adverse experiences - as well as people with lived experiences of trauma, like Aidan.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

The essence of summer 2020

Hubby and I nipped out for a walk first thing yesterday morning. The mist hung over the green hills of Turville while the sunlight was so piercing I could barely keep my eyes open. It felt like the last breath of summer... a chance to wander through the fields, past hedgerows and along chalky banks with the sun's warmth on our skin. We even spotted a some ragged purple flowers - a flash of floral excitement late in the season.

The countryside around Turville
The last day of summer?
Our beautiful walk coincided with the step-up in regulations to control the coronavirus. After a relatively carefree summer, it looks like we'll be hunkering down at home for the foreseeable future. I can feel the seasonal melancholy setting in...

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Exiting the corona cocoon

It has been a confusing time. In some ways, I've found the last few weeks of relative freedom more challenging than full-on lockdown. As we emerge from our Covid chrysalis, we are coming to terms with a 'new normal'. There are different rules/guidelines to navigate and we are a still long way off from going to the theatre, throwing raucous parties, or even going on a foreign holidays (despite all the talk of air bridges).

A field at sunset, full of white and red poppies
Hoping for a sweet summer
From talking to friends, a fair few of us are questioning the lifestyles we had pre-lockdown and are hopeful of a fresh start. And there are people (like me) who are feeling unsettled and unsure about what the future holds. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Kindness - the new superpower

Throughout the coronavirus lockdown, there will be children stuck at home who have suffered emotional or physical abuse; kids who've witnessed the painful breakdown of their parents' relationship, or watched a mother/father spiral downwards into depression. 

The front cover of a book about ACEs
The book: how we can help people 
who have suffered childhood trauma
These experiences are not uncommon and sadly it has become clear that they can have a long-term impact, affecting not only children's mental health into adulthood, but also their physical health. For example, people who have suffered trauma in their early lives are more vulnerable to strokes and heart disease.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

While the livin' is easy

We got our letter from Boris yesterday. Poor man - I'm sure he didn't imagine he'd end up in hospital himself when he was sitting there, chewing his pencil and wondering what to write. His words - we must slow the spread of the disease and reduce the number of people needing hospital treatment - are steeped in irony. 

Digging in the vegetable patch
Tending to our new vegetable patch
Instead, Dominic Raab is left in charge. Two nights ago on the BBC, he looked faintly queasy at the prospect. Incidentally, he was in the year below us at university so it feels rather odd that he's now our de facto PM - like our generation has come of age. Or a bit like my friend Sarah or Cathy running the country, except Sarah is too busy looking after the children of key workers and Cathy is reading the news. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

House frau rules ok

Ever since I gave up full-time work to look after the kids, I've resisted - whisper it - becoming a housewife. The plan, back in 2003 when my daughter was born, was to raise the kids, write novels and freelance. On the whole, things turned out pretty well. Most of the time, I buried my neurosis that I had opted into domestic service. Writing books has brought me fulfilment while also affording me the flexibility to spend lots of time with my kids. As they got older, I've taken on more work.

Sun shining through the daffodils
Sun therapy in the garden helped me feel better
Then along came the Coronavirus. For the first time, our home became both the centre and the outer edge of our world. And who rules over this dominion? Me. During the past few weeks, I have flexed every domestic muscle in my body to keep my family fed, healthy and occupied. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Splendid isolation?

So it's Day One of social isolation. I feel like I can hear the Big Brother voiceover ringing in my ears, giving a running commentary of life in the 'house' so far. On the plus side, online school seems to be going well for the kids this morning, barring a few technical wrinkles. And the dog has enjoyed more walks than usual as we take turns to sample the sunny freedom in the fields behind our house.

Coronavirus haircuts in the kitchen
Coronavirus haircuts in the kitchen
My God, was it only a week ago that we had friends round for Sunday lunch? The last eight days have felt more like a month as we've watched our freedoms fall by the wayside, felled by an unremitting virus. It is incredible how the apparatus of our society - the education system, our economy, basic human rights - can be dismantled so quickly. And in the end, all it comes down to is life itself, the battle to preserve our little flickers of being.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Brave new world

What strange times we live in. I walked into a petrol station yesterday to fill up my car and got terribly excited when I noticed multiple packs of loo roll in the aisle. A rare sight these days. In our household, a shortage had been looming after several visits to my local supermarket last week proved fruitless. I had to resist the urge to buy up more than my fair share.

Even the dog's worried about food shortages 
- he raided a food bin this morning 
Our days are weighted with an underlying sense of dread as we wait for the coronavirus to unleash its full force on our shores. Yesterday's restrictions on social contact - recommended by the prime minister and his advisors - will change our lives in immeasurable ways. For me, the consequences of these restrictions are only just sinking in. Can I still meet a friend for coffee? No, not really. Will book club get cancelled? Yes. And what about Pilates? 

Monday, 2 March 2020

Every delay has a silver lining

It turned out to be quite an eventful holiday. At the beginning of half term, as I finished zipping up the suitcases and disposing of the dregs in the fridge, a text popped up from Easyjet:
We are sorry to inform you that your Easyjet flight xxx has been cancelled. You can transfer onto a new flight or get a refund...
Umbrellas at Cordial Mogan Playa Hotel
Blue sky, sunshine, RELAX
Gee, thanks, Storm Dennis. After a few hours of high stress (12-year old hid in his room), we finally managed to book ourselves onto another flight to Gran Canaria, our holiday destination, three days later - yes, three days later. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Summer blues

As I watched my son lope off to catch his school bus this morning, I shed a tear. It was a discreet tear alone in the car - a quiet acknowledgement that my boy is growing up and that the summer is over. No one saw; I didn't embarrass him.

Two eyes from Blenheim Palace
One eye on the past and one on the future...
On our way to the bus stop, we had overtaken a nervous first year, walking alongside his mum. A whole year has passed since my son set off for his first day at senior school, his face set and his shoulders hunched. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Exploring Lanzarote

When the sun comes out at this time of year, I want to lie outside and soak up rays like a solar battery. This year, I got an early charge when we flew to Lanzarote for a week's stay over the Easter holidays.

Swimming pool at Princesa Yaiza hotel, Lanzarote
One of Yaiza's many pools
We took a family suite at the hotel Princesa Yaiza in the Playa Blanca resort. The hotel was vast and we were tucked away in a distant wing (the family zone) but there was lots to keep us entertained. As well as three swimming pools and numerous restaurants in the hotel complex, there was the 'Kikoland' sports facility, where we got addicted to paddle tennis (a cross between tennis and squash). We could also walk to a pretty (if busy) beach nearby.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Vive l'ind├ępendence!

This time last week I dropped off my 15-year old daughter at school for her French exchange trip. In the dark, lamp-lit morning (4:30am), seeing her onto the school coach felt like a surreal experience. In a haze of orange street-light, I was sending off  into the unknown, to stay with a family I'd never met before. Instinctively, I didn't want to let her go, even though my head was telling me this was a good opportunity for her.

My daughter at ease with her new independence!
On the quiet drive home, I gave myself a stern pep talk. As a good parent, I needed to allow my daughter her independence and the freedom to try out new experiences.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

For tradition's sake

Christmas is an elaborate production. The sheer brilliance of it is that everyone collaborates in one way or another - whether that's buying presents, sending cards, or perpetuating the magic of Santa. The festival is one massive, co-ordinated effort across the nation and most of us opt in without even questioning it. The results are spectacular: from the gorgeous lights illuminating our town centres to crazy knitted jumpers, Secret Santa, fairs, parties and the decorated trees adorning our homes.

Christmas wreath hanging on a white front door
My first ever Christmas wreath!
As each year passes, I get more practised at keeping my end up. I now have processes in place (start the cards early; book online shopping slots in November) to make life easier. I know what's expected and I deliver. It helps that it's the same show every year because - let's be honest - I'm not much of an innovator. I follow the time-honoured plan and streamline efficiencies where I can.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

In the pink

A friend and I were discussing what I should buy her little girl for Christmas. We hit upon Lego. "Friends Lego, the pink stuff?" I clarified nervously. She grimaced apologetically: "Yes, I think she'd like it. It would make a change from all her brother's kits." We both experienced that twitchy, self-correcting thought - in this 'woke' world of new feminism, should we really be buying our girls pink Lego?

A bouquet of pink roses
Are pink roses just for girls?
The fact is my daughter enjoyed her pink Lego back in the day and I suspect this little girl would too. I'm guessing the 'Friends-themed' Lego range wouldn't have expanded as quickly as it has, if it didn't sell. The treehouses, camper vans and art studios, all decked out in pastel shades, are clearly designed to appeal to a feminine sensibility. Heck, I probably would have loved Friends Lego too as a child, had it been around then. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Moving on

Green front door, brass knocker and wisteria
Closing the door on the past
It's finally happening. After three years of viewing properties and hoarding house particulars, we are on the move. Let's not get carried away, it's only five minutes down the road, but this is a BIG deal for us! Most people would be super-excited (and we are) but we're also feeling a little bit funny inside... It's us after all. Our family is not known for its gung-ho, fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants approach to life. There's just too much fretting to fit in.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The power of chocolate buttons

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

Little One stamps the pavement outside our house with her new Startrite shoe. "Don't wanna go to school," she wails. "Got no friends."

"School sucks," agrees her older brother, "but you have to go, otherwise the police will come and arrest Mum." 

Sign saying: All you need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt

I glance across at him to see if he genuinely believes what he's just said. It appears he does. Wow! Those white lies I used to tell him have still got some mileage. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Making memories in California

Natural Bridges State Beach, Santa Cruz
Credit: William Lam
When I was a career gal, I worked in New York for about 18 months during the late nineties as a financial journalist. As well as embracing the American work ethic, I spent my generous British holiday allowance travelling around new England, upstate New York, Puerto Rico and the sultry New Orleans. The one place I never managed to visit was the West Coast, despite picking up a guide to California from my local Barnes & Noble. Over the years, Highway 1 has taken on mythical status - it was the vacation that got away...

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

School's out

Over the past days I've danced to Rita Ora, cheered on the English football team, watched a class of eleven-year olds sing their hearts out and cried too many tears. It has been an exhausting, emotional rollercoaster of a week. By Sunday afternoon, I was quite done in.

My son on his last day at Primary School
The last day at primary school
Two decadent nights at our glorious Henley Festival on the banks of the Thames, an English defeat and my son leaving primary school were evidently too much to cope with. While the festival was brilliant in its own way, the big event for me was the end of primary school (yes, it was all about me).