Currently Loving…

With recent posts over here all a bit glum and gloomy, I thought I’d make September (or what’s left of it..!) a bit more chipper, starting with the things I’m loving right now.

String & Velvet’s Vintage Maxi Dress

I absolutely adore Zara’s Vintage Maxi Dress on String & Velvet. It’s not my size so I can’t snatch it up, but the splashes of colour are so fucking awesome; who doesn’t want to wear rainbows? String & Velvet is a new online store focusing primarily on plus size vintage.

Nintendo Switch

I had a really good month in June and after putting some money aside for bills, debt and taxes (urgh) I was able to stick enough money in my ISA for a Switch, which Tesco released stock of shortly after. I couldn’t afford any games to go with it, because that would be too lavish(!) but Gaz being the gentleman that he is bought Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and 1-2-Switch.

I have already sunk hundreds of hours into Zelda, getting basically nowhere because it turns out when you don’t play serious games for 10+ years you actually lose all skill.

Still fucking awesome though.

This AMAZING burger

The Kreme De La Kreme burger from Severn Social in Shrewsbury:

DIVINE. I am reliably informed that this is what’s known as a “Luther Burger” – a hamburger or cheeseburger with one or more glazed donuts in place of the bun. In this case, triple stacked burger, American cheese, streaky bacon, mustard and ketchup all sandwiched between a Krispy Kreme donut bun. These were supposed to be limited edition but were so popular they added them to the menu.

Severn Social recently opened up as a “dive bar”, replacing Biggies Diner. Live sports on various big TV screens, a fantastic menu with a variety of burgers, wings and hot dogs (and a token veggie option) with REALLY good prices for what you get. I’m not easily impressed when it comes to food, and the previous incarnations of restaurant in this location were all a bit pants, but I’m a big SS fan.

Double Chocolate Cookie Mocha Thingymabob

So in love with Costa’s double chocolate frostino thing it actually hurts.

However, there’s two problems with these bad boys: One, they don’t come in a super huge “in a bucket” size. Two, each barista seems to make them differently and I’ve had a couple where they’ve missed the cookie bits and a couple without the chocolate sauce on top and URGH why bother if you can’t have ALL THE GOOD BITS?! Sort it out, Costa.

Fnnnghhh I want a bloody frostino now.

If I know what love is, it is because of you

If you follow me on social media at all (you all follow me on social media, right?) you’ll know that Gaz asked me to marry him last week. I was lying in bed on Sunday morning, having not long woken up, and Gaz just randomly stated “we should get married”. I wasn’t sure I’d heard him right, and he was on his phone, so thought maybe he’d said someone else was getting married. I responded, bewildered, “what? why?”

I clearly know how to respond to a marriage proposal with class and the appropriate level of excitedness.

After some discussion during which we established that he wasn’t just pulling my leg, that he really was asking me to marry him, etc etc, I obviously said yes. Who wouldn’t want to marry a man that is hilariously funny, super intelligent, kind, patient, calm and most importantly of all, puts up with me?

So I am engaged. And it is a truly bizarre feeling. Firstly, because this means that someone genuinely loves me enough to want to spend the rest of their life with ME. Secondly, because I have never particularly planned to get married, I have no idea what I’m doing. Thirdly, because suddenly everyone wants to be involved in my relationship which, while lovely, is also oddly intrusive and weird. For someone who is generally a chronic oversharer, my desire to not share THIS (hence not announcing it for nearly a week) feels out of character even to myself.

I guess it doesn’t help that I don’t really ‘do’ weddings, generally. There are several wedding traditions that rub me the wrong way. I’m not interested in being walked down the aisle (especially so in a church setting, because I can think of nothing more hypocritical) or wearing a giant puffy meringue dress. I don’t want to spend a fortune on flowers and favours and frills and all that pomp and ceremony. (No offence to anyone who likes that stuff, this isn’t a judgement.)

On the flip side, being married to Gaz seems 100% right. There is nobody else who gets me like he does, who makes me laugh like he does, and whom I trust so wholly and completely. And I want people to know that, and to see/understand the depth of my feelings for him. I’m just not sure how to share that without letting people in.

(“If I know what love is, it is because of you.” — Hermann Hesse)

My 5 key parenting principles

Although my parenting ‘method’ is very much make-it-up-as-you-go-along, I have a set of core principles that I believe are important to creating well-rounded little human beings.

Autonomy

I strongly believe in a level of autonomy for my children. Primarily this means bodily autonomy: the freedom to make choices about themselves without judgement or coercion. This means being able to choose if they want to kiss or cuddle a relative (or even me). Choosing whether or not they get their hair cut (and recently, doing it themselves… ouch). Choosing what clothes they wear (within reasonable seasonal / social restrictions, i.e. I encourage them to wear a coat in winter, and to not strip naked in the middle of Tesco). I like to think that if children understand from early on that they have a degree of control over their body, they are less likely to accept unwanted attention as something that is “ok” or “allowed” should that ever occur.

Isabel 'mowing' the lawn
Because who doesn’t like mowing the lawn in their underpants…

Freedom

I feel like I’m raising my children in a culture that is defined and imprisoned by a bogeyman-like threat. An invisible but ever-present scary monster masquerading as the “bad men” who will kidnap our children and do unspeakable things to them. The Daily Mail would have us believe that our streets are lined with rapists and child abusers.

I don’t believe in it, I don’t believe we should be controlled by it, and I certainly don’t think my children’s lives should be unfairly restricted because of it. As such I encourage my children to play unsupervised — I am the parent who goes to the park and sits away from the play area enjoying a coffee. I encourage them to seek adventure — with unrestricted access to our jungle of a garden there’s plenty of mischief to be had. I send Isabel to the local shop for bread or milk — it’s four houses down and never out of sight but to her is a sign that she’s a trusted, responsible, contributing member of the family which boosts her self esteem. Freedom to be, to do, to explore, to play: without interference and direction.

Self-sufficiency

From the moment my kids were able to navigate the world independently, I’ve encouraged them to do so. They are encouraged to walk as soon as they can walk. Fetch their own toys as soon as they can reach. They brush their own teeth, make their own toast, tidy their own room, put their own clothes in the washing machine, scrape their plates (and so on). It doesn’t always go well; teeth sometimes need a second brushing and breadcrumbs in my butter makes me wince, but practice makes perfect. There are days when Izzy ‘forgets’ how to dress herself and wants to be babied and days were Olly is being so fiercly independent that he won’t let me swap his left-foot-right-shoe with the right-foot-left-shoe but 9 times out of 10 they do OK, and I know that I can get on with things I need to do without answering calls of “muuuum” every 30 seconds.

Isabel, 18 months, "mopping" the carpet
Isabel, 18 months, “mopping” the carpet

Respect

Because I know what my kids can do when left to get on with it, I find it much easier to respect them as little independent beings. I respect them enough to assume that they can do ‘stuff’, rather than needing me to do it for them. I respect them enough to talk to them like people, with grown up words and not baby language, and respect their ability to ask when they don’t understand. I try and demonstrate respect to my children so that in turn they will learn to respect the world around them.

Love

Lastly, but most importantly, I surround my children with unconditional love and affection. Because what kind of life is one without love?

What a fucking year.

I was going to write a long boring post today about all the shit that I’ve gone through this year. It’s a lot of shit. In the past few weeks alone I’ve felt the sting of death, twice, and helplessly watched my son crying out in fear and pain as a doctor manipulates his pudgy limbs to check for signs of a broken bone. I’m stressing constantly about my housing situation, which seems to fluctuate between “nearly fixed” and “hopeless stream of paperwork”. I miss my bunnies. I’m trying to give up my self employment to help my mental health but I can’t actually afford to do so and the prospect scares me.

But that would make me cry and I’ve shed so many tears lately I’m not sure I have any left in me to shed.

Instead I’m going to try and tell you all the good things about this year. Like finding the strength to leave a dead relationship, finally. And somehow having the luck and good fortune to step out of that relationship straight into another, quite without intending to, bringing me happiness unlike anything I’ve never known. Allowing me to experience things I never thought I would: trust, respect, autonomy, love without conditions.

I’d like to tell you about the joy of seeing my little girl pick up a book, sound out phonemes until she’s figured out a word, string words together until she has a sentence and ultimately read a book. My little girl enjoying something that has always been incredibly important to me, something that I hope will become just as important to her in years to come.

I want to talk a little about my little boy who turned around recently and counted to 20, just like that, except maybe missing a number in the teens but I’ll forgive him that because last time I checked he’d only learned how to count up to 7.

I need to talk about the immense feeling of pride I felt when I sat and listened to my Granddad talk about the love he felt for his beautiful wife and his children. How privileged I felt to hear his stories, realising how hard he worked to provide for his family. (And not think about the regret I feel for not visiting him more when I had the chance.)

I can’t talk about the positives of this year without a nod to the BeEx-ers who welcomed me into their little ‘family’, allowing me to enjoy their company and share their laughter (and Smirnoff Ice).

I have to mention the amazing people who have supported me in my effort to raise £20,000 without whom I wouldn’t be able to pay the fees on the mortgage, which I’m submitting the (hopefully) final bits of paperwork for today, which is going to secure me that £20k.

Last but definitely not least I have to wax lyrical about the friends who’ve supported me this year. Every hug, virtual or physical; every kind word, phone call, offer of a shoulder; every time someone has reached out to me on twitter or facebook; every single one that’s just said they’re there if I need them: I probably wouldn’t have got through the year in tact without them all. Thank you.

Weight: Love, Loss and Lifting

It’s no secret that I have been struggling with my weight for a long time. Actually, struggling is probably the wrong word. I was fat for a long time, but I didn’t really do a whole lot about it except moan that I was fat, so struggling is perhaps over-egging it somewhat.

This is me on my 21st birthday —courtesy of Katy

(Yeah, you know, I don’t think you lot have been missing much by not seeing pictures of me for the past 10 years.)

Anyway, take a good look at that picture. Double chin, fat gut, huge boobs (in a terrible bra), thunder thighs; I can even see chub on my neck FFS. I was a UK size 18 in that picture. I was inactive and ate shit frozen food from Iceland on a daily basis.

Back then, and indeed until Isabel was born I lived in jeans and t-shirts. I told myself and others it was because I loved jeans and t-shirts — and I still do, don’t get me wrong — but the reality is that I thought jeans and t-shirts hid the flab. I thought that jeans and t-shirts meant people couldn’t see what a fatty I was. I hated the way I looked and I wanted to hide it.

Of course in hindsight the jeans and a t-shirt combo meant I a) looked like a dude and b) lacked any definition or curves which made me look WAY worse than a tighter fitting top might have. We live and we learn.

Years of gradual improvements to my eating habits and hyperemesis throughout my pregnancies dramatically decreasing my weight I get to roughly this time last year: a UK size 14, having once maybe snuck into a size 12 in a Dorothy Perkins changing room but only just long enough to stop me breathing and never long enough for it to be considered “wearing a size 12”. But I still hated the way I looked.

And I start running (for unrelated reasons), and I ditch the alcohol and I reduce my diet to 1500 calories a day and I still don’t see any improvement.

Meanwhile I go through a massive life change and fall head over heels in love with somebody new. Somebody who makes me feel attractive even though I can’t seem to lose weight. Someone who, for the first time in many, many years ever makes me feel like I deserve to wear something other than jeans and t-shirts. Someone who makes me want to buy sexy underwear and nice dresses. Someone who makes me love myself despite my flaws, and suddenly losing that weight doesn’t seem like the be-all and end-all afterall.

Of course I could end this tale of weight woes on that paragraph, leaving you all “awwing” over the fatty who found love, but it doesn’t really end there. Because it turns out that there IS a way for me to lose weight, and I can do it without massively restricting my diet or giving up the odd glass of wine.

Turns out my body likes it when I lift weights. And I’m not even doing it at a gym or with any expensive equipment: I bought a 20kg dumbbell set from Amazon for about £30. I am doing the same set of lifts once a week and even though people told me I shouldn’t lift weights (not sure why) and even though I only do it for 20 minutes once a week, I have gradually lost inches of fat. I haven’t lost weight, in fact I weigh more than I did 6 months ago (yay muscle gain), but I am comfortably wearing a size 12 for the first time in my life.

I wear clothes because I like how they look, and not because of how much they’ll cover. I eat real food (and plenty of it) and I still drink wine. I like myself, and I like liking myself.

But that’s nothing to do with my weight after all.