What Should I Do With My Life?

A month or ago I had to finally shut down my small, work-from-home business. It had been running for over a decade, and had never made a lot of money, but it had been nice to have some income of my own. It also helped me keep a finger in the industry I had worked in Before Kids.

Over the years, the paperwork and regulations concerning the materials I used in my job had multiplied and became more demanding. Finally  it got to the point where I was going to have to spend a lot of money to comply. This was money that I probably wouldn’t earn back, and I wasn’t confident that the organisation that makes the rules won’t make things even more difficult in the future. So I finally caved, thanked all my loyal clients, got rid of my stock and closed the business.

Life does seem more empty without it. It was part of who I was and now I am ‘just’ a SAHM. Not that there is anything wrong with being a SAHM of course. it’s just I liked having this extra string to my bow.

And ironically, this has happened just as the kids got older. I have two in secondary school now, and two well established in primary school so I  finally have time to do some work without resorting to child care. But of course, like a lot of mums out there, I only want to work school hours and as little as possible during the school holidays. Basically, I need to join the queue!

I’ve looked into going back to my previous job full time but even if I could find work, the childcare would be prohibitive. I also think it’s important for my children that I’m at home for them after school. Also I’m not that keen on working for other people.

I’ve looked into working at a school but to be honest, I’m not that that fond of other people’s kids. Sometimes I don’t even like mine very much!

I’ve looked into seasonal retail work, but the hours are tricky  and again I’d need reliable childcare. DH works long hours and isn’t usually home before 8pm.

So here I am with some free time and a work void. I’m not bored.The kids may be in school, but I have dogs to walk and a house to sort out. books to read and some writing to do. Even on a school day, I still do  at least 7 hours childcare. I’m not sitting around  all day doing nothing and don’t have time to get bored.

But now and again, when I do slow down, I find myself thinking ‘What now?’ Because surely this isn’t all there is to my life?

I know I can’t just sit here and wait for something to fall into my lap; life isn’t like that.

But I sure could do with a clue about where to start looking.

creating yourself

I Love/Hate The Summer Holidays

It’s Tuesday evening and the first week of the summer holidays is over. The kids have mainly had a good time and the bar has been set high.

We have picked our own fruit, walked the dogs, eaten too many ice creams, had swimming parties, camped in the garden and had a massive sleepover. The school run seems an age ago and the kids have slipped into later bedtimes and lie ins with very little encouragement.

The weather has been lovely; mainly hot and sunny, punctuated by some awesome electrical storms. We have had some truly lazy days of summer so far.

On the downside we’ve also had sibling squabbles, tears, boredom and reluctance to continue with their piano practice.  None of them have much homework to do apart from a bit of reading and writing, but I have learnt not to let them neglect their music. Trying to get children back to regular music practice after a long holiday is not easy; it’s much better to just keep them ticking over if at all possible.

I d0 miss having some ‘me time’ during the holidays. I work part time and am self employed so do very little ‘work’ when the kids are at home demanding food, clean clothes, craft material and the Netflix pin number. Instead I police screen time, referee disagreements, provide entertainment suggestions, ferry children all over the place and try and make sure my offspring don’t develop a nutritional deficiency.

Can I just tell you how much I HATE feeding my children over the summer? At least while they are at school I can be reasonably confident that they get one balanced meal a day. but when they are off school they seem to think that all they need to eat is junk.

I know some of you will be reading this and wondering what on earth I am whining about, especially if you are working and would love to spend the summer with your kids. But hopefully some of you will understand how full on the holidays can be if you have no childcare, and can sympathise with my mixed feelings.

This time next week we will have had two weeks of summer and will be preparing for our Scandinavian road trip. Panic will have set in and I will be pouring over lists and itineraries and worrying if we’ll be able to fit everything in the car, as well as making sure none of the kids kill each other. Next week is going to make this week look like a walk in the park.

I need to stop stressing and make the most of the rest of this week, don’t I?

jumping in

How To Read More Books

I read a lot. At least a book a week, but that’s during term time.

During holiday time, it’s much harder to find reading time.  I am trying to encourage my four to have a reading hour each day, so I can slope away for a bit of peace and quiet as well, but mostly I find myself having to tear myself away from my book to physically separating warring children. I try to read a little before I go to sleep at night, but these days I find myself falling asleep over my kindle less than ten minutes after climbing into bed.

So I thought I’d give Audible a go.

Audible.co.uk is an Amazon company, so if you already have an Amazon account, it’s very easy to log on and buy books. Audible is the UK’s largest provider of digital audiobooks, with more than 100,000 titles available to download. You can download the app to your PC or Mac, Apple or Android device so can listen at home, or out and about, and  if you download Audible to try, you even get your first listen free.

I thought I’d be able to listen to a book in the kitchen, while preparing dinner, or doing housework but my kids are too nosy. They come in half way through a chapter and demand to be filled in on the story, or have an uncanny knack of appearing just when the language or content gets unsuitable. So I’ve taken to listening on my phone with head phones. During the holidays, this has the added benefit of drowning out the sound of bickering children.

There are also 1000s of children’s books available on Audible and these are extremely useful if you are travelling with your children. Load a  book onto a tablet for then to listen to with headphones or , if you are taking a road trip, then buy an FM radio transmitter so that everyone can listen together through your car radio.

If you have a kindle, and are used to buying book s for 99p, you may get a bit of a shock at the price of Audible books. If you join as a member, and keep an eye out for any special offers then it becomes much more reasonable and you will probably listen to an audio book more slowly than you would read one, so it probably evens out in the end.

And for half an hour peace and quiet a day, during the summer holidays, it’s got to be worth it!



Today Is Our Wedding Anniversary

14 years ago today, DH and I got married at Westminster Registry Office. It wasn’t a particularly nice day weather wise; I definitely remember some rain, but otherwise it was perfect. If I had to do it all again, the only things I’d change would be to make sure someone actually videoed the ceremony this time and to not be quite so relaxed about the guest list.

We didn’t have a lot of money, and wanted to spend most of what we had on the honeymoon, so we decided to have an informal reception close to the Registry Office. After the ceremony the small crowd of people who had gathered to watch DH and I say ‘I do’ traipsed down the Marylebone Road, past the tourists lined up outside Madam Tussauds and around the corner to a City bar that had agreed to close to the General Public for the afternoon/ evening, provided we ate and drank there. I’m pretty sure they made on the deal.

DH and I didn’t make it to midnight. A non drinking friend dropped us home to our basement flat around 11pm, where instead of getting an early night in anticipation of an early start for our honeymoon the next day, we thought it would be a good idea to unwrap all the presents we’d been given, without making a list of who gave us what. It took us years to work out who gave us some of those gifts!

And here we are 14 years, 4 house and 4 kids later; still married. I’m not going to come over all romantic here, as it’s not always been easy. We’ve had a lot of good times but some of it has been bloody hard work. Most marriages are, I think. Compromise is essential.

We are just getting over 12 years of chronic sleep deprivation and although the kids are becoming more independent, some things are tricker.

The differences in our parenting styles continue to appear and a fair bit of communication is necessary to make sure we are singing from the same book, let alone the same page. We don’t take enough time for ourselves; when you have four children, babysitters are difficult to retain. And life is so busy, DH and I seem to always come last.

It won’t be forever though, will it?

I would have completely forgotten about today if it wasn’t for Google calendar. But thanks to technology, DH gets a card and some small presents. We don’t make a big deal about it but it is nice to  make an effort to mark the occasion, even if we just take the time to eat something nice for dinner and remind each other why we chose to get married all those years ago.

Happy Anniversary to us. Wow, we look so young.

wedding photo

Why I Went To BritMums Live

Boots-Opticians-Logo428This year I decided that I wouldn’t go to BritMums Live so I didn’t buy a ticket. I’ve gone every other year and it’s always been one of the social highlights of my year.  No, I don’t get out much, but other, more socially active people than me also say they have a good time too. So you can rest assured that I wasn’t not attending because I thought it would be crap.

My reason for non attendance was that our two eldest children were due home from their respective school residentials on Friday afternoon/evening. Last year I had missed out on meeting our eldest off the bus and it took her quite some time to forgive me. So this year, family came before blogging, as it should.

But then, a couple of weeks before BritMums,  a PR working for Boots Opticians asked me if I’d like to be sponsored by them for the event. I explained that I wouldn’t be able to attend on the Friday as I had to pick children up from school/residentials and they came back to me promptly, saying that as long as I was able to make it to a briefing on Friday morning, that would be fine. We live 45 minutes up the Metropolitan line from the Barbican so I didn’t have to arrange travel or accommodation.

Game on! It appeared I wouldn’t be missing this year’s BritMums Live after all.

One of the perks of sponsorship by Boots Opticians was that I got to have an eye examination in one of their stores, discuss lenses, choose a pair of frames and have some prescription specs made up just for me.

So last week I trundled into a nearby town and had my eyes tested at a nearby Boots Optician. It was a very pleasant appointment and I was asked lots of questions by an Optical Consultant about my health, work, day to day life and any hobbies I had. Then I had my eye pressure tested and the back of my eyes photographed. Next was the ‘eye test’ part of the examination. I was handed over to an Optometrist who had a good look at the inside of my eyes then performed the sight part of the test; lots of reading letters and stating whether I thought the  green or red circle was clearer.

So all and all it was a thorough eye test, and comparable to the examination I had had with a local independent optician for almost twice the price. Some of the equipment was a bit less whizzy, but I know enough about eyes to know that bells and whistles aren’t necessary for an accurate and efficient eye check.

After seeing the optometrist, I had some time with the optical consultant again, to talk about lenses and frames. I was a bit pushed for time by this stage, so I had to keep it short but I was impressed when she told me that all their lenses are now reflection free, scratch resistant and protect against UV rays. After some umming and ahhing, and a bit of trying on, I finally decided on a purple frame and varifocal lenses so I could wear my new specs for reading, computer work and for night driving as well.

Eye check done, I now had a conference to attend.

Friday the 20th came, I left home in plenty of time and managed to make it to the hotel with 10 minutes to spare. I was so proud of myself, but pride soon turned to horror when I realised that there was more than one branch of the hotel named by the PR, and I had gone to the wrong one. I had thought it seemed a bit strange to have the briefing in Marble Arch when Britmums was held near the Barbican! Note to self;  always check you have the right hotel, especially in London!

I rushed over in a cab and Boots Optician kindly delayed the meeting until I arrived. I needed a cup of tea  and a pastry when I finally got to the meeting though.

The briefing turned out to be an explanation for why Boots Opticians has decided to include UV protection for all of their lenses. This is information well worth knowing, especially when you have children.

Did you know

  • your eyes are 10 X more sensitive to the sun than your skin; no matter what colour they are?
  • UV light damages your eyes over time? There is an area at the back of your eye that is especially sensitive. I have been told that I have the beginning of damage here and so I should do what I can to protect my eyes from UV light.
  • 40% of UV exposure occurs when you are not in direct sunlight and therefore are less likely to be wearing sunglasses?
  • 80% of your eye’s lifetime exposure to UV light occurs before you are 18, as children have clearer lenses and proportionally bigger pupils than adults?

The answer to a lot of these problems is ‘wear sunglasses’ whenever possible. They need to be good quality with ‘100% UV ‘ protection; dark glasses without 100% UV protection cause your pupil to enlarge and let in more light, and therefore more damaging rays. Children especially, need to be taught to wear good quality sunglass and a hat from an early age, just the same as you teach them to tolerate sunscreen application.

But what about when you can’t wear sunglasses?  That’s where the Boots Protect lenses come in. All of their clear lenses are now UV protective, both front and back, and boast an Eye-Sun Protection Factor (E-SPF) of 50+.

I don’t usually wear daily eyewear out in the sun, and neither do my children, but if we did, I would be going to Boots Opticians for our glasses for sure. As it is, I’ve bought new, 100% UV  sunglasses for everyone!

UV and eyes stats

I spent the whole of Saturday at BritMums Live and talked to a lot of people about the Boots Protect lenses. My name tag showed that I was sponsored by Boots Opticians, so it was a real conversation starter and I was able to persuade many of my ‘victims’  to visit the Boots stand and enter the competition they were holding.

But after talking about glasses and eye tests and the need for UV protection, the conversation usually moved on to blogging and I spent good few hours chatting about that as well. I really enjoyed the Morrisons Lounge, so much yummy food, but unfortunately failed to win a Vitamix for the 3rd (or was it 4th?) year in a row. One day I will get one, I swear!

As for the Agenda, I think it covered really useful topics this year. I really enjoyed listening to Life As A Widower tell his moving tale of how he keeps the memory of his wife alive for their young son. His take on grief is refreshing honest and practical, and strangely inspiring.

I loved hearing Camila Batmanghelidjh from Kids Company talk about their new campaign, See The Child, which is gunning for an independent task force that will  redesign children’s services. Their dream is that every child who needs help will get it. This is something that is very close to my heart and I’d love to get involved at some level.

The Travel Blogging session was interesting, as usual and a few of the Keynote blogs at the end were simply amazing. The last session of the day was a special appearance by the cast of  the new Musical , The Good Enough Mums Club. To say this extract had people out of their seats and dancing would not be an exaggeration.

I spent a lot more time socialising than I have in previous years and was too busy to take many photos. I guess thats what happens when you’ve been to a few conference; it becomes less ‘work’ and more of a jolly!

All in all, it was a useful BritMums Live, and I’m grateful that Boots Opticians gave me the chance to go. It was my first experience of being sponsored for a conference, and it was a good one; I’d definitely consider doing it again.



A Glimpse Into The Future

This week DD1 ( Y7) and DD2 (Y6) went away with their respective schools for the week. DD1 left on Sunday morning, DD2 left on Monday and both of them came home tonight.

Last weekend went by in a blur of packing and labelling. DD1 wanted to go  buy All The Things; DD2 just wanted to squeeze into old stuff that was no longer suitable.  I sent DH out with them to the nearest shopping centre and they came back three hours later. DH looked shell shocked but both the girls seemed happy enough with their purchases.

We had 3 different lists in an effort to make sure we forgot nothing, and it seemed to work. There was no last minute packing emergency for either girl and the respective  drop offs were marked mainly by excitement  and last minute hugs.

The parents looked less thrilled. Yes, we had our happy faces on and were telling each other that our children would have So Much Fun, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who found myself wondering where the years had gone. I stood waving wildly in the direction of the departing bus, just in case my daughter could still see me.

It’s been a funny old week. Yes, we still had two kids at home, and they took up a lot of time and attention, but two is not four, and the house did seem very empty. DH and I had hoped to go away by ourselves in the middle of the week, but things fell through, so there was a sense of disappointment hanging over our time as a family of four. This didn’t help my melancholy.

For the first time for years, I felt a bit bored. People kept asking me if I was enjoying the peace and quiet but the answer was no. The house wasn’t much quieter with just two children and I felt like I was missing a couple of non-essential, sometimes annoying, but often quite useful and amusing body parts.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what it’s going to be like when the kids get older and leave home, one by one. I could see I’m going to have some serious spaces to fill.

But that’s in the future. Today was the homecoming.

On paper it all worked out nicely; DD2’s bus was due between 5:30-6 and DD1’s would arrive between 7:30-8pm. DD1’s school is about 20 minutes drive from our house and DD2’s is a couple of minutes away.

Of course it didn’t actually turn out like that. DD2 got home late and DD1 got home early, so I was supposed to be picking up my middle daughter at the same time I had to leave to pick up my eldest. When they finally approve the cloning of human beings I plan to be first in line.

But somehow it all worked out in the end, and they are now both home; exhausted, dehydrated and constipated from having to share a bathroom with their friends for a week. They are both upstairs, in their beds, where they belong.

For now. Today they are only 10 and 12, and while they can survive away from home for a week, they are not ready to fly the nest for good just yet.

But that day is coming closer; I can see it approaching. Tonight I will ignore it and pretend that I will have a full complement of children under this roof for ever, but I know that one day, this past week will be my reality. One day there will be just three, then two, and then at last, only one. Actually, one isn’t the final stage, is it?

Where did my newborns go? The years go by so fast.

Off on school residential


It Started With Some Glasses

When I was about eight, it was discovered I was short sighted. I had been for some time, I think, the blackboard at the front of the class had been getting more and more blurry for a couple of years, but I had a ‘complicated ‘ childhood and had assumed that I couldn’t see because I had been crying too much!

So I got glasses which helped me see, but did nothing for my self confidence as I was already short and fat. For the next 14 years I wore glasses and then later on, contact lenses. Then when I was 22, I had my eyes lasered and subsequently enjoyed 18 years  of good eyesight.

I loved having ‘perfect’ sight but there came the day, right around the time of my big four-oh, that I started to notice that close up work was giving me a headache. Even being on the computer made me tight around the eyes, so I (wo)manned up and trundled off to the optician. As I suspected, I was now becoming long sighted, and a pair of prescription glasses made everything much better again.

That was 4 years ago, and apart from ignoring the fact that I should go back for another eye exam every couple of years, my old-lady glasses and I rubbed along just fine.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I put  my specs down somewhere before rushing out of the house, and haven’t seen them since. I couldn’t get an opticians appointment for 2 weeks. In the meantime, I bought some OTC reading glasses in Tiger, of all places, which work okay but I can tell I really need prescription glasses. I have been able to cope with short periods of time on the computer, and reading is okay because I have a kindle, but I’ve had to stop crocheting for now.

My optician’s appointment was for today, at 9am. What was I thinking getting one at that time? I don’t know, but I suspect I was desperate and this was the earliest appointment I could get. School is a 5 minute walk away, and I figured if I left the house at 8:20 and got the kids to the playground for 8:30, then I would have plenty of time to get to my appointment. When will I learn?

Of course nothing went smoothly this morning. DD2 came downstairs in a school uniform 2 sizes too small for her and threw a whopper of a tantrum when she was sent upstairs to change. Then  it started to drizzle as we walked out the door and I sent the younger two to go back in and put on coats. DS found his spiderman umbrella and wanted to carry that. I said no, because he had his scooter and I would have had to carry the blasted thing home again. I should have just said yes, because he started to cry and shout. By this time it was 8:30, and I was getting worried about making it to my appointment.

DS continued to cry and refused to ride his scooter, instead walking at the slowest pace possible toward the end of our road. 5 minutes passed and he was still wailing and had barely moved 50 metres.  I saw red.Why couldn’t he just behave this morning? Arghhhh!

I grabbed his arm, abandoned his scooter as I already had his PE bag, sports kit for after school and his lunch box, and marched him sobbing to school. I don’t walk fast and my kids are usually way ahead of me but he was waahing and protesting, and saying I was going too fast. Bizarrely, he was also complaining his trousers and shoes were getting wet but it was still raining lightly, so I didn’t stop and see what was going on.

I am ashamed to say that I dragged him into school in this state this morning. I got a some sideways looks and a few brave souls commented but I was full of rage and ignored the glances and DS’s  protests, only stopping when we got to the school gate. Then I looked at him properly. His face was screwed up and red and tear stained, but worst of all was that one trouser leg was soaked and his shoe was full of water. His bag had water pouring out of it from his water bottle which he hadn’t put the top on tightly enough. I did feel pretty bad.

Luckily the teachers at the gate were kind enough to take all  the bags off DS and me and promised to help dry everything out. But it took a good 10 minutes to calm DS down enough to leave him and of course, by this time I was running very late.

I trotted home as fast as possible, only stopping to admire someone’s pet snake that was going into school for ‘show and tell’, and collect DS’s scooter. I grabbed the car and by some miracle found a space near the opticians. I managed to only be a couple of minutes late/

I’ve now got my new glasses ordered and everything seems to be okay sight wise for me, but why on earth do I have these sort of mornings when I have stuff planned? It’s like my kids have a 6th sense!

long sighted text

The Gallery: Up Close And Personal

I’ve already posted this photo before but I love dandelions, so am happy to post it again.

Dandy Lion

They are so yellow and sunny and symmetrical aren’t they? On a day like today it’s easy to believe that summer is finally upon us when you have dozens of these around you on a walk through the woods.

And of course, after a few weeks, you then have dozens of these to pick and tell the time with.

dandelion seeds
Dandelions may be a weed, but at least they are entertaining!

For more close ups, check out this week’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers.