I had a bit of an odd moment of parental pride in myself last week. Belle had been complaining about having problems with her reading – she says that it’s difficult to concentrate and sometimes the words look blurry or have lights in front of them – so I said that the next day I’d make her an appointment for an eye test as a first step. Off we went to bed. My memory is terrible, so I set a reminder on my phone. The next day when the reminder popped up I called them straight away.

When Belle got home from school it was the very first thing she asked.

‘When is my optician’s appointment?’ she asked as she took her shoes off by the front door.

‘I made it today!’ I said proudly, thinking how impressed she would be with me for remembering.

‘Well I knew you’d make it,’ she said, ‘I just wondered when it was.’

And THAT was the bit that made me proud. The fact that it had never occurred to her that I WOULDN’T do something I had said I would do, when I said I would do it. I felt reliable and solid and lovely.

Anyway, that little anecdote was my silky smooth way of leading you into a story about National Eye Health Week and the importance of getting regular eye tests. It’s something I’ve always been good at remembering for myself, as I wear glasses, and Belle has been having them since a young age as she really enjoys them for some reason. I remember how disappointed she was for the first few times she went, being told she DIDN’T need glasses.

If you’ve not had an eye test in the last couple of years though, then you MUST. (I have mine booked with Optical Express so watch this space for my next pair of colourful new glasses.) As well as it being important to take care of your eyes themselves, there are quite a few serious illnesses that often get first picked up in eye tests.

why do i need an eye test?

Take 12-year-old Alan Watson from Edinburgh as an example. (That’s not Alan in the photo.) When Alan attended his local Optical Express clinic with his mum for his annual check-up, Optical Express Optometrist Amna Bashir noticed blurred margins on comparison of previous photos.  As a precaution, Amna called the hospital and arranged for him to be seen that day. View Post

Last year I got an email from a couple of lovely ladies who run a company called Masked Pony Productions. They asked if I’d be interested in writing a short comedy sketch based on my blog for a new mum comedy short series.

‘Absolutely!’ I said, Googling how to write comedy sketches.

They wanted something that was in the style of my usual writing, perhaps inspired by some of my most popular posts. One of my personal favourites is the one where I get dressed up nicely for a smear test and the nurse can’t find my cervix, so I had to include reference to that.

Bee’s favourite ever post is the one where I go to a cafe and a random family come and sit down ALL AROUND ME while I’m just trying to have a coffee. That had to be in there too. (Have a read – they are both funny.)

I set to work.

‘This will be easy,’ I thought to myself. ‘I’m HILARIOUS.’

Turns out though that it’s actually pretty hard to write things that sound funny when they are said out loud by someone else. I mean sure, I can write stuff down and it sometimes makes people laugh when they read it, but writing a script is a whole different thing.

Still, I had a bash. The idea is that the mum is so desperate for a bit of time away from her kids that she has pretended she has to go to a smear test. (Hopefully you’ll get that – otherwise I have done a BAD job.)

This is the final result:

(Try to laugh remember.)

My best bit is the Granny saying ‘I’ve no idea’. It’s EXACTLY how the real life Granny said it to me in the coffee shop when they’d invaded my table, and that was always Bee’s favourite bit of the post I wrote about it.

So what do you reckon? Be honest – should this be the start of a new career or am I best sticking to looking pretty for smear tests?

Hafan Y Môr Haven park review

I know that a caravan isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun holiday, but they’ve always held a special kind of excitement for me.

I think it started when I was about seven or eight and we went on a caravan holiday to Cornwall with my Gran and Grandad. We stayed in a separate caravan from them, but nearby, so I was allowed to run on my own to my Gran and Grandad’s caravan and knock on the door to play games with my Grandad.

There are two things I particularly remember from that holiday. The first is that we went on a trip to Goonhilly power station and my Gran had TWO milkshakes in the cafe, made with real ice cream. To me this was the ultimate in decadence, the kind of thing I could only DREAM of doing as a grown up.

The second was being allowed to spend the night in my Gran and Grandad’s caravan. It was like a holiday INSIDE a holiday – madness!

I’ve since been on loads of UK caravan holidays, especially when the girls were smaller. Caravan parks are ideal for holidays with kids as you normally get a good range of facilities on site should you want them, but you have the freedom and independence that comes with a self catering holiday.

Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park

This summer we went to Haven’s Hafan Y Môr Holiday Park in North Wales. And by North Wales I mean REALLY North Wales. It was FAR. We drove across Wales through the Brecon Beacons though, which was very pretty.

We stayed in a two bedroom caravan from the Platnium range, which was very clean and modern and had a little balcony attached too. I’m not going to bore you with pictures of the inside of a caravan when you can have a proper look here, suffice to say there was plenty of room for Belle to arrange her make-up, which is clearly the most important thing to consider when planning a caravan holiday. View Post

This week Bee and I came up to London for a couple of days for her to have gamma knife treatment. A gamma knife sounds like a pretty scary thing, although weirdly it doesn’t actually involve knives. We decided to say we were going for a relaxing spa break anyway, just to take the edge of.

The gamma (not) knives were to treat Bee’s AVM, which is a tangle of blood vessels in her brain which was discovered accidentally when she had an MRI for something unrelated.

I thought this post was going to be all about how worried I was, and how you never stop being a Mummy even though your child is grown up, and all of that sort of stuff.

And then I realised, sat in the waiting room while Bee had a metal frame screwed into her head, how selfish that sounded.

‘Woe is me, having to sit in this big comfy leather chair while my daughter undergoes complex brain treatment! Poor me having to worry about her!’

The primary emotion to come out of the whole experience was actually pride. As I sat in that comfy chair I could hear Bee having the frame fitted and I could hear her afterwards chatting to the staff. The woman who had gone in before her had come out in the wheelchair, crying and saying she couldn’t walk, so fair to say I was nervous on Bee’s behalf.

Until I heard her little voice from next door.

‘That was fine,’ she said, ‘not as bad as I thought it was going to be.’

‘Really?’ Said the nurse, sounding surprised. ‘That’s good to hear!’

‘Yeah, it feels a bit like when I had my braces fitted.’

I felt a swell of pride and love in my chest and nearly had a little cry. (There WAS a box of tissues in my little wairing room so it would have probably been okay.)

She was just so calm and brave and I was so proud.

Of course being Bee, beneath the calm exterior she was quietly coming to terms with her own death, but you would never have known. Bee has written her own account here, so please do go and read it because it made me cry all over again.

As it turned out I had even more reason to be proud coming up. Bee had come back from having an MRI and an angiogram, ahead of the treatment itself, and we were waiting for them to get the laser all loaded up and aimed.

The doctor came in, along with FOUR other members of staff.

‘We found something a little unusual,’ said the doctor, which I felt was a rather cruel way to begin – it wasn’t exactly the X Factor. I was worried that they’d discovered a pair of old scissors or something in her brain.

‘Since we did the last angiogram it turns out that the AVM had started to heal itself.’

Heal itself?!

‘So we don’t think we need to do the treatment after all.’

Well. I knew Bee was special, but I never imagined she could miraculously cure her own brain.

So there we go. That’s what story of when Bee didn’t need have her brain radiated.

Getting the balance right as a parent can sometimes be really hard.

On the one hand you want to help your children in any way you can, do things for them and make sure they happy and relaxed. On the other hand you want them to learn how to do stuff for themselves, to take the initiative, and to discover that NOT doing stuff has consequences.

For example, Belle starts year 11 tomorrow and roughly three times a day for the last six weeks I’ve reminded her about homework, and to do things like wash her PE kit. I’m not going to do it for her though. There comes a point where they have to appreciate that not washing your PE kit means going to school with a dirty PE kit and that’s that.

The downside of all this ‘teaching’ though is that when you enquire about the whereabouts of their lunchbox on the last day of the summer holidays you get presented with this:

Mouldy sandwich

*throws up a bit in mouth*

This, as far as I know, was once a sandwich. View Post

What does tea time look like for your family?

This is dinner time in our house:

typical family dinner time

Ha ha! Not really.

Who has family dinner times like that?? Everyone is so attractive! And all those white units and place mats and teeth? What I love most though about this picture is that the caption is ‘family laughing around a good meal in the kitchen.’

I do my own voice over as I look at it:

MUM, laughing: Oh look everyone at how big our bowls of peas and carrots are!

DAD, laughing: Ha ha! That’s so funny! I love vegetables! Isn’t that funny kids?

DAUGHTER, laughing, but also crying a bit: But Daddy I hate peas!

DAD, laughing: Just keep laughing Angelica!

DAUGHTER: But it hurts my cheeks…

MUM: Ha ha ha! What a lovely family dinner we’re all having!

ANYWAY.

Family meal times in our house don’t look like that. In fact, weekdays are pretty quiet. Bee has long since left home, so it’s more often than not just me and Belle.

That’s okay though. That’s the beauty of a modern family – it can be anything you want it to be.

(DUM DUM DUM!!)

According to new research from potato brand McCain, as part of their We Are Family campaign, we often find it hard to identify with the portrayal of family life as shown in the media. 84% of families surveyed claim they haven’t seen anything in popular culture that depicted a family like their own in the last six months and 45% of Brits think more needs to be done to show the reality of everyday family life.

I agree, and to illustrate the point, Belle and I created a mini fly-on-the wall documentary of tea times in our house. (Does this video count as popular culture?? It definitely shows the reality of family life…)

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