This post is a shameless boast. Not a boast on my behalf you understand. This is a boast on behalf of my step-sister, Rebecca Cobb, who is a little bit too shy to blow her own trumpet.

Rebecca lives in Falmouth, where she works partly in a lovely shop in the town centre, and the rest of the time as an illustrator. Rebecca has recently illustrated a book, written by Helen Dunmore:

Isn’t it gorgeous? She is really very talented 🙂

The story of how the work came about is lovely too. The shop Rebecca works in is opposite a bookshop, and she had some of her pictures up in the window for sale. The owner of the bookshop happened to notice them one day, and popped into the shop to ask who had painted them.

It turned out that he was a friend of Helen Dunmore, knew she was writing the book, and thought Rebecca’s style would really suit it. How cool is that? Just goes to show you never know where your next piece of work is going to come from!

The story is set is Falmouth, but I’m not going to tell you what happens, you’ll have to buy the book for that – it is out on 1 April, and is available to pre-order from Amazon.

So now if you’re ever looking for an illustrator, you know where to go!

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I don’t have anything clever or funny to say today. (Don’t stop reading though).

I just wanted to say a genuine, heart-felt ‘Happy Mothers Day’ to all the wonderful mummies who read my blog, and to those that don’t (seriously – what’s wrong with it?). We spend everyday reflecting on ourselves as mothers, questioning our parenting, wondering if we are doing a good enough job… Well today is the day to say ‘actually, I do a pretty damn good job. Maybe sometimes I’m not as patient as I’d like, maybe sometimes we eat chicken nuggets, but I do my best, and that is good enough.’

So please give yourself a big pat on the back for doing your best at what is surely the most challenging job in the whole wide world. Go on… actually do it… no really, I’m watching, I’ll know if you don’t. How will I know? Mummies just DO.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Hooray! At last, my childlike excitement over the arrival of the post everyday has finally been rewarded. This week I had my first parcel as part of the Secret Post Club.

The brainchild of Heather at Notes From Lapland, the Secret Post Club appeals to the natural child in all of us – that part of us that feels a spark of eager anticipation at the sound of the postman stuffing the usual pile of bills and catalogues through the letter box. The post rarely contains anything inspiring, but the joy is in the not knowing – one day it just might be that letter that changes your life.

Anyway, the parcel I got this week didn’t quite change my life, but it certainly put a smile on my face for the day. My gift came from Clair at  Kids Craft and Chaos. I must confess I’d not come across Clair’s blog before, but it is definitely worth a read – a lovely mix of crafts, books and general parental musings.

My parcel is beautifully wrapped, and I almost don’t want to open it. I unwrap the first layer and find another parcel, plus some cute hairclips for Belle and Bee.

Bickering is temporarily halted while the new treats are shared out and photographs are posed for. Apologies to Belle for the rather strange angle – I was trying to get a good view of the clips but instead ended up making her look like she has a giant forehead. Oopps.

Very stylish I’m sure you’ll agree! So that’s the kids taken care of, now I get to open a prezzie – very exciting. I want to savour the moment, and I hold it for a while first, imagining what it might be and enjoying having a gift to open. When I do let myself peel off the tape, (I really want to save the cute owl wrapping paper), I’m definitely not disappointed. It is a beautiful notebook, the pages edged in silver. Now anyone who knows me will be smiling at this point, as they will appreciate what a perfect prezzie this is for me. I LOVE notebooks, they are one of my very favourite things. I love buying them, writing in them, putting them in little piles – it is basically any excuse for a new notebook for me.

So I want to say a HUGE thank you to Clair for taking the time and trouble to send me such a lovely gift – it really made my day. Now roll on April…

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When you think of internet addicts – what do you think? Probably teenagers on msn for hours on end, talking in words that don’t make sense. Or maybe men in their twenties and thirties, absorbed in the world of online warfare, with wives and children who know the backs of their head more intimately than their faces?

Last week, parents of a three month old baby in South Korea were arrested, after letting their daughter starve to death while they were online raising a virtual child in the role-playing game Prius Online. They didn’t even play at home – they spent hours at a time in internet cafes, only returning home occasionally to give the baby the odd bottle of milk. No wonder The Times were asking yesterday if there is such a thing as internet addiction.

This is an extreme case of course, but I do wonder if there aren’t actually thousands, if not millions, of internet users who although not addicted, find cyberspace overtaking their lives in a way that can often feel difficult to manage. With so much knowledge to explore, so many ways to connect with people, the internet can feel overwhelming. And once you start getting involved in online communities, you can feel a pressure, if only internally, to carry on. It’s a bit like buying regular lottery numbers – you can’t risk not playing once you have your ‘lucky numbers’. Once you establish yourself in a forum or social network it can be hard to leave, for fear of what ‘exciting’ news or discussion might be happening without you knowing about it.

Of course I’m not saying I neglect my children in preference of raising online babies, but I do feel a pressure to somehow be involved, to be available, and if I am not online regularly I often feel guilty, or wonder if I am in someway missing out. Perhaps it is because my work revolves heavily around email, or maybe it is my flighty nature, always wondering if something more exciting might be happening somewhere else or if that next email might be a new offer of work or interesting party invitation. (Disappointingly they never are party invitations, so if you have any kind of celebration coming up, please do bear me in mind.)

As parents, we are very aware of making sure our children use the internet safely, but do we always take the same care of ourselves? With more studies showing a link between excessive internet use and depression, we are right to be concerned, but that concern needs to include the whole family. We mustn’t fall into the classic parent trap – the one where you spend twenty minutes packing wholesome lunchboxes, leaving yourself only time to scoff a piece of bread in the car for your breakfast.

I do always switch my Blackberry off at night, so as not to be kept half awake with dreams of that teasing, flashing red light, but I’m not sure this alone counts as Healthy Internet Use.

I’d be really interested to know how other people feel about their use of the internet. Are you forever flicking between forums, or do you avoid social networking sites as much as possible? Maybe you set yourself a time limit? Let me know…

Photo credit: andyi

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This week, I have five copies of the new Uma Thurman film – ‘Motherhood’ – to give away. The film is a day in a life of a New York mother, writer, blogger and all round juggler of life. At the same time as planning a birthday party and constantly trying to prevent her car from being towed away, Thurman is trying to write 500 words about what being a mother means to her. So to win a copy of the film, just tell me what motherhood means to you. Winners will be picked at random by an apathetic fourteen year old. (See below for some blurb about the film).

So I’m going to start the ball rolling with my random and in-no-particular-order thoughts on motherhood. If you have read any of my other posts you will have an idea of the kind of issues that I struggle with on a day to day basis. I manage a seven year age gap between two feisty daughters, hide crumbs behind the sofa and every day lose the battle to get my teenager to wear a coat.

But that’s the daily grind stuff, the practical side of being a parent. What about Motherhood? Is that the same thing? ‘Motherhood’ as a concept, in capital letters, must be something more than that – a feeling, an ethos, a way of living. It’s hard for me, having given birth at 17, to separate the ideas of parenthood and adulthood. I have never been a grown up without children. I don’t know what it feels like to have independence without responsibility, so I can’t make a distinction – to me, being a mother is just something that has always been, and something that always will be.

Maybe if I had had children later, I would have had time to get to know a different me first, and would be able to say now with conviction that yes, motherhood for me means X, Y and Z, but I just can’t say for sure what that X, Y and Z might be.

Perhaps that’s normal though. Perhaps that IS the definition of motherhood, that it creeps into every aspect of who you are, grows as you grow, soaks into your very core. Once you have children, it is impossible to detach yourself from what that means. You can’t cut your life into neat chunks and define each slice individually and separately from the others.

So what does motherhood mean to me? I don’t know. And that’s not me just chickening out of an answer, I really don’t know. Motherhood IS me, I can’t remember a time Before Children, I don’t know how my life would be different.

And now I have to go and pick up Belle from a birthday party, hang out some washing and think about packed lunches for tomorrow. We can talk in broad terms, think about concepts, but basically that’s what motherhood is all about…

Win one of five Motherhood DVDs – out on DVD 8th March

Shot entirely on location in New York’s West Village, this bittersweet comedy distils the dilemmas of the maternal state (marriage, work, self, and not necessarily in that order) into the trials and tribulations of one pivotal day. MOTHERHOOD forms a genre of one – no other movie has dedicated itself in quite this way to probing exactly what it takes to be a mother, with both wry humour and an acute sense of authenticity.

Eliza Welch (Thurman) is a former fiction writer-turned-mom-blogger with her own site, “The Bjorn Identity.” Putting her deeper creative ambitions on hold to raise her two children, Eliza lives and works in two rent-stabilized apartments in a walk-up tenement building smack in the middle of an otherwise upscale Greenwich Village. Eliza’s good-natured but absent-minded husband (Edwards) seems tuned out to his wife’s conflicts, not to mention basic domestic reality, while her best friend Sheila (Minnie Driver) understands this – and Eliza — all too well.

MOTHERHOOD is a hymn to the joys and sorrows of raising children, and the necessity of not losing yourself in the process. Log onto www.motherhoodmovie.com for more competitions to be won and details about the film.

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