is my child fat?

Following my post about my new Untold Stories feature I’ve already had several people send me their stories, which I’m really thrilled about. It means a lot to have you trust me with your thoughts so thank you! If you have a story or a concern of your own to share then do get in touch. 

Today’s story is on a really interesting subject – that of children and weight. It can be a really tough one to talk about because there’s such an anti-diet movement at the moment, which is fantastic in a lot of ways, but there’s also a fine line between embracing your body as it is and still understanding the importance of eating good foods and treating your body well. With children it’s especially hard because eating habits and the stories we tell ourselves about food embed themselves from such a young age. 

If you have any thoughts on the subject please do leave a comment, or share the post. I’d really appreciate any support you can show for this new regular feature.

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Firstly, to be clear, I have no idea how much my children actually weigh or what their BMI is. I just know that since my husband and I separated, they’ve both gradually got a little plumper, to the point that I am now bothered by it. To complicate my concerns, when I raised the issue with my ex, hoping to create some joint rules and strategies about junk food, snacks etc, he responded that in his opinion, the children don’t look overweight, they look happy.

A bit of context – I’ve always struggled with my weight, and so has their dad. As a clever but overweight child, I was bullied and felt different and unhappy. As an adult I lost a significant amount of weight after the birth of my first child. I’m not currently completely happy with my weight but I am more accepting of my body than I have ever been. Knowing that this issue is triggering for me, I consulted a counsellor. At the heart of it, as much as I do worry about my children’s short term and future health, I don’t want them to feel unattractive and uncomfortable as I did for many years. And I don’t want people to look at my children and judge me as a mother.

It really bothers me that I can see rolls of fat on my children’s stomachs, but I also don’t want to give them a complex about their appearance, I want them to be body positive. The older one is starting puberty and someone else mentioned she had a bit of puppy fat. It’s very hard when she complains about her stomach area to know what to say. She needs to understand that there is a correlation between what she eats and the health of her body, so I’ve told her that healthy choices of food will help keep her body a healthy shape, and that planking exercises will strengthen her core, but haven’t made any changes to the way I feed her. She gave up sweets for new year, which I was slightly concerned about, but didn’t discourage. View Post

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So far this year I’ve been quite good at having ideas and less good at doing anything about them. I could make some excuse about Christmas and mince pies and things like that but I felt the same this time last month, so it must just be me. I can’t blame Elizabeth Shaw and her mints.

(Question: Is Elizabeth Shaw actually a person? Did she invent the chocolate mint?)

Last week I told you about my new brunch club idea, and actually I have been busy with that one. I’ve eaten a LOT of brunch this week, I’ve just not quite got round to writing about it. Baby steps though right?

The other idea I’ve been sitting on for a while is about the stories that we tell online and, more importantly, those that we don’t. Increasingly over the last couple of years I’ve felt that I’ve not been able to talk about the things in my life that take up most of the space in my head, and I think that feeling of lacking authenticity and connection with you has contributed to the midlife unravelling, the idea of not quite being able to give a true version of myself.

I wrote about the feeling a little while ago, of telling the truth but not the whole truth, and it got me thinking about what I could do about it. It’s not just that I want to be able to share my own stuff, it’s also that I genuinely think there is a gap in the support available online. I know this sounds crazy – how can there be NOT ENOUGH information online? – but when I’ve found myself struggling, in bad relationships maybe or with things going on with teenagers, Googling desperately for stories of people in similar situations, they’ve not always been easy to find. I don’t want facts, I want feelings. I want to know it’s not just me going through something, feeling a certain way.

As a writer in a public space there is always a balance between sharing enough to connect with people and keeping enough private that you respect other people’s privacy. Talking to other parents and parent bloggers recently I’ve found that it’s not just me that finds this hard.

What I’ve decided to do then is create a space for people to anonymously share their stories – the sort of stories that we normally keep to ourselves but that shape our lives.

Untold stories. View Post

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brunch club

 

I was questioned earlier this week about my PURPOSE.

Not like in a police station, I’d not been brought in for loitering, more in a ‘what drives you?’ kind of way. I wasn’t sure how to answer because what with the midlife unravelling I’m not sure I have one at the moment.

‘Does brunch count?’ I asked hopefully. ‘I really like going out for brunch.’

Apparently brunch does not count, not as a life calling at least, but the more I thought about it the more I realised how much I really do love brunch. You remember when I moved back to Taunton and cried in the street because there was nowhere good to get eggs florentine?*

Brunch matters.

Brunch matters not just because of the toasty muffins and runny yolks, but because of what it represents. Brunch is a lifestyle – I wanted to create a way of working that gave me flexibility in my life to do more of the things I enjoy and to not have to show up for a job every single day that felt like it was sucking at my soul. And I did, which I should probably acknowledge more, and now I can have brunch any goddam day I want and no one can tell me otherwise.

Hoorah!

Brunch is also about people. Working on my own for ten years hasn’t always been easy, but brunch is a way to get that much needed human contact. ‘Do you fancy brunch?’ you can say to someone, and they’ll say yes, and off you’ll go, knowing that as well as the joy of a smashed avocado you’re going to get an hour with a person who adds something to your life and, in return, you can add something to theirs.

And so, new for 2020, I’m introducing my new regular feature – BRUNCH CLUB!

A couple of times a month I’m going to go out for brunch and then tell you about it. It might be in the style of a proper food review, but more likely I’ll get distracted and tell you a story about the time I once tried to make my own baked beans or had an awful brunch related date. I might use it as an excuse to show you how to make the perfect poached egg, or maybe I’ll have brunch with someone incredibly interesting or important and share their story with you. View Post

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New year, new decade and all that, so this morning I indulged in some typical new year activities i.e. looking back through social media pictures over the years and being drawn into my own story, where I always look so much younger and healthier and like I’ve spent every single day doing interesting things with interesting people or having interesting thoughts.

I spent a few minutes sighing wistfully and wondering what happened to the me that hired a jukebox for the weekend just to have a Grease themed party, and then I looked through the pictures on my phone rather than the carefully curated ones and remembered that most of the time I was actually just eating beans on toast and watching First Dates on catch up.

I’m not sure which is worse really – sighing over a life that was mostly imagined or realising you’ve probably been quite boring all along.

While I was in my phone pictures I found this, which I saved from a book I read in March 2018 and have been meaning to do something with ever since. March 2018 was a few weeks before I turned 40 and clearly I was feeling it.

It made me realise that although I didn’t put my midlife unravelling into words until over a year later in this post from June last year, and even wrote then that I felt taken by surprise, the first loose threads were already there back in that March, which is nearly two years ago now.

I read the unravelling post back to myself before I wrote this and felt that same twist of recognition in my chest, which makes you wonder doesn’t it, how long is it meant to last? View Post

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When I lived in Bristol I didn’t often venture south of the river into Bedminster. Partly I didn’t really think I was cool enough, but also I wasn’t convinced there was any reason to visit. Bedminster is the grotty bit of Bristol right?

Wrong!

Okay sure, some parts of it are still ‘up and coming’, but in terms of shopping, eating and entertainment it actually has a lot going on. I should probably feel more of a soft spot for it as an area too as Bedminster used to be its own town, separate from Bristol, and until 1831 was part of Somerset. Fun fact for you there.

Nowadays I can’t stake any claim to it geographically, but I went to have a wander around to see how things have changed since 1831, (hint: a lot), and to give you some tips for places to visit the next time you’re in Bedminster, especially if you’re heading to Bristol to do some Christmas shopping.

I’ve been into south Bristol quite a few times, mainly to see shows at The Tobacco Factory or to visit their outdoor market, but I’ve never ventured much past the immediate area around the theatre. The top end of North Street definitely has plenty going on, including the new Greta artwork, painted for Upfest this year, and the amazing Souk Kitchen where I ate possibly the best flatbread I’ve ever tasted.

Greta painting Bedminster

Pay attention to the car to give you an idea of the scale

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honesty in blogging

Honesty has always been incredibly important to me.

That sounds kind of obvious, but when you start to pay attention it’s amazing how many little lies we let slip through just in the course of a day – excuses for not wanting to go out in the evening, white lies to children – it all adds up.

The older I get, the more I try to avoid these little lies, even if they feel like they might not do any harm. It might feel easier to tell a friend you can’t come out because you have a headache, but is it really any harder to just say ‘you know what, I really do want to see you, but today has just been exhausting and I know if we go out tonight I’m going to be rubbish company and neither of us will have a good time’?

I also try to be honest because I want other people to be honest with me. I’d much prefer to ask someone how they are and hear that actually, things aren’t great, if that’s the reality of their situation. I find it hard to be all ‘oh yeah, fine, great!’ with people when that’s not how I’m feeling and it’s through our vulnerability, sharing the bad stuff as well as the good, that we form real connections with people.

When it comes to blogging and social media it’s the same – I want to present a real version of myself so that you feel that the relationship we have as writer and reader is a genuine one. I’m not afraid to tell you when I’m sad, or when I get my vagina rejuvenated, and I like that. It’s like we’re chums.

What I’m finding more and more difficult though is feeling like I’m telling you the truth, but not the whole truth. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with TikTok

When I mention TikTok to anyone over the age of about 30, the usual response is a kind of blank stare. ‘What’s TikTok?’ they ask, saying ‘TikTok’ in the same slow, confused way that my mum says ‘mobile data’, sounding out every syllable with equal emphasis, like it’s a foreign language.

Chances are though that even if you don’t use TikTok, your young adults do. As we all know, responsible parents take internet safety very seriously and definitely don’t just watch Gardener’s World pretending not to have noticed that their teen is an hour over the screen time limit.

Seriously though, it is important to at least have an understanding of what TikTok is about, and how to use TikTok’s safety and security features, even if you’d rather be planning next year’s borders. It’s important to understand how to use it safely.

I’ve put together a TikTok guide for parents to help you get to grips with what it’s all about.

What is TikTok?

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free app for 13+, (available on Android and IOS), that lets you record, share and watch short videos. They often involve goofing around to popular music, (I said ‘popular music’ in my head like an old person – ‘ooh is that in the hit parade?’), and TikTok can actually be influential in turning songs into hits.

Belle uses TikTok a lot for making short dance videos or odd montages where she jumps in the air and lands in a different outfit. The last thing that Belle made and showed me was a short video, set to music, of her pushing one of Joey’s toy cars slowly towards a woodlouse on the carpet. No, I don’t understand either, but this is what counts as funny nowadays apparently. My point is that there is a massive range of content on TikTok and it’s a great platform for exploring your creativity. View Post

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It’s 10 years ago now since I gave up the nine to five and became self-employed.

Bee and Belle were fourteen and seven at the time and I made the decision for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I may have been drunk. Secondly I was sick of wasting my time for not much money – it felt like I was spending hours at my desk and often accomplishing very little. Not (always) because I was being slack, but because there’s always so much down time, waiting on decisions, waiting on management.

There has been a lot of research in fact into the amount of actual WORK that people get done on the average working day and most of it, like this study, concludes than in the average eight hour day at the office, most people do less than three hours of work.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?

I hated the rigidity of it, having to turn up and be at your desk between set hours, just because that’s what everybody does. It felt so pointless, especially when, as a single parent, I was having to do things like forgo school performances and pay for extra childcare. I spent five years after Belle was born stressing myself out, working badly paid, part-time jobs for which I was generally over-qualified, driving from one job to another on my lunch break, scoffing a sandwich in the car. It wasn’t much fun and I didn’t make much money.

I knew that if I worked for myself I could get the flexibility I needed to prioritise my children. I also knew that I was smart and could work quickly and would probably end up working far fewer hours for the same money, if not more.

I was right.

Fast forward 10 years then to last week, when I was listening to a presentation about business growth.

“Put your hand up,” said the speaker, “if you would like to grow your business.” He smiled and kind of chuckled, as though that was an obvious question. Who wouldn’t want to grow their business? Dur.

I kept my hand down. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Funky Pigeon

I’m going to be completely honest here and say that in my younger days I would have found the idea of personalised Christmas gifts a little tacky. I say ‘my younger days’ like I’m referring to the 1870s or something – I just mean when I was maybe in my early twenties and still clinging to the illusion that if I just tried hard enough, and walked with enough nonchalance, that I could be COOL.

Obviously I can’t – I have a collection of Nancy Drew books and the Inspector Morse box set – but the lovely thing about getting older is that you don’t actually care any more. I love that sassy girl detective and you can like it or lump it. Plus I just remembered that when Belle was a baby I had a photo of her and Bee put on a mousemat, so, perhaps I’ve always secretly loved personalised gifts.

If you fancy putting the face of someone you love on a Christmas bauble this year then you’ve come to the right place! I put this post together with the help of Funky Pigeon’s range of first Christmas gifts and with the exclusive code JO20 you can get 20% off baubles, cushions, snow globes, and photo blocks until December 23rd.

This Christmas will be our first with baby Joey, which opens up lots of opportunities for personalised ‘baby’s first Christmas’ items. Joey is adorable – put him on a personalised cushion and seriously, what’s not to love?

Personalised cushion

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Advertisement feature in association with Silk’n

Yep, that’s right. Who doesn’t want a life free from ‘worrying about vaginal inconveniences’? It’s a quote from the Silk’n website and the turn of phrase made me smile. I pictured trying to get into a car park, late for a meeting, and being blocked by a row of inconveniently placed vaginas.

It’s not that obviously.

What it actually refers to is all of those issues that come with age, childbirth and menopause – weakening vaginal walls, urinary incontinence, diminished sexual pleasure – all those really FUN things that we experience as women. God, it’s a great life isn’t it?

You may remember that a while ago I went and had my vagina zapped at a clinic in London to tackle the same issues, and as great as it was, that was a one off treatment that only lasted for around 18 months. It was also pricey and had to be done by an expert. The Silk’n Tightra has a similar aim, but it’s the first of these kind of ‘women’s intimate health’ devices that you can use at home. It’s also a lot more affordable – buy it direct from the Silk’n website at the moment for £309.

Silk’n Tightra uses clinically tested and proven Bi-Polar Radiofrequency energy – the same technology that’s used a lot in facial treatments to tighten and rejuvenate skin. Home facial devices have become increasingly popular as an alternative to paying for expensive clinical treatments, and the Silk’n Tightra is just like this, only for your downstairs bits.

Here’s a proper video explaining exactly how it works, in case my incredibly high tech explanation wasn’t enough:

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Advertisement feature in association with Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

When you close your eyes and think about the best bits of Christmas, what do you see?

*closes eyes and smells mulled wine*

It’s probably not the frantic gift buying and wrapping, or the vast amounts of cooking and washing up. Chances are it’s not even the presents. It’s more a feeling isn’t it? The wrapping paper has been squeezed into the recycling, the leftover turkey is in the fridge, and everyone is snuggled up on the sofa. Perhaps there’s a chocolate orange casually placed on your lap, (just in case, because you never know when you might need a chocolate orange), and you’ve just found a film that everyone’s excited to watch.

You take a big happy sigh, a swig of your Baileys, give your kids a squeeze and everything’s good. That’s the kind of feeling that I get when I think of Christmas.

You can’t buy those kind of moments though can you? You can’t give someone the gift of a snuggly evening on the sofa.

Or can you?!

DUM DUM DUM DUM!

(That was me making a dramatic noise.)

You can make a jolly good start at it by getting the family one of these family movie advent calendars from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment:

Sony family movie advent calendar View Post

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There are a lot of things Belle doesn’t like – courgettes, food that’s been near courgettes, balloons, fireworks, other people – but when she likes something, she really likes it. Two things she likes happened on the same day last week when we went for a night away at Solent Hotel and Spa in Fareham, near Southampton.

Solent hotel review

The first was a back massage. You might be surprised that Belle likes a back massage given that being touched or too close to people is one of the issues that comes with her sensory processing disorder, but actually having that kind of firm pressure contact can have a very positive effect on her. She likes tight hugs (from me) and she sleeps every night with a weighted blanket, so I guess it’s a similar sensation.

A back massage where you only have to wander down from your hotel room in what might well be the comfiest robe known to mankind, (she begged me to buy it to take it home), is even better as there’s no need to even go outside. (‘Outside’ is on Belle’s ‘do not like’ list.)

The Solent Hotel and Spa has the classic pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi set up, as well as a separate area for treatment rooms, plus a gym. I’ve never really understood people who go on holiday and go to the gym, but each to their own I guess. Everything was very clean and although the hotel seemed busy, I never saw more than about half a dozen people in the pool area at any one time, so you had that lovely relaxed, exclusive feel.

Solent spa review View Post

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