Merry’s Perfect Prairie Muffin Moment.

I win, I win! I baked something and it isn't a disaster!

A couple of weeks ago I got totally and utterly sick of packed lunches, specifically the fact that the girls have ended up hurriedly making sandwiches and grabbing a snack bar, snack bars that are expensive and neither healthy or particularly satisfying. I decided i would try baking, something I absolutely never do, and see if that improved things. Once the children recovered from the shock and inspected me carefully for implants, they risked tasting my wares – and it was pronounced a success.

First of all I canvased for help, and got some great recipes from Snafflesmummy, but then decided I was going to have to go even simpler first. I tried out this Apple and Sultana Muffin recipe, which has been a ‘go back to’ one since – they are lovely and really don’t feel unhealthy to eat.

I win, I win! I baked something and it isn't a disaster!

Hurrah. I didn’t have so much success with the flapjack, which fell apart too much despite several attempts, so I’m still on the look out for a better version of that.

But the girls liked my baking, they’ve asked for me to do them again and it has been so much cheaper that snack bars. I do rant and rail about the whole school ‘healthy eating’ policy – Josie is stick thin, does 16 hours of gym a week and needs calories but is bound by the same break time rules as an obese child. At least this way I feel like I’m doing something good for her, which can’t be questioned, makes them feel a bit more mothered and is cheaper too. No one can complain about a home cooked, butter free muffin but I can make sure it is big and has plenty of good calories.

So a couple of weeks into the experiment and I got brave – my very own ‘see what happens’ recipe. And here it is. Worked perfectly, so I hope it does again!

Banana & Sultana Muffins.

5 small squashy bananas, mashed

1 cup of sultanas

1 cup of brown sugar

3 tbsps of sunflower oil

3 tbsps milk

1/2 of cup brown flour

2 cups of self raising flour

1 egg

1 pinch salt

1/2 cup of porridge oats

Chuck it in a bowl and mix briskly. divide into 12-15 muffin cases and bake at 190C for about 25 minutes.

****

I did a recipe. I don’t know what to tell you. It makes a cake-y but also quite banana bread-y, heavy but nice muffin. I might try adding some baking powder and see if that lifts it (who knows, I’m not exactly a baker!) but I’d make them again to turn out the same anyway because they were yummy.

I’d really love you to leave links to healthy, fast, easy baking for using for breaks and packed lunches as I’ve got the bug for baking all of a sudden!

 

 

Our 5th Remembering. #WaveOfLight

Remembering Freddie on our 5th Infant Loss Awareness Day without him.

I can wish for the days when being part of the Wave of Light hurt so badly I wanted to collapse inward under the weight of my own dying star.

I ache for the pain.

I remember that this day pulled me low and broke me all over again.

It no longer does.

I regret that.

For Freddie and all the babies who should be and are not.

Life goes on.

Except for those for whom it does not.

Except for the piece of me that got lost way back there with him.

With Freddie, more than 4 and a half years ago.

Long enough that only a very few people mentioned his name.

He’s drifted, found a mist, scattered and fled from the minds of most.

Even sometimes of mine.

Remembering Freddie on our 5th Infant Loss Awareness Day without him.

But not from my heart. Never from there.

There is a bitterness creeping in me that he is forgotten now; perhaps it is because I know people mirror my own onwards face.

It’s so hard to live if you look backwards, so hard to live if you let yourself acknowledge that you want to turn round. It is all smoke and mirrors, all a game I play. Forwards. Keep walking forwards.

And so I rage quietly – and with guilt of knowing I have only myself to blame. I held him to my heart and kept him to myself – and so he sat by the roadside quietly while other memories marched on. Left in the grass, in the sun I hope. Just a whisper of a baby no one knew.

***

This year, again, I remember. I always will.

I remember Freddie.

I remember a twin.

I remember Evie Rose.

I remember Benjamin.

I remember Joel.

I remember Toby and Estella.

I remember Sophia and Thomas.

I remember Matthew.

I remember Lily.

I remember the lost potential children of friends & family who I love.

I remember Florence Violet.

I remember Emma Faith.

I remember Daniel.

I remember Minnie.

I remember Thomas.

I remember Jack.

And I remember all the babies of people who have kept me sane this last 4 years, 6 months and 2 days on my blog, on their blogs, and at Glow. A list I will inevitably keep adding to for days as I get to yet another blog I read and realise the enormity of loss that silently surrounds us. (Forgive me if I have not yet added your child, please remind me, my memory & rss feed are equally inadequate prompts.)

I remember Iris.

I remember Lucia.

I remember Georgina.

I remember Charlotte.

I remember Alex.

I remember Reid.

I remember Hope.

I remember Haloumi.

I remember Gabriel.

I remember Micah.

I remember Cullen.

I remember Otis.

I remember Foster.

I remember Liam.

I remember Laura.

I remember Joseph.

I remember Snowflake.

I remember Margot.

I remember Catriona.

I remember Isabelle.

I remember Rhianna Lily.

I remember Daisy.

I remember Poppy.

I remember Matilda Mae.

I remember Hugo.

I remember all the babies of the men and women on Glow who have stood beside me this year.

I am thinking of the babies who belong to women who have told me their stories this year in person, to comfort me and abide with me, but who have not always told me their names.

I am thinking of babies held in hearts and kept private to their families.

I am thinking of the mothers for whom hope was gone almost before it had taken root.

I am thinking of the babies who were longed for and never came.

I am thinking of the mothers for whom pregnancy became surgery & medical procedures.

I am thinking of the women who made the decision to say goodbye for a greater good, while it tore their hearts out and broke their souls.

I am thinking of the mothers who discovered horror on a day that should have meant a whether pink or blue nursery needed preparing.

I am thinking of the mothers who felt stillness where a moment before there had been back flips.

I am thinking of the mothers who prepared or laboured to deliver a baby knowing they would never hear a cry.

I am thinking of the mothers who unexpectedly heard the loudest silence in the world.

I am thinking of the parents who hovered over a neonatal crib, hoping for a miracle, learning medical terms they never wanted to know.

I am thinking of the parents who chose the moment of their child’s last breath and held them as they died.

I am thinking of the parents who didn’t get there in time to do that.

And of all those who fall into the myriad of cracks between, each a chasm as deep and dark as any other.

And for the fathers, the siblings, the aunts and uncles and grandparents for whom life is never quite the same again.

***

Every year another name. So many, many, many more names.

International Baby Loss Day. October 15th.

 

On Beauty: The Dove Legacy Campaign. #FeelBeautifulFor

Frances

Her life – and motherhood for me – began with beauty.

“She has a little problem with her mouth,” they said – and handed me my firstborn with a blanket across her face. Within hours, almost before I had had time to meet her, my room was filled with pictures of other babies, other children and how surgery had fixed them to look better, repair the imperfection, alter the way they looked.

I had filled my life so full of the worries about my face, my hair, my too fat tummy and breasts that didn’t point the way I wished they did. I had judged myself all by my looks and the derision of others who judged me because of them. I had seen myself passed over for promotion because I didn’t look good in a bank uniform and belittled because short and fat must imply slow and stupid.

And suddenly I had to mother a girl for whom life was, from the instant she arrived, all about how she would be changed to make her beautiful.

The tiger mother roared. Not loudly, not at first, but she woke and cleared her throat and vowed to make her life something that would not be ruled by what people thought of her face.

But there is no doubt that if your life is all about hospital appointments to change your lip, or change your teeth or change your nose or change your speech, the idea that beauty, looks and how other people perceive you will matter. If a stray word from a gym coach about your weight takes hold, if a cruel comment about how your hair looks sneaks in under your guard, if the tooth made wonky by your cleft palate shows up in photos when you smile – all those things affect a growing teenager. In a house of four girls it is impossible for comparisons not to happen over height or size or hair or looks.

What I tried to do was make them not have to fight the battles I had fought, against weight and low self esteem and lack of confidence in myself as a being with worthwhile qualities. What I didn’t know, was that using myself as a standard against which to judge themselves as better was offering them the opportunity to hunt for their own imperfections in the mirror.

It’s an easy mistake to make.

I’ve tried to give all of them, but perhaps particularly Fran, other things to focus on that were not about face or even fat, certainly not about fitting in and being the same. I tried to make sure they had the opportunity to develop talents and skills and have bodies that were under their control, powerful, fit and strong.

But body image and the world around us are powerful influences – I sometimes forgot those because our early home educating life made us more able to control the impact of such negativity – and I forgot that focusing on my own tummy roll and the face I wish was prettier would make them think critically of their own bodies. I remembered to model speaking kindly to others, but I forgot about speaking kindly of ourselves.

I know I’ve had an impact on such things but I hope that by focusing on individuality and skill and hard work, I’ve shaped them to think about more than looks. So I interviewed Fran, who started off as a baby who was all about her looks and grew into so much more, a girl who has precious little idea how much of a role model she is for her sisters and the young gymnasts and dancers she interacts with and I was quite proud of what she had to say.

Dove made a film asking daughters and mothers about their body and what they thought of them. The impact of parental body image on a child is clear; the children echoed their mother in many of their feelings about their own body image.

Leading psychotherapist and Chair of the Dove Self-Esteem Project Advisory Board, Susie Orbach said:

“The role models in girls’ lives are often unaware of how much young girls watch and mimic them.  A girl grows up absorbing the behaviours and attitudes of their family members, especially her mother’s, and making them her own. These behaviours and attitudes form the foundation of who they are and how they feel about themselves.

“So, how we talk about ourselves, how we eat, how comfortable or uncomfortable we are in our own bodies, is the medium in which a daughter’s own body sense and body confidence grows or wilts. How well a young girl or young woman deals with the onslaught of media and commercial forces on body preoccupations is affected by what they pick up at home. Mothers are so important in providing a safe base.”

Perhaps it is too late to entirely alter things now, but I can try to take something from this;

“Whether she is a mother, aunt, coach, teacher, or sister, every woman has the opportunity to make a difference to a girl’s self-esteem,” said Lucy Attley, Dove UK Brand Director.  “By talking about our bodies in a positive way, we can help the next generation of girls grow up to be happy and content, free from the pressure of beauty stereotypes and the burden of self-doubt.”

Dove have created a set of self esteem tools as part of the #feelbeautifulfor campaign in the hope that the next generation will grow up feeling differently about their body.

I think seeing what pressures a young teen has to deal with has made me re-evaluate my own face and body. I’m a little more accepting of my looks (if struggling to come to terms with the reality of age!) and more comfortable with the achievements my body has to its name – 6 children, running for half an hour at a time, overcoming massive life hurdles, getting slimmer to be fitter, not more beautiful. If hope that as the girls grow up now, it is those things they will focus on remembering about me and aim for themselves.

Disclosure: This post is in association with Dove.

Win Honey the Bonikka Doll from Imajo.

JO-BON51 Honey A

Honey is a brand new arrival at Imajo Toys and has already won Silver at the Independent Toy Awards confirming what owner Jo Crombie already believed, that the Bonikka dolls, gorgeous traditional rag dolls with a contemporary twist, are something very special indeed!

JO-BON51 Honey A

If you would like a chance to win one of the Honey Dolls, please use the RaffleCopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  • Entry is as per the Rafflecopter widget and is one per person, excepting daily tweeting. No bulk or third party entries accepted.
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  • Prize is 1 Bonikka Honey Doll. The winner must disclose address for postage to Patch of puddles (which will be handed to Imajo for despatch) by 5pm 20h October.
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Disclosure: I have a business relationship with Imajo Toys and this giveaway is in conjunction with that agreement.

My Life. My Decision.

mayaangelou

Five years ago, I pissed plenty of people off by screaming repeatedly about the injustices that were about to be served on my community by the Labour government at the time. We wanted people to know the charges being raised against us and so we shouted. We tried to make people hear that we were accused, purely by dint of wanting to be at home with our children, of being abusers in the making, people with something to hide, people who had reason to be anti-establishment and hidden.

There was no telling the people who didn’t want to hear that our arguments were reasons. Like I say, I lost a lot of friends. People who thought that the government must have a point, that lack of evidence surely only meant deeply hidden instances as yet undiscovered. Our rage perhaps called a few people to our side but in the end what saved us was lack of time and a change of government. Five years on there are people suffering still harder at the hands of unjustified governmental decisions and I wonder now if some of the people who thought we were raving non-conformists think differently about our fury at the government wanting to weigh and measure us for our legitimate, lawful choices.

One thing that time did change in me was how I go about hoping to change minds; I lost belief in the bulldozer technique as that time ended, most profoundly when a woman of great intelligence told me that despite the entirely evidence free campaign both government and the NSPCC waged, she still supported both for doing so, because they ‘must know something’ and ‘do good work’. I concluded that on some levels, our frantic blasting of information had turned people off.

And so, these days I pick and choose how I support causes. I support ones I believe in, or which are already being supported by educated people I know and trust. I try to look into a charity – at least a little – before I put my weight behind them. And when I do shout about a cause or an outrage, I hope I do it mindfully of the fact that not everyone can listen or hear all of the time. I have some regrets about filling Facebook with my fears and woes back then because what I understand better now is that while some people don’t want to hear, others are consumed by woes of their own and need a peaceful place, a happy place, a safe place. Just as I needed to shut babies out of my online life for a year or two, so others need to have places that don’t confront them with fear and grief and pain. We never know what is going on in the life of someone else, a a straw can be very small and still break a camel’s back.

And sometimes I choose to sit on the fence. Sometimes I choose to be a-political. Sometimes I choose not to read and not to get involved.

It’s not because I don’t care.

It’s not because I’m not interested.

It’s not because I don’t support nor even because I don’t want to offend.

It’s for one very simple reason.

I don’t know and I don’t have time to find out.

There are a million and one things to be angry about in this world, a million things to want to change or wish to see the end of. And most of them are complex. Most of them are not black and white.

And I don’t want to be an idiot. I don’t want to share misinformation, or propaganda or accidentally be the person who doesn’t look into something carefully and shares the hate image by accident.

I want to get it right and just now, with a living to earn, a lifetime of grief to keep compressed, 5 children to raise and promises I have made to the people and causes I trust, I simply don’t have time.

I don’t want to be a pc activist again. I don’t want to sit behind a screen and roll out tragedy porn or frustrated blog posts that horrify people so they are turned off a campaign and stop hearing. I want to be mindful. Sometimes that means, when time is short and energy is low, not being actively involved. Sometimes it means protecting myself from things that would render me incapable. Sometimes it means using the limited spare money I have to make small changes I can be sure of, like £10 to change a persons sight or £12 a month to support a child in a Niger village.

Right now, that’s the best I can do.



Life isn’t always perfect. I wish I had more time to inform myself of everything I would love to fully understand. I wish I had always been perfectly able to empathise without offending people. If I had known that having a big family would strip me of the brain power and time for 20+ years to really actively set about being a force for good; perhaps I would have made different choices. But I didn’t. I was young when I started and self absorbed for some of it and growing up for a lot of it. I wish it were easier to strip life back to basics, live a life of abstinence and give it all away. Would it make much difference? Probably not. Would it honestly be the right thing to throw myself behind boycotts and anti-establishment campaigns when I can’t be sure I know all the facts. Maybe. But only maybe. And not with a confidence that would make my voice true.

But right now I do have a mission. It’s to bring up these five children to be kind, honest, tolerant, emotionally intelligent and people who will set about to change the world of some people in some way, for the better.

When I’ve done that, I’ll use my time for other things.

Right now that is good enough for me, because I know I can do it well.

If I don’t know – and if 10.30pm, when everyone is finally asleep and I’ve sat down, is too late to usefully to try to work it out – it is my right and choice to be silent. When I know better, when I am in a place that I can be sure I know better, I will do better.

But one thing I won’t do – will not do – is use words to hurt and wound. One thing I have learned is you can cause pain and damage with an ill-thought out comment. To do that unintentionally is bad enough, to do it through ignorance or self righteous belief that everyone should think like you is not particularly helpful. To wound intentionally is unforgivable.

So I will stick to my creed: to work on being better, in my own time, as I can, when I can. And to offer such time and money as I can to make small changes and hope they matter.

Whether or not that is good enough for anyone else is irrelevant.