Letting go of your rainbow baby.

Babies who are born following loss are called rainbow babies.

“A beautiful bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better.  The rainbow is more appreciated having just experienced the storm”. (Kicks count.org.uk)

I’m not saying I love my babies any more than other people who haven’t experienced loss, but it’s an entirely different, far more complicated kind of love.  All the pain anger and dispair are mixed up in that love as well as nine months of constant fear you had to endure.  When your baby is born you would think that this is your happy ending but it’s the start of a relationship that’s has a love more ferocious than you could ever have imagined.  It’s a statistical fact that mothers who have experienced a previous loss are far more likely to suffer from PND.  The baby is here, you’ve  won your prize, the thing that you’ve wanted most of all in all in the world for so so long but what next?

Looking back Lily was such a difficult baby, she cried for twelve months solid and would not be put down.  She didn’t sleep.  I didn’t know any different and thought that’s what babies were like, (on reflection I’m sure that her traumatic birth had a lot to do with how she was). My auntie  remarked that she wanted to help but I just looked so happy she didn’t want to impose.  I was, I felt like the cat who had the cream but I also felt that had so much to prove.  I had to be the best mother that had ever existed, and that no sacrifice was too big nothing was too much trouble.  I struggled to breast feed, even though I used to sob when she latched on to my bleeding nipples, many people told me to stop, that it was too hard for me,  but I would not and did not give up. When the time came for weaning I steamed and puréed every vegetable there was and froze them in perfect ice cubes. Annabelle Carmel was my guru. I used to pride myself on the fact she never ate baby food from a jar. I cringe when I remember taking her own sandwich’s to a party at a play gym. It was five months before I gave into the constant screaming and gave her a dummy.  And when the time came to go back to work I couldn’t leave her, so I gave up my job.

And so it continued, I joined all the parent groups, was a school governor and the fromidble Mrs Hardcastle to any adult I entrusted with her care. She and her sister were my life’s project and I was bloody good at it.

I was so proud of this feisty young lady who was so clever, independent and determined, who I had raised. But then the time came to let her go…

I knew it was coming, but it came so fast; first the university open days, then the UCAS form, the stress of exams and suddenly we were there, our last summer before she left for university stretching before us. (Just writing that down makes my stomach lurch). I used to cry every time I thought of her leaving, I can’t describe how painful it was.  We made the most of last summer, my favourite times were spent just snuggling up on the sofa in the dinning room, sometimes she’d fall asleep and I’d just sniff her hair and listen too her breath. I kept busy by shopping. You should have seen the things I packed away for her new room.  Beautiful coordinated bedding, desk accessories, home made Pom Pom bunting, cacti, fairy lights, crockery to die for, luxury toiletries and the biggest most well stocked box of food essentials you ever saw (I think she’s still working her way through the pasta). She was excited but scared. On her last day in Yorkshire Tim was at work and Iris at school so we spent it together, just the two of us. I was struggling not to cry all day, I think you can see sadness in both of our eyes.

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I didn’t cry at all that day when we drove over 250 miles to London, although I felt numb as we drove over Tower Bridge and that feeling of sheer terror still returns whenever we drive past the BMX track in Burgess Park. We helped to unpack all her belongings, made the bed, and we left her as she headed to the shared kitchen clutching the tin of brownies I’d made. Still I didn’t cry.

When we got back home I felt totally empty and bereft, the house felt too big.  I could feel that she wasn’t upstairs in her room, this was my empty nest and I hated it. The tears started then and I cried, I cried buckets and buckets until my eyes were puffy and my nose sore and then I cried some more. If anyone asked me how I was I cried again.  I missed her smell, I missed the mess she made and the angst she filled the house with. The pain was palpable. I thought I’d never get over it.

Lily was happy in London, she settled so well and was having a ball, she missed us (well she said she did) but was having the best time! Even though I was so terribly sad I could be happy for her too. We visited after three weeks and that felt like a lifetime, we spoke on the phone, and face-timed, although this always made us both upset. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and check when she was last active on social media, and I was so good at stalking her.  I continued to be very low and didn’t really want to go out much. One day in November Tim was working in London (I was so jealous!) On the spur of the moment she decided to come home with him.  They didn’t tell me and when she burst through the door at 9.30 I screamed. I was so happy I could have burst. We had a wonderful two days together, but when she left to go back I plummeted and missed he even more than I had before.

Now I’ll never know if my menopause made Lily leaving worse or if Lily leaving made my menopause worse but  let’s just say it was terrible timing. I was anxious, irritable, panicky and downright miserable. Admitting this and going to the doctor was the best thing I did. Once my menopause medication was sorted I started to feel calmer and more able to cope. I learnt to be kind to myself too. Lots of space, running to clear my head and I talked about how I was felling to anyone who’d listen.

We had a wonderful family Christmas together and we’ve seen each other every few weeks since then.  I still miss her dreadfully but it’s OK and I’m almost used to her not being here all the time. We’ve probably grown closer by being apart. I know she’s (kind of) an independent young woman and she seems to appreciate me and understands me more, it’s like a new phase of our relationship and I really like it.

Her first year has now ended and she’s packing up ready to come home. I’m excited but apprehensive.  It’s going to be hard getting used to being around each other all the time and Lily is going to have to settle back into this crazy family life of ours. We’re all going to have to make adjustments but I’m sure it won’t be long before we are bickering like we always did. I know I’ll be dreading September coming around but also know there won’t be the same feeling of dispair in the pit of my stomach like there was last year, because even though we’ve let her go she’ll always come back and she’ll always be my little girl 💗

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Me and Tim.

Marriage

 

It’s my wedding anniversary tomorrow. Twenty one years since the day poor Tim was so nervous, he’d had a large glass of Brandy, had to have his Uncle Colin fasten his tie and had forgotten his name and address by the time he met me in the Registry office at noon. Last year we mistakingly thought it was our silver wedding anniversary and had a weekend away to celebrate.

I was eighteen when I met Tim, we both have different recollections of how and when. I remember his friend bringing him to a Eurovision party I was hosting, he remembers me flitting around a local night club well before that being annoying, but we’ve agreed to differ. We both do agree that a few months later, having set my sights on him and knowing he was an electrician, I asked him to mend my hairdryer. Two days later he turned up to mend the it (he never got around to it, something I was going to have to get used to) and the rest as they say is history.

I was nineteen and he was twenty one. I wasn’t looking for Mr right and I can’t imagine he was looking for Mrs right either. It just kind of happened. I going through a pretty rough chapter of my life, having lost my mum two years earlier and I had an awful lot on my plate trying to juggle a grown up job, an errant dad and a wayward younger brother. Poor Tim must have wondered what he’d stumbled into, when he introduced me to his mum and dad he warned them I wasn’t like any other girl he’d ever brought home. I’m still not sure what he meant!

Two years later we bought our first house. It was a tiny cottage and it was beautiful. Tim didn’t dare tell his parents until just before we signed the final papers! His dad’s reaction was ‘Well you could have done better and I don’t mean the house!’ (honestly that’s nothing to what he thinks of Meghan Markle). I suppose you could say he didn’t agree with us ‘living in sin’ or that he particularly liked me all that much. We were dead poor, but that house was gorgeous and we were so happy there. His dad still wasn’t keen, and I had yet to learn to bite my tongue and ignore him, but that would come in time.

Next I wanted a baby, but Tim said we had to get married first. Well with me being a feminist vegetarian member of Greenpeace you can understand that I wasn’t too overly impressed with that idea. We carried on with the ‘I want a baby, we need to get married, I’m never getting married’ conversation for a about seven years until one day it went ‘I want a baby, we need to get married, alright then when?’ And again, being a feminist -vegetarian-member of Greenpeace, I certainly didn’t want to get engaged (this is the bit where my future self would tell my past self to stop being so bloody stupid and get a ring, cos you sure as hell won’t get one later) so we set a date for the following May, because it would be sunny (and we had a share option due to mature) it was seven months away, and that’s when, with the worst possible timing in the world, I found out I was Pregnant.

Well let’s say it was a lovely surprise once we’d got over the shock. If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know it didn’t end well and we lost our first baby just before Christmas. The wedding went ahead as planned, all be it with me in a normal wedding dress and not in a bell tent to cover my eight month pregnant stomach. We were married in the local registry office with a reception for forty in our back garden. Unbeknown to us I was infact already pregnant again, and I suffered with terrible morning sickness all throughout our honeymoon in Rome and Florence. I lost that baby too, and then another one later on that same year.

Eventually, against the odds, our lovely Lily was born and we had to move house because we couldn’t fit the pram and high chair in the house at the same time. After we moved into our current house, we then lost three more babies before Iris was born three years later. A good few years after that we became a family of five when we began to foster (see previous blog ‘We are a fostering family’)

So we’ve now been together for twenty eight years, and have been through some incredibly tough times but lots more fun times and are are still plodding on. Here are my reflections on our happy marriage.

1. We were so young when we met we did our growing up together, we had no check list of what we were looking for in a husband or wife but have somehow grown around each other and are two halves of the same person.
2. We respect each other.
3. He is the best dad any child could ever wish to have.
4. We both have the same values, ideals and as I’ve eventually persuaded Tim the same politics too.
5. We are both family focused and that’s a good job as our hands are well and truly full with the girls, and will be for the foreseeable future.
6. We know each other inside out.
7. We don’t lie to each other, (although I’m very good at manipulating the truth).
8. We’ve been poor, and we’ve been better off. I’ve always had a shopping habit but we live within our means and only spend what we can afford. Tim has no idea what he earns or what things cost, but what he knows can’t harm him and it’s in his best interest for the house to look pretty and for me to be well turned out.
9. Tim is a grumpy sod and I’m an over anxious control freak, we both know and accept this.
10. We argue. I’ve always been one to get things off my chest and speak the truth. Tim prefers to bury his head and carry on like every thing is ok, but usually arguing wins through.
11. I once threw a cucumber at Tim’s head (his football skills came in handy as he did a super fake dive) and he once threw a hairbrush at me.
12. Tim is super laid back, to the point of inertia. I’ve had to learn that somethings will just never get done. I’ve also learnt that to get things done we need a slow build up of gently nagging flowed by a full blown paddy.
13. Once when I’d been admitted to hospital Tim dashed home to get some essentials for me. I’ve almost forgiven him for coming back with a hairbrush in one pocket and a pair of knickers in the other.
14. We would both argue that we’re the better driver and I still maintain that knocking the wing mirror of his brand new car or getting another one stuck in a gate do not count as a crash, unlike the time he reversed into a member of our anti-natal classes car or drove into that woman in Batley when I was showing him a picture in a magazine.
15. I’ve never felt more proud of Tim as I did when he carried my Grandads coffin down the aisle at his funeral or when he recently stood and read a poem at his mum’s.
16. The way to my man’s heart is definitely through his stomach, unless it’s mackerel carbonara.
17. Tim prides himself on bringing me breakfast in bed most Sundays, but to get the said breakfast in bed it requires at least an hour of me huffing and prodding him.
18. Tim is still trying to learn that when I’m upset, cross or anxious I don’t need an answer I just need an ‘awwwwww’ and a hug.
19. Having (literally) dealt with the fall out my uterus caused twenty years ago he’s once again at the mercy of it as it drags me kicking, screaming, sweating and crying through the menopause.
20. I will never have matching crockery or a full set of glasses as Tim breaks at least one item each week.
21. Tim likes sport, Tim needs to watch all the sport, especially football. That’s ok as if he takes the little one to watch the football that’s a free Saturday for me, and I’ll always nod off before match of the day starts.
22. No matter how annoying Tim’s family are we both know that no family can be stranger than mine.
23. We have blue jobs and pink jobs. Blue jobs are the jobs I don’t want to do.
24. When we lost our babies I was so sad and upset for such a long long time and Tim just wanted to make me happy. He still does.
25. I say the wrong things at the wrong time and have a temper like a ferocious dragon. Tim has had to pick up the pieces on many an occasion and has got me out of more than his fair share of sticky situations.
26. Tim was once nearly beaten up in a pub one New Year’s Eve when I pulled the tail off a man’s lion costume and handed it to him to hold.
27. My anxiety has lead to some quiet bleak episodes but somehow he always understood and supported me. When I’m in a full blown anxiety driven panic he’s the one who knows how to calm me down.
28. When I was pregnant Tim used to go and buy me McDonald’s milkshakes at two in the morning. Likewise I once had to park my car in a very dubious area and go and find him in a grotty take away whilst wearing my pyjamas at a similar hour.
29. He will never accept that I’m poorly, and when I broke my leg he made me walk over a pebbled beach towards the car before he took me to the hospital. A few years later, when I broke my arm, he sat me in the bath and went to buy a Christmas tree before he’d take me there.
30. When he had appendicitis and been ill all weekend I did just drop him off at the hospital doors on the Monday morning.
31. We are on cats number six and seven and once had a goldfish called Simon.
32. Tim doesn’t like drawing attention to himself in public, whereas that’s what I spend the entirety of my life doing.
33. I’ve lost my wedding ring twice. Once it turned up in a bag of spinach in the bin, the other time it turned up six weeks after I’d lost it on Valentine’s Day, in a puddle, in a car park!
34. Tim hates his elbow or Adam’s apple being touched and I can’t bare him touching my feet or little fingers.
35. He must be crazy and Sagittarius cos I’m a Leo and I’m hilarious (little nod to the Housemartins there)
36. We love each other unconditionally.

Here’s to the next twenty one years 😘

 

 

My Bathroom revamp

You can’t failed to have noticed that we’ve recently had a new bathroom fitted. As is the same as when every new room is finished it’s my favourite room ever and I love it. Whenever I post any bathroom pictures I get asked lots of questions so I thought I’d write a little blog about it, and give myself the chance to take even more pictures.

Our old Edwardian house still had the original bath and radiator when we first moved in eighteen years ago, but blimey it was grim. Having been a student house I couldn’t help but think of all the bottoms which had sat there before me! But we had a new baby to deal with and the bathroom was quite a way down our list. All it had for the first five years was a lick of bright yellow paint.

When five years later we could eventually afford a new bathroom we decided to replace the loo and sink but have the cast iron roll top bath re-enamelled. This never really worked and it soon chipped, helped along by inquisitive little fingers, and it soon looked tatty so it’s not something I’d really recommend or do again.

Alas, this bathroom was to last another thirteen years until, after a few false starts where the money we’d saved had to be diverted onto more urgent jobs, we were ready to start again.

Oh how I’d planned for this moment. I’d spent at least two years scouring Pinterest and Instagram and knew exactly what I wanted. We found a really good plumber, who kind of understood but rolled his eyes and huffed a lot but I’m used to that with work men as I have very specific ideas, which are sometimes a little out of the ordinary. He called me quirky a lot and questioned all of my choices adamant it would never work but I stood my ground.

They spent a day ripping out the old bathroom, sadly the original bath had to go ( I’d wanted to plant it up in our back garden but Mr H wasn’t keen and we sold it on gumtree…to somebody who went and planted it up for their garden Grrrrr!) The house was covered in a layer of dust, but at least toilet was still plumbed in when they left that first night.

The next day was the turn of the misogynistic, racist tiler who spent the majority of his time talking and drinking tea. He tried to talk me out of having black grout on a number of occasions, as it turns out this was because it took him a whole day to wipe it down when he’d finished. This made him quite sweaty and sweary, but we’ll gloss over that. It took the whole week for him to fully tile the entire room and apart from him breaking the last tile, (costing us £50 for a new box) he did a really good job. The tiles came from Walls and Floors, I’d first spotted the Scintilla Tiles in The Frugality’s bedroom and knew they’d were just what I wanted. We used classic Metro Tiles on the walls.

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The new bath had been ordered to arrive midweek and proudly stood blocking the hallway over the following weekend. It was a Falmouth bath from The Cast Iron Bath company and we had it painted in Farrow and Ball Downpipe. It was far bigger than our old bath and we were glad we’d paid extra for Curbside delivery as, lovely as they were, our plumber and tiler would not have managed to shoehorn that beast up the stairs. We replaced the old shower which had been leaking through the kitchen ceiling for a while with a beauty of a bargain from Victorian Plumbing UK.

There was nothing wrong with the old loo and sink so we’re merely replaced the chrome piping , fittings and seat on the loo. It took nine days in all for the plumber and tiler to completely finish. Most of that time we didn’t have a plumbed in toilet (we managed by popping into Tesco’s, the neighbours and I have to admit to a few wees in a bucket in the cellar too).  On top of this we had to take the rabble to my brothers each night to shower them. It was stressful and messy but I only cried once.

The bathroom was looking really bright by now with the white walls so we decided to paint the wood work and ceiling in Farrow and Ball Downpipe to match the bath.4247E8B2-7854-4489-AB7B-21FF7531FA33

That’s all the boring bits over with now we’ll get on with the extras!

The colour scheme was a bold monochrome and I wanted to soften this, inspired by the new H&M shower curtain I’d found ( I’m still deciding how to style the curtain but I’m quite liking it just artistically flung over the curtain rail) I decided to add lots of detail and interest in green, concentrating on plants.4937719E-2AF0-44C3-A628-2C6F1C7A8BEAI collected lots of interesting plants from Ikea, Leeds market and a great little independent shop in Leeds called Shortpress, that’s where the fab macrame hanger is from too. Not having room for the shutters I’d originally planned I’ve sort of obscured the window with hanging plants, although I’m sure on dark winter nights it still looks a little like tales of the unexpected from the neighbours viewpoint! The cute face candle sticks were from a shop in Hebden Bridge, although I have found some similar ones online.

E1468125-3559-480B-9C67-AF198BB1108AF6ED81B0-FE6F-45EE-9E0B-86C053A03EE2The old Ikea cupboard is now on its fourth reincarnation as I’ve never found a bathroom cupboard I like more. Again, it’s painted in FB Downpipe with a swish new knob from anthropologie. The face plant pots on top of it are also from there. I found the little cat door hooks in the sale there, down from £18.00 each to £1.75!6F83A6B5-4344-45A1-97BF-990343278016.jpeg89AB3A45-E422-4075-85E3-95979413404BThe green towels were from John Lewis and all the other towels and bath mats were from Matalan. The black and green ones create a huge amount of fluff, even through they’ve been washed a fair few times. B2F5E9AF-99EF-4D98-8A10-F6F9E101283D

I didn’t want lots of toiletries on display so managed to pare down the things on show (not an easy job in a house of four girls) and these are now neatly stored in this wire floor stand which I eventually persuaded my plumber to hang on the wall. There’s a little matching basket used to store spare loo rolls. Over the bath is a fab bath-board which holds my gin and candles for that rare occasion I get to relax in there.

These swanky clip frames were from Matalan and I simply cut a few pretty leaves from the garden and pressed them in there. Of course Homesense proved invaluable for quirky plant pots and delicious smelling candles.7F37CCE4-9E77-4539-9265-D1269CB798600A78A955-751A-4AA0-AB83-8CF6202BD1E3These swanky clip frames were from Matalan and I simply cut a few pretty leaves from the garden and pressed them in there. Of course Homesense proved invaluable for quirky plant pots and delicious smelling candles.

Now my favourite treat is a daytime bath, in an empty house, my second favourite treat is a candle lit bath, with a glass of gin sitting on the bathboard with the door firmly locked!B36DC14F-48D6-429B-9E7D-32922DB3E246AB346A90-3976-4EC4-8E57-36049C955968

Parenting through the exam season.

Yesterday marked the beginning of our fifth exam season in this house. It’s such an emotive time watching your children work so hard, much harder than we ever did back in the day. The pressure on them is immense and it’s hard to know what to do for the best. I have two very distinct, individual daughters who have tackled exams in entirely different ways and therefore needed to be parented and supported in entirely different ways too, well apart from the unlimited supply of cake and chocolate that they both needed.

Year one: Lily took two GCSEs a year early. She had been working super hard up until this point, was very conscientious and always did well. She doubted herself and pushed herself so very hard, needing to be the best at everything she did; a typical perfectionist. Two GCSEs were stressful, there were lots of tears and she was convinced she’d messed up. All she needed from us was a sense of reason, an ear to listen to her, a shoulder to cry on and a calm environment. She poured over the mark schemes when they were released and then did the same with the grade boundaries. I felt sick when I dropped her at school to collect her results, I knew how important it was for her to do well. I cried when she rang me to tell me her results. I was so happy for her and incredibly proud. Little did I know that this would be the push she needed to try and realise her dream to get into the top University in the country, and what a bloody rollercoaster that turned out to be.

Year two: GCSE year. I can’t actually remember too much. I know she worked incredibly hard all year, she was anxious and sick. Our main roll was to watch over her and keep her calm, we never ever put any pressure on her as she put way too much on herself. She was driven beyond belief. To get in to Cambridge University her grades at this stage had to be phenomenal. The school were amazing, providing coaching in the evenings and at weekends and school holidays, a mentor and being in constant touch with home (it wasn’t just Lily they did this for either, I can’t thank them enough). Again she wasn’t confident and went over and over the exams she’d taken afterwards. The wait until the 20th August was the longest few weeks, there was added stress as the school rang the top performers the day before to invite them in early for their results and they couldn’t get hold of me! (Long story involving a broken phone) anyway she WAS there early at 9am and was one of the first girls to be called up to collect the slip with her results on, she had done exceptionally well meaning that she was a step closer to realising her dream. The rest of that day was amazing as I basked in her glory, it involved lots of champagne, bunting and a huge party.

Year three: AS levels. She moved on to sixth form college as they had a good Oxbridge record. It was a tough decision to make, her school had been so supportive to get her to this point, but college was where she’d have the best possible chance. The move meant had to be be up incredibly early to catch the train into town. It worried me how hard she worked, but she hit the ground running. There was stress again and there were tears, she shouted at me a lot and I put up with it. Again I was there for her to bounce off, to listen to her, to provide carbohydrates, chocolate but not advice (as she already knew it all!) this was the year when we began to collect her slightly worse for wear from parties at two am in the morning too, but we did that too, unquestionably. Our roll now was to let her find her own way whilst we were carefully observing from close by. It’s also the summer we drove up and down the country looking at Universities. I cried as we pulled up outside the first one, Exeter, the reality of her leaving home hit me hard. We visited all of her five choices with her, and I’m glad I did as it was the beginning of realising I was going to have to let her go soon, and it helped her knowing that we were with her every step of the way. Her results this year were released by email at six in the morning. We didn’t get much sleep, but I’d just nodded of when she woke me screaming running down the stairs ‘I did it!’ She got a full house. This was getting serious now. She asked if she could have a few friends around to celebrate, of course she bloody well could! Fast forward to the early hours of the next morning, four hours before Tim had to be up for work, he had to ask them to stop playing the piano so loudly and found somebody asleep in the bath.

Year four: A levels for one and a GCSE for the other.
This is the year ‘Operation Cambridge’ ramped up a gear. It was actually in her sights now. She was a nervous wreck, (as we all were). There were stages, that were like rounds. You have to complete one stage to get through to the next one, each one more nerve wracking than the last. First you submit your UCAS form, then there were two essays to submit. After that an entrance exam. Next was the long wait to see if she’d been invited for an interview. She was, in early December she got a letter inviting her to go down and stay at her college of choice and attend two interviews. All the time she as still studding incredibly hard and attending Oxbridge coaching sessions. It was not long before Christmas I put her on a train on her own, she looked so young and vulnerable. I wanted to go with her, but we knew it was something she had to do on her own. There are all kinds of stories about the questions you’ll get asked but her interviews, although terrifying were straight forward. It was a stressful Christmas. Offers were due to be made on the 12th January by email from about 9am. The night before was another night of no sleep. She was in college and couldn’t ring me until between lessons. Just writing this makes me feel sick, it was the longest morning ever. She called as I was mopping the floor, I still remember where I was standing when she told me she’d been made an offer to attend Churchill College, Cambridge. How proud could two parents feel? This child we thought we’d never have had been offered a place at one of the top Universities in the world. The time and effort that had gone into getting to this point were extraordinary. Everyone was so proud, she was in the local paper, on the college website but the pressure was beginning to tell. The next few months were awful. She worked herself into a frenzy, fixated on getting the grades required. She cried, wouldn’t eat, was getting up at five thirty every morning to go and study, not returning until nine in the evening. All the time her sister was quietly getting ready to sit her first exam. The tension in the house was palpable, and it’s not something I ever want to go through as a family again. We tried to calm her down but she just wouldn’t listen. I rang the college and they assured me she was fine, that everything would be ok. My stomach still flips when I think of last summer waiting for the results, of sitting on the stairs for five long minutes after we know she’d opened the email on results day, Tim going upstairs and finding her sobbing looking at her computer screen. We had planned for every eventuality and I’m so glad we did. She had missed both her fist and second choice. We held her and promised her that everything would be Ok, all the time knowing we had to be ready to hit the ground running. Tim took the day off work and how we got through that day is still a blur. She was elated when UCAS updated and she found that despite not meeting her offer from Kings College London her place there was confirmed, meaning she didn’t have to go through clearing after all. She was so brave going into College on her own to collect her results, I’m incredibly proud of her for doing that. When she got home we opened the champagne to celebrate her getting that place at Kings, although it was not the outcome she’d worked towards for four years it was still a pretty amazing result. There was loads of faffing to do that day, applying for accommodation, updating her student loan, but like everything before we did it together. Then we gave her some money to go out with her mates and get blind drunk, it was only at this point that Tim and I let ourselves go and had a little cry. It was heartbreaking to see her so disappointed in herself after everything she achieved.
And like the poor second child she is, Iris tootled off for her GCSE result the following week. She wasn’t overly happy with her grade, but she had her first GCSE under her hat, and we couldn’t be anymore proud.

Year five: GCSEs round two. Total parent exhaustion by this point. Poor Iris has always been in Lily’s shadow, but she is her own person and a really bright kid. She tackles things so differently and likes routine. School are amazing as always and support her so well. Revision has become a habit to her and nobody can have better or neater revision notes. Our roll this year is to provide that calm environment, to make sure she revises ALL of her subjects and not just the ones she likes! to be in constant touch with school as she tires very easily and we all have to keep an eye on this, encouraging words, chocolate and cakes, early nights and long baths and at least an hours TV to wind down before bed.
Lily’s just finished her end of year exams at Uni, and I can’t tell you how glad we all were that she was 250 miles away this time!

Everything worked out for the best for Lily. It was a hard lesson for her to learn, but she’s so much happier and calmer in London than she’d ever be in Cambridge and she knows this. I’m sure results day this year will still be as nerve wracking, but we’re seasoned pros by now.

So what have I learnt? We always said to Lily if you reach for the stars you’ll get the stars, but if you reach for the heavens you’ll get the stars thrown in. I wouldn’t change a thing, but might do things differently another time around but what’s life for if it’s not teach you a lesson?

Friends

I spent some time this weekend with my oldest, dearest friend, and we joked with our children that we were BFFs. It made me think of friendship and the different people you acquire over your life, the layers of friendship you have. Some friends have stayed with me a little while, some for a much longer, I know some will be with me for life. They’re they’re all part of my story and I want to tell you about them.

First of all my BFF, Emma, I love her dearly. We became friends when we were twelve or thirteen, I can’t quite remember when but I do remember is her coming over to talk to me during drama class to to admire my fabulous flat slingback shoes and corkscrew perm. We weren’t best friends all the way through school but we were always close and she’s the one friend I’ve been in constant touch with since I’ve know her. We’ve fallen out of many a photo booth and night club together, (we may have even been barred from one), I’ve held her hair back for her when she was sick on more than one occasion, and blocked her parents drain and destroyed their shower. When she lived abroad we stayed in touch by writing old fashioned letters to each other. My girls call her aunty and hers call me that too. Her family have cared for me and looked out for me when I needed it most, and I love them all for that, in fact when I was talking to one of her London friends at the weekend, (lilac hair, fabulous bosom and glittery shoes, I approve) she had assumed that I was one of the family and I think that’s about right. We’ve had fights and annoyed each other over the years only because we’re so alike in temperament and personality and know each other inside out, but we’ll always be friends. We are so woven into the fabric of each other’s lives that nothing can change that now. We joke about being fat Grandmas together one day. I know Emma will never be fat, but I know for sure we’ll be outrageous old ladies together, with me wearing way too much lipstick and Emma in a leopard coat and high heels.

Work friends; My dear trio of friends Vicky, Maureen and Louise. I met these ladies when I was eighteen when I started my first job in an insurance office in Leeds. Those were different times, people smoked in the office, we went to the pub for long lunches, and it was ok for your boss to comment on the length of your skirt and pat your backside. We never really got much work done to be honest, but we’ve oodles of stories and catch phrases between us, and spend our time together now laughing so hard my cheeks ache, I can’t believe I’m celebrating two of their fiftieth birthdays with them later this year (please note I’m the youngest one in this group, and I’m a long way off fifty!).
Lovely Jane who was my boss when I sold make up for a living, we had so much fun together back then, we went on the Orient express and were once chased through Wakefield by a car full of ne’er do wells, but again that’s a probably a story for another day.
Gemma worked with me as a teaching assistant, I’m old enough to be her mother and we are both as bonkers as each other (seriously, we’ve been medically diagnosed) we are so boisterous in each other’s company and we bring out the naughtiest in each other, we have the same fiendish sense of humour, laugh at the same things and drink way too much when we’re together She understands when I’m over anxious and stressing about something ridiculous and I can tell her to stop being stupid. And honestly, if anyone ever read back through our text messages we’d be locked up, sectioned or deported.
I only worked with Denise for a little while and nobody would ever put us together. She is the friend who leaves soup on my doorstep when I’m ill and remembers to bring flowers when others don’t. She is so calm, reasonable, level headed and so wise! I think we all need to be a bit more Denise sometimes (and I know if she’s reading this she’ll be spotting all the grammatical and spelling mistakes I’ll be bound to have made!).

When I first became a mum I joined a baby massage class and had a gang of wonderful baby friends. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them all. We supported each other through breastfeeding, weening, potty training and so much more than that. We don’t all see each other really these days and that’s a shame, but life moves on and there’s nothing wrong with that, the old saying that some friends come for a reason, some for a season and some for life is true. I’m still very close to one, Lindsay. We might not talk all the time but we’re always, always in touch, we understand the ebbs and flows of each other’s lives, and menopauses! I think we have got to that place that’s beyond friendship. We used to joke that our oldest daughters had names that sounded like two old ladies in the chiropodist getting their bunions done, but I think that’s likely to be me and Lindsay now.
I’ve got another Mum friend, Naomi who I met when she was Iris’s teaching assistant. Now, she’s my best shopping friend and we like a run out to a national trust property with a good lunch thrown in too. We have a girly weekend in London each year and can rabbit on to each other for the entire duration without annoying each other, well I hope we can, but you might have to check with her to be sure.

I’m sorry I didn’t put you at the top of the list Parveen, but I still love you just as much as the others. My newest best friend, who has taken me on so many adventures and taught me so much about myself. We met at art class and had such an incredible year last year, with a trip to Italy and Serbia. That’s where we shared a bathroom when there was no water, and for that reason alone I know we’re friends for life. She’s just as vain as me, but I’m the narcissistic one and she’s the egotistical one. I’m amazed how well you can know and understand somebody who you’ve only know for a relatively short time, and because of this I know there are probably other people out there who I’ve not even met yet who will become an important part of my life some day.

I’ve friends who are not part of my day to day life but am in touch with on social media still, or have reconnected with and that’s great, I love that they are around and the history that we share together, often a song will come on the radio that reminds me of my school days, working as a waitress or of that holiday in Salou and I think of them and smile. There are people who used to be an important part of my life and who aren’t anymore and that’s ok too. It doesn’t make the time we shared any less important, they were loved at the time and were part of my life for a good reason. I don’t think there are any friends I’d rather forget about! I count some people whom I’ve never even met in real life as friends, we’ve connected through a shared love of fashion, food or design over on Instagram and I think it’s important to include those people, because they’re real people behind the squares and we have real conversations about real stuff. I’ve my art class friends who I enjoy spending time my Wednesday mornings with and dear friends in Serbia and Italy too.

I’m a bit scared about posting this incase I’ve missed anyone out but I feel incredibly lucky to have such a cool bunch of friends who I know have all got my back as I have theirs. I love all the different qualities you’ve to brought into my life and hope I’ve brought some to yours too 😘

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My home style

I think it’s more than obvious how much I love my home. There’s nothing I enjoy more than faffing around, rearranging things and planning the next big protect, and trust me there’s always the next job looming. My style is my own. Some call it quirky but I’m quite liking the phrase ‘eclectic glamour’ at the moment. We bought this house eighteen years ago, it was a rundown ex-student house and it was as much as we could afford, if not more. We had a one year old baby when we moved into this nicotine stained house with graffiti scrawled on the walls. Most people thought we were mad, looking back we probably were but we’ve worked hard to make it into our family home and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather live.

Be confident in your style. I’m definitely an maximalist.
A magpie who loves colour, sparkle, glitter and just stuff in general. I can’t bare for anything to be hidden away in a cupboard and want everything on display. Just when I think there’s no more room for anything else I find a new corner to fill. This doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes appreciate and even envy a cool minimalist interior, just not magnolia, never magnolia and certainly never ever beige!

Collections. I have many, and once I get a taste for something it kind of takes over; golden syrup tins, Bon Mama jam jars. Noddy cars, cacti, these are mainly displayed fondly for a few years and then are relegated to a dusty box in the cellar for the rest of eternity.
Never keep anything for best. Life is for living, always use the best plates and cutlery, burn the Jo Malone candle.

I don’t follow rules, never have and don’t see that changing any time soon. Some people have tried to tell me what to do (and have come a cropper!). I am, however, allowed to make rules for other people – things like no toys in the front room, if you make a mess tidy it up, no walking on the rug when it’s just been hovered. This helps me feel in control (an aspect of my personally we may discus another day) and keeps an a semblance of order.

Pets are inconvenient and make a mess, mine have amongst other things; infested the house with fleas, ignored a rat under a floor board, left a half dead pigeon in the cellar, been sick at the side of the bed during the night and presented a pain in the arse social worker with a decapitated mouse. I somehow still love them though and believe that without them the house feels empty.

Remember your inner child. Some people can’t have children, some people don’t want them but that childish element makes a home. I like to think my house is fun and playful, it’s also full of plastic shit gathering dust which will never decompose and that I’ll never be able to bear to throw away.

I love art and my walls are crammed with pictures. Some of which I’ve painted, some have been painted by others, my favourite piece was one which Lily created for her GCSE. I have lots of photographs, ones I’ve taken of my children and ones of dearly departed loved ones. Some of them are elaborately framed, some are just pushed into the corner of mirror frames and some are curling under magnets on the fridge. I hang favourite greetings cards, illustrations from books and have pressed leaves and feathers into frames to display too. I must also confess to a few dubious Ikea prints which were bought years ago because they matched a room (shudder) In my defence they’ve now been relegated further and further up towards the attic to fill dusty far forgotten corners.

Fairy lights, all rooms must have at least one string.

My love of plants has recently re-emerged and the house is slowly becoming an urban jungle. I have one first generation umbrella plant which survives from my first ever flat twenty eight years ago. This has thrived on neglect, and was once purposed to prop up the living room ceiling before it fell down (again, a story for another day) I’m thinking that plants are probably my newest obsession. I love pottering around, faffing with them and I get way too excited when they grow a new leaf. Yes I talk to them too. For now Mr H has placed an embargo on the purchase of any new ones until further notice. We shall see…

You’ll find a Russian doll in each room. They are a symbol of miscarriage, and they are in memory of all our babies who were never born.

Colour, colour, colour. I love dark walls, with brighter pops of colour to highlight, although I can never stick to a scheme. Each room continues to evolve and grow in quite an organic way, due mainly to my shopping habit and fickle nature.

If you’re ever throwing anything out and ask me if I want it the answer will be yes. (Much to Mr H’s dismay)

Is a room without a cushion even a room? Where ever possible multiple cushions should be used. Ditto candles, I have scented candles in every room and buy in bulk from Tiger (bright colourful ones, two for a pound) tea-lights and church candles from Ikea and smelly ones from Homesense (favourite brands are DW home and Olivia Blake) the fake Jo Malone Aldi ones are also fab. Beware of of where they are placed. As I discovered recently, peacock feathers are flammable and don’t smell very nice when they catch alight.

Although I like my house to be tidy and cushions plumped at all times it is not a show house, it is for living in and I like nothing more that when it is full of people. I’m not precious about it and like it to be utilised to its full extent. I love to entertain and be a hostess. The days when I only discovered how many sleeping teens were upstairs by counting the shoes in the kitchen were amongst the happiest times I can remember. A highlight for me was once bumping into a semi naked muscular teen as I emerged bleery eyed from the bathroom one morning, the arc of Jagermeister I discovered another morning across the living room walls and ceiling was perhaps a step too far, and we probably shouldn’t talk about the discarded underpants I once had to post back to their owner.

I get inspiration from everywhere, I must admit instagram has cost me a fortune! I love seeing what other people do and how they do it, using their ideas in my own way, sometimes even blatantly copying! Although I once had a friend who copied every single thing I did and it drove me mad, I often wonder what her house is like now, frozen in time or has it morphed into somebody else’s?
All I know is this house is so much more than just a house, it’s our beloved home and it is an expression of my creativity, it will continue to be a work in progress until they drag me kicking and screaming from it with a trial of Pom Pom bunting flailing behind me.