12 Things I love about my teenager

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post called 12 things I love about my son. At the time of writing, he was a soft, squishy five year old, and absolutely the apple of my eye. He still is, but he’s now a gangling 12 year old, just finishing his first year of high school and he’s busy cultivating a moustache and an attitude.

What with him slap-bang in the middle of puberty, and me on nodding terms with the peri-menopause, our house is a lively hot bed of hormones. Between us there’s enough shouting and crying to script a Latin American soap opera.

Despite this, we still find plenty to like about each other, and teenagers often get a bad rap, so I thought I’d list some of the things I like best about him, if only so I can look back and read it when he’s locked in his room loudly sulking to himself and telling me to go away.

12 things I love about my teenager

12 things I love about my teenager

  1. He may eat us out of house and home, but he appreciates my efforts to fill his hollow legs, always says thank you and compliments my cooking.
  2. When he gets home from school he always gives me the biggest and best hug of my day.
  3. He always asks to watch funny dogs YouTube videos with me before bed, so we can laugh and wind down together.
  4. He carries my bags home without needing to be asked.
  5. We share a hobby, and although we don’t have much downtime, when we paint together, it’s special for both of us.
  6. He always rushes home to tell me about the small victories in his day; house points won, things he has achieved, jokes he’s told which made people laugh.
  7. He still shares his sweets and treats with me.
  8. He takes pictures of things he thinks I will like when he’s out and about. This week it was a large puddle with a dramatic sky reflected in it.
  9. He asks to spend time with me and suggests interesting things we could do together, like trips on the Metrolink to new places, or he likes coming swimming with me.
  10. He is always coming up with new jokes to try and make me laugh. Some of them are remarkably clever.
  11. As awkward as so many of the growing up, birds and the bees, “all of these strange things happening to you body are actually perfectly normal” chats are, he does listen, engage with me and ask questions, which is such a relief and a good thing. Awkward as heck though.
  12. Sometimes, if no one is around, he will hold my hand while we are walking down the road. No one must ever know this.

12 things I love about my teenager
Those are just twelve of the many reasons why I think he is awesome. I think it’s nice to think about some of the ways the special people in your life make you feel special too, or the things you personally marvel at about them. I know the next few years won’t be plain sailing for either of us, hormones being a big factor in that. But as long as we remember that we love each other, and that we have each others backs, we will hopefully come out the other side relatively unscathed and hopefully not needing too much therapy.

Whatever happens, I wouldn’t swap him for the world. He’s my best boy and always will be.

How to keep a long distance relationship going during Covid-19

Long distance dating is hard. You don’t see each other very often, communication is strained by the distance and you can’t always be there when the other needs you. Throw in a global pandemic and a lockdown, and you’re trapped in a long-term, long distance dating nightmare.

I’d like to say that I have all the answers, and that the rigours of 2020 have made my long distance relationship thrive. If I did say that, I’d be lying. I would say that although this year has been hard, we’ve pulled together and found new ways of dating, despite the distance. And if a relationship, any relationship can survive Covid-19, then it’s got an awful lot going for it.

How to keep a long distance relationship going during Covid-19

Regular Video Chats
Being physically apart from one of the people who make you happiest is hard. Not being able to be held by them when you need a hug is hard. It is not the same, not by any stretch of the imagination; but regular video chats on WhatsApp, FaceTime or Zoom are really helpful. It can feel a bit pressured, to perform or be full of news, but if you’re isolating, chances are there is no news anyway. What we sometimes do is dial in for a video chat during our working from home working day. We just work and natter like colleagues would. That takes the pressure off and it’s also nice to have that bit of company for half an hour.

Remote TV dating evenings
I really enjoy these. We pick a film or TV series we are both interested in which is available on iPlayer (usually). We get online, press play at the same time and then watch together. It’s not the same as sharing a sofa and a bag of popcorn with your beloved; but it’s nice to have a shared experience and be able to react in real-time to something in the programme together. It really does help us feel closer when we have a TV date night.

Keep the postman busy
I’m a letter writer at heart, and even though you can text or DM all day long, it’s also nice to send or receive a letter, or some other token of affection. I think our mutual love language is small thoughtful gifts. He worries about me being cold, so gives me mittens and cosy hats. I like to send things which will cheer him up, or make him smile, so he gets daft things like a homemade Yorkshire Tea Advent calendar.

Kiss and make up
If your main form of communication is text or DM, then it’s easy for misunderstandings to occur. You can’t really sense a tone or if something is meant as a joke but lands badly. Fall outs happen and they are a normal part of relationships. It is easy to flounce off and it is important to take some time and have some space to calm down or realise it is probably a miscommunication. We fall out, we snap at each other. Lockdown is hard and it adds to the stress of being in a long distance relationship; but we are also pretty good at talking it through, saying sorry, explaining our position and why we felt that way.

Play games
We both love word games and I’ve been playing WordFeud for years. I introduced him to it at the start of lockdown and we’ve been playing together ever since. It’s just something we can both dip in and out of, something we can do together even though we are apart. Find a game you both enjoy and play it online.

20 Questions
This is something we have done on and off throughout lockdown. One of us would put together a list of questions and we would both answer them, like Mr and Mrs, but with 87 miles between us. It’s one way of getting to know each other a bit better. It’s also good for sparking other conversations, because it’s very easy to run out of general topics and small talk when all you do is sit at home and work. We really enjoyed doing the question and answer evenings. It was a fun way to get to know each other a bit more; we laughed together and were able to tell each other things we might have been too embarrassed to say to each other’s faces.

Send me a selfie
We miss each other quite a lot and although we are in very regular contact with each other, I miss his face and he misses mine. We are regular selfie senders. They don’t have to be all duck faced selfies, funny faces are our speciality; anything to make the other smile. We also share photos of our meals, or things we’ve seen on walks, just snippets of our day. Selfies and photos and the occasional video message help us keep a feeling of closeness despite the distance.

Being in a long distance relationship during lockdown is hard. I’m lucky that he is a very calm, level-headed man who is full of wise words and kind actions. He has endless patience with me and is nothing but supportive of me and the things I do. I asked him what advice he would give to people in long distance relationships during lockdown; he said “be aware that others have it worse but also be aware it’s hard”. See, I told you he was a wise one, and a keeper.

How to keep a long distance relationship going during Covid-19

Are you feeling lonely this Christmas?

It’s Christmas Eve. The presents are under the tree, the small boy is tucked up in bed waiting for Father Christmas and I’ve been crying on and off all day.

This time last year I was sat watching TV with my Dad, probably a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special or something, I forget. I know we were sat watching telly with a brew in quiet companionship. My Dad lived alone and for some reason last year I hated the thought of him waking up in an empty house on Christmas morning, so I invited him to stay.

It was one of the best decisions I’d made in a long time. We had a lovely evening and topped it off a little glass of something at midnight to celebrate. After he was asleep we hung a little Christmas stocking on his door and went to bed. Christmas morning was wonderful. I think he’d forgotten how special and magical being in the house with a child on Christmas Day was. It was a day I will treasure forever. Six months later he was dead.

I hate the thought of someone being lonely or being alone when they want company and companionship. I’m northern so I always nod hello to strangers in the street. I’ll sometimes chat to people at the bus stop and I’m happy to make small talk with people in cafes, pubs or wherever. I try to judge it so I don’t come off as a weirdo. But I know that to some people, a little interaction and a chat at a bus stop might be the only conversation they might get that day.

I am lonely too. I miss my Dad so much because he was bloody good company, we’d talk and laugh, or exchange jokes. I’d show him funny things I’d found on Facebook (I’m still saving things to show him, forgetting that I’ll never be able to share a funny video with him again). Some days I hardly speak to a soul, bar the usual “put your shoes on…eat your tea…don’t pick your nose” parenting chatter.

I’ve bought a puppy for company, we’ve had her for ten days now and she’s part menace, part wonderful creature. She sits on my knee and nuzzles me when I cry. I hope she will help with my loneliness at any rate, and she is a comfort at least.

I was sat this afternoon, the house was quiet, the boys off doing things and I reflected on our Christmas so far. It struck me what a lonely time of year it is and how alone I am feeling right now. If I feel alone, then thousands of others must feel the same.

I’m not sure what the cure for that is, other than people extending the hand of friendship and being there. Recognising that someone might be lonely or alone when they might not want to be is probably the first step. It’s not all about parties and enthusiastic socialising. Just popping round for a brew, joining someone for a walk or just picking up the phone for a chat could make all the difference to someone.

Who do you know who might be feeling lonely this Christmas? It might not necessarily be the people you think might be lonesome either. Sending hugs to all those who need one. Merry Christmas xx

Are you feeling lonely this Christmas?

Did my husband lose respect for me after I gave birth?

I’ve always been the strong one, the one with the good career, fairly good salary and in many respects the wearer of the trousers. It was a role which suited me just fine, every ship needs a Captain and I wore the Captain’s hat with style and aplomb. That was until I swapped it for my Mummy hat and my husband had to help steer the ship himself.

I recently read an interesting article where a man talked about how his wife’s caesarean made her a total badass. I shared it with him and we talked a little about the traumatic birth of our son and his swift arrival via an emergency caesarean. It occurred to me that seeing me at my most vulnerable; naked and frightened, screaming for help, being cut open to have our child wrenched from my body made him see me in a different light. Did my husband lose respect for me after I gave birth?

I think before I became a Mum he saw me as strong, and I had been strong for us both, but now I had to be strong for our son first and us as a couple second. I was hormonal and weepy and I’d never been a Mum before, so everything was new and I was totally winging it, we were winging it together. I was also wrestling with undiagnosed PTSD which made me anxious, vulnerable and hyper vigilant. A storm was brewing inside me and I could no longer steer our ship effectively.

I wasn’t the high functioning girl in love with her career anymore. I was an exhausted first time mum, struggling physically and mentally. I’d made and nurtured our tiny perfect son but in the process I’d changed and I’d probably lost his respect.

He denies losing respect for me following the birth of our child, but what’s clear is that something has changed, there’s been a significant shift in our dynamic. I’m no longer able to play the role of leader and breadwinner, but instead fulfil the role of Mother and carer. To me they are equally important roles, but to others they are somehow lesser and not as deserving of respect and status.

I’d always thought that giving birth would give me a badge of honour worthy of respect. It’s a rite of passage which can be natural and beautiful, but equally it can be traumatic and bloody. Experiencing that and seeing me go through the birthing process should be worthy of respect, but it showed me up to be the vulnerable human that I am, and that changed things.


Friendships, when’s the right time to say goodbye?

A little while ago I wrote about a toxic friend and how I really need to cut them loose. It’s a friendship which is negative and makes me very unhappy. I’ve realised over time that I have unwittingly found myself with some quite negative people. Don’t get me wrong, some of my chums, most of them are ace, but some are upsettingly negative. I’m not sure if they mean to be or not, but they are.

There’s an undercurrent of gloom. An unspoken need to do me down a little bit, keep me in my place. They know my self esteem is rock bottom and fragile, so there’s a part of me that wonders if they do this on purpose. Maybe they’re just so messed up themselves that they have to feel altogether superior to someone else. That inferior person is just me.

My triumphs may be small, but they are my triumphs. I may not earn their money or get to go to the places they do. I may not be skinny, or beautiful, or glamorous, or even exciting. I am me, living my little life with my little family, trying to make the best out of the cards I’ve been dealt.

It really annoys me and frankly disappoints me that a “friend” can be so dismissive of me and what I do, but in the same breath expect me to fire off a party popper every time something nice happens to them. And I do. But what’s that about?

Decisions need to be made. I think a reshuffle of my friendship cabinet is in order. But life never runs on straight lines, friendships are forever changing; coming and going. Maybe it’s time this one was going.


12 Things I love about my son

I get a bit teary sometimes when people ask me when I’m going to have my next child and I have to tell them I can’t have any more children. The loss of what might’ve been I feel acutely, but I know I am bloody lucky to have what I’ve got.

I creep into his room most nights to look at him, partly because he’s still for once and I can get a good look at him, partly because he looks so damn cute when he sleeps, and partly because I think it does me good to fill my heart full of love before I go to sleep at night. So with that in mind, here are 12 of the things I love about my son…

  1. I love the sound of my son yawning when he’s having his dream wee.
  2. I love the way he sleepily snuggles onto his dad’s shoulder when he’s carried back to bed, like the little boy he is and not the big boy he thinks he is.
  3. I love the way he wakes me up “like a princess”, which is to kiss me like Sleeping Beauty might be kissed by her handsome prince.
  4. I love the way he climbs into bed with me for ten minutes of putting stickers in his farm book before he goes to school.
  5. I love the way he shares things with us, breaking off a small piece of his toast for us and sharing every bag of sweets he gets.
  6. I love the way he stands with his hands on his hips, surveying the street like a tiny foreman, pointing out anything of interest “look mummy, a rubbish lorry”.
  7. I love his sleeping face, peaceful and angelic, still with the soft round cheeks of a small boy, framed by his long eyelashes a thousand girls will later envy.
  8. I love the way he slips his hand into mine when we walk together, his is so warm and soft and he doesn’t mind me squeezing it as I try to burn the memory of his little hand into my mind.
  9. I love the way he loves music, asks for it to be turned up and rocks out whenever he has the chance.
  10. I love reading with him, baking, making crafts and drawing. I love talking about our days and about all of the things in our lives.
  11. I love how polite he is in company, how he will behave impeccably in a restaurant, how people say he’s a credit to us.
  12. I love learning about him. He’s good at counting, less good with phonetics, loves sport and is a bit obsessed with robots.

I love him. With all of my heart.

Of course there are things I don’t love. The rough play, the tantrums, the frankly gross habits I know I’ll be moaning about for the rest of my life. But I’m the mother of a boy, a beautiful, lively, intelligent, caring boy. And I wouldn’t swap him for the world.

things I love about my son

The healing power of friendship

I’ve been through some tough old times these last few years. I didn’t realise quite how much having a good, solid network of friends to rely on would mean to me. Friends tend to come and go, a couple of years ago I met a whole bunch of new friends through Twitter; when I couldn’t leave the house and was bedridden, these were the people who I’d chat to at 3am because I was in pain and needed distracting. These were the people who kept my spirits up through the long, hazy days and nights when I was dosed up on pain killers, or having a panic attack about my next surgery. These people kept me sane, or closer to sane than I would’ve been without them.

Two years on I’m still more or less in the same group of friends. We’ve all changed, grown up a bit, moved on or moved away; but when times are tough we rally round and look after each other, which is how it should be. My physical pain, is now classed as chronic and is usually at a level I can cope with. Sometimes though I am overwhelmed with emotional pain, depression, anxiety, just blind panic. It is  my friends I turn to for support and for calm.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends who love me and understand me better than anyone. Friends like my BFF Bobble who always knows the right thing to say to stop me mid-meltdown, or make me laugh when I’m crying. Another friend Daisy knows me inside out and keeps an eye on me, even when I think she’s not looking. Liz offers pints and bar snacks (better than tea and sympathy).  Jon is like Yoda only taller, less green and understands how sentences should be properly structured. Guy offers sensible and sage advice. And Lou tells me to think about donkeys – it’s physically impossible to cry when you think about donkeys, try it.

These are only a few of the awesome people I call my friends. Each one has held my head above the water a whole bunch of times, each one has gently persuaded me back from the edge, each one I’ve laughed with and love more than they’ll know. My friends, my friendships are healing me. Slowly, quietly, most definitely they are helping me grow stronger and more able to stand by myself.

I like the unnamed people who check in on me daily, weekly, whatever, just to see how I’m coping and if I’m ok; the kind people who comment on my blog; plus other friends and acquaintances from real life, the close “mum” friends I’ve made in Jane, Liz, Carla, Rachael and Sarah (amongst others). And my husband, my best friend for the last 20 years, who understands what it means when the light in my eyes changes and has seen me at my very worst. Collectively the healing power of friendship is huge, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

To my friends, I love you, thank you for throwing me a life belt and for helping me to grow a little bit stronger every day.

It’s the International Day of Friendship on the 31st July 2015, which seems a pretty good excuse to celebrate the brilliant friends that you’ve got and to tell them what they mean to you.

the healing power of friendshipThis post was written in collaboration with TheCircle.

You’re not my best friend!

“You’re not my best friend!” I wonder how many times a day this is bellowed at me.

“Please can you get dressed” I ask, he resists, “You’re not my best friend!” he shouts.

“Please can you brush your teeth” I ask, he protests, “You’re not my best friend!” he yells.

“Please can you stop playing with your train track in the middle of the kitchen while I’m trying to cook a meal” I ask, he responds angrily “You’re not my best friend!” and refuses to budge.

Calmly, when I have time and patience I sit with him and explain that I don’t want to be his best friend, I want to be his Mummy, the best Mummy I can be, doing the best for him, helping him to learn the skills he’ll need to get on at school, to learn how to be the best he can be, to understand what is safe and appropriate (whizzing around a kitchen filled with bubbling pans isn’t safe or appropriate).

I don’t want to be his best friend, of course there’s a part of me who wants to be his very bestest of best friends, but I can’t be, he needs a Mummy, an appropriate adult to be there to tell him off when he needs it, to cuddle him and kiss it better when he falls over, he needs someone to tell him all of the very excellent things he is, to build his confidence and help him to explore the things he likes and dislikes to help him find his path. He needs me to be his Mum.

I want to fill his little life with experiences he will remember always, days out, adventures, great family time together, things that will help him grow into the man he will eventually become. But what he also needs is the guiding hand of a parent, not the mischievous boundary pushing fun he can only get up to with his best friend.

I love the small boy to bits, it hurts a little bit to sit down and explain that I don’t want to be his best friend, I just want to be his best Mummy. Of course there is a lot of space for me being daft with him, rolling around on the floor, chasing him and his friends around the park, singing silly songs on the bus (sorry fellow passengers), but I am his Mummy first and foremost, not his best friend.

Oh, if you’re wondering who his best friend is….it’s his Daddy.

You're not my best friend

Thirteen Years

Thirteen years ago today I married the man I loved. I love him more now than I ever have, life has challenged us and we’ve survived it.

In our thirteen married years we’ve seen birth, death, poverty, riches, new jobs, old jobs, recessions, happiness, sadness, life changing surgeries, depression, confusion, change, stagnation and love. Most importantly love.

Without love who are we? Without loving someone or having someone love us back we are empty husks of people. It doesn’t matter if the thing you love is your husband, your child or a cat. Without love there is no meaning in this life.

I’ve not always loved my husband. Sometimes I’ve hated him, resented him, envied him. We’ve shouted, stamped our feet and screamed at each other. We’ve said and done hurtful things to each other. But we try never to let the sun set on an argument.

The day we married, my Mum said that he seemed to grow into a man when he slipped the ring on my finger. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me at that moment, his eyes so full of love and pride. He still looks at me like that now. Sometimes, not all the time. But he loves the bones of me and I love him right back.

He is my best friend, my lover, the father to my son, my provider, my saviour, my soulmate. I reckon life isn’t done with us yet, there’ll be more surprises round the corner, good and bad.

Life never wants to sit still, it likes hurtling along at ten thousand miles an hour. It’s a scary rollercoaster, but with him holding my hand I know I can be brave and that whatever twists and stomach churning turns we make, as long as we’re together and we love each other we’ll get through it.

So please be upstanding, raise a glass and let’s toast the Groom for putting up with me. Cheers!



How we fell in love

Our wedding

Marrying into a different culture

No Regrets

I don’t regret my life. The choices I’ve made, the mistakes I’ve made. The people I have known. It bothers me that I care too much, and I feel pain when they feel pain or when they cause me pain.

I don’t regret because that what’s shaped me and made me the person I am today. Flawed, fragile but surprisingly strong. I wish things were different, had panned out in a more positive way but they don’t and never would. Someone always gets hurt.

I don’t regret because whatever I did I loved at that moment and I chose it. Life should be lived in the moment and not cautiously. To live cautiously is a half life. It is a pain free life but what is life without pain, or hurt, or upset? I cannot live a numb life.

I don’t regret because that is facing the past and not the future. What is in the future no one knows but I won’t regret it. How could I? I choose to walk a path boldly and without fear of what might be there, because I can deal with it.

I don’t regret the life I’ve lived. It has given me so much. So much to be grateful for in comparison to the things that pain me. The nature of pain is that it usually diminishes in time. It is a fleeting feeling.

Guilt and regret stay with you. I carry guilt heavily but I am working to free myself from a lifetime of pointless guilt, why feel guilty over imagined crimes and slights long forgotten?

So, no regrets. Never.