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Mother’s Day 2018

My Mother is an amazing woman. Yes, everyone says it on Mother’s day, so let me give you some truth – Mum and I have had an extreme rollercoaster of emotions to get to me knowing what a boss she is. I got a lot of my qualities (good and, er, less good) from her – her love of music, punny jokes, water in general and the beach in particular. A determination devolving into stubbornness. A need to prove myself. Above all else, a fierce love for ‘my people’.


Headstrong and stubborn, I was by all accounts a difficult child who went on to be a fairly horrendous teenager for a while there. Mum and I had some intense times. We had difficulty understanding each other, which was slightly ridiculous as the answer was clearly in that we were so alike. Here’s the thing though – I always knew she loved me. I knew that she was in my corner, ready to fight for me in any way necessary. She would take down any opponent however she could, and here’s a story of when I really realised it.

When I was 15, I was having a particularly awful time at school dealing with some people who, for whatever reasons, did not like me. One day I snapped, lied to the office staff about an appointment, walked out of school and went home. Mum was working at the time, and wasn’t due to be home for hours. I planned to wait it out, hide away from the world for the day, and start again tomorrow. I didn’t have to tell her I played hooky. It wasn’t the first time (oops, sorry mum, pretty sure you didn’t know that), and I’d dust myself off and could try again. Except I didn’t, and I couldn’t. As I walked in the door to our house I found I had reached the end of my rope, and I needed someone to take over. The remarkable part is that, as I picked up the phone and dialed her office number, I wasn’t even slightly afraid. I needed my mother, and I knew that she would be there for me. Trouble would be coming, but I knew it wouldn’t be from her (or Dad, I might add).


I told her everything, through sobs, and after a little comfort, she immediately got on the phone to the school and read them the riot act. Side note: Having been on the receiving end of said riot act, I can confirm that it is formidable and kind of like that feeling you get when you open a hot oven or get off a plane in a hot country. You will be blasted.

She sorted everything out, and less than two weeks later I would be attending a different school, who had previously refused me entry but suddenly catchment areas were no longer an issue, and I was in. She had done it all for me. I didn’t have to talk to anyone about it, no one (other than a few key staff members) at the old or new schools knew the reason I’d be moving, I would be able to tell my own version of the story and become myself however I pleased. Now, this part of the story is wonderful. The happy ending, but it’s not the only part. The next morning was a school day. I had hoped I’d be allowed to stay home, for a day at least, to avoid the situation,  the people, and the pain. That is not what happened, school move arrangements were still being put in place and I needed to attend where I was until they were. I was gently told to get up, to get dressed and ready. I did, with the occasional tears of worry and fear sliding down my cheeks. I would not be allowed to skip out, that was not the way the world works. I had been given a pass on my afternoon of truancy, that had been my time to wallow and now I would have to fortify and get on with it.

As we got ready to leave, she slipped a token into my hand. It was a small red wooden heart. She told me that she would be thinking of me, and that she loved me, and that when it got hard (when, not if – smart woman), I could put my hand in my pocket, hold that heart, and know that she loved me. I made it through those last 10 days or so, knowing the unstoppable force behind me. More importantly, she taught me that I could get up and carry on. That I could go back to a horrific situation, take charge of my part of it, hold my head up, and move on. It was not as bad as I’d thought, and I think had I not gone, my first few days at my new school would have been more difficult. After all, how hard can a new school be when you’ve spent the last 10 days facing the people who ridiculed you to the point of running away?

Going that day was difficult, but it wasn’t until I had my own children that I learned how hard it must have been for her, knowing that I was scared and encouraging me to do it anyway. She never let it show, but I bet that day was just as hard for her as it was for me.


I watched Wonder Woman last night and there’s a line where Hippolyta says to Antiope, “You will train her harder than any Amazon before her. Five times harder, ten times harder. Until she is better than even you.” My Mum is Hippolyta. Not only does she command a horde of warrior women (I’m one of 6 sisters), but yes, she pushes us. She trained us hard, she helped make us who we are, and continues to help us whenever and however she can.(Does this make me Wonder Woman? I’m good with that.)

We get along far better than we used to, and she is one of my biggest supporters. After each of the boys were born she came to stay and help me adjust. When I decided to go back to school she was excited and supportive, and regularly asks how my work is going. I can confide in her, and she gives me kind advice and love without judgement, and the tellings-off are much fewer, farther between, gentler and (mostly) necessary 😉 And when it gets late and we’re together, the laughter is loud, long, and usually hard enough to bring on tears.ma

Yes. My mum is amazing. Formidable, wonderful, warrior woman queen.

So Mum,

typed from my fat fingers and said from my chickenlips (in jokes for another day) but most of all from my heart,

I love you x


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Happy 4th Birthday Sam

Sorry! We’ve had internet trouble with switching providers, and before that I had a serious case of writer’s block. In October Sam turned 4 and was as insane as ever.


For his birthday her got numerous trains and train related items, and was incredibly happy about it. For his actual birthday he didn’t have cake, he had a birthday stack of doughnuts.


He was very impressed, as was I, because I was already doing two cakes. Those are Sainsbury’s lower fat doughnuts, and they are delicious. not too greasy and very light!

Cake number one was for his family birthday dinner at Grandma and Grandad’s, and he requested Olaf.


I really enjoyed making him actually. It’s not as easy as it looks though, carving the shapes from cake is crumbly! Also it looks like it’s going to look terrible right up until you get the arms, hair and eyebrows on.IMG_4865

His nose was my favourite part. Side note, if you need black icing, even if it’s a small amount, for the love of all that is sweet and delicious, buy black icing. I had a huge bag of white and thought nah, it’ll be fine, I’ve got gel colouring! It was not fine. It took forever to mix. It also dyed my hands grey. He’s lumpier than I hoped, but I think that could be remedied by either having thicker icing, or a layer of marzipan under it. We’re not huge fans of icing or marzipan though, so we skipped it.

For his birthday party he took some friends to Kirklees Light Railway, which was a big hit. They provide a hostess, food and a (stationary) party train carriage, the return train ride for 10 kids and 4 adults, and some games at the other end, so there’s minimal preparation for me! It was just under £100, though you can add on party bags. We chose to do our own though.


The party carriage also has the drivers cabin in the end with lots of controls to fiddle with, and the boys all loved it.

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For the cake Sam decided he wanted to pick a shop cake this time, and after having several projects running recently I was more than happy with that!


He even had his own birthday express train! There were other passengers, but he had a separate carriage. I can’t fault the service there either, they’re all fab and great with the kids.


All in all, he had a lovely birthday and is growing up fast. He loves nursery school and has some firm friends, and he loves to play on the tablet, but mostly, he loves trains, singing, and dogs. He will sing anything and everything, and comes home from school happiest when they’ve done a new song. If there’s a dog on the street we have to stop and stroke him. On the same day as his party we also took him to a nearby dog show and he LOVED it. Almost as much as me!

Love you Sam, keep up your mental enthusiasm 🙂

Next time – Ethan’s first try at cosplay!

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September – We’re not weirdos.

I’m sorry, I’ve had a terrible case of writer’s block recently, along with getting back to school and routine, and a couple of real doozy tantrums from Sam, and I was NOT in the mood to write about them. To be honest I’m not particularly in the mood to share them now, but I’ll get to them at the end, along with a couple of things I did to cope.

First I took the children down to mum’s for a few days during which Henry and I went to Nanny’s funeral. For something with the word ‘fun’ in it, it sure does suck. We did however get to have some fun before and after, including the mega 4 hour drives there and back as I took Amy and her two with me to share petrol costs, so I got to learn about traumatic eye injuries and stuff. By the way, Amy is an A&E nurse Sister (I keep forgetting the promotion!) and also teaches lectures on the subject every now and then, we’re not just weirdos. I also got to see my sister Sheri over from New Zealand which is of course rare.


Also not weirdos. Maybe.

We had the return to school, which both boys were excited for, though not especially photogenic!



That’s better! They’ve settled in nicely and Ethan is enjoying being on school dinners this year. He’s enjoying seeing his friends again and as far as I can tell, enjoying lessons. The Headteacher took a lesson with him and mentioned to his uncle (who works at school) that he was very bright so that’s lovely to hear. Sam loves nursery, he’s got some new little friends already and we’ve even had two over for a play already. I was terrified it would be manic but they all played very nicely!

Then two days later, Ethan had his Orange Belt Grading at Tae Kwon Do. Unfortunately I had a brain fart and we were 20 minutes late as I thought it started at ten thirty, when in fact, it did not. They were very kind though and let him in anyway and he did brilliantly.


For some reason I didn’t take a picture of him actually breaking the board, but he did it first time! That’s Tony with him, who he thinks is the bees knees. As an aside, the school is absolutely fantastic. All the teachers are great with the kids and they have such fun, but without too much messing about. It’s Ossett Martial Arts and though it feels expensive as you pay monthly, you can go up to 12 times a month and so it works out at less that £5 a session. You do pay extra for grading but that happens at the most every 3 months. It’s a family run business, Brian and Tony are a father-son team and Brian’s wife Jan runs the office. We love it, so if anyone nearby is interested, tell them we sent you 😉

Slightly deer-in-the-headlights here, but he was so excited. The belt is of course massive.

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That same afternoon (understanding my slight exhaustion yet?) Sam had a birthday party at Ponderosa in Heckmondwike. It was fab! We got the reptile talk party and Sam loved it.


He was mesmerised by the snakes and bearded dragon, and had a lot of fun playing with his friends and riding a pony.


He decided the party hat was a unicorn horn. Also not a weirdo.

The next week we headed over to Accrington to see my brother-in-law Matt, his wife Mel and their new baby Caleb, who was being blessed (just remembered, I still need to transcribe that!) at church.


Isn’t he gorgeous?! I was sat behind them too so I got to steal him for many lovely snuggles. The boys were totally in love with him. Sam kept stroking his head and even Henry was ooh-ing at him. We’ll get to see them again in a couple of weeks which will be lovely, and I hear he is packing on the pounds, sounds familiar!

Then we headed back down to my parents again to bid them farewell on their mission. As there were lots of people we were in a hotel overnight and the boys found it very exciting.


I was impressed actually, it was only a Travelodge, but we had a kingsize bed, two full size pull out single beds, and a cotbed for Henry, and still had enough room to walk around them. The bath was ridiculously small, but the shower was fine. We took our own breakfast snacks and all was fine, except for the people in the room above us clomping about at all hours. You can’t have everything I guess! I also managed to forget my favourite facial scrub and shower gel, along with a jug we’d borrowed from mum but c’est la vie.

We’ve now sent them off for 18 months to New Zealand to serve the Church, where they’ll be helping oversee the building of a new camp which will be opening fairly soon, so not a holiday by any means! That was pretty much the end of the busy weekends though, so now we’ve been tackling the weekdays.

Sam. Oh Sam. Why must we do this? So many tantrums. You’ll be four in less than a month, but we are still entrenched in toddlerhood, it would seem. I assume it’s escalated with the return to school and such, but they’ve turned extra mean. And at pick up time, where everyone is watching. I love you little oddball, but you really must stop punching me. and screeching. Please.

I am desperately trying to be kind about it. We can’t keep fighting each other, we’re too similar. I try not to shout, I promise I do. Now, please try to stop shouting no at me and running away, and hitting. Ta muchly.

I’ve found several posts over at HandsfreeMama helpful, particularly the one about yelling  and one about jumping to conclusions and blame, and most of all, the about page, where she talks about the distractions of life and trying to put them aside and be more in the moment with your children. It’s a little too saccharine for me sometimes, but the points she makes are all spot on.

So, I’m trying to be less distracted. I’m putting the phone, and the lists, and the computer, down more. It’s harder than I thought, but it’s worth it.

So we can be not-weirdos together.

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Summer 2014 – Part 2

We had a chance to return to the caravan in Pwllheli for our family holiday, and we had a mostly lovely time. We had a couple of lovely days where we could go to the beach and had a lovely time. Henry decided he does in fact like sand, and it is tasty.


Apparently it’s a good topping on mini doughnuts.

The big boys loved it, lots of exploring and rock pools and swimming in the sea again, which was what I wanted.



Mer-Sam! Getting him to keep his feet still was a task and a half. Little monkey kept wiggling them with his cheeky little face on every time I tried to cover them up!


And Shark-boy Ethan, though the tail wasn’t ‘right’ according to him, he was fairly pleased in the end.

Towards the end of the week there was sickness, and exhaustion…


Everyone had a day where they were Not Good. Henry got away with a quick episode and then fine, luckily right after we got out of the car next to an Asda so we popped in and bought him new clothes and it was done, rather than a delightful stench in the car. Sam had a full day, while I took Ethan to play mini golf, and Ethan had a day, where Rich took Sam off. Rich got a night and a morning of it, and I had day from the wee small hours onward. Not so great. On our last day though, we stopped off at the beach after we packed up and I went for a quick dip.


After that Rich let Ethan steer the car on the almost-dead beach, and he LOVED it. Nice bit of Brown family tradition, as Rich was also allowed to ‘drive’ on this beach as a child.


And so our holiday was concluded. A bit up and down, but the first part was lovely. We also drove through some absolutely stunning countryside on the way back too, when we decided to shun the dual carriageway. Wales is just so beautiful and green, we absolutely love it.



Sadly while we were away, my beautiful Nanny died after having had a quite severe stroke a few days before. At 98 she had a pretty good innings but it was still a bigger shock to me than I was expecting. She was a wonderful woman, who despite not being my ‘real’ grandmother (she is my mum’s first husband’s mother), she always loved us. There was no question, she was our Nanny. She loved flowers and slowly took over Grandpa’s vegetable garden with them. She lived in London during the war and experienced the blitz twice before moving out to Oxford to temporary housing, that they shared with another family. She knitted toys for us, and had pictures all over of us and her other grand children and great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and so on. She was in a nursing home for the last few years and being far away we didn’t see her nearly as much as I’d have liked, but I know she knew we loved her, just like I know she loved us.

So a mixed holiday really. Now we’re back and in routine and getting back to normal thankfully. Ethan and Sam are back at School and Nursery, and Ethan has taken his first Tae Kwon Do grading, so we’ll have more on that next time.

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Summer 2014, part 1

Dear internets,

I’m sorry. I totally abandoned you over the summer (again). Let me make up for it with a bit of a post dump!

We had a fab summer. The big boys stayed at Grandma and Grandad’s caravan for almost a week and then we took Henry down to pick them up and had a lovely long weekend. Upon their reunion, silliness ensued.


We took a day trip on the Friday to Barmouth, which was lovely. Lots of lovely little shops, including this:


I loved this shop. more than a normal amount. We had the kids with us so I didn’t get long to look, but I could have got lost in there. Look at all those boooooks!

And this fab sign outside a sort of pick ‘n’ mix shop with allsorts in.


Why thank you odd little welsh shop! I fear the scales disagree with you.

While there we took a little boat trip across the harbour to a miniature railway. The boys loved it. They had to walk a plank into and out of the boat, pirate style, and then of course Sam was very happy at the train situation.


Look at that floppy hair! It’s so cute, I always regret cutting it.


This one is just a bit mad. At the other end of the train ride there was a fab model railway, and a room full of toy trains. They were totally in their element and didn’t want to leave!

On Saturday we had a gorgeous day at the beach, with sand castles and swimming and ice creams and picnics and the lot. Henry enjoyed paddling with Grandad and smashing sandcastle, and the boys enjoyed going as deep as they dared with me. Ethan is a little more wary, Sam likes to charge in. More on that later. We had a wonderful time, and the weekend went far too quickly.



They were not happy to finish their holiday and come home, and neither were we!

I snapped this one while the boys were playing –


I love it when they randomly love each other 🙂 not long after we got back from Wales we got to meet Stella’s (my sister in law) new puppy Fitz.


He’s a miniature Schnauzer and I think I love him. He, however, saves his love for Sam. He is rather aloof towards me. I don’t mind (much) though, because look at Sam in this picture.


He ADORES Fitz. Also because of Fitz, Rich has come around to me getting a dog, now he knows I would be happy with a medium to small dog (I’ve always wanted a big one). So as soon as we move, that’s now on the table! Hurrah! I have wanted a dog since I was a child and never been able to have one, so the wheels are very tentatively in motion.

We also took a day trip to Pugney’s lake with Amy, Hayley and Austin.


There were ducks, and duck faces.

The big ones ran into the water and had lots of fun.


Then this happened.


Sam wandered a little too far in. He was still above water but started to panic a little. Luckily I was prepared with empty pockets and a watchful eye as this is not the first time he’s charged into water. Last time my dad was the one to charge into the water and scoop him out, and that time was scarier, but he is obviously fine as he continues to love the water! Lesson learned though and Amy and I had actually joked about who would run in for him before it happened.

I drove home wrapped in a towel. I’m so glad I wasn’t in an accident that day!

And I’ll leave you with that flattering picture. You’re welcome! Next time – our official family holiday (back at the caravan) and all that entailed.

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We love Wales

Two weeks ago we headed off for our big family holiday, where we go with my Mum and Dad, my sisters Amy and Jess and their families. This year we went to Borth-y-Gest in North Wales, which is a teeny little village outside of Porthmadog. We stayed in two semi-detached 4 bed houses that were so lovely, though they were halfway up a huge hill with no driveway.


The views were gorgeous though.  We were really lucky to get 3 full days on the beach, and the other days were mostly sunny, with one thunderstorm which unfortunately our little clan were caught out in. The first day on the beach we walked down without swimsuits and the boys in normal clothes. Of course that didn’t last…


Sam and Ethan both loved the rock pools that they went exploring with daddy, and Sam waded right in and got soggy shorts. We improvised for a bit, giving him Ethan’s pants (little boxers), but apparently they were all that was holding his shorts up.


Sam however was happy enough splashing around in his t-shirt.

On a slightly less sunny day, Mum, Dad, us and the kids went into Beddgelert. We had a nice stroll around the short main street, then Grandma helped the boys play pooh sticks over the stream, and we walked up to the Grave of Gelert the dog.

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The story goes that A prince came back from a hunt and his dog runs out to meet him covered in blood. He runs in and sees that his baby’s crib is overturned, blood everywhere. In a rage, he kills the dog. The dog’s dying yelp is answered by a baby’s cry, and on further searching, the prince finds his son, unharmed, next to the body of a huge wolf. The prince was said to never smile again.

As Ethan said, “It’s a very sad story, isn’t it.”

After that we went for ice cream at an award-winning shop (Glaslyns) which was delicious. Sam picked strawberry, and then decided he didn’t want it. I offered him a taste of mine and then mum said “Do you want to swap with mummy?” Yeah thanks mum! She bought me another to make up for it though. As she should have!

A few days later and we were back on the beach. Ethan enlisted Jonny’s help to build a volcano.


Later it turned into a batcave. It was also Henry’s first time at the beach and in the sea.


He wasn’t sure at first! Please excuse his scraped up face – he threw himself out of the pushchair one morning while I was strapping him in, straight into the gravel, poor sausage was a bit battered. He didn’t cry for long :/. It was mostly a graze and has now cleared totally. He liked the sand, and eventually the water too. He’s not too keen on any walking, so it was all slightly disdainful!

IMG_3688 IMG_3696But I don’t want to touch the floor!

I also got to swim in the sea twice. On the first beach day Amy and I swam across to a huge rock. as we got closer, the current started to push us sideways, but we pushed through the freezing water to make it. When we got there, there was a small sign on the rock that said… strong currents around the rock. That really would have been helpful on the beach! Then on the last beach day we swam out in the sea and just swam about for a while. It was fantastic, once you get past the cold. I was so glad I got to do it as I love swimming in the sea. There’s just something about it, it’s so calming and big and open and free.


I think Sam agrees.

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A family weekend

IMG_3543This weekend my niece Annabella was blessed. This is kind of like a christening but without the water, The baby is given her name (a formality, it’s not like you can’t name the baby before then!) and a personal blessing, usually from their father. It’s a special event for Mormons, in the same way that a christening would be. We got to see my family too and Jess’ best friend Cathy who I haven’t seen since Jess and Jonny’s wedding as she went off on a mission to Portugal and just got back, it was great to see her as she’s fab and fits in with us joking about and stuff. It was lovely, we had a nice lunch of soup and a ton of dessert, and just some nice quiet family time.

Then on Monday We went with Mum and Dad to Amners Farm, which is a working farm that they open at weekends in the spring for lambing season. The boys LOVED it. Puppies and chicks and lambs and ponies, sheep shearing, a trailer ride and a miniature train. Pics ahoy!

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Sam was ecstatic at all the fluffy things and the train. He nearly spontaneously combusted when he held both the puppy and the chick, but was very nervous about the pony, until it started moving. Ethan was the opposite, couldn’t wait to get on the pony, but was nervous about having the puppy on his lap. He was also less than impressed when a chick did a (thankfully solid) poop on his hand. Speaking of the puppy, they are both even more convinced that we need one now, even in spite of Ethan’s nervousness. To be fair, it was the cutest sleepiest little thing. They were for sale too, luckily we have the old “we can’t have pets in our house” excuse for now. Which is probably a good thing because they were SO cute, it was dangerous. While there we just missed that lamb above being born, but I did get to see it wobbling about trying to stand up, which was adorably funny. Henry was a grumpy guts most of the day as he missed his nap, but then had a bit of a sleep. The farm is fantastic, and not too expensive. We paid £20 for a family ticket, and £1 each for the pony ride and train ride, everything else is included. They have stalls there too with crafts and art, and a nice area you can sit for picnics. There was food for sale too, but I didn’t check it out as we’d brought snacks. My only problem with it is that it’s in Reading!

We later had a yummy barbeque and then faced the trek home, which wasn’t too awful thankfully.

The Big Buzz is fast approaching, and the total keeps growing! I’m so excited, and just a teeny bit nervous 🙂 I’ll try to do a ‘Before’ post next, with some of the questions I’ve been asked, so if you’ve got one, let me know!


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