Saturday, 30 August 2014

High School Sweethearts

When I was 13 I met a really annoying boy in my mentoring group at high school.

At 15 we ended up in the same drama class and became best of friends.

At 17 we developed a crush on each other and decided to try out being a couple.

At 18 we moved away to uni together and he supported me through some tough times.

At 19 we got engaged in the beautiful Dominican Republic.

Distracted by uni and teaching jobs it took a us to 23 when we set the date and we bought our first house in Airth.

At 24 a precious fur baby called Ruby came into our lives and stole our hearts followed by the pooch that thinks she is human, Kaiya.

At 25, 6 years ago today, I married that annoying boy.

At 27 we had our first beautiful baby boy, John Connor.

At 30 we had our second beautiful baby boy, Jamie.

It's been about 18 years since I first laid eyes on you and we are 6 years married today. We have been together through many highs and many lows and we still manage to keep the spark. It's not always easy as marriage takes a lot of hard work but it's worth it. I love you up to the sky and down again. Happy anniversary xx
Don't know why I was growling at him. We don't take ourselves too seriously

Our Wedding Guests

17 and heading out to the school disco

Our honeymoon in St Lucia

My special birthday meal on the beach

Our first born - John Connor


John's First Swim


Family Portrait John Aged 1
Family Portrait John aged 2


Holidaying in Gran Canaria


The birth of our second boy, Jamie
Family Portrait - Jamie aged 10 days, John aged 3

First proper outing as a family of 4 to Deep Side World


We scrub up not too band


Jamie's Naming Ceremony

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Being a Mum to 2 Boys, Embracing Blue

You know you are a mum of boys when . . .

You have to negotiate around obstacles that they have set up around the house such as belt trip wires dressing gown tie door handle traps.

The seat is never down and cleaning the toilet is now a 3x daily occurrence.

You sigh when people ask if you are going to try and make your next one pink.

You sigh even deeper when people say the old adage 'a son is a son till he takes a wife'.

You know all the names of all the superheroes and you know the difference between James, Henry and Thomas. James is a miserable git.

Your fridge is never full, even though you fill it daily.

Your heart melts when you are given a posy of daisies.

Nobody can ever speak to you on the phone during the hours of 7am - 7pm due to the overwhelming noise of screaming, shouting and whining.

You know how to correctly pronounce Ninjago and Bakugan.

The back seat of the car is littered with odd socks, crumbs and jam like sticky marks.

You threaten having to go to hospital daily when negotiating with them to get down from terrifying heights.

 Talk about poo and farts replaces polite dinner table conversation.

You are not fazed when you walk into your livingroom and your butt naked boy is using his winky as a sword.

Everything can be a sword. (see above)

You have stopped the car randomly at the side of the road to look at horses and construction vehicles.

You have rediscovered nature. You now know more about living things and science than you did when you were in school.

Your life is complete and you are starting to think that pink is overrated.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

What's Wrong With Your Baby?




The short answer is nothing. He is perfect. The long answer is well, much longer. 

The week before Christmas I was dropping JC off at nursery. Jboy was 3 months old at the time and for a change, was wide awake in his car seat. The nursery staff all love gooing and gaaing over him when he comes in and that day was no exception. After I had checked JC into his class, the nursery teacher put a concerned hand on mine and said "What is wrong with your baby?"

In that moment I felt a flood of defensiveness, little did I know that this feeling was going to dominate my spectrum of feelings for the foreseeable future. After quite harshly telling her nothing was wrong I asked what had prompted her to ask such a thing. She explained that his eyes didn't look quite right. They were constantly moving, involuntarily and she was concerned that this was 'not the norm'. 

I left feeling pretty rubbish. I was supposed to be going Christmas shopping but instead I phoned my health visitor and asked if I could bring him right up for a check over. I had noticed that his eyes danced a lot but had put this down to developmental reasons and expected that over time this would disappear. I was now doubting myself.

After a peek in his eyes with a light (much to his disgust) she said "yes, his eye movements are concerning. It looks like Nystagmus which is a visual problem, causing the eyes to move all the time, it's sometimes referred to as dancing eyes. I'll need to refer him to the specialist. I'll send away the referral today as a matter of urgency" My heart kind of sank in that moment. Not only because I hadn't raised this concern sooner, off my own back but because I didn't know what this meant for him. How would this effect him, what was the cause?  


This video will give you an idea of what his eyes looked like at that time. 


I won't bore you by slagging off the NHS waiting times, the subsequent cancellation of appointments, followed by turning up at our appointment and the doctor not actually being there, admin error. At this appointment, we were seen by the nurse who confirmed that he did have Nystagmus. She said enough in those 5 mins that filled me with dread. She couldn't give me any information, tell me why he had this, give me any indication of treatments or impact on his sight. I had to wait for the next appointment when the doctor was back. We both left feeling broken and full of questions. 

To cut a long story short. He has Nystagmus but this is only a side effect of an underlying problem. The reason he has Nystagmus is because he is albino. He has Occular Albinism which is a lack of melanin/pigment in eyes. Some people can have this all over their body so they have very pale skin, white hair and body hair. Jboy's albinism mostly effects his eyes although his skin  colouring is quite pale and his hair is blonde. We were very shocked by this diagnosis as it is genetic but we don't know of anyone in our families with this condition and being a boy, it should have come from me but I am not a carrier. We are still undergoing testing at this time to find out the source of this. 


So what does this all mean for him?


Just look at those beautiful eyes
Well, in short he will be visually impaired but we won't know to what degree until he is older. He is unlikely to drive as even with glasses his sight will not be good enough to pass the sight test. With albinism alone, this would have been a difficulty but the moving eyes will bring its own challenges. Like so many conditions, everyone experiences different symptoms to varying degrees so it is really a wait and see scenario. 

The Head Tilt
What I can tell you is that his sight wont get any worse and at the moment it isn't holding him back. He appears to be able to see quite a lot although we are unsure of the quality. It does mean that he has the most startling looking eyes. Big blues with a ring of white around the pupil. The main issue he has is with the sun. He is very light sensitive and he suffers in bright light. It's easier said than done to make a 10 month old wear sunglasses and a hat! 

Apart from his eye movements, the most noticeable thing is that he looks at you with a head tilt. This can sometimes look like he is grumpy or giving you the long stare but this is a common strategy that people with Nystagmus use to stabilise the eye. When he looks up at you like this his eyes stop shaking and he can see you clearly. 

There is no cure for this as it is a genetic condition, not an eye problem. Whilst there is plenty we can do to support him and techniques he will work out for himself, this isn't going away. As you get to know him, it may appear that his eyes move less. They will. His brain knows what to expect to see so his eyes do shake
The Riddick Look
less around known environments and people. When he is tired or in a busy environment they move more. From the electrical testing of brain activity they conducted at Yorkhill, we know that his brain behaves differently from the average brain. As he gets older we will have a better idea of his individual needs. For him it will mean wearing glasses, support in school (although he will be in mainstream school) and having to stay
indoors or covered in bright sunlight (we should have called him Edward Cullen lol). For his Dad and I it will mean lots of hospital visits, lots of explaining to strangers why he is 'looking at them weird' and worry, lots of worry. 




Our outlook on this is that it could be worse. It's not great, but it could be worse. When you have children you don't want them to start life with any kind of disadvantage. You want them to be able to hear, see, walk, talk without barriers. Life doesn't always go to plan. It's how you deal with disadvantage that defines you. As he grows older I will never tell him that he can't. I will always encourage him to try. I will always encourage him to strive for what he wants. Enthusiasm is the key to a successful life. It is the mind that achieves not the body. 

So to answer her question. There is nothing wrong with him. He is perfect. 






Thanks for reading!
I found this article very inspiring about a mum who wont let Albinism hold back her children's dreams which inspired me to write this post. Read it here. I had reservations about publishing this post as it's a private family matter but if someone reading this benefits from it then it is worth writing. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Dressing the Bump

I had a pretty sizeable bump during both of my pregnancies. In fact this photo was posted a year ago today when I was 33 weeks pregnant with JBoy.

I never felt the need to hide my bump. In fact, strangely enough, I had more body confidence when I was pregnant than I have ever had in my life. I wish I could bottle that! I think it is important to still dress well and take pride in your appearance as much as possible during pregnancy. I mean, we all love to slob around but there are times such as work and nights out in those 9 months which call for more than an oversized t-shirt and leggings, comfy as they are. 

Although I believe in dressing the bump, I do think that that spending a fortune on maternity clothes is completely pointless. I loved George at ASDA for maternity clothes. They not only stock the basics but some on trend items too. At the moment they have a beautiful maternity summer collection for those poor souls carrying around a bump in this heat. Here are some of my favourites . . .

£10
Who doesn't love zebra prints. They are everywhere! I love this cute little summer dress, a steal at £10 in sizes 8 - 20. 








£12

£18

I love their floral dresses too. Great for day through to evening wear. They wouldn't look out of place in the office or in the bar (with a soda water and lime!) 







£12 for this pink and black sleeveless dress is a great price. Even though the price is cheap, doesn't mean the product is. I always find the quality is very good and the durability is far better than other discount clothing lines. 


Was £14 - Now £5
Get your money out of this dress if you are thinking about breastfeeding because wrap dresses are a girls best friend when you are trying to whip out your boob in public whilst balancing a newborn on your knee and trying to maintain your modesty. The plunging neck line is great for those oversized pregnancy/breastfeeding breasts and the pattern on this particular one is very flattering. I love this dress, a steal at £5 down from £14. 

Overall I am extremely impressed with George at ASDA's maternity range in terms of price and style. A tip though, you need to be quick when ordering online, as certain sizes often sell out which is testament to the appeal of these items. 

Check out the full maternity range here

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but all information is factual and all opinions are my own. 








Saturday, 5 July 2014

What I've Learned About Juicing (so far)

I first heard about juicing when I dubiously asked a girl in the staffroom what was in her flask. When she told me it was celery and cucumber juice with some apples mixed in for good measure I thought she was off her head. Another fad diet I thought. I was pregnant at the time and not really thinking about losing weight or nutrition. After Jamie was born I was aware that my sister in law was getting married in 6 months time and I wanted to lose some weight for the wedding. I had seen adverts on Facebook for Jason Vale's new juicing programme '5lbs in 5 Days'. The rest, as they say, is history. I want to share my introduction to juicing and give you a little flavour for it in the hope that you too will find some benefit in it.

Firstly, it isn't a diet. 

The 'lose xxx lbs in xxx days' can suggest that it is just another diet craze but if you look at it like that you are unlikely to succeed as diets, in my opinion, don't work or certainly, they don't work for me. I have been on a diet since I was 16 and all I have achieved is to gain weight. Juicing for me is about getting the best quality nutrition into my body is the most efficient way. Since starting juicing I have had periods of weight loss, stability and gain. However, I have felt great. My moods have stabilised, I have more energy, I sleep better, my skin is clearer, I am free from allergies, my digestive problems disappear completely and I feel in control around food. It isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle choice. Jason Vale talks more about why juicing is the bees knees here.

You don't have to replace all food with juice

The detox programmes such as Jason Vale's 5lbs in 5 days or Natural Juice Junkie's 'Juice Reboot' are designed to give your body a kick start. It is a way to reset your system and detox your body from sugar, caffeine and the numerous nasties contained in processed food. It isn't necessary to do a programme like this although there are many benefits. Having a young family, I find it difficult to do a total food replacement programme as I am still cooking and sitting with the family at meal times. The first 3 days are the worst as your mind is urging you to fail. We are in effect, addicted to sugar in the same way a drug user or alcoholic is on a biological and mental level so you do have to initially fight through that. As I can't avoid food, it is easier for me to only replace breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack. I still have my dinner with my family, I just try to make it as plant based and as healthy as I can (stir fry, salads etc). My eldest son is almost 4 and is very aware of what I eat. I don't want him to see me not eating so that is another reason I don't often do total food replacement.

You can involve your kids

I want to be a role model for my children and as this isn't 'another faddy diet' there is no reason not to involve him. Making the juice is so much fun and he loves helping me squish all the fruit and veg down the chute. This is him having his green juice before our 5k Race for Life last week. Since I have started juicing his tastes have really expanded. He has always been a good eater, loves his fruit but not keen on salad veg. He now eats cucumber, lettuce, celery and pineapple. All foods he would have turned his nose up at before. He calls the juices Elf Juice (green) Santa juice (red) and reindeer juice (orange).









You don't need an expensive juicer

By the best juicer you can afford but don't worry if you can only buy the £30 one from Argos. I started with this cheap and cheerful Cookworks juicer and can honestly say it has been fine. The quality of the juice isn't as great, it can be a bit foamy and you do need to shake it up once it's juice to get rid of the layers. You don't get as much juice using a cheap juicer and that is my biggest gripe. I am just about to buy a new juicer and I am upgrading to an Optimum 400 as I have proven to myself that this is something I will continue to do regularly.

My Typical Day

8am - start the day with a ginger shot (sometimes I make a batch of these and freeze them in ice cube trays)
8.10am - Green Juice
10.30am - Herbal Tea
12 noon - Juice (usually another green juice)
3.30pm - Juice (usually a red/orange juice)
5.30 - Family Dinner
7pm - Herbal Tea

Sometimes if I am hungry through the day or later in the evening I will have a piece of fruit, veggie sticks with houmous or a Raw bar such as these .

If I stick to this routine and don't eat rubbish in between I typically lose about 3lbs a week (6lbs if I juice for dinner too) however, as I said before, weight loss isn't really my focus.

You don't have to drink it if you don't like it! 

I bought the '5lbs in 5 days' app which I loved as it had video demos! I didn't follow the plan but I made all the recipes then picked the ones I liked the best. I can't stand beetroot and couldn't take any of the beetroot recipes from this plan. I am aware of all the health benefits of beetroot and I wanted to find a way to drink it so I kept experimenting and looking around juicing sites. I then came across 'The Red One' on the Natural Juice Junkie sight and can honestly say I really enjoyed it! You do have to just look around and find different recipes to try. My go to guys are Jason Vale (The Juice Master) and Neil Martin (Natural Juice Junkie) and their recipes are really my juicing safety blankets but I have found a few good Facebook pages with hints and tips.




You can make your juice the night before

I don't tend to but you can. I find I am much quicker at juicing now and it takes me about 20mins to juice 3 juices in the morning and clean up. The important thing you need to know about storing juices is that they should be kept in airtight containers (filled right to the top) and in a cool dark place, ideally the fridge. If you intend on freezing them, leave a gap at the top to allow expansion when frozen. Juice made in a centrifugal type juicer can be kept in the fridge should be used with 12 - 24 hours max. Juice made in the masticating juicers can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days. Neil Martin has great info about storing juices that you can read here 

It doesn't need to be expensive

If you buy a masticating juicer, several Kilner jars for storing your juice and shop for all your fruit and veg in the more expensive supermarkets then yes, it can be pretty costly. However, if you buy a cheaper juicer (to begin with anyway), use old rinsed out pasta sauce jars for storage and insulated flasks (I bought mine from Asda at 99p) and shop in places like markets, Aldi or Lidl you will drastically cut the cost of juicing. My weekly juicing cost for fruit and veg is about £30. Natural Juice Junkie even created a Budget Juice Reboot which uses less expensive and more readily available ingredients.







Exercise

Just move yourself. That's my mantra of the moment. I am trying to move more. I am steadily increasing my exercise. My body hasn't been the same since the birth of my youngest son. I am finding it really difficult to get back into exercise and for the first time in my life I don't want to go to the classes I loved before because I feel really self concious about my current physical condition (nothing to do with weight). This is really my next hurdle.

It's not the same as Juice Plus

I've been hearing the words 'Juice Plus' being thrown around. This is not the same thing. There are no pills or powders here. This is real food. I don't claim to know much about Juice Plus other than this is not it. I want something real that is not overly processed. "But juicing them myself is hard" I hear you cry. It's not hard. Beating Cancer is hard, child birth is hard, living with a 3 year old is hard. Juicing fruit and vegetables and god forbid, cleaning the juicer for 10 mins is not hard. Man up and get on with it.

I hope you have enjoyed this little insight into my world of juice. For the record, this isn't a sponsored post. Nobody sent me free stuff and I didn't get paid. Everything I have written here is truthful and based on my own experience. I am not a nutritionist or a doctor so don't depend on me for medical advice because that would be ill advised. I do have a first aid certificate in the event of a skint knee though :)

Go forth and Juice x


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Summer Chocolate Delishiousness

Another day, another review of delicious summer chocolates by Hotel Chocolat. Blogging life is so hard!

I was impressed with the quality and quirkiness of these chocolates when I reviewed their Easter range and I have to see I am just as impressed with their range of summer themed chocolates. I tried out the Summer Fusions H-Box which contains edible luxury such as Key Lime Pie, Strawberry Cheesecake, Summer Pudding, Kiwi Smoothie and Blackcurrant Bombe. As you can see from the picture, they not only taste delicious but they are also beautifully presented. Each chocolate is a delight to all the senses. This would be a perfect addition to a summer garden party or an after meal treat if you are hosting dinner. I am so pleased with the quality and presentation of these chocolates that I have ordered some for a friend who has a  birthday coming up.

I have recently embarked on a gluten free diet due to health problems and I am pleased to tell you that I can eat all but two of the chocolates in this pack as apart from the Shortcake Bite and Key Lime Pie, the rest are Gluten Free. There is a mixture of white, milk and dark chocolate so if you are dairy free you can eat the dark ones worry free!

There are 14 delicious chocolates in the box (Summer Cooler, Frappuccino, Summer Pudding, Pineapple and Coconut, Key Lime Pie, Peanut and Banana, Strawberry Cheesecake, Lavender Caramel, Kiwi Smoothie, Peach and Hazelnut Gratin, Blackcurrant Bombe, Burnt Caramel, Choc Fudge Sundae, Shortbread Bite). The price is £13 which might seem a bit steep for a box of chocolates but for a special occasion like a birthday, fancy dinner party or just a special treat for yourself, they are worth the price.

I also sampled delicious Lemon Truffles (my personal favourite) which are silky soft truffles with a lemon curd flavour inside. Truly scrumptious. A true bargain at £3.85. Perfect for a little thank you gift or a treat for someone special.

Disclaimer: I received both products to review but all opinions are completely my own. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

Ditching the Contracts

I have been on a contract phone since I left school (which was a wee while ago, ahem). Recently I've been thinking about changing my contract to try and reduce my monthly outgoings. Being on Maternity Leave is a drain in money terms so any savings are a bonus.

Strangely, after looking at Pay as you go on Three deals, a few days later I was asked to review a pay as you go mobile phone with a 3 sim card.

Nokia Lumia 520 was what I was sent. As a handset it's not an overly expensive one. You can buy one from  around £80 and for the money I think it's a great little phone. The phone I received was in Cyan colour making it fashionable looking, a look that would appeal to a younger person too. It works with a Windows phone 8 operating system which took me a while to adjust to but it's very simple to navigate. It has all the functionality you would expect from a budget smartphone.

The main use for my phone (other than texting and phonecalls) is to take pictures. This worried me slightly as I wouldn't want to compromise on the photo quality too much. I was pleasantly surprised. It's not to the same standard as the most recent iPhone or Galaxy handset but with 5 mega pixel it takes good photos and you can download great photo editing apps.

I really liked the little touches such as being able to link your lock screen photo to your Facebook albums so it will show you a different screen saver every time you pick up your phone. I also like the radio mix option which creates a personalised station based on your favourite artists.

As for the contract, I was most impressed.  For a £15 top up you get
* All you can eat data
* 300 mins
*3000 texts
* Lasts for 30 days.

This type of price plan is perfect for me. I don't text or call even near that amount and mostly use wifi or 3g for messages through WhatsApp.  I will be switching to Pay as you go on Three once my contract is up (which is roughly the same deal but a steep £38 a month!!).

I currently use a Galaxy S4 so I may have to compromise on the quality of handset or pay more than I would with a contract but after seeing what I can get for less money, I am pleasantly surprised.

I received a handset to review and a PAYG sim card but all thoughts and opinions are my own.