Tag Archives: life

honesty and social media

One Friday morning a couple of weeks ago – the first day of half term to be precise – my sons decided to do some baking. My eight-year-old has always enjoyed making cakes and buns but it’s become a real passion of his recently. On this occasion his younger brothers (aged six and just-about-three) were keen to help and I was told to “Sit down, Mummy or just take some photos of us or something.” So I mostly just watched them.

pretty buns... but what's the other side of the story?

pretty buns… but what’s the other side of the story?

It was so sweet – the three of them were totally dedicated to the task and worked together brilliantly. The older two read recipes together and divided up tasks. They helped their little brother pour ingredients and stir the mixture. They all had far too much (messy) fun with the electric mixer and even came up with a solution when they realised they’d added butter straight from the fridge (instead of ‘softened butter’)… which involved the six year old sitting in front of a heater for ten minutes cradling the bowl of cake mixture in his hands! An hour and a half later they had made chocolate biscuits and buns and were (justly) very pleased with themselves. I photographed the whole thing and shared the photos on my personal Facebook page. I felt so happy and proud of them.

Ten minutes later though, I felt a sudden need to be more honest with my Facebook friends… because although those pictures of sibling harmony were absolutely genuine, they only told one part of the story. In fact, the reason I had been so particularly happy to see my boys working together and enjoying each other’s company so much is because the previous day my older two had had the most horrible, upsetting argument. It was probably the worst argument they’d ever had and it had taken me and their dad ages to calm them down and help them through it. I’d gone to bed feeling like a terrible parent and woken up as member of the Walton family! No wonder I’d wanted to share those gorgeous, harmonious photos!

Perhaps it was the recent furore over the ‘Motherhood Challenge’ playing on my mind (with the idea that posting happy photos can have a negative impact on others*), but suddenly, only sharing ‘part of the story’ didn’t feel quite right. So I went back to Facebook and wrote about the argument the previous day too, along with my reasons for sharing that. I’m not normally that open on Facebook so I felt quite exposed (even though I only have a hundred-odd friends which is by FB standards a mere handful!). But I did it anyway because it suddenly felt like something I needed to do.

You see, as much as I enjoy Facebook, I’m aware of its dark side too. Personally, I can find it really draining. And although I do genuinely enjoy the majority of what my friends post, there are times when it all feels too much. A bit overwhelming. It can tap into a side of me I don’t really like so that where in ‘real life’ I would feel happy for a friend’s success, ‘social media me’ is envious and dissatisfied. On a bad day this ‘me’ sees the dream jobs, the pictures of angelic, perfectly behaved kids, the fabulous holidays etc. and compares my life unfavourably to that.

I know, I KNOW this is ridiculous because I have a lovely life with very little to feel remotely dissatisfied about. I’m also well aware FB provides only glimpses into people lives (those perfect kids probably smeared ice cream all over the sofa three seconds after that photo was taken) and besides which, I project just the same images of an ideal life into others FB feeds. I guess that was why I felt the need to set the record straight a bit on this occasion. I don’t have perfect, Disney-fairytale kids!

That honest post got twice as many likes and (lovely) comments as my post with the harmonious sibling pictures and I don’t think that was a fluke. It’s lovely to see each other’s happy times but without sharing some of the harder moments too, I think we’re missing something. The roundness of human experience, perhaps. And the real part of friendship – the part that makes us see each other as fellow human beings, all on this crazy journey together. Isn’t everything easier when we’re not alone?

How much do you share on social media?


*for the record, I had nothing against the motherhood challenge. I was tagged but didn’t post any photos, more due to apathy than anything else. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with posting happy photos. I certainly don’t think parents are smug just for sharing moments like these. I do think there’s a question about the impact of what we share on social media but it’s much MUCH bigger than that one challenge, it’s to do with how we adapt to knowing so many selective details about so many people on the periphery of our lives. It’s a whole other blog post!

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And then the fun began...

a letter to my youngest son on his third birthday

My gorgeous boy,

You are my third child, my youngest son and most definitely my last baby.

You have two big brothers and, when I was pregnant with you, many people speculated about your gender. Some couldn’t seem to help but make assumptions about what we’d want and about what would be ‘ideal’. There seems to be a notion out there that it is best for families to have children of both genders, you see, so this time round a girl would be perfect, right?

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. You see, YOU, my lovely boy, have always been the perfect third child for this family. Before you were born I used to hope for a ‘laid back’ baby – one of those ones that sits around smiling and isn’t bothered by anything much. I didn’t seriously think I’d get a baby like that though… not really, I mean, how could I be that lucky?!

joanne mcneil photography maddy bennett 2013-6338

The five of us on a rainy walk. Photo by Joanne McNeil Photography

But from the moment you made you entrance into the world (after nine days of stop/start labour – see, you’d already decided to take things slow!) you were so chilled-out I could hardly believe it. The moment of your birth was by far the calmest of the three I’ve experienced (let’s just say I don’t give birth easily!) You didn’t even cry. You were immediately placed in my arms and just gazed up at me with a rather serious, inscrutable expression. I cried. You pooed copiously. We laughed. All was well.

When you came home, your brothers fell in love with you immediately, and as soon as you were capable of anything other than gazing inscrutably, it was clear you loved them too. To this day your big brother claims “you gave me your first smile” and I think he might be right. You fitted in to our family like a jigsaw piece – once missing, now found. Absolutely that calm, happy baby I’d hoped for. Ok, sleep was an issue (for two and a half years… ) but during daylight hours you were Mr Laid-back, takes-it-in-his-stride, ‘I’ll just lie here and watch everyone, and bestow smiles and gurgles’.

brotherly love change

Your big brother wrote this for you when you were a baby. Translation “X’s cute, best of all he always smiles, he’s the best baby brother in the world. Specially he loves all of us.”

Your middle brother started school when you were six months old so you and I have spent a lot of quality time together these past three years. You’ve been such a good companion – happy to just be with me at home, ‘helping’ (?!) with the housework and always perfectly content to come along when I meet friends for coffee. In fact, once you got old enough, you even started requesting “We go for coffee?” as soon as we’d dropped your brothers off at school! “You wouldn’t even know he’s there!” is a comment I’ve heard about you in many a cafe as you sat calmly chewing some toast or playing with your toys.

Of course once you hit the terrible twos you got… an opinion on things. I don’t want to pretend you’ve been perfectly reasonable at all times. But then you’re a little person with big emotions, so stroppiness is bound to appear at some points. You’ve always impressed me with your ability to get over tantrums quickly and your insistence that “I’m not naughty, I’m happy!” has been enough to win me over in your difficult moments numerous times.

You’re such an imaginative boy and are able to entertain yourself for ages. Listening to you playing with your toys always brings a smile to my face. Toy cars for you aren’t just vehicles they’re little people with personalities who talk to each other. Last week I overheard a taxi and a london bus having a chat about “going to the shoppings” (one of your favourite pastimes) to buy “bread, crisps and chocolate mousse” – your cars clearly have good taste!

boys doing shape challenge

Your other favourite activities (aside from casting magic spells by yelling “I got a zebra!”) are doing jigsaws and drawing. It’s lovely to watch you and your brothers sitting side by side, concentrating on your art work. You mostly just scribble but have now begun to proudly put your pictures on the fridge yourself. You even managed to draw a picture of me the other day where I had a recognisable form. When I say ‘recognisable form’ I do of course mean I looked like a hammer with a moustache… but you’re getting there!

You are so loving, so sweet and so funny that your Dad and I can’t help ourselves but say “He’s so cute!” far too often. I know it’s ‘far too often’ because this morning you put some teddy-bear slippers on, admired your feet and said, beaming “Oh, I’m so cute!”. I should probably stop calling you that so obviously but, well, you just are!

Now you are three and I’m certain that three boys was exactly right for me and for all of us. I wouldn’t change a thing. I couldn’t be luckier than to have my three little guys and I’m so very glad you’re you.

Lots of love from your doting (and very sentimental but it is your birthday) mummy.



dead salmon, iced buns, great films and a car crash

I’m not sure I’ve got much writing news to report for this week’s ‘What I’m Writing’ post so I’ll do a ‘catch up on general life’ post instead. Here are the highlights (or most newsworthy moments… ) of my week:

  • I’ve officially started my illustration course now, and was very happy to find that the first section is all about practicing drawing objects and building up skills which is basically what I’ve been doing for the past month with #ShapeChallenge anyway! I’m still drawing a picture for that every day (which takes up a surprising amount of time – about an hour I think to draw, scan, tweet and look at everyone else’s drawings) and have now started to work specific aspects of the course into my pictures too. I really love it.

geraldine the elephant

  • Paint has been on my mind a lot this week – I’ve been obsessing about colours as I want to redecorate our hall. I keep flinging out suggestions like ‘orange’, ‘bright blue’ or ‘lime green’ while my husband says “Why not just paint it ‘wall coloured’?” (i.e beige). Luckily he’s happy to let me make the decision, but I still can’t make up my mind. We have spent a lot of time laughing at Farrow & Ball paint colour names – ‘Dead Salmon’ (sounds smelly), ‘Churlish Green’ (presumably sneers insults at you as you pass) and Mole’s Breath (an earthy, whiskery shade perhaps, with a hint of pink paw?). Never underestimate the amount of time you can spend gazing at a wall and painting lining paper with different sample colours. And texting and tweeting your friends with pictures of paint samples. And saying “Blue or green… or pink? WHAT DO YOU THINK?!” to anyone who enters your home. Sigh. No wonder I’ve not got more done.
  • Half term started with a teacher training day last Friday so I’ve been spending a lot of time with the kids. Their new favourite thing is baking. At 8.30 in the morning last Friday they announced “Let’s have a bake off!” and set about baking buns and chocolate biscuits – I wasn’t even allowed to help!

    boys baking

    Yes, I let them loose with the electric whisk!

  • I saw Deadpool at the cinema on Friday – go and see it, it’s fantastic! An unconventional superhero film. Very funny indeed. I went with a friend who booked us huge sofa-type ‘free nacho and chocolate’ seats, so that was awesome too!
  • I also went to see ‘Room’ (I know, two cinema trips in one week!) which was also very good. Put me through the emotional wringer though. Take tissues – I had tears pouring down my cheeks and into my popcorn.
  • I crashed our car into a wall on Saturday – erk. We’re all fine (as you might have guessed by how far down it comes in the list) but it was very scary. Basically, icy conditions on the hill we live on meant the brakes had no effect at all and we hurtled towards a hairpin bend! I managed to get mostly round the bend but only by scraping a large chunk off the bottom of our car on a tumbled-down wall. My eight year old said “Argh! We flew through the air!”, my six year old, “I know a new swear word now, Mummy!” (I thought I was very restrained – I only said ‘shit’!) while my youngest (nearly three) was very pragmatic and announced: “Let’s tell Daddy we had a car crash!”

It’s been a pretty busy week now I come to think of it which explains why I haven’t got much writing done. Still, this blog post is writing isn’t it? Of a sort. More soon. :)

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a winter’s tale

Yesterday my husband and I celebrated our twenty-first anniversary. We’re still only in our thirties so those of you with a mathematical bent will have already realised that means we got together in our teens!

lovebirds 1996

The two of us back in 1996

That day was a pretty magical one in my memory. It was the last day of Christmas term (yes, we were still at school – that’s how young we were!) and we were supposed to be going into town after school with a mutual friend of ours. At the last minute this friend suddenly couldn’t come (I’ve always wondered if it was a deliberate act on her part, to finally get us to admit our feelings for each other), so the two of us were unexpectedly on our own.

We walked into town side by side, shared a coke in a (rather crappy) cafe and wandered around amidst the pretty lights and festive sparkles, laughing and chatting about nothing in particular while each trying to pluck up the courage to say something more meaningful. The hours slipped by far too fast, and we soon had to walk back to school so he could catch the last bus home. It was dark by then and bitingly cold. The thrill of anticipation in the air between us outshone even the twinkling lights in the trees that lined our path. Finally, as we drew close to the school gates, my husband-to-be took the plunge – he told me I was beautiful and that he loved me. We kissed under the street lamps, and that was that. Our history was made.

Ten years later we got married and another eleven further down the track we have three gorgeous boys, a home and a lovely life together. It hasn’t all been plain sailing – we’ve certainly had our share of arguments over the years and we’ve had to put a lot of work into keeping our relationship healthy and strong. But it’s been totally worth it.

Yesterday I dug out some old photos of us. The one above is from a holiday in France that we went on with friends in 1996. I showed it to my sons last night and my eight-year-old said, incredulously, “Is that… Daddy?!!!! He was so good looking! No wonder you carried on kissing him, Mummy, he was one cool dude!

My husband put the photo on Facebook and one of his friends commented, “Is that the summer you destroyed the Horcruxes?” – a reference which implied he looked liked Harry Potter. This thrilled my son even more! Of course the photo was taken before Harry Potter was even published so he got there with the round glasses and the floppy fringe before Harry did. Just sayin’.

So there you have it; a love story that began one wintry day over two decades ago. A lot has changed since then; those young people have grown up and are now rather more weighed down by life’s responsibilities. We’ve both lost something of our youthful sparkle. But somewhere – and always – underneath it all, we’re still those teenagers in love.

Little Hearts, Big Love


It’s been one of those weeks. Not an altogether bad week by any stretch, but a very full-on one that’s left me feeling wrung out with not a lot of steam left in my engine, gin in my tonic or jam in my doughnut.


This is basically a result of all the various areas of my life requiring attention all at once. I normally juggle things (it’s the way of many parents of young kids I think) but usually it’s a case of some things needing more attention while others need less, in a kind of fluctuating dance. It might not be the perfect pirouette but it works. This week though, all the different aspects came charging at me a whirl of school engagements, kids parties, tricky work documents, long commutes, really-need-your-brain-to-function-meetings, angsty phone-calls, important decisions and various bonfire events that, while fun, meant more rushing around and an ever increasing pile of muddy wellies and soggy socks littering the house.

The only blog post I managed last week was written way too late at night (probably why it was all about ferrets), this one I’m writing right now has been in my drafts folder for days and although I’m desperate to getting going on the bajillionth edit of one of my picture books and get my plan for my limerick collection further along, I’m stalling badly.

With all that going on, there have certainly been moments when I’ve felt overwhelmed. And yet, amidst it all have been loads of lovely moments with friends who’ve scattered my week with emails, chats over over hot chocolate, funny messages and supportive blog comments. But best of all, I had two fantastic evenings this weekend that reminded me I’m right on track.

One evening was with one of my closest friends. We live over two hours drive apart but for the last five years we’ve been meeting for dinner in the Scottish borders about once a month. It does me a power of good every time. Even the drive relaxes me (the landscape from Northumberland up to Scotland is stunning) and then four hours of constant chatting with no distractions is brilliant. We almost always go to the same place – the food’s great, the people are friendly and they even have roaring fires to toast our toes by in the winter – it’s perfect. Nothing warms the soul like a good chat with a life-long friend does it?

A second soul-toasting evening involved meeting up with another old friend – this time one whom I hadn’t seen for a decade or more! We went out for a delicious meal and had a good old chat and a laugh just like in our student days nearly twenty years ago (am I really that old? Oh God, I really am). And the lovely thing was – and this I hadn’t quite expected – how immensely reassuring and kind of life-affirming it felt. To be reunited with a friend and to realise that despite everything that has gone on since you last saw each other – the marriages, kids, jobs, travel, houses, and just, stuff, that makes up life – you are both still who are you are and who you always were. And that the friendship has somehow endured.

This week seems to be taking over where last week left off – the toddler has come down with a nasty cold and simultaneously decided now is the perfect time to begin potty training, just to add to the general mayhem. But overwhelm is being held at bay: I have my friends.

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time off – #WhatImWriting

Hooray – ‘What I’m Writing’ is back! I hope you all had lovely Easters with plenty of sunshine and chocolate!

chocolate eggs

So, what am I writing?… um… well the thing is, I haven’t really done much writing at all recently. The boys were off school for two weeks and just went back this morning (am I a bad mother if I add a ‘hooray!’ to that sentence?) so I haven’t really had much time.

But let’s see… I did write a blog post about our family easter (much egg-related fun was had) and shared a poem I wrote with my grandfather when I was a child (William Wordsworth would probably turn in his grave if he got wind of it though so perhaps I should keep that quiet!). Plus I managed to write the BritMums poetry and prose round-up which felt like quite an achievement when overrun with little people. But that was it. Oh no wait, I also wrote a post with tips for finding time to write in the school holidays… hmm, they didn’t pay off quite as well as I’d hoped!

The rest of the holiday was spent loafing around in the garden, meeting up with friends and their kids, eating chocolate, decorating/hiding/smashing eggs, saying “No you can’t play Minecraft again!”, going to barbecues, looking incredulously out of the window at blizzards, eating chocolate, reading books, watching Game of Thrones (Season One – for the first time), visiting family, taking the toddler on an emergency dentist trip when he smashed off half of his front tooth (he’s fine but will be sporting a vampiric look until he loses his baby teeth…), nearly going to soft play then realising that was obviously an awful idea, drinking cups of tea, watching Harry Potter, going on walks and eating chocolate.

I may also have eaten some chocolate.

So it was fun but also tiring (in the way that looking after young children is) and I’m SO ready to have a bit more time to write (even if it is mostly just in toddler nap times). Today I’ve been frantically typing notes for my kids novel. I’ve mainly, merely succeeded in tangling myself up about time travel and it all needs unravelling, but I’m up for the challenge!

How about you? I’m looking forward to hearing all about what you’ve written!

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egg-cellent easter

It was Easter Sunday yesterday and we had a very egg-citing day (sorry, couldn’t resist).

easter collage

Although my five-year-old had concerns that the Easter Bunny would be eaten by my parents’ new puppy, thankfully no such catastrophe occurred and all chocolate eggs were safely delivered! We then had an Easter-egg hunt, decorated eggs (do you recognise the fictional character that my seven-year-old made his into – above?) and had a lovely family lunch. The boys also had great fun smashing the big chocolate egg (pictured above, both before and during the smashing) which we all enjoyed stuffing our faces with afterwards. The sun even came out and allowed us to sit outside WITHOUT COATS ON!

My two year old loved it all and spent a lot of time saying things like, “Locklit! (chocolate) My locklit! I want it, a locklit!” Yes, I’m afraid his usual good manners were entirely lost in the face of such temptation but who can blame him really? I’m afraid we all may have overindulged a bit. Today I’m in recovery – I will be eating nothing but carrots ;)

I hope you all had a very Happy Easter too!

P.S We’re taking Easter off from #WhatImWriting so there will be no link-up tomorrow – I’ve barely written a thing in the Easter holidays anyway, so have nothing to report!

Little Hearts, Big Love


When I saw that ‘The Prompt’ over at Mum Turned Mom this week was ‘Yellow’, I figured it might be time to give my daffodils poem another airing. I say ‘my’ daffodils poem but in actual fact it owes rather a lot to William Wordsworth  (since it’s a silly version of his poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’) and a great deal to my granddad with whom I co-wrote it about twenty-five years ago! When I was a child the two of us would often write silly poetry together and this is one of my favourites. I can still remember sitting together one mealtime, throwing lines across the table and laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.


I Wandered Lonely as a Puff of Smoke

I wandered lonely as a puff of smoke
That floats from a chimney and over the hills,
When all at once I saw a bloke,
Carrying a mass of daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Swaying along on rubbery knees.

His face was flushed as red as wine
With drooling mouth and vacant gaze,
He followed an erratic line
Staggering in a drunken daze.
Ten dozen saw I in his arms
Stolen I’m sure from nearby farms.

The waves frothed wildly at his heel
Yet he was far to drunk to see.
A passer-by could not but feel
A portion of anxiety.
I gazed and gazed then watched him take
A tumble deep into the lake.

When later on my couch he lay,
In much apologetic mood
Recalling how I’d had saved the day
He was struck with gratitude.
Yet to this day pure horror fills
Me at the sight of daffodils.

And in case that’s left you yearning for the original:

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.



Nikki Young Writes

escape – #whatimwriting

It’s 10.40 on a Tuesday morning and I haven’t written my #WhatImWriting post yet! This isn’t like me, it’s normally written and scheduled for 6.55 am by the time I got to bed on Monday night.sad rose

But this hasn’t been a week (or two) of sticking to routines, it’s been a fortnight of running from pillar to post and coping with three kids (one with an ear infection), the house, work stuff and an ill husband all by myself. I’ve known my husband for twenty years and I’ve never seen him in such a bad way as he was last week. He had hand, foot and mouth disease and tonsillitis and the combination basically meant he could barely eat, sleep, talk or move. It was pretty awful. Thankfully he is now on the mend but it’s left the pair of us pretty knackered.

But we all got through it and although I may have dropped a couple of balls along the way, in general I think I managed to keep most of them in the air and juggled them into the right position! Phew.

Weirdly (is it weird? I dunno) the blog posts I wrote while this was all going on made no mention of any of it. It was just business as usual as far as the blog was concerned. I admit I avoided anything personal – my last #WhatImWriting post was a jokey quiz rather than saying anything about my actual writing week –  but then that’s not too unusual for me anyway. Funny thing was, blogging that way made me feel better. I always thought blogging could be cathartic because of the potential to share stuff but last week I found the catharsis was there by having an area of my life that kept up appearances and continued regardless. Not to mention the fact that two of the posts I wrote – an alphabet story and a piece of micro fiction –  were creative. The fictional world was my escape!

Anyway, as you may imagine, I haven’t done much other writing recently. I’m nowhere near the goal I set myself of having three picture book manuscripts ready for submission by the end of Feb. It’s disappointing but I have to cut myself some slack. I can’t do everything.

Better go –  it’s half term and the kids are milling around. Have lovely, healthy weeks everyone!

new year

xmas morningHappy New Year everyone!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and I’m still in a bit of a festive daze with my mind stuck back somewhere in the middle of last week. But it’s the second of January now so I thought it was time to post a little something in an attempt to re-boot my brain and my blog for 2015!

For the sake of my sluggish brain (and fingers) I’ll keep it brief. So here’s my summary of the festive period in the Bubble household:



















running (late)