the-trouble-with-alcoholAfter seven years of pregnancy and parenting, I decided that this would to be the year I got my social life back on track, and it’s been amazing. I think I’ve seen my friends (without the kids in tow) more in 2016 than I did in 2009-2015 put together.

The trouble is, that with socialising comes drinking alcohol. My ultimate nemesis!

I’m not an alcoholic, but I’m not afraid to admit that I recognise alcoholic traits in myself.

When I hit rock bottom after my second mental breakdown in 2006, I knew that it was time to sort my life out, and top of my priority list was getting my alcohol consumption under control. I started binge drinking at the age of twelve. My first experience was neat rum, which led to me passing out in a park. This pretty much sums up my relationship with the bottle back then. I was always pushing the boundaries, and never knew when enough was enough.

dont-be-afraid-to-admit-you-were-wrongIn my late teens and early twenties I prided myself on being able to keep up with the boys. I’d be the only girl standing (more like wobbling) come seven, eight in the morning when the hardcore were still awake putting the world to rights. I’d be the one walking to the dodgy off licence in the middle of the night for more supplies.

I have plenty of funny anecdotes from those days, but I also have horror stories. One involved a taxi driver, and ended up with me running down a dual carriageway in the early hours of the morning. I put myself in serious danger on numerous occasions, and I genuinely look back and wonder how on earth I’m still alive.

It’s incredible how much of a hold the booze had over me back then, which isn’t hugely surprising given my alcoholic step-father

Going teetotal for ever is a big deal though. Apart from not wanting to be ‘that’ person, who everyone starts avoiding because they can’t be around booze, I think it’s a huge statement to make at such a young age. I’m also inclined to believe that it can lead to ‘falling off the wagon’ in spectacular fashion, which then leads to a whole host of other problems.

I find abstinence easy. Having a few and calling it a night has always been my problem.

After rock bottom, I didn’t have a single drink for three months, after that I learnt control. I taught myself how to enjoy a drink or two, and not feel the need to get obliterated. It was a complete revelation, before then I would only ever drink to get drunk.

untitled-design-2Two years and a whole load of self-reflection later, I found myself pregnant with Polly. It was a shock after being categorically told that I was infertile, but that’s another story. I was a saint during those nine months. I didn’t even drink caffeine let alone alcohol (apart from a glass of champagne on my wedding day). 

By the time Clara was born – when Polly was two and a half – her sleep problems were in full swing. Life was super stressful and I turned to the bottle for solace too many times. When C was a year old we went out for a big group lunch with my husband’s uni friends. I got plastered, the way I used to get plastered. It wasn’t my finest hour.

I was a complete embarrassment. To him, to myself, to our children.

So I took a few months break from the booze, once again, and it helped me learn to control it, once again. Shortly after this I fell pregnant with Freddy, and when he was eight weeks old I embarked on the GAPS Intro diet, and didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for almost six months.

I have never felt as good as I did when I was on GAPS. I had an abundance of energy, and clarity of mind, despite only getting three or four broken hours sleep per night. I truly believe that GAPS was how I managed to write my first book Become the Best You. In it I talk about all the things I did to change my life, and become the version of myself I once dreamed of being.

It’s time to take my own advice

I’ve had a lot of fun getting my social life on track this year, but I’ve been absolutely useless at knowing when to stop.

“…but you deserve a night out!”

“…you have such a stressful life, and need to let your hair down!”

“…everyone has a few drinks as a treat, it’s fine!”

I can try and justify my behaviour all I like, but I know it’s unfair on the people who love me the most. Ultimately, I know that it’s totally out of order on my husband. Who, in his own words, carries emotional scars from the early days of our relationship. Unsurprisingly.

rdlukewarmGoing out also means that I’m not parenting to the best of my abilities for a day or two afterwards. Sometimes I suffer from anxiety or depression following a big night. It’s simply not okay to put myself in that position when I have children to look after, one of whom I’m home educating. I don’t aim for perfection, but being a lukewarm mama isn’t good for any of us. 

Yes, my life is hard and stressful, and I need a release every now and then, but I know deep down that my life is made worse by getting hammered. The consequences last much longer than the fun. 

Plus, it’s beyond ironic that someone who eats as healthily as I do, can tune out to the health pitfalls of drinking to excess. We’ve heard lots about the health benefits we can gain from having a couple of glasses of red wine, but no amount of antioxidants can counteract the after effect of drinking two bottles of the stuff. I view junk food as pollution, and this is no different. 

It’s not good for my body, mind or soul. So here’s where it stops!

I’m not feeling ashamed of myself, the way I have in the past. Yes I partied in Ibiza, yes I’ve had some raucous nights with besties, and yes I had to stay in my friend’s hotel room on Friday night, but I don’t regret any of it.

I guess I have learnt a lot from my life lessons. 

I’m not saying that I’m giving up alcohol altogether, because I still don’t think that’s the solution for me. Perhaps I’m wrong, only time will tell. I definitely need another break though, so I can try and get back to a place where I can have a few sociable drinks and quit while I’m ahead.

Wish me luck ❤

I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. It's an act of survival

mind is blown“Whatever you do, don’t write about going to Ibiza.”

Said everyone I know, but my itchy fingers have a mind of their own. I’m a writer after all, how on earth am I supposed to not write about the most life affirming experience I’ve had in a very long time?

In a nutshell, Ibiza was mind blowingly awesome!

I’ve been a mum for seven years, and in that time I haven’t had more than one day away from my children. That’s an awfully long time when life is as relentless as mine is. Home educating means there is very little down time, not to mention the fighting, the screaming, the a word. The ringing in my ears that never ever stops. To say that I needed a break was an understatement, and it was exceptionally overdue.

The trip was booked at the start of the year, and as last Friday got closer, the excitement became palpable. Myself and a great friend met another bestie of ours, and her group of friends out there. I knew it would be fun, but Ibiza surpassed every expectation I had. All I’m going to say is this crew know how to enjoy themselves, and as I get older I realise that’s the secret to a fulfilling life.

We must never stop enjoying ourselves, and living vicariously through our children does not count.

Busy, stressed out parents need things just for them. In the great words of Monica from Friends WE NEED THE STUFF! Events and activities that fill our hearts with joy, and make our cheeks feel like they might just fall off because we’re smiling and laughing so hard. We can’t give give give 24/7/365 with nothing for us.

We will break otherwise.

I thought that dancing until my legs felt they were going to stop working was a thing of the past, but evidently not. It was a pleasant surprise to come home with extra family members. The music, the scenery, the people. Where on earth could I possibly begin?

Well you didn’t honestly think I was going to divulge the gory details did you?

Thanks to the folks who made this mama so happy she’s sat here crying joyfully at the memories.

You know who you are.

And just in case you were wondering. Yes, there will be a next time!

How to Host a Birthday Party and Actually Enjoy Yourself

photo credit: Le Coin de Mel

My beautiful, sassy, unique, darling firstborn turned seven today. She was promised a birthday party this year, and started planning it in February. Seriously, the second her brother and sister’s birthdays had been and gone Polly set about making the invitations.

We originally thought we had a booking at a large venue, so were free and easy with numbers, and at the peak of collating RSVP’s we had around seventy guests coming, ranging from six months up to seventy years old.

A few weeks ago we discovered that there had been a mix up with the venue, so we decided to have the party at home. I’ll be honest, I did have a little wobble when we first found out, but then I figured that it would all come together in the end. Plus chances are we’d have a few drop outs, which would make the numbers a bit friendlier.

I’m very pleased to report that it did all work out wonderfully well in the end, and everyone, including myself, had an absolute ball on Saturday afternoon. Just in case you’re planning on throwing a party yourself, and need a few pointers, I thought it might be useful to share our experience and some tips. Hope they come in handy, and best of luck!

The guest list

Just as a recipe is only as good as the ingredients you use, a party will only ever be as good as the guests you invite. My least favourite parties are the soul-destroying-soft-play-hell ones that people usually have when inviting classmates you hardly know. The food is usually disgusting, the kids run around like loonies, and it always, always ends in tears. Our parties are the polar opposite, because we only invite great friends, and you can’t go wrong in any area of life when you’re surrounded by good friends. Over half the people who came on Saturday live in our development, and all know each other really well. The others are the folks we consider to be family – after all friends are the family we choose. It’s always wonderful to get your nearest and dearest under the same roof. 

The food

Regular readers will know that we’ve had a roller coaster ride of it with allergies in our house, and for many years Polly had to take a packed lunch with her to birthday parties. Knowing how awful it is for a child to have to do this, I didn’t want any of the kids to feel excluded on Saturday. We had egg, nuts and wheat allergies to cater for, as well as sugar free families and vegans, so I kept the food super simple. For savoury nibbles I did tons of salted kettle chips (three ingredients) and huge platters of veggie crudities and home made hummus.

Instead of a birthday cake that half the kids couldn’t eat, we had home made chocolate fondue (coconut oil, cocoa and maple syrup) and a table filled with fruit. We gave the kids bamboo skewers, and they made their own kebabs to dip in the choc sauce. They were all thrilled with it, and it kept them busy for about half an hour, which was an added bonus! I did extra nibbles for the adults, as well as beers, and I made a fab gin punch which went down a storm. Rather than make a big deal about the food, we just had it all out from the start and everyone helped themselves when they were hungry.    

 

Polly’s 7th birthday #party yesterday afternoon was a resounding success! As we had various #allergies to cater for, rather than make a cake half the kids couldn’t eat, I did a huge fruit platter, made a #chocolate fondue, then gave them bamboo skewers to make their own #fruit kebabs to dip in the choc sauce. They had an absolute blast, and went home with big smiles on their faces #howtowinatakidsparty Just in case you were wondering, here’s the #recipe. Enough for 35 kids, and a few adults Whisk together 300ml #coconut oil and 100g pure #cocoa powder, then gradually add 100-200ml maple syrup little by little, and sweeten to taste #refinedsugarfree #paleo #dairyfree #glutenfree #healthy Chop into bite sized pieces… 1kg #grapes 1kg #strawberries 400g #blueberries 8 #bananas 8 #mangoes 6 #kiwis 4 #apples 4 #pears 2 #pineapples

photo posted by Reneé Davis (@mummytries) on

The entertainment

We toyed with the idea of hiring an entertainer, but decided against it to try and keep the costs down, and I’m really glad we did, because we honestly didn’t need one! We had a few outside games set up in the garden, which the kids played with as and when they wanted to. We also set up a craft table, and bought a job lot of wooden keyrings, mini cardboard photo frames, fabric pens and stickers, and the kids decorated their own. These doubled up as party bag fillers too, which personally I much preferred over the usual plastic crap that goes inside them. We did a pass the parcel, which was great, but were rather taken aback by how serious the kids took it, so very political. Some of the older kids did face painting for the younger ones, and between everything going on, there was no boredom, or tears.  

The party bags 

We bought paper goodie bags from Amazon, and in addition to the keyrings and photo frames, each guest got a book (that we picked up from the library in one of their sales for 20p each), a hand written thank you note from Polly, and a bag of Bear sweets. The total cost of the party bags worked out to be less than £3 per child, and everyone loved them. This just goes to show that you don’t have to compromise or spend a fortune to please the children. I’ve heard of parents spending £20 per head on party bags, and I’m sorry but I think that’s just pure madness.  

birthday party excitment

photo credit: Le Coin de Mel

The verdict and top tips  

– a party will only be stressful if you over complicate it, so keep the order of events as simple as possible.  

– ensure you have plenty of help on hand just in case you need it, I do this by bribing the parents with booze and nibbles. 

– our house is a modest three bed, and has a garden the size of a postage stamp, but even with fifty odd people in it, it never seemed too cramped (thankfully the rain held off!)

– buy arts and crafts in bulk to save £££

– if you have healthy food on offer, it will get eaten. 

– seeing smiles on the faces of your guests will tell you that you’re winning.

– if you’re having fun, others will follow 🙂 

I’d like to say a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Miss. Polly, and a big thanks to all who came and made Saturday so special. Extra thanks to my lovely friend Mel for taking some gorgeous photos!   

todayAnyone who reads this blog will know that it’s not easy to walk in my shoes, and never has been. Those who aren’t familiar with my back story might want to read this.

All is not lost, and never is

Yes there is plenty to be thankful for, always, but it can be tough to focus on the bigger picture when the smaller one keeps throwing curve balls your way.

Optimism and positivity are infectious, but when the chips are down and the cycle of negativity grips you tight, it can feel impossible to break it.

When the days are long, nights are relentless, there is no offer of help or sign of things becoming less grinding on the horizon, and the little things in life that should go over your head get to you much more than you should allow them to, it can feel hopeless.

It isn’t hopeless though, and never is. We always have a choice. We can give in to the despair and choose to see the doom and gloom like I’ve been doing lately. Or we can man / woman up and kick the shit out of our life plans.    

So today I am choosing to be thankful for the small mercies

Three beautiful children, who bring a lot of joy amid the sleep deprived chaos.

A wonderful husband, who works his socks off for us and adores us all to bits.

The most amazing friends on the planet, who are a tonic for my soul.

Today, I will leave the room, count to ten, and re-enter it a calmer mummy.

Today I will go back over the book I took the trouble of writing, and take my own advice.

Today, I will try my best to smile in the face of adversity.  

Today, I won’t just be going through the motions.

Today I choose life!

real life has no filter

 

2016-04-16 14.45.50It’s not often that I get to say that my entire weekend was awesome, but that’s exactly how it panned out this week. I passed Hubby the parenting baton on Friday afternoon and headed into the city for a top secret blog thing, which I’m ridiculously excited about. I also got to meet a bunch of ladies I only knew previously by their Twitter handles – it’s always lovely to put faces to names.

After that I met great friends for a catch up over Japanese food and sake at the Southbank, which Mel has written about (thanks hon). Usually this would have been the extent of my entire month’s social life, but the very best was yet to come.

On Saturday afternoon my family went to the Disney on Ice Silver Anniversary Show at the SSE Arena at Wembley

The magic of Disney really can’t be under estimated in my opinion. I was a late 70’s baby and grew up on Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It was pure escapism from my own turbulent childhood, and those films brought me so much happiness in my formative years. I don’t think I was ever a fairies and princesses type of girl, but my kids most definitely, and unashamedly, are. Even 2yo Freddy, bless his little heart. You can imagine the squeals of delight upon getting the email one dreary February morning, asking if I’d like to review the show. Needless to say that the countdown commenced that very day.

“X more sleeps mama, I’m so excited and am going to dress up as Snow White!”

awesome seats at Disney on IceWe had brilliant seats, just eight rows from the stage, and were surrounded by familiar looking faces. 

A spectacular show

Disney on Ice sure know how to put on an awe inspiring show. From the second the skaters come onto the stage it’s a feast for the eyes and ears. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy narrate, and there were six parts in total. As well as a visually mind blowing intro, they recreated scenes and sung familiar songs from The Lion King, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid and much to the audience’s pleasure Frozen.

The skaters were mesmerising throughout, and you know you’re on to a winner when three children aged 2, 4 and 6 manage to be still and quiet for two whole hours! All in all it was flawless, I can’t think of a single bad thing to say. The only grumble of the five of us combined (from Miss. P) was that Snow White wasn’t there.     

a spectacular show - Disney on IceA few tips

The earlier the better: Getting to the venue well ahead of when the doors were opening was a great idea. As well as our show at the arena, there was rugby on at the stadium, which meant that the area was packed to the rafters and moving slowly. It took us almost half an hour just to walk from the tube to the arena, and roughly the same again to get to our seats once we were inside. These things always take so much longer than we think they will.

Preplan your meal (if you are having one): We promised we’d treat the kids to dinner after the show, and headed to the fab retail park behind the arena. Although we were walking as fast as we possibly could we still got to our preferred restaurant too late, and were told it would be a 20-30 minute wait for a table. Fortunately our second choice had space for us and brought our meal out super fast. If I was doing this again I would definitely phone ahead and pre-book a table.

Take the stress out of your journey home: We live on the London borders of the south west, and don’t drive, so had a two hour journey ahead of us each way. As with anything exciting, getting there is usually the easy part, because you’re being driven by momentum and anticipation. Getting home is where the meltdowns and fallouts occur, so we loaded the tablet up with a suitable film to keep the kids entertained and fighting to a minimum.

Stop the press, they slept: Our exhausted little crew arrived home at almost 9pm, absolutely spent after a great day. Hubby and I got the kids to sleep as quickly as we could and went straight to bed ourselves. The cherry on the cake was that all three children stayed in their beds and didn’t start waking up until gone 6am. The magic of Disney really is alive!

From the mouths of babes

 

 

The show will be touring until the 15th May, so there is still time to book your tickets!

**Disclaimer: we were given press tickets to see the show for free. All words and photos are our own. For my full disclosure policy please click here**