Monday, 15 September 2014

Sick & Tired of Sick & Tired

I wasn't going to write this post. Because I felt a little strange doing so. I felt like it was a pointless post to write and that it didn't fit.

But then I realised that I'd just be hiding the reality away. And maybe even putting pressure on mums just like me. 

In the last week, since I've arrived home from holiday, I felt like someone had stripped me of all my good bits. I felt like someone had pulled my plug and I was completely drained. I found myself falling asleep on a train back from London first - something I never do. Then I started to feel nauseous. I didn't want certain foods - going straight for carbs. And my skin flared up. And, to be frank. my period was AWOL.

And, for a moment, I thought I'd be writing pregnancy updates in a couple of months' time. 

And I'm sorry to disappoint (maybe in a year or two) but the tests were negative. 

But I wasn't feeling any better. And I wasn't feeling like myself. 

I was starting to fret. I just had this real sense of things not being right and, like any parent does, I started to worry that something serious was wrong and think ridiculously about William's future and me not being in it. So I booked an appointment today at my local GP to hopefully work out what was wrong with me. And to stop worrying. 

The nurse was lovely. She took my blood pressure, felt my abdomen, took a urine sample, did a pregnancy test, arranged for my sample to be sent off, and then she sat me down and asked me about my life, while she made notes.

It was a strange thing to do. I felt like I was enduring a job interview for my role in Life. Once I'd finished answering questions, she took a long hard look at me and diagnosed me with stress.

She said I also likely had a virus, which was prolonged due to the fact that I've not been resting or giving myself a break. I mentioned my holiday again and she said that things like that are often a sort of catalyst. Where your body goes: "Sod it." And you end up unwell as you've finally stopped for a second. Your guard goes down and then you get attacked by Mr Common Cold and his gang. 

But I gave an awkward laugh as a response and said that I couldn't be stressed, because I am lucky and I am happy. It didn't make sense to me. 

And she explained stress didn't have to have negative links or be down to how happy someone is. Stress is, most of the time, our body's way of telling us to hold the fort, watch a 90's rom-com and eat some carbs in bed. 

In a matter of minutes she'd learnt that I've been managing on my own financially, working full-time, blogging most evenings, trying to fix up a house, trying to lose weight and becoming healthier, trying to be Super Mum, Super Girlfriend, Super Daughter, Super Enter Title Here. 

And when she relayed that to me. I ended up getting upset. 

Because I am doing really well. I am managing far better than I ever thought I could. And I am really very happy. But I do try and put on my coping face more than I care to admit. And that isn't something that is exclusive to me, or working mums, or single mums, or even mums. It's people. 

There's no cure for stress that comes printed on a label to hand in at a pharmacy. 

It's down to you. But, when you have bills to pay, jobs to do, mouths to feed and a house to make a home, 'rest' is a hard prescription to get your hands on. 

And I walked out and I promised that I would call on Thursday for my urine sample results. And I promised I would go home, take advantage of my last night without William (missing him is killing me in itself) and rest. So I bought nutritious food (and possibly chocolate) from the shops on my walk home. 

I turned on the lights. And I sat down on my sofa. And updated my family. And a couple of my friends.

And then I wrote. And I contradicted myself I suppose. Is this work? Sometimes it feels like it is. I want you to enjoy my blog. I want to make you smile or share something fun or even inspiring. I need to hold on to the moments where it isn't work. Even though this blog has been a saviour in many ways. 

I just wanted to write and say - if you are having a shit time, or you're exhausted, or you find yourself in tears and feeling emotional and wanting to face plant a bowl of chips and hook up to an IV of wine, please do. It's okay. 

When she first said that word to me I tried to say it back and it felt foreign on my tongue. I'm always saying: "I'm so stressed!" But this has made me think. And I have thought and I've thought about the people I know and how I'm sure they must feel more stressed than me. And how I want to contest i and say: "Don't be daft! This is just life!" But I think life, however yours panned out, can be hard at times. 

And yeah, okay. It's been a hard year. But I'm really lucky. And I'm not about to sit here and say that I need a hug, or someone to look after me, or for reams of sympathy. 

I just need to quit trying to be everything and start focus on being something - and that's just a happy person, to the people I love. 

So I'm going to bugger off now, and take her advice, and eat a Wispa bar (medicinal) in bed with two cats and YouTube. 

P.S. Silver linings. She weighed me and I've lost five kilos since the end of April when I was last there. Which is enough to make any grumpy mother smile. 

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I haven't felt all that well recently. I think it's a culmination of a sickness bug, a realisation of just how tired I was before our holiday (I seem to be shutting down) and the holiday blues.

So, I was searching for something comforting. I've been cooking a lot. Because good food makes me feel better, and, yes, I am eating well these days, but I believe that sometimes you have to just indulge. It's not a 'bad day', it's a day where rules go out the window and you remember that it's quite nice to eat pig and have a glass of wine and just relax.

I've made pulled pork before, you can see an old recipe here, but we had a day at IKEA planned and I needed something tasty to come home to - minimum effort required.

So I bunged this together, and I hoped for the best.

Luckily enough for Mark, and you if you try this, it turned out brilliantly.


Pork and rub

A pork joint of choice - traditionally, shoulder is used, but I used leg and it was perfect. Make sure your joint has a nice piece of fat to it. Keeps it moist.

One teaspoon of chilli powder.
One teaspoon of paprika.
One teaspoon of garlic salt.
A good few twists of black pepper.
Three teaspoons of brown sugar.


Two onion - sliced into chunky rings.
A cooking apple - sliced into thick slices.
Three garlic cloves, sliced.
One chilli, halved.
Two cups of chicken stock.
One cup of your BBQ sauce of choice - hello Jack Daniels.


Combine the dry ingredients for the rub into a bowl. Remove any string or twine from your joint of pork, and rub the rub all over. I found just plonking the pork into the bowl and turning it over so it was covered worked best for me! You could do this the night before for extra flavour.

Arrange a layer of onion on the bottom of your slow cooker. Then a layer of apple. Intersperse with garlic. Place your pork on top. Followed by your chilli, stock and sauce.

Turn on low and cook for 8 hours. Or on high for 6 hours. I popped this on at 9:00am, and removed the pork and shredded it at 5:00pm. I discarded the rind.

Then I poured the liquid through a sieve. Removed the chilli, and apple skin where it was still intact. And returned the apple and onion to the slow cooker, along with the strained liquid and the pulled pork. I then cooked it on low for a further two hours. You could do this on high in one though. It's up to you. But the lower and slower, the better. Before serving, taste and season as preferred.

We served this with Pasquier brioche rolls from our Degustabox. And some freshly baked bread rolls too. Along with corn on the cob, onion rings, and slaw.

It was perfect.

And the leftovers make great pulled pork grilled cheese sandwiches too...

Friday, 12 September 2014

Our Holiday - The Photo Album Post

This holiday was a big thing for us. Not least because we couldn’t wait for a break and the promise of sunshine. But because it was our first family holiday.

And, even now, I write that tentatively. It’s a big thing to take apart a family and rebuild it again.

But I’m so happy.

And the nicest thing, for me, was living, for a week, as a happy family of three. Without having to explain our situation.

It taught me that, most of all, I have a beautiful family. And that, really, it’s okay that it exists the way it does.

It also made me want to stand up and say how brilliant that man of mine really is. He isn’t trying to replace William’s dad. But he wants to be step-dad very much.

And he is.

Whirlwind. Quick. Magical. Unexpected.

But this is my family.

And I’ve realised that, come rain, and definitely shine.

This is it.

And here are a few memories from the week that cemented us together.

Have you ever just looked at your child? And marvelled at them? When Bill was a tiny newborn is was my favourite past-time. I’d stroke tiny hands, and feel a proud envy at those beautiful long eyelashes. It’s been a while since I’ve really looked at him. That shock of sunshine hair, with a habit of sticking up, and falling in his eyes. Overdue a haircut, but so very him that I can’t bear to shear those locks away.

Beautiful blue eyes, a very William combination – the shape from me, the colour of his father. Those perfect white teeth. Those nobbly knees. And childishly round tummy.

He’s perfect. How could I ever of missed that?

We had, on average, around four hours a day for us. Or for Tay Time as we call it (how embarrassing). I remember just staring up at the palm trees above me. And reading books with such a speed that I felt like I was suffering from dehydration of words. Sometimes, one of us would reach out for the other, across a sunbed, and we’d just hold hands in silence. I’d hear Mark chuckling to podcasts he’d downloaded. And we’d laugh at my ability to get through five books, when he’d managed half of one.

Mark said something, while we were at the beach, about how funny it is that humans seem to find peace by the water. And it was true. The first night, and eager to explore outside the walls of our hotel, we took a walk at sunset. Dusk made the sea look magical. And it was there, watching them walk ahead of me, that I wanted to cry happy tears, because I just felt so darn blessed. 

For some reason, I turn into a bit of a plonker when it comes to foreign money. I am hard of hearing in one ear and I seem to lose the ability to count when I’m asked to pay.

I don’t think I’ll forget whispering to Mark: “Will you do it? I’m useless!” And he’d unfurl those brightly coloured notes and count out the change. And I don’t know why, but I felt really comfortable in those moments.

He’s numbers. I’m words. He’s thoughtful. I’m rash. He’s quietly confident. I’m noisy one who is anything but.

And it works.

For several nights, I would watch my son, stood on tippy toes, trying his best to interact with the bigger kids who crowded around the pool table. He didn’t mind a good boogie during the kids’ disco, but he was already, at just two years, desperate to grow up.

After watching him and smiling, every night, one night, Mark rummaged through the dorky waterproof money carrier that I was storing our water in (I am my Gramps) and produced a Euro. “Want to play with the balls Bill?” “Oh yes pwease Mark!”

And so his aim is poor. He believes hands are as good as any cue. And I’m pretty certain you aren’t meant to stand on the pool table as rules go, but he looked like one of his dreams came true as Mark taught him how to pot a ball.

And he actually managed one. To a chorus of: “Yay! Yay! I did it!”

They’re lucky to have each other. And I’m sure Bill can impress his dad with those skills now too.

I’ve always been a water baby. I’ve never shied away from water. And I half-expected William to be just like me. But he turned out to be someone that had to warm up to the idea.

A toe dip turned into paddling, and soon, the whole gang were involved. I found myself entertaining groups of children, who politely asked if they could play with the animals too. My little boy shared. We rescued cows with the depth of the deep blue. And we named a shark Marky Sharky. William’s go-to name for any animal it would seem. Luckily, Mark Cow didn’t seem to mind.

There was an option to get whippy ice cream at our hotel. As demonstrated by a giant sign with a very happy looking penguin on it. And so, my animal-mad child, developed quite the attachment.

You could have a cup, or a cone. Most would choose cone, but the cup had a little penguin on, and my son was adamant that was all he’d have.

It had to be chocolate. And it had to be fed, from a little spade-shaped spoon, all by himself. And it had to go everywhere.

And you also had to let him walk around for a minute or two afterwards, just to prank the other parents into worrying if that was indeed chocolate, or something else…

When William finally lost the fight to sleep. We’d huddle on our balcony. A cold beer from the fridge. And a travel version of Rummikub.

Mark had memories of playing it on holiday with his mum as a child. We’d get competitive. And we’d laugh. And he beat me every time.

During my protests that I was tipsy, or he was cheating, I had a flashback of my own. Nights of Uno and Sangria. Laughing family. And a stubborn, little Charlotte, adamant that she wasn’t tired yet. And that she’d stay up a little longer.

On the last day, I drank everything in. I remembered the exact colour of blue that painted the sky. I watched the sunrise, grateful for once that I had to compete with the sunbed hoggers that exist wherever you go. I watched my little boy play. I sat beside him. And I followed the shadow beside us, and saw Mark sit down next to us.

And as we sat, rescuing yet more animals from the deep blue, legs dangling in aqua water, I thanked someone for my family.

I’m not sure who I thanked. Maybe it was someone up there. Maybe it was William for bringing me such joy. Maybe it was Stephen – for the both of us having the strength to want something more. Maybe it was Mark because he made this happen, and he makes me so happy.

And maybe it was me.

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