I wrote so many posts in January, which were meant to stay in drafts forever, it would seem. Those times are now gone, and it’s February.

I’ve also cursed everything. I bought a sledge three or four years ago, and since then it hasn’t snowed. This winter was the mildest I’ve experienced in a long time. Washing has gone out on the line in January, something that never happened before – well, to me anyway.

H is becoming quite the grown up girl. She’s not a little girl any more, but she isn’t really grown up what with only being six and having her front two teeth missing. But I can see in her face she’s looking older, it’s like there has been changes and I didn’t see them until I really saw them.

Her confidence is starting to come through now. She’s doing well at school, on the School Council and in the Headmistresses magazine club which she’s really enjoying. They put together a little fanzine type thing which she thinks is awesome. I keep thinking I should get my 1980s fanzines I put together out, so she can see how similar a path she’s found, as I’ve never mentioned it to her. She has been doing little interviews with authors and asking some good questions – and we have several planned throughout the year, depending on how brave I am asking them. So far it has been really positive, and I love how excited H gets when the questions come back.

I’m afraid I do sort of mock my child and her antisocial behaviour, as she seems to be the kind of child who goes for playdates at friends houses, then sits in a corner reading their books, though that phase may have passed. This week she just painted her nails instead! (she did alright)

We took her to her Junior School’s Christmas Fair in early December, and she seems less nervous about that which is good.

So otherwise things are just plodding along at a fast rate, and I feel like I’m going to wake up suddenly and she’ll be eighteen and will have left school. I’m not entirely sure where I’ll be, mind.

Bye, 2015.

2015 has been a funny old year. One where I’ve felt more in control of myself and my emotions, but out of control of other things.

My back troubles of previous years, accompanied with various muscular aches seem to have gone (for now), possibly helped with the warmer weather. Maybe it’s a sign.

Work has been the same old thing, which has kept me sane at times and driven me mad – but I’m happy and still there. It went crazy busy at the end of the year and we coped, and I think that deserves a big pat on the back. Also – I was only off sick for two days last year. That relates to my back as well. I want to keep it up, I don’t particularly enjoy being at home.

Home. What is home, anyway? We live in a house owned by someone else who gave us a £230 rent increase per month this year. It’s safe to say this place doesn’t feel like a home, just someone else’s bricks. Maybe that’s a sign too.

But then I enjoy being around my family. The only family I’ve spent time with this year are Shaun and H – we didn’t go to Australia (we had no plans to), and I got to York for a few hours, so saw my mum and sister just the once. Shaun and H are my world and they help keep me sane.

Sane? Because I’m changing too. This year I’ve accepted I’m in perimenopause, the hot flushes have arrived (especially when I’m stressed) and anxiety has joined in too. The palpitations and feeling like you’re burning up are not much fun. So I’m focusing on me, trying to find ways to cope. As Shaun said last night “what sets it off?” – and I couldn’t explain. It isn’t like there’s a magic switch which you can just turn off. So that’s why when H can’t explain her angry outbursts, I understand. Sometimes you can’t, sometimes you can. We’re all changing. We’re changing too soon.

So here we are, New Year’s Eve. We were meant to go out tonight but I need to get out tomorrow, to go to the sea. I always go to the sea on New Year’s Day, start the year fresh, ready to fight again. I’ve had almost three weeks off work and I’ve started sleeping for longer times again, apart from when I get anxious – like today. I’m focusing on me, on us, on family. On staying sane.

I’ve put on weight again, so will be setting myself targets to make it go away, like going to the gym again. Bake Off kind of stopped me doing that with it being on so early and at the time I’d be having my workout. That was August. Slap my hand. That will live over at Mum Friendly, as I try to get back on track.

As for Shaun, he’s running again. Twice since Christmas and I’m so proud of him getting back into it and pushing himself. H? She’s doing well, and is settling well into being a moody six year old who screams a lot when she doesn’t get her own way. Fun times.

So yes, 2016. It’s going to be a year of changes. Well, not for me. I’ll look back in November and wonder where the year has gone. H will have started Junior School and Brownies, and will hopefully start guitar lessons too. I just need my family and to stay sane, while living in this place we call a home. It ain’t all bad.

Happy New Year.

How to Trick Your Child

H is quite stubborn at times, has very definite ideas of what she does or doesn’t want, and generally gets across why this is. It’s quite good fun too, bearing in mind she’s only six, so still has a way to go before she’ll be getting her own way in life.

Her most recent dislike has been bananas. Utterly ridiculous, she would swear blind she hated them and refuse to eat them. I’d insist she did (usually in that lead up to swimming) as they’ll keep her full for longer, she’d reluctantly get one, eat it and stop complaining (as she probably secretly enjoyed it).

Prior to that, and up until tonight one of her bigger ones is cous cous. Plain old harmless cous cous. “It isn’t the same as it used to be” she’d tell me, but when asked how exactly it used to be, she had no response.

Until tonight. I mixed it up with a tiny bit of pesto – not that you’d notice. I then announced to H how something magical had happened to the cous cous – that I had mixed it with pesto and it was sticking together JUST LIKE PASTA! She fell for it, obviously. “Ooh, mmm! This DOES taste different” she informed me, before scoffing the lot.

So yeah, she might be stubborn but she’s still gullible enough to believe what I tell her. At some point this will stop. I will be very sad.

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Sleep Talking

One of my most favourite things to do is chat with H, she’s a very funny child. Her sense of humour is brilliant – and she has fabulous comic timing too which makes me laugh a bit too much (and then she gets sensitive about it, but she’s just genuinely funny).

Recently, when I’ve tucked her in bed at around 11pm when I’m going to bed, she’s a little bit restless, like she’s half awake, half asleep. So what better thing to do than chat to her in her dreams? It’s awesome.

I usually plump her pillows up a bit so they’re comfy, often asking her to sit up so I can do it, and reassuring her it’s mummy. When she knows this she does it straight away, and will often lean against me having a cuddle until it’s all set for her to lie down again.

So I’ll have a chat. “Are you having a good rest?” I’ll ask, and usually wherever the dream is takes over what she tells me.

Last night she said “I’ll need a few more of these please mummy, can you help?” – so I offered to do her another twenty. She seemed satisfied with this and rolled over and snored again. I have no idea what I’ve offered to do another twenty of.

The previous night she announced “It’s absolutely BRILLIANT being six years old!” and I had to cuddle her in agreement. “Is it the best thing ever?” I asked back, to which she confirmed “Oh YES!” and fell asleep again.

The night before got a bit weird. “I need another sandwich mummy” she told me. I asked her what she would like inside. “Oh, just some rice” (rice?! RICE?! Rice sandwiches?!). I did clarify this with her. “Rice sandwiches?” I said in a calm, gentle, loving voice. “Yep” she replied, then rolled over and started snoring.

I really look forward to this time of night. I just wish I could remember everything she tells me, and most importantly of all, I wish I could work out what on EARTH she’s dreaming about!


Three More Weeks

Of work left this year. Of rushing home on the train for school pickups. Which is kind of bonkers considering it’s still November, even if it’s late November. My head still hasn’t quite understood it is almost the end of the year.

But there are so many things which are happening in a week or so. There’s a Year 2 carol songs presentation. There’s the school Christmas Fair. There’s her next school’s Christmas fair too. Then there’s parties, birthday and Christmas ones. Scheduling visits to Father Christmas. Pantomimes. Trips to the cinema (Charlie Brown of course) and trips to visit friends. Some which need organising and some which I’ve thought about but not actually done anything about yet.

For the last few months I’ve happily plodded on with my job, with life, stuck in a permanent October with a bit of April thrown in. Then all the mince pies started to appear in shops. THEN Bonfire Night happened. It’s all catching me unprepared, even more so this year. I have not yet seen any Easter Eggs.

I’ve already told Shaun I want to eat Christmas dinner somewhere locally, and am bemoaning the fact you can’t get a Christmas Dinner delivered like you can pizza or chinese. He always cooks it anyway, and enjoys doing it – which reminds me, should book my shopping slot to get it delivered otherwise we have to deal with supermarkets. I did that once. Never again. Especially as it would involve H being with me who will almost definitely decide that she’s bored. Or we could just spent £150 and go out somewhere and just have to get home afterwards.

Oh yes, and then there’s things like putting up a Christmas tree. Don’t tell me we have to do it next week, as I’m not entirely sure when we’ll have time to. Although we did manage to sort out all the boxes which have lived on our front room floor for the last two months last night so we have some space. Because it is DECEMBER next week.

In fact, the only thing I can pat myself on my back for is that I’ve bought almost all of H’s Christmas presents. Now that involved being really organised and spending no more than £30 a month from September onwards. So I must have known it was November. Or maybe time just isn’t a date any more, it’s just a time I wake up, work, come home again and repeat on a weekly basis.

Can someone slow things down a little please? 2015 went a bit too quickly for me. That’s all.

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… and sure enough

following on from my post yesterday, I was chatting away to H tonight and suggested she wore her school shoes as we were popping out somewhere.

She replied “I hate those shoes!”

I queried why.

“Because my friend told me she hates them”

Okay, not the end of the world here. They’re brilliant very practical shoes. They’re very tough and sturdy, and she can play and has a grip on her shoes, and hasn’t slipped over yet this term. So because H’s friend doesn’t like her shoes, she now doesn’t.

But her friend told her she doesn’t like them because they aren’t shiny.

For a six year old, stuff like that is important. I pointed out to H she had lovely shoes and I’d want to wear them, and shiny ones are pretty awful to keep clean – or at least were when she had a pair and she constantly scraped the toes and I was forever painting that nail varnish stuff on them to try and make them look acceptable.

They are lovely too; some fabulous Toughees ones which look almost as good as the day they came out of the box.

A photo posted by Jo Brooks (@mumfriendlyjo) on

Now I realise that being a parent and encouraging your child to wear something becomes a battle at some point, but I would like to think that H knows good clothes when she sees it. But already she’s swayed by peer pressure. I pointed out that she should keep her own opinion, and even if she doesn’t like something, don’t say it like she experienced – as it obviously has affected and influenced her.

It was quite weird having that conversation so soon after I’d written about it here. The Toughees shoes are amazing, hardly any scrapes and still a good fit, and shape to them. No scuffs. We went through so many pairs of shoes last year at school which were destroyed in no time that I’ll be buying Toughees from now on, if only to preserve my bank balance! Even though they don’t do patent shiny leather ones.

Which I have not yet told H. Ho hum…

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If You Can’t Say Something Nice…

Here’s a funny one. Not funny ha-ha. In the day job, I work in music. From time to time I’ll post things or talk about the music, as that’s what normal people do if they have something to talk about, right?

But it’s really odd. Everyone has an opinion – but usually only pipe up when it’s negative.

We’ve been at parties, and someone will say “oh I think this track is utter crap!” like I’m supposed to care… or even just on Facebook, where similar lines of conversation have started. It’s a conversation-killer and it works every time. I’m not about to try and convince someone otherwise – and maybe they’re just trying to shut me up anyway.

The weird thing is, I wouldn’t say I was a big fan. I’m enjoying working on this tidal wave of fun, where it’s really really busy and you go slightly mad by it all but in a good way. It’s exhausting though, and often I’ll be coming home and going straight online to check things, and waking up in the night dreaming my phone is ringing to do with this. It’s stressful. I can appreciate it, as I’m a very small part of it – not in the creative way (I’m not a creative person), but as part of the cogs in the system.

See, I don’t expect people to like our things, but it’s weird how the ones who don’t like it are the ones to speak out. My mum did it too.

Which brings me back to how I bring up H, and how I’d hope she’d react if there was something she didn’t like that her friends have. I would hope she wouldn’t tell her friends that the thing is rubbish, even if she didn’t like it. Maybe just an “it’s not for me” type thing (a bit like I do when I’m in a room full of people swapping cat anecdotes – I can’t join in, I’m a dog person and they make me sneeze too) – but I’d never turn around and say something was crap – that’s just rude, isn’t it?

But they’re just doing what other people do. It’s rare we gush about something we like, isn’t it? I mean, I’m the same – I’ll happily post on Facebook about how rubbish the free NME is each week. So from now on I’m going to keep things positive (apart from anything about Southern Trains, you have to draw the line somewhere, and I always try to jolly that up a bit by writing bad poetry).

I’m going to take it on. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. Let’s see how we get on. Although there will be times we’re listening to music at work and don’t like it – and that’s okay too. Let’s just be nice about it? Let’s not just say “that was crap” – let’s say “well I don’t think we’ll be playing that again” instead.

(and this whole scenario gives me nineties flashbacks to my previous job and the record label employees who were releasing Peter Andre records, and how defensive they’d get because he was signed to them (and the abuse they’d get because he was Peter Andre and the near punch-ups they’d have in bars when the aforementioned abuse would happen). You do have that connection – you might never play the record; they get played to death in the office; but you’re still a part of it)

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Sibling Rivalry

I’ve had this one stuck in my head a lot this last week. A neighbour, struggling with their two children bickering and arguing said to me “you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with sibling rivalry” – and my heart sunk.

I’d love to deal with it. I really would. I mean, I had a pretty awful time of it with my sister when we grew up and the teenage years kicked in. We got through it and get on fine now, and probably speak to each other much more than we did when we lived at home together. So I get it, I think I know what’s involved.


That isn’t going to happen.

Because H is just one. My body can’t take one more, and oh, by the way, I’m too old for one more.

I would love to have one more. But I know it isn’t happening. But yes, when someone says “oh you’re so lucky” I know I am – there are people out there who have no children who would love to have one. Yes, I am so lucky.

But I’m not so lucky my daughter doesn’t have a brother or sister to argue with, to drive me mad with. To steal their toys and vice versa. To read books to. To play games with. To set up the train track and play for hours. To be two little characters growing up and making me laugh at the things they’ll say to each other. To delight me with surprises and funny things.

It isn’t going to happen. I’ve made peace with that. I’ve given away and sold things to make space for the future for the three of us. H still plays all those games – Shaun is her playmate instead.

But it still hurts when someone tells me I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with something where I have no choice.

Outsmarting a Six Year Old

While generally I can trick H about many things, she’s getting smarter. Of late, she has been writing lots of letters. When I say lots, I mean LOTS.


To Santa.

They’re all hidden.

I ask her what they say, and she tells me “they’re private”.

So I say “aaahh but you can tell mummy!” and hope she might weaken as she “loves her mummy so so much” but no. “It’s private.” she reminds me.

So I accept this, and watch her go and hide the letter. Except it’s being hidden in the bookcase. The bookcase which has several of her books in it.

So I wait until she’s gone to get ready for bed, as she doesn’t come back downstairs at this time.

Can I find it? Can I heck. Argh.

Surely it can’t be that difficult to find a private letter to Santa Claus, can it? It would appear so. My child is good at hiding places. Must get that from me… what with all the things us parents have to lie about to keep up the magic.

Someone suggested maybe she’s testing Santa, to see if he really exists. As if Shaun and I can’t read the letters, then he really must. But of course, we’d find the letters and know what she was asking him for. But then by looking for the letters (and potentially finding them) are we disrespecting her request for privacy? So we have to keep ANOTHER secret from her, that we’re having to lie about finding a letter to keep up the lie about Santa?

It’s so confusing.

I know she’ll keep believing in the Tooth Fairy as she gains money from that one. I know she’ll probably question Santa Claus soon as other children in her class have older siblings and you can guarantee they’ll blab. I’ve had to tell her we pay Santa Claus back, so she can’t just choose the most expensive version of Super Mario Maker and think it’s okay. (and also I’m thinking this is quite a good family present rather than just for H, as I’ll play it as much as she is likely to – although the limited box, without the game looks awesome – for me).

But right now I can’t find the letter. Although one Facebook friend said I should suggest that I read the letter so I don’t buy her the same thing as Santa. Although knowing H she’ll just suggest we give the duplicate toy to one of her friends.

One thing I do have under control is wrapping paper. Last year H spotted that Santa had used the same paper as we have “oh ho ho ho ohhhh” I bluffed “what a coincidence” and changed the subject. This year I’ve bought a roll and hidden it under the stairs. This means she’ll probably find the roll on Christmas Eve or something – it’s inevitable.

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I’m Going to Blogfest

I like Blogfest – in fact I’ll go as far to say it’s my favourite blogging conference of the year. This year it’s my only one – and yet again I’m going.

What do I get from it? I come away inspired. While I’d love to say I have a million ideas in my head that are transferred onto the blog, that never happens. It’s a bit like payday at work, when you get a bonus. You have several days on a high where you make those changes (or spend money) before things go back to normal again.

The line up looks great as usual, and while there’s an awards ceremony (which I’ll probably skip, I don’t do awards ceremonies) I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of inspiring groups to go to.

Also, Blogfest has The Best Food. Plus it’s in The Guardian’s building. If you hang out with the smokers (I don’t smoke) then you get to see speakers coming and going at the entrance too.

I am not going to get nervous and say “that’s you that is” to David Baddiel. Also, must not mention The Wedding Present to Stella Creasy unless we happen to be talking about music. Which might be on one of the smokers hangouts.

It’s also a great place to meet up with blogger friends. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are excellent. So it will be great to catch up with them again.

This year I have persuaded Naomi to come along, who I work with. She’s over at Moody Kids and More and she isn’t scared to say what she thinks. Sonya will be with us too, our third year now! I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow Miffy-a-holic Jenny too and as ever there’ll probably be a mini Carshalton group travelling up together. It’s all good.

The sponsors all look interesting this year, especially the chocolate one – please can people keep me away from there, if only so I don’t complain about the change of chocolate on Creme Eggs. Please?

I’ve been reading about Big Milk too, good to see a company where the farmers are getting decent money back, as I’m never 100% sure. I think we’ll be switching to them.

Anyway, it’s only a month or so away – and I can’t wait!! Oh and this year I might wear a dress.