My Hair Transformation

My life was a constant battle with dry, tangled hair until I had it cut back in October. Since then, things have been pretty good – I can brush my hair without my scalp swelling and I can almost run my fingers through it without it catching. Or at least, that was the case until I jumped on to the ombre bandwagon just after Christmas and dried out the ends of my hair all over again. I need to get it cut again, really, but until then all I can do is try various products and see how they work.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, and I was where I’m normally found: in a bargain bin. I came across a range of Macadamia Oil Extract products for £1 each and thought I might as well give them a go – as they were that cheap I bought a shampoo, a conditioner and a matching hair mask. I wish I’d bought ten of each now.


Every Sunday evening I treat myself. Between the hours of 9 and 10pm I run a steaming-hot bath, I rest my tablet on the toilet so I can watch something awful on Netflix and I use all my best pamper products. Last night I even brought myself a cuppa, because I know how to live. These Macadamia Oil Extract products were tentatively added to my pamper collection for this Sunday night; the products totalled £3 so how good could they really be? 
It all felt normal at first. The smell was fine – nothing special, just that everyday soapy smell. I used the shampoo and conditioner as I always would (leaving the conditioner in for a couple of minutes, which is recommended on the packaging) and then applied the mask liberally to the ends of my hair and left that for a good five minutes. The mask was a bit less heavy-duty than I had imagined: quite runny and not dense at all, which hair masks usually are. I was worried this’d mean it wouldn’t do much, but hey. Worth a try.
My hair was still wet when I fell asleep last night, which is usually a recipe for disaster. But this morning, when I brushed it, I was pleasantly surprised. The brush glided (glode? Glade?) through my locks smoothly, leaving them looking shiny and golden and bouncy. This NEVER happens to me. My fiance even commented on how soft it felt/that it looked shiny. I’m super impressed. I haven’t used this enough to know if the hair mask did it or if the shampoo and conditioner would have been enough: I’ll experiment next time. All I know is you need to get to ASDA and snap these beauties up before they put them back to full price or discontinue them all together. I haven’t seen these for less than £3 each online (so almost a tenner for the set, which is a huge difference) so this is most definitely a deal to take advantage of.

Let me know what you think!

Childhood Anxiety: Our Experience

As I look over my laptop I see a happy child. She is smiling and giggling. She’s being loud and obnoxious and in your face. She is just like every other eight year old girl, and that is all we ever wanted.

Looking at the title, I’m sure you can guess that things haven’t always been this way. I entered Jelly’s life at the age of 3, and I already commented then that things were a little bit off; I’d be on the phone to Jay and he’d say “sorry I took so long, I was trying to put [Jelly] to bed and she was in hysterics because [whatever item] wasn’t in the right place”. I’ve had experience with OCD and this was my first worry, and I remember telling him straight away to just be careful ‘justifying’ the anxiety she was feeling by having things exactly where she wants them.

Her life at nursery had been fine up until then, but not long after this she began being upset at having to go in. To this day she can’t hear the Postman Pat theme tune because it fills her with dread; when she was that age, the beginning of Postman Pat meant it was time to go to nursery. She would repeatedly ask her parents where they’d be while she was in there. Would they promise not to leave? Would they wait outside for her until she was finished? Where exactly would they be, who would they talk to, what would they buy? Question, question, question. To lose control of the situation was to feel that her parents didn’t care about her anymore. She couldn’t bear to be forgotten.

She moved on through the year and ended it on a high: she loved school, had a blast going in. We all had high hopes. She enjoyed most of her year in Foundation with a few minor normal separation anxiety episodes, and was looking forward to Year 1. And then right at the end of the summer holidays, her Nan died. This was the first person to have died in Jelly’s life and of course she took it incredibly hard. Jay and I had taken her to the park for the day while her Nan was in hospital, actually, and Jelly had asked us if her Nan was going to die: we said of course not, because we didn’t think she would. And that meant she learned the secret no child should ever learn: parents do not know everything. You can’t always rely on them to be right.

A month or so after her Nan’s death, she had been back in school for a few weeks, and she began to cry. “What’s wrong?” Miss Sick-of-it-all (as we called her at the time – a fun play on her name, but I won’t name and shame the witch on here. I’ll call her Miss Sick for now.) asked her. “I’m upset because I miss Nanny”, she said. “Hasn’t that been about a month now? It’s time to start getting over it.” replied Miss Sick. Jelly was distraught: she hadn’t realised there was a time limit on her grief (which there isn’t), she didn’t trust us when we told her it was okay if she felt sad at school, and she began to obsess over not being able to control her emotions while she was there, and if she would get into trouble if she accidentally cried.

The school itself is an establishment which had excellent results with Ofsted (at the time, it lowered last year) and was very focussed on good grades. However, this comes at a price. The school is regimented, detached and unemotional. Some children excel at sports or academics: these children do well at regimented schools. Jelly excels at art. She does not excel in a regimented school. This sort of regimentation made her vomit some mornings or nights, checking her bag again and again, working herself into a panic, shouting at us from bed that she was sure she MUST have forgotten something that would get her a telling off the next day.

Once, she put her hand up and asked for help. She was told they were disappointed in her for not grasping what they’d said. She was then terrified to put her hand up again, so fell behind when she didn’t understand. Once, she couldn’t finish her lunch. She was forced to eat. This made her terrified of lunchtimes, because she felt humiliated and sick. She was scared of the time in class and scared of the breaks. She told us that all she wanted was for a teacher to cuddle her if she was upset – we knew this didn’t need to be literal (although that would help), it’s that she wanted to feel that the school had compassion and could tell her that it was okay to be upset. But it wasn’t, in their eyes. They repeatedly told her to grow up, get a grip. Every time we complained the school apologised, told us this wasn’t quite what was happening and that they’d make an effort to ‘accommodate for [Jelly]’s oversensitivity’. Which they’d do for a week before telling her to grow up and get over it all over again, because they couldn’t give her special treatment.

Year Three was the worst. On top of the strict teachers, a new girl moved to the school, who was a bully. In previous years she would leave school smiling, happy to have completed another day. In Y3 she would leave school crying because she knew she had to be back tomorrow. Towards the end she would even cry on Fridays because she was so scared about Mondays. Sunday nights were full of the worst fits of anxiety. I’m not ashamed to say that every Sunday night left the parents in tears too; towards the end she was having anxiety attacks and began to verbally lash out at us, which is so out of her character. She’s the sweetest and most polite girl I know usually. We literally pushed her into school in the morning, as she screamed and grabbed at us, while the teacher grabbed her arm and pulled her inside the doors. She obsessed over ‘wave at the window’ – she’d run to the nearest window and watch us leave. God forbid we ever forgot (which we sometimes did if we were in a rush) to wave. She started to do this at home when she was dropped off at each parent’s houses too, letting her school anxiety leak in to home life. She stopped eating evening meals; her anxiety made her lose her appetite. She would be up until around 11pm in hysterics. Eventually we just couldn’t help her anymore: it didn’t matter if we told her it’d be okay or not, she didn’t believe us. We’d close the door and let her scream and throw herself around. We had to have Moo sleeping in a travel cot with us because her crying at night disturbed him and if he cried in the night and woke her it’d make her worse in the mornings. It was particularly whenever there was a special event, like a school play or an assembly: instead of being happy to spend extra time with us, she spent the time leading up to the event obsessing over the moment we’d leave and she’d have to say goodbye twice in a day. In her last week at the school, she took part in a Sport Relief event. She left school crying a week before it because she already couldn’t take her mind off the moment we’d be leaving. We told her we wouldn’t go and it made it all the worse for her. She was torn between saying goodbye twice and being the only child not to have her parents there. We knew that something was wrong, but didn’t know if it was because of the school or because of who she was. Obviously she was overly sensitive but we didn’t know how much of it was down to a terrible experience at a school that wasn’t right for her. What we did know was that the school refused to address the bullying (we were repeatedly told Jelly was mistaken and that no bullying went on at their establishment and that the bully in question is actually a very shy and polite girl who everybody gets along with – perhaps she just FEELS bullied because of how incredibly sensitive she is. ‘We know how she makes mountains out of molehills’.) and they were fed up of having to deal with the way she was. They also pulled her into the office and asked her why she THINKS she’s being bullied, then interrogated her about her home life. “Do your parents fight a lot?” “Does your Dad get very angry?” “Is your Step Mum not very nice to you?” etc – anything to pin the blame. At parents evening her teacher suggested she was probably acting up for attention because we were paying more attention to Moo. We shot down that theory pretty quickly. We spent months talking to her doctor about it and we all agreed our action plan: we would look for a new school for her. It didn’t work for our family schedule to homeschool as a long-term solution and we felt that the structure and sociability was impotrant for improving her anxiety, so we needed to find a school that would suit her needs. If the problems continued once we found the ideal school, the issue was with her and we would deal with that.

We met a bit of resistance when removing her from school, purely because the head teacher had to sign a form agreeing that it’d be in the best interests of the child to leave. We had cited our reasons as harsh teaching methods, inability to cope with emotional demands and refusal to resolve issues of bullying, as well as stating that she had anxiety issues, we felt there was damage that couldn’t be undone and that she would always associate this school with anxiety. To sign the form, the head teacher had to agree to these things – which she obviously didn’t want to do. But she did sign it. In her comments she basically said that our reasons were wrong but if we felt Jelly would do better somewhere else, that was our choice to make. I honestly think she was happy to be rid of the child who took a lot of work and the parents who were always complaining about the school! We took her out of school a month before the Easter holidays and home educated her for a while. She got more done in that month than she had in the last year, working one-on-one with us through textbooks we’d bought and we encouraged her to be independent in her research; for example we took her to a wooded area, had her list all the species she saw, then had her choose three, research them online and create a wildlife poster. She gained confidence when she realised she COULD do things, she’d just never had the chance. We took her to view schools with us because, ultimately, the choice of new school had to be with her. She chose the first school we saw. We made her see a second just to be sure but the second school only reinforced her decision.

Her new school is a local combined school, a 30 minute walk from her home with us, dedicated to supporting communities as well as positive learning. They have ‘mentors’ in place for children with emotional difficulties, which is what really lead her to choosing this school. Her last school had 800 pupils, this one has just over 200. The children are able to have the attention they need, and her learning and confidence have come in leaps and bounds. The teachers are wonderful, they all know all of the children’s names (impossible in her huge old school) and make them feel special. Occasionally she will have a bout of anxiety – the first day of term, or if a teacher has scheduled absence and a substitute that she doesn’t know comes in. But generally she is happy, is excited to get back to school, has a solid group of friends… Generally she is thriving.

The point in blogging this is two-fold. First, I am so so proud of her (and the three of us who, it has now become apparent, made the right parenting choices to get her out of this trap) for how she has come along and I want to brag about it on her behalf! She will always be a sensitive and anxious child, but we now know how to identify when something is becoming too much for her and she has learned techniques to deal with her anxiety. I’m willing to share these on the blog for anybody who needs them. And secondly, if you have read any of this and nodded along, this blog is for you. When she was going through this tough time, I scoured the blogosphere for inspiration and found nothing. I tweeted, I posted on forums – there is so much support out there for children with learning difficulties or gender confusion but almost nothing for children with mental health issues (and the help that IS there is only because it overlaps with the former). It was like a black hole in the internet, yet I know that so many parents are watching their children go through similar things.

My advice to you, if you are reading this and finally feeling like somebody knows what you’re talking about, is to have open communication between parents, and then also with your child. Stability and dependability are what your child needs. If something is all consuming and CAN be changed, change it. I do not support running away from your problems, but moving Jelly to a different school has given her the chance to learn that school can be fun and that she deserves the chance to thrive. We realised that Jelly only had one childhood, and we had to decide between letting her torment herself for the sake of teaching her to face problems head on, or move her once, give her a chance at a ‘normal’ childhood and if that doesn’t work we take her to therapy. And maybe one day we will still get her therapy: she still has control issues and she still lapses sometimes, but now it feels like she’s on a level playing 
field and we can guide her like every other child.

We’re proud of how far you’ve come, Jellybean xx

On Adding Slashes To Your Name

It might have been Beyonce I saw in the early noughties (it also might not have been), who I saw on a budget documentary, making her way into another facet of her career, talking excitedly about how she was now able to add ‘slashes’ to her name. She wasn’t just a singer, she was singer SLASH actress SLASH producer. I might not be Beyonce (I actually don’t get the love. Sorry blogosphere, I just don’t) but I do have slashes to my name.

I am Fee. Mother slash student slash fiancée slash local editor.It’s fucking hard.
Any one of these things is inherently difficult, but the more you team them together the more you have to sacrifice bits of each. I have had to create a little hierarchy of roles in my head. Some of the placements are time dependent and might change because of deadlines, but that doesn’t stop the guilt. I mean, how do I justify moving ‘mother’ down a peg because I’ve got something to sort out at work? Or some reading to do for University? And in all honesty, I have to move that role down a couple of times a day. Here, kids. Take these crayons. Let me go through my work emails.

Keep calm

The toughest combination is that of mother and student. Other students can finish class at 2pm, get home and crack the books open. I have to leave university, I have just over an hour journey home, pick up at least one child, do the dishes from breakfast time, put a load of washing on, play with at least one child (depending on who has control of Netflix at the time), make dinner, eat dinner, bath at least one child, do homework with one, read stories to the other, get one off to bed, clean the kitchen, make tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch, do the third set of dishes, put away the dry clothes from the last lot of washing, hang up the new lot, get the other child off to bed, tidy away the toys from the day, tell big child it’s time to turn her tab off, get bag ready for the next day – and that makes it 9pm. I leave at 6am 3 days a week so I try to be in bed as close to 9 as possible to avoid getting ill. Very often I find myself sacrificing personal hygiene in order to actually get my required reading done, let alone anything extra. Other students also have weekends: at the moment we take one day each (Jay is a first year student too) to lock ourselves in the bedroom and have the other watch the kids, unless there’s an assignment coming up. Of course, being a student means the ‘fiancée’ slash suffers greatly too. Oh and add ‘home-maker'(if that’s still a thing) in there because what do I sacrifice to make time to clean the bathroom, change the cat litter, change the bedding, polish the shelving, etc etc etc? 
A massive problem of mine has been guilt. I felt guilty when I snapped at my children because I was trying to power through my work and they were getting too excitable with eachother. I felt guilty when I realised every grade so far has been a B: all this sacrifice and I’m not *quite* good enough for an A each time. I felt guilty when I looked at the spreadsheet at work and saw that 90% of people had finished something before me. I felt guilty when I looked back over the previous week and didn’t remember any moments of quality time with my fiancé. But having slashes (not peeing) means learning to accept guilt and appreciate transience. These opportunities won’t be there forever, and you have to think about which moments you’ll be saddest to have missed. 
Okay, so I didn’t get an A. I took my kids to the park instead. So the dishes wait until the morning. I’m going to have a cup of tea and a chat with my fiancé instead. 

Do you have slashes in your name? How do you cope?!

Nail Moodboard

February is the month of love!

I love having fun nails, and I try to co-ordinate them to seasons and holidays – anybody else missing looking down and seeing Christmas trees and puddings?! As V-Day approaches (and I know many of you aren’t fans, so I won’t bang on!) I thought I’d do a basic selection of some of my favourite colours for this time of year. No patterns, nothing fancy – though if anybody is interested I can share some proper Valentine’s art, let me know! 

Valentines Nails Samples

L-R 1-7

1. Oriflame Pure Colour Floral Nail Polish. Two coats.

2. ‘Naughty’ from an old gift set. Two coats.

3. Red from a Primark make-up set. Two coats.

4. No.7 – Coral Kiss 39. Two coats.

5. Pink from the same Primark make-up set. Two coats.

6. Barry M Gelly – Blood Orange. One coat.

7. Barry M – Red Glitter. Three coats.

Helluva Manbasket

The idea of vlogging always made me a bit nervous, but I thought I’d give it a bash with my trusty helper. It’d be amazing if you could have a peek and maybe even comment to tell her how well she did, she’s “soooo embarrassed!”

I’m going to change the title of this tomorrow after he’s actually received his present, but for today, while he is on strict instructions to stay off the blog, this is ‘Valentine’s Gift’. I’ll probably go for something cheesy tomorrow like ‘Helluva Manbasket’. (Does anybody get that reference?) edit: Gave it to him! He loved it!

Because that’s what I’ve done for Jay this year, and I’m super excited for him to see it all tomorrow morning. I find it really easy to get him presents generally because through the year I look up everything he says he likes the look of, then add it to my bookmarks. Come birthday or Christmas time, I’ve got a whole list of ideas to choose from. But Valentine’s Day has never been something we’ve done “proper” presents for. I just wanted this day to be for making him feel special, and what makes someone feel more special and pampered than a personalised gift basket?!

Valentines Hamper

I found the basket on eBay and chose a design that wasn’t delicate or floral, so I could be sure it would appeal to his manly side (but I must admit I picked one that I could see a place for in our home!). Inside the basket is a Liz Earle giftset for men, a giant Valentine’s Day card, a ‘build your own Android app’ magazine book, some miniature Whisky bottles and I bought him a year-long subscription to CODE Magazine but the latest issue isn’t out yet, so I substituted a little home-made ‘coupon’.
Jay studies computer games development at University so, as well as the ‘pamper’ products (Liz Earle) and ‘treats’ (whisky!) I got him some things he’d find practical. Hopefully he’ll find a real use for the things I got him in the future, and if they’re not practical then hopefully he’ll at least be interested. I padded out the basket with the tissue paper from inside the Liz Earle package, otherwise I’d have just got some plain tissue paper from a supermarket. I also lined the bottom of the basket with the Liz Earle washcloth.

Valentines Hamper 4

Happy Valentine’s Day, Future Husband! I love you!