Wednesday, 29 February 2012

#MARCHphotoday begins!

Well, Spring is almost here which really only means it'll be lighter as it rains :-)

So, turned out it was harder than it first appeared to keep up with #fatmumslim's FEBphotoaday challenge. Half term kind of threw a spanner into the works. So, onwards into March and I'll try to try harder.

Here's the list from #fatmumslim's blog which you can also find here.

Happy snapping :-)

#FEBphotoaday Challenge 29th

"Something you're listening to" is today's #Febphotoaday challenge set by blogger #fatmumslim. (Catch her blogging at

Technically, I'm listening to my dog snore her little head off. It's such a hard life :-) So, instead I'll show a photo for the Oscar winning "Am I a Man or a Muppet?" song taken from the latest Muppet Movie. (I heard it on the school run this morning). You can catch the video on You Tube here.
Unfortunately, I haven't seen the film yet (you can read my thoughts about cinema prices on an earlier blog here ). I just looooove the Muppets. I wish they could bring back the show to Sunday evenings but then it would become "Muppets Dancing on Ice". There's an idea ....

Music can take you to a specific time, place, emotion or memory quicker than a blink of an eye if you let it. Not to be morbid, I often find myself thinking about the music I'd like to be played at my funeral. 

Let me explain. My friend's MIL passed away and they didn't particularly see eye-to-eye and when walking through the doors of the crematorium to "Super Trouper" by Abba, I laughed, rather inappropriately. I thought, "hell's bell's my friend is taking the "p" and having the proverbial last laugh". However, it turns out, the MIL was a huge ABBA fan (phewwwww).

A couple of years ago, I had to put together the "playlist" for my own mum's funeral. So, if you've read my earlier post here, you'll understand that we didn't have the strongest relationship and it definitely had it's ups and downs. Anyway, I first thought what an opportunity and I certainly didn't count on it being the emotional roller coaster that it turned out to be. My brother did offer but no, "no problem", I said. Turns out she didn't have much in the way of a collection to choose from. Her friends had long since evaporated into thin air (funny how being terminally ill will do that to people). So I set about trying to think about the times she was happiest.

I chose some 70's classics (she wasn'r religious so hymns were not an option):
99 Miles from L.A. (Johnny Mathis) You Tube Clip
Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue (Crystal Gayle) You Tube Clip
Only Love (Nana Mouskouri) You Tube Clip
The Way We Were (Barbra Streisand) You Tube Clip
Just When I Needed You Most (Smokie)
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late (Johnny Mathis) Top of the Pops 1978 Clip
Hasta Manana (Abba) You Tube Clip

Which still leaves me thinking of my own "playlist" becasuse I'm not convinced I want ABBA played at my departure...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

#FEBphotoaday Challenge 28th

28th Money - Surely worth more than the Euro now?
I'm thinking that "Monopoly" money ought to be gaining in value given the recession and crisis in the Eurozone. Most of us probably have at least one the house somewhere. Bank of England doesn't need to issue any more £Sterling. Just let us spend our Monopoly £000's. Bingo! Problem sorted.

If only, it was that easy. Given the long, dark, cold winters and the cost of entertaining children is going through the roof. (Captive market, isn't it, desperate parents on a soggy Sunday afternoon? ) Leads me to ask, what's your favourite board game?

My children seem to be going through a phase of the oldie but goody. Likes of "Battleships". "Connect 4". "Frustration". My OH's desert island game would be "Monopoly" although he would say that cos he wins. Every. Single. Time. Which kind of takes the fun out of it. I'm sure he makes his own rules as he goes or maybe I'm just a bad loser (moi?)! We even bought the new "Revolution" version which, to be fair, the kids enjoy but not so much the "grown-ups". Something not right, when you start the game with a credit card loaded with £millions to acquire your property portfolio.

"Monopoly" became one of my mum's favourites to collect on our behalf. We have various editions including two "Star Wars" limited editions. One is wrapped up for posterity and one is played with quite a bit (we get a lot of rainy Sundays). 

If a more reflective game is your cup of tea, then why not try the "Transformation Game"? The game can be found here at Amazon It was developed by a couple fo ladies at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. (More about whom you can find out about here In short, it's a game that asks you to think consciously about your life in all aspects: Physical, Emotional, Mental and Spiritual.

 On a whole other level, if you have a rainy afternoon to yourselves without 101 other things to think about and do, why not try the board game "Monogamy"? Sometimes, it's good just to have a laugh "a deux". For adults only, it's suggestive, flirtatious fun.

Monday, 27 February 2012

#FEBphotoaday Challenge 27th

A new week. Another Monday. Another day of sodding rain. You know what? Scotland is truely "God's" country when it's sunny but he/ she must really be hacked off with us to only grant us one day a year of glorious sun, usually between May and September.

Anyway, today's challenge is "something you ate". This is a replica of what I ate inbetween making and drinking the accompanying cuppa and kids packed lunches and counting down to the school run. The joys!

Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

#FEBphotoaday Challenge Days 14th - 26th

The joys of half-term and all my intentions to stop, think and take a shot disappeared out the nearest window. How easily distracted I must have been.... 

That was a week ago ..... no excuses really just life got in the way!

14th Heart

15th Phone ~ not sure if it ever gets used

16th Something New ~ hadn't tried Vanilla Black Tea before

17th Time ~ stands still for no man

18 Drink ~ I love my coffee

19th Something you hate to do ~ Ironing, complete waste of time and energy

20th Handwriting

21st Fave photo of self - many, many, many years ago

22nd Where you work ~ supposedly here but usually somewhere tidier!

23rd Shoes - my sliippers, ancient but hard fo give up

24th Inside Bathroom Cabinet ~ one shelf only :-)

25th Green

26th Night ~ not much in the way of light pollution in these parts
So, that's me now up to date. Best try harder for the next few days. It's nearly Spring!

Friday, 24 February 2012

All part of the (fostering) process

It is with some trepidation and a sense of impending sadness that I find myself writing this blog. I'm not a writer so please bare with me. I'll try to keep a sense of order as I go. It's also quite a read so make a cuppa before you start ...

I guess the best place to start is the beginning, right? So, me, myself and I thought about fostering a couple of years ago but parked the idea because it was shortly followed by a move back to our "home" country. A return to the warmth of friends and my husband's family (my immediate family consists of one brother, living abroad).

After a few months, once our two children had shown great leaps in settling in to their new environment and seemed to be forging friendships, I made enquiries locally. Wanting to find out about fostering and the need to reach out and as I saw it, help the little ones out there that need it the most. This was not in anyway me smugly asserting that "aren't we great?" "Look at us we know it all". We're just muddling along, trying our best for ourselves and the kids, like the vast majority of parents. I am fortunate that I can be at home for our kids whilst my husband, albeit reluctantly at times, goes to the big city and is away Monday-Friday.
"We need all kinds of carers for all kinds of children" 
~ local authority fostering & adoption brochure
According to the British Association for Adoption & Fostering ( there were almost 16,000 children in the care of local authorities in Scotland alone at the end of Jult 2010. 37% are between 5 and 11 with 21% younger than 5 years of age. That is more than 3,000 little boys and girls needing to be looked after or under the watchful eye of social services, under the age of 5.

The process started, in March, with an "informal" chat with two social workers. Their job obviously to find out why we want to get involved; find out where and how we live and a small sense of our family dynamic. So, briefly, we want to help those that need it the most in life, neglected and uncared for children. We live in a village in Scotland, we have a good-sized spare room, two child friendly dogs, I am at home with a little bit of self-employed work I do from home, around the kids and my OH is away during the working week to provide for all of the above, so home at weekends.

I imagine that every Local Authoroity probably has their own processes and procedures but this has been our experience and it's not over yet...

With their initial curiosities answered, the social workers (SW), left to determine the next course of action. That transpired to be a series of what is called "preparation classes". A series of 6 sessions, that we both had to attend, normally held in the evenings however, for conveneince for a number of interested parties, they would hold a series of these sessions over a group of weekends. Yippee. We could proceed to the next step.

These sessions began in May and were put together and presented by Social Workers who act on behalf of the children who need to be looked after.

Session 1: Why children and young people are fostered?/ What do foster carers do?
    Session 2: Identity & Life Chances/ What's in a name/ Group work re discrimination
      Session 3: Working with others/ Law/ Who else is involved
        Session 4: Undertsanding the child/ Behaviour/ Development/ Attachment/ Resilience
          Session 5: Safer Care/ Abuse/ Risk/ Meet a current foster carer
            Session 6: Moving children on/ Positives/ Negatives/ Memories/ Meet another foster carer
              At this point the SW who took the sessions then visited us at home, at the end of June, to give feedback and let us know how they found us.
              "Both presented as warm, friendly and anti-discriminatory"
              "Engaged well"
              "Good communication skills"
              "Mixed well with others"  __________________________________________
              The next step, beyond this feedback, is another series of home visits. The aim of which is to determine our competencies and what we can bring to fostering a young child.

              At this point we fill in an application to apply to foster so technically still not theeee application to become foster carers! Our home visits don't start until the end of September. So, it has taken just over 6 months to get to this point. As far as I know, no CRB checks have been done and references, although supplied months ago, have yet to be contacted. 

              So, home visits start in September. From hereonin it's all about the SW getting enough information to complete the FORM F. The formal application to becoming a foster carer. She will have to present this on our behalf to the fostering panel. So, she needs to have trust in us and our competencies. The most important it seems is "resilience". It seems to be a buzz word everywhere you look at the moment.

              There will be roughly 12 of these home visits which will cover me and my background x 2; my OH and his background x 2; us as a couple; the "mid-way" visit with a senior SW (SSW); each child x 2; us as a family unit; safety round the home; an independent vet will give our dogs a check up; credit checks will be undertaken; every coincil we have lived under since birth will be contacted (we have both moved 17 times since birth) and they need addresses and postcodes of each residence; employer references; personal references; medicals; school references for our children. You name it and they "check" it.

              It is as a result of our mid-way visit that I find myself writing this blog. We have been nothing but honest and upfront about our backgrounds and more than open with any questions put to us. In summary, our story is perhaps a little out of their spectrum of "normal". I don't know. I'll try to keep it brief.

              We are now in our early 40's. Our journey to get here is a path less travelled at times but one, in parts, that is probably more common than we, as a society care to mention. 

              My husband's family, although divorced, are incredibly close, geographically and emotionally. His sister works in childcare for another local authority. SIL is a police woman. BIL is a fireman. OH is ex-forces. FIL volunteered football coach, now retired. MIL was a swimming coach, now retired.

              I was the daughter of a woman who liked a drink or two; she made bad decisions about her partners who turned out to be either violent and abusive, absent, or violent, abusive and alcoholic. As children, my brothers and I ricocheted through life from one drama to another. There's quite a list so in short they include divorce #1; separation from my brothers; some parental absence when she was at the pub and I was 6/7, marriage #2, alcoholism, physical and mental abuse, divorce #2, finding out my dad wasn't my dad; eldest brother's suicide which takes me up to about 17 at which point I leave home to study. To get distance from the drama. I was always in contact with my mum throughout.

              During my first home visit, in relating my "life story" I made the mistake of welling up. Frankly, no-one has ever asked and no-one has cared before how we got to where we are today. People see the "comfortable" life we appear to lead and assume the journey has been an easy one. The visiting SW has translated this showing of emotion into her notes as a "breakdown". Is it just me or are a few tears tantamount to a breakdown? Now, maybe I'm wrong, but I feel that if I hadn't shown emotion, they would have thought I was a cold-hearted witch who can't form attachments.

              During the next phase of my life, upto marriage, my mum ran away with her best friend's husband who turned out to be an addict so for my sanity, we lost contact for a while. I couldn't believe she could treat her friend so badly let alone that she'd picked another wrong 'un. A while later, she was on her feet again. She'd always held down a job whatever else was going on.

              I never thought I'd get married, let alone have children so now, having been so for over 11 years with two great children, I'm somewhere I never thought I would be. However, I digress. I left home, a council high rised flat with ice on the inside in the winter. Headed off to study. I graduated with a good honours degree in economics, qualified as an accountant a few years later. (Incidentally, my older brother became a dentist through sheer hard work and determination and he now has 4 children). 

              Got married. Moved away. Had children. During those years we watched my mum deteriorate due to a terminal degenerative condition. It took her life slowly over 7 years. We also set up and ran 3 businesses. Employed up to 11 people. When recession hit, we sold 2 of them. I think, personally, it's apparent that (a) we can look after and parent children (the SSW has also confirmed this) and (b) we have shed loads of resilience between us. 

              I think they're looking for a family "ideal" that amongst my friends doesn't seem to exist. A wee wifey who's at home for the now, grown-up kids, who have left home and a husband, maybe in his 50's who does a wee 9-5 job. Amongst my friends, most of the mums work, at least part-time and the dads work long hours and are generally home once the kids are in bed or work away for either one or two weeks at a time. Whose prejudices are they bringing to the fore when they sit in judgement? 

              The parting shot at the last visit, the mid-way visit, was 
              "we can obviously see you can parent, that is not disputed but fostering isn't about parenting. I need to think about how will you deal with the birth parents."
              Essentially, if fostering isn't about parenting, I've lost the plot and really need to think again. it feels that despite our honesty, our openess, our sheer willingness to open up our "ideal" family, these  social workers sit in judgement. They assess the "risk" supposedly in the interests of the 1000's of children who are seriously at "risk" from parents who don't care, who are neglectful, who abuse their own children. Whose back are they really watching? 

              Can't help but think they're more concerned about their own perception of risk; their own judgement; that they're scared to make a decision. In the meantime, how many children are falling through the cracks? I do mean children. They have to be younger than my youngest so, we're talking 7 years of age and under. 

              We are the first to admit that we're not perfect but we are perhaps more than aware and more honest than most of our shortcomings.

              It makes us question why we ever started this path in the first place? .....

              Thursday, 23 February 2012


              Ok. I've been tagged for a "meme". What is a "meme"? I'm guessing it's something that requires discussing "me,me,me" depending on who "you,you,you" are. So, having been tagged by fellow, much more active blogger, to be found at, I'll get on and answer the questions ...

              A Mother’s Work Meme.
              1. Please post the rules check!
              2. Answer the questions in as much or as little detail as suits you check!
              3. Leave a comment on so we can keep track of the meme check!
              4. Tag 3 people and link to them on your blog check (will 2 do?, don't have enough followers :-(
              5. Let them know you tagged them check!
              6. Tweet loudly about taking part (well ok, that isn’t a rule, but how about if we start a hashtag – #amothersworkmeme will try ...
              1. Did you work before becoming a mum?
              2. What is your current situation?
              3. Freestyle – got your own point you’d like to get across on this issue? Here’s your chance…
              And, most importantly…. you’re tagged!!

              1. Did I work before becoming a mum?
              Yes, I did. After years of studying and working lots of unpaid hours, I finally qualified (with letters after my name and everything) as an accountant out in industry. Its' no doubt still the case, that long hours are almost mandatory and definitely expected to prove yourself worthy of this profession. A profession, which, if my few attempts to get back into it, are anything to go by, not willing to entertain anyone who still can't run up those hours.

              2. My current situation (with a tiny bit of history):
              My children are now almost 11 and 9 and I have worked in some capacity, professionally, for myself and now others since 2004 with forays into other "projects" in the meantime. I returned to work part-time with my daughter going to a childminder. Working simply to pay childcare, seemed pointless when I went on to have my son. So after maternity leave ended I stacked shelves in Tesco one Xmas just to do something, so we had a Xmas. From 2004 I helped my husband set up his business and still do his accounts today. At the time, with two little peeps, that was enough although money was extremely tight. As son started school and the business was doing well, we moved and I started a gift shop. All went well and we branched out to a coffee shop. This coincided with the start of the largest recession in history so things began to become too pressured. This coupled with exorbitant business rates, taxes up to the eye teeth and employees who really took the "p", made us sell-up. I am not in a rush to be an employer again. Another move followed, back to our "roots" and I still do the accounts for the shops, my husband and a couple of other clients locally. A friend has now joined me to learn the ropes and it's our vision to expand and "employ" other mums who are articulate, numerate , employable yet restricted to school hours.

              3. Freestyle:
              Mums, working or not, are blamed for every wrong and the last to get any credit for all the right in our society. We will be the ones who provide the employees, the MP's (heaven forbid), the doctors, nurses, teachers, binmen, paper boys of tomorrow. As a country, parenting should be valued. Yes, it's a choice but if some of us don't choose to do it, who's going to be paying the taxes to keep what's left of the pensions afloat or flying the planes to take the childless OAP's to enjoy your retirement in sunnier climes?

              One more thing, I cannot stand the types of articles about "how do they do it all?" These pieces, usually about a woman, who holds some fancy job, in a fancy organisation who has an equally successful partner and a couple of kids somewhere, conveniently, out of the picture. It is the sheer suggestion that they "have it all" and "do it all" that makes my blood boil. We could be just the same if (a) we had shed loads of cash; (b) paid someone to do all the chuff jobs we hate doing and (c) farmed the kids out to boarding school as soon as they were old enough and only had to see them at holidays. Is that proper parenting or parenting at your convenience? The perpeptual reporting of this mythical state of being makes me mad. A whole generation, I feel, has been spoon fed this utterly false state of existence. You cannot "do it all", all at the same time and survive with your sanity intact. Not without a whole host of help and support. Paid for or otherwise.

              Monday, 13 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 11th, 12th and 13th

              Once again the weekend has disappeared in a blur of delivering daughter to riding lessons, falling out with husband, visiting relations, delivering birthday presents to nephew, reconciling with husband (why can't he realise that in accepting I'm right 99.9% of the time we could avoid 99.9% of disagreements?) and watching the last 2 parts of the Harry Potter franchise. So, I've fallen behind with the #Febphotoaday challenge but I shall catch up :-)

              Day 11: "makes you happy"

              Well, getting through the weekend without arguing with stressed out husband makes me happy but when that's not possible, breakfast in bed, delivered and prepared by our dearest daughter is easily second best ... 

              Day 12: "inside your closet"

              So dull is inside my wardrobe, various shades of black, brown and grey abound that I'm sharing another photo from our wedding back in the turn of the millennium (at least there's a wardrobe in the photo).

              Day 13: "blue"
              My favourite colour, in any of its shades ...

              With half-term upon us, I'll try to keep up with the challenge ...

              Friday, 10 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 10th

              Not quite technically a self-portrait for Day 10 of the #Febphotoaday challenge but one of my favourites nonetheless. Think I had a bad case of rosascea ...

              Thursday, 9 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 9th

              I love our front door (#Febphotoaday challenge, Day 9). As you can see, it's been around for a while. 

              We live in a former police station/ old court house. I like to imagine that this door has got a lot of stories to tell. I figure it's been hanging in the same spot for a very long time. Most likely, 100 years or so.

              Wednesday, 8 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 8th

              The "sun" or rather lack of it, is the topic for Day 8 of the #FEBphotoaday challenge.

              I feel a song coming on ....  "you are my sunshine, my only sunchine, you make me happeeee when skies are grey...". Which kind of sums up the sky this morning on the West Coast of Scotland. I used to sing this to my baby boy during bedtime baby massages. Those days are long gone :-(

              Tuesday, 7 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 7th

              Does the humble toggle qualify as a button for today's #FEBphotoaday challenge? Seems they can always be found on a trusty cosy duffle coat. This one is on my daughter's wee coat. I love duffle coats. I've had at least two that I can remember. One I wore, as a student, til the lining disintegrated and one gorgeous, ice blue, MaxMara cashmere duffle with faux fur collar. I wore that until it didn't fit me anymore (thanks babies!). It was just sublime when you put it on. Tres luxe!

              That said, I've just stumbled across the "button ring". These look totally great. Must find out what I need to get crafting (not that I'm a compulsive crafter). Never crafted anything in my life but maybe there's a first time ...

              An old babysitter once made me a button bracelet and I thought it was soooo cool. Every colour in the rainbow and then some. I gave it to my daughter and that was the last I ever saw of it :-(

              Find the "button-ring-of-the-month-club" here :

              Monday, 6 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 6th

              Dinner. Mmmm. Mmmm. The subject of today's #FEBphotoaday challenge. It's always fraught with thoughts of how better to ensure my kids have "5 a day" within reach. Although, on average I think we manage 3/5 a day. I envy those families with children who love fruit and veg. Mine react like Superman and Kryptonite. Despite the tensions, I try to ignore their protestations and carry on regardless. Although, part of me hates the thought of it going to waste some of the time. To be fair, they're getting better but it's a long, slow journey.

              So dinner tonight, is a dish I've been making, semi-regularly, since I was a student, many years ago. Pasta. Chopped tomatoes. Onions. Peppers. Mushrooms. Veg stock cube. Black Pepper. L/F Creme Fraiche. Garlic. Oh and a wee sprinkle of cheese on the top. Kids though, don't have onions, mushrooms and peppers.
              I've also been on Weight Watchers for a month, and have got rid of (the term "lost" suggests I want to find it again) 13.5lbs. So, something is working. Thankfully.

              #FEBphotoaday 5th

              A bit behind schedule. Sorry! Day 5 was all about "10am". Well, this only confirmed that no two clocks/ time pieces in this house are ever at the same time. Ahhhh! Frankly, I don't think any of them are spot on either. Grrr.

              Kitchen clock, below, is always a few minutes ahead for those school mornings when time is just not on our side. Those few minutes just help to make sure we're not that late, again!

              My birthday watch. My brother has a thing for a watches. Not sure if he's aware of it. But most of my, all but limited collection, I think he's bought me over the years. Last time we spoke before my birthday we had a chat about watches and the fact I'd taken three of mine to get new batteries. The jeweller couldn't fit a battery in any of them. So, what does my brother do (he lives in another continent)? He ships me this Swiss Army watch (no batteries needed) over for my 40th birthday. Yay!!! All other watches are now redundant. Although admitteedly not very glamorous it is super functional. Thank you big brother :-) P.S. HMRC, wasn't happy paying the Taxes and Duty on it though :-)

              Saturday, 4 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 4th

              Day 4 of the #FEBphotoaday challenge - "a stranger". Thought it might be quite weird to walk up to a random stranger in our wee village so tried to think of a film but haven't seen any of the movies that came up when I Googled "film titles with stranger in the title". So, I chose this song. I'm so glad I did. This one by The Eurythmics, won, hands down. What a voice. Annie Lennox has such a great talent, is such an inspriration and still comes across as an incredibly humble individual.

              Catch the video here:

              Friday, 3 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 3rd

              Today's theme is "Hands". I really wanted to take a picture of my kids' baby hand imprints in plaster, made when they were tiny. But alas, the kit stayed in the box and they are now 10 and 8. I just never got round to it! So, in the end, I went for a photo taken on my wedding day. Many moons ago. 

              A day, I never envisaged happening because it wasn't part of my "masterplan". This whole marriage, childern malarkey wasn't factored in back in the day. Yet here I am mum of 2, dog walker of 2 and wife to 1 (but who's counting?).

              Tomorrow is "a stranger" ....

              Thursday, 2 February 2012

              #FEBphotoaday 2nd

              Day  2 of the #FEBphotoaday challenge: Words. I was trying to think of something arty and creative to do but came up with nada, zilch, rien. So here are my contenders:

              The first is for most visitors unless Brad Pitt or George Clooney happen to be dropping by for a cuppa (a girl can dream, can't she?). 
              The second is just advice and sometimes laughing in the face of adversity is the only option before you turn and run from it. 

              Last but not least, much as though I'd like to win the lottery, I try to remember that money can't buy happiness (don't get me wrong I'd love to be able to buy a Mulberry bag and an Alexander McQueen black leather dress ... but they're not truely essential to happiness, looking fabulous yes but true happiness, perhaps not).

              Wednesday, 1 February 2012


              Well, I thought I'd take up the challenge that is "FEBphotoaday as suggested by blogger @fatmumslim. There is a suggested theme for each day of the month. Today was "your view". Tomorrow is "words". Now, it's perhaps not a seriously challenging challenge however, sometimes it can be tricky to just stop. For a minute. Contemplate. Ponder. Take a shot. Appreciate.

              Today, I took our dastardly dogs on one of their usual walks. Pausing. Briefly. Made me think. I really don't get tired of this view and take it for granted that it has become part of the ritual of life and on our doorstep (just about). 

              I'm looking forward to recording the month and sharing the images I capture.