The Joy of Not Caring If They Eat

Happy Mealtimes

Happy Mealtimes

I mentioned in my last post trying a new food regime called The Division of Responsibility.

It’s marvellous.

For the first time in years I’m enjoying cooking for the family, rather than dreading dinnertime.

My energy and brain are still spent on food, but now it’s what interesting recipes can I find, rather than what on earth can I cook for a fussy family.

Today, we had freshly baked scones for breakfast (I had some jam and cream left over from afternoon tea at Burghley House!)

For tea we had baked ham (using my Mum’s special recipe), fresh bread, mini omelettes, and buckets of veg.

I think my daughter ate a piece of ham and some yoghurt, and my son had a few pieces of yellow pepper. I’m only guessing from this photo: I ate everything and didn’t really notice what the kids ate. I provided healthy yummy food – as is my responsibility. Whether they ate or not was theirs.

I suspect they filled up with snacks on the way home from the park, but as the snack box newly installed in the car is full of dried fruit and rice cakes (okay and chocolate cookies this evening – they needed energy for the park!) I’m okay with that too. If they’re hungry they’ll eat a good breakfast in the morning.

It’s early days, but I like it as an approach. It feels positive.

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Cooking and Baking, Food


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And Then He Was Five

Cake success (eventually)

Cake success (eventually)

So the party came and went and we all survived.

Sunny weather helped, as seven boisterous boys bounced around on the sixteen foot trampoline.

The piñata took some bashing and the cake looked marvellous, if I do say so myself! I even made mini cakes with cake reject number two. Love my mini ninjas!

It’s just sinking in that I no longer have children under five. When reading my favourite blogs about the toddler years, I feel a mixture of nostalgia and relief.

Not that I’m under any illusions that it magically gets easier now my youngest is five, or now they’re both at school. But I sense a shift.

Mini Ninjas

Mini Ninjas

I can feel myself slowly re-emerging from the seven years of sleeplessness and doubt. The constant fear of losing one of them is so familiar now it’s like a cranky neighbour I can mostly ignore. I want to do things for the whole family, not just the children.

I am aware of other things. Increasing their independence: saying “no” more often, and “you can do it” rather than, “of course Mummy will help you.”

The two go usefully hand in hand. I have a sudden urge to reclaim the house, to have child-free/toy-free spaces, to erect some boundaries. I want to shift our attitude to food and eating. So I’m busy and preoccupied and pushing them to entertain themselves more after school.

It’s a work in progress. Particularly the food. After baking numerous cakes (each flatter than the last) and watching other children eat their party pizza while my son refused, things came to a head. I listened to advice from a friend, who specialises in getting kids to eat veggies, and it brought the self-doubt back. But, walking away, I knew her approach was not for me.

Finished piñata!

Finished piñata!

A little internet research revealed a “long game” approach that fits much better.

It’s based on a division of responsibility: As the parent, my responsibility is to provide balanced, nutritional meals. It is the child’s responsibility to eat or not eat. There are no threats or rewards. Pudding is not held back. There is no nagging or angst.

It’s hard, letting them have pudding without eating a scrap of dinner. But I agree that pudding shouldn’t be a reward for eating dinner. It gives sweet stuff too much weight.

That said, my son hasn’t eaten dinner in days. But he’s catching up at breakfast (three Weetabix and three yoghurts this morning!) and meal times are almost enjoyable. No nagging and pleading and ultimatums and tears. Lovely.

I’ll see how long it lasts!

So that’s it. A new era. Let’s hope it brings happy children, happy families, and a lovely book deal!


Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Cooking and Baking, Food, Parenting


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Rejections and Party Preparations

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can you tell what it is yet?

I think my brain might just explode. Everyone take cover!

I always overthink things – it’s a major flaw and one I’ve battled with all my life. Mostly these days I deal with it by being so tired I can’t think. Besides, ignoring the cleaning and laundry and reading or writing a book instead doesn’t take much thought!

But once I enter into party-prep mode, my brain goes on overdrive. It’s as if it says, “Ooh, planning, I recognise this! This is what you did to earn a living. Hurrah, I’m needed. Think. Think. Think!”

So I wake at two in the morning, planning how I’ll make and decorate the piñata, and how I’ll keep it a secret from the kids. I plan how to make superhero cuffs to the nth degree. I stress over how to make a Ninjago cake, and what to do when the icing turns out germoline pink rather than lego red.

Not exactly things worth stressing over. Definitely Middle Class problems: especially in a world of refugees and politics and homelessness.

7 pairs of cuffs ready to go

7 pairs of cuffs ready to go

Which means then I feel guilt for my triviality. For rushing home to mow the lawn after dropping the children at school, rather than rushing to work to do something important and serious.

Except I worked in marketing. In car insurance. Not exactly earth shattering: hardly making the world a better place.

Perhaps planning just the right Jungle Scramble obstacle course, or Superhero Musical Statues, or Spiderman piñata is actually making the world a brighter place.

Who knows?

At least I’m being brought to earth by my ‘day job’ such as it is. My first rejection arrived this week. A lovely ‘thanks but no thanks’ which arrived at a speed to suggest the query wasn’t even read.

Never mind.

I suspect a pink ninja might not be appreciated!

I suspect a pink ninja might not be appreciated!

Rejections mean I’m trying: it’s like bad book reviews. It means I’ve written a book that someone read and had a reaction about.

Rejections mean I’m trying to find an agent, to get my books published and into children’s hands where they belong. I’m engaging with the world I want to belong to.

So bring on the piñata and the pink icing, bring on the rejections.

But most of all, bring on October, so I can let my brain drift back into its happy fog!


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September – The Monday of Months

So happy to start, so quick to say it's boring!

So happy to start, so quick to say it’s boring!

Garfield (my childhood hero) calls February the Monday of months. I used to agree: it’s past the excitement of winter and January sales, but a long way from the warmth and hope of April.

But now I have a new Monday month: September. It truly stinks.

I thought that back to school would be something to celebrate – that seems to be what other mums do. You survive the summer holidays, pack the darlings off in their uniform and brand new shoes, and get back to work.

Not so much in the Martin household.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a ‘job’ to go back to. Writing waits until I find breathing space, because parenting comes first. So far this month I’ve finished a print proof of Will on the Water and started two submission packs for agents.

That’s it.

And I haven’t managed any cleaning, ironing, decorating, swimming, dog walking, or anything else I planned to do with all the ‘free time’ everyone thinks I have.

Of course this year is extra hard: My son has only done two short sessions so far, and won’t be full time for weeks. He’s tired and emotional and missing his dummies. His sister is grumpy and sensitive because school is ‘her thing’ and she doesn’t really want her brother muscling in on her territory.

But it’s more than that. Adjusting to new routines and people doesn’t come easily to any of us. My daughter finds breaking in a new teacher very hard: she cries every day at drop off and wants to be at home with me. I leave her clinging to a teaching assistant, saying, “I’m going to miss you so much Mummy.” But then when she gets home she’s horrid. Shouty, confrontational, bolshy. Me, basically.

And so the guilt starts. What am I doing wrong, that every other child sits down nicely and gets on with their work while mine sobs? What did I do wrong, that my daughter shouts and screams and picks fights with her brother, when in the summer they (mostly) play beautifully together. What am I doing wrong that I’m and exhausted to the point of falling asleep over dinner, when I’m not juggling all this AND a job, like all the other mums and dads?

I settled my guilt in the holidays. I felt like a great parent. We had fun and learned stuff and got along.

Now I feel like I’m living in a conflict zone (I hesitate to say war zone, conscious as I am of what that truly means, and how my problems pale into insignificance compared with refugees from real wars.)

I’m sure it will get better, easier. The sun is shining today, it feels less like November and more like the month I used to love: the month of pulling my jeans back on and walking in the long stretching golden rays of evening.

That was before school, before a child’s birthday fell three weeks into term (and said child refused to have an easy ‘soft play centre’ party this year!), before the endless ‘stay at home mummy’ guilt.

Until then, as hubbie said this morning, just keep swimming…


Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Parenting


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The Fugee Husband 

Amanda Martin:

And my heart broke a little too… Our histories, if we searched long enough, would all be stories of fighting and fleeing and being refugees. We should have empathy and understanding, always.

Originally posted on The Adventures of Fanny P.:

For the first time ever I’ve driven The Things to school (they usually get the school bus.) We’re waiting for the school gate to open and I’m breastfeeding Thing 3 in the car. Sting’s ‘Russians’ comes on the radio. It’s a 1985 soft rock song that I’ve heard before but have never listened to the lyrics. I do that with a lot of songs: not bother listening to the words, just hearing the tune… And see! That’s where Thing 1 and I differ: he listens!

Now, in case you don’t know this song: “Russians” is a topical anti-war song and is a commentary and plea that speaks about the then-dominant Cold War foreign policy and doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) by the United States and the Soviet Union. The song speaks to both sides (“there’s no monopoly on common sense/On either side of the political fence”) as it describes…

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Posted by on September 8, 2015 in Parenting



Home-painted tiger

Home-painted tiger

My son starts school this year. Except he hasn’t. Yet.

The school we selected for our children is awesome, but they do have this terribly long settling-in period for Reception children.

Even though my daughter went back last Thursday, my son won’t have his first session until tomorrow afternoon. Random sessions for the rest of this week, 9-12pm next week, 9-1pm the week after.

Only on 28th September will he start full time (which is only 9-3.10!)

I know he’s nearly five, and one of the eldest children, but seriously – his class mates are all friends from nursery, even the only-just-four ones. They’ve been used to childcare days – 10 hour days for some of them (including mine when they were little!) and often five days a week.

I understand that school is different, and my daughter was exhausted for most of Reception year. Also the year group share a smallish space and there are sixty kids starting. Introducing them all slowly allows the staff to get to know them better.

Face painting at Burghley

Face painting at Burghley

But it’s hard on the children who are more than ready. The ones whose siblings already go to school. My son starts every day with, ‘Am I going to school today?’ and then a sad little face when the answer is no.

As it turns out, he’s come down with a cold this morning, and so another day and a half at home watching TV is probably not a bad thing.

I got the face paints out this morning, because his sister had her face painted at Burghley Horse Trials yesterday, and he wanted his done. But almost as soon as I’d painted a tiger, he’d sneezed most of it off. (Is it bad that he’ll be starting school with black pirate eyebrows?! You can tell he’s second child.)

So, in the meantime, we wait. I wait until I can get the house straight again. The dog waits for a decent walk. My books wait for some love and attention. And my son waits to start school.



At least I’m getting a bit of work done while the poorly man watches TV. (And as he’s poorly I don’t need to feel so guilty about his amount of screen time!)

I decided to get paper copies of all my children’s books, so I can hand them out to friends for feedback. I formatted most of them during the holidays, while the kids were in childcare. The Seren Kitty series and Moon Pony arrived in the post last week – don’t they look cool!

All I have to do is finish the Will on The Water formatting and order a copy of that. It’s my favourite cover, so I can’t wait to see it in print.

Of course, printing them out is dangerous – it feels like ‘job done’ when it’s far from done. I can’t self-publish these books – I’d need an illustrator, and I can’t afford one of those. So I need to find an agent. I should be contacting agents, not playing publisher with front covers.

But it helps fill the waiting and make it all feel more real..! Until they’re really in print, I’ll just keep waiting…



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Highlights of the Summer



I hope you liked my ‘I will survive’ summer holidays tribute. I used to sing that song all the time about a certain man in my life as a teenager – it seems fitting to rewrite it in reference to parenthood! Life is all one long battle.

So school is back tomorrow, for one child at least. The other starts part time next week. I survived the holidays – more than that, I genuinely enjoyed most of it.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m exhausted. Ready to curl in a heap and sleep all day, ready to pee alone and read a book without interruption. But planning was definitely the way forward.

I’d take exhaustion over despair any day.

My awesome surfer girl

My awesome surfer girl

And highlights of my holidays? There are so many. We had an amazing family holiday in Norfolk last week, where every day was awesome (to paraphrase the Lego Movie).

We seal-watched at Blakeney and Sea Life, we swam in the sea at Wells and Mundesley, we saw dinosaurs and played the arcades.

My daughter learned to body board.

And before that? I almost taught the children to ride their bikes (rain stopped play on that one). They can both swim so much better. And my son is coping without his dummies.

Plus I got five of my six children’s books print-ready, so I can hand them out to Beta Readers.

It’s been a great summer. And, best of all, the holidays don’t frighten me so much anymore.

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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Kids Days Out, Parenting


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