October 2013 archive
Now, I’m not sure if I’ve banged on about it enough, but I recently I self published my A Monster Ate My Mum poem. The response so far has been overwhelming and I’m thrilled. It’s an amazing feeling to know you have reached out to people and are helping others that have suffered or are affected by post natal depression. The process of self-publishing has been exhausting, but extremely rewarding, and now I’ve done it once I am confident it will be easier next time. And…oh yes…there will be a next time!
Which brings me to today’s poem for Prose4T, hosted by the lovely and tremendously supportive Vic Welton Now this is very much a work in progress, but I wanted to get a feel for whether it would work or not. The idea was originally called ‘The Why Monster’ and was intended to focus on a children’s tendency to always ask ‘why?’ Over time it has developed into more of a magical, imaginative adventure story and, as I’ve just written a book about monsters (did I mention that already?!) I have changed it to a cowboy…but who knows, it could end up being a pirate or a spaceman!
So here is the beginning, let me know what you think…
The Why Cowboy
Alf sat down and had a look,
Wanted to read his favourite book.
It was on a shelf, way up high.
‘Not now,’ said mum. Alf wondered ‘why?’
He loved that book, he loved to read.
It was a very good book indeed.
He wanted that book, he wanted it now,
The challenge was to think of how!
He heard a small voice in his ear,
A cheeky voice that whispered clear,
‘Let’s climb the mountain, reach up tall,
Let’s get that book, not be so small.’
A little cowboy was at his side,
‘Hello!’ The little cowboy cried.
Alf looked at mum, and then the book.
He went to climb, she went to cook.
The shelf was on the playroom wall,
Oh how Alf wished that he were tall.
The cowboy said ‘We need some stairs,
Let’s use your cuddly toys and bears.’
To be continued…
Housework: The tasks, such as cleaning and cooking, that are performed in housekeeping.
So today my mum is coming to stay, and instead of cleaning and tidying my house I’m sat here writing this poem about it! I hate housework, do you?
Spring clean there,
Wipe a spill,
Mop, then stare.
Dust and grime,
Not enough time.
Put things away,
Do this all day.
Food on floor,
Will do it no more.
A losing battle,
I never will win,
Let’s live in a mess,
I’m done, I give in!
I am so excited to be writing this post to let you know that I did it…and that I am officially a self-published author (even though no-one has actually purchased the book yet lol!) My last post detailed how I was planning to spend all day Friday tackling the self-publishing technological minefield until the book was for sale. I was very nervous as I’m not at all IT trained, and have learnt most of my skills through blogging and being self hosted. I was however, determined not to be beaten.
The day started with a visit to my oldest friend who has just given birth to her first child, a beautiful baby boy, and so the publishing had to wait. It was so worth it though as he was absolutely gorgeous and cuddling newborns is always so wonderful. We chatted childbirth, breastfeeding and nappies before I left them to feed and nap.
Having spent most of the day before in email contact with Helen Braid, my illustrator, I felt confident that I had all of the correct files I needed, and in the correct format. I had the front and back covers as separate files, as well as the inside of the book, all in PDF format and in high resolution. If you ever need to send someone a file that is too big for an email then I can highly recommend using mailbigfile which is just amazing. You can email large files and the recipient can easily download them via the link. Brilliant! It was perfect for us on Thursday as the files did need to be adjusted and then resent. Helen was amazing! I think it was a learning curve for the both of us.
So, down at my desk I sat. I had already set up an account with Lulu and had chosen the size of the book (21.59X21.59), the binding (saddle stitch, only option for a small book), full colour, and for it to be printed on basic grade paper. This last option disappointed me a bit, but because I haven’t yet got an ISBN I had no choice. Lulu do offer free ISBNs but Lulu then become the publisher and I wasn’t prepared to hand that over! So I decided (with the awesome help of @wombat37 again!) that as this was my first project it was better to start small and work on it. Once my ISBN comes through I can then add it to the book and distribute widely through Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as the Lulu marketplace. I clicked on ‘choose file’ (at this point just the inside of the book) and then clicked ‘upload.’ I sat nervously staring at the screen whilst it uploaded. It began by saying it was going to take 15 hours which I thought was a bit excessive, but in the end it only took 20 minutes or so!
The next challenge was the cover and this is where I first stumbled. Lulu do let you upload and add your own covers, however they also make a cover for you which you have to change if you don’t like it. I went to ‘browse files’ and tried to upload the PDFs of the front and back covers. It wouldn’t let me. I clicked and clicked and nothing worked. On quickly reading the help files (would’ve been handy if these files had been available to read sooner!) I discovered that the front and back covers needed to be in JPEG form and not PDF. These I had, but on uploading them it became apparent that they were not in a high enough resolution. I knew it was Helen’s son’s birthday and really didn’t want to have to interrupt the celebrations, but I had no choice, we needed those JPEGs to be in a higher resolution or I couldn’t continue. Helen, as always, was just amazing and it didn’t take long for my phone to ping with an email containing the covers in high resolution JPEGs. One quick and easy upload later and the cover was complete. And then, with a couple more clicks this message appeared…
Now I’m not ashamed to say that at this point I did sit at my laptop and have a little cry. I couldn’t explain how I felt; I felt such a amazing sense of achievement mixed in with feelings of luck and joy that I was better and had been able to have the drive and commitment to see this book through. I’ve never really felt as proud of myself as I did in that moment. I’ve always been very determined, especially when I believe in something, and I believe in this book so very much.
The next thing I had to do was set a price, based on what it was going to cost Lulu to print the book. I found this very difficult as I always undersell myself, so I have taken a lot of advice on the price, and I think I’ve got it right! I ordered myself a copy and paid a stupid amount of money so it comes as quickly as possible, I will not believe it’s actually published until I hold a copy in my hands. (and see that the paper isn’t as bad as I think it might be) Today’s post hasn’t arrived yet, but I think I’m being optimistic in thinking it will be today; I’m hoping for it to be here by the end of the week. And when it does arrive, and I can see for myself how it looks and feels, I can spread the word and start marketing and publicising the book. I’ve already got several brilliant bloggers who have said they would love to review the book, and Netmums would like to feature it on their blog and website with a giveaway. It is PND awareness week in November and I hope that my press release (hopefully writing this today, do not know where to start as always!) will be available so that everything is good to go to coincide with that week. As I have said before, I’m not very good at ‘bigging myself up,’ but I hope A Monster Ate My Mum will help families who have been affected by Post-Natal Depression, and that in itself is motivation enough to shout about the book from the rooftops.
So many people have supported me in this process and I am so thankful, I couldn’t have done it on my own. Once I have my copy and have checked it’s perfect I’ll let you all know…and then, if you’d like to buy the book, you can here…
The next jobs I have now are to write that press release…and to upload the book onto Kindle Direct Publishing as an ebook, which hopefully I can do this week! If you’d like to keep up to date with everything please follow me on Twitter @MonsterAteMyMum 😉
For those of you who have read my blog from the very beginning, know me well or follow me on Twitter you’ll know that I have suffered, more than once, from post-natal depression. It’s a debilitating illness that affects the entire family and I was painfully aware of this after the birth of my third child when I was at my most ill. I witnessed my older children, then three and eleven, look at me with confusion when I was crying again and asked me why I was so sad. I saw them shy away from me when I was irritable and tip-toe around me when I was locked in my own anxiety ridden hell. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t anything they’d done, yet I know they were affected by it. I know they were confused by what was happening to their mum who was once such a confident and lively person.
Reaching out to them, and anyone in fact, when I was ill was hard. I hate asking for help and for a while battled with the reality of the illness, refusing to believe it had taken me in it’s grasp. Yet I did want to reach out to them, I did want to explain what was happening to me and that it wouldn’t be like this forever. So I wrote the poem A Monster Ate My Mum which looks at post natal depression through the eyes of a child, and initially illustrated it as a PowerPoint presentation on my iPad. My children loved the story and it prompted some very honest and open discussions about the illness. It helped us so much and even my husband understood a little bit more about what I was going through after reading the poem. Here is a little bit from the poem;
“Excuse me, but have you eaten my mum?
I want her back I want some fun,
I want to see her smile, my mum,
Is she in your big, round tum?”
“No she’s not here I just ate her smile,
I’ll give it back after a while,
I’m sorry I was hungry you see,
I don’t know where your mum could be.”
When I first published the poem on my blog the response was overwhelming. It seemed there was nothing like this out there to help children and families and that’s when I first thought about contacting publishers and agents in the hope that the book would be real, would be in my hands and in those hands of many other sufferers. I met a literary agent this year at Britmums Live and she was wonderfully supportive. We’ve been in touch ever since and she has encouraged me to self-publish the book, as generally children’s publishers like books on slightly happier topics. (frustrating much?!) She believed the book to be a brilliant one and very well written and gave me the encouragement I needed to self-publish.
The next step was to find an illustrator; someone who believed in the book as much as I did; and someone who would be able to draw some monsters that weren’t too scary (it was for children after all!) I needed someone I could trust and when I saw Helen Braid from allatseascotland.blogspot.co.uk advertise her services as a graphic designer I knew she would be the lady to ask. She is so wonderfully talented and has exceeded all of my expectations for the illustrations. They are stunning and I’m so honoured that she agreed to work with me. The print-ready CD arrived in my hands this week and now it’s down to me.
I have extensively researched self-publishing, to the point where I thought my head would explode. It is an absolute minefield and for several days I felt totally overwhelmed. Should I employ the services of a company? Should it be published as an ebook or in print? And if I did decide to go down the DIY route what company should I use to do this? Thankfully, as if often the case, Twitter came to rescue along with some lovely people at the writing club I’ve recently joined. It would seem both ebooks and printed books are the way to go as then you get the best of both worlds. Kindle Direct Publishing was recommended to me by almost everyone I asked, however many have said that actually uploading the book onto the site is very challenging, even for the technically able. So this scares me a lot, I’m not the best technically, however since blogging and going self-hosted I have learnt so very much, but I’m far from being an expert.
With regards to print on demand books this was slightly more complicated. I downloaded ‘Choosing a Self-Publishing Service’ by The Alliance of Independent Authors, and so far it has proved very useful. It recommends several companies, but mainly CreateSpace and Lightening Source. The third it recommends is Lulu. These are all companies where you again upload the book yourself, order yourself a copy as a proof, and then when you’re happy scream about it from the rooftops! On chatting to the brilliantly helpful @wombat37 who has self published more than once, Lulu seemed like the best option as they print and distribute in the UK and many of the others do not, which could prove more costly.
So now I have decided which companies to go with the next step is to actually do it! Eeeeek! I have planned for this Friday to be completely child free all day and am intending to sit at my laptop and not move until the book has been uploaded on both Kindle Direct Publishing and Lulu. (or at least one of them!) If you would like to keep up to date with how I am getting on please follow me on Twitter as @MonsterAteMyMum and hopefully there will champagne corks popping and excited tweets on Friday at some point, celebrating that I’ve successfully self-published!
This week for the #greatbloggersbakeoff I was excited to try and make a vegetable cake as my middle child is currently on a dairy-free diet and this fitted the bill perfectly! The dietician recommended a chocolate and beetroot cake and as this recipe had ground almonds in it as well it was another way of getting my son to eat some foods he probably, in any other circumstance, wouldn’t touch! I found this recipe on delicious magazine.co.uk and changed it slightly. The recipe called for raw beetroot which I could not find, and the icing contained sour cream, which isn’t dairy-free, so I made a buttercream icing with dairy-free spread instead. My son randomly wanted me to make it into the shape of a vacuum cleaner, but I’m afraid I wasn’t that brave!
Here is the recipe for this week…
250g dairy-free plain chocolate, broken up
3 large free-range eggs
200g light muscovado sugar
100ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
150g cooked beetroot (original recipe said 250g raw beetroot)
For the icing
150g dairy-free plain chocolate
100g icing sugar
50g Pure dairy-free spread
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4. Grease a 22cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin with a little butter and line the base with baking paper.
2. Place the plain chocolate in a bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly until smooth, then set aside to cool.
3. Place the eggs, sugar and sunflower oil in a large mixing bowl and whisk together, using an electric hand whisk, (I did this by hand as I have no electric whisk!) for about 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in vanilla extract, then sift over self-raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and gently fold in, together with the ground almonds.
4. Using a pair of rubber gloves to protect your fingers from staining, peel and grate the beetroot, then squeeze out the excess liquid. Fold the beetroot into the mixture with the cooled chocolate, until thoroughly mixed.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour. Cover with foil if the cake browns too quickly. Test the cake by inserting a skewer into the centre to see if it comes out clean. Cool for a little while, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
6. For the icing, place 150g plain chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Allow to melt gently until smooth. Set aside to cool, then beat in icing sugar and Pure spread until you have a thick, creamy and spreadable icing. Spread it over the top of the cooled cake. I didn’t have enough to spread over the sides as well so I used a ready made sorry icing which was also dairy-free. I added Sainsbury’s dairy-free buttons to decorate the top. If I’d had enough I might have though about doing the sides as well! And there you have it, a delicious chocolatey dairy-free cake!
Thank you, as always for reading and for Helen and Jenny for hosting. If you’d like to join in the link or read lots more yummy recipes then click on the badge below!
Parenting: Parenting (or child rearing) is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the aspects of raising a child aside from the biological relationship.
I’ve written a few posts about trusting your instincts when parenting, however I’ve become aware that these posts are mainly about how important I think instincts are and how much I dislike parenting manuals. I thought maybe a post was in order where I write about what trusting your instincts means to me. Where I define it and put it into context. Where I show you how it’s helped me and how I learnt to trust mine.
Today I googled ‘instinctive mum,’ not because I wanted to revel in my own presence on the internet, but to see if there was anything like my blog out there. To see and read blogs by like minded people. Instead however, I found a blog that was completely the opposite. Where the whole premise behind it was about how we learn as parents, and that instincts very definitely do not exist; and those who say they do are doing others a disservice.
Understandably I was saddened by this, and frustrated. Now I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and boy do people have their own opinions when it comes to parenting, but I felt this was a very strong statement to make. I tweeted what I had read and many of you replied, outraged that someone should say such a thing. Dig a little deeper and you’d discover that the author of the post gave birth to a daughter who was in constant pain, and who, no matter how hard the author tried, was never comforted. Is it any wonder therefore, that the writer of the post doubted her maternal instinct? That she felt like her’s had left her and that she’d failed immediately as a mother?
I then asked the question to my followers on Twitter as to whether they believed parenting to be ‘learnt’ or ‘instinctive.’ The responses were thick and fast with many of you saying it’s a mixture of both. To which I agree. But what surprised me in the replies, and prompted this post, were the beliefs about what ‘instinctive parenting’ actually means. Does it mean knowing what each different cry from your baby means? Does it mean you always know exactly the right thing to do in every situation? Does it mean you are smug and have got this parenting malarkey sorted? Ha! No! Far from it!
For me trusting my instincts is not about having parenting sussed. It does not mean I know everything, that I am the perfect mum and always make the right decisions. I’m not and I don’t. I’ve made mistakes and I’ve doubted myself. I’ve always been useless when it comes to telling my babies’ different cries from each other and often discover the root of the problem through trial and error; if the nappy isn’t full then it’s milk time! Just because I trust my instincts does not mean I find parenting easy. Parenting is not easy, in any way shape or form. Instinctive parenting is in no way meant to be intimidating, or like a gift some of us have and others don’t. And I’d be horrified if it was added to the already over analysed list of the way we parent, as if it’s a fad or some new technique to try.
Instincts are not a wonder drug, they cannot prevent cot death or cure a sick child. They do not offer all of the answers, but they can tell us when we need to ask for help and seek advice. They are there in the middle of the night when your baby has a temperature and you need to help them. (and yes not knowing what to do and ringing the doctor is also trusting your instincts in knowing when you need a professional!) They are there when your baby cries inconsolably and you can’t comfort them and you need to ask for support and advice. They are there when your baby is adjusting their nap times, or isn’t ready to sleep alone or is showing signs of being ready to start potty training.
I agree with many of you who believe that parenting is a combination of many things and that it is an inherent blend of instincts and learning. Many parents believe instincts can tell them when something is or isn’t right for their child, and then they look for the answers, try something new and learn little more. Others say instinct relies heavily on a bond between you and your baby, yet for me I found the opposite to be true; when I was ill with PND I had difficulty bonding with my youngest and relied on my instincts more than ever to listen to his needs, as loving him didn’t seem to be enough.
Many people feel the need to seek acknowledgement or approval before they learn to listen to and trusting their instincts. Others think instincts are primeval and enable you to fundamentally look after your children whilst being influenced by other factors; and some believe that parenting is learnt from our parents and instinctively reproduced. And me, well you all know that I believe in listening to what my instincts are telling me before anything else and going with what I feel is right. I observe, ask myself many different questions, and listen to the answers my instincts are offering. And when no answers are offered I know I need to look elsewhere.
Parenting is about team work between you and your child; it’s about learning together. Undoubtedly the more time you spend together, the more you will learn about your baby and all of their beautifully individual characteristics; but I’d say instincts will definitely have played a part in building this powerful knowledge. They certainly don’t exclude learning, and can work in harmony with it. Instincts are invaluable in helping you have the confidence to trust what you’ve learnt combined with what you know deep down. You can ask for and listen to advice from others (and they’ll often give it whether you’ve asked for it or not) but only you can instinctively know which advice to follow. Only your instincts, if you listen, will let you know which advice is best for your children and your family. It takes time, it takes practice…and it’s priceless.
Do you think parenting is instinctive, learnt or a combination of both?
Procrastination: Procrastination is the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time. According to Freud, the pleasure principle may be responsible for procrastination; humans prefer to avoid negative emotions, and to delay stressful tasks.
Recently I’ve been having another one of my blogging blocks. Blocks where I’d quite like to write a blog post, and yet I cannot find a subject I’m motivated to write about. I like to write about things that have meaning, that could maybe help some one, or things where I need to get something off my chest. But I struggle at the moment with believing I can do them any justice. I believe in quality and not quantity when it comes to writing blog posts and don’t want to just bash out something I don’t think is very good. (as I’ve said before I have unrealistically high expectations, about everything!)
Last week I would have liked to write a blog post on playground politics, however, as you never know who actually reads your blog I decided this probably wasn’t a good move. I’ve considered blogging about my tween daughter who is suffering a recurrence of her anxiety for an unknown reason (or she does know the reason and is choosing not to tell me at the moment) but she’s started to become more aware of my blog and I’m not sure she’d like me to write about things personal to her on here.
So, in short what do I always do these days when I have a question I need answering…why I asked Twitter what to write about of course! A couple of lovely people replied; @sophieeroseex suggested I write a post about myself, a top ten of things you didn’t know about me. But I could only think of one; that aged 13 I went to a Chesney Hawkes concert and became all overcome at the front of the crowd when he pointed and winked at me as he was singing. And upon having this thought I wasn’t sure over-sharing any more embarrassing things about myself was such a wise move, I want to keep my readers after all! (however I do promise that one day I shall dig my teenage diaries out and type them up on here, because that would actually be very amusing!)
Next @GreatNorthMum suggested a post about writer’s block itself…to which after a couple of tweets we started listing things we do when procrastinating…which soon turned into a list about blog-crastination!
And so, here are my top ten ways of blog-crastinating…
1.) Ask Twitter what to blog about. Obviously this was going to be first on my list. Twitter is up there at the top of every procrastinating list be it housework, cooking, supermarket shopping, sleeping…you name it, and you know it, quite a lot of the time we are on Twitter when we really ought to be doing something else! Even now, in the middle of writing this post, I’ve decided it isn’t funny at all and I’ve gone back onto Twitter to complain about it!
2.) Eat, a lot. When blog-crastinating kicks in so does hunger. I mean, you can’t blog without a cup of tea and some cake right? And if there is no cake then obviously I have to bake one and put off writing for a bit longer. Win win!
3.) Phone People. Funnily enough I often put off phoning people, I’m not talking ringing friends and family, but I put off making phone calls that need to be made…to end contracts, switch broadband providers etc. I hate making these phone calls and it is only when I’m trying not to do something else that they actually get done. Daft I know!
4.) Check my emails. Because someone is bound to have sent me a really important email since I last checked two seconds ago aren’t they? Er no. I rarely get exciting emails these days, less so since I’ve gone self hosted and my PR ranking has vanished into thin air. And even though I know this I still feel the need to check every minute, you know, just in case!
5.) Clean. Haha nah, who am I kidding, housework is always bottom of any list. I mean, my house is tidy-ish and clean-ish, but with five of us living here it is a constant uphill struggle. So I’ve decided to embrace the ‘lived in look’ at least until I can invest in some more boxes where I can shove stuff so my house doesn’t look like it vomits crap all of the time.
6.) Read and comment other people’s blogs. Something I wish I had more time for. I find there aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes to write posts, join in linkies and read and comment on other’s posts as well. I feel guilty when I haven’t the time to link up, or comment on many of the amazing blogs I read, or even reply to the lovely comments I get on mine (although I do always get round to it in the end!) I know how valuable it is to receive feedback and so I try as much as I can to do this. Sadly I don’t have the time to do it as much as I’d like to. Maybe I should blog-crastinate more?!
7.) Internet (window) shopping. Ah I do love a good browse on Etsy, Stork Up, eBay or Amazon. I can convince myself I need many a thing I in fact don’t need. Thankfully I often don’t have the money to buy everything I’d like to or my house of crap would be even more untidy and out of control! But browsing on the internet is a great way at passing the time, and mentally spending an obscene amount of money. If I ever won the lottery I know exactly where the money would go!
8.) Write lists. Who doesn’t love lists! They are so useful. Shopping lists, wish lists, Christmas present lists… Although when blog-crastinating, ironically my lists tend to be of ideas for topics to blog about. One day I’ll get around to writing them…one day…
9.) Watch TV. Bit of Phil and Holly. Bit of Diagnosis Murder (yes, really…love it!) Lot of Friends. I have to admit in this house some days the TV can be on quite a bit when it’s nap time. Mostly in the background as I’m tweeting, but still on. I don’t watch box sets or soaps, or have Netflix, but I do have a lot of Sky channels to aimlessly flick through in the hope of finding something vaguely amusing to watch.
10.) Paint my toe nails. Sometimes without even removing the nail varnish that’s already on there. Yes I know, how classy!
And on that delightful note there are the top ten things I do when blog-crastinating, of course all very tongue in cheek! I must remember that no-one sets rules of when and how often I should blog and that if one week or two I don’t blog, it won’t hurt! A break is always good and needed sometimes, for everyone! @StephArsoska, a fellow blogger, once told me that when you’re in a block one of the best thing to do is write, write anything and it can help unblock your mind! And I have to say today it worked, hence the above post! A bit different to my usual ones, but hopefully something you enjoyed reading.
So, what do you do when blog-crastinating?