Being organised (or at least trying to be) and having routine and plans is something I love to have in my life. It is both crucial when raising a family, and also something that is a huge part of my character for my personal sanity. I love to write “To do” lists, keep on top of things, have things written down, and have goals and some kind of structure in our day to day lives. I am a spontaneous person in many ways, but mostly I find comfort in having some kind of plan and structure. I feel there is a lot of stress and unnecessary chaos in family life where there are no real plans or routines!

Being a stay at home mum raising 3 kids, as well as being a blogger, a student at night school and the president of the girls youth organisation at school is a challenge, but is also very much my reality. Throw in trying to have date night with Nath, a social life, keeping track of extracurricular stuff and general life – it is no easy feat. And so I feel it is hugely important to be organised and keep some kind of balance for all of the demands of life, and to ensure self care.

For me, in order to do this I have in place things to keep organised and to keep some balance to my days. These include recording appointments and schedules in various places, and “My 3 job rule” to keep on top of the home without it becoming a complete drag or dominating pull!

How I Keep organised day to day 

I have had a lot of people observe to me that they find it interesting that I still write the majority of things we need to do with a good old pen and paper. It fascinates them that for someone that spends so much time online why I don’t use a digital calendar like google? The truth is that whilst I do record reminders on there, my brain seems to much prefer the act of writing things by hand, and seeing it all there to monitor and tick off. I don’t know why but I much prefer to write it all down, as oppose to type it!

I record things in 2 places – A family Calendar and a Diary!

A family calendar – For several years now we have had hung in our kitchen a family calendar where we have to hand all of the families appointments, classes, schedules and social events. It is useful fo Nathan and I when planning weekends and school holidays, and it is also good for us all to just be aware of what the coming week looks like for one another!

I love the flexibility of being able to look up and see at a glance what is planned that day and in the coming weeks!

A Diary – I love a Diary for my own personal goals, “to do” lists, notes and family stuff. I have tried numerous types of diaries, but my favourite has to be the one I have now that Nathan bought me from TKMaxx this Christmas. I love that each month is in sections, and each section has inspirational quotes and such an array of spaces to write lists, appointments, goals and birthdays (to name a few). I find my brain likes the layout of it, and how I keep things in order within it’s pages!

In my diary I pretty much copy everything off the family calendar (only this one is able to move around with me) and then add in all of the little things I do day to day; like food shopping, seeing friends. playgroups, cleaning, assignments, blogs etc. I used to love to bullet journal things like my goals, bucket lists, blog ideas, gratitude and blessings, and last year I did try a bullet journal for everything, but I found the creative style too much work, and it all hurt my brain not having it prewritten, so now I love the balance of my new diary with all of its little sections – most of which I would have previously written into bullet journal format, but it is already there!

A new addition to my life, and something I really love for an organised life and journaling, are the new filofax notebooks – again they have the option to be divided into sections, some with pockets to keep letters/bills/leaflets in, and the mix of lined/squared/plain paper, as well as the option to add extra sheets in to, make it the perfect option for bullet journaling or as a general family organiser. It is a good space to brainstorm ideas, make plans, set goals (with more plans), and keep lists of all sorts from all areas of life!

The leather look cover and bright colour options feel lovely, and it is a really useful and versatile piece of stationary for anyone looking for a more free way to keep track of (and organise) various areas of life!

My 3 Job Rule (for Balance and Sanity)

I love the saying “all work and no play makes ______ a dull boy/girl”! And so whilst I am one who enjoys routines and structure, there is an element to me that loves and craves some adventure and spontaneity. I suppose keeping a diary and track of everything, creating routine etc gives balance to my life and helps me to enjoy and be on top of the day to day demands, whilst still making space in my weeks to have fun and live life!

When Ethan was a baby however, things became very out of sync and I developed a very unhealthy cleaning obsession which included unrealistic expectations on myself to have a very orderly home all of the time. I don’t know how it got to that point, I suppose I saw it as being a sign to the outside world that I was coping well if my home was tidy when I had a new baby. But, reality was that after several months it was one of the tell tale signs that I had PND, and I soon realised (at breaking point and since) that motherhood wasn’t about having a clean and tidy home all of the time, but living life with my kids. Yes part of motherhood is creating a clean and safe environment, but it is also the responsibility of parents – not just me, and that it was unrealistic to expect it to be so. In time I began to enjoy being a mother more and have since been able to get more of a balance by living my 3 job rule mantra!

As our family has grown, so has the food bill, laundry pile, and the lack of order – I quickly realised in all of this that my days could quite easily be spent going round in circles and being dominated by the demands of a family home. Hours could be spent cleaning, Ironing, doing laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, cooking and hoovering. I knew that whilst I was a stay at home mum, this isn’t what I wanted all my days looking like. Yes I wanted to care for my family and keep our home in order, but this wasn’t just my sole responsibility – I am a mother, not a cleaner! And so early on, when Ethan and Megan were young and both at home full time, I realised I couldn’t do it all everyday, and nor did I want to. So, to help my mind and mental well being, and to be a more present mum, I Introduced for myself “the 3 job rule”!

The idea is that each day (except for Mondays which has become my cleaning the house day after the weekend and is more intense) I do just 3 jobs in the house – only 3, and then I go and do other things I need to do or want to do. The jobs are things that can be done quite quickly whilst the kids get dressed or for 20 – 30 mins after the school run, but they help me keep on top of the home! I do my 3 jobs, and then we might go out with friends, or on adventures somewhere. We might go to local groups, or swimming, or to the park…for a walk out, or simply snuggle and watch a movie. I do all of these things without the mum guilt or worry that there is loads to be done at home, because I know I already did the 3 most pressing jobs that morning and that is enough!

For me I always want to make sure they are done in the morning so that the day can be ours. I don’t particularly enjoy coming back to a messy house when we have dinner to make/eat, and other things to do, and so daily (often before or right after the school run) I always  1. Clean the Kitchen  2. Put on a load of laundry and then 3. (which is more flexible) usually clean the lounge. But Sometimes it might be to put the dinner on if it can be in the slow cooker, or it will be a quick hoover round, or maybe some ironing, or folding laundry.

Having the 3 job rule ensures the house stays in order and is clean, without dominating my day. It means I have a sense of achievement each day because my home is in a decent state, and I have done several things before leaving the house. But ultimately it means that I am more than a cleaner of our home! I keep my home clean yes, but within half an hour, meaning I have time with my kids and a social life with other mums and family. I means I have time to do things for me as well as my family, and I love it.

Organization and routine are very important to me, and I love the feeling of being in control of my day’s and making good use of time each day. Now that there is just Alice and I during the day, we tend to stay fairly local for school runs, and so that when she naps I can then blog or do college assignments. On an evening Nathan and the kids usually help tidy up from dinner, and Nathan always takes care of the bins!!! I love this balance as each day I can shut the door and go out with the kids to school and not stress, knowing I have accomplished something in my home and keeping on top of what needs doing without being dragged down by it all! I like that when we come home the downstairs is almost always clean and tidy, and for me it is a real sense of accomplishment to be able to balance everything I am and do.

It is so good for my mental well being and soul to have some structure, time out of the home most days, and just time with my kids to be mummy and go places and do things! I find that keeping a diary/notebook to track my goals, plans and schedules, as well as setting little daily goals in the home, all help me to accomplish this huge goal to raise a family (with all that that entails) and have some personal development and goals too. Whilst some days are a complete write off, most days are good and I flop into bed knowing I have used my time well and done my best!

*I received the Filofax notebook recently as a gift from them, and so wanted to share with you how lovely it was!

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One of the things I love about being British is how excited we get for a bit of Sun! I have loved the prospect of not only a longer weekend for this “bank holiday weekend”, but the fact that we also have a great weather forecast too! Just yesterday we embraced it in true British style when we saw the blue skies and sunshine, and got our shorts and sandals on and headed to the coast for a family beach day. It turned out the coast didn’t get the memo of us wanting a nice warm beach day and with the cool coastal winds and plenty of whining from me and the kids that we were cold, we called it a day and headed home.

This week has been such a crazy kind of week with my TV appearance and a delayed trip to London, followed by the aftermath of emotions that come from sharing our story and the usual busy day to day stuff of family life. I really need to take some time out and rest from it all and process things. It was great and hard, and it has been good to see the results… but boy am I tired!

 Grateful For …

This week I am grateful for Channel 5 doing their piece on Stillbirth, and for being a part of that. I am grateful that despite the mega long delay, that I made it in the end to say something and join the panel of such brave and courageous parents!

I am also grateful for the yummy Mexican food we enjoyed yesterday for dinner – I tried a new recipe and it was really tasty! I am grateful for new friends in the village that I am loving getting to know, and finally for Nathan – who is always on my side and supporting me, and is such a wonderful husband and father. It makes me happy to be together on family outings and to look and see him and our children together having fun!

Succeeded At …

It didn’t feel like a success with the train issues getting in the way of things, but Nath said I most certainly did succeed at helping to raise awareness and share our story via channel 5’s “Stillbirth: Still a Taboo”. I need to get over the fact I missed the live portion (it might be next week’s success!). But we also successfully made it home again to Yorkshire with all of the delays/cancelled trains that met us at Kings Cross that night.

But aside from that chunk of the week taken up with trains, Tv and London, I also successfully got to college the following day despite feeling “meh”, and then got the kids to swimming on time and home again without missing the train on Thursday. I successfully made a mexican feast yesterday, and successfully ate a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s too (hahaha)!

Found Beauty In…

Alice has started reaching for Megan whenever she is sad or afraid, and then wraps her arms around Megs for a big sisterly hug. It is so gorgeous to see and brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw her do it. They have a beautiful little bond and I love how Alice is wanting to be with Megs more and more.

So yes – Sisterly hugs at the park and home, pink blossom trees, and the kids engrossed in playing at the beach together yesterday were all the things I found beauty in this week. With high emotions and feeling “meh” it was nice to see these special things around me!

I hope you have a fab bank holiday, and let’s hope that sun keeps shining so that in true British style we can crack the BBQ’s out and flock to the seaside!

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I suppose it’s a little sad to be writing about a date night we had a couple of weeks ago (people have them all the time), but it was both a novelty for us and an absolute bargain – so for those reasons I had to share with you all!

So, as I say a couple of weeks ago Mr Smith and I enjoyed a lovely date night out to ASK in Beverley! For once it did not consist of us sat in joggers with a pizza and Netflix – This one was totally legit, with the added bonus of only costing us a fiver too! Anyone who is a parent can appreciate what a novelty it is to be able to go out for a meal kid free, dressed up and on the cheap! And we were incredibly grateful to his mum for offering to have all 3 kids to sleepover last minute, to enable us to actually go out.

 Date night to me is an essential part of the week and something I really look forward to. Our lives are so busy and full on, and whilst that’s mostly a good thing, we often have weeks where we are like passing ships, and we tend to feel a little disconnected from one another. We like to talk, laugh and snuggle (obviously – we married each other), and life prevents this some weeks. We text all day and we obviously talk when we are going to bed (mostly), but for us we have always enjoyed set aside time each week to relax together, reconnect and just catch up. And so date night has become a scared time … time to be us as a couple and not parents (though chat of the kids often come up), and time for us as individuals to relax, have time for us, and time to reconnect and catch up. It is our time where our phones are off and we catch up properly without distraction, enjoying something we both love, and I love this time just being us together.

Life is forever shifting and changing, and when at one time we could be spontaneous about when we had a date, or when time was flexible to go out and do all kinds of amazingly fun things and eat delicious things, these days we need it to be planned and fairly cheap to ensure it happens around busy parenthood and family life!

Forgotten Vouchers! 

 This date night was made extra special because we only spent somewhere in the £5 region, but how?

Well, my sister recently told me about how her clubcard points from Tesco had added up without her realising, and she had been able to get several vouchers for both Prezzo and ASK (Tesco boost them up significantly) with them, for their day nights! “Oh” I wondered… “I wonder  if I have some too?”! I thought it unlikely as I know I usually send the vouchers they post out, but low and behold I had some forgotten vouchers from the last 2 years – £10 worth to be precise, which we quickly swapped for a £40 ASK voucher!

I couldn’t believe our luck – an offer of a babysitter, AND an alomst free meal out! Living the dream moment of life!

I’ve never been to ASK before, but it was lovely. I had the bruschetta to start, Nath the Burrata Caprese. Then for the mains he had the salmon and me the prawn and lobster tagliatelle with extra chilli. It was all so yummy and fresh, and the raspberry lemonade a great accompaniment.

I love date night with my love – spending time together, talking, laughing, holding hands, and discovering new places and delicious foods. I find it is so important in order to maintain being us around parenting. And whilst some weeks that is incredibly hard with 3 kids in the mix and a million things to be done, I am thankful for moments when it all comes together and we have a lovely time together.

If like us you are on a budget and love a deal, log into your Tesco account, and see if you have any forgotten vouchers you can upgrade for a lovely (and very bargainous) meal out together soon!

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A few weeks ago I received an email in my inbox from one of the channel 5 producers asking me if I would be interested in sharing our story (or rather Poppy’s story) with them for an additional News piece they wanted to do on Stillbirth! I’ll be honest, despite feelings of anxiety at the prospect of being on TV, I was mostly jumping for joy and over the moon at such a privilege. All I have ever wanted to do since giving birth to Poppy, was to raise awareness of her life, our life after loss, and the impact of Stillbirth on individuals and families.

And yet despite this, I always find that sharing our story is such a hard task and takes so much energy – it can wipe me out for a couple of days after as I deal with what I now refer to as “Grief Hangover” (Thanks Antonia!).

My desire to Raise Awareness

The easiest (or maybe most convenient) way I have found to raise awareness of what it is like to go through Stillbirth and how it feels after, is to write it here in my blog or to talk about it with people; both in person and at seminars hosted by SANDS and other loss groups! My blog has for me being the thing that has kept me afloat. To write about the things I cannot speak is incredibly cathartic to me, and whilst I know at times this has been difficult for friends to hear me say “I am okay”, and then read from me things that are far from “Okay”, it has been the only way I have been able to get out, formulate the right words, and make some kind of sense of all of the pain that continually beats upon me from losing my daughter before she was born.

I find my motherhood very difficult (and this is beyond the everyday mundane that we all struggle with) because it is two fold – on the one hand I am mothering 3 living children, but on the other I am also mother to a daughter in heaven. But this is difficult for both my mind and body to make sense of, and often in the early days my body would literally crave a baby and yet my mind couldn’t bear to be around new babies – the torture within has been incredibly hard, and motherhood such a daily battle. Nowadays the battle is more emotional and mental, but it has always been a battle to parent my living children whilst grieving and navigating the loss and who I am as a mother to Poppy.

I want to (and the key is that I can) encourage my living children to be successful in whatever path they choose and I want them to be happy. I want them to write interesting stories and leave an imprint in some small (or big) way. I want them to find people that will make them happy, and who they can hopefully have a family with too. And whilst being a parent is hard day to day, these things are so natural and in some ways the easier part of motherhood to do for them.

With Poppy however, she cannot write her story because her life never really had a chance. Her whole life went against what is natural in the order of things – her death came before her birth, and life was never lived. Her presence was known briefly by many, but quickly forgotten. Her parents buried her in infancy instead of holding her close and raising her with her siblings. And I know now that many believe I should let that all go, accept what happened when it did, and focus on my own life and happiness, but when I held her in my arms in the silence of the delivery room, I looked upon that sad situation we were in and was determined I would make something of her small life and presence in this world. She would/will always be a member of our family, spoken of in our home and remembered between us each birthday. But as a mother of a child who did not live, I cannot just let that go and I cannot just let that be what her life was.

To me her life would have been wasted, however brief it was, if something was not to be written and created in her memory.

And so I write – I write her story and I write about her tiny life. I write about how it broke us and how it has at the same time helped us to find inner strength and courage we would never have known any other way. I write about the hard stuff – the taboos, and the ongoing effects her life and departure has had on our family. And I write about our life now – how we still have joyful enriching moments, how we still see goodness and beauty, and how our joys are all so intertwined with the sadness she will never experience them with us.

And I talk – I talk about Trisomy 18, about CHD, Stillbirth and SANDS, to anyone interested. And I talk about her birth story and pregnancy at SANDS trainings. I talk about the hospice, and then I walked a ridiculous amount of miles and nearly died on a mountain side all in the name or raising awareness – awareness of our daughter and awareness of her life and how it ended, and what that now means for us.

I became a befriender, and I am becoming a therapist of some description because I want her life and the pain of her departure to have purpose – I want her imprint to be left in the hearts of others, and I want to channel my pain and grief into something meaningful. I can make breakfast, read with, play with, wash their clothes, cook dinners, talk with and go on adventures with my other kids… I can teach and discipline them, hug and kiss them, laugh and cry with them; my motherhood to them is my daily life and very apparent in how we live life together. But for Poppy it isn’t ever obvious unless I make the ongoing decisions to write, speak and find various ways to have her remembered and her life purposes created.

So raising awareness through all of these mediums, and working in a field supporting others in hardships, are my way of finding a way to let my motherhood of her show in this world.

So when a TV station email me, or when I speak on a radio station (see here), or if a newspaper or magazine were to contact me, I would always say “Yes”!

Yes to raising awareness.

Yes to helping others through our experiences.

And Yes to being able to be a mother, and helping my child’s story to be written and leave an impact on the world.

It is because of this that I was so absolutely gutted and fed up, to be stranded on a train, and I couldn’t just let it go. I was so nervous to speak on camera in the first place and all I wanted was it to be right. I wanted the message to get out of course, but I so very much wanted to be one of those speaking it as I had envisioned and had looked forward to doing.

I loved the opportunity to be acknowledged as Poppy’s mum and to share Poppy with so many people. I loved the chance to be able to speak the words so many don’t want to listen to. And I felt it an honour to stand shoulder to shoulder with 8 other brave women who too just want to mother their sweet babies.

I am grateful that 4 weeks ago I was invited to go to ITN studios and be a part of the “Stillbirth: Still a Taboo” panel. What they discussed and created was incredible and a huge step in helping families affected by stillbirth. For me It was an incredibly exciting moment in my life, and whilst it was a scary one too, ultimately it was a complete privilege to have a chance to raise awareness and exercise my motherhood for Poppy!

If you would like to see the programme then you can here 

 

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