New Mum Hacks

Found out today that a school friend had a baby when I didn’t know she was pregnant – funny how Facebook friendships are like that. I thought I’d list my new mum hacks for her, these are for mums of twins as well as “singletons” any new baby is a big deal we don’t discriminate.

Nappies: save the cotton wool balls and water for after the first few days – meconium is impossible to clean with a cotton ball and even if you’ve had a baby before, newborns are delicate things and you feel like a total noob when they flail their little legs about, so use a wipe and get the nappy changed asap. Oh, and of course, (and this is something that many folk work out too late so forgive me if you do know already) the reason little bodysuits have envelope necks is so that if there’s an explosion you can pull it down around their legs and off.

If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Look after you first and foremost. Make time to have a quick shower – you will feel better. Food is important for you and the baby hence my next three:

squishy faceFind food you can eat with a fork – pasta, casserole, etc so you can cuddle baby with one hand andactually eat with another. Ready meals eaten with a newborn don’t count. If you are organised enough before the baby then do by all means fill the freezer with nutritious home cooked stuff but if not, Cook give you a discount if you’re a new mum and they do lovely oven chuckers to keep you fuelled while you gaze adoringly at your baby.

Cereal bars and banana by the bed with water if you are breastfeeding in the middle of the night to curb hunger pangs.

Activia Prune yoghurt and granola for granola and also for snacking calorie wise PLUS  Fybogel to get everything moving again post birth (tmi)

Keep your mind vaguely busy if you can:

Amazingly, eight years ago when I had DS1 I didn’t have a smart phone and just listened to audio books to while away the time in the middle of the night. For DS2 and the twins I have availed myself of my iPhone/iPad to email people in the middle of the night, watch terrible telly on iPlayer.

Try and enjoy it if you can – you can never spend too long gazing at a newborn.




Thoughts on treasure and teapots

A Connect discussion led by Mark Stephens.

A last minute change in circumstances meant that we gathered in the lovely Much Hadham Pavilion Cafe instead of our usual venue of the church, which gave an informal bustle feel to the discussion. Mark kicked us off with a few Christmas Jokes to get started.

Why was Jesus’s birth a revelation for Joseph?

Because he’d finally come to his census

How can you tell that the shepherds love wallpaper?

They were always watching their flock by night.

Which angel tells families to play Monopoly at Christmas?

The Angel Islington

Why did Jesus cross the road

To help the man on the other side.

What’s the traditional meat to buy from a supermarket at Christmas?

Lidl Donkey

Jesus’s birth was a bit touch-and-go

Thankfully for most of it, he was in a stable condition.

Why did the wise men bring gold to the stable?
Because they thought the donkey might want some carats.

Why do we sign emails and letters with the letter x? In the middle ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfil obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.


We also talked about Ai WeiWei, currently exhibiting at the Royal Academy. One installation is a memorial to the children who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, “Straight” made from the failed and painstakingly re-straightened steels of government buildings. You can watch a video about the exhibit here. 

Another exhibit is the amazing treasure box which takes two people to open it and we thought about what this means at Christmas. This is a parable. We need others to help us.

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And then Mark told us the unpublished story of The Teapot by Hans Christian Anderson:

Teapot_Pedersen_01There was a proud Teapot, proud of being made of orcelain, proud of its long spout and its broad handle. It had something in front of it and behind it; the spout was in front, and the handle behind, and that was what it talked about.

But it didn’t mention its lid, for it was cracked and it was riveted and full of defects, and we don’t talk about our defects – other people do that. The cups, the milk jug, the sugar bowl – in fact, the whole tea service – thought much more about the defects in the lid and talked more about it than about the sound handle and the distinguished spout. The Teapot knew this.

“I know them,” it told itself. “And I also know my imperfections, and I realize that in that very knowledge is my humility and my modesty. We all have many defects, but then we also have virtues. The cups have a handle, the sugar bowl has a lid, but of course I have both, and one thing more, one thing they can never have; I have a spout, and that makes me the queen of the tea table. I am the one who gives forth, the adviser. I spread blessings abroad among thirsty mankind. Inside of me the Chinese leaves give flavour to boiling, tasteless water.

This was the way the Teapot talked in its fresh young life. It stood on the table that was prepared for tea and it was lifted up by the most delicate hand. But that most delicate hand was very awkward. The Teapot was dropped; the spout broke off, and the handle broke off; the lid is not worth talking about; enough has been said about that. The Teapot lay in a faint on the floor, while the boiling water ran out of it. It was a great shock it got, but the worst thing of all was that the others laughed at it – and not at the awkward hand because that is the way of the world.

“I’ll never be able to forget that!” said the Teapot, when later on it talked to itself about its past life. “They called me an invalid, and stood me in a corner, and the next day gave me to a woman who was begging for food. I fell into poverty, and was speechless both outside and inside, but as I stood there my better life began. One is one thing and then becomes quite another. People put earth in me, and for a Teapot that’s the same as being buried, but in that earth they planted a flower bulb. Who put it there and gave it to me, I don’t know; but it was planted there, a substitution for the Chinese leaves and the boiling water, the broken handle and spout. And the bulb lay in the earth, inside of me, and it became my heart, my living heart, a thing I never had before. There was life in me; there were power and might; my pulse beat. The bulb put out sprouts; thoughts and feeling sprang up and burst forth into flower. I saw it, I bore it, and I forgot myself in its beauty. It is a blessing to forget oneself when bringing joy to others.

“It didn’t thank me, it didn’t even think of me – everybody admired it and praised it. It made me very happy; how much more happy it must have made the bulb.

“One day I heard them say it deserved a better pot. They broke me in two – that really hurt – and the flower was put into a better pot; then they threw me out into the yard, where I lie as an old potsherd. But I have my memory; that I can never lose!”


We also talked about Pope Francis as we approach the Year of Mercy:

In this hope then we can think of Pope Francis in Rome honouring the tomb of St Paul during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this last January two thousand years after Paul’s house arrest and beheading. I was there at the tomb representing the Archbishop of Canterbury and was accompanied by the Ecumenical Patriarch. In front of four thousand people, in the Basilica of St Pauls Outside the Walls, the Pope took the two of us down to the tomb of St Paul in the centre of the church, and gripping us by the elbows, said words to the effect of “ this is what can bring us together, this is our focus”. The flowering of the gospel that came through St Paul’s life and mission is alive and well and speaking to us now, two thousand years later. Giving up on hope is always wrong.

epaselect epa04226284 Pope Francis (2-R) embraces his friends from Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka (2-L) and Argentine Muslim leader Omar Abboud (R) as the Rabbi of the Western Wall Shmuel Rabinovitz looks on (L), after the Pope prayed and placed a note into the Wall, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem, Israel, 26 May 2014. Pope Francis prayed at the Western Wall, the only standing remnant of the platform that once housed the Jewish Temple, in the Old City of Jerusalem amid heavy security. He placed his hand on the ancient stones and puts a note to God, as per Jewish tradition, between the cracks. The Pope is on an official visit Israel.  EPA/JIM HOLLANDER

Then just this last week Pope Francis went on to say

“The Lord asks of us a renewed openness: he asks us not to close ourselves against dialogue and encounter, but rather to accept all that is valid and positive that is offered to us even from those who think differently to us or who adopt different positions. Let us not focus on what divides us, but rather on that which unites us, seeking to know and love Christ better and to share the riches of His love…we are divided against ourselves. However we all have something in common: we believe in Jesus Christ, the Lord… in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We walk together, we are on the same path… let us help each other! Let us receive communion on the way. This spiritual ecumenism: walking the path of life together in our faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.”soup box

This is the faith of St Paul, this is the faith of Pope Francis, this is the faith of the Church.”

We also talked about tangible ways we can keep others in mind – one thing we’d seen was an advent calendar with a difference – instead of taking chocolates out each day; you start with an empty box and add an item of food each day and take it a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve.

We closed with a prayer for the government vote on Syria, praying for a more peaceful world.

That’s something I’m happy to sign off like this

Olivia xxx



How am I meant to find time for spirituality when I can’t even find my keys?

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This blog post is based on the notes for a talk I did for Much Hadham’s Connect group.

Many of us grow up with churchish upbringing, whether through following what our parents offer us or through school. Then we hit 18, and Saturday night becomes the most important part of the week – so Sunday’s about recovering from that. Then we’re studying or working, or working hard on becoming who we really are.
But then we settle down, have a family.

And when we have a family, we start to think about what we want their future to look like.
We spend lots of time concerning ourselves about what we’re eating and feeding them. We buy them books to feed their brain. And we start to think about how we can nurture their souls as well as their bodies to help them grow.

Of course to be able to do all this we need to have some room and some peace and quiet in our own lives. For me, moving to a quieter place and living opposite one of the most observant but outspoken churchgoers was a good incentive to show up for mass, she’d be sure to say “well, we missed you on Sunday” if we weren’t there…

I quickly realised that I enjoyed the quiet time that being in the church environment gave me – and the familiarity of words I knew well. But I know that for some they don’t have that feeling of spirituality. And the feeling of never ever getting to the bottom of the to-do list with all the other things that need to be done can make finding that much harder.

So I thought it’d be good to come up with a tangible list of ways to find some peace and love spirituality in our everyday lives.

A recent stay in a hotel introduced me to the idea of a tranquility space. An adult only quiet place.
Blissful. Some people like going into a place of worship like a church – but it can just be a small space in your house where there is quiet. Maybe the bathroom?

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There’s lots of research about how successful people start their day with 30 minutes of meditation and it’s a fast track to your higher consciousness and spiritual self.
But as parents with busy schedules and small people who genuinely need attention for all of their waking hours, that’s not always achievable when you’re been up in the night or have to get up for So start small – try and take 3 minutes and work up. All you do is sit quietly for 3 minutes per day, preferably at the same time every day, and quieten your thoughts. If you can manage it in the morning, some study has apparently proven that it can change your brainwaves which put you into a different state of mind and has lasting effects throughout the day.

Let it grow

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Wildflowers in a Cornish Churchyard October 2015

Enjoy the seasons as they pass – the morning mist in the autumn, or the beautiful colours in the leaves. Or the first daisies popping up in the grass. If you have animals, you’ll know how easy it is to feel a connection with a living being. Being in the garden and gardening also helps with feeling grounded and yet with a feeling of awe at the bigger universe and recognise that we’re not actually the centre of it.

Love your neighbour – and start really small

There are lots of little things you can do every day to bring you into a spiritual place.
Do something for others *without expecting anything in return.* There is no better way to reach a spiritual high than helping others without expecting them to do anything for you. And you can start in a really small way – opening a door to someone, letting someone out at a junction in rush hour traffic, give someone a hand in the workplace.
When you see someone with a smile – give them one of yours: – better to feel a fool for smiling than a fool for not smiling back.

Let it flow

There are many examples of sports people getting into a state of flow -Usain Bolt gazing at the finish


Jonny Wilkinson “praying” to the crossbar


Doing something you love to do helps to find your flow. Exercise: running, horseriding, writing, blogging, playing a musical instrument, preparing your fantasy x-factor audition in the shower or the car. Doing what you love regularly frees your mind of clutter and worry and helps you reach your inner spirit.

If you can’t get out of it, get into it.
So, there’s a dirty nappy that needs changing.
Stop. Take a deep breath. And pay attention to everything in that moment. If the child is squirming, tickle her or blow a raspberry. Take a mental photograph of the way that she is giggling, and be in the moment.

It’s not just charity that starts at home, love does.
Make a conscious effort to really love the people around you. And not take them for granted.
Especially when we are parenting, it’s very easy for a relationship that was so full of love and promise to become a brief series of information exchange and instructions.
“This child has to be at x place at y time. This bill needs to be paid. I’ve booked a babysitter so we can do z.”

We can get so caught up in our own thing and in its doing that we’re not giving the right time, love and attention. to our significant others – whether our romantic partner or indeed our children.

When we spend less time inside our own heads we are raising our consciousness that little bit more and connecting with the energy that surrounds us.

If you take this a step further – you can try and tolerate that ‘pain in the arse’ work colleague, or the school mum whose politics on Facebook you’re not quite sure of.

What I’m saying is don’t let the small things get in the way.

Ask for help
People love to help others. It makes them feel important and needed and wanted. It’s harder to ask for it, but actually most people are willing if you ask nicely. Again, start small – as simple as telling a visitor to pop the kettle on themselves while you do another task. Ask a friend to coach you in a skill you’re unsure of.

Finally, if all else fails, take a tip from Elsa and Let it go.


Whatever is eating you up – whether it’s someone who has annoyed you, a situation you can’t change. There’s been a situation in my life recently where I’ve felt rejected by someone. As it happens that person wasn’t rejecting me, but choosing something else -and that’s not the same thing.

I found a Polish proverb:


As women we often try to solve problems that’s aren’t ours to solve. You can’t always fix everything- sometimes things aren’t even broken in the first place – they just appear to be.
As soon as you recognise that you’re not the problem, it’s easier to take a breath and turn that from something negative into something more positive and move on.

Some of these tips may seem really small and trivial but as Mother Teresa said, “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

SerenityResources/further reading
I pulled together a board of helpful quotes on Pinterest here.

Further Resources



On Turning Thirty Eight

So as I start this, it’s four minutes until my birthday. I’ve already had my first kind birthday wish from someone in another time zone and the children are all asleep while I catch up with work.
Earlier in the week I was reading Adele’s rather lengthy explanation about exactly what her notoriously difficult third album is about  and it got me thinking about how my life has changed.

I was married at 25. I spent many hours of that year angsting over lace patterns, china patterns, my dress size and seating charts. Being married and the support of my DH gave me the confidence I needed to change my career and start again. I spent my 26th birthday on my first day of work experience at a magazine.

Malcolm Gladwell reckons it takes 10,000 hours to make someone an expert and I’ve certainly put them in over the last twelve years.
Many many hours spent on the phones, going through clips, checking Lexis for old stories to revisit, at press launches for random items, writing copy for competitions that few fancied, engaging with community users about what they love and moderating arguments about topics that many really don’t care about followed that Monday spent making the tea.

I certainly never imagined that by this age, not a milestone in anyone’s book, that I would have four small children and a fledgling business of my very own. I would have done it sooner but you know, life happened.

How to move twins from a cot to a bed

Picture the scene. Finally all the children are in bed and my husband and I are snuggled up on the sofa about to watch something on Netflix when we hear a thump, followed by tears.

Our youngest child is a complete gymnast and she’s managed to get out of her cot. The whole game has changed. Both she and her sister have up to now been pretty good at going to bed – we have a routine of sorts in as much as they have a beaker of milk, listen to some plinky plonky lullabies on Spotify and you hand them the correct teddies in order and they’ll both usually head to the Land of Nod.

But now we are going to have to deal with the ability to get OUT of the cot.

Our plans are to change the cot to a cot-bed and put a stair gate on the door, remove any furniture on which she can climb (see previous reference to gymnastics) and hope for the best. We anticipate quite a lot of Tanya Byron’s Rapid Return.

We have a trip to the Bedruthan Steps hotel planned next week – and we think we will have them both in beds then, so it could be that the honeymoon period is over….watch this space and wish us luck.


This day last year I rode in my first cycling sportive, in Loseley Park, in Surrey. I was very nervous and unsure what to expect. This blog has a fair amount of the story of how I got involved. As it happens, as it was a women only event, with bike hire and mech support laid on,  it was brilliant, with a supportive vibe, fun stuff for my kids to do while they awaited my return and a VIP cool down area afterwards. I met the incredibly inspiring Victoria Pendleton that day.

Since then, I’ve signed up to the longer distance event at Woburn which was beautiful and a LOT less hilly, thank God. Though my chain fell off far more times than I’d like to remember, I completed it without injury despite having taken the training a lot less seriously than for my first ride – I was perhaps a bit more confident, maybe even over-confident once I knew the set up a bit more.

In addition to the cycling which can be rather a lonely thing to do, I’ve also undertaken to do a lot more exercise, realising that those endorphins really are marvellous things at giving you energy and clarity in your life. I finally found the kind of exercise I enjoy – short sharp HIIT classes with other people for chit chat and companionship. These are done OUTSIDE rather than in front of a mirror or numbing your brain while pedalling or trudging on a treadmill watching misogynistic music videos or a soap on the telly. I’ve lost nearly a stone in the process and even managed to buy a size 10 dress – something I never ever imagined. I thought I’d be a 14 for the rest of my life.

I’m writing this because in the last few days, a sentence sprang from my lips that I could never have predicted. A combination of diary clashes means that I won’t be able to get together with the relentlessly cheerful and motivating PT who runs the exercise classes I attend and who has been helping me over the summer too.IMG_8052

The words I uttered were: “It’s going to be a bit of a nightmare, because I’m going to struggle to do any exercise for a month.”

I was that person who genuinely counted running late as exercise, so for me this is a huge u-turn. If you’re the kind of person who never thought that they could get off the sofa and get on with it, let me assure you it’s possible.

This is why I’ve bought my #thisgirlcan t-shirt.

I am not only wearing it, I’m living it at every opportunity.

Try and see the full picture

“Watch, Mummy! Watch!” The child at the soft play centre appeals to his audience as he goes down the slide. But mum is engrossed elsewhere – scrolling  her smartphone repeatedly.  Or maybe you’re at a friend’s for coffee. She gives her children a biscuit, plops them on the sofa and reaches for the remote control. And a small part of you is secretly shocked that she seems to have resorted to “CBeebies The Babysitter” so early in the day.

You may have side-stepped the child in the supermarket who’s having a meltdown because their parent won’t buy them the sweets they want. Or raised an eyebrow at the mother who’s opened a snack multipack and handed a packet to their toddler to keep her quiet for the trip round the store. Approaching a friends’ house for lunch, you can hear mum shouting loudly at her small child from the driveway.

But you haven’t seen the full picture. The mum on the phone has come to the soft play for wifi access and is refreshing her email for important news from work.  The child plonked in front of cartoons has actually been up since 5am and been for a walk, gone to a story session at the library and is getting towards nap-time. But mum knows from previous experience that she needs to negotiate the timings of that nap to ensure her child doesn’t spend the remainder of the day sad and tired.

The first child at the supermarket had already had a treat for the day at the previous shop and mum knows that the sugar will make a hard day even worse. The second child at the supermarket had a smaller lunch than expected as they were at a friend’s house and the food wasn’t to her taste. The mother yelling at her child who can be heard across the neighbourhood is trying to get her attention to prevent her from hurting another child.

We’ve all had days when we aren’t the perfect parent but had you taken the snapshot at a different point in the day, you’d certainly have seen things from another perspective. The mother patiently listening to the boy at the soft play tell yet another Minecraft story. The cartoon-watching child intently handing over book after book to be read. The hungry one eating a vaguely balanced breakfast.  As it happens, I am the parent in all of these scenarios. I’m the first to admit I’m not perfect but I’m probably not everything you see at first glance either. That’s the same for everyone, and as we move into the longest term where tired children may be at their most challenging, I’m planning to keep this uppermost in my mind.