Can a sneaky snooze count as a happy moment? If so, then that is mine today. The last time I slept through the night was approximately December 2002BC (before children). Since then my increasing brood and my decreasingly bladder control (the result of spending a full three years of my life with a child in utero) has, for the most part, prevented me from ever having a full 8 hours of uninterrupted kip. Add to this my tendency to lie awake at night making to do lists in my head and it seems unlikely that I’ll ever ‘sleep through’ again. So when Niamh nodded off in the car almost an hour before school pick up, I parked on the driveway, reclined the driver’s seat and snatched a little shut eye (#whatmusttheneighboursthink) I then managed to take the dog for his second walk of the day (with Niamh still snoozing in the pushchair), drag my disgruntled kids around Tesco, make a pasta feast for five (we had one extra for tea tonight) and go for a 45 minute run. So as it seems there’s a lot to be said (and achieved) for having a power nap, I may need to schedule another one tomorrow. Disclaimer – for obvious reasons I wasn’t able to take an asleep selfie but this one of Niamh gives you the general gist of how I must have looked (although I possibly had a bigger mouth gape!)
Day 6: When Beano Met Snow. Our 6 month old puppy discovered snow for the first time today and couldn’t decide whether to lick it, kick it or wee on it, so he all three. I decided to take advantage of my rare kid free, work free morning and took him to the woods where there was a fresh dusting of snow on everything and hardly a soul in sight.
There we spent a peaceful hour making foot and paw print trails and taking photos of the wintry landscape (well, I took the pictures and Beano mostly photo bombed them). My stress levels soared momentarily when I realised that with the main pathway buried under an inch of snow, I was a little lost. Challenging my inner Bear Grylls, I fleetingly contemplated whether or not I could work out where I was using only the position of the sun and the wind direction. Then I remembered that I’m a crap survivalist and that there was a fence that ran parallel to the path back to the car park. Beano and I were saved! Mother Nature 1, Abbi nil.
Contrary to the impression I like to give my kids, I am not iPad-adverse. I fully appreciate it’s beautiful design, simplicity and convenience and I’ll admit to wasting many hours in front of it. But it frustrates, infuriates and even saddens me to see how addicted my children have become to their “screen time”. So on Day 41 when Leo spontaneously turned off Minecraft and picked up a reading book, I applauded him (before snatching up the device myself to check out Achica’s daily deal).
I like to fantasise that when my children leave home and I become a lady of leisure (ha!) I’ll fill my days with manicures, massages and me time….oh, and working with the needy too of course. Until then, I get the opportunity to top up my highlights about once every six months and Day 42 included my bi-annual trip to the hairdressers. Hurrah!
They bicker, they wrestle and they trash the place together. They can be the best of friends one minute and arch enemies the next but when they find a common interest, share an idea or join forces, everything is easier. On Day 43 Reece and Leo bonded over their appreciation of pretend spectacles and I enjoyed a sibling amnesty.
An out of the blue phone call from an old friend qualified as my happy moment on Day 44. The voice message she left was so warm and lovely that I was almost glad I’d missed her call and heard it. No doubt I would otherwise have had to cut our conversation short due to the general chaos of my day. It now shames me that I’ve still not called her back yet!
My job with Birth Companions is very important to me and I’m proud to be part of such an impactful and inspiring charity. On Day 45 I spent the afternoon at an NCT Nearly New Sale collecting donations for the mums and babies Birth Companions supports. So it felt good to do something worthwhile on the weekend.
Day 46 was a Sunday, a supposed day of rest designed for relaxing and rejuvenating, right? Not for those of us with kids though. With an objective of spending quality time together ringing in our ears, Dave and I regularly (and rather bravely) attempt group board games, coffee shop trips and family outings on Sundays with varying degrees of success. Happily Day 46’s family bike ride went surprisingly well with just two minor injuries, one semi-serious meltdown, minimal arguing and a flat tyre we were able to repair. Result!
Lunch with two of my girlfriends on Day 47 motivated me to try a new recipe…three onion pissaladière. And it was not only edible but rather tasty too (a rare achievement for someone like me who usually needs 2-3 attempts at a new recipe to get it right). Happy tummies, happy days!
I took my role as a parent helper on Leo’s reception class trip to the zoo very seriously on Day 48. Being responsible for a group of 4 and 5 year olds in a public place actually seemed more daunting than my weekly visit to Holloway Prison. But Leo was clearly proud to have his mummy there and kept introducing me to his friends. And I was pleased to get a fly-on-the-wall peek at the children my little boy will spend his next six years at school with.
After a winter of relentless rain and chilblains, the sight of blossom on the trees on Day 49 made me smile. What’s more, my dad calls me Blossom as a nickname so floral displays like this usually make me think of him.
On Day 50 I was pleased the boys’ school had finally embraced World Book Day (after years of what I’d concluded must be idol ignorance). I was proud of myself for finding time to rummage through my local charity shop for an old shirt and tie for Seb’s costume. And I was relieved that Leo’s Gingerbread Man outfit, ordered online at the last minute, had arrived in time (Amazon Prime is worthy of it’s very own happyday dedication!). I was however less than impressed when Seb had a meltdown just before the school run and decided he didn’t want to be Mr Stink after all in case his school friends thought he actually smelled. Pfffffft!
On Day 31 I felt high-as-a-kite-happy for most of the day. It was a Saturday and the decorator finished hanging wallpaper and egg shelling skirting boards just before lunch. Some of our best friends were coming for dinner to test drive our new dining table and I’d found a new low carb fish recipe to try out. Having cleared away the clutter and the kids (actually one in the same thing) I snapped a few shots of the kitchen that I fantasised might one day appear in Enfield Interiors (should any such magazine ever be published). The opportunity to show case (ok, ok…show off) the end result of four months of dust, crap and tears made Day 31 a very happy day indeed.
When Christmas shopping last year, my main objective was to avoid buying any more over-priced plastic toys that would soon be relegated to the back of a wardrobe. Then, after listening to a TED talk about how experiences make us happier than material objects, and in a fit of inspired smugness, we bought Seb an hour’s drive in a go kart. So on Day 32 it was his turn to take the wheel and he loved every minute. Yay!
Day 33 was the start of half term so I took the kids to our now traditional school holiday hangout, the RAF Museum in Hendon. I can drive there (and avoid using public transport with four kids), it’s free to get in, the cafe sells great cakes and plane spotting makes us giggle…clearly.
On Day 34 Leo wrote a postcard to my parents, all by himself. This was the first postcard Leo had ever written. In fact, this was the first time I’d noticed that Leo could actually write (detachment parent that I am 😣). His first term in Reception had served him well and I felt delighted by his progress as well as aghast at having failed to recognise it sooner!
My happy moment on Day 35 was captured selfie-style as I sipped a latte in Stevenage station. I was on my way to a work conference, on my own. No pushchair to manoeuvre through the crowds, no heavy bag of snacks and nappies to lug around and no children to pacify or plead with. Just me, my iPod, Ok! magazine and a grin from ear to ear.
Day 36 – phew! My bargain purple velour chair from eBay (just £70….I tell everyone) matches my new lounge feature wallpaper perfectly. And what’s more, I’d found co-ordinating cushion covers online to complete the look. I should apologise for this one but it did make me happy.
Another work conference on Day 37 left me feeling inspired to train to become a lactation consultant. I’ve always loved ‘doing a course’, from photography to patchwork, first aid to defensive driving (actually, I was legally obliged to take the defensive driving course but I enjoyed it nonetheless). Training with the IBCLC would be a natural progression for me career wise so it’s something I’d seriously consider. I think my true happy moment that day was the realisation that I had options.
Having four kids is a juggling act that often leaves me with the feeling that you can’t please all the people all of the time. To address this, Dave and I often adopt a tag-team parenting approach where we split up and do things with the children individually (or in smaller groups). Day 38 gave me an opportunity to spend two full hours chasing around a softplay centre with my mad-capped middle ones. Reece and Leo loved the fact that I wasn’t bound to the ground to look after a baby and could instead wade through ball ponds and climb the rope walls with them. My knees didn’t thank me but when my boys did, it made the whole ordeal worthwhile.
Day 39 – for me, finishing a book is a feat in itself these days (even if it is a novella…shhhhhh!) but finishing a great book that I can’t stop thinking/talking/telling people about feels fab.
My caption for Day 40‘s photo was “When Niamh draws on paper…#100happydays When Niamh draws on herself…#notsomuch” Niamh rarely draws on paper and much prefers using a table cloth, kitchen cupboard or in this case, her forehead as a canvas. So this happy moment was really an excuse to share my amusement at Niamh’s self portrait.
Day 21 involved a trip to the dentist where each of my boys were told they had excellent teeth – a proud (and happy!) mummy moment. As none of them would let me photograph their teeth though, I settled for a Starbucks selfie afterwards.
Niamh had taken to bringing her new bike helmet with her whenever we left the house (except on those infrequent occasions when we leave the house on the bike and she refuses to wear it). On Day 22 I caught her giggling at her reflection in the car window as we drove through Enfield. Happy that my daughter likes accessorising…and that we live in a town I love.
One of my loveliest friends arrived bearing daffodils when we met for a play date on Day 23. Enough said ☺️
I’m still not entirely sure what I did to deserve breakfast in bed on Day 24. The lie-in alone would have been enough to swing my mood from ‘early-morning-misery’ to ‘the-sun-has-got-his-hat-on-happy’. Soggy Special K with berries, warm pain au chocolate and piping hot tea in my favourite mug are all the components of my favourite breakfast, so major kudos to my family for getting everything SO right.
Taking a picture of a lasagne on Day 25 was a bit of a cop out. Lasagnes themselves do not make me happy. In fact making lasagnes is a complete faff and I much prefer the simplicity of its sister dish spag bol. However, after months without a proper kitchen or cooker at my disposable, Day 25’s happy moment was more of a nod to my joy at making home cooked food in a sanitary and well-equipped environment once again.
Day 26 heralded the start of Niamh’s ‘strawberry phase’. Said phase has since passed (and she now won’t touch them with a barge poll) but for a few delightful days, Niamh couldn’t get enough of strawberries. And whenever any of my kids discover a new fruit or veg they like, I feel genuinely euphoric.
Reece’s enthusiasm for Beavers (a club that ticks all of his boxes; junk modelling, building dens, getting filthy, earning badges etc) has filled me with genuine joy. So Day 27 was a special day for us both when he made his ‘Beaver Promise’. Never before have I seen a child so thrilled to be given a plastic woggle by a grown woman named Hawkeye.
With the end of our building works in sight and the decorating in full swing, Day 28 was a celebration of wallpaper. I’d spent weeks sourcing samples, visiting interior design shops and comparing prices. So to have finally made a ‘creative decision’ was hugely satisfying.
“We go to library?” has been a daily request from Niamh lately and on Day 29 we did just that. I like to tell myself that such ‘library love’ stems from her appetite for intellectual stimuli and a thirst for literature. But in truth, the Peppa Pig DVDs and cafe that sells croissants are probably the pull factors for my bookworm baby girl.
On Day 30, Reece proudly went to school wearing a pair of lens-less reading glasses from the 99p Shop. Seb walked to school ten foot behind us and tried desperately to disassociate himself from his mortifying younger brother. And I chucked to myself for most of that morning.
Day 11 – our Merlin passes have been a godsend this year and every time we’ve used them I’ve enjoyed that ‘value for money’ feeling. Ordinarily it would cost a small fortune for us to take four kids on the London Eye but we were able to conveniently forget the sizeable fortune we paid for the passes in the first place so it felt like free fun! No queues and relentless rain motivated us to take two ‘flights’ on the Eye sandwiched by a trip to the London Aquarium. Merlin passes suitably maxed out!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the creative freedom and artistic expression that messy play affords young children but I just can’t face scrubbing poster paint off my kitchen table anymore. So Day 12‘s happy moment came during Arties, a singing-nursery-rhymes-whilst-gluing-yoghurt-pots-together group for preschoolers. Niamh loves it and I can relax, safe in the knowledge that my furniture survives unscathed.
Day 13 was another Tuesday, another work day, another round of extra circular activities to contend with. Dave was out for the evening so I simply celebrated the fact that I managed to collect, drop off and pick up all four kids in all the right places at (just about) the right times. Phew!
Day 14 involved the calmest commute to work I’d had for weeks. And the tube looked so empty and clean that I couldn’t resist photographing it.
Day 15 – Both my personal and professional lives have been breastfeeding-focused for just about the last decade, so watching Niamh ‘naturally’ trying to breastfeed her doll (after she’d earlier discarded the plastic bottle accessory it came with) was an immensely satisfying and amusing experience. That’s my girl!
Day 16‘s photo was a very personal one of my baby girl, snapped secretly during our pre-bed feed. Her little face was framed by her golden ringlets and she looked so peaceful and pretty that it was a happy moment I filed under ‘commit to memory’.
After days of downpour (during which damp patches had begun to appear on our lounge walls – stress!!), the rain stopped and the sun came out on Day 17. I was also able to nab the front seat on the top deck of the bus on my way to work. It’s the little things….
Day 18 remained dry giving us the perfect opportunity to take the kids to the park. Having been cooped up inside for most of the winter weekends, their energy and enthusiasm was infectious. What’s more, I’d forgotten how much fun the zip wire can be even when you’re a 36 year old mother of four! #noshame
Thanks to the fact that most of our in-car CD collection has been damaged, lost or flung from the car window in a fit of insanity (that only happened once…honest!), Niamh has learnt the same six nursery rhymes by heart in an impressively short period of time. She did her first public performance of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on Day 19 and melted all our hearts 😍
Day 20 heralded a small personal victory in that I was seemingly the first parent to arrive for Beavers drop off. As a result I nabbed the hugely coveted prime parking space just outside of the church hall entrance. One nil to me against the Universe (that all too frequently conspires against me!)
About three months ago I noticed that a few of my friends had started posting pics on their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter pages with the hashtag ‘100happydays’. Intrigued as to what this new social media craze was all about, I did some googling and found this article: http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/5123744
Curiouser and curiouser I thought…(I’ve always fancied myself as Lewis Carroll character!) I’d recently finished re-reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin as part of my New Year’s resolution to “be happier” so the idea of focusing on the positive each and every day for 100 days in a row seemed like a good idea with this goal in mind.
So began my own happiness project. Had I been more organised and thoughtful from the start, I might have started blogging about this sooner. And as my 100 days draws to a close, I now realise with a sad sense of regret that I soon won’t have an excuse to take daily photos of my favourite things. My Instagram ‘family’ have been brilliant at supporting me with their cheerful comments and reassuring ‘likes’ but I can’t expect them to put up with my daily dose of smug sentimentality for very much longer. So when day 101 comes around (in a little over a week and a half 😳) I want to reflect on my happy pics, collate them all in one place and essentially review and evaluate the project to work out…am I really any happier?
The first 10 days:
On Day 1 there just so happened to be a perfect rainbow stretching over Enfield as Niamh and I left the library. Perfect I thought, all I need now is a few butterflies and a chirping blue tit and I’ll have a true Hollywood happy moment. Instead I settled for a sinister bloke dressed in black and a few empty crisp packs blowing in the breeze. Oh well, I was off!
Day 2; some weeks before, a friend had suggested taking our older kids to the local planetarium for an evening of stargazing. It was a unique experience, atypical of our normal Friday nights, so it felt good to not only do something special with my boys but also (in all honesty!) to be seen to be doing something educational and interesting. Cue a few parenting points…
Day 3 offered a candid camera moment whilst walking with the kids to a friend’s birthday party. The boys were swinging Niamh (1-2-3-wheeeeeee!) and she was squealing with delight. Fuzzy feel good feelings aplenty ☺️
Day 4; growing up as a child, Sunday afternoon walks in the woods were routinely part of the weekend and I remember sulking my way through them most times. As an adult with a family of my own, inflicting the same experience on them elicits a strange satisfaction – I’m now a proper grown-up! The fact that we were able to met our lovely friends with their kids that afternoon too helped to ensure that even my grumpiest offspring went to bed smiling that day.
Day 5 was a Monday, rarely a funday, but Niamh and I decided (well, I decided) to treat ourselves to a Starbucks to help lift our moods (well, my mood) and expand our waist lines (well, my waist line as Niamh doesn’t yet have a waist). I tried not to dwell on the 240 calories in my chai-tea-damn-delicious-latte though.
Day 6 was a work day; 5 hours spent in Holloway prison followed by a frantic dash to collect the kids from their various childcare settings before shovelling a poor quality processed dinner down their necks and shipping them off to Beavers and football training. It was therefore the sight of my lovely bed, all neat and tidy with its smoothed out covers and plumped up pillows (thanks to my daily OCD routine) that offered me the happiest moment of my day.
On Day 7 I combined business and pleasure by having supervision with my BfN supervisor at a scrummy veggie curry house in Turnpike Lane. BfN supervision sessions aren’t renowned for their entertainment value and when running supervision or attending it, I often do so with a weary head and an energy shortage. Dinner with Claire helped to renew my enthusiasm, address a few niggling issues and inspire my confidence as both a Breastfeeding Supporter and a tutor and supervisor. All good then!
How rare and satisfying to find the perfect pair of jeans in my size AND in the sale. Day 8 gave me just that opportunity. Happy days indeed!
I always vacuum on Fridays. It’s part of my pre-weekend ritual and helps me to relax in the knowledge that my house is a bit cleaner. And as weird and warped as it sounds, leaving tracks in our thick pile carpet contributes to my happiness high. On Day 9 I did just that. As an added bonus, one of my oldest friends (who incidentally used to be a Kirby cleaners salesman) also commented on my Day 9 photo on Instagram which brought a smile to my face and happy memories to mind.
Day 10 and dad was still staying with us, working like a Trojan to finish fitting our new kitchen. As he is an insulin-dependent diabetic who frequently adopts a very sad expression when reminded of the limitations of his restricted diet, I can’t resist spoiling him every now and again. But it makes me feel good and guilty in equal measure. I want my dad to be healthy and happy so it’s a tricky balance to strike.
If someone had told me in my early 20s that I’d be a ‘regular runner’ in my early 30s, I’d have laughed them out of the pub! In school, PE class heralded my weekly dose of public humiliation and ‘cross country’ were swear words in my book. Before each and every sports day my mum would remind me that it didn’t matter if i was first or last, it was the taking part that counted. I was usually last (but remain eternally grateful to mum for always being the loudest spectator cheering me on).
Sports never used to feature fully in my life and throughout university; my definition of a workout was a brisk walk to the offy to buy wine and cigarettes. My friends weren’t jocks either. Occasionally someone would make the token suggestion that we could play a game of tennis or go for a swim but this would be brushed aside after a strenuous game of table football in the Student Union. Besides, I was good friends with the president of the Sky Diving Soc which made me feel suitably athletic.
When I first moved to London, my job and social life took priority over any form of exercise. After multiple interchanges on the tube and navigating through Soho to the office, my heart rate accelerated enough to satisfy on a daily basis. And when a post-work drink turned into a bar crawl and midnight curry, my dash for night bus felt like fitness enough.
It wasn’t until a Christmas at home in my mid-20s that mum tactfully pointed out I’d gained a few pounds; two stone in fact, when I asked the scales for a second opinion. I was gob smacked, dumbfounded and mortified! Til then, I’d never really worried about my weight but now I was panic stricken. That New Year I enrolled in Weight Watchers and my local gym and it didn’t take long for me to realise that I far preferred the company of health fanatic, fit people to self-conscious, depressed chocoholics.
And so began my love affair with running. I tried spinning, rowing and weight lifting (!) before finding my stride on the treadmill. And bonus, you could watch MTV and listen to music whilst clocking up the miles, which put paid to the boredom factor I had so frequently associated with exercise.
Admittedly my commitment to fitness fluctuated during the following few years but after the birth of my first son, my best friend and fellow university ‘jock’ suggested we enter a 5k charity race. On the day, having inadvertently ended up in the elite runners’ paddock, we started the race upfront before being swiftly overtaken by countless ladies in Lycra. But it was fun – a fun run and thereafter I tried to make running a regular and consistent part of my life.
Fast forward six years and three more kids and shock, I’m still running! Don’t get me wrong, I’m really not very good at it and when I say I’m going for a run, what I really mean is that I’ll be jogging at approximately 8k an hour for as long as possible before collapsing into a breathless heap.
And no matter how hard I try, I never quite look the part either. My running shorts make me look dumpy and my earphones make me look extraterrestrial. But even with a pair Oakleys and Dr Dre’s, I’d still struggle to look cool and athletic.
I’m also an antisocial runner. Running partners and clubs don’t appeal as not only do I find it impossible to talk and run, I’m also a self-conscious runner who prefers to turn puce and pant in private. The only company I keep on one of my runs is with Molly, my dad’s dog. Her silent support as she trots along at my heels is comforting but even Molly throws me the odd pitying look as I gasp my way up anything steeper than a slight slope.
However, I’m well practised at hiding my physical discomfort when passing fellow runners en route. From a fair distance I can usually assess how ‘serious’ a runner my counterpart seems to be. This then dictates the extent to which I suck in my stomach, steady my breathing and force a relaxed facial expression.
So, although my running habit is rarely that ego boosting or socially satisfying, I do it because running makes me feel better about myself. It can often take a gargantuan effort to drag myself out of bed or off the sofa, don my running shoes and pound the pavement but once I do, I enjoy the solitude, the satisfaction and even the hard slog itself. I’m no Paula Radcliffe by any stretch of the imagination but as I run towards my early 40s, I hope to do so with a little more confidence and a little less middle age spread.