Meet the women who want to save your life

4 Dec

 

I have been busy in recent times, doing some freelance writing and editing for a business magazine – a bit out of my comfort zone, but it’s been fun 🙂

I just wanted to come back on the blog to update on a few things I’ve enjoyed writing in the last few months. Today I’ll post about a piece I’m particular proud of writing (and I’ll update with more links in the next few days):

So here’s my feature in the Jewish Chronicle about several inspiring young Jewish women I interviewed with breast cancer or who are carriers of the BRCA gene mutation. These women are doing amazing work raising awareness around the disease.

Here’s a taster of the first few paragraphs of the article. (For the full article, click here ):

Meet the women who want to save your life

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Danielle Stone
Danielle Stone

When Danielle Stone, 32, was diagnosed with breast cancer, she took an unusual step: “I told my friends: ‘I want you to feel my breast, so you know what cancer feels like.’” Her friends were shocked, but grateful. “Now they know what to look out for,” she says.

Stone was diagnosed just one month after giving birth to her first child, daughter Livvi-Rae, now four months old. “I was breastfeeding and felt this lump; I just assumed it was milk-related. Not in a million years did I think it would be cancer. My GP thought it was probably a milk-related cyst, but referred me just in case.”

She has HER2 positive cancer, “the same cancer Kylie Minogue had. My type of cancer is called ‘random’. It could happen to anyone,” says Stone. “That’s why I want to make people aware. If it wasn’t for breastfeeding, my situation would be very different now.”

Since her diagnosis three months ago, Stone has become a bit of a campaigner to get women to check themselves regularly: “Check your breasts to make sure you know what’s normal. There are no other obvious symptoms of breast cancer. If you don’t know how, look on YouTube. This is particularly important for young women who aren’t offered mammograms.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with the disease affecting one in eight British women, this includes many Jewish women too. Like Stone, other young Jewish women have become accidental activists too, seeing themselves with a responsibility to raise awareness.

……………………….

(Another link to the full article here)

 

 

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The playdate

19 Jul

 

blue-bright-colors-565999.jpgHere’s my latest blog post for The Motherload, all about how a beautifully anticipated playdate planned for a very hot July’s afternoon went rather pear-shaped! (click on link below):

The Playdate

It’s my son’s party and I’ll cry if I want to

3 Jul

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To continue from my last blog post theme of me being loud and dramatic on birthdays , here’s my latest offering published on The Motherload, a fab, down-to-earth parenting blogzine, all about how an embarrassing crying incident at my son’s birthday party launched my *complicated* relationship with children’s birthday parties. Enjoy the read (click on the following link):

It’s my son’s birthday and I’ll cry if I want to

 

 

It’s my birthday and I’ll shout if I want to

29 May
How did my birthday degenerate in such spectacular style, I thought to myself at around 4.30 pm this afternoon.
Two of my three little ones were howling in unison – 1.5-year-old was following me around the flat, roaring and practically pulling my skirt off in her urgency to get me to pick her up which I couldn’t do because a) I didn’t want to and b) I was trying to gather up water bottles-nappies-wipes-shoes-socks-coats-more stuff so we could leave the house to go out for an early supper for my birthday (my birthday treat to myself).
3.5 year old was howling histrionically as I had apparently dropped a shoe on her tender little hoof and it hurt – A LOT.
This is not how birthdays are meant to be celebrated, I observed ruefully to myself.
I then did exactly what all the parenting bibles tell you not to do. I started shouting – quite loudly – at both of these two little people – to STOP SHOUTING.
I SHOUTED AT THEM TO STOP SHOUTING and it felt quite cathartic, so I CARRIED ON SHOUTING A LITTLE MORE.
Baby seemed quite startled at this show of noisy force coming at her from my direction, and this temporarily  stopped her howls.
I shouted SORRY VERY LOUDLY at 3.5 year old about the foot incident and shouted again NOW YOU HAVE TO STOP SHOUTING COS I SAID SORRY.
I then carried on grabbing random stuff, while shouting in a maternal guilt-tripping way that they are too young to understand that they were RUINING MY BIRTHDAY . I may even have stamped my foot (yes I am turning 5 today).
Finally ready to leave the flat. Trip trap trip trap down the stairs to the ground floor. Drag the buggy out of the hallway and outside.
And then finally, breathe in some fresh air and we were all in transit, either in buggy or on two feet, heading towards the restaurant with the tantalising image of chips with ketchup by the bucketful awaiting us.
And peace was restored.

Meet the mums doing it on their own

10 Apr

Time to update the blog! Here is a taster (first few paragraphs) of a recent feature I wrote for the Jewish Chronicle about the fabulous single women who are choosing to have children on their own. Enjoy the read! Click here for the full article in the JC. And here for a link to KayamaMoms’ website – the organisation that is helping Jewish single women to become mums. (And here is a link to KayamaMoms’ Facebook page too.)

Meet the mums doing it on their own

There’s a growing trend in Israel for women to choose to become single mothers. Now British Jewish women are being encouraged to do the same. Rebecca Schischa reports.

For Amanda Moss, it was the end of a relationship when she was 39. For Michelle, it was her 35th birthday. Both women decided they were unlikely to find a partner to start a family. So, each became single mothers by choice.

“It was a real emotional rollercoaster,” says Moss, now 44, from St Albans, of her fertility treatment, which included four rounds of IVF. She’d frozen her eggs at 37 and tried thawing them, but none fertilised. Finally she tried a ‘double donation’ using donated sperm and egg. “I had a gut feeling it would work, and I tested pregnant soon after.

“I was induced two weeks early, and Joshua was born two years ago. I lived with my parents for the first five months. It was great, they built up a real bond with him. They adore him and help me out lots with him.”

Michelle, now 60, from Manchester had an easier time getting pregnant, using donor sperm, and is mother to Alex, 23 and Theo, 21 (their names have been changed to protect the family’s privacy).

“I was fairly secure in my career. I moved round the corner to my parents (they’re not alive anymore), and they were very happy to help out when I went back to work. My dad used to take the boys to toddler groups. I had parents I didn’t know saying to me, ‘I know your dad’!”

She and Moss are part of a growing number of single Jewish women who choose to become mothers. Now an Israeli organisation, KayamaMoms, is helping women considering following their lead.

“So many babies are not being born because people still aren’t considering the option” in the UK, says Dina Pinner, KayamaMoms’ co-founding director. She held an inaugural meeting in London last month to provide information and support to Jewish women considering becoming single mothers by choice (SMCs).

Click here for the full article in the JC

The swimming lesson

24 Jan

Parenting, I have discovered, sometimes feels like a series of gruesome trials that one must self-effacingly go through for the good of one’s child/ren (see previous posts on soft play hell and survival guide for parents of children entering their first year at school as examples).

Trials often involving complex logistics and vast amounts of stuff you are obliged to lug along with you. And every time your child gets one year older, behold, a new, more ominous trial looms on the horizon.

(Parents of older children often give you advance warning by recounting the horrors to come but as a defence mechanism, you generally block your ears shouting out repeatedly “I’m not listening I’m not listening I’m not listening” until they change the subject.)

So now to the latest trial to assault my sensibilities: The swimming lesson for big boy (aged 5).

The first Sunday morning arrives. Armed with bags of stuff, we (that is, me, plus three little ones, aged 5, 3 and 1, thanks to dear OH conveniently working on Sundays) leave at a respectable hour, I think.

Heart sinking #1:

We arrive at the school where the swimming lessons take place and my spirits immediately plummet.

It seems just to get into the car park and find a spot will require nerves of steel and the need to behave in an entirely uncivil manner.

The entire parenting populace of NW London has apparently all signed up for the same swimming lessons at the same hour. It is mayhem. Drivers of brash SUVs squeeze in and out aggressively and there is zero good will to behold.

Grimacing, I wait my turn and eventually a tight spot becomes available.

We still have a few minutes until the class starts. Breathe, I say to myself.

Not seeing anything actually resembling a swimming pool nearby, I ask another parent innocently, where actually is the swimming pool?

Heart sinking #2:

She points to a corner of the car park and says ‘down the steps there’. Armed with a little one in a buggy, the word “steps” are a discordant, jarring noise to my ears. I drag my three children over “there” and my dread and horror become palpable. In the era of accessibility, the swimming pool building is apparently at the bottom of a steep hill and the only way down is via an apparently endless, steep flight of steps.

Grunting and muttering expletives, I start bumping buggy down the steps, cautioning the two bigger ones to hold on carefully. A kind parent comes to the rescue as I’m halfway down and helps me bring the buggy down the remaining 423 steps.

Heart sinking #3:

Into the swimming pool building and everything goes pear-shaped again as we squeeze our way into the changing rooms.  Firstly, we have to remove outdoor footwear. So convenient, especially as I have omitted to bring with any flipflop/Croc-type footwear. (Great, so now we will all come home with verrucas too.)

I use the word “squeeze” for good reason. Apparently the entire parenting populace of NW London must also battle it out for a spot in a changing room designed for about 2% of the quantity of human beings currently inhabiting the space.

The buggy is clearly not a desired object in this space, neither by me, nor by the glaring individuals around me.

By this point, the start of the lesson, 10 o’ clock, has come and gone, and I bark at big boy to get changed quickly.

We turn the corner and finally enter the swimming pool area.

Heart sinking #4 (this is the very worst instance of sinking, I can guarantee)

I am immediately assaulted by a tremendous wave of heat and noise. It is, according to a friendly, more experienced, parent, who confirmed this for me later on, akin to Dante’s Inferno.  There are swarms and swarms of squealing children in the pool with an army of blue-T-shirt clad swimming instructors. There is a crowd of disgruntled parents hovering by the side of the pool. There are absolutely no pleasant or remotely roomy places to park myself and my two little ones who have to wait while big boy does his stuff.

And the heat, did I mention the heat.

There is nothing tolerable about this, I mutter to myself, carrying my fabulously heavy one-year-old whose cheeks are already turning bright red. We are all wearing winter clothing, apart from being barefoot.

In the veritable sea of little people splashing about in the pool, I eventually identify big boy’s swimming class, and drop him off.

We are ten minutes late for a thirty minute class.

I collapse on a narrow bench with the other two, and feel sweat prickling from every pore in my body. Baby is in danger of becoming dehydrated. I rip layers of clothing off all of us, and play Teletubbies and The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round on an endless loop on my mobile phone in a vain attempt to prevent her from wriggling off me and toddling straight into the swimming pool.

The hothouse nightmare finally ends 20 minutes later.

We stagger back to the tightly packed changing room. I dump baby back into the buggy. I attempt to shower big boy and become half drenched in the process.

We finally step outside into the cool wintry day again. I breathe in deep breaths of fresh Mill Hill oxygen and feel an all-enveloping sense of gratitude for fresh air, the universe and all things good.

I then remember the 748 steps we have to climb to get back to the car.

 

 

An afternoon in soft play hell

7 Jan

It’s two days before the end of the winter holidays and bucketing down outside. Any inspiration for coming up with yet another edifying cultural activity to take the little ones to long gone, there’s nothing for it, an afternoon at soft play hell beckons.

Naively convincing myself that surely a lot of other schools must have already gone back, I blithely drive into the car park of a large, popular soft play located not far from us in North West London.

And then proceed to drive straight out of the positively rammed, full to beyond capacity car park immediately thereafter, my heart plummeting fast.

Out of the corner of my horrified eye, I see something that looks like a queue spilling out into the rain at the entrance to the soft play, but quickly convince myself that surely this must have been a mirage.

We park at the first available spot several hundred metres away in a nearby giant supermarket car park. We trudge back up, bumping the buggy over the potholes and    humps in the road, inching our way round large puddles, all the while as the skies pour down on us.

We arrive at the door to see there is indeed a very real, very tangible queue of harassed looking parents and their restless offspring spilling out into the rain.

Notice on the door to soft play hell:

dav

I look in my purse, I have approximately 37 pence made up of 1 p and 2 p coins in cash, alongside an armada of credit cards crying out to be used.

Cursing all manner of deities, I wearily trudge off again, this time down a dreary alleyway snaking round the backside of the giant supermarket with my three bedraggled small people in tow in search of a cash machine.

Cash duly acquired, we enter soft play.  We are welcomed with gaiety:

dav

Glaring at the beaming cherubs in this painted scene, I dutifully shuffle along in the mother of all queues until it’s finally our turn to cough up cash-only cash in order to voluntarily enter soft play hell.

And we’re off. Instantly we are swept up in an intense cacophony of noise, children’s screams, loud music, heat, bright flashing lights, lurid Christmas decorations abound. Sensory overload.

A densely populated, heaving mass of humanity has packed itself tightly into this primary-coloured vision of dystopia.

Children streaking by, children wailing, children squealing, children chasing each other, children sliding down, children climbing up, children tumbling, children laughing with delight, children crying with undelight. All breeds of children. Big ones, small ones, pocket-sized ones, wild ones, dreamy solitary ones.

Tables packed full of families chowing down burgers and chips, slurping on lurid-coloured ice slush drinks, crunching on packets of crisps, chewing on chocolate bars, as far as the eye can see.

dav

Mum in question (me) feels existential pangs. Is this what it’s all about? I wonder for the enth time. I spot another mum in the throes of her own existential moment, sitting alone at a table absorbed in pencil sketching on a piece of paper.

I try to stealthily ignore large signs plastering the place stating that outside food may not be brought in and feed my children vaguely healthy lunch fodder brought in from outside. Soft play manager (#dreamjob) catches us red-handed within three milliseconds of said forbidden food items appearing. Disallows continued consumption. Groan. We’re all hungry. Off we troop to food station and fork out for the necessary supplies of crisps and confectionary.

I put my one-year-old down next to the table to crawl around at my feet. Take my eye off her for one second as I sip my cappuccino, look down again and she’s gone. Panic stations. Will I ever find her in the mêlée? With intense relief I see she’s zoomed off as quickly as her four paws will carry her over to the ball pond and is trying unsuccessfully to dive in.

Phew. Save her. But then, with dread in my heart, I realise exactly how the rest of my afternoon is panning out: From then on I am entirely at her beck and call, and must obediently trail after her up and down and round and in and out the bouncy, slidey, baby-friendly side of the soft play apparatus. Feel a brief moment of hilarity-cum-despair when I am forced to get down into commando crawling pose to lower my non-baby-sized self under a particularly height-restricted bar overhead in order to keep up with fast-moving toddler ahead and prevent her from tumbling down a slide face-forward.

You gotta laugh, it seems.

At such points in one’s life, one must be grateful for small mercies:

Small mercy #1: My two larger offspring go off to the main soft play apparatus to climb, slide, chase each other to their hearts’ content and do not require my participation in any of these activities.

Small mercy #2: Management of soft play emit frequent reminders over loudspeaker that visitors to their den of pleasure must not overstay their two-hour visit, or else will be charged an extra fee.

Our two-hour visit mercifully draws to a close.

We reclaim our footwear and stumble out into the chilly grey gloom of an early January afternoon in London.

As we head off home, my five-year-old says, totally spontaneously (and before his tiger mother has a chance to roar any command):  Thank you very much Mummy, we had so much fun.

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

 

 

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