The Vagisil Blush Index #endembarrassment

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Not my vagina but the closest you’ll ever get to it

I’m going to start this post off by saying that I have literally no problem in talking about intimate things with my friends. And sometimes not even my friends. When meeting some rather nice men in a rooftop bar in Brooklyn last week my buddy and I were told that we probably don’t have boyfriends because we were too open. How can you be too open?! Ok, yes, we were probably too open for Americans. But that’s British gals for you.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to be a proper get-changed-under-my-swim-towel kind of woman. But now I happily get it all out at the gym, the doctors, wherever they let me, really. Smear test? Let’s go! Topless beach? No problem!

I think I first became comfortable-ish with my body when Elfie was born and I realised just how many people have to see your hoo-hah before a baby can come out of it. One of my lasting memories from that birth was a midwife telling me while I was still in theatre that they would have to pop a little tablet up my bum for one reason or another; I said “ooh actually, I’d rather you didn’t “ and she was like, yeah, too late missy. That was the moment I realised that embarrassment when it comes to my intimate areas is pretty much an outdated and irrelevant concept.

Vagisil recently spoke to 2,000 British women about their attitudes and embarrassment towards the subject of intimate health and I have to say that, even for someone who was too shy to get a pants-off bikini wax until after her first child was born, I was quite surprised. Nearly half (47%) of British women Vagisil spoke to felt embarrassed when the word ‘vagina’ came up in conversation) and nearly one third admitted to never speaking to their GP about an intimate health problem.

I get this – it can be really difficult to speak to people about what’s going on in your pants. But how can we move to being embarrassed about our intimate health to feeling happy WhatsApping our friends to ask “do you think this is cystitis or thrush?” (sidenote: if you’re my friends, you’ll know).

It’s really sad that 70% of the women surveyed blamed the media for the way we feel about our bodies. We’re expected to be these smooth Barbie doll models of perfection and really, who hasn’t felt slightly wistful when watching the hairless and seemingly vagina-less gazelles that masquerade as Victorias Secret models? I know I have. I bet Karlie Kloss has never texted Taylor Swift to check is she has cystitis or thrush (OR HAS SHE?!).

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Vagisil is on a mission to end the embarrassment that exists around intimate health, and do something about the issue – something I’m all for.

Dr Becky Spelman, Registered Psychologist at Private Therapy Clinic, advises: “Look at it rationally – accept that everybody is fallible and nobody is perfect no matter how they might appear on the surface. Every woman has her own genitals and this is natural.”

I challenge you to not look at the next woman you come across without thinking about the fact they have genitals ;)

If you’re finding it hard to address an intimate issue with a health professional and need some advice, see the below from Dr Spelman:

“You could ask yourself ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ Then sit with that feeling, if it seems too much try breathing in through the nose for 3 seconds and then slowly out through the mouth, focusing on the feeling of the breath. This should give the feeling of embarrassment a chance to subside.”

We’re all human beings; Gisele’s had two kids so I’d fully expect her to have her own pelvic floor issues.

Let’s #endembarrassment and talk about vaginas!

Big thanks to Vagisil for sponsoring me to write about my vagina when I probably would have done it for free ;) 

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

 

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The last time I took a picture like this it was a very different situation. I was 27 and off to visit my best friend in New York because my marriage had ended. Just like here I snapped my suitcase and handbag on my bed all ready for me to drive down to Heathrow, full of excitement, trepidation and shoes.

I didn’t write much about what was going on then because really… what do you say? I didn’t quite believe myself that a 9 year relationship was coming to an end and even if I tried couldn’t tell you what I was feeling. My whole adult life had been spent with one man; we’d grown up together, had two children together, built a life together yet had become increasingly unhappy together. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that – I was distraught, confused, heartbroken, scared. I needed head space so I made a last-minute decision to visit one of my oldest friends in the states.

Boarding that plane felt strange. I’d been tied to someone for such a long time – emotionally and legally – and I didn’t know if we would still be bound in this way once I got back to England. It was the first time I’d been on a plane alone or travelled alone and it felt like it was the beginning of me getting to know myself.

As it turned out that trip was the making of me. I arrived scared and wary of what might lie ahead but somewhere in the steam and skyscrapers of New York I found who I’d grown up to be in that past decade. My joie de vivre and sparkle returned and I came home knowing what was about to happen. Not just knowing; at peace with the decision. I knew our story would end in divorce.

It’s been two and a half years since that trip and it hasn’t been easy. It’s been overwhelmingly surprising to discover how difficult divorce is. Who knew, right? Divorce isn’t one long Caribbean holiday!! What an awakening.

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I expected the devastation to ease off over time but that’s not how it works. In a situation like mine that was so amicable it can seem quite senseless and take a long time to get your head round why this is happening to you. Don’t get me wrong – we did the right thing and having my time again I would always choose the path of divorce – but the lack of having someone to blame in the situation has been harder than you might think. There’s been foot stamping, crying, happy days, sad days. I might have uttered the phrase “it’s not fair” once or twice. It gets better, it does.

And so a week ago I boarded another plane. It felt only right that for the occasion of turning 30, another seminal life event, I did it in the place that was previously so important in helping steer my destiny. But I didn’t buckle up feeling lost, wounded or unsure this time. This was a whole new (American) ball game.

Divorce leaves many things in its wake and I can truly say now, two and a half years on, that over here contentment and happiness is one of them. Because of what I have been through I work harder, am less selfish, love more, sleep less (sad face), am braver, more thoughtful. It really is all good. It’s a pain in the arse situation to have to go through – love is supposed to be for life, not just a decade – and the paperwork is insane ;) I will forever be heartbroken that my children will grow up without their father living in the same house as them but nobody plans for this to happen. This time travelling to New York I knew exactly who I was going out there and who I was going to be coming back (horrendously jetlagged for a start…).

You’re not getting off with me turning 30 this easy – there will be many more reflections coming your way in the next few days. But for now just be proud that I’ve written 700 words about divorce and growth that began with a photo of a suitcase and haven’t once referred to my emotional baggage.

I thank you.

Fun games and activities for kids

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Just like adults, kids need a balance of work and play. After a long school term, they need time to relax and have fun during the summer holidays – but this doesn’t mean learning has to stop. Six weeks is just enough time for kids to start forgetting what they’ve learnt at school, so educational activities are a great way to entertain them and help refresh their minds at the same time.

Children need activities that stimulate their imagination and allow them to be as creative as possible. This is one of the reasons why LEGO was voted the, ‘Greatest Toy of All Time’ back in February – as there are so many possibilities that children can create. According to education.com, playing with bricks improves kids’ fine-motor development, their ability to work as a team and social skills.

Kids can also improve their social skills from playing imaginative games with others. Outdoor play is crucial – not just because kids are getting physical exercise, but because there’s more to stimulate the imagination outside too. Plus, it provides children with an opportunity to flex their problem-solving skills (source: niu.edu).

If you’re planning a day in the countryside or you have a garden, why not try giving kids a list of things to look for? You could write a list of certain types of flowers, trees and bugs. You could even set them a treasure hunt with clues (or ask them to set one up for you if they’re a bit older).

Arts and crafts are another great idea for the summer holidays. Kids can learn a new skill, like making collages or mod roc jewellery, put it into practice and spend their time productively working on a fun project. They’ll then enjoy a huge sense of accomplishment at the end of the summer.

The Internet is a wealth of information and you should use it to find craft activities. Artfulparent.com is a great resource and has instructions on how to make everything from cardboard castles to baking soda volcanoes.

Stock up on art supplies at the beginning of the summer holidays and you’ll always have a fun, educational activity on standby. There are specialist sites like hope education where you can find arts and craft supplies as well as resources for educational games. Schools buy equipment and tools from the site, and it’s perfect for parents who want to keep their children’s brains engaged throughout the holidays.

Some parents worry that their kids will stop learning during the summer break, but it’s the ideal time for kids to be creative – a crucial area in child development.

Slowing Down For Summer Good Times

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Today is the first day of my summer. I write this at home, at my work desk, looking into the garden. Which is something I can do now I am no longer tied to an office; I can write from my kitchen table or sofa or the coffee shop round the corner. In pants or PJs or belly tops, not dry clean-only dresses and heels that pinch. Freedom!

School isn’t over for another couple of days so I’ve been feeling like I should take stock. My life has been so busy and completely exhausting these last few months and I know I always say that. But this time I have intentions to change. I think it’s good to be busy and active, feel accomplished and get things done, but I’d quite like to stop for a little while. Slow down, be more of a mother, write more. Remember what I want to do, not what I feel obligated to do.

That’s what our summer is going to be about. Mothering and fun. With a bit of travel and friends and food and drink and experiences. And work, because those school shoes don’t buy themselves, but work on my terms rather than anyone else’s.

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Do you remember what your first memory was? I do. It was my fifth birthday party and I remember the cat cake, the bouncy castle and the magician. It was Elfie’s fifth birthday last week and I want her to have happy memories from now onwards – I don’t want her to remember her mum being rushed and stressed, not being able to read to her because she was taking work phone calls late into the evening. So the brakes are going on, I’m officially slowing down.

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SUMMER. Summer is my favourite, it always has been. As a child summer meant sandy trips to Bournemouth, the paddling pool, our Ragley Hall season ticket, garden football matches. Summer meant outdoors and fresh air and long evenings playing with friends until the sun went down. (Summer also means my birthday. Hooray, birthdays!)

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A few weeks ago pre-Britmums I went for breakfast with the team behind summer at Boots. That sounds pretty grand, but yep, there really is a whole army of people there whose job it is to make summer safe and fun for us all! I always think Boots is a really special place. Like my old friend John Lewis it’s a British institution; I used to live and work down the road from them in their village-sized Nottingham head office and they are one of those brands I completely trust. Boots are all about families and making sure we have maximum fun – safely.

Our meeting wasn’t just about croissants and granola – we were there to learn more about how to stay happy this summer and it truly was an informative session. For example, did you know that the sweat glands on your feet can produce up to half a pint of fluid a day in hot conditions?! We got a chance to speak to the experts on some summer issues that affected us and our families and it was really really interesting and informative. Here were my important takeaways:

Hayfever

As a hayfever sufferer I’ve been feeling the effects of the pollen up til now which is something I take one-a-day tablets for, but I’d never thought to ask the advice of a pharmacist on what more I could do to help myself. When I say I suffer I mean I really suffer, there are days when my hayfever is just completely unbearable: snotty, sneezy, itchy ears and throat, blocked up head, lethargic. Up until now I’d just been getting on with it but the Boots pharmacist advised me that a nasal spray would be my best first defence against the pollen. This advice was literally life-changing, I’ve been using a nasal spray ever since and my discomfort is almost all gone.

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Sun protection

We all know how important it is to protect ourselves from the sun, but did you also know you can be exposed to UV rays when the weather is overcast? I didn’t! 40% of UV exposure occurs when you aren’t in direct sunlight so it’s mega important to wear sun cream throughout the season, even when you can’t see the sun.

I think it’s risky to wear anything less than factor 50 (overprotective mum alert) but if, like me, you still want a bit of colour then I’d recommend Boots Soltan Tan Prolonger aftersun. I use this every summer and it will give you a gorgeous natural glow.

Your eyes

Eyes are ten times more sensitive to UV damage than skin, so protecting them both is really important. Luckily my two love to wear sunglasses and getting them in shades as often as possible is vital – we keep a pair in the house for the garden and one in the car for when we’re out and about, too. At least this seems to be my excuse to pick up a new pair of Ray Bans for myself every time I’m within shopping distance of an airport…

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To celebrate #SummerGoodTimes Boots are helping us have an unforgettable family Summer experience in August. I’ve decided to re-create one of my favourite summertime activities; Bournemouth beach with my favourite people. Buckets and spades, the land train, Mr Whippy ice creams… I can’t wait to show my two how it’s done, British summer-style ;)

What are your summer tips?

 

The Conservatory Plan

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I’ve been thinking a lot about space in our house recently. Our home is not palatial – we love it very much – but sometimes I have to admit we do get on top of each other a little bit. The thing with children (those lovely little rascals) is that they grow all the time – mine are sprouting up like weeds and it seems that the more they grow the more things they require. Toys, school books, clothes, Kinder eggs… their belongings just seem to multiply as they grow taller.

The other thing about children is that they are very loud. I know it’s not just mine, and in fact I know that some are even louder, but sometimes when I’ve had a long day at work and am ever so slightly fraught I do wonder how nice it would be to have a little bit of quiet. But there’s just no space for it in our sweet little two bedroomed house.

That’s open plan living for you, I suppose. For me to feel like I’m on top of the situation in my home toys have to be neatly put away, plates immediately stacked in the dishwasher and all belongings where they should be – neat and tidy. Because you can’t just shut all the children’s things in a room – they have to be put away immediately otherwise the living space looks like a bomb site. It’s a hard slog, but it’s how our home is set up at the moment.

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I’ve looked at our extension options. Our garden is huge and could well afford a few metres borrowed off it for the sake of a bigger lounge and another bedroom. But a glazed extension is expensive, and do I really need that extra bedroom to clean?

One option I’ve been thinking about is a new conservatory. I can praise conservatories til the cows come home; I had one in my old rental property and it was just wonderful. It felt like you were in the garden (without actually being outside obviously) and was such a relaxing space to take a book and a cup of tea (oh OK then, glass of wine) to unwind at the end of the day. It was toasty warm when the sun streamed through in winter and was somewhere bright and beautiful the kids could play with their toys.

Plus – most importantly – there were doors! So if the noise of the children ever got too much for me I could happily squirrel myself a way for a calm 10 minutes, looking out over the garden until there was peace once more.

I’m all for conservatories – such a great way to add square footage to your home without breaking the bank. What do you think?

DIY home security tricks and tips: How to keep your loved ones safe

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The most recent crime statistics from the website UK Crime Stats show that while robbery and burglary may have declined slightly, total crime figures for April 2015 come to 474,730 across England and Wales. A total of 33,084 properties reported burglaries, while anti social behaviour increased by 16,877 between March and April.

Combatting crime

If you make your house as safe as possible you will feel more secure and you don’t have to spend huge amounts of money in order to carry out these modifications. Invest in a security grill from www.securitydirect.uk.com, to protect your doors or windows and you can install other security precautions to further safeguard your property and your loved ones.

Light up your life

One of the most effective ways of deterring a criminal is make sure that your house is lit up at night. You don’t have to install a lighting system that resembles the Blackpool illuminations, but you want to rest assured that your house won’t look attractive to any passing criminal.

Invest in a motion sensor lighting system. Ebay, among other resources, has many of these on sale and anyone who can read an instruction manual will be able to install one of these inexpensive safety devices.

Gardens are especially enticing to burglars so make sure that your back garden and any garden doors are protected at all times. You may secure your home as much as you like but if someone can gain access to your property through a back gate, or climb over a hedge, you’re making life a lot easier for the passing thief.

An efficient alarm system will help

The website DIY Doctor suggests ‘if you are a fairly competent DIYer you will be able to fit a self install security system with no problems.’ The website advises that a Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) that works with a SIM card on your mobile phone is an efficient option if you are away from your home and someone tries to gain entry to your property and triggers the alarm. You’ll be immediately notified on your phone of the break in and you can contact your local police and ask them to investigate in your absence.

You could also install a GSM system in the home of an elderly relative. If they are upstairs in bed and a thief gains entry downstairs, your relative will know that you’ll be able to take appropriate action on their behalf. Panic buttons are also an excellent idea, especially for frail and vulnerable residents. The alarm raised by pressing the button will be patched through to a control centre and help will be summoned.

Neighbourhood Watch is an invaluable resource

With an increasing number of people working from home, communities are no longer deserted during the daylight hours. Joining the local Neighbourhood Watch can boost your home security. Once you’ve placed their sticker in your window, the prospective criminal might think twice before trying to gain access to your property. Belonging to Neighbourhood Watch will also bring your insurance premiums down, which is always a good thing.