Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Dyspraxia and learning to drive

So I planned to take part in Blogtober '17 - blogging everyday and linking up to HexMumBlog. However, such is my life at the minute it is now day three and this is the first post I have written!

Time seems to be slipping away rather quickly  and I am not the most organised person, in fact it is thanks to the dyspraxia - lack of organisation is one of many traits/symptoms.  There are many symptoms and signs - poor organisation, poor posture and fatigue, poor coordination to name just a few.

Bizarrely I didn't even know I was dyspraxic until I was in my thirties and ready to drop out of uni.  As a child I was the clumsy one, the one that needed to pay more attention in school, the daydreamer, the child that never managed to finish their work, the one that couldn't throw or catch a ball so was never picked for teams or was always the last person to be picked.  Even as a mature student who struggled so much, I thought I was stupid, I couldn't concentrate, write fast enough, my short term memory was quite shocking, note taking during lectures just never happened - I can not write, and listen at the same time. I was so luckily that one of the counsellors at college was aware of dyspraxia and managed to persuade me to stay - I will forever be grateful to that college counsellor. 

I saw an educational psychologist and the rest is history as they say.  A little help in the right places and some extremely helpful software, the person that left school with only 3 GCSE's at grade C (I did achieve a couple more later on) managed to earn a Certificate of Higher Education with Merit in computer programming and is now studying for a physics degree!

But do you know what I can't do? I can't drive...I am 38 years old and I just can't drive! I have tried, many times, never even got as far as test day which I guess is no surprise considering it took me three attempts to pass my cycling proficiency all the way back in primary school, no really, it actually did!  Every driving lesson I took, my brain could not compute how to change gear, signal, stop, go forward, clutch, gas at the same time and don't even get me started on which is left and which is right....

Image Source

But I do plan to learn, I will learn.  I will one day get my old style volkswagon beetle that I lust after! After my diagnosis (I am a little loathe to call it a diagnosis - it's not an illness after all - but just can't think of another word to use), I found the Dyspraxia Foundation site - a wonderful resource both for the person who has dyspraxia and those in that persons life - teacher, parent etc.

The site gives a number of useful tips for adults with dyspraxia who wish to learn to drive (and for many other scenarios in life). 

Some of the tips suggested for the adult with dyspraxia who wishes to learn to drive:

  • Learning in an automatic car rather than a manual, this would remove one element of struggle.
  • For the written element, it is OK to ask for extra time.
  • Look for schools that cater for learner drivers with disabilities 
For futher information about learning to drive with dyspraxia I would highly recommend checking out Dyspraxia Foundation - Driving with Dyspraxia page.

The site is also a useful resource for many other situations for you or your child (my eldest is also dyspraxic) may encounter.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Leek and Potato Soup

Well Autumn is well and truly here! And with Autumn come walks through crunchy fallen leaves, nights drawing in earlier, snuggling with warm jumpers, the heating on (yes, I have put it on much to Dude's chargrin!), hot chocolate and warm, nourishing soup!

One easy soup I enjoy with a warm, crusty bread is leek and potato and it really is so quick which as a busy Mum it is a bonus!

Picture bread torn and on wooden board.  flowers in jug vase


The ingredient list is short with very little prep involved including very little measuring also!

  • Leeks - approximately 3 large, chopped length ways and then into inch long pieces.
  • Potato - 1 large, peeled and cubed into one inch cubes (or there about, no need for a ruler!)
  • Stock - I use chicken but you could use vegetable instead if you are vegan/vegetarian  I use about 1 litre.
  • garlic = 3 cloves, crushed
  • onion - 1/2 large onion finely chopped
  • celery - one stalk, chopped 
  • oil - about a tbsp
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter - about a teaspoon
  • Crusty bread or home made croutons (I just chop up crusty bread into chunks, toss in plenty of oil, season and roast until golden brown) to serve.


1. Whatever I am cooking, I like to prep everything before I start cooking so that the actually cooking bit goes smoothly and I know that I have everything I need!   So first chop your leeks length ways and wash thoroughly - they often have sand and soil inside them - the only time sand is acceptable in your food is sandwiches at the beach!  Once washed, chop into smaller pieces - about an inch in size.  Also, chop onion, crush garlic and prepare stock if using cubes.

2. Gently fry onion, celery and garlic in the oil and butter until the onion is just softened.

3.  Add cubed potato and continue to gently fry for about a minute.

4. Add stock and bring to boil.

5 Add chooped leeks and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.

6.Season to taste and then blend - I find using an immersion blender easiest and least messy!  You can have as lumpy or as smooth as you like.

Tip: If you have a little one joining you with soup - then either really thick soup would be best  or putting soup in a cup for them (but you obviously don't need reminding test the temperature before giving to them).  My little one enjoys soup in a cup and it's not too messy - well as non-messy as a two year old and soup can be! ha!

Hope you enjoy!

Breastfeeding - My Story

I wrote this post during Breastfeeding week but just couldn't muster the courage to hit publish.  Thinking about it made me question whether I should just hit the trash button, after all, breastfeeding week is about encouraging breastfeeding, the emphasis should maybe be on success - but mine wasn't a breastfeeding success story.  Mine was a long eight months of tears (mine and baby's), of pain, of feeling like a failure.

My Story

In January 2015 my second bundle of joy was born, a whopping 9lb 9.5oz.  I had gone in with the assumption that I was going to breastfeed but knew things might not work so took a carton of ready made formula into the hospital just in case but really was not planning on using it - and for the 24 hours after labour we were in hospital I didn't.  I got her to latch (though in hindsight not very well I don't think).  I sat in that chair in my private room off the ward and held my baby, at first it seemed ok, she seemed to latch on.  The first midwife saw that I had her at my breast and was happy with that as she seemed to be feeding well but then things started to go down hill.  She started screaming when I tried to get her to latch. She wouldn't stay on. By the time we got home late on the Monday night, a whole 36 hours since I had gone into hospital. A whole, 72 hours since I had last slept except for a few brief moments after delivery.

(Image Source)

I was exhausted, I couldn't get her to latch, I cried, I got my husband to give her the bottle of formula - but she wouldn't take more than a few mls of that either.  Eventually she fell asleep and slept for a good 6 hour stretch, as did I.  I didn't know she shouldn't sleep that long. My first child had been so different, she fell into a natural pattern for feeding - four hourly without needing the prompts to wake, to feed.  It had also been 12 years since my last child.

The following morning the midwife made the first of her visits.  We voiced our concerns about her feeding poorly, we were told that she should not sleep like she did for six hours, her blood sugars were probably a little low and we must get milk into her (I also felt a feeling of disapproval that we had given formula, but think this was probably exasperated by my own low mood which was developing - by 11 days post partum I was on a daily dose of anti-depressants).

We began to feed hourly around the clock upon medical advice. One of us would sleep for two hours and then we would swap. I expressed some milk which was basically force fed via spoon, syringe, cup - anyway we could get it into her.  12 long weeks I tried, desperately to feed her at the breast and with an attempted top up from a bottle of expressed milk and when I couldn't express, formula. I had support from a NHS lactation consultant/midwife who came to the house, I attended breast feeding clinics, slowly she dropped through the centiles from 98th to 25th by 12 weeks old. This resulted in a referral to a consultant within a week, and still I continued to express milk as she wouldn't or couldn't feed very well, although the doses of Gaviscon were helping somewhat.

I found the whole experience in those earlier days emotionally draining. I dreaded my beautiful baby girl waking up for a small feed. She would latch and suck and come off, cry and the cycle would repeat. I would eventually have to feed her some expressed milk but she would do the same with the teat on the bottle, and the same if I tried formula - all the while she was getting more and more upset and taking such small amounts.   I wanted my baby to feed that was my main priority but I also desperately wanted to feed my baby the way I wanted, the way I thought I had to, the way nature intended, they way I thought I had to to be a good Mum .  Even thinking about it now, 2.5 years my heart aches just a tiny bit.

(Image Source)

Going out of the house with my bottles of milk, even knowing it was milk I had expressed whilst stuck to a pump for the previous hour just to get enough to feed her made me feel like I was letting her down. Stupidly, as it was breast milk I was giving her, breast milk I was spending every spare minute expressing at the cost of spending valuable time with my other child and with my new baby.

I felt eyes look at me, or I thought I did, judging me, wondering why I wasn't feeding my baby the way nature intended.  I felt ashamed.  I hated leaving the house.   I decided illogically, that I had to show people I was a good mum, so I bought a load of cloth nappies, made sure I always had her in her sling as I thought these would make people think I was a good Mum even if I was sticking a bottle in my poor child's mouth (looking back, I did enjoy those close moments in the sling, even with the ongoing pain from SPD and split abdominal muscles from the pregnancy - not because I thought people would see a good mum, but because those close moments kept a bond there when my mood got lower).

Eventually, she was diagnosed with allergies. She had a cows milk protein allergy, soy and egg allergy and if I consumed fish or raisins they seemed to affect her negatively though no allergy to these was diagnosed. We were prescribed allergy friendly milk by the consultant, given guidance from the dietitian to ensure both she and I were getting all the nutrients we needed, as I was still expressing milk for her.  Even with her diagnosis I still felt deep down that I was failing my little girl. I continued to spend many an hour sat with my double electric pump trying to get as much breast milk as I could so I wouldn't have to give her the prescription formula.  I remained dairy, egg, fish and soy free so that I could try to feed my baby.  By four months we were able to stop waking her during the night (these feeds by this point were up to two hourly) but she started to wake of her own accord. Each time she awoke, I would try to get her to latch and she would suckle and then she would start crying and I would give her a bottle which she would eventually take, she would try to suckle, she would pull away and eventually the bottle would empty but my eyes would be full. Full of tears of sadness, tears borne of guilt as I felt, still, that I was failing as a Mum.

My companion for 8 months

At six months, we began the weaning process. We introduced food, she loved it, still the pump was out, still I was neglecting most things so that I could just pump a little bit more, I cried when I knocked that bottle over, I cried when my pump didn't seem to be working as well anymore.  I hired a hospital grade pump in a vain attempt to get more milk.  Two more months, we stumbled along. Gaviscon in the bottles, every night attempting to get a good latch that she would stay on for.  I wanted to feed my baby, I saw Mums at baby and toddler group feeding their children, little babies, older babies, toddlers. I wanted to feed my baby.

The end of our feeding story

Then when my beautiful girl was 8 months old I saw the light so to speak.  I made a life changing decision to put the pump away.  It was a sad day, but it also was day of brightness. A cloud lifted.  I felt I had missed 8 months with my not so new born.  She would settle best for my husband (in the very early days she would settle ONLY for him) at this point which up until then I had put down to me being an awful mum. But I realised that actually, the reason she wouldn't easily for her mummy was because her mummy was stressed and it fed to her.  As I accepted our feeding story had come to an end my bond grew stronger with her, now here we are and the girl wants nothing more than to spend time with her mummy, with me.  That usually involves clambering over me or waking me at 4.30 to play!

(Image Source)

I have come away from this feeding experience not necessarily a stronger person, but I understand now - it doens't matter if your baby wears cloth nappies or disposables, is carried in a sling or in their pram, is fed formula or breast milk.  Yes, I know breast milk carries many benefits but to me, in my opinion, forming a bond with your baby is important, your maternal mental health is important. Loving your baby and yourself is important. Probably the most important.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Degusta Box Review - My First Box!

Disclaimer: I bought this box myself, I wasn't paid nor asked to do this review and my views are entirely my own!

I am not sure about you, but I love watching unboxings, cleaning vids, day in the life (DITL) etc on Youtube (I'm nosy, what can I say!) and this is where I first came across Degusta boxes - I was a little intrigued and after finding a voucher online (it was a Degusta ad on Google) which brought the cost down to £5.99 I decided to give it a whirl.  A little bit of a boost before the kids (or kid in our case - the youngest is still by my side at all times...like even when I go to the loo!) went back to school.

After placing my order, I received an email telling me that my parcel would be delivered between 5th and 10th of September (I placed my order on 31st of August).  I then received notification that the parcel would arrive on the 5th and between 10am and 11 am - I do like an efficient service that doesn't see me stuck in all day with a bored toddler only for the parcel to arrive at teatime!

Anyways, back to the box! The excitement! I love a good suprise!

The box itself was a good size and the weight indicated that it wasn't full of bubble wrap or other weightless packing (though the contents were packed well and securely, just not excessively!)

Monday, 28 August 2017

Toothbrushing Tips For Toddlers!

OK, if your child is anything like mine then the teeth-brushing will have been a bloomin' nightmare! We've had screaming, crying, shouting, running away, sealing of lips....you name it we've had it! Bizarrely though, it isn't the tooth-brushing that is the issue, nor the taste of the toothpaste (she loves that and it is mint!).  It is the independence - she wants to brush her own teeth which is great, I am all for encouraging her to be independent where appropriate.  But she isn't managing to brush properly - she just sucks the toothpaste off and then wants more, and then waves the brush around in her mouth without even connecting with her teeth!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Feeding the fussy family

I struggle with meal planning.  I do cook some meals from scratch but my repertoire of meals that everyone will eat is severely lacking and some days I really don't want to cook three or four different meals.

Vegetable Chow Mien..gave it a trial run last week! 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

3 Favourite Kitchen Gadgets

I love creating meals (and desserts!) in the kitchen, but I also love my time. Being a parent (to children that think sleep is for the weak) and an undergrad student - me time is rare so things that give me joy whilst saving me time are most definitely worth having.

I thought I would share with you my 3 favourite kitchen gadgets I have bought (or been bought) over the last few years that save me so much time.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

A day out in Blackpool - Sealife Centre

The summer holidays are upon us, so time to find things to keep the small (and not so small) ones occupied to prevent cabin fever setting in!

Blackpool Tram

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Toddler Day Bag - What To Pack!

This morning I caught myself without my usually well packed toddler change bag when taking a trip to the doctors.  I realised (the hard way!) how helpful certain bits are so thought I would share with you what I normally pack in my toddler day bag! It definitely came in helpful earlier this week when we took the train to Blackpool for a fun day of Sealife and rides!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Lentil and beef bolognese.

My children are fab at eating vegetables and fruit but they have some very odd fussiness when it comes to food. I often find I end up having to cook different things for everyone which is a real pain in the backside. Squidge won’t eat red things, Bob's funny with textures, I'm not a big meat lover and Dude's not a big veg/pulse lover (though he'll try everything I make and has been suprised once or twice by liking something he thought he wouldn't!)....ok, it's not just the kids!

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Geeky Girl Tag

I'm a geek and I'm proud! There, I said it! I'm a physics student who has qualifications in computer programming, and loves nothing more than sitting playing a computer game or two with the teen or watching Agents of Shield or Hellboy for the millionth time (when the toddler allows!).  So when Debbie from "My Chaotically Eclectic Life" tagged me in the Geeky Girl Tag I was really pleased as it is right up my street!

I really am a Geeky Girl!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Instant Pot Sausage and Bean Casserole

A stock (and freezer) cupboard meal, perfect if you haven't remembered to plan anything (not that anything like that happens in this house....honest! ha! )

I used to make this in a slow cooker but last year I bought an Instant Pot, which is fab! An Instant Pot if you haven't come across one is an electric pressure cooker (none of that scary rattling pan action on the stove top!) first and foremost but it also has other functions.  There are settings for rice, slow cooker, steam to name a few and in this house gets used at least 3 times a week.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

3 Ingredient Coconut and Strawberry Frozen Treats (Dairy Free)

When Squidge was born we had real issues with weight gain - it turned out she had not only reflux but a milk, soy and egg allergy (also fish and raisins didn't agree) - as she was fed breast milk (I won't say breastfed, but that is a story for another day) I had to avoid all these foods/ingredients as it fed through to her.  Also, when she was weaning we still had to avoid all these foods, luckily though she has grown out them.

Now, I don't know about you but I love a nice cool ice cream or ice cream ice lolly to cool down but I had to avoid these or buy allergy friendly which to be honest is quite expensive.  So I came up with these frozen coconut and strawberry frozen treats (you could substitute the strawberries for other fruit - it would work just as well I imagine!).

The ingredient list is so short and the process so quick (well apart from the freezing...that takes a little while!):

Saturday, 15 July 2017

5 reasons I am happy to be an Open University student

So as the schools begin to wind down for the summer I am beginning preparations for my second year as an Open University Student - I have revision to work through ready for the new academic year.  I am studying BSc Natural Science (Physics) and thoroughly enjoying it so far (though it is tough going at times!). I have just completed the first 60 credits and in October embarking on Essential Maths 1  (and then February an exciting new module called Physics and Space!).  I have attended a brick uni and did enjoy my time there and each has their own merits but as I am currently studying with the OU so thought I would share with you some of what I personally enjoy about the Open University and being a student there:

  • Flexibility -  I am a stay at home parent and my time is split between between a young teen and a toddler so I can fit my study around their needs (taking to groups and clubs and what-nots!) but I am looking to go back to work very soon (the toddler begins nursery next year) and I love that I will still be able to carry on with my studies and eventually (with hard work) obtain my physics degree!

Old faithful ..(that is the name I gave my calculator...odd? me?)

Monday, 10 July 2017

Terrible Twos!

Do you ever have one of those days? Yeah me too. In fact today is one.  GAHHHH!

Woke up feeling a bit out of sorts but thought, no problem (after copious amounts of caffeine and a grumble or two) squidge and I will go for a walk, blow the cobwebs away.   We are really lucky to live near a nature reserve and orchard and plenty of parks even though we are slap bang in the middle of a city.

Got us both dressed, loaded a backpack with snacks and drinks and put Squidge's Little Life Gruffalo Backpack on.  We did initially use basic reins but she decided that she was going to cry every. single. time. that she had to wear them - in the last few months she has become a darter, running and only seeming to understand 'stop' and 'freeeze' during the daily game of musical statues that she insists we play! So reins, or now Little Life Backpack it is!

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Indoor Toddler Fun

We found ourselves stuck indoors yet again yesterday, this time for work being done in the house - the other days were because of a virus - Squidge first (as I posted earlier in the week), followed by Bob (the teen) and me straight after.   I have had to find things to keep Squidge occupied as she has been stuck in for over a week (bar a trip to toddler group with Dude on his day off once she was well).

So yesterday we did craft, lots of glue and pom poms and glittery bits and feathers...slightly gloopy mess but Squidge loves it!

However, one of Squidges favourite things to do if stuck indoors (which she isn't keen on!) is make scones and much to Dudes delight we have made quite a lot over the last few days!  It is a great way to let littlies (yup...that is a word..honest!) help in the kitchen - weighing, mixing, rolling, squashing and cutting...oh the mess! ha!

Monday, 3 July 2017


Five times last night Squidge (the toddler) was up....god I am knackered...she does have an excuse though, poor little mite is ill, she has been plagued by a virus for a few days now.

But it means that I am more in need of coffee than ever.  I am not a morning person at the best of times but on so little sleep it is not fun!

I am a bit of a coffee philistine really, normally.  I enjoy a Starbucks occasionally, or a caramel latte at Esquires coffee shop in the local town centre (I actually had the best. coffee. EVER. from a little coffee stand in a  seaside town on a day trip, just can't remember the name of the coffee brand mores the pity), but anyway at home I normally drink cheap coffee (think supermarket own brand but not the very cheap) but this morning I think I will have one of the dudes Nespresso pods as a pick me up!

I got him a Nespresso (Inissia) machine for Christmas last year, we had £50 budget each and I found this small compact one on Amazon on special offer...I think it retails at about £70 in the shops. His last machine broke a couple of years ago and we never got around to replacing it.

Friday, 30 June 2017

My first post!! :-)

Argh! This is a little bit scary, the first blog post! I love reading blogs and watching vlogs and thought heck, why not have a go, so here I am.

My name is Tess, Mum to two children (teen and toddler…’tis fun in our house at times!), an OU student (I have just completed the first year studying for a physics degree), and wife to a long suffering dude! Oh and I have a slight exclamation mark addiction, but will try to tame them!

The name for my blog came about as I don't want to write about just fashion (I have my own style...not entirely convinced it can be called fashion though!), or food (that I DO know about!), or crafts, or my studies or just any one area.   I will likely write about anything that is on my mind at any one time hence the name hotchpotch...a mixture of things.

I will write about all these things - a few reviews of my favourite recipes and kitchen gadgets (have I told you yet how much I love my KMix stand mixer?? No?? I will do!), about my attempts at make-up (38 and still haven't mastered eyeliner!), I will write about my studies, days out with my children, I will write about the pretty stationary and cool outfits from Primark (I guess my teen would say I have suddenly made it uncool by using the word cool...I think the yoofs say sick now?....god I feel old!).

If you are still with me and haven't fallen asleep through boredom and would like to read more about me and my random goings on then I will try to post at least once a week and will hopefully see you soon :-)

Tess x