A Smear could save your life. 

It’s cervical cancer awareness week! This year it runs from the 22-28 of January and I’ve decided to share my story. 
It was August 2008, I was 29, in good health and I got my routine smear test appointment through the post. As I did every three years I rang the surgery to make an appointment.  But this year was different. Jade Goody the big brother reality television star had passed away from cervical cancer in March. She left behind two young children and I couldn’t help think about her as I made the appointment. I too had two small children, Harrison was three and Connie was 8 months old. 
A couple of weeks passed and I attended the GP for my smear, my Doctor is lovely and put me right at ease. She did the smear and said the same thing she had on previous occasions “everything looks good, I’ll send these away and you’ll get the results in a few weeks.” 

A few weeks passed and life was busy with the kids, I was still on maternity leave enjoying being a mum. I forgot all about the smear results,  until one day in October my mobile rang and it was the surgery asking me if I could come in for a repeat smear. At first I thought maybe they had lost my first test. 

So off I went  to the surgery. I sat in the waiting room and when I heard my name called made my way to the room. This time I could sense something wasn’t quite right. Call it a sixth sense or years of working as a nurse but I knew this wasn’t going to be the usual “Hi Claire how’s the family, kids getting big” type chat. 
My GP sat at her desk and started to read the computer screen. I had, had my smear in the middle of August and it was now nearing the end of October, results that are usually back in a couple of weeks had taken almost 9 weeks. Put down to the “Jade effect”  the screening service all over the UK had seen a sharp rise in women attending for a smear putting increased pressure on the system. 

The news wasn’t what I had expected! My results had shown I had CIN 2 ( CIN 2 – is where abnormal cells have been detected and there’s a moderate chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is usually recommended). 
I was shocked, I had never had an abnormal result before, I had no symptoms and I found myself asking why me? Everything went through my head and all I could think about was I’m I going to get cancer? My paternal grandmother had died at the age of 61 of uterine cancer I was scared. 
That day was a blur, the GP decided against a repeat smear and instead arranged for a appointment at the local hospital for a colposcopy. The next couple of weeks I didn’t function and couldn’t get past the fact my results had been abnormal. 
My appointment came through for the colposcopy and I attended my appointment. I had read the literature sent out with the appointment and googled everything I could possibly get my eyes on! I knew what to expect. 

The Doctors and nurses were lovely, putting me at ease explaining and carrying out the test. It was a little uncomfortable but I kept thinking I had two babies I can do this! 

The colposcopy was straightforward the Doctor was able to tell me there and then I was going to need further treatment. The area on my cervix however was bigger than she had expected given my results and instead of being able to treat me during the colposcopy, she would need to arrange a day procedure appointment. She took some samples to send away and said she would see me in a couple of weeks. 

Waiting was the worst. I was supposed to be enjoying motherhood. The day came and I was admitted to hospital to have a procedure known as (LLETZ) – large loop excision of the transformation zone. A procedure were a heated wire loop is used to remove the abnormal cells. LLETZ is usually carried out while you’re awake using local anaesthetic to numb the cervix and once recovered you can go home the same day. However the Doctor had previously advised that because I had such a large area and I was such an emotional mess she would put me to sleep if I preferred. So that was it! A general anaesthetic it was going to be. I remember the day clearly , I sat up on the ward with the other women in my theatre gown and fancy stockings waiting for my turn. I was a mess, they say nurses make the worst patients and they are right in my case! I cried like a baby walking down to theatre, it wasn’t just Cancer that was freaking me out it was the fear I wasn’t going to wake up! 

The surgery went well, the anaesthetic nurse came to visit me afterwards up on the ward and we had a laugh at the fact I had got from 10 down to 2 and was still awake! They had to give me quite a bit of medication to get me to sleep and it would probably take me a little longer to feel totally with it and ready to go home.
I left that afternoon thankful to still be alive, and happy to be going home to my babies. 

A week later I had a follow up appointment at the hospital to discuss the result of the biopsies taken during surgery and generally check I was healing. I had bled quite a bit after the surgery and was still spotting. I had a little discomfort but nothing a couple of paracetamol didn’t sort. I thought I was on the homeward straight. But my journey didn’t end there. 
Nothing could have prepared me for what was next. I sat there in front of the consultant that had done my surgery, she had my notes in her hand. Looking over the top of her glasses she started to tell me that surgery hadn’t got rid of all the abnormal cells as expected and that the biopsy taken had shown CGIN. ( CGIN is were the there’s a high chance the cells will become cancerous and treatment to remove them is recommended).

She recommended further treatment that would require more surgery and this time she recommended a cone biopsy. A cone biopsy is a minor operation to cut out a cone-shaped piece of tissue containing the abnormal cells only tends to be used if a large area of tissue needs to be removed. 

Yet again I found myself thinking the worst! A couple of weeks passed and I had the surgery, and got the news I had waited months for. They had got rid of all the abnormal cells. The next step would be a smear at 6 months for a year then yearly smears depending on the results. 

I’m now 8 years on from 6 months of stress, appointments, tests and two operations. I have kept up to date with my smears and I happy to report they have all been normal. I even carried another pregnancy to term despite the cone biopsy weakening my cervix. 
I thank my lucky stars every day I attended for my routine smear. The doctor said the changes in my results between initial smear, colposcopy and biopsies taken in theatre she had no doubt the story would have been a very different one had I not attended for my smear when I did. It was unfortunate that my initial results had taken so long to be reported, however I feel the outcome would probably have been the same. 
Don’t hesitate, put off or make excuses for not attending for a smear. 5 minutes could save your life, it did mine. 

The facts, 
Every day in the UK 9 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer

3 women lose their lives from the disease every day

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women aged 35

75% of cervical cancers are prevented by cervical screening (smear tests) 

However 1 in 4 women do not attend this potentially life-saving test  source Jo’s Trust

New year and plenty of Christmas memories made!

I have neglected my blog for a few weeks. There just haven’t been enough hours in the day. 
Christmas holidays and kids off school for half-term made for a busy household. Nothing new there! 

On the run up to Christmas I find it difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. While everyone is itching to put their Christmas trees up as soon as December arrives, I on the other hand tend to wait until the last minute. I’m not sure what it is, whether it is the clutter of the decorations around the house, or my reluctance to just run with the excitement! However once in the mood for Christmas there’s no stopping me! 
When the children were born I decided we would have some Christmas traditions we would do each year. From the elves bringing the kids their new pyjamas in time for Santa arriving, to eating out with family on Christmas Eve to making Christmas cookies to give out to family and friends. Then there are the Christmas movies!! 
Everyone loves Christmas movies, don’t they? I’m one of those 30 something females who gets rather excited by the appearance of the Christmas channels on the sky planner!  There’s nothing quite like watching a Christmas movie to get you in the Christmas spirit.  There are many great Christmas movies out there from the Home Alone movies to Miracle on 34th Street. And let’s face it there is nothing nicer than sitting with the kids, snuggled in front of the fire under cosy blankets and eating popcorn, watching a movie!

This Christmas we had the pleasure of being invited to see a showing of the Polar Express in the wonderful surroundings of The Ulster Transport and Folk Museum. The Polar Express is a family favourite so we jumped at the chance!   It was arranged by the Pop up cinema club, a company that specialises in  cinema experiences in a variety of unique locations throughout the year. 

So off we went, on a dark December evening, dressed in our Christmas jumpers to the Transport Museum. The excitement levels were high, even for my eldest son who at 11 is a non-believer, but is more than happy to go along with the story of Santa for the benefit of his younger siblings. (Much to my relief.)
We parked the car up and made our way toward the museum. On arrival we were greeted by the friendly museum staff who issued our special tickets for the showing. 

As we made our way towards the train gallery we had our tickets punched in true Polar Express fashion! A conductor, complete with uniform and playing the part to the amazement of the children! 

The surroundings of the museum did not disappoint. 

Before the start of the movie the kids had the opportunity to play and explore some of the restored Trains that are housed at the museum. 

We had Hot Chocolate, Popcorn and Cookies during the showing. 

After the movie as the credits started to roll, a bell started to ring and the appearance of a certain man, dressed in his red suit appeared at the back of the hall! The children were ecstatic and ran to greet him. Santa with the help of the conductor greeted each child and gave them a little bell as a small memento of the evening. Santa was very good with all the children and happily posed for photos! 

We had a fantastic evening and an experience neither the kids or I will forget. Adding to our Christmas memories. 

To book tickets for special showings throughout the year & for further information go to Pop Up Cinema Club.



All opinions are my own.

Christmas Gifts for teachers! 

For your mistle toes!!!
The month of December has passed rather hurriedly and with only two days left before the kids finish school for the Christmas break. The pressure was on to come up with a quick and easy gift to make for the teachers.

With three children all of school age, the amount of teachers, classroom assistants, and specialist teachers all add up so I always look for an easy to make present, that is not only simple to make but cost effective too! 
This year I decided with the help of Pinterest to make these simple nail polish and nail files gift bags for the teachers. 

You will need. 

Nail polish

Nail files

Gift tags

Small gift bags


For your mistle toes printable from www.persialou.com

Firstly I printed out the “printable” on to white paper and cut it to size to fit the gift tag. If you are good at freehand lettering you could skip this stage and just write the message freehand.
For your mistle toes gift tag

Then I added a message in chalk pen to the back of the tag.

Add your message to the reverse

Now you are ready to wrap one nail polish and a nail file in your gift bag. You could add hand cream into your gift bag if you wanted to spend a little more. 
Ready to wrap
Finished teachers gift

Such a quick and easy gift to make for all the female teachers, classroom assistants. 

If you have male teachers to buy for, you could replace the nail polish and file with a pair of socks and still use the same tag! 
Happy making!!



Advent Calendar

Since I was a child I have had a love for finding driftwood at the beach and bringing it home to add to my collection. I have a few larger pieces that live in my garden and a small box of twig size pieces on display in my living room. Over on pinterest there are lots of ideas of things to make and plenty of ideas for christmas. I decided to make an advent calendar with one of the larger pieces from my collection.

This is what you’ll need, 

A large piece of driftwood or similar size branch, string, scissors and pens

(If you do bring home some beach finds be sure to give it a good wash or it will start to smell pretty quickly. I usually fill a bucket with a strong bleach solution and cold water and leave to soak for a few days.)

Start by adding string to each end of the Driftood to act as a hanger. Then carefully add 25 lenghs of string along the branch. You can make these different lengths to add interest to the finished calendar.


Now you are ready to decorate and add the numbers to your little envelopes. 

Once you have numbered the little envelopes you can add your chosen treat or task. 

I wanted the children to think about the run up to Christmas and enjoy the spirit of Christmas. There are plenty of examples of lists on Pinterest. But the kids were a little disappointed I hadn’t included chocolate. Then the lovely Christine from Flouringsdays gave me the idea to include a chocolate coin! 

So I carefully added a single chocolate coin to each of the envelopes once the kids had gone to bed!

I picked these little pegs up from our local pound world but you could pick them up from any good craft supply shop. I used these to attach an envelope to the end of each of the strings.


And there you have it! Such a simple idea for the festive season. You can add foliage of your choice to decorate.
Happy Christmas 



Pallet Tree!

Today marks the last day of November and tomorrow I can talk about Christmas as much as I want! The man of the house says its too early to talk christmas in November so instead I have been slipping a few christmas touches into the house. A few strings of  fairy lights.  You can never have enough fairy lights in my opinion anyway! And a few christmas berries on the mantle.


I love crafts and any excuse to make something for the festive season I’m all over it! I work in a day centre and we love crafts and always make cards and gifts to send home. This year we made simple christmas cards using plain white cards with little gift tags from the store, Tiger. We mounted the tags on to green card and added some glitter! Simple!

Greeting cards made using gift tags from the Tiger Store

I love Pinterest and for years I have been gathering and pinning images of things you can make with a wooden pallet. So this year I was determined to make a pallet tree just in time for the festive season. 

I am a novice when it comes to power tools so if I can do it anyone can.

What you’ll need-

A pallet of any size
A jig-saw or ordinary saw, hammer, ruler and chalk for marking.

Then you can begin. I had my 5 year old to help me! Lay the pallet on the ground with the planks of wood running horizontal, count up from the bottom, using the claw on your hammer, remove the second plank completely. This will expose the central batton and will form your tree trunk.   The third plank is going to be the bottom branch if you want to call it that of your tree. Using the chalk and ruler you need to draw two lines down from the centre of the pallet to the outer edge of the third plank. 

Mark the pallet with chalk so you can see where you need to cut.
Mark the pallet with chalk so you can see where you need to cut.
Once you have marked out the outline for your tree you can begin to cut. Be sure to wear safely goggles when you are cutting the pallet as the wood is rather cheap and will splinter easily.

Using the chalk as a guide to cut
Cut the pallet carefully up both sides of your triangle. Then you are ready to cut the very bottom plank on both sides to form your stand. Using your chalk and ruler measure equal distances and at both sides of your tree trunk and cut with saw or jig-saw. 

You will need to turn your pallet over (depending on the size of it you might need help to do this ). Once turned over you can make the same cuts to the bottom plank at the back. Now that all your cuts have been made, your tree will be free to lift from the pallet. You will also need to make two cuts to the top plank at the back of the stem.

Once all the cuts have been made your tree will be free
There you have it, your pallet tree. I am going to set mine on the front step and decorate it with fairy lights and a star at the top!

Pallet tree is ready to decorate
I’d love to see what you come up with! 

Happy crafting

Not just a glorified taxi service.

When i was growing up I often heard my mum say she felt like a glorified taxi service. I didn’t quite know what she meant. I mean what’s the big deal? I was a teenager who wasn’t old enough to drive so therefore needed my parents to taxi me about. I used public transport to get to and from school, but it was at the weekends and for the after school activities I needed my parents to taxi me about. It didn’t stop when I had passed my driving test at 17,  those after school clubs became pubs and still my parents services were needed, as they yet again played taxi at all hours of the day and night! 
My children haven’t even reached their teenage years and already the past few years I have played taxi service, I now know exactly what my parents meant all those years ago. As I sit and type this post, in I am our local leisure centre cafe. I am surrounded by school children huddled in groups talking or playing on their phones, parents with kids doing their homework. There are tables with one of two adults sitting chatting and then there are those parents, who like me are quietly wishing their life away as they sit and wait for their children to finish swimming, trampolining or gymnastics. 

As the weeks of the school year pass, the faces become familiar as it is the same thing we all do every week! To some like me  it’s an hour each week we will never get back. The leisure centre is to far away from home to drop off and collect later, too far away from the nearest shopping centre and it is winter so it is dark outside so better to stay inside and keep warm. To some it’s an hours peace and quiet, time to sit and watch the world go by, time to sit and have a coffee and chat with friends. To me it’s an hour were I find myself thinking abut the list of things I need to get done or making new list for tomorrow and the week ahead and better still, thinking about the next child I need to collect and drop off to the next activity.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge my children the opportunity  to go to clubs and attend organisations outside of school, after all I have no room to talk I did the same. But I do find myself every week why I don’t have a taxi sign on the roof of my car. Maybe my parents should have got one, they could have passed it on to me!   With three children there are lots of activities and clubs, life revolves around the kids.

I am a working mum,by that I mean I am employed and get a wage. Lets face it all mums are working mums whether or not they get a salary at the end of the month. I work because I have always wanted to have a career. I had all three of my children and worked right up to near their due dates and returned to work after my maternity leave was over. But I am struggling lately with the work/life/children balance. (A post for another day). Family life is busy no matter how many children we have. We are all juggling life. I often dream about that lottery win,  although I should start doing it if I ever stand a chance! 

So until that life changing lottery win I’m not sure if there are any ways around the much needed taxi service, so for now I shall battle on! I would love to hear from you if you have found yourself in a routine of work, kids sleep and how you kept the momentum going?



Is it alright to talk Christmas?

I love the Autumn season, the colours the textures and the crisp leaves underfoot. It is the season that sees us swapping around our soft furnishings making way for the throws and pillows. You only need to go onto instagram to see the wonderful photos that fill our news feeds.

I love the Autumn, I do, the decorating trends that see us all lighting our candles and wrapping up warm and sitting in front of the fire! I have yet to read up on Hygge but I like what I see but I’m still on the Konmarie method of tidying and organising! It may take me until this time next year or maybe the next to complete it! 

So maybe it is the organiser in me that is thankful to see that halloween has now passed and the shops are filling up with their christmas ranges. I love to stay on track with my lists of thing I need to buy and the things I need to do in the run up to Christmas. If you have read my post Wannabe party planner, you will know that I have two birthday parties to organise in December too! 

I love buying from independent stores and supporting local when I can. During my search for the perfect christmas gifts I came across a beautiful page on Instagram The treasured, it is an online shop full of loveliness from British designers and makers. They stock everything from stationary, homeware and gifts. 

I fell in love with their beautiful personalised christmas range. 

Cute Yellow Penguin Christmas Gift Sack

I decided on a Christmas sack, personalised for each of the children. I’m only hoping Hubby won’t be too jealous he didn’t get one!

The sack is made from 100% natural cotton and features a choice of five cute penguin designs and a choice of colours. They are a generous size (w50cm x h75cm) perfect for the children’s smaller gifts and will look perfect beneath the christmas tree on Christmas morning!
Why not take a look over at The Treasured and see if you can help tick of some people on your Christmas Lists. And for a limited time they are offering free UK postage and packaging to my lovely readers and followers over on Instagram using the discount code LITTLEMONKEYS at the checkout!
Happy Shopping!



Gentle parenting, my way. 

A hashtag on instagram and phase used in blog posts and lately has had me thinking what you would call my style of parenting ?

To me parenting is anything but gentle. I have three children. Harrison, my firstborn was delivered early at 36 weeks, when my waters broke and I was later induced as he didn’t want to make an appearance despite a day of pacing the hospital maternity department. His birth was a  speedy 2 hour something delivery (story for another day). Then there was Connie two and a half years later followed by Reubyn three years later. Both of them induced births at around the 38 mark as my consultant wanted to make sure I was in hospital given the speed of my first delivery and he was right! Both births progressed quickly and were around the two hour mark from first twinge to sitting up eating my tea and toast. All totally different births but one thing definitely was the same – they were anything but gentle. 

Let move on to the next few weeks of their lives. They didn’t sleep, all three had silent reflux were difficult feeders. I gave breastfeeding a go but it wasn’t for me I never seemed to get it right. By the time number three was on the way I had already made the decision I wasn’t going to even attempt it. But I had myself together by number three and new exactly what I was doing or at least at the time I thought I did. Learning to parent is a steep mountain to climb and everyone who has ever gone before you will always have an opinion on how you should be doing things. I often heard the phrase, “you know in my day we did it this way” or “we didn’t have those in our day.” But one thing is for sure, I did it my way and each child did well and thrived. 

They will always find their own way!

Parenting for us didn’t come naturally. I struggled being a new mum and after Connie suffered with severe postnatal depression. I used to compare myself to my friends and how they had totally had the whole parenting thing nailed. How they managed to be supermum and have three loads of washing done the housework completed, baked cookies with the kids and still had time to wash their hair and put makeup on before lunch! Most days I would still be in PJ’s come 3pm with yogurt in my hair and scraping some sort of baby mush of every surface my kids had come into contact with. Parenting was anything but gentle. Both hubby and I were absolutely shattered most, if not all of the time and resembled extras from zombie movie. No black eye makeup or pale complexions needed we had that down to a fine art and without even trying! Sleep was something that was in short supply! 

Co-sleeping, I had never heard this term to quite recently. I was selfish when it came to sleeping. I mean we were sleep deprived for pretty much 8 years in a row so if I was going to get a few precious hours sleep I wanted to make sure I had the bed to ourselves so no co-sleeping in our house. Don’t get me wrong there are often weekend mornings when our king size bed has everyone in it or on it!

We teach our children to be confident and happy children

I wish I could say I was the mother earth type but I’m not. In fact I would say I am pretty much winging it on a daily basis in my own unique way.  My work colleagues often laugh at my stories of parenting and the rules that have developed over the years in our house.  We all have rules but it is has been a hot topic when I say my kids don’t have playdough, paint or sand at home! My logic, they get to play with those at school and sand, well its for the beach! And then there’s glitter, dont get me started on glitter. I hate glitter. In fact my hatred for glitter was even known by one of my child’s teachers. When  Connie was in junior school I received a Christmas card from her teacher, addressed to the whole family. To my delight when I opened it it contained more glitter than a disney store snow globe. I was seeing glitter in my carpet well in to the new year! 

Fast forward, the children are now older. There are no babies left in our house. We have a son who’s eleven going on 16, complete with hair gel, too much aftershave and the inability to leave the confines of his bedroom. An 8 year old daughter who is the easiest child to parent, for her anything goes and a 5 year old son who I guess will always be my baby and is never too far from my side.

Three happy children
For me parenting is pretty much anything but gentle. It is a journey into the unknown. Each child arrives, grows and develops at their own pace and with their own ideas and agendas. Believe me when your child wants tomato sauce sandwiches for breakfast and you have repeatedly said no. They will get just help themselves when your back is turned! I like to think of my parenting style as, learning as you go! No two days are ever the same and my approach to parenting is slightly different for each child. They are individuals and need to be treated or parented in an individual way what works for one wont necessarily work for another.

Tomato sauce sandwiches for breakfast!
Raising confident, well adjusted happy and healthy children is our goal and it doesn’t matter what way you do it!


Seven weeks to Christmas Eve! 

Can you believe that we are only seven weeks away from Christmas Eve? It seems like only last month it was Christmas 2015!

I have already started on my Christmas list. With two birthdays in our house the week before Christmas it pays to stay one step ahead. 

For those of you who follow Me over on Instagram you will know that I have had the privilege of representing the luxury brand La de da Living. Over the last three months I have been gifted some beautiful items from their range. 

Tea now prosecco later hand stamped vintage spoon

The perfect gift for the prosecco lover!! 

Happy Christmas to a wonderful family, vintage spoon.

A wonderful gift for a special family.
Rustic letter lights
Wash bag from the Living range

Rose gold cheese knives
Personalised jewellery by SHAARD

Add the initials of your loved one to a neckless or bracelet, and choose from a heart or a star. 

On their website they offer an extensive range of products from POP candles, rose gold cutlery to light up letters. They also have a range of items that can be personalised. My favourite range has to be the hand stamped vintage cutlery that can be stamped with phases of your choice or you can choose from one of the many pre-made spoons. There is one for every occasion!!  

The SHARRD jewellery range can also be personalised for the special people in your lives, adding the initials of your loved ones to a bracelet or necklace. I love to receive personalised gifts as much as I love to buy them, there is nothing nicer to receive a gift you know has been chosen with just you in mind.

So why not check out the wonderful range of products available over at La de da Living and you can enter the promotional code brandrep1 at the checkout and receive 20% off.

Happy shopping


*products featured were gifted to me from La de da Living, all opinions and views are my own.*