Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails



I want to blog, really I do.  I want to write jolly little pieces about imaginary friends (believe me, they’re on form) and pieces about how bloody inspirational the Paralympics were.  I want to write rants about the inability of the education system to realise that support for children who require needs to be ready from Day 1 of term and the annoyances of the NHS.

It’s all whizzing around my head but comes out a bit garbled.  Maybe it’s the chest infection (antibiotics, please just do your stuff), maybe it’s being so very very tired, maybe it’s being at a point where I need to clear my head and refocus (or at least thinking I am).   It’s just STUFF.  Some of it really shouldn’t be written down, it’s not right, appropriate and some of it’s just plain rude.

Hopefully normal service will return soon, I’m relying on this – it’ll be fine…


See It, Snap It, Love It – Help

I know the theme for this week was inspired by the collective group of bloggers trying to do their little bit to help Clara over at iwantmymummy.  Clara’s blog has churned my stomach, made me cry and humbled me time after time and so we offered what we could.  The lovely Annie Mammasaurus stopped by yesterday (Sunday) morning and collected what we had – books, toys, a scooter and an easel – all pre-loved but perfectly usable.  Oh, and a cake of course.

So here’s my photo:

The Cheetah Keeper’s sister made Annie some fudge to keep her going on the drive (she’s probably still bouncing off the walls somewhere) and also asked if Beans or Clara needed any of her pocket money to buy things…

Clara has written about the positivity that the group of bloggers has brought her, and used a certain phrase that has stuck with me all evening – so I’ve taken one of my pictures and added that quote:


6 months of Blogging and 5 things that make me happy

I’ve been blogging for 6 months.  6 whole months…of me, my laptop, my camera and a whole load of imaginary friends.  Bits of my history, bits of now, sadness, family life, beautiful (I hope) pictures, some silliness and a fair amount of cake along the way.

So, how to mark this auspicious occasion?  It’s not been a jolly few weeks for me but after You’re Beautiful yesterday I think the blog needs a bit of a smile so I’ve taken the lovely Kate Takes 5 Listography theme of 5 things that make me happy to do so.  I’ve spent too much of today thinking about the word ‘happy’.  It’s not a word I associate with ‘me’ at the moment, it’ll come but it may take a while.  So I’ve chosen 5 things that are helping me get into a better ‘place’:


Washing on the line, drying, with bright blue sky, in February


Things growing that we planted together - these daffodils were planted with the Cheetah Keeper's sister 5 years ago! Spring is on the way


Pepsi Max on special offer in the supermarket. I have a bit of an addiction!


Baking. I'm not very good with compliments but watching people look at, eat and enjoy the cakes that I make is something that baffles and delights me in equal measure


Going to the Zoo. Seeing things (like this Sloth actually moving!), feeding the children's love of learning, being outside in the fresh air and being lucky enough to see these amazing animals on such a regular basis.

Here’s to the next six months – and if there’s anything I write that you particularly enjoy, please let me know.

There’s lots of other happy thoughts over on Kate’s Listography this week – pop over for a bit more feel good blogging



Behaving Yourself – sometimes known as “Doing the Right Thing”

Yesterday I was interviewed by an assessor who was looking at the use of ICT in my children’s school.

For those of you yet to embrace this code it means “Information and Communication Technology” and we were talking about all sorts of stuff – the development of the ‘tech’ that the children have access to, keeping up with that ‘tech’ in a home and school environment, the way my children see “ICT” as a positive (well ignoring the fights over who’s going to go on which website first) and how fantastic it is that the school integrates technology into pretty much every aspect of their teaching and learning experiences.

Then she moved onto asking us about e-safety.  I’m fortunate in that the Cheetah Keeper’s sister comes home and is happy to give me a fairly detailed account of everything that they’ve learnt or done that day – sometimes slightly too detailed but I remain delighted in the fact she wants to tell me, as opposed to signing the ‘code of silence’ that most children adhere to from the minute they go to pre-school.

This term in their ICT lessons they’ve been learning about staying safe online – about how not to put your surname on any websites and checking with your parents before navigating away from a site that they’ve said you can go on.  Awesome (although explaining that I have to put my surname on online payments/orders was a tad tricky).  They’ve also been learning about sending emails; not just the principles of putting a name in the ‘to’ box as an email address and clicking ‘send but also remembering that you need to be polite, and use words properly.

Over the last week or so there’s been a fair amount of discussion in the blogs that I read about how people treat each other.  Mammasaurus, I Want My Mummy, BritMums, The Mummy Whisperer, Who’s the Mummy and Rosie Scribble have all written about it (so far) and there are comments pinging around faster than the biscuit packets can be opened.  It’s now part of the curriculum for the under 7’s to learn the very basics of how we relate to each other online – goodness me, do we really need a revolution, or a learning outcome or instructions on how to behave in a civil manner?  Apparently so.  That’s not one saying we need to be a great loved up bunch of folk who agree on absolutely everything – just ones that can act in a way (especially from the comfort of hiding behind our laptops) that is respectful, fair and appreciative that we all have different views and opinions.

Back in the Autumn I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar for work, that was run by Prof. Roger Steare – all about ethics, corporate responsibility and how they can relate to international trade.  Whilst to some this sounds possibly the dreariest subject in the world, ever, to me this was a chance to rekindle my love of the study of business ethics inspired by Polly who (when she’s not teaching ethics, sales, marketing and other business skills) blogs over at JournalRead.

English: Ethicability: How to Decide What's Ri...Prof. Steare has written the book: Ethicability ® (n) how to decide what’s right and find the courage to do it.

I loved the seminar. I bought the book.  It’s my reading material when *ahem* watching my children doing their gym class. I talk about it (probably too much) at meetings.  I try and use it to make judgements in my home and working life – to assess what the values I live by really are.

It fascinates me – his research, the way in which we behave and the way the society leads us to act in certain ways – how old we are, what we do for a living, what we’ve learned over time, what society ‘expects of us’ all affect the way we, not to put too finer point on it, ‘are’.  How we interact with others, the behaviour choices that we make.

If you visit the ethicability website you can explore your own Moral DNA.  In that many of you reading this will be parents (and possibly Stay At Home ones too) I suspect your ethic of care may be on the high side.  Go and explore – it’s nothing scary but it may make you think!

In the bloggerspehere, conflicts arise all the time.  Opinions differ (and what good reading that makes!), principles and values collide.  Throughout the seminar and the book Prof Steare talks about asking the RIGHT questions and personally, I don’t think we need a revolution, I think we need to ask these questions of ourselves before launching into comments, actions or otherwise…

  • What are the Rules (laws, regulations, codes of conduct, anything you must or must not do – in blogging this could relate to use of text, intellectual property or images)
  • Are we acting with Integrity – what are your principles – do they include things like fairness, courage, discipline, trust, honesty and hope?  I love the BritMums “Blogging with Integrity” strapline – their badge on my blog makes me think before I hit publish.
  • Who is this Good for?
  • Who could we Harm?  Do you really need me to explain these two?
  • What’s the Truth? There’s a biggie.  In some cases the truth is very clear cut, sometimes it isn’t.

Considering how others feel about an issue (as a thought, if it’s been blogged about, the author probably feels quite strongly about the subject!) and thinking about how what you’re doing or writing will make them react is a really good foundation for honest, balanced debate.  Writing something that others disagree with is not wrong if you have thought through what you’ve written – not just done something for the sake of the here and now.  We all make mistakes – but if they’re honest ones, where’s the issue?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love the blogging community.  It makes me sad when people are upset or hurt by other peoples’ actions.  To be able to put our thoughts, feelings, creations and experiences onto our blogs is skill that no generation before us has been able to learn or take enjoyment from – let’s continue to celebrate our diversity, open up the debate, comment, share the love and all those good things – remembering along the way that those words, pictures and occasional moments of sheer bonkers-ness are created by people with real emotions and feelings.  You don’t have to agree, but think about how you share your opinion.





2011 according to the Cheetahs

So 2011 has been the year that the Cheetahs and their keeper found, ahem, fame.  From small beginnings (ie just being annoyingly in shoes when it was time to put them on) and the odd Facebook status update they’ve now got their own blog (ta daaaaaaaaaaa – yes I know you’re reading it) and their keeper’s mother has met, via the wonders of the bloggesphere and Twitter some super lovely people.  So, here’s our review of the year, possibly chronologically correct, and quite possibly not – a lot happens in a year.

January.  The Cheetah Keeper had a gastroscopy that showed that he was doing ok and didn’t need his reflux meds any more.  Huzzah!  He also started Nursery at “Big School” where the staff instantly fell in love with him (and took to the idea of the Cheetahs remarkably well).

February.  The Cheetah Keeper’s mummy had a big operation on her elbow and didn’t get better quite as quickly as she thought she would.  11 months on it’s still nice to have all the feeling in her fingers that had been missing for at least 2 years.  She also received the news that her bid for £5000 of funding for the new school project (that’s me in the turquoise top) had been successful and went round with a smile on her face for ages.

March – I have no idea what happened in March.  We probably went to the zoo – oh, and we drank the Mandeville Monster milkshake for the first time discovering a new (and somewhat expensive) vice treat.

April.  The Cheetah Keeper’s sister turned 6 and was a bridesmaid.  A few(!) cakes were made.  It was gloriously sunny and the Cheetahs, having been very quiet for a while returned.  My facebook status read “…Has put the cheetahs to bed. Not only can these ones run even faster than the ones at Whipsnade, apparently one is inside the duvet cover preparing porridge ready for breakfast in the morning..”  I also got to be grown up and went to Frankfurt for work for 4 days – involving an extremely inebriated Lithuanian who’d lost his car.

The Cheetah Keeper (planning ahead as ever) asked for a steam roller for his birthday so he could smooth out the roads but only a little one otherwise his feet wouldn’t reach the pedals.  Baking totals for April :  42 eggs, 15 packs of butter, 4kg of sugar (at least), 2.5 kg of flour, 1/4 pot baking powder, 1/4 bottle vanilla extract, 162 paper cases, a pint of whipping cream, a litre of yoghurt, 0.5kg ground almonds and a whole load of washing up.

May:  The Cheetah Keeper was 4.  I made some more cakes.  His favourite present was a bag of marbles.  I got very stressed with the NHS (again).  The Cheetah Keeper returned (albeit briefly) to his refluxing ways. We holidayed in Mablethorpe and the Cheetah Keeper & his sister really discovered the joys of playing together on the beach.

June: More cake was made.  About 240 of them.  It was very hot.  I got annoyed with OPC’s (other people’s children) and was immaturely amused by the letter home from school asking us to peg willies together.

July.  The end of term was upon us, it was hot, we were tired.  A magpie got stuck in our chimney and needed rescuing – I was very brave.  Red Riding Hood whipped a pistol from her knickers in the school show, I got cross with the people fighting in adjoining offices and now, being 36 years old, Amazon asked if I would like to pre- order “Gentle Gym for the over 50’s” on DVD.  The Cheetah Keeper was very keen on examining his poo (to see if they looked like tadpoles) and went for his first taster day in Reception. “Mummy, we’re in Ladybirds and the children with the blue writing [on their name labels] are in Buttonflies”

I made some more cake and realised that I was having my last afternoons as a mummy with a pre-schooler.  We holidayed in Wales and I realised that I was, finally, enjoying being with my children rather than just managing/transporting/looking after them.  The Cheetah Keeper’s nosebleeds returned.

August.  The Cheetahs took over.

“Happy days in the paddling pool. The Cheetah Keeper still insists that the coolest summer look is winter fleece hat, sunsuit top, no shorts/pants and wellies – and also that we have 3 small banana people living under our house who get bananas in through holes in the garden, look a bit muddy and drink Capri Sun.”

“the banana people had a play in the paddling pool under the house and then went to London Zoo to see the animals. The cheetahs have been playing jumping in the bath and making really big splashes and the Cheetah Keeper became a robot”

“the cheetahs and the banana people didn’t want to come to the splash park with us this morning so went (in their super speedy car, of course) to the one at London Zoo because it’s better. 2 groups of the cheetahs are going to Spain tomorrow (packing their suitcases at the moment) for 12 days but the other 2 groups are staying at home because the babies are too small to go and need to stay with their mummies.”

“well the banana people all behaved nicely in the car on the way to Norfolk today, as did the cheetahs. The cheetah party going to Spain are flying from Luton Aeroport tomorrow now and those with us enjoyed chicken nuggets, beans and chips for tea, apart from one of the baby ones who liked curry. They all sat with their legs crossed and with their paws in their laps like 5 star listeners.”

“the banana people and the cheetahs seem to have had a subdued day. After enjoying running around the hotel room and jumping in drawers they have been to the beach and done some very big jumps in the sea that splashed to the moon. Other than that I think they have been a tad tired – rather like their keeper”

they then got some crocodile scooters (that didn’t snap as they were going along) and trainers for when they’re doing running races, crocs for ‘other’ shoes and wellies for puddle jumping – with crocodiles on, of course.  They took themselves to London Zoo (and came with us to Whipsnade, of course)

“the cheetahs enjoyed their trip to London – I’m not sure what they liked best – looking out the window on the train (even at the lights in the underground tunnels), watching The Tiger Who Came to Tea/sliding down the banisters at the theatre, having lunch out or visiting the London Transport Museum. Am slightly concerned though that apparently in their car, if people don’t drive like they should, they fly their car into the air and shoot the bad drivers down…”

” The cheetahs have invited 4 groups of 12 dinosaurs to stay. They’ll all be sleeping in G’s bed but only roar little roars. Except at 7am when they need to wake everyone up. They’re friends with the banana people too so may visit them under the house.”  I was obviously thrilled.

And finally, on August 23rd, Cheetahs In My Shoes was born.  You can read the rest of what the Cheetahs have been up to on here.  And for those of you that have, I thank you greatly!

So I will now fast-forward *weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee* to now.  New Years Eve.  The end of 2011.  The Cheetahs have been really busy over the Christmas period – very active and pretty much essential to every day existence.  I think we sometimes forget that Christmas, although a period of great excitement for children, can be a bit overwhelming – for the Cheetah Keeper the changes in routine, the arrival of a whole load of new things in our house and the requirement to eat in different places and do different things was pretty stressful.

So the Cheetahs have been everywhere with us, got up to a whole load of mischief, played on their space-hoppers, had 10 new babies on Christmas Day, received a scalectrix, had a curry on Christmas Eve and generally been there to keep the Cheetah Keeper in a place where he can cope with what’s going on.

And what for 2012?  Another stay in GOSH for the Cheetah Keeper at the end of January and then we’ll see what happens.  I’m not making resolutions, I don’t want to set myself up to fail.  We shall see where life, the Cheetahs, the world and everything takes us – and blog about it on the way.

Much love to you all

The Cheetah Keeper’s Mummy xx

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A Festive Video – that I am very proud to be part of

With every inch of credit going to the wonderful Mammasaurus I’m including this video on my blog because I think it is a fantastic cause and I’m very proud to be involved with it:


My post that links to this can be found here and you can find many, many other amazing posts via Mammasaurus’s blog


Glittering Images

Forgive me, please.  It’s December 20th, 5 more sleeps until the ‘big day’ and I really don’t feel festive.  I have 2 exhausted excited children, presents stuffed in every available space, a tree decorated in the garden and have baked until Sainsburys started to think about refusing to let me buy any more butter.

At the end of November I wrote about why I wasn’t really looking forward to Christmas.  I wrote it in the midst of a change of anti-depressant medication when my ‘plasma levels’ were readjusting themselves in a bid to not have me sitting at my desk, trying my hardest not to cry.  The dark times were back – and although I could identify them I had no reserves left to pull myself out of them.  I would say the trigger this time was the battle with the NHS to get the Cheetah Keeper’s medication – although looking back over the summer, I suspect it had been brewing for some time – my lapses in concentration and somewhat frenetic pace through the school holidays were warning signs that I had failed to recognise.

At the moment, the idea of living in my office (ideally snuggled under my desk next to the heater) seems quite attractive – avoiding the sugar coated Christmas cheer.  Which leads me to question what exactly makes me feel Christmassy and therefore why I am not feeling ‘it’.

I have lovely memories of waking up ridiculously early to look for my ‘stocking’ (pillowcase) from Father Christmas outside my bedroom door.  Apparently from an early age I had been adamant that I was not having a strange man come into my room.  Christmas day walks around the lake with whatever new toy had arrived (be it dolls pushchair, roller-skates, bike) then big family lunch with extended family.

I suspect that depression was becoming part of my life by the time I was 14 – my knees had ‘gone’ and I’d had what was to become the first of many operations.  I was an easy target for the bullies, seriously into my piano playing and had a healthy dose of hormones.  As my knees got back to a functional level (I was 15 or so by then) my elbows started to suffer (poor posture) and therefore essentially I was diagnosed as attention seeking.  I passed out on the desk when the local anaesthetic from a cortisone injection got into my blood stream, my broken knee-cap was dismissed as me making a fuss (for 5 months) and I was forced to watch my peers do PE lessons (that I wasn’t well enough to take part in) rather than practise my beloved piano.  I remember telling my inspirational music teacher that I had thought of taking all the painkillers by my bedside because I didn’t want to hurt any more.  I didn’t.

By the time I was 16 I was undergoing more surgery and spent my formative underage drinking time at home – unable to learn to drive, go out with friends, get hideously drunk or do any of the ‘normal’ things – my mother referred to me as ‘the prototype’.  I remember her saying to my surgeon “she’s ever so depressed” – as if I wasn’t there.  There are whole sections of my 6th form career that are missing from my memory – but I spent my entire time (I think) trying to prove I could still do ‘everything’ – I was training to be a Guide Leader, playing for the County Brass Band, local youth orchestra, jazz band and doing about 3 hours piano/trumpet practise per day (alongside 3 A-Levels).  Being ‘ill’ was a battle against the system – it makes me physically sick thinking about it now.

Onwards through University – 13 weeks at home having more major surgery in my first year, (passing out on the desk in lectures when I was there), 2 slipping discs in my second and growing benign tumours (that had to be removed) in my third.  I was volunteering like a lunatic and somehow (much to the surprise of my tutors) got through my degree.

Mental health issues have plagued me on and off since then.  Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and depression are a very, very common combination.  I’ve learnt in the last month that people with the syndrome may be 16x more likely to suffer from anxiety/depression – it’s still being researched and I suspect it’s to do with the way our bodies process serotonin and other hormones.  As with so many other things, messages don’t travel properly through our ‘faulty’ connective tissues and therefore things are harder to manage.  Add that to long term pain, long term disbelief in your condition, a cocktail of other drugs and the ‘normal’ everyday ups and downs get completely overwhelming.

There are sections of my life missing, I have fallen asleep in the GP’s waiting room and cried when he’s woken me up, I’ve struggled to hold down jobs, I’ve struggled to look after my children.  After having my daughter I ended up under the care of the PND Psychiatrist who concluded I had PTSD and that, I quote “was too hard on myself” whilst offering me no coping strategies.  It was only having the Cheetah Keeper at a hospital where counselling was offered routinely to all mothers as part of the ante and post-natal care that I faced some of my demons regarding his sister’s arrival.  They still haunt me – badly, 6 and a half years on and they destroy my sleeping and ability to deal with the outside world – not all the time, but triggered by all sorts of unexpected and expected cues.

The experience that time brings though is my ability to recognise what’s going on and to take myself to the GP before I am completely crippled.  Medication keeps me going – at the moment I parent, work and keep things down, essentially to a dull roar.  I bake when I’m stressed, I’m hopeless at accepting praise or compliments and I worry too much – whilst, in the eyes of some, not caring about other things enough.  When I realise that I am operating as a ‘glittering image’ I generally know things are not well.  Having a façade of efficiency, happiness, practicality and common sense is all well and good, but if you’re churning yourself to pieces inside it’s unhealthy – and it needs to be dismantled and the true person underneath allowed out – and, thanks to my GP, I am better at doing so.  Sometimes though the glittering image sneaks back and the process has to start again.

20 odd years on, in the place I am now, I can’t remember what feeling Christmassy consists of.  It feels like a logistics exercise – one in which everyone has to be kept ‘happy’ and all boxes need to be ticked.   I’ve enjoyed doing craft stuff with the children – but whether it’s festive or not doesn’t bother me at the moment.  I like taking the children to see the lights in town but do they give me a warm glow – no, not yet.  I’m not missing carolling with the brass band, the nativities at school were lovely but I wasn’t the over-emotional mum, the Christmas fair was hell on earth and the pantomime was fun – but the lady questioning why we were using the disabled toilet (so the Cheetah Keeper didn’t have to negotiate a huge flight of stairs) riled me so much that I could have said something very rude (I didn’t).

I’m hoping that my festive ooomph will appear in the next couple of days – if not, I’ll enjoy taking photos of the children enjoying themselves.  I’ll enjoy every single snuggle I get with them as we don’t have to get up for school and keep going with my attempt to look for something beautiful in every day.  That’ll do me for now – it’s a step towards getting to a better place.

I’ve written this post having read the posts that the wonderfully gorgeous Mammasaurus  wrote last week about her mental health issues and in support of the amazing Black Dog Tribe.   On of the things I love most about this blogging community is that mental health issues are so openly discussed and supported – and although I appreciate that this isn’t everyone’s choice of reading material, I hope it might reach someone else who may then realise that other people suffer to – and that writing/talking about it often helps.