Rediscovering the 'Me' in 'Mumeeeeeee'

'I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways'. (Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861)

March 31, 2011

The ebook has landed - MY ebook!

So, I'm not sure whether to be completely delighted, or totally terrified but here, ladies and gentlemen, is the official announcement that my ebook 'Hot Cross Mum - Bitesize Slices of Motherhood' is OUT! (grabs coat, runs for the hills and waits with baited breath).

This is the result of a two year journey of blood, sweat and lots of tears (and the, ahem, occasional G&T!). Regular readers will know that I'm a self-confessed, frustrated, 'published-author-in-waiting' so, yes, I'm very proud to have brought my little corner of cyberspace kicking and screaming into the world of ebooks. Hell, I didn't even know what an ebook was two years ago. Let alone a blog!

Some very lovely and incredibly talented ladies have read the book and said some very lovely things about it including:

“Hazel is a brilliant writer and captures the essence of being thrust into motherhood headfirst. Her writing is hilarious and often cuts close to the bone. She'll have you chuckling at your computer screen for hours.” - Susanna Scott, Founder of British Mummy Bloggers and co-founder of CyberMummy Conferences

"A funny, relevant and wonderfully honest account of motherhood. I laughed out loud and nodded in recognition all the way through." - Sinead Moriarty, bestselling author of ‘The Baby Trail’ and ‘Pieces of My Heart’

“Hazel Gaynor is a funnier version of your best laugh-out-loud, fabulous, friend - the one who can take a mundane or even miserable mom-moment and spin it into pure comedy gold. Her wickedly wonderful “bitesize slices of motherhood” go down easier than the smoothest top-shelf tequila and satisfy on every level.” - Jenna McCarthy, bestselling author of ‘The Parent Trip’ and ‘Cheers to the new mom!’ / ‘Cheers to the new Dad!’.

I didn't even have to bribe them to say these things. Honest!

I have no idea where this little adventure will lead, but it's always exciting when you set off on a journey isn't it? So, please feel free to click on the link, read the blurb, download the sample, tell your friends - buy the flippin' thing if you feel the desire to do so (my English reserve prevents me from saying anything more on that matter)!

I've written a little bit of background below to explain the reason for the ebook. Please read on if you feel compelled.

Thank you. Very much.

The background

I started ‘Hot Cross Mum’ in March 2009 as a platform for developing a writing career after I was made redundant and decided to become a Stay At Home Mum. I started blogging just at the point when the ‘mummy blogging’ community was exploding in the UK and Ireland and I quickly became part of an influential community of blogging parents. I loved it! The phenomena of blogging and my part in that attracted the interest of Irish press and TV and after being interviewed for ‘The Sunday Times Magazine’ in January 2010 about the transition from corporate to domestic life, the blog was noticed by a literary agent. She enquired whether I’d considered developing a book based on the blog. I hadn’t, but I started to work on it the very next day!

When it was submitted, the book received praise from publishers in Ireland and the UK and was very nearly commissioned for publication by a UK publisher; but unfortunately didn’t make the final hurdle. Having got so close, I was obviously very disappointed, but dusted myself off and continued to write the blog for my personal pleasure and turned my hand to fiction writing and my freelance career.

That book has sat on my PC ever since; nagging at me! As ebooks became more and more popular, I started to think about putting ‘Hot Cross Mum: bitesize slices of motherhood’ out in an ebook format. A friend of mine, Catherine Howard, was starting to see phenomenal success with her ebook ‘MouseTrapped’ and encouraged me to go for it!

It’s probably important to point out that rather than being just a straightforward copy of the blog, the ebook charts the first twelve months of my journey from leaving my corporate career and adjusting to life at home with the children. Obviously, some of my published blog posts are used (it is, after all, those posts which brought readers to my blog in the first place) but I have also added new material and brought it all together into a much more meaningful package with a beginning, middle and hopefully a happy ending! So there’s something in the ebook for existing readers of ‘Hot Cross Mum’, as well as for people who have never seen the blog and discover the ebook first.


March 29, 2011

'cos we are living, in a digital world....

...and I am not a digital girl!

I'm back on the Technological Progression bandwagon I'm afraid. More kicking and screaming and going rigid and refusing to be strapped into the car seat of digital technology.

I am, this time, fretting about a picture I saw in my local newspaper which showed a class of Junior Infants (that's five-year-olds), proudly writing their letters on their brand new iPads. I saw the picture and didn't think, "Wow, that's amazing. How forward-thinking." I thought, "Oh my god, that's awful." It was as jarring as looking at a picture of a three-year-old beauty pageant. "Whatever happened to the good old days of copy books and a pencil?" I remonstrated to my husband (as I pulled down the blackout blinds, darned my socks and listened to Gracie Fields on the radio).

I know I sound massively old-fashioned and I probably know that it is inevitable that our children will be taught interactively. I also know that it's good for the trees, but I am still more than a bit uncomfortable at the thought of my children having their first school experience, and learning how to write and read (and draw quite probably) on an iPad. Can't we hold off until they're a bit older? Like, eighteen?

As a family who have held off on the Wii and the DS (and our children are under the age of six so I don’t think that’s a particularly radical decision), I just feel afraid that our children will know nothing other than to stare at a screen for every aspect of their life. They will read ebooks, play interactive sports on the TV, Skype their nana, waste countless years of their lives with some Angry Birds. Maybe I was naively hoping that school would be the final, digital frontier.

Looks like I was wrong.

What do you think? Are iPads in the classroom an excellent idea or just an unavoidable sign of the times you'd rather live without?


March 23, 2011

What happened when I went back to the 1930s

Well, isn't this all rather jolly. Some very lovely people at Proctor and Gamble (you know, P&G, the people who make fabulous things like Fairy, Pampers, Gillette and Olay) have sent me off to the 1930s. P&G have undertaken lots of research to explore the 'Changing Face of Motherhood' over the last 80 years. I often wish I could change my face. Sigh.

Anyhoo, it's all quite nice here actually: plenty of polite men talking on the radio box and pleasing tunes to listen to. Apparently though, they want me to live as a 1930s housewife for the day and do some authentic, 1930's housework. I am slightly puzzled. "Housework? What is that?", I asked.

They laughed and gave me some carbolic soap, cold cream cleanser, rouge, loose powder, coal tar soap, a washboard, vinegar, lemons, a mop and bucket and a delightfully fetching headscarf and told me to get on with it. What? No washing machine? No dishwasher? No cleaning lady? Goodness me. I almost had a nose bleed at the mere thought of it all.

Anyway, this ladies and gentlemen, is what happened next. Be warned, this video contains scenes of graphic domestic failure. Some footage of attempts to apply 'elbow grease' are also quite frightening.

Hot Cross Mum - Life Before P&G Challenge from Fleishman-Hillard Dublin on Vimeo.

So, that's what life is like in the 1930's. Jolly good and tickety boo, I say. Recent research by P&G indicates that modern mothers have just 26 minutes a day to themselves. I honestly don't know what these modern ladies are all complaining about with their dishwashers and tumble dryers to do their housework for them. It's no wonder they spend the day half-inebriated, they have nothing else to do with their time.

Oh, and some other mums have been time travelling with P&G too. Check out Edith Bowman above! Yes, actual celebrity ladies were forced to scrub their husband's smalls with carbolic soap. Oh the shame!

Some other spiffing bloggers have also been undertaking the challenge. Check out Mid Thirties Life, Emily at Babyrambles and Being a Mummy who even made herself an authentic, 1930's apron for the task! Horrah!

Now, I must dash off and re-apply my lipstick before my husband returns from the office or he will surely consider me a wretched woman and run off with Mrs Charmichael down the road.


March 15, 2011

Authors for Japan

I don't think there can be many people who haven't been incredibly moved by the horrendous images and stories coming out of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. We watch speechless and just cannot comprehend what we are seeing.

When a disaster on this scale happens it's difficult to know what you can do to help. Well, one inspiring woman, Keris Stainton, has set up a fantastic website 'Authors for Japan' where an amazing collection of authors are offering signed copies of their books, critiques of opening chapters, original artwork, book cover designs and other brilliant things - all to the highest bidder. There are a number of 'lots' being offered through posts on the blog - to bid, just leave your comment and the lot will go to the highest bidder by 8pm on Sunday (20th March). All the funds raised will go to the Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal.

Authors taking part include, Jill Mansell, Adele Parks, Caroline Smailes, Cathy Cassidy and Melissa Hill (to name but a few).

Full details of how it all works are at


March 12, 2011

Is Mother's Day important?

It's kind of difficult to ignore the fact that Mother's Day is looming. The shops and online stores are festooned with ideas for Mothers Day Presents and I can't find any straightforward birthday cards for four and five-year-olds; they've all been removed to make way for the millions of Mother's Day cards. And this, apart from giving me a birthday card induced headache, has me thinking about the relevance and importance of Mother's Day.

Of course the day has proper historical foundations from the ancient Greeks and in more recent times was linked to the fourth Sunday of Lent, but as far as modern day 'Mother's Day', has it just become another commercial 'Hallmark' day, or does it actually still mean something?

Mother's Day is an odd occasion for me: having lost my own mum in my early twenties I can't participate in the day as a daughter; but since having my own children, I obviously can now participate as a mother. But I'm still not entirely sure I'm all that bothered.

Of course, it's lovely to get a little home-made card with a picture of yourself on the front which makes you look like a banshee, and a cup of tea in bed never goes amiss, but apart from that I can honestly say I don't expect - or need - any more fuss to be made of me. Perhaps I'm missing a trick. Perhaps I'm missing the point? I really don't know.

Maybe when I'm old and grey (or should that be older and greyer), I'll be more insistent that my errant sons buck their ideas up and at least phone me on Mother's Day, even if the flowers and expensive lunch never materialise. But for now, the cup of tea in bed and an extra special cuddle will do quite nicely.

What about you? Do you have high hopes for the day? Do you make a big fuss of your own mother and do you expect/hope to be showered with gifts and attention yourself, or does it not really bother you?

Answers on an over-sized, pink, floral infested greetings card please.


March 9, 2011

Two Years and counting...

Yes, quite unbelievably, Hot Cross Mum is 2 today (cue rousing chorus of 'Happy Blogday to you.....)! I have to say that I'm very delighted to have sustained my little corner of the blogosphere for another year and want to thank everyone who has read and/or commented since I started out in 2009. I simply wouldn't be here without you.

Two isn't a very big age to be in most walks of life, but I think blogs must age in a similar way to cats and dogs because I'm sure my blog is much older than two.

It's funny how a blog turns out to be a barometer of your life; the posts written this year show that I've definitely moved on from the very baby stages of family life; I no longer feel the need to write about the trials and tribulations of potty training or the intense joy of trying to strap rigid children into awkward car seats.

In the past 12 months, just like my children, my blog has grown up a bit. It is now more like a stroppy, emotional teenager; trying to find it's place in life, exploring lots of different things and having more than the occasional rant about this and that - you know, things which really push those buttons!!

I remember writing my 1 year anniversary post (a year ago, as it happens) and wondering whether I would still be blogging 12 months down the line. I am, still blogging away and I'm very excited about the fact that my eBook, based on the blog, will be available within the next week or so! Here's the cover - watch this space for more on that!

In the meantime, there's a very interesting debate on the British Mummy Bloggers network, started by the lovely Liz at Living with Kids, which asks whether blogs have a shelf life? And on the British Mummy Bloggers Blog, there is an interesting new weekly feature: 'Why do you blog?' Check it out and join the debate.

For now, thanks again for reading, commenting and giving me motivation and inspiration to keep on blogging. Here's to the next 12 months!

By the way, the image at the top is from a fantastic website I found the other day called The Literary Gift Company. It has some excellent gifts for those writers/bloggers/Tweeters in your life!


March 7, 2011

When vaccinations go wrong

A few weeks ago, the forms arrived home from school requesting permission for our child to be given the 5-year-old booster vaccinations for MMR and the 4-in-1 (Diptheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough, Polio).

We thought long and hard about whether to give our consent or not. Does he *really* need these vaccinations? What exactly is he being protected against? How likely is he to contract one of these diseases? I'm maybe being terribly naive but given that he is a robust, healthy child (hasn't even had a bad cough or cold for the last 18 months at least), my instinct tells me that he will be OK without the need to inject a load of gunk into his body.

But, I'm no doctor and don't have all the facts, so after researching the risks, what exactly is in these vaccines and weighing up the pros and cons we decided to go ahead and have the vaccinations.

The day after the vaccinations, the arm which he'd had the 4-in-1 vaccine in had swollen to twice it's normal size, was stiff and painful, hot to touch and very red. My child is 5. His arms are skinny, pale little limbs. The arm he now had looked like it belonged to a 12 yr old who had been pumping iron at the gym.
We were advised that it would have gone down the following day. Far from it: the swelling spread down the entire arm. The pictures below don't really show how red and swollen the affected arm was, compared to the unaffected arm (where he's had the MMR vaccine), but might give you an idea.

The affected arm is on the left of the screen, the normal arm on the right.

After several worrying days, a trip to the doctor, 90 euros of medical expenses, an antibiotic and an antihistamine, the swelling started to reduce. The arm is finally, now, back to normal. He clearly had a severe reaction to something in the vaccine. We are still not sure exactly what he reacted to.

Of course we want to do everything we can to protect our children from disease and I suppose that is why we are encouraged to give our children these routine vaccinations. How real is the threat of diptheria, polio and some of the other diseases our children are being immunised against in 2011 in Ireland? I'm still not really sure. But we can't help feeling we made the wrong decision in going ahead with the vaccinations and are angry that our perfectly healthy, normal child was made to suffer for something which should be routine and harmless.

What do you think? Do you go ahead with the recommended, routine vaccinations without questioning them, or do you have similar concerns?


March 3, 2011

Enjoy World Book Day with Priddy Books

To celebrate World Book Day (today), I have been reviewing some excellent children's books on the blog this week. I'm also running a competition to give away a copy of two of the books - check it out; winners will be announced tomorrow (Friday).

For my final book-ish post, I would like to highlight the very excellent Priddy Books who, as well as celebrating World Book Day are also celebrating their 10th birthday this Spring.

I'm sure many of you have one of Priddy Book's excellent titles among the bookshelves at home - from their Touch and Feel books for very young readers to their fantastic sticker books and activity books to first reference books, there really is something for everyone.

We were very lucky to be sent the set of sticker and colouring books pictured below. These are small, A5 size, very slim books which fit easily into a bag and will keep your children occupied anywhere you need them to be occupied! The themes of the books in this set include: Trucks, Baby Animals and The World. A sticker book each kept my two boys occupied for the entire flight from Dublin to Leeds. I was thanking Priddy Books several times as I drank my much needed cup of coffee in peace!
Whether you have come across Priddy Books already, or are looking for great ideas for encouraging your children to read, and interact with books, there can be few websites better worth exploring.

And if you ever needed an idea for an easter gift, which wasn't chocolate.......



March 1, 2011

'Morris the Mankiest Monster' and 'Shark in the Dark' - reviews for World Book Day.

Continuing the celebration of all things book-ish for World Book Day on Thursday, here are two more excellent children's books, both of which have been nominated for the 2011 Kate Greenaway Medal. Previous winners of this award include: Emily Gravett for 'Wolves' and also for 'Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears' and Mini Grey for 'The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon.' This year's shortlist will be announced on 1st April.

'Shark in the Dark' by Nick Sharratt is a follow up to the previous book 'Shark in the Park'. Nick Sharratt is also behind the excellent 'Caveman Dave' and 'Smart Aunties' as well as tonnes of other books. 'Shark in the Dark' is an excellent book which actually glows in the dark - sure to intrigue any young reader for a start. As with all Nick Sharratt's book, the language and rhyming patterns are superb and really engage young readers. We loved this - especially the evil looking shark!

'Morris the Mankiest Monster' (pictured above) by Giles Andreae and Sarah McIntyre is 'the most revolting children's book of the year'. Morris is disgusting - absolutely disgusting. I read this to a group of 5 year olds today and they absolutely loved it - they were hilarious 'eeuurrgghhing' and 'yukking' at his revolting-ness! Giles Andreae is the man behind 'Purple Ronnie' and his fabulous, comedy writing shines through in this book. Our favourite line is, "His shoes are all slurpy and squelchy inside and potatoes grow out of his pants." Guaranteed to make any young child giggle - and childish adults too!

Enjoy - and don't forget to check out yesterday's book reviews with a chance to win a copy of either.

More tomorrow.

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