An over-watered flower doesn’t bloom

I started this year determined to have a year of growth, of huge personal and professional development and a year I could look back on and say “YES” as opposed to “I wish I’d done better.”

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In January I feel as if I were a little seed ready to sprout underneath the soil, buzzing with naive excitement about the year ahead and convinced that what I was choosing to nurture myself with was the best of the best. I had big goals, determination and a sense of momentum that was keeping me firmly in the driving seat. I started a happiness project, I subscribed to the best ‘personal growth’ podcasts I could find, I read books (not enough), I journaled regularly, I took online quizzes and I continued to share my innermost thoughts and opinions on social media with the desire to inspire others to grow with me along the way. And this has been the way of things for pretty much the last 11 months. Grow grow grow. Don’t look back. Keep going. Keep learning. Be better. Do more. Do better.

To say it has been a lot is probably an understatement. On top of raising two young children, moving house and becoming self-employed, I have chosen to dive headfirst into learning, and at times, this year has felt more intellectually stimulating than my entire 4 years at University combined. My journals are full of reflective musings, notes I’ve taken from all the podcasts and books, my weekly goals and intentions and all those big epiphany moments that keep coming, even now. I can almost see the change in myself through the pages of my journal, yet I’m really just the same, but what I know has changed. Mostly too, it’s been amazing. The feeling of having an “aha” moment or learning something that shakes my core feels like I’m literally being propelled forward into a world once unknown and in truth, it’s kind of addictive!

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Recently though, I feel like I’ve over-watered myself because I’ve forgotten to pause to let things settle before continuing. I feel like the soil in which I’m living is now totally saturated and as a result, I’m feeling lost, stuck and unable to bloom, sometimes barely even able to move. There’s struggle instead of ease and there’s some pain instead of all the joy, and instead of feeling a balance of satisfaction and expansion, I’m beginning to feel the need to take a deep, long pause, to re-centre, to allow the excess water to drain away and the soil to recover.

I’m reminded again of one of my favourite quotes: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” – Lao Tzu

So why have I been rushing? Rushing towards becoming a version of myself I firmly believe exists but without taking into account all the unexpected twists and turns along the way. In rushing to learn and absorb all the wisdom in the world, I’ve forgotten the need to practice it all too, because simply listening, reading and talking about things is not the way to truly grow.

So what now? I can’t stop. It’s too late for that. Growth and self-discovery is exhilarating after all and I’m committed to it because I DO believe if done with self-care and attention, this journey can be thrilling and powerful. A growth journey can continually challenge what we think we know and believe about the world. It can encourage us to reflect deeply on who we are and it can open doors along the way that allow us to expand and reevaluate what we really want from life. A growth journey pushes us to be ever open-minded, to seek the knowledge that lights our brains up and fuels our passions and interests that we have the luxury to choose for ourselves, as adult learners of the world.

“A commitment to lifelong learning is a natural expression of the practice of living consciously.” – Nathanial Branden 

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Are many of us truly living to our fullest potential? Are we devoid of limiting beliefs and staring our deepest fears in the face? Or do we find ourselves sticking with the route most trodden, the safe and easy path? That’s the thing about wanting to bloom, isn’t it? We want to rush because the promise of what lies ahead tempts us there but we forget that the journey may last an entire lifetime, that each day we seek to learn something new and get through the ups and downs, is a day we are no longer the same person as the day before. That is growth. 

As we approach the end of another year I feel it’s the right time for a pause. There’s little more I can learn from another “chase your dreams” podcast or another “how to conquer your day” blog, but there is much to be gained from deep practice and from looking inward instead of constantly just seeking more. That is the true lesson here and that is the more difficult part of all.

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“I want to eat meat,” and other things our kids might say to us one day

It probably happens about once a month. That question that we get asked as vegan parents raising vegan children and the question that crops up in one way or another yet is so rarely asked in reverse of omnivorous parents raising meat-eating kids.

“What will you do if Jasmine (and Summer) turn around when they’re older and say they want to eat meat?”

“Will you give them a choice?”

“Do you think they’ll want to try meat one day?”

“Do you think they’ll always be vegan?”

Honestly, my first response…sigh. You see, I know that this question is asked with genuine intrigue and interest but to be on the receiving end of it, and frequently, implies that there is still a level of uncertainty and perhaps sub-conscious judgment from the questioner and therefore reflects their own stance about eating, or not eating meat. In other words, it could sound more like this:

“The way you’re raising your children to be vegan is restrictive/unfair/forced/weird/not normal/dangerous/makes me uncomfortable/not what I would choose and I think they will rebel against it one day because of this.”

Perhaps that’s a little unfair but this type of question, along with, “how does your child get enough protein?” is asked 100 times more often than, “I’d love to make more vegan food for my child. Could you share any recipes?” The difference is stark and one subtly requires us to defend our choice to raise vegan kids whilst the other would indicate understanding and respect.

Veganism as a way of life and a belief system is based upon the following facts:

  • Breeding and killing animals for food is unnecessary* in a world where we have access to plant-based foods that offer every nutrient necessary for a healthy and balanced diet
  • Animals killed for food suffer in life and death
  • Animal agriculture & fishing industries are the leading causes of climate change
  • A vegan diet is not restrictive or limited
  • If you can live a life that causes as little harm as possible to other creatures**, why wouldn’t you?
*for those of us with the privilege of choice
**in this case, I am referring to non-human creatures although veganism in itself benefits the human population but is not a perfect system in protecting humans from harm

It is because of these facts that I don’t actually worry about this question being asked by either of the girls. That’s not to say it won’t happen and in fact, they are both likely to have numerous questions about veganism which we will encourage, but I’m certainly not worried about it. We are raising the girls to choose (and enjoy) foods that align with our core belief system that we believe most other children have too…that causing unnecessary harm to animals and damaging the planet is not cool!

Our girls are thriving on their vegan diets and both have a very healthy relationship to food for which I’m very grateful. They eat a huge variety of fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, tofu and grains (the list goes on) but they also enjoy crisps, ice cream, biscuits, cakes, pizza, chips and any other special treat going. A vegan diet is not in the least bit restrictive and therefore it doesn’t make children feel “forced into something,” but rather that their pure and genuine desire to foster positive relationships with animals is being respected. It’s therefore more unlikely that at age 16 they may turn around in a fit of anger and wish they’d never been raised vegan. It just makes sense. Kids love animals and don’t want to eat them.

 

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Jasmine with her vegan “chicken” nuggets, eating what all kids eat, but without the dead animals

 

We are equipping our children with the ability to live in alignment with their beliefs, challenge societal norms, contribute to the well-being of the planet and to enjoy the huge range of delicious and healthy plant-based foods on offer to them. 

My biggest worry is not whether they’ll turn around and ask to eat meat (of course by the way, this will be a choice they can make). No, my bigger worry is how they will cope as vegan kids living in a non-vegan world. How they will cope with difficult questions at school, how they will cope with being different, how they will cope with being misunderstood and ultimately how they will cope when they finally learn the truth too.

So if you’ve also wondered whether vegan children will grow up to get a choice or if whether raising vegan kids is fair, I kindly ask you to consider the following:

Which child is more likely to grow up and turn their back on the way they have been raised to eat? The child who loves animals and doesn’t eat them or the child who loves animals but eats them too?

 


Motherhood and the fear of making mistakes

Last week in a moment of deep reflection, I realised that I have a profound fear of making mistakes. It feels funny to me that I hadn’t realised it previously but the thing with our fears is that usually until we work to unpick them, our fears manifest in our real life as some of our more unwanted habits or behaviours. For me, the fear of making mistakes manifests as procrastination. I procrastinate because that protects me from making mistakes.

Several months back I took an online quiz to discover my fear archetype having listened to Ruth Soukup’s podcast series called, “doing it scared.” The results were a little, “yes, that’s pretty much what I expected,” and so I parked the idea and didn’t think I’d particularly learnt anything new about myself, as I so often seek to do. But then something seemingly insignificant happened whilst I was at work the other day and I was suddenly floored by my realisation that perhaps these quiz results were perhaps a lot more revealing than I’d first led myself to believe. According to the quiz, procrastination manifests as the fear of imperfection, preferring not to do something at all than to risk it not being perfect. I’ve never been much of a perfectionist at anything which is perhaps why this label didn’t resonate with me at first but what does resonate with me is that I put off doing things that I want to and should do because I’m fearful of making mistakes.

Motherhood has opened up a rather daunting portal into my own childhood, my experiences and my upbringing, both the good and the bad. Looking at my inner child, I can see where some of this fear may come from. Perhaps it’s the inherent people-pleaser in me, the child (turn adult) who seeks to please others through their actions, who longs for praise and acceptance and who strives to make others proud before herself. Or perhaps it’s those times at school where I didn’t know the answers and having been put on the spot for an uncomfortable minute too long, I burst into tears in front of everyone, to release my emotions, the fear of being wrong (and therefore being told off /criticised/reported on) paralysing me into a state of discomfort unparalleled by much else. Perhaps too, there were times when I did indeed make some big mistakes as a child and the feeling of disappointment that I sensed from someone else led me to want to avoid that being repeated. I need to go deeper here, to explore the route cause of this fear but for now, I’m just happy to have joined some of the dots and worked out some of the puzzle.

I procrastinate so much in life and literally always have done, that it drives me (and my husband) pretty mad. I’m working on it, and I’ve made a lot of positive changes this year but I guess sometimes, in order to make the biggest changes of all, we have to truly understand the reasons why we have our “bad” habits because the release of fear is in the discovery of why the fear exists.

This fear of making mistakes is the reason I haven’t written more blog posts, despite more than 30 sitting in my drafts. This fear of making mistakes is why I haven’t taken steps towards starting a podcast yet even though perhaps I could have made the time to. This fear of making mistakes is why I agonised for weeks over deciding which new nursery to send the girls to because I just didn’t want to get it wrong.  This fear of making mistakes is why I dwell on the times when things haven’t gone right in Motherhood because I’m scared that somehow, I’ve messed up.

The responsibility of raising babies is heaped with opportunities to make mistakes. Of course, as parents, we will all inevitably make mistakes but sometimes the fear of doing so is so consuming. The fear and worry of not being good enough. The fear of one day being blamed and resented. The fear and worry of not raising kids to be able to manage everything life throws at them. The fear and worry that comes with every decision you make along the way and with that fear of making mistakes, the hope and knowledge that everything will probably be just fine!

So what can I do with my fear now I know why and how it exists? I can be more mindful about it, notice it and not fuel it. Action is the antidote to fear. A life lived to please other people is no life at all. A life lived to be of benefit to other people, is quite a different story.

 

 


Vegan Mum guilt

I know you’ve all heard of and experienced the usual Mum guilt that comes with the territory of Motherhood and the desire to do right by our kids while maintaining our sanity at the same time. I don’t think there’s a single Mum friend of mine who doesn’t experience this feeling of guilt at some point every single day. Read More


Summer started nursery and suddenly, I fell to pieces

Summer started nursery yesterday, for just under 4 hours, and when I went to pick her up, I was told that she’d cried the entire time, other than settling briefly outside for a few moments and inside for a short nap in her Key Worker’s arms. My usually happy and hungry baby hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing all afternoon and of course, just to add insult to injury, she burst into tears the minute that I picked her up, crying out with a look of sadness and confusion on her gorgeous tiny face. I know this is an all too common scenario, not unique to me or Summer but a situation that unfolds for thousands of kids and their parents at the nursery drop off every single day. It’s not fun for anyone, least of all when as a highly sensitive mum of highly sensitive children, the experience becomes difficult to shrug off.

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Summer’s home birth story – Part 1 – Preparations

It’s taken me almost a year to put this story together, to put into words one of the most profound experiences of my life and also one of the most personal. I’ve started writing and re-writing it a hundred times, unsure of the details to include or keep private and unsure of how to tell a story with a million parts and details without writing a whole book. From preparing for a home birth, to confronting previous birth trauma and then experiencing profound joy, giving birth at home was, and is, one of the most significant moments of my life. In sharing my birth story(s) I hope to inspire other women to consider home birth if they want to but more importantly I hope to inspire people to talk about birth with a more open dialogue. To talk about the good and the bad. To talk about all the choices and options and to help women believe in themselves and their bodies and to rid themselves of doubt, worry and feelings of failure.

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Operation day

Dear Jasmine,

I’m writing you another letter because that’s what I find helps me when I’m feeling sad and heavy-hearted, as I am tonight. We’re so similar, you and me, with our sensitivities and our emotions. We feel things deeply and strongly and that’s a beautiful thing my sweet girl. I struggle sometimes to feel the way I do, to feel every ounce of your emotion and pain as if it were my own and to feel intensely sad about sad things. I sometimes wish I could switch off my overthinking brain and things might be easier, more black and white and more straightforward, but then, I wouldn’t be me, would I?

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An epiphany about setting goals

Back in December 2018, I made a set of 5 New Year’s resolutions and vowed to make this year the year I actually stick to them and make some progress towards my personal goals. I set these goals for myself with good intentions and reflected for a long time on what I wanted to “achieve” by doing them. Whilst I wouldn’t say I’ve had a total transformation in the first 3 months of 2019, I’ve certainly kept these resolutions in the forefront of my mind more than ever before, have discussed them with friends on an ongoing basis and have made some positive steps towards them, even if it doesn’t feel like enough (the story of my life…I’m learning).

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A plastic free birthday party

Two weeks ago we hosted a party for Jasmine’s 3rd birthday. It was small, her first solo party, with her closest and most familiar friends which seemed the right decision for a child who can be highly sensitive. I’ll be honest, the thought of her bursting into tears during “happy birthday” was a daily worry for me for weeks in advance! Planning a birthday party for a sensitive child is one thing but planning a “low waste” and “plastic free” party is quite another. Before I dive in to how we pulled this off, I need to put the usual disclaimer. This is not a judgement call on anyone who has hosted a party done differently because I firmly believe that all kid’s parties are planned in love and until a few months ago, I wouldn’t have even considered the waste implications that a party could have.

We make billions of products that last 5 minutes out of materials that last for a lifetime.” – unknown.

Single use plastics are just that, designed for a single use, simply to then be thrown away, realistically not recycled and existing in landfill more or less forever. Plastic cups, straws, balloons, party bag fillers, table confetti….they bring a smile to a child’s face for a few minutes but once that excitement has worn off, they are thrown away, except that as I’m learning more and more, “away” is not a place that really exists at all.

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Jasmine enjoying a vegan chocolate cupcake!

My journey to reducing waste and living a “low waste” life is a long and hard one. It is full of complexities and challenges and I’m often left feeling more disheartened and sad than I am hopeful and uplifted. Then I’m reminded that we as individuals need to be the change we want to see in the world and also be a role model for this change for our children. I’ve already started teaching Jasmine about plastic because her generation are going to need to be change makers too. I want her (and Summer) to know that looking after the planet we live on should be a priority but that it is also a joy. I want her to know that her actions can make a difference and that change starts at home.

So with that in mind, I set myself a task to try and plan and pull off a birthday party for Jasmine that avoided (as far as possible) disposable and single use plastics, with an effort to reduce waste and rise to the challenge of being more environmentally aware. I really do believe that every little helps and one less bag of rubbish sitting in a landfill site is indeed a job well done.

Here are the steps we took to reduce our party waste:

I banned balloons: call me a party pooper and maybe I am one but balloons, despite them being a favourite of Jasmine’s did not make an appearance at her party. Balloons are a party classic, of course, a symbol of the birthday celebration and an item guaranteed to entertain a bunch of 3 year olds too. Balloons however, are in essence a single use plastic. They are sold in a plastic bag (straight to landfill) and when the balloons eventually pop and are thrown away, that’s it too. Balloon scraps are very harmful to wildlife and although biodegradable balloons are available, we just did without entirely! I was worried, unnecessarily, that Jasmine would ask for balloons or that the party would be lacking without them but I don’t think it made one bit of difference…other than to the Earth!

So how did we decorate instead?

Decorations were made from reusable materials such as card or cloth as to avoid the plastic wrapped foil banners I’d bought in previous years. We borrowed birthday party banners from friends and also bought fresh Spring flowers (in brown paper) to decorate the tables. The village hall came fitted with loads of fairy lights and we laid the tables with party food. Again, I worried it wouldn’t be atmospheric enough or that the room would look bare but it didn’t. The people made the atmosphere more than any set of decorations would and we now have a set of party banners we can use at any occasion…no need to buy single use ones ever again.

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Fairtrade, cloth party banners from Plastic Free Party Bags

The party food was where we struck our biggest challenge for sure. We all know how difficult it is to buy food plastic free in the UK but we did take some steps to minimise the waste as best we could, aiming for progress not perfection. Firstly, we tried not to over cater in an effort to minimise food waste and knowing that most toddlers only nibble anyway before diving into the cake. We planned a few savoury bites such as wraps, sandwiches, vegan sausage rolls and some crisps. Then we had veggie sticks with hummus (not home made admittedly…maybe next year), fruit and vegan chocolate cake. I bought plastic free fruit and veggies such as carrots, peppers, watermelon, oranges and pineapple rather than being tempted by strawberries and grapes in plastic boxes. For drinks we offered apple juice (one large recyclable carton) or water for the kids and glass bottled soft drinks and tea/coffee for parents. We took along some compostable food waste bags for any throw away food and packed up left overs to take home too.

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Plastic free fruit ‘n’ veg options and fresh spring flowers

Plastic cups and plates were a no no for me but this did present a challenge. Kids party plates and cups are certainly a convenience item and also a safe one, with nothing at risk of being broken but unless paper plates are cleaned before being recycled, they are likely to end up in landfill too. Whats more, even when I did find paper plates for sale, they were of course wrapped in single use plastic which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. I came across several blogs that suggested borrowing tableware from friends but we ended up just braving the “real” plates and glasses that the venue provided and hoping that with a little parental help, the kids would manage not to break anything. I’m so pleased this worked because it really was zero waste and saved me a lot of money forking out for reusable bamboo plates.

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No plastic cups or paper plates!

What about party bags?  Ah, the party bag. We found a brilliant company called, “plastic free party bags” who offer and delivered a fantastic service. In an effort to avoid the millions of throw away items and plastic party bags given out every single weekend across the UK they offer sustainable, fairtrade, vegan and plastic free alternatives. We ordered a few bits for each child including some vegan chocolate buttons, a pan-pipe whistle, some wildflower seeds and an animal mask to colour in. We received some lovely compliments from our guests about these bags and would use this company again in a heartbeat! We did pay substantially more than we would have done going for supermarket party bag fillers but the zero waste element and being able to support a small business was well worth it for us. Please do check them out!

Plastic free party bags

And that’s just about it! We did of course create some waste…mostly napkins, some crisp packets, cupcake cases and paper towels from the bathroom but overall, I’m so pleased with what we achieved and definitely feel that we significantly reduced our waste and avoided a huge amount of plastic. I also showed myself that with a lot of hard work, determination and a little creativity, that I could pull off a lovely and successful birthday party for Jasmine that didn’t in any way feel lacking in celebratory spirit and for that, I am pretty proud of myself.

 

 


Dear Jasmine….Happy 3rd Birthday

Dear Jasmine,

Today you turn 3 years old and I find myself repeating, “I can’t believe it,” over and over again. I’m sorry if all the birthday excitement from me has seemed a little crazy but for me, as your Mummy, your birthday is a day of huge significance. Your birth day was the day that I became a Mother and my whole world changed in that moment. Not only that but your birthday is a celebration of you, of all your achievements this past year and the first day in a new chapter of exciting things to come.

A year ago, at just 2, you were a little person with your own thoughts, ideas and preferences and a year on, whilst so much of that is still the very essence of you, there’s also been a shift this year. Some days it feels as if you’ve grown up two years this year, not just one, because the transformation in you is just too big to fathom. Now, you are even more able to do things for yourself. Whether it’s helping yourself to food, taking your own milk from the fridge, using the big toilet, turning on and off the tv or the latest skill…doing your own hair clips, your determination for independence and, “I want to do it by myself,” attitude is actually very inspiring.

Back in June last year you became a big sister to Summer and I think, although you couldn’t say it as such, your world got a little bit turned upside down. We went through some tricky patches, me losing my patience, you adapting to change and I think it’s fair to say things were tricky. There were times, if I’m really honest with you my sweet Jasmine, that I’ve found this year of parenting really tricky. “Age 2-3″ has certainly had its ups and downs. The demands of two children, very little sleep and a feisty toddler (that’s you) have at times driven me to the point where I have wanted to scream. Don’t be sad reading that because it’s not anything you did wrong, not at all. It’s just been hard work  and many times I felt out of my depth, not knowing what to do for the best for either of us. ‘Two” definitely hasn’t been terrible but it certainly has been tricky and I think that’s OK for me to admit.

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This year you became a big sister

So whilst that sounds all dark and gloomy, it’s not supposed to be! In a million ways we’ve had an amazing year too. We’ve laughed together, danced together and played together for hours. Your unique soul has shone brighter than ever before with your personality and interests revealing themselves to us more each day. Of course we still have our moments here and there but I’m pretty sure the fog has lifted in recent months and in that shift we’ve found a new ease and a new rhythm together…even without your day time nap!

Now you’re 3 whole years old and I’m more in love with you than ever, of course. I think i’ll be saying that even when you’re 30 years old too and imagine the letter I’ll have to write then! Jasmine, my sweet, kind, sensitive, funny, beautiful, curious girl, here are a few of my favourite things about you now on the day that you’re turning 3:

I love the way you ask questions, all day everyday, about everything. Your desire for knowledge and your desire to understand the world is amazing. You ask me what day it is, where we’re going today, what Daddy is doing, what Grandma is wearing, what’s wrong with Summer, who we saw yesterday, what’s so-and-so’s brother called, what can you have for a snack, did I see that, did I see this, are we going there, what’s that what’s that what’s that?

I love the way you have “best friends” now and although the best friend, changes each day, I can tell that your friendships mean a lot to you already. You missed your friends when we were away in Israel for a month, you look forward to seeing them talk about your adventures together at Nursery. Your friends cheer you up, spur you on and bring a smile to your face and it’s such a joy to see.

“Girls are the best,” is your mantra and you tell me at least 5 times a day, sometimes adding, “not boys” onto the end, to which I add that we do like boys too because, equality, and all that. I love that you have a strong female identity and in a world where you may still have to fight if not for your own equality, then for the equality of girls around the world, I’m going to let you keep repeating this mantra for as long as you want to.

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You are an amazing big sister to Summer. I know it hasn’t always been easy and it still isn’t. I know Mummy carries Summer on her hip all day long and pays close attention to her at meal times and bath time. I know I’m not there for you like I was when it was just us but Jasmine, you are so kind to her and so caring. You soothe her when she’s sad and your words make her feel better. You only have to be in the room with Summer and she’s happier. You find sharing me difficult at times but you also understand it deeply, that she needs me too and I guess that’s why it hurts you. Sometimes you’ll say, “Mummy, you need to give Summer a cuddle,” and in those moments, I’m so grateful for your wisdom. Summer is so lucky to have you as her big sister, she really is.

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I love the way you only wear dresses now and have done every day for at least 6 months. You choose your own outfits every day and strongly reject any suggestion that doesn’t involve a “pretty dress.” You love pink, princesses, jewellery, high heels and hair clips and love a soak in a hot, deep bath at the end of every day. That’s my girl! You embrace your body and love to dance in front of the mirror declaring body positive statements about yourself with pure and delightful self-confidence. Please, do this forever.

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A pretty dress and hair clips makes for a happy Jasmine

You’ve inherited creativity from Daddy‘s side of the family although your musicality comes from me! There’s few things you love more than art and being creative. You can spend hours playing with play dough, drawing, painting and making things and our current prediction is that you’ll be creative when you’re older, too. We flit between that and CEO of a major company, you know, because you just love to be the boss! When you’re not busy with your arts and crafts, you’re usually dancing or singing spinning around or tip-toeing like a ballerina.

You’ve got a sweet tooth and love all things cake, chocolate and biscuits which of course we only give you in extreme moderation! “I want a snack from the snack cupboard” is possibly your most used phrase of all time followed by, “no, not that one….a special treat.” Once again, it’s Daddy you can thank for this habit! You really do love your food though and your latest favourite is pistachio nuts! You are beginning to understand your identity as a vegan and what that means to you and our family. I can’t wait to continue this journey together.

Happy birthday my sweet girl. You are my absolute joy, every single day. I love you to the moon and the stars and back, or, “this much,” as we say with arms stretched out wide. You are simply incredible and I honestly cannot wait to get this next year started. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be our best yet.

Love,

Mummy

x

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