Making Hay!

Hay, Hay, Hay! It’s been a great half term break during which we were blessed with a blissful mix of family, friends and a whole lot of sunshine to welcome us into the first official month of Summer. 

We spent a few days in our homeland with our nearest and dearest visiting the world renowned Hay Festival and listening to some clever, unrivalled and downright hilarious nursery rhyme recitations from the likes of Helena Bonham Carter, Tony Robinson, Ruby Wax, actors Olivia Williams and Sam West, the incredible Michael Rosen, Brian Bilston, as well as Julia Donaldson and her husband Malcolm, to name a few.  

I also got to take part during this same week in my first book shop ‘gig’ at the amazing North Books on Castle Street in Hay on Wye, where the most wonderful Jules and Amanda could not have been more welcoming, or encouraging. We sang songs, read Ivy and the Mole, did a ‘Feel Good Flowers’ activity together and also had the opportunity to sign a few copies of the book with those who were good enough to pop in to the event and say hi too.  

This was on the back of having had the good fortune to hear from the amazing team at The Felin Fach Griffin before we headed up to Hay as well, who stock both Ivy and the Rock and Ivy and the Mole, to say they were just about all sold out and managed to replenish the stocks there too! 

Then we hot footed it over to West Wales for some much needed ‘R&R’ to see out half term with some of our best mates in our campervan next the sea, all the while bathed in glorious, unrelenting sunshine. 

All in all, it’s been a wonderful week reaping the rewards of the time and effort we all put into being with the people we love most in this world – which, as becomes more apparent to me the older I get, is never a day wasted.


Re-visiting my old life and celebrating the new

The older I get, the more I think spring might just be the new season of choice for me. I don’t know what it is, but every March or April I feel a sort of magical energy settle in around me. When you’re younger, summers are endless and care free – the days last forever and, when you hit a certain age, sometimes the nights do too.

But as I settle into middle age, all it seems to take is the earliest promise of lighter nights and the first sighting of a few green shoots to give this girl a boost. It’s a funny one really because, as the month in which we very suddenly and traumatically lost my dad, I reckon I could justifiably decide to opt out of April altogether if I really wanted to. 

But somehow, every springtime since the day that changed my life forever seems to have brought with it the promise of new beginnings in all kinds of ways. My husband and I viewed the first house we ever bought together almost three years to the day my dad passed away, married in spring the following year (13 years ago yesterday, as it goes!), and finally got to welcome our first child after four long years of trying in the spring of 2015.

And this year, the ‘Queen of the Seasons’ has been about learning to embrace a new life too, in many ways, as the season of school (and library) visits seems to finally be upon us.

In the past few weeks I’ve got to meet some amazing staff and children at schools and libraries in Caerphilly County and Powys and to be honest, it’s made me feel like a new me!

One of the most special visits happened this week, when I visited Ysgol Penmaes in Brecon, Powys to read my books, sing some songs and talk to the pupils there about recognising and dealing with ‘big feelings’. 

I was nervous because, after all, as someone who dedicated the majority of her career to supporting students with additional learning needs, of all the times I could have done with Mum’s help, this was it. And it would be on home turf – lots of faces to recognise, and maybe a few who would recognise me. I needn’t have lost so much sleep over it, of course. They were all brilliantly welcoming, wonderfully enthusiastic about what I was doing, and at the beginning of the third group session of a series I was delivering that day, I was greeted warmly by a former colleague of Mum’s too.  

It was so lovely to be able to remember her together, and feel her presence perhaps more justifiably so than I had already as I drove across the Beacons that morning. I left there at the end of a full-day session feeling more alive than I had in a long time – and I’m having a great time bringing Ivy to life in the presence of young lives, at a time when new life continues to spring forth everywhere.


What the mourning of a monarch tells us about grief

It’s been an odd feeling kind of a week hasn’t it? Our Queen has passed away after seven decades on the throne, and a lifetime in the role. Some are devastated and others are asking if it presents a natural turning point for change where the Royal Family is concerned.

Given the ‘grief’ the Queen’s family are seen to have caused her over the years, it’s perhaps not surprising that her passing has proved to be so controversial.

Because throughout the deaths, divorces, sex scandals, discrimination accusations and, reportedly, unhealable rifts that have come to define our modern version of the Royal Family, the Queen remained committed to the role she felt was her divine calling to carry out, and to her husband too.

And given the seismic tenure of her reign, within that time people across the country will have come to view her as a daughterly, motherly, grandmotherly or even great-grandmotherly figure depending on their own situation in life too.

And yet in reality, very, very few of us in this life can say we are grieving the Queen on a personal level. There will be seldom few in this world who are carrying that burden at present, as one of the select few to have truly infiltrated the private life of one of the globe’s most publicly acknowledged figureheads.

And therefore, the loss that is currently being felt on a mass scale is likely based on what the Queen’s presence meant to us as individuals.

To some it may be that the death of a contemporary comes as yet another reminder of their own mortality, and that one of the only remaining constants of a long distant past has now also gone with time too.

Others might be trying to adjust to the fact that the figurehead they have dedicated their entire working lives to serving on a professional level is no longer there, and the post they have only ever known as being filled by her is now set to be taken up by somebody else.

Many people have said how much the Queen reminded them of their own Mum or Nan, while others undoubtedly identified with her through her love for equine sport and the countryside. Some locals in Scotland have expressed the sense of loss they feel at knowing the Queen will no longer be spending her summers in Balmoral, as she has done since she was a child.

For others, the role of the Queen and the Royal Family no longer holds any relevance to them at all in the modern world, and the sense of loss they feel at the monarch’s passing is likely minimal, which is only to be expected too.

And for many, many more, the loss of the Queen will have simply brought back poignant memories of a time or times when we ourselves lost people that we love, and all the feelings that went with it.

And so, when it comes the UK mourning its monarch, here lies the rub.

Because, this is what grief is – it is highly personal depending on what our own relationship to the person that has passed away meant to us. It is something only we can feel in its entirety, and the extent of which only we can ever truly know within ourselves.

And so, whatever our politics may be, it seems to me that we have no choice but to try and give those experiencing a sense of bereavement the space they need to grieve, and do our best to resist making judgements on how self-indulgent we may or may not perceive such behaviour to be.

What struck me most on the day that the Queen passed away was the idea that when we lose someone, that’s all they really are – lost from our lives.

Because it’s not as if their death means that they never were in the first place. It’s not like they will never be present again in the way we continue to live life after they’ve gone. The effect that they had on this world is not diminished, just because they are no longer here.

Their impact lives on but life for those of us living beyond theirs inevitably changes as a result of them no longer physically being in this world.

For me, what the mourning of our monarch as a nation has yet again highlighted, is that the grief we feel is often as much for the life we were used to, as it is for the person who is gone.


Breaking top soil

So, Ivy and the Mole has finally broken the soil and emerged into the light of day, following its publication in June. It’s a children’s book written to help little ones with their self-esteem and believe in themselves, and their own individuality.

It is also the second title I’ve managed to get into print, and it means I really did turn the Big Issues for Little People concept into a literary series just as I (rather recklessly, in hindsight) claimed I was about to do upon the release of my first picture book, Ivy and the Rock.

At the time Ivy and the Rock, as my debut novel, was published I wrote about its release in comparison to the birthing of a first child – the joy, the pain, the anxiety, the pure elation at having created something so special and unique to you.

Now my next picture book is out there it is, indeed, very much like a second sibling has arrived. The day Ivy and Mole finally dropped on to my doorstep after what again felt like an age in the making was just as awe inspiring, just as joyous, and just as emotional as the first time it happened.

But now I’m a mother of two under two, I’m also finding it hard to divide my attentions between them both as equally as I’d like.

In the beginning I nurtured the Mole as much as I could, I gazed at it with love, and I didn’t feel half as daunted or anxious as I did the first-time round. Meanwhile, Ivy and the Rock is out there, it has established its own life and – in the beginning – it also gained all the attention one would expect of a first-born people knew you’d been waiting to meet for a very long time.

So, this time around I’ve not only got a newborn to think of, but an older sibling too – and one who has just started at school. I’ve had a run of sessions in primary schools across Caerphilly County this summer term which I’m looking forward to taking out to foundation phase kids more fully in the autumn and beyond.

But alongside this I’ve now also got the Mole to look after, who, as you would expect, hasn’t had anywhere near enough attention as its older sibling since it emerged into the world. We’ve had some great coverage and support from local press outlets, including the Caerphilly Observer, South Wales Argus,, County Times and more, for which I am truly grateful. But there is also a lot more to do this time, and the push to get people’s attention was always going to be a harder one.

Already I can’t wait for this little seedling to start becoming its own person though. I can’t wait to find out what kind of a journey Ivy and the Mole is going to take me on, just as I had no idea Ivy and the Rock would take me to the national press, television interviews, virtual grief sessions, a reading by Fergie and Friends, and so much more.

And, I suppose, here lies the rub. Impatience is not a quality best suited to the writing/publishing world. So, I’m making lists, I’m marking the little wins, I’m learning to appreciate and admire the differences between my two babies – and I’m reminding myself of the real-world experience that tells me you can’t expect to parent the second one in exactly the same way as the first.

It’s hard though, when you’ve given over all of your earthly energies to bringing something into the world which you cannot help but feel protective of, and that you are just desperate to see fulfil itself to its fullest potential.

And, as ever, if Ivy and the Mole can make just one little reader feel better about themselves, and understand this world of ours a little more fully in the process, then already it will have done what it came here to do anyway.


Ivy and the Mole is out for pre-order now!

Exciting news at Big Issues for Little People HQ – Ivy and the Mole is out for pre-order now. Here’s a little run down of what you can expect from the second instalment of Ivy’s adventures for your info:

What is Ivy and the Mole about?

Ivy makes a down on his luck companion as she ventures into the Wildest Wood to find ‘Pond Number One’ and together the pair end up discovering as much about their own sense of self as they do about the magical landscape that surrounds them.

Ivy and the Mole takes a beautifully illustrated look at the journey we all take as human beings towards finding and learning to love our true selves – and how identifying that one-off superpower that lies inside each one of us is the key to taking us there.

What and who is it for?

My aim with all of the children’s books I have written (this is the second I will have published in the series) is to help little people make sense of the world’s biggest issues in an honest yet child-friendly way.

Ivy And The Mole is written to help children understand that just as we are all different in life, so we all have our individual strengths. The key to contentment is to recognise and play to these strengths wherever we can. It has always been my aim to be honest with my own two girls, even when they ask me big questions.

This book is an extension of that, and takes a child-friendly look at how our self-esteem can suffer when we view ourselves in the context of the outside world, as opposed to focusing on the person within.  

Where can I buy it?

You can put your name down to receive your copy when it is published later this month now directly from the publisher at Olympia here, from WHSmith here, and from Hive (among other retailers) here.


Special Days

It was Mum’s birthday this week. She would have been 73, which doesn’t feel like a massive ask, but there you go. Anyway, it got me thinking about ‘special days’ in life. All my life I have been aiming to achieve something ‘special’ – whether that’s in the way we celebrated our wedding, the songs I’ve written and sung publicly, or indeed, the book (s) that I’ve published.

It is always with the view to creating that ‘special’ experience for the guests or the listeners, or the readers involved. I suppose that’s what being creative and making art is really. Nobody paints a picture with a view to it being average do they? So, when the second birthday we’ve spent without Mum came around I will admit to feeling a bit hacked off about it – not through pity for ourselves, but because it felt like a good excuse for me to publicly remember her. And, really, that sucks. Just because it’s a ‘special’ occasion doesn’t mean I suddenly thought about her for the first time in the last two years. I might have gone two minutes without thinking about her if I’m lucky (or unlucky depending on what frame of mind I’m in).

And just because we liked to celebrate our birthdays together when she was alive as ‘special’ days, it doesn’t mean these were the only exceptional times that we were fortunate enough to spend together. It got me thinking, really, that a lot of us tend to think about or aim generally for the next ‘special event’ in our lives – when we get to go out at the weekend, when we get to go on holiday with the girls (me in June!), when we get to take the kids to Legoland (it was awesome tbf). And yet the older I get, the more I realise that every day is special, or can be, in its own way.

I am fortunate enough to share special moments with my children if not every day, then most in some way or another. A quiet night in on the sofa with a bottle of wine might end up being special if it leads to a meaningful conversation with my other half about something which makes us laugh, or think more deeply about, or discover something about each other that we didn’t know before (which still happens even after almost two decades together).

I used to think that to feel or be special you had to do something ‘big’ in life, and the older I get the more I realise that it’s the little things which are the most special of all. The people that have known you and loved you, and supported you, for the longest time. The time we spend together on a daily, weekly or annual basis as friends and family, they feel more and more special as life goes on. It also led me to this poem, which I jotted down while I was watching the final instalment of Derry Girls (love you mum!).  

Special Days

It doesn’t take a special day to make us wonder

What we might have done

Or, where we might have gone

Anniversaries are not required

We don’t need a prompt

It’s not like we can just bring them back

Those special days

The ones that were yours too

But we can still, and always will,

Remember to celebrate you


Untangling Grief

I’ve teamed up with the folk at Untangle Grief to run a virtual session looking at what’s involved in moving through grief and past bereavement as a family with young children. It takes place on April 5th at 7pm and will work through the various challenges that as parents we can expect to experience with our children throughout the bereavement process – funerals, school, visitors and more.

Untangle Grief is a great little online platform which basically takes all the faff and guff around bereavement away, offering guides, forums and other practical bits and pieces of info that are all handily organised into sections depending on your stage of bereavement, and the issue at hand. It’s a kind of ‘one stop shop’ of bereavement info that anyone can access free of charge and find help with issues including probate, counselling, funerals, finances, and a whole lot more. It’s also a place for people to share their own stories of loss, and for others to hear them in return, which is where I come in I suppose.

To be sharing in my experiences for the potential benefit of others is always a welcome opportunity, and is really what a lot of the Ivy journey so far has been about really. So far, however, I’ve not found the actual ‘speaking’ aspect that appealing to be honest, even though I should be doing far, far more of it! It’s not because I don’t enjoy hearing from others and what their experiences have been, I’m just not as good with words that come out of my mouth as I am when they’re written down!

I wonder if all writers find this bit hard – when you’re under pressure not to write (although I really need to be doing more of that too), but to get out there and shout about what it is that you have written, and where it comes from, and what it means to the world that it is in? I know I do, even though I used to perform regularly as a singer/songwriter in my younger years. I don’t know why these kinds of events, and getting my schools sessions out there, have become such a big thing in my head, but they have.

I’ve also made contact with my first school about going into see the children there soon too, so I’m getting there but I don’t think it will ever be my favourite bit of being an author. What I do love though, is sitting here, putting my thoughts and feelings down on the page, and thinking about what I might like to write about next. I’ve also had a few conversations around this recently, too, however, and hoping to bring you more news on more books soon too.

I constantly feel like I could and should be doing more to develop the Big Issues concept, but some days, I just want to sit with my kids and enjoy their little faces and soak up there personalities. Sometimes I just want to read what everyone else has been writing.

But, I am still moving – at what speed I should be I know not – and for now, that’s all I can do, and all that matters. I hope you manage to appreciate that element of life too in this world of madness.

If you want to join in the virtual session on Tuesday, you can book your space for free here:

Blog Press

What’s Good To Do – An honest review!


Ivy And The Rock Book By Jess Childs Review

This book melted my heart for so many reasons. The author of this lovely book is Jess Childs and has been brilliantly illustrated by Heather May Williams who wrote the story for her 2 children to help them understand why her own Dad is no longer with them and how her Dad was her rock.   The story and illustrations are both lovingly heartfelt and written in such a beautiful and simple way; that helps and covers the subjects of love and the loss when loosing someone.  So much so, that it is much more comforting to young children.  It reaches out and really does touch your heart, along with your mind and soul.  Even if your child has not experienced the loss of a loved one as yet, this is a great story to read as it will help them to understand and even talk about.

My granddaughter has recently lost her great nanna on her mums side and whilst she’s 7.5 years old, she has struggled to understand why someone she loves so much is no longer around.  Since her loss, she has been very confused and everyone around her has been there for her, no matter how many questions she has asked.  After reading this book, she now understands her thoughts and feelings so much more now and talks about her great Nanna in such a different way.  The book has helped her parents and myself to explain her loss in a way we never thought of.


It is about a beautiful little girl named Ivy Jones who walks the path on a journey of adventure and most importantly, self discovery.  With the security from a rock she adores and loves so much, it gives her a lot of security, safety, trust and confidence.

Ivy has gorgeous blonde hair, dressed in a blue and white polka dot top, and a pink dress, along with brown bootie shoes.  She has gorgeous brown eyes, rosy red cheeks, a really cute button nose and her hair has a cute bun on the top of her head which is tied up in a bobble with green leaves and berries. 

The rock is beautifully illustrated with so many dazzling colours such as yellow, teal, purple and pink.  The way it is drawn even looks like it is sparkling.  Such lovely art work.

The story also makes reference and illustrates flowers such as pansies, snowdrops, hollyhocks, hibiscus and roses.  These played a very important part of the story for my granddaughter as now, when out walking, she says to me ‘look Nana, flowers, flowers like Ivy has and their roots will keep growing and look beautiful, just like great Nanna’. This melted my heart and naturally made me cry. I was so proud and uplifted by her own take on her loss and how she has taken the story of Ivy and the rock and made it a positive one.  She likes to draw the rock and calls it ‘great Nanna’s heart’. She even has her own drawing of it up on her bedroom wall and every day she says ‘good morning/good night great Nanna, I love you so much and I will always love you’.  Just some of the words she has taken from the story and uses herself.

I would absolutely and most definitely recommend this book for all the reasons I have covered above.

You can see the full review live here:


Into The Wild

I went back to my regular exercise class of choice for the first time in almost two years this weekend. It’s called Poundfit and can best be described as over enthusiastically smacking the floor a lot with fancy drumsticks whilst listening to music. It’s great for burning fat, toning your muscles and releasing all those feelings brought about by the impending/repeated loss in life of people that you really love.

In my pre pandemic days, Poundfit was my twice weekly church of choice when it came to letting my emotions out and welcoming my true self back in. Every Sunday and Thursday, as I steadily beat the fear, sorrow and anger out of me, I would feel the endorphins come and take their place, and with them my sanity return too.

Sometimes the music would empower me to approach my life challenges akin to some kind of Amazonian warrior woman, and other times I would have to fight back the tears as I thought about the people we had lost, or how on earth it would ever be possible to live without the ones I was preparing to lose.

So, when I found myself back in that same hall this week, staring at the same wall, beating out that same rhythm, I found myself holding back the tears again. Tears for the outrageous situations we had found ourselves in and for the heartache we had experienced as a family in the time I had been parted from that wall. Tears for how life can be all the same matter of routine, and yet so different in the space of a breath it feels.

In a couple of weeks’ time, we will have spent an entire year trying to live the same old life, carry out the work we have always been assigned to do, and complete the same daily chores we have always had to, but as significantly different people.

It struck me as I pounded out to my favourite wind down track – ‘Into The Wild’ by LP – that routine beyond trauma has the power to both ground you when you need it the most and, at times, to make you want to scream as recklessly as is humanly possible. It brings with it the realisation that life goes on, whether we like it or not.

Some days the ‘routine’ can be hugely welcome and, on others, you wonder how on earth it is even possible that you could still be standing there, in the same old exercise class, beating out the same old rhythms and staring at the same old wall, when so much has gone between.

It has the power to make you feel like a fraud even for trying to live some kind of normal life when you know that suffering and sadness in the world is always only ever a heartbeat away.

Into The Wild is a great song if you haven’t heard it. In many ways, I can’t help but feel like living a parentless life at a relatively young age is what LP is singing about. My favourite lines:  

Are we so lost in the dark of our hearts
That there’s no light of day?

How do we not fade away?

Into the wild


Routine at heart

My kids went back to school this week, my youngest for her first proper full day. I took the rudimentary school uniform picture in front of the blackboard in our kitchen and posted it to our family WhatsApp group. I sent it to their Nanny and the girls’ dad, who had already left for work. I ignored the ache in me which said the first person apart from their dad I would have sent it to, had she not been in here in person, would have been their Grandma.

I put the girls in the car and took them to school. They skipped in together holding hands and I watched them go, proud if a teensy bit heart sore, and set about distracting myself on my first full school day of freedom (I don’t work on Mondays).

I had a meeting at 10am about some Big Issues for Little People related bits and pieces (more to come on that later) and while I was online, a missed call from my other half. He had just called to see how the girls had got on going into school, but it was so much more than that. This isn’t something that used to happen as much when Mum was still here – not through a lack of caring about his daughters but in knowing that any angst or fears I may have had would have most likely been used up on her.

I have become an anxious Mum and wife in the 10 months since Mum died, more anxious than I would like to be – and certainly hope to be in the long run . So, I’m lucky that my other half has worked to understand this, and understand the new me, just as he always has in light of the various significant life changes we have dealt with in our time together.

It got me thinking about how many phases and reincarnations we live through as couples. Nobody really knows what the impact of a bereavement is going to be on the relationship that you rely on the most, and tend to assume, will almost certainly get you through it. Nobody tells you that with every significant loss you effectively become a new person to be understood and loved all over again by those around you.

It also led to the following words, which fell into my mind while my other half was putting our girls to bed one evening, and which I thought I would share as a little update here with you. Because it’s been a while, to be fair!

Routine at heart

Falling in love is easy to do

Because I know how to do it with you

We’ve been at it for years, on and off

(for different reasons and with more to tow)

And the return journey grows even more perilous

Until we make it back again, which we usually do

And I get to love the feelings again, the reasons, the view

Which all those years ago

First led me to you