At last, a magazine that will keep my daughter entertained

I adore magazines and have done since I was  little. From my first issue of Girl to getting my subscriber copy of Elle through the post to picking up a copy of Inside Soap from the newsie, the concept of having a spare moment to myself to sift through pages of content I love makes me happy.

I’ve encouraged magazine buying in my household (well, my husband started off as a print journalist) and ever since our eldest daughter has been able to stick stickers on things, we’ve bought her an array of kid-friendly titles.

Now Diya is a little older, and is able to read, we have subscribed to First News and let her read some sections of the weekend supplements. Yes, she’s advanced for a six year old.

Post school slump: 3 year old colouring, 5 year old reading Sunday Times Style 😳 #likemotherlikedaughter

A photo posted by Shilpa Saul (@mustbethemummy) on

And then I stumbled upon ‘Amazing!’ magazine, a really lovely, colourful, gender-neutral magazine which is super interesting to read and is actually based on the primary national curriculum.  As you can see from the image, it’s a bit ‘Horrible Histories’ meets ‘Beano’.  Each issue is based on a theme, such as Ancient Romans, and I plan to file away our copies so that I can pull out relevant copies to coincide with the weekly classroom themes at school.  I actually love it.


Amazing! magazine

I asked Diya to contribute to this post and type up her thoughts on the ‘Ancient Romans Special’.  Here’s what she said:

“Love the word search I’m so good at it. I love the Roman numbers. I love the paper because it is thick and shiny. I love the pictures. I would like to read Amazing magazine every month!”

diya reading amazing magazine

If you think you’d like to test out the magazine at home, just leave a comment – the first 1o people to get in touch will receive a free copy.  The lovely people at Amazing! magazine are also offering a 10% discount – just use the code WOW10 at the subscription checkout on their website.

For more info on Amazing! check out their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.

Feelings on the big Four-Oh

It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’ll cry if I want to….. ok, I know those aren’t the actual lyrics but the good news is if I do cry, I’ll be crying tears of joy.  I’m not sad about turning 40 at all – instead, I’m grateful I’ve got this far in life without (touch wood) any major illnesses, reasons to want to commit suicide and so on.  Yes, I’ve had setbacks – the worst being losing my mother when she was just 60 years of age after a steady mental and physical decline due to Alzheimer’s – but in a way this has made me more thankful for the life I have today.  For me, the spectre of Alzheimer’s will always loom close by as I wonder if I will be struck by the same fate before I turn 50.  At the same time, however, the birth of my third child just over seven weeks ago has made me more determined than ever to be happy and healthy in order to furnish my children with happy memories of their childhood and to very much live in the moment.

Just before I turned 30 I hinted to my boyfriend (now husband) that I fancied spending my birthday by the sea.  In other words, a weekend away abroad or indeed in the UK in a lovely hotel being spoilt rotten.  In reality, he kindly drove me to Bournemouth for the day.  It was cold.  It rained.  He treated me to chips.  I have to admit I was a bit peeved at the time (and for the next few years afterwards).

When we was young @mangosaul #tbt #30thbirthday

A photo posted by Shilpa Saul (@mustbethemummy) on

Now, as I am about to turn 40, I have reassured my husband on numerous occasions that there is no need to organise a huge surprise party or buy me a ridiculously expensive present.  The difference between 10 years ago and now is vast.  Today I have everything I could ever want – a wonderful, caring, funny, gorgeous husband; an eldest daughter who is also caring and kind, intelligent and sensitive; a middle daughter who is hilarious, bright, creative and assertive and a little son (more on him later) who right now seems pretty chilled and happy to be cuddled by anyone who’ll hold him.  I have a supportive family who rally round when I need them but stay out of my face when I don’t. And a carefully curated selection of girlfriends, most of whom I’ve known for over ten years, who are sparky, clever, funny, strong and kind.

In a surprise twist of fate, I’ve also become part of a #mumsquad since moving to the suburbs of Surrey. A bunch of women who go above and beyond to provide friendship, reassurance and support.  Friends who are available at the drop of a hat if they are needed.  People who, when I decide at the last minute to celebrate the last night of being in my 30s, all make childcare arrangements so they can join me for a glass of champagne at the local pub tonight.

So tomorrow, I’ve briefed the kids to provide me with breakfast in bed. I’ve booked a table at Pizza Express for lunch with my kids, husband, father and aunty and uncle – all the people I love most in the world (apart from my big sis who will be in Paris for part of her own birthday celebrations).  I’ve booked a table at a fancy restaurant for dinner with my husband in the evening.  All in all, I’ve planned a perfect day in the realisations that only I would know what my perfect day would really be.  And tomorrow I’ll be smiling all day.

Happy 40th to me 🙂

Top 10 tips for giving birth on your bathroom floor

OK so that’s a slightly misleading headline as I actually wouldn’t advise anyone to give birth on their bathroom floor (or anyone else’s bathroom floor for that matter), but as I start to seriously contemplate going into labour for a third time my thoughts naturally drift to the first time I experienced it.

Six years on, I can look back and laugh at the hilarious nature of the delivery.  Details are certainly hazy BUT at the time I had the good sense to write it all down in a series of letters I’d penned to my eldest daughter.  The idea was that I’d keep a diary of her first year, and present her with it on her 18th birthday as a token of my love and dedication yadda yadda.  Needless to say, I didn’t keep the diary up for long….


So, for those of you who are interested in reading a farcical birth story, worthy of a Two Ronnies sketch, here’s what happened.

Wednesday 23 September 2009. It started out as any other day.  With a midnight tinkle.

I awoke at 00.08hrs for a loo visit.  Something felt different, it seemed my waters were ‘trickling’ a bit.  I put it down to incontinence (my EDD was 9 October) and went back to bed.  I had so many social engagements to still fit in including dinner at Hakkasan, a day at Cowshed and a mop chop, giving birth at that time was simply not an option.  My bag wasn’t packed.  My hypnosis session was still a few days away.  My hypnobirthing CDs hadn’t arrived. I was not ready.

I tried to go back to sleep.  This did not happen.  Another trip to the loo.  A show.  A call to the Doula we had so carefully selected to help guide us through the unknown.  Without my mother around for support it was really important to me to have another woman with me who knew what to expect, what was going on, what questions to ask.  The call to the Doula confirmed what we’d learnt in ante-natal classes; conserve your energy, go back to bed, this is just the beginning.

00.38hrs: I called my sister who, at the time, lived a few doors away to tell her that I was in ‘early pre-labour’ as our Doula had put it.  I tried to sleep but my contractions – when they did come – were too painful for me to sleep through.  My husband called the Doula again who, clearly, really just couldn’t be bothered to haul her fat, lazy arse out of bed.  “Tell her to calm down, run her a warm bath”, was the advice.  I got in the bath.  I had a contraction.  I panicked I’d be stuck in the bath forever.  I got out of the bath.

01.37hrs: I called my sister to come over, pack the hospital bag and bring yoga CDs.  I was unhappy.  The Doula woman kept telling my husband to tell me to calm down because I had “a long way to go”.  I told him to fuck off.  My sister arrived and found me in my darkened bedroom.  I could only have one lamp on.  I was listening to some yoga music.  Apparently I looked a little possessed.  The un-helpful Doula suggested taking Arnica.  I took the Arnica.  I asked my sister and husband to put the TENS machine on.  It had only arrived that morning so we didn’t know how it worked.  They faffed about, without light, whispering loudly to each other.  I asked for peace and quiet.  They looked at each other.  Figured it out.  Put the TENS machine on.  Took the TENS machine off – it was pointless.

02.00hrs onwards: I had a word with myself.  The Doula was not coming.  I could not speak to her.  All I could do was close my eyes and tell myself to stop being so dramatic.  This was just the beginning.  I had to get in the car and to hospital once I was in established labour which – according to the lazy Doula who was still in her own bed – I was not.  I listened to my music.  I breathed.  On all fours on my bed I realised no one was able to help me.  I was on my own for this one.  It was ok.  The music, the breathing, the darkness all brought comfort.  I reminded myself to be brave.  That women the world over did this every day.  I was not so special.  The situation was not unique.  I recall being told in our NCT classes that when you felt the urge to push, not to.

Approx 04.10hrs: I found myself pushing – I couldn’t help it.  I decided not to tell the comedy duo who were standing by.  After all, what would they say?  Instead I asked them to take me to the bathroom to do a poo.  “Do it on the bed” my sister suggested.  Was she MAD???  A brand new bed.  A poo?? What??  So they took me to the bathroom. I could barely walk.  I certainly couldn’t sit on the loo. My husband shouted “I can see the head” and ran off downstairs to call an Ambulance.  I was pretty sure he was mistaken but nevertheless relieved he’d darted off because a) he was in my way and b) I couldn’t imagine having to sit in a car to get to the hospital.  I stood up and lent over the bath because I was in pain.  I could tell there was something between my legs but as I wasn’t wearing my glasses or contact lenses couldn’t see what and – anyway – there was a bump in the way, innit? I thought I must have pushed out an internal organ such as my bladder (?!).  I asked my sister to check.  “It’s nothing, don’t worry”, she said.  I asked her to take a proper look in between my legs.  “MANGO I CAN SEE THE HEAD!!!!!!!!” (Turns out she didn’t hear him when he’d muttered it a minute earlier).  She has since told me she was my daughter’s entire head with her eyes and mouth tightly squeezed shut.

04.31hrs: Another contraction, another push from me and whooooosh.  Out she sloshed, head-first, onto our bathroom floor and slid about a bit.  It didn’t occur to me to pick her up.  Luckily, my sister had the good sense to do so and gave her to me.  She was very quiet.  She just stared at me with her big, big eyes.  “Look, a baby!” I exclaimed (no shit, Sherlock).  My husband ran upstairs, said “Oh, you’ve had the baby!” and ran downstairs again (!).  He then returned with a plastic chair for me to sit on and lots of towels to keep warm.  Our baby was just looking around and taking everything in.  She didn’t seem fazed.  Apparently I was in shock.

Approx 04.35hrs: the first paramedic arrived, stinking of nicotine.  Nice.  “Have you called the midwife?” he asked.  “No, but my Doula is on her way now” (evidently she’d finally managed to haul her fat, lazy, over-paid ass out of bed and actually come to our house).  “What’s a Doula?” he asked.  “Who knows”, was my reply.  He told my sister to look away and then cut the cord.  I was still in pain – I’m having another contraction……  Why??  I remembered I still needed to deliver the placenta.  Ah!  NOW I could ask for drugs.  I’ll have some syntocinon injection please.  “We don’t carry it in Ambulances”, said another paramedic (by this point a fast response car and two ambulances were outside our house and loads of people inside our house.  I don’t know how many, I still wasn’t wearing my fucking glasses).  So I had to deliver my placenta naturally too.  A paramedic asked for a bowl so we could take the placenta to the hospital to be examined.  My husband brought up one of my beautiful Joseph Joseph mixing bowls which was part of a set.  Had everyone suddenly LOST THEIR MINDS??? First suggesting I poo on the bed and now telling me to plop my placenta out into a really nice mixing bowl.  Anyway, I did it.  I didn’t have the patience to explain otherwise.  I was examined on my bed.  I was taken to hospital in an Ambulance.  I still didn’t have my glasses.  But I had the most precious thing I had ever, ever seen.

Wednesday 23 September 2009.  It was the happiest, most joyful day of my life.


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Preparing for the new member of Team Saul

Today, I am 35 weeks + 4 days pregnant with our third child.  Unusually for me, I have gone to great lengths to prepare for baby’s homecoming.

The first time around we were sort of ready but not exactly and in the end I gave birth at 37 weeks +4 days on the bathroom floor without any pain relief (apart from arnica – who knew?), no medical supervision and the hilarious comedy duo of my sister and my husband for support.  One didn’t catch the baby, the other was downstairs on the ‘phone – not sure why he chose that particular moment to use the landline….?  Anyway, that’s a (very good) story for another time.

The second time we were nowhere near ready – we didn’t have a kitchen, hot water or heating due to some charlatan scummy builder and his cronies and I went into labour at 35 weeks.  At least we managed to get to the hospital in time and I had a blissful three days in hospital bonding with our second daughter whilst my husband dealt with everything else.

So this time, I thought I ought to get my arse into gear a little bit.  God willing, I know what to expect this time.  I know I’m not going to get any sleep for six months.  I know about labour and what I need in my bag.  I actually feel like I know STUFF.  Of course, as it’s third time around there wasn’t much we needed to buy.  So, of course, I went on an online spending spree during the post-Christmas lull and bought a whole load of new stuff.

I’ve decided to decamp to the spare room once our new team member arrives so that my lovely husband gets enough rest at night (the first time I made him stay awake every time I had to feed our baby) and also so that my new little man and I aren’t disturbed by husband’s incessant snoring.  I also thought the girls would probably want to keep popping in to see me or their new brother and being in the spare room will make this a lot easier.  So ‘our room’ isn’t the nursery, it is a room intended for us both to share until he’s six months of age at which point we may look at moving him into a smaller room in the house.

For those of you new to the parenting malarkey or – like me – an ‘older mother’ (rude), here’s a run down of the bits and bobs I considered essential in preparing for the final addition to Team Saul:

SnuzPod 3 in 1 Bedside Crib with Mattress £179.95


Now, having used a Moses Basket for my first two, this is an entirely unnecessary purchase.  However, I was woo-ed by the design and the fact it has a breathable, zip down mesh wall which means I can access him a lot easier when he needs feeding, I can hold his hand or comfort him as he goes to sleep or when he stirs in the night and he can easily see me through the mesh.  As I ended up feeding both girls through the night (I’m talking 7pm til 7am), I will do anything that may make night feeding a little easier.

I had huge reservations about ordering this from the NCT shop – the only reason I did was because they were the only stockist to still have Dove Grey available.  Turns out I was right as the whole process was an utter, utter ball-ache.  We received the product almost immediately (29 Dec I think) but it took another three weeks for us to be able to assemble it due to a couple of faulty parts which we weren’t able to report until the NCT offices opened on 6 January.  They referred us directly to Little Green Sheep who were hugely helpful and compensated with fitted sheets and a mattress protector but seriously, the process nearly sent me over the edge.

Sleepyhead Deluxe Portable Baby Pod, Chevron, 0-8 months, £109



Again, a seemingly entirely unnecessary purchase but it’s so nice to look at and I really think will help Master Saul feel all snuggly and comfy.  A friend of mine has one and said it really worked with getting her little one to sleep.  I love the fact that it fits nicely into the SnuzPod, can be used on its own in the bed if baby really needs to be next to me and also that I take it around the house with me (which apparently you can also do with the SnuzPod bassinet but there ain’t no way I’ll be attempting that – much too heavy) and indeed away with us when we need to visit family etc, meaning it can sort of be like a ‘home from home’ for him.

Mama Designs cellular blankets, £19 each


I have literally been coveting these for the past 20 weeks or so.  They are just so delightful to look at compared to the boring white ones I had for the girls and are deliciously soft and snugglesome and extra large.  I love the fact they add jewel-like pops of colour to the room.  As you can see, yellow and grey is a bit of a theme so I went for a blanket in the same colourway plus another in orange with a teal trim.  I’ll be taking that to the hospital with me so that baby isn’t just clothed and swaddled in white.

Faye and Lou muslin squares, £28.95 for a pack of 7


OK so as a third-time Mum we don’t need anymore muslins in the house, but the ones we do have are grey and icky looking. These will hopefully retain their colour, help me figure out which ones are mine when I’m out and about with other new Mums and again, I love the jewel-like pops of bright colour they’ll add to wherever we are.  Bright colours make me happy. I’ve already packed a couple in the hospital bag, but here are the others – washed, tumble dried and very, very soft.





Ikea DRONA storage boxes, £2.50 each


Because, who doesn’t need to hide away all the crap that comes with having small people?  We already had the unit so just gave it a refresh with yellow and grey storage baskets.  These will really help in terms of stowing away nappies, wipes, nappy bags, creams, muslins, thermometers, medicines and so on in the first instance and later on, the plethora of toys and books we’ve got packed away in the loft.  The teddy bear lamp has been with me since my early 20s – purchased from a cute little boutique in Moseley, Birmingham and the chihuahua print has just been moved from a different bedroom.

Boob breastfeeding tops, £29.99 each 


I had managed to gather a pretty vast selection of Boob clothing from my first two babies but unfortunately ended up giving them all away so I’ve had to purchase a couple more feeding vests from the brand.  They’re certainly not the cheapest on the market but I can honestly vouch for how amazing they are.  Super easy to use and really help discreet breast feeding, which isn’t something I’m too precious about, but it helps when I’m at the inlaws!




Hand-knitted mittens, booties and hat, priceless


My lovely aunty, who is in her 80s, knitted plenty of items for the girls and last week she delivered these beautiful accessories for baby.  I just love that everything she does is so heart felt and we will cherish these forever.

So, in a complete departure from what I usually write about, that’s a brief run down of how we’ve prepared for the impending arrival of our new housemate.  Stand by for more hormonally driven pieces about what to pack for the hospital bags (an honest list!) and a review of the hypnobirthing classes we’ve been attending.

Oh, Prime Minister Cameron. But but. Ding, ding. I just wanted the ring.

So one of today’s major news stories was Cameron’s announcement that foreigners settling in the UK will have to demonstrate a sufficient grasp of the English language if they are to stay in Britain long-term.  This grabbed my attention for a few of reasons.

Firstly, I was watching the lunch time news whilst sitting in one of those really crap faux-massage chairs they have in the Korean nail salons.  You know, the ones staffed by a bunch of people who actually can’t speak English despite having BTECs or similar in stuff to do with nails.  Usually their lack of fluency doesn’t bother me.  Today, ironically, it did as I narrowly escaped a scalded thigh and stomach by asking fellow customers to help me get cold water because the staff didn’t have a clue what I was saying.  Not ideal at 34 weeks pregnant but I’ll save the health and safety story for another time.

Secondly, as a child of immigrant parents I wholly believe that all communities should make an effort to speak the ‘local’ language with fluency.  My mother was so proficient in the English language that she worked as an audio secretary and a PA when she was alive.  My father was able to run an entire department of  people when he worked as an accountant and now gives talks related to caring for people with dementia (again, a story for another time).  Both their mothers took an active interest in learning to speak English and my paternal grandmother was often heard reading the Daily Telegraph out loud.  There’s really no fucking excuse not to speak the language in the country in which you reside.  Just as they learnt Swahili when they lived in East Africa, so they learnt English when they had to leave their home country for Britain.

With my Uncle and Aunty in the white enclave of Kesgrave, Suffolk. Speak English or die trying.

With my Uncle and Aunty in the white enclave of Kesgrave, Suffolk. Speak English or die trying.

The fact that the pig-sh*gging PM has chosen to conflate the issue of learning English with stopping extremism amongst Muslim communities is somewhat ridiculous but what more can we expect from ‘people like him’.  Personally, I’m 100% in favour of the rules that will mean from October, people coming to our country on a five-year spousal visa will have to take a test after two and a half years to show they are making efforts to improve their English.  And if they can’t?  Well, there’s no guarantee they can stay.  I mean, praise the Lord!  No more Korean nail salons where the staff haven’t got a clue what you’re saying.  No more Polish cleaners where you give up asking them not to use loo paper to clean the entire house because, despite the fact they’ve worked for you for over six years, their English is as poor as the day you met them (or is that just me?).  And no more trying to get some sort of bling hair do in the salons of Southall, only to be mocked by some recent bride who used to work in a ‘saloon’ in Delhi because you can’t speak Hindi.  I mean, really?  Really?  If only their English were good enough I’d point out it would probably be easier for them to learn the local language but, you know, but but ding ding, they’re only here for the ring.

Thirdly, Olly Murs.  Not just poor, old, stupid Olly Murs (ok, rich, young, talented Olly Murs).  But people like him.  People who somehow manage to land prime time TV presenting gigs despite their failure to grasp the basics of the spoken language.  For example, “was you nervous?”, “what did you think of them comments?” and “you was here last year”.  I’m all for diversity of accents but I also really, honestly believe that people in the public eye need to be setting a good example to the next generation of British children.  I would be very disappointed indeed if my children came home uttering such nonsense but I know I’m fighting a losing battle on that front (and I also realise there are plenty bigger issues to be concerned about when raising children).  Anyway, my point is yes let’s encourage the Johnny and Jane Foreigners to speak the lingo but let’s also make sure British people are upholding the necessary standards in the first place.