Friday, 9 January 2015

What Have I Done?

I've done something very wrong. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was wrong, I tell you. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I'm afraid I may have equipped my son with a terrifying weapon. Honestly, my three-year-old son now brandishes a weapon which is known to have devastating consequences for those who come face-to-face with it. And I mean literally face to face.

And while we're on the subject, how do toddlers do it? How do they convince us poor, trusting, devoted mothers to allow them to get away with such evil sorcery? Now, in the cold light of day, I can't believe I've had a part in this. I never imagined I'd be capable of such a thing.

But the truth is there to see, and it is clear that Little Tot could not have achieved such weaponry without the help of an adult peer. So I'm giving myself up now. There's no point in denying it. This is my confession.

If you're familiar with my blog posts and the capers of Big and Little Tot, then you may well be aware that they've both been guilty, in the past, of distracting me with their unfathomably long, thick eyelashes. For example, I might be on the cusp of giving them some ever-so-crucial, life-changing gem of wisdom about the merits of wearing a zipped-up coat in the winter, or not pouring orange juice onto cereal when, bam! There they are, curving away against the glorious brow, fluttering effortlessly into an eternal portal of cuteness, complemented by an endearing pout and I am rendered helpless. My well-intentioned life-changing gem of wisdom blown out of the water by a totally unfair physical attribute.

Their dad has them too, so you can imagine not much gets done around here.

Anyway, on this particular day, I was sitting at the table with my boys whilst they ate their favourite supper of milk, fruit and biscuits (okay, I have to force the fruit onto their plates but let's not go into that). Little Tot was looking at me with his huge, almond-shaped brown eyes and having a rare moment of quiet whilst chomping on his biscuit. We had a beautiful moment of stillness together, whilst looking deeply into each other's eyes and I thought I might melt onto the kitchen floor. Big Tot was being quiet too, which really is a rare phenomenon - the biscuits must have been good on this particular night.

So in this rare, melting, chomping-biscuits type moment, Little Tot started batting his eyes. Slowly, gently, purposefully. And, as you can imagine, this meant his eyelashes were batting too. I mean properly batting. Like he was flirting or something. No, actually, like he'd been flirting for many-a-year and was some kind of Master Practitioner at the craft.

I couldn't help myself. "Sweetheart, you do that to any woman and you will get anything you want. Like, straight away."

He stopped the batting for a moment and went back to that intense, pre-batting stare and I watched that information settle slowly into his toddler psyche. "Really Mummy? Anything I want?" Then, make no mistake about it, he started batting again. And somehow his lashes seemed even curvier, more voluptuous, his eyes even more innocent, more charming and hypnotic than before! What had I done?

Of course, Big Tot had to have his penny's worth. "Can I do it too Mummy? Look, watch me, I can do it better than him!" I watched Big Tot. Now don't get me wrong, he is a stunningly handsome boy. But when it comes to eyelash-batting, he's not going to win any trophies any time soon. It looked more like a bad bout of a misplaced contact lens, startlingly accompanied by a psycho-stare to alarm even the likes of Al Pacino in Scarface.

So what could I say? "Of course you can sweetheart, you both have beautiful eyelashes."

And since then, I've witnessed Little Tot unleash his weapon at the most opportune of moments. Right before his booster injection at the clinic in a bid to win himself multiple lollies from the pretty nurse. At the unsuspecting librarian to ensure he didn't get told off for the library book which was returned with a chewed-off corner. In the queue at Tesco when we needed to pay for a pint of milk and the old lady in front of us had an over-flowing trolley (actually, that was quite useful). And I'm now getting reports from his childminder and nursery teacher that he is wielding his weapon in a variety of educational / play settings. I ask again, what have I done?

Advice for us all, I think

Big Tot, on the other hand, is going around petrifying the town with his interpretation of the craft. I think I might encourage him to start wearing sunglasses when we go out. Like, whatever the weather.

So as well as a confession, this is my formal, preemptive apology to all of the otherwise strong, independent women out there who might sometime in the future, buckle under the pressure of Little Tot's eyelash batting. I am guilty.

With smiles,


To find out how Abi leads a happy, contented life with the Tots, take a look at the Cool Rule Book and a the whole range of Cool Rule products at

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Monday, 11 August 2014

Ruling the New Roost

If a man's house is his castle, then what is it to a toddler? A play area? An open-all-hours restaurant? A place in which to emotionally manipulate grown-ups and terrorise siblings without the side-effect of causing public disarray?

So what happens then, when you take that house away and replace it with another one? Well, we've not even had three weeks in our new house and I can tell you that toddlers have absolutely no problem finding their feet in a new domain. In fact, they can quite possibly do it quicker than any other person in the household, regardless of age, gender or life experience on this planet.

Moving home is a breeze for toddlers

Little Tot informed me quite some time ago that he would be taking charge of things as soon as we moved. "In new house I have big room." He warned me over a slice of toast one morning. "I have it on my own. I have all of house. On my own."

I should have known there and then. But instead I smiled at him and, admittedly, was unwittingly drawn in by the curl of his eyelash, the curve of his rosy cheek (why do they have to make toddlers so damn cute?), "Really sweetheart? And what are you going to do in the new house. Play with all your lovely toys?"

"No." And then he actually tutted. "I boss. Boss of you and new house."

I didn't have a chance to reflect on the eeriness of this statement because Big Tot, who was also chomping toast, flung himself into a typically passionate rant against this notion. Then more toast was required and that was that. Little did I know that I was being warned of what was to come.

Now that I'm here and slowly unpacking boxes and drilling holes in walls (or patiently waiting for the hubby to drill holes in walls), I can appreciate Little Tot's ownership methods. And I'm certain, that if you spent just one hour in our home (totally ignoring his cuteness and inability to wield a biro correctly) you would be convinced that it was Little Tot's name on the rental agreement.

Let's take a look at his methods:

  • You cannot climb up the stairs before him. You must wait at the bottom until he has reached the top, at which point he will shout, "Ok, you can come up now!" 

  • You cannot climb down the stairs before him. You must wait at the top until he has reached the bottom, at which point he will shout, "Ok, you can come down now!" (NB: Our last house was a bungalow)
  • At mealtimes, everybody except Little Tot must stand around the table and wait until he decides where he will sit, and only then can everybody else choose their place. Placemats are a whole separate saga.
  • Upon leaving the house to go somewhere fun (like Ikea or, erm, well . . .  Ikea) we must all go through the front gate which is held open and then closed immediately again by Little Tot. This is not done in a gracious, gentlemanly way. It is more like herding sheep. Naughty sheep.
  • You must seem pleased when random children keep appearing in the house expecting to be fed, entertained etc. This is because Little Tot has thought it appropriate to yell over the front gate "Hey, neighbours! Do you want to come to my new house? Come on in!"
  • You must understand that lights can and will be switched on regardless of it being broad daylight outside because, of course, the zombies might come.

How does he even know what a zombie is?

Now that, my friends, is how to rule the roost.

It is a good thing, however, that I am the queen of rule-making and I have the trusty Cool Rule Book to fall back on. Honestly, when I first created it all those years ago, I had no idea how handy it would be during a house move. Result.

Although there may not be any specific rules detailing the repelling of zombies, there is plenty in there about caring for others, sensible mealtimes and listening to Mummy and Daddy. Consistency is key with toddlers but when you're moving house, it's hard to keep anything consistent because change is all around. The Cool Rule Book has really helped me to keep all those important elements of day-to-day life the same for Little Tot. And Big Tot too, because although he's six now, he still loves his Cool Rules.

You've gotta love it

So all that's left to do is give the hubby a Cool Rule Book with a nice big section on the drilling of holes in walls.

Go well,


To see the Cool Rule Book yourself, and the rest of Abi's fantastic range of positive parenting products, visit

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Friday, 20 June 2014

All Change

It's all change here in the Cool Rule household.

After two years of balancing parenthood with self-employment I've gone and got myself a 'proper job'.

And it's not just any job either. It's the one I wanted. The one I finally worked out that I wanted after pondering over and applying for many other jobs and imagining myself in an abundance of different lifestyles ranging from top positions with ridiculously high salaries to more humble work with rather insulting salaries.

It's not that I don't adore running The Cool Rule Company (or Kelebek Art, my little arty sideline). It's just that now it's all sorted and ticking along nicely, I wanted something else. I wanted something I could turn up to each day and know I was guaranteed to get paid, hence guaranteeing the mortgage people don't send the Heavies round. Because let's face it, as a busy Mum, one cannot fit the Heavies into a complex schedule of averting tantrums, wiping dirty bots and engaging in regular existential musings.

The Heavies would have to wait

Now don't get me wrong here. Self employment rocks. I've been self employed pretty much since I left university about a hundred years ago, and I bloody love it. But now I'm a Mum and have Tots to think about, the need to have an income that doesn't come in fits and starts suddenly looks very appealing. BC (Before Children) I was quite up for spending a whole project fee on a killer pair of jeans then living on rice for the rest of the month, but for some reason you're not allowed to do that as a parent. Sad, isn't it?

So anyway I must have spent a good couple of months applying for jobs in the sector I spent ten years in BC: arts management. All was looking good. I managed to write personal statements that weren't too poncy, got my references sorted and my CV was rocking up pretty well. But then there was a big, vacuous silence and I figured I had to reassess.

Now what? What was this silence telling me?

Well, it was telling me a.) it's blinking hard to get a job these days, especially in the arts sector since it's been slashed to within an inch of its life by our wonderful coalition government and b.) wasn't that just a teensy bit of relief I was feeling? Yes, it was definitely relief. And not just relief that I didn't have to go to a job interview for the first time in fourteen years, but relief that I wasn't going back to what I used to do. I just couldn't see it happening.

So being into meditation and all that jazz, I did a bit of tuning in and spacing out and finally got a hold on what was going on. It suddenly seemed blatantly obvious to me that if there was a theme running through all of my work with The Cool Rule Company and Kelebek Art, then that theme was wellbeing.

Wellbeing a plenty

The Cool Rule Book and all of the other Cool Rule products are aimed at living in the moment with your child, enjoying every unfolding moment and relaxing into the tumultuous rhythms of parenthood so that everybody benefits.

Kelebek Art provides bespoke artwork that is focused on inspiring and touching people. I like to think that everything I create has an undercurrent of healing and happiness.

And then, of course, there was my own wellbeing to consider, which would be pretty much torn to shreds if a new job didn't allow for time with the legendary Tots.

So wellbeing was key.

And because the universe is very crafty when it wants to be, a couple of ships came in for little old me.

I was offered an admin position at a company I've been banging on the door of for quite some time now. Living Mindfully provides courses in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and helps people weave meditation and mindfulness practices into their everyday life to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Having been wowed by one of their courses myself, I simply couldn't pass up the chance to see how this company works on a ground-level. And with future opportunities to train in mindfulness teaching methods, I was chomping at the bit.

Aren't they lucky to have me?

And if that wasn't brilliant enough, I've also been contracted to work on a local Arts on Prescription programme, teaching art to adults with mental health issues. And oh how I love these workshops. Unlike the millions of workshops I've taught in schools and youth venues, these people are willing, enthusiastic, unlikely to swear at me, and getting so much out of it, it is truly astounding.

So it's welcome to the world of 'proper' work for me. And, because everything has its flip side, it's welcome to the world of 'utter chaos in the household'. For the three days a week that I'm out proper working, and the hubby is home doing the childcare thing, pandemonium seemingly unfolds. Upon crossing the threshold of my lovely little home, I am so far repeatedly amazed by the way in which furniture can be rearranged, toys can be entangled, fruit peel can be adorning appliances and clothes can be twisted into disturbing formations. I feel like I've walked into Tracy Emin's latest.

I guess things aren't quite this bad . . .

Whilst Emin is sadly absent, the hubby looks up from his iPad cheerfully and smiles to see me home and the Tots practically rugby tackle me into full-on floor-hugs. And, in the ways of mindfulness, I decide to surrender to the sweetness of the moment and accept the mess.

It's worth it.

Go well,


To find out about the brilliant range of Cool Rule products for parents and toddlers, just visit 

Sign up for The Cool Rule Company newsletter, a monthly slice of parenting magic here.

Find beautiful, bespoke collage artworks at affordable prices at

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Find out about Derwentside's fantastic Arts on Prescription course at

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Where Does the Time Go?

I don't know about you, but since I became a parent, I spend virtually every day spouting dramatic, over-emphasised cliches. And I fully know they're cliches. Like, as I'm saying them. But that just makes me mean them all the more. It's very distressing.

Let me share with you some of my favourites:
  • Because I said so
  • Let's just wait and see
  • You're going to break your neck
  • Would you jump off a cliff if your friends told you to?
  • How many times do I have to tell you?

Those naughty cliches just slip out . . .

Painful, aren't they? But the ones that really stand out for me are the ones I say to other people about my kids. Things like 'They're growing up so fast' and 'Where does the time go?' and I find they're all related to how undeniably quickly my children are growing up.

Like most parents, I can see the exquisite beauty in watching my children grow. Seeing Big Tot climb all the way up to the top of a tree without my assistance makes every tantrum he's ever thrown at me utterly worthwhile. And knowing that Little Tot can charm man, woman or beast with his pleases and thank yous and fluttering eyelashes is enough to make any mother proud. But why do they have to do it all so damn quickly?

Next week Little Tot will be three years old. Three. I mean, that means I probably have to throw out that cute stripey babygrow now.

And then a mere two weeks later, Big Tot will be six. Six I tell you! What am I supposed to do with a six year old?

At least I'm being distracted by the planning of the birthday parties. I'm sorry, did I say 'distracted'? Let's change that to 'demented'. Despite their combined total of just nine years on this planet, my Tots seem to have got the entire birthday party situation sussed. Even the not-yet-three-year-old is demanding a Batman theme and cupcakes and games and appears to be inviting half of the townsfolk to his party with his aforementioned impeccable manners / eyelashes combo.

Will I be able to create something like this?

And Big Tot? Well, despite firm warnings from me not to go telling everyone at school about his party on account of the fact that we could only ask six children from his class because he has twenty seven friends from outside of school already coming (yes, twenty seven), he went bounding into school that day, brandishing a fistful of invitations and shouting, "Everybody, I've got the invitations for my party! It's going to be brilliant! Come and see!" What else could I do but hide my head in my hands and keen softly?

But I have to admit, there is a part of me that loves all of this. I like the idea of an old-fashioned at-home party as opposed to a stint at the local soft play centre. I like the thought of playing host to a group of energetic young things and giving them fun things to do and see and eat. As long as the sun shines so we can use the garden. As long as some of the parents stick around to help. As long as there's enough cake. As long as there's no fighting or crying or vomiting. I mean, is that unreasonable?


Go well,


To find out about Abi's brilliant range of happy living products for parents and toddlers, just visit

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Game is On

I've got a new project people. The game, as they say, is on.

As we all know, I often have my head so deep into the sands of motherhood, that I rarely notice what else might be going on in the world. How can I possibly know what's trending on Twitter when I am so busy rescuing toys from the seemingly endless crevices in my house or discussing the merits of Super Mario's moustache?

So when it was my birthday last weekend, and my brother handed me a hastily wrapped cookbook by somebody called Jack Monroe, I wasn't surprised when he said, "Haven't you heard of her? She's got a blog. Everybody's read it."

So then I did a bit of research (i.e. flicked through said cookbook in front of astounded brother) and found out that Jack Monroe, better known as 'A Girl Called Jack' may have just answered my prayers

The girl herself

Like virtually everybody in 'Austerity Britain' right now, my family is living on a pretty tight budget. The Cool Rule Empire is yet to dominate the world so we live on a combination of the hubby's wages as a part-time waiter and tax credits. My hubby, who is Turkish, hasn't seen his family in nearly three years because no matter what we do, no matter how much we cut back, there's never enough money left over to save for a trip to Turkey. This may not seem like a big deal. But imagine not being able to go and visit your mum who has a life-threatening heart condition or your elderly dad who suffers from a serious hernia. Not fun.

And even putting that aside, whilst I know we're not actually, literally poverty stricken, we do struggle daily. We don't eat meat. We don't buy alcohol. We don't go out. We don't have holidays. We don't have Sky TV. We don't buy lattes. We don't do a lot of the things that are the classic money-wasters. Every time a school holiday looms before me, I am caught in an emotional battle with myself. How will I entertain the Tots with no budget this time? How can I make staying at home every single day seem like raucous fun this time?

And on top of all that, I could really do without worrying about feeding them too. There are only so many times you can offer a child peanut butter sandwiches without feeling as if your soul is being dragged down.

Delicious and cheap!

And that's why, when I read the introduction to Jack Monroe's cookbook, I thanked my lucky stars.

Jack is a single mum to a Small Boy, was unemployed for a year, and living on benefits. With her excruciating food budget of £10 a week, she somehow found a way to cook healthy, nutritious food using simple ingredients. She blogged about her experiences, posted her recipes online and further down the line came a book deal. That's the book I hold in my hands now.

You can read loads about Jack and her experience of poverty all over the internet. She now campaigns against modern poverty, speaks in parliament and is an ambassador for Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group.

The women's a gem. And why? Because her experience speaks to so many people. I think she's amazing for being so honest about those heart-rending times she went through. And even more amazing for turning it into something positive and inspirational.

(And let's not forget that she's introduced me to white chocolate tea bread and the brilliant Penny Pizzas totally rocked the Tots' world. Like I said, the woman's a gem.)

The white chocolate tea bread did it for me

So I'm taking a leaf out of her book and trying to be honest too. Although I'm told at countless marketing workshops that it's important to project an image of success for your business, I must remember that my business came about as a result of absolute honesty in the first place. The Cool Rule Book was born because of the honest needs of my toddler son and grew into what it is today because of the very real needs of toddlers and their parents. So I can't throw that honesty away. It's what makes me who I am and my business will always be operated that way too.

A Girl called Abi wrote this one

So newsflash everyone! The Cool Rule Company hasn't made me millions yet. In fact, the real newsflash is that it's desperately difficult starting and running your own business. I don't care how much the government bleats on about the growth of SMEs, it is bloody hard work. It requires strength, patience, commitment, belief. And not just from you either, but from your partner, your family and your friends. And it requires an extended period of frugality, that goes far beyond what you ever imagined in your business plan.

And here I am now, loving everything The Cool Rule Company stands for, but devastated that I had to sell my late father's beloved camera equipment to pay off my start-up costs. I can't help wondering what he would have thought of that.

But I'm still here with bells on. And am blessed with many amazing things in my life including two Small Boys of my own who never fail to amuse or surprise me. And Jack Monroe's got me on a mission, so I thank her for that. My mission is to get more healthy, delicious food into our systems, and to get that weekly food shop down. And I mean really down. The game, as I said, is on.

Go well,


You can learn about how to donate to foodbanks at

You can find out more about the Child Poverty Action Group at

Browse the brilliant range of Cool Rule products at and start happy living with your toddler today. Follow The Cool Rule Company on Facebook and Twitter.

Read Jack Monroe's blog at or follow her on Twitter

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Defining Moment from a Mathematical Mum

We all have those utterly defining moments as mothers. You know, those moments when the guilt, the responsibility, the joy, the terror or the absolute unquestionable love smacks us in the face and momentarily takes our breath away. Know the ones I mean? I bet you've got a million to choose from.

Because it's the month of March, the month of International Women's Day (rock on), Mother's Day (chill out) and, let's not forget pancake day (pig out!), I've asked some mums I know and admire to share a defining moment on the Cool Rule blog. I, myself, am usually unashamedly taking advantage of the blogosphere to share my own never-ending defining moments, so I thought it was time to let somebody else have a go.

Today, it's Alison Smith from Mark Stanley Accountants. Now I know Alison personally and she's so utterly approachable, it almost makes accounting fun! She specialises in working with small businesses and contractors but, more importantly, she's also mum to Sam, aged nine, who likes to keep her on her toes. Here's her chucklesome defining moment"

I often think of myself as having three children: my husband, my son and my dog. I love them all dearly, but they do take a lot of looking after! It’s hard to believe that Sam (that’s my son, not the dog) is now nine years old. Although I probably have it easier than most with just one child, life can still be as stressful as anyone else’s.

Having a sense of humour helps me cope with the stresses and pressures at work and at home. Ever since nursery Sam has been described as having a ‘wicked sense of humour’. He definitely takes after his dad in that respect. An example of this occurred last weekend, when we were walking through Chopwell woods with the dog. Sam stubbed his toe on a tree stump, and we were discussing the merits of steel toe cap boots, which daddy wears at work sometimes, when he is on site. Sam, knowing that I work in a relatively risk free zone of my office, tells me that I should get a pair for work, just in case I drop a pencil on my foot!

Alison with quick-witted Sam


This is probably not that funny on paper, but believe me, coming from a nine year old boy in a sarcastic, dead pan tone, it was hilarious! I’m so glad he has a sense of humour, as this will get him through the difficult times, which are inevitably ahead of him. Having a laugh with your family, your friends, even watching TV, can lift your spirits like nothing else!

Aw, thanks Alison . . . we are totally with you on the merits of a sense of humour. An essential part of the parenting toolkit!

If you'd like to check out Alison's brilliant service for small businesses and contractors, just visit: or on

And to find out how The Cool Rule Company's brilliant range of products can transform the life you share with your child, just visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Defining Moment from a Marketing Mum

We all have those utterly defining moments as mothers. You know, those moments when the guilt, the responsibility, the joy, the guilt, the terror or the absolute unquestionable love smacks us in the face and momentarily takes our breath away. Know the ones I mean? I bet you've got a million to choose from.

Because it's the month of March, the month of International Women's Day (rock on), Mother's Day (chill out) and, let's not forget pancake day (pig out!), I've asked some mums I know and admire to share a defining moment on the Cool Rule blog. I, myself, am usually unashamedly taking advantage of the blogosphere to share my own never-ending defining moments, so I thought it was time to let somebody else have a go.

Today, it's Maxine Johnston from Maxine Johnston Marketing.What Maxine doesn't know about marketing and promoting small businesses quite simply isn't worth knowing. And, according to her nine-year-old daughter, she's really rather cool too. So let's see what kind of moment makes Maxine step back in awe at the role of being a mum . . .

My name is Maxine and I am mum to my gorgeous nine year old daughter. When Abi kindly asked me if I’d like to write about my defining moment of being a mum, I really couldn’t pick just one so I thought I would chat to you about a defining 'thing' we have in our house. 

Since I can remember music has been a big part of my life. I have been reliably informed by my parents that when I was brought home from the hospital as a baby, I was immediately played some Paul Simon. Since then music has shaped my life in so many ways. Thanks to my parents I have a broad range of tastes when it comes to music and with the exception of jazz (sorry jazz fans!) I will listen to just about anything.

Maxine with her daughter as a toddler


I wanted to bring my daughter up with the same ideal and she too will also pretty much listen to anything from Beyonce to BB King.

All my friends and family know I also love to sing and dance to any music that happens to be playing. I feel I have finely honed skills in both singing and dancing (although those closest to me feel these skills possibly need honing some more!). Most nights before bedtime my daughter and I sing and dance without a care in the world, along to carefully chosen tracks belting from You Tube.

The other night we were singing and dancing along to Olly Murs and I looked at her and she looked so unbelievably happy. Like any mum, I had a pile of dishes to do, work emails to answer and we needed to start the daily bedtime routine but none of that even mattered.

I took a moment to realise that I won’t get this time back. Soon she won’t want to sing and dance along with her embarrassing old mum. So for now we are proudly singing and dancing in our household. And we make no apologies for it!

Dancing is always best when cake is involved

Maxine, we are totally with you on this one. There can never be too much singing and dancing in a household! Maybe we'll put it as a rule in the next edition of The Cool Rule Book!

If you want to speak to Maxine about the marketing needs of your business, just contact her on or on 07582 955 800.

If you'd like to share one of your own defining moments as a mum, just email with 100-500 words and one or two photos of you and your children. If you have your own business, I'd be happy to feature information about that too.

And now you can check out The Cool Rule Company's amazing range of happy living products at, Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter!