Revised postpartum exercise plan!

Well, we’re four weeks in to this parenting thing. And my ideas on what exercise is possible have completely altered: I severely underestimated how life would change once my bump became a person!

 

I had imagined long walks in the Autumn sun, with a contented baby sleeping the afternoon away. I had imagined working on my core muscles during nap time, and being able to eat healthily to help me feed Baby B and to regain my figure.

 

But reality was a nightmare somewhat different! I never really understood how challenging the first few weeks would be: sure you’re sleep deprived, but you can sleep in the day, right? And all you have to do is feed the baby – sitting on the couch snuggling all day sounds very cosy.

 

I didn’t realise that a newborn baby likes to feed all.the.time. Snuggling on the couch quickly turns into feeling a little like jail as I can’t stand up for hours, even to go to the loo. It is also pretty lonely because leaving the house is tricky – which is hard for someone used to the fresh air of an outdoor run, and a regular endorphin high. I’m like an addict craving that next hit. And one night of sleep deprivation is ok, but night after night with four hours sleep quickly turns you into an emotional wreck who isn’t sure whether to laugh hysterically or cry and throw dirty nappies in your partner’s face for merely suggesting you might like to wash your dressing gown.

You can tell this isn't a real picture because she had time to put rollers in her hair, and her robe is clean.

You can tell this isn’t a real picture because she had time to put rollers in her hair, and her dressing gown is clean.

 

Ok, I’m only joking. I never threw dirty nappies in SB’s face. My self control is strong 😉

 

Now we’re in the swing of it (touch wood), and I’ve learned that the only routine is that there is no routine. We’ve made it to town on the bus a few times, and I’ve gone to my first mum & baby group (with no sign of the alpha mother…. yet!). Plus, the baby is very cute and I can’t help but smile at her all day long. Hopefully the initial days of shell-shock are in the past….

 

Anyway, like I said, I have had to re-think my postpartum exercise plans. I’m quite a way from being the yummy mummy with the push chair, the high ponytail and the sports drink.

This is the goal.

This is the goal.

 

These days my exercise looks like this:

  • Running around the house doing all the chores in the ten minutes that Baby B isn’t crying or eating. In a 3 story house, this definitely counts. Cardio – check!
  • Pushing the pram aggressively fast to make sure there are enough bumps to keep Baby B settled (she’s not convinced about her pram yet). An impatient pedestrian before, I now have no time for slow walkers, and find myself zig-zagging across the road to avoid them. Cardio – check!
  • Pushing the pram one handed when Baby B decides she’s had enough of being in there. She likes to look around when she’s out. Core muscles – check!
  • Carrying Baby B around for 18 hours a day. She’s not yet 3 kilos, so it doesn’t sound like much. But having her in the crook of my arm all day certainly gives my triceps a workout. Plus, holding my legs in a certain position to support the Bub while breast feeding is good for my quads. Resistance/strength – check!

 

My diet isn’t very good because its hard to chop salad vegetables one handed. But fruit is a life saver – easy to eat on the go, tastes fresh and clean, and provides energy. My other lifesaver is M&Ms, I’m not going to lie. Plus, I’m racing through Sons of Anarchy and The Good Wife on tv so I’m getting a good education on motorcycle gangs with an attractive, bearded hero as well as the Chicago legal system. Don’t tell me that’s not a good use of time – I won’t believe you.

 

I’m told that at 6 weeks babies start to get more independent, are happier being put down, and don’t need to feed as obsessively. As much as I was whining above, I will miss it (and I wanted to try and articulate just what is hard about those first few weeks). But then hopefully I can start working on the plan to beacon the high-ponytail yummy mummy. And London marathon prep will need to start soon….

 

Finally – how cute is this pic??? I’d love to take Baby B to a baby spa session where she can bob around in a pool. She loves bath time.

baby spa

 

Ellie B

Cesarean Section: the lowdown, and did fitness really help?

Hi everyone – wow, two weeks since my last post. You can guess what happened recently: we had our baby! Baby B is now confirmed to be a little girl, and for the past three weeks we have learned that she loves bath time and cuddling, and hates changing her clothes and being put down anywhere. At all. She knows. And she’ll scream.

 

This post I thought I’d look at the process of the cesarean. When I found out I was having one, I was very nervous about the surgical element: I’d never had surgery that big before, and the recovery was really scaring me. I tried to find some info about the process that wasn’t vague, NHS guidelines (which were helpful, but I was after some actual insights and personal experience rather than general advice), or that wasn’t on a Netmums forum, where it seems you can’t post if you value punctuation and complete words instead of abbreviations.

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So here we go. Two days before the birth I was admitted into hospital for steroid injections to help Baby B’s lungs mature as she was coming out a little early. As a result, I had to have my blood sugar monitored every hour thanks to he gestational diabetes. Day and night. For 48 hours. So … that was fun. I only found out on the day that I’d have to be admitted that early, and was kind of tearful as I re-packed my bag from one night to potentially four, and said goodbye to all the nice things I’d planned for the last day without a child. No romantic dinner with SB, no final aqua class. Sounds silly, but I was pretty emotional when SB took me to the hospital and then eventually drove away and left me in my new ‘home’ for the next few days, which was a four bed ward with two other patients.

 

However, this soon wore off. By that stage I was getting some pretty severe braxton hicks, so it felt safer to be in the hospital. It was nice to know that all I had to do was chill in between getting my blood sugar monitored, and helped me to calm down and focus on what was coming up. I watched a lot of Suits (so many good looking humans and so many sports metaphors), and my first episode of the Great British Bake Off. And wrote an emotional blog post 😉

 

On the day itself, SB arrived at 8am, and I put on my awesome surgical gear. We were prepared for a long wait, but by 9am we were called in. It all happened so fast, and we were frantically texting our family as we walked to the theatre. There, we waited for the team to assemble: there were approximately 9 people in the room as well as SB and myself. Once my spinal bloc had been administered, they lay me down and checked that it had worked. Then they put in the catheter (lovely), and they began.

keep-calm-the-baby-s-coming

It was a really weird sensation to lie there knowing that people were digging around inside you, and even more weird to know that in a few minutes our baby was going to arrive. In labour, I’m guessing that the process helps you prepare, plus you’re probably somewhere in your own zone just trying to get through the pain. And once the baby’s out, I’ve read your body is filled with hormones that help you forget the process and help you bond with the baby. My experience was nothing like that – I was conscious throughout and had nothing else to focus on apart from trying to imagine what would happen in the next few minutes. You can feel them rummaging around inside, but you can’t feel anything, and you can’t make sense of what’s happening because you know it’s such a big moment: how do you comprehend what’s going on? At one point, I saw the doctor’s hand above the screen holding two little purple feet, but she wasn’t completely out yet: that was the strangest experience of the whole thing, and really brought home what was happening!

 

Because she was breech, they had to push really hard to get her head out. Poor thing. I could feel a lot of pressure – it wasn’t painful but it was uncomfortable. When she came out, she was blue and in shock, so they took her over to a little bed to give her oxygen and warm her up. Here I should say a huge thank you to One Born Every Minute because I knew exactly what they were doing and that it was normal! Otherwise it would have been pretty scary. After a minute or two we heard a thin little cry and she was here.

 

They brought her over for SB and I to hold while they closed me up. This takes longer than getting her out, but you don’t realise because you’re looking at your baby and trying to work out what has just happened! Afterwards, they wheeled me into recovery where we (unsuccessfully) attempted the first feed. Then they took me back to the ward, where we were left with our baby, and where I waited out the anaesthetic.

 

Because of my diabetes, they were very strict in feeding her every three hours and make sure she ate. So she had formula for the first 48 hours in addition to me trying to feed, because it’s bloody hard work and they needed to make sure she ate. For the next two days, I stayed in the hospital while I tried to feed her, and the midwives topped her up with formula. The midwives were so patient and sat with me for an hour each time trying to help me: neither baby nor mother have any clue as to what to do, so it’s really tricky. By day 2 Baby B and I had kind of worked out what to do (thank god), so we were discharged, and SB and I were left to try and keep this small baby alive by ourselves!

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Sorry about the language. But this is what it’s like.

So. The recovery after the operation. Once the anaesthetic wears off, you are definitely very tender, and I was given pain killers every 3-4 hours, but nothing stronger than a powerful anti-inflammatory with paracetamol. The midwife took the catheter out and helped me to stand about 6 hours after the bub was born, and I was advised to walk around. So I did. It was a very ginger walk: I was hunched over, and moved very tenderly, like an old lady. This continued for about three days, but each day was better. I had a shower that night, and took the dressing off the wound. Going to the loo wasn’t painful (which is a concern!): I stayed very hydrated, and I tried to relax when I went which seemed to help. The muscles they sliced into seem to be used for everything: sitting up, going to the loo, twisting your torso, walking, and so everything was done very slowly to avoid pain. The day after she was born I was walking around the ward regularly, and the day after we were discharged, so much more walking that day. Each evening the wound was tender, and the hardest things were getting out of the bed and getting off the sofa. These were painful every time.

 

By the 5th day I was able to walk to our local pub for dinner with friends. I stopped feeling regular pain after about 6 days, and only if I moved the wrong way. The first two weeks were difficult: as well as no sleep, worrying about whether the child is eating enough, trying to get used to your new way of life where you can’t go anywhere and where your house looks like Mothercare threw up in your living room, you also have to be careful of not lifting things and taking care of how you move. But I think that’s the same for natural births too.

 

Now – 20 days after – I can walk my normal distances, however I can’t walk very fast still. I barely feel the wound, apart from in the evenings if I’ve had a particularly active day. Thanks to Baby B being a bit of a cling-on, we haven’t really gone very far, which is helpful as I’m pretty stubborn and not used to being immobile!

 

After she was born, my stomach was still pretty big. I looked 6 months pregnant still, but it was soft and there were marks and bruises from the surgery all over it. I went through a phase of missing my lovely bump, and feeling my little bub inside me. My legs swelled right up after the surgery – much more than anything I experienced when pregnant. They look like two tree trunks, with no definition at the knees or the ankles. This was fluid retention, and went away after three days. Now, my stomach has deflated somewhat and my legs are back to normal.

 

So was all that effort to stay fit during the pregnancy worth it? I think so. I think it really helped with my recovery: it made the first walk not to painful, and meant that I could walk more regularly a lot more quickly than some others (or so I heard from the midwives). I don’t think my core has been decimated as much as I thought, which helped once I was at home as walking up and down stairs wasn’t as problematic as I expected. Plus, I’m very fortunate that my stomach did deflate pretty quickly, and I’m sure this is because of the exercise I did when pregnant. So, even though it wasn’t in preparation for the ‘marathon’ that is labour, it still really helped me out and made the whole experience better.

 

 

I am itching to get out there in the fresh air and start walking regularly. The weather is still nice, and I know Winter is closing in soon. However, Baby B has other plans and hasn’t decided whether she likes the pram or not. If we go out and she’s in the wrong mood, she’ll just cry and cry, which is not nice. To be honest, I’m starting to feel panicked that I’m not getting out and about enough, and the being sat in my living room for hours on end feeding can result in some pretty severe cabin fever. But I have to remind myself that she’s not even three weeks old yet, and that these things will come with time. I should just enjoy these days when my main focus is sitting and feeding – I should watch more Suits. Because really, the cast is so attractive, and they love a quick, slick exchange of words. It’s like The O.C. for adults.

 

 

Sorry if an in-depth analysis of a cesarean isn’t what you wanted from a running blog, and sorry if it’s TMI. But I would have loved to read something like this when I was getting used to the idea, so I wanted to put it out there for others. The whole process was not as traumatic as I thought it would be, and on balance there are definite pros compared with a natural birth, such as:

 

  • You know when your child will arrive, and can mentally prepare
  • There is no long labour leaving you exhausted
  • I think my recovery would have been similar to that of a natural birth, particularly if the natural birth resulted in stitches
  • You get to stay in hospital for longer – this is a major advantage when learning to feed. How are new mothers expected to know what to do when they leave hospital after 5 hours?!

 

So… all I’m saying is that it’s not as bad as you think. And sorry again if you were hoping for a more running-oriented post.

 

 

Ellie B

Gym Life – No More Running!

Oh hey everyone! How are you all? That break was longer than I intended!!

 

In the UK, we find ourselves in the middle of ‘Summer’ gearing up for the next batch of races. My Facebook feed tells me it’s one month till the Great North Run, with none other than Mo Farah, and I have friends training for marathons such as Berlin (Sept 27). On the other side of the world, my Dad has just run the City2Surf in Sydney and smashed his fundraising goal, and Gilly is all about owning Melbourne once more.

Good luck to all GNR runners. It's the best race.

Good luck to all GNR runners. It’s the best race.

And here am I – right now, sat in bed with a coffee and a belly. So how does a pregnant runner cope in this most exciting time of the year?

 

The answer is…. by not getting jealous. It sounds so so simple, but when it’s a gorgeous Summer’s evening and perfect for a run, it’s not! And when your imagination starts to run wild, and you picture yourself running the GNR, and bumping into Mo at the end, and becoming friends and training buddies and this would all totally happen if only I was able to run… you get the idea. #FOMO in the worst way (that’s ‘fear of missing out’ – I learned it from one of our graduates at work. I can still kick it with the youth).

 

This is what COULD have been. See how fast I am? ;)

This is what COULD have been. Best Buds. And see how fast I am? ;)

5th June marked the last outdoors run that I’ve done. It wasn’t meant to be the last run, but since then every time I thought about running, it just made me feel uncomfortable. It’s the bouncing mainly: Baby B got to a size where it would take a long time for it to settle down, and it didn’t feel great.

 

So I joined a gym! It’s less than 10 minutes walk from my house, and I’m in love with it. They have a gym, an indoor pool, outdoor pool, a creche/nursery, and a hair and beauty salon. It’s been a long time since I had a gym membership – Sex & the City was still a current show back in those days.

It's socially acceptable to take a gym selfie, right?

It’s socially acceptable to take a gym selfie, right?

 

 

The best thing about the gym is the variation. It’s like a buffet dinner! You can do classes, you can do weights, cardio, swimming, whatever your little heart desires. And you can mix and match. These days I’m partial to a bit of weights plus cardio, and then I jump in the outdoor pool for about ten minutes and pretend that I actually know what I’m doing. Here is my current workout of choice:

  • 25 minutes on the cross trainer on a random setting, level 8 (covers about 4.5kms apparently)
  • 3 sets leg extension – 12.5kgs
  • 3 sets leg press – 12.5kgs
  • 3x arm… weights…. Ok. Not sure of the real name for this machine, but you pull weights towards you to work out one side of your arm, and then sit down and push them out to work out your chest

 

None of the weights are very heavy, but it’s designed to keep some kind of fitness and strength level whilst also being a gentle workout of my core. My legs haven’t had any serious workout since November, and believe me, these weights are more than enough to start getting them back on track!

 

I have also taken up Aqua aerobics, as recommended for pregnant women by every. single. person. in. the. world. I was surprised at the resistance the water provides: my arms get pretty tired throughout it. I’m not sure of the cardio benefits, but it is really really nice to be in the water and jumping around. Even if it’s not the same as 25 mins on the cross trainer, it gets me moving and keeps me mobile.

 

So we’re in the home stretch, Baby B and I: it will be making an appearance in the very near future. And then I have six weeks to recover and get my life back in order, and then the training for London shall begin. Starting with making sure everything still works after what’s about to happen!

 

In other news, we went away for our last weekend sans-enfant. It was a golf weekend, so…. I was thrilled. Nah, it was fun: we went with three of SB’s friends and their wives/girlfriends. While the boys played golf, we went in the pool, had spa treatments, afternoon tea, drank wine (or diet coke) on the terrace… And then tore up the putting green, much to the chagrin of the boys.

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Ellie B

Too much pole to choose from!

Let me tell you a story.

 

Seven years ago, a young girl tried pole dancing and fell in love. She learned how to move with the music, how to walk in killer heels, and satisfied the monkey-tendencies she developed during her tree-climbing childhood.

 

Four years later, she moved to England, and found her beloved pole dancing wasn’t quite the same – in England they were all about pole fit. She searched high and low, in London and beyond, for a school that taught a similar style to her school in Sydney, but it wasn’t to be. So, like a well-adjusted human being, she had adapted her expectations and get on with life. Only to find that she discovered a friendly pole school in Durham, and rewarded with loads of new moves to learn, a completely new style to get to grips with, and lots of new friends.

 

This post looks at the differences between pole dance and pole fit, and is 100% based on my own experience: I’d love to hear from people who have different experiences too. When I first arrived in the UK, I noticed significant differences between the style of pole in Australia  (dance) and the UK (fit). Here is a basic breakdown on the styles:

 

pole table

This isn’t anything official, but is my own interpretation based on what I saw when I arrived in the UK

Both are designed to be challenging, fun and to reclaim the idea of pole dancing as something that’s not inherently related to the red light district. But they do it in slightly different ways.

Pole dance reclaims it by maintaining the overt attractiveness to the dance: fitness and strength are as equal to mastering a smooth routine, with sexiness an important part of the performance. You as the dancer are in control – you’re not being objectified (not that there’s anyone there to objectify you!), and you are choosing to demonstrate your strength and femininity in that way. And looking objectively, apart from the shoes and the costumes, a lot of the routines aren’t overtly sexy – what makes them sexy is the attitude of the dancer themselves. They consciously steer their performances towards a certain interpretation.

Bobbi Right Leg Hang

This is Bobbi doing a pole dance move. The way her arms are placed, her shoes, and her facial expression all shows that this is a performance. All lines are smooth, but not dead straight, suggesting movement and fluidity.

Pole fit has a different focus: it focuses more at the actual move itself in isolation, with an emphasis on building core and muscle strength. In my experience, UK dancers know loads more actual moves than the Aussies, but they don’t always have the stamina to do combos or routines. They reclaim the sport by trying to negate any sexual connotations: their focus is on the sport and fitness of the activity, and work to steer their activity away from any inherent sexiness.

pole fit scorpio

This is the same move as Bobbi, but a pole fit version. The lines are straight and rigid, her outfit emphasises sport rather than costume, and the overall composition of the photo is designed to show off the move itself rather than create a performance.

So, basically, the Aussies are saying ‘too bloody right, mate, being sexy is a part of the sport and we’ll continue to work that into our routines with kick ass moves, and we’re true blue proud of it’ (because that’s how all Aussies talk), the UK are saying ‘excuse me, actually, you can have a perfectly respectable sport without reminding ourselves of the stripper pole, thank you very much. Now pass the tea’. And I am qualified to make those statements because I am: a) a pole dancer, and b) have lived in both countries, so know how they talk.

In recent years, there has been a shift in both spheres to focus on really contortion-y moves: how you literally tie yourself in a knot around the pole. The only way I’ll do this is to remove a few ribs, or quit my full time role and spend my days on a rack, like the good old middle ages.

Contortion 1

Rainbow markecho

Recently it seems like  UK has started to focus on expressionist dance. Performances are done bare foot, and costumes have to include a certain amount of material to pass: you can’t be too sexy. So with that in mind, here is some homework before we continue.

Go and watch these videos:

  • Here is a performance by Bendy Kate – UK pole superstar, and winner of the World Pole Dance 2014 as well as many other titles (web address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV_zbt7ycUc)
  • And here is a personal hero of mine, Cleo the Hurricane, two-time Miss Pole Dance Australia, dancing to Courntey Love (web address: http://www.poledancevideos.com.au/weddingday/)

 

So. One is a competition entry, and the other is a freestyle dance. Both are really fun, amazingly impressive and super advanced, but in my opinion, Cleo seems a little more free. Maybe cos it’s not a competition entry, but still. The routines that are based in pole fitness are often more creative because they interpret it in so many different ways, however they sometimes lack a certain…. liberty that is present in the routines based in pole dance.

Personally, I love the energy in Cleo’s style. It’s fun, and she’s completely in control of what she’s doing – like I said before, there’s no objectification there whatsoever: what you think says more about your attitudes than her, and her unapologetic confidence is like a huge f*ck you to any naysayers out there.

That’t not the only reason why I like her style, but I appreciate what the Aussie style pole has done for me personally in terms of not being awkward about yourself: now instead of feeling self-conscious on the dance floor, I frickin tear it up, as we found out on Friday (whether the moves were any good is a different question…).

Anyway, this is a bit rambly now. The main points are:

  • Although I like the inventiveness of the expressionist pole routines, as long as the UK is still a little conservative towards certain styles of pole dance, Aussie pole dance will be my favourite
  • The sexy element of pole dance is what has had the biggest impact in my overall attitude, and I don’t think I’d be as open minded, happy or relaxed in myself if I’d learned only pole fit – if that sounds weird, I’m happy to talk more about it!
  • The moves that my pole heroes can do are breathtaking in their grace, strength and contortion, and both pole fit and dance are moving in an incredible direction
  • I have made some amazing friends through pole fit in the UK, and so even though I don’t get my headrolls in as much as I’d like, I would never choose to be without these ladies

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So that’s that. Like I said, this is all based on my own experience, so please feel free to agree, disagree, go off on a tangent in the comments…..

 

Ellie B

Keeping it real: fitness for free

On Monday I was running with my beginner’s running group, and one of the girls told me how much she loves running since she joined our little club, and how proud she is of her speed and distance. And, dear reader*, I’m not afraid to say that my heart melted just a little bit.

 

Because, I love running. I think I might love it too much. I love it so much that I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant (Hahaha! I also love 30 Rock. Tina Fey, you comic genius). For me, running is evidence of the power of my body: there’s nothing more satisfying than running faster for longer than you have before and, rather than dying, actually feeling ok!

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This girl told me how when she had a gym membership, she never used to go. She was doing her philanthropic duty by donating to the gym for the benefit of other members 😉 I personally find just getting there a big deal: you have to have your kit  bag, your towel, your change of clothes, you have to get there somehow, and back, and if you want to do a class you have to book in advance. And that’s all before you’ve walked through the door.

 

Legal & General did a survey and found that 83% of families think gym memberships are the easiest luxury to forgo if necessary. But, keen to promote fitness still, they have created a competition for bloggers to describe how they keep fit for free. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I want to enter. Plus, the topic is cool. So read on for my tips and secrets on how I stay fit for free – this stuff actually does help me, and will hopefully help you too.

 

Wayyyy Back in the day, I started running because I was 19 and couldn’t afford a gym membership. Remember the days when you had £5 to live on til the end of the week? Thats when I found running because I couldn’t afford to do anything else. And once I started, I quickly saw the benefits:

  • You don’t have to do a lot of running to see a difference
  • You can build up your speed and distance relatively quickly if you stay regular about it
  • You don’t need all the fancy equipment to do it (though now I’m not living on £5 per week I can attest that all the ‘stuff’ is nice)

 

Running helps you keep fit when you work odd hours, or when you travel. Another member of my running group texted me today to say that she’d just been for a run on her holiday. She was able to work on her fitness and her tan at the same time! Heck, check out these photos from my own run in Oslo today:

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photo 2-2

photo 3-1

  photo 5

 

There’s no way I’d have seen 8k of Oslo without my free run.

 

And with the advent of YouTube, it’s possible to work out every single part of the body without leaving your living room. You do have to be smart about which video you choose, but there’s lots of good stuff there. Thanks to this blog, I found the wonder that is 8 minute abs (the fastest way to kill your abs and appreciate 90s fitness fashion). And my sister-in-law and I have been known to do the Victoria’s Secret Angel Butt workout once or twice. I mean, you cannot argue with Victoria’s Secret. They know what they’re doing.

 

Obviously not everything I do is free: races cost money, and so does pole dancing. But for pole, before I was strong enough for the classic push up, I did reps of tinned-tomato lifts to get my arms in shape. I sit my ankles on piles books when stretching my splits because they are cheaper than buying fitness blocks, in that I already own them. You can use anything for resistance – the walls, coffee table, door frame, stairs – depending on what you want to stretch. And then there’s the trusty foam roller for when you can’t afford a sport’s massage. Although you initially buy the roller, it’s around £30 cheaper than a sports massage in my experience.

 

So they’re my top tips: go running (and hopefully fall in love), find out what’s YouTube (but be smart), and think of your house as your very own gym. And you can spend the money you’ll save on gym membership on other things. Because, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy your free run in not-free-but-very-pretty-running shorts.

 

And breaking news for tonight —– Australia are out of the World Cup :(

 

I did my usual trick of watching the second half of the game and getting way too invested for someone who doesn’t usually care. But even I could see that the Socceroos played their hearts out, and didn’t go down without a fight. And because the boys were so happy to have my support for the final 49 minutes of their 2014 World Cup experience, they sent me this:

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Happy Wednesday everyone!!

 

Ellie B

 

*I have always wanted to write ‘dear Reader’. Dickens and me, spreading the literary love.