Friday, 20 May 2016

Wouldn't change a thing

The Easter holidays are well and truly over and the summer holidays are fast approaching once again. I love and loathe the school holidays. Love, because there are no fraught mornings, no urgent uniform requirements, no homework, no bloody packed lunches, no tired and angry children to pick up at home time; Loathe, because there is just an endless expanse of time in which to fill, occupy, feed and tidy up after five small people.

I have, as I am told on an incredibly frequent basis, got my hands full. That frequency increases tenfold during the holidays when I am with them almost all of the time. I have heard 'you've got your hands full' more often that I think it is possible to imagine. My new response is 'so I'm told'. Before Dot was born I used to get blessed. A lot. As if I had the Pope with me on work experience (presumably so he could see first hand that encouraging people to keep procreating regardless of circumstances, might be a little bit stupid.) I think it is a Suffolk thing. I got 'ahh bless ya' from midwives, teachers, strangers, cleaners and many, many mothers when they found out that the baby I was housing/had just had was my fifth. Throughout the summer holidays shortly after her birth I got 'How old is she? Are they all yours? you've got your hands full, ahhh bless ya'. I am not saying it isn't always welcome, there are times when I am bored at the park or in a queue when I am happy to while away a few minutes with the '10 months, yes, so I'm told, thanks' responses but sometimes at the supermarket checkout whilst I'm trying to keep them all vaguely under control whilst packing bags it can sound suspiciously like I am failing to manage which I am less keen on. A number of times it is followed with 'But I bet you wouldn't change it for the world wouldya'. I SO WOULD.

"I wouldn't change a thing". Who came up with that?! I would SO change things. Oh man, given the choice, my list of things 'to change' would be extensive (18 pages FRONT AND BACK - Ross v Rachel 'on a break' etc). There are loads of great things about children and babies - obviously - otherwise I would be insane, but ye gods are there a million things I would rather were different. Here are a few:

Sleep
FACT: I love the children at least 25 times more when they are asleep (actually about 25000 times more than that last hour before bed when in all honestly most days I could happily walk away and never come back). When I have slept I am at least 25 times nicer than days when I haven't slept the night before. Sleep is transformative. If I could change just ONE thing about babies/children it would be that they sleep for between 12-20 hours a day  - 20 for newborns then gradually down to 12 hours from 10 years onwards until they leave home. If they came out pre-programmed to sleep from at least 7pm-7am imagine how much nicer the world would be? There would be no arguments between mothers about who was doing it 'right', parents wouldn't argue over who was more tired, people wouldn't accidentally leave babies in shops due to sleep deprivation or do the school run in their slippers etc Older children wouldn't hang around in the evenings driving you mad well in to adult/drinking/inappropriate eating time. (It is impossible to lecture on good eating practises and then tuck in to a packet of crisps and chocolate biscuits with your glass of wine whilst you're waiting for your supper to cook). I mean, don't get me wrong, if they are in a good mood and they are willing to fetch your wine and snacks for you then all is good. BUT if they are nosey or vocal or anything other than a silent presence then really, it's just too much after a long day with children. Bea and I have managed to agree on a happy hour where we watch crap reality programmes on TLC (Say yes to the dress, Kate plus 8 etc) but she knows I can quite often be grumpy during this time and is very good at keeping her head down. But pre-programmed children wouldn't argue about bed times, wouldn't fight over who was allowed to stay up until when, wouldn't keep yelling for drinks/light/dark/medicine hours after you put them to bed. It would mean that whatever happened during the day, whatever fights were going on, mess being made, food being thrown blah blah blah - you would know that there was a nice early 'end' to it all coming your way shortly.

Also, it would put an end to the weird evil baby voodoo nonsense that curses you the minute you make the mistake of even THINKING how well they are sleeping at the moment or stupidly mentioning it to someone. The minute you think, mention or linger over their sleeping bodies thinking about how fabulous they are then their evil voodoo sensors kick in to action and BOOM, awake every hour for absolutely no reason whatsoever, sucking bottles/boobs dry time and time again just to teach you the lesson you should have learnt a thousand times over already. It would also put pay to those hideous 'post sleepover days' - where your usually even tempered and fairly compliant child is transformed in to some kind of possessed demonic arsehole of a human being, and depending on how little sleep they managed, it can take days for the possession to wear off. Imagine the joy and brilliance of being able to say 'yes' every time they ask for a sleepover because the sleeping part of the arrangement would actually be adhered to. 

Hunger
DEAR GOD after 17 days of the Easter holidays it was like I was in charge of 5 giant rats. They just spent each and every sodding day telling me they were hungry. They eat, shit, eat, wee, eat, eat, eat and eat. WHAT THE HELL?! As you know I love to eat, but these guys take it to another level. Days out, Days in, I am expected to provide a constant stream of snacks and meals that they deem suitable. This last week alone I have spent £300 on food and drink from three different supermarkets (YES including bloody Aldi - it makes no sodding difference), in an attempt to keep them filled with a vaguely healthy variety of food. The boys are the worst. Dot and Cybs are close behind. It is impossible to keep them topped up. We went for a lovely walk along Southbank on our recent trip to London and if G and Ted told me they were hungry once, they told me a trillion times. G was quite close to death at one point. Not from strangulation, as I have spent many years learning not to put my hands around their throats, but from his near starvation from going without food for four and a half hours. It made me ponder how on earth they get on at school where one presumes the teachers are not providing drinks and snacks every half an hour. No wonder the boys come out of school at the end of the day in the foulest of moods - it has been a full two and a half hours since they have eaten anything. I am shocked they aren't keeled over, shaking and writhing on the floor with the intense pain of hunger. In an ideal world, children would only require one main meal a day and then some light and healthy snacks at other non fixed times of the day. I am incredibly 'over' preparing food for them and then tidying up afterwards. Some of them eat like rats as well. The mess after each meal has to be seen to be believed. One of their favourite meals is risotto but I won't feed it to them unless the cleaners are coming the next day because otherwise I spend all night on my hands and knees picking up bits of sodding rice.

Mythical beings
MAN I wish these guys were real. If the Tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and big FC were real, my life would be immeasurably easier. I forget the tooth fairy constantly. Luckily Bea knows the truth after finding a text message on my phone telling K not to forget when she was 9. The others are sadly not so clued up which means that the pressure is on. Poor G had terrible baby teeth - we're not sure why but they started to decay quite badly from a very young age and last year two of them were in a bit of a state so he ended up having them out under GA (mercifully K dealt with it and yes, I am part of the 'worrying statistics' on children's teeth. BITE ME with your immaculate teeth. It's not like I send him to him bed with a bottle of coke) and after a pretty terrible time, G was looking forward to his reward from the tooth fairy and put his rotten teeth safely under his pillow. Four nights he waited. FOUR. In the end he sadly concluded that because he had to have them pulled out and due to their condition, the tooth fairy had decided his teeth were not worthy of payment. Although for once that meant I looked pretty awesome as I bought him a £60 lego set to cheer him up and that silly cow bag of a tooth fairy couldn't even find him £2.

The Easter bunny this year was pretty disappointing as well. I had great intentions in the lead up to the event and even bought the eggs well in advance AND I checked the official Coeliac Society list before buying Bea's and everything. I was so pleased with myself I managed to 'park' Easter in my brain under 'no further action required'. The night before Easter, Easter Eve if you will, I spent the evening downloading pictures from Bea's phone on to the laptop so that she had enough space to take a zillion pictures of Little Mix at their concert the following day. I was pretty tired after I'd managed it all, bid K goodnight and fell fast asleep. At 5.45 am the next day Cybs woke me up and asked for some milk. I lay back down thinking how lovely it was I didn't have to get up and do anything when I had that stomach punch of a realisation that it was in fact, Easter and all the Easter eggs were in K's car boot and in the cupboard under the stairs. My mind raced - can I tell them it's tomorrow, can I hide them in the garden (they normally get them at the end of their bed), can we ignore it completely? I panicked, I tried to wake K with whispered shouting, then slightly louder whispering and then eventual hard kicking to rouse him enough to fill him in on the situation. I ran downstairs and passed the boys beginning to stir in their room, I whisper-shouted that it wasn't the morning and to go back to bed, I grabbed the eggs from under the stairs and had to quickly decide what to do with them, I opted for a Christmas version and put them in front of the fireplace. K ran out to the car in just his pants to gather the rest. I ran back upstairs and got back in to bed with Cybs and Dot to complete the illusion. The boys asked what had gone on and I said I thought I was going to be sick and Dad had come down to check on me. Then  they decided it couldn't be Easter as there were no eggs in their room. They went downstairs shortly afterwards and discovered the bunny had been but left the eggs in the wrong place. Bea was upset. She wanted bigger eggs and didn't like Aero and why the hell were the eggs in the living room??

Spirits rallied with a shed load of chocolate so I decided to make things more 'magical' with an Easter egg hunt in the garden now that we have a garden suitable for egg hunting. Sadly I put one of G's in a bush and it fell down. I didn't really think at the time that that would be a problem until he stuck his hand in and I remembered it was a rose bush and he cut his hand several times on all of the thorns. Luckily, Grandma saved the day and managed a far better egg hunt in her garden with cousins to enjoy it with whilst K drove off to London with an incredibly excited Bea. I later found a lovely note complete with illustrations she had written for the Easter Bunny asking him/her (sexless?) to leave the eggs 'here' and hoping they were well and had had a safe journey. I did feel a TAD guilty and her anger on the day was slightly more understandable after that but I do find it quite hard to believe that she still believes in a magical rabbit. SO, all in all, the Easter Bunny was a crushing disappointment but they still ended up with enough chocolate to give sugar purists a heart attack. (Luckily, K is a chocoholic and as per most years, stealthily hoovered up the excess over the following week - hopefully meaning the children won't be included in any other 'worrying epidemics').

And well, if the big FC was real, December would actually be a flipping joyous time for me and man, how I would treat myself to some lovely things with all the lovely money I would save. A new laptop for one - I am currently sat with the screen held up by a pile of cushions because it has broken free of its supports and is only held on to the keyboard thanks to the wires. My November and December would be pure heaven as I wafted from one social engagement to another with only a few family and friends to buy for - no managing of child expectations, no mad bidding for a stupid light up unicorn on ebay thanks to selfish far sighted bastards who bought them all up in October. It would also mean that faulty/easily broken gifts were much easier to return as well. I am yet to replace Ted's rather awesome shark beanbag that broke within half an hour of ownership thanks to a faulty seam.

Proportionate behaviour
It would be utterly amazing if their behaviour was directly proportionate to the amount of time/effort/money you spent on them. One of the things K finds hardest to cope with is the seeming ingratitude that bad behaviour implies when we are making a concerted effort to have fun - meals out/days out/family activities - anything that is out of the 'ordinary' should be rewarded with exemplary behaviour.  No strops in the gift shop at the end of the day because you refuse to buy a £20 stuffed panda, (What the hell is that btw - we go to the zoo/legoland/cutty sark etc and pay a fortune to get in, fortune for drinks and food and guides etc and then you have to pay to leave the place with some kind of toy/branded plastic as a 'memory' of the day - I appreciate I could be strong and say no but that isn't exactly my forte), no sibling fights, no whining, no parental arguing over acceptable reactions to bad behaviour, no constant demands for food, just happy, smiley and grateful faces from morning til night. Like real life facebook pictures all day long. Amazing.

Illness
I'm not saying it's particularly fun for them but good lord I do not enjoy ill children. I mean one day is understandable, acceptable and sometimes even enjoyable - an excuse for a legitimate day on the sofa is all good as long as I had nothing else planned (it is so rare for me to have anything on but it can happen once every blue moon) but any longer and it is just bloody dull and a pain in the rear. Dot and Cybs enjoyed a week long illness over the Easter holidays which I could well have done without. A cough and cold is currently going around and this is also incredibly painful. Illness doesn't just ruin your days it also blights nights as well - broken sleep, crying, coughing and puke are regular occurrences. One morning in the holidays I started my day breast feeding Dot in bed whilst lying on my side with Cybil lying behind me on my other side. She started coughing so badly she was sick, the milk she had just downed had all come straight back up again - all over my hair and back. Due to the exceedingly early hour of the morning I couldn't move because I was very desperate to keep Dot asleep as she would cry an awful lot and very loudly were I to remove the boob from her mouth, and that would wake up the other three so, I just had to lay there as I felt the regurgitated milk trickle down my back and tried to calm Cybs down who was upright and startled. I kicked and kicked K until he finally awoke and passed us a towel. My efforts to keep Dot asleep throughout all this failed and I eventually gave up and got in the shower-  only for Dot to cry so much due to my absence that I had to welcome her in to my shower and hold her, fully clothed with one hand and wash my hair with the other. But at least I was clothed and sick free for the Sainsbury's delivery when it arrived shortly afterwards.

And the rest
Back answering, knowing it all, not listening, mess, money, noise and neediness. Most days I would change it all to make it easier for me. But one of the main things I would change is how quick it all is, how fast they grow, how days turn in to weeks which turn to months and years and then suddenly your newborn is a toddler and then at school and then at secondary school and then a teenager. I panic that I am going to forget it all, I worry about how I will cope when they aren't all little enough to need me all the time, I panic over not remembering how they smelt and felt as tiny babies and sometimes I rack my brain to try and remember the hilarious thing they said the week before that I wanted to write down so I never forgot. I take pictures, millions of pictures, in the vain hope that seeing the pictures in years to come will sufficiently jog my memory. I try to take enough video footage that we can see what they were all like and remember all the sleeplessness/fighting/mess when there is only sleep/calm and tidiness. If I could change one thing, it would be to remember it all perfectly, the good, the bad the ugly. I wish I could make my brain in to a video camera so that I could recall it all in perfect detail whenever I wanted. Even the sleeplessness. Particularly that actually because one day I might get enough sleep to think having another might be a good idea and as much as I love babies, I really do not want to raise or pay for another child. Enough is really enough.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Number Four

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

Bonjour! and welcome back after my sabbatical. It has flown by. Turns out five is quite a lot of work and there hasn't really been many spare hours to sit and write. However, the baby is now nine months old and, as of the last few nights, has been sleeping in her cot from early evening which means I am finally able to sit down and fill you in on some of the last six months.

Right now, I am wrapped in a blanket and a cashmere jumper in front of a roaring fire (I love fires so much - I take ridiculous levels of pride in each one and I encourage the children to gaze in wonder at the soaring flames and listen to the beautiful crackling sound and bask in the warmth it emits - you'd be shocked to learn of some of their unenthusiastic responses) because the boiler isn't working. This is symptomatic of things in general. As we approach our Suffolkaversary all the things we bought/had serviced when we arrived have started to stop working. The shine is very much not rubbing off of our new shiny life, it's just there are now quite a few irritants in it. My much coveted Dyson handheld (the glamour) will not charge, the smart remote for our smart TV won't work so the Tv is now just of average intelligence, we're at least one sky remote down, the bath leaks, the shower in our ensuite is stuck on 'very hot' and we have an awful lot of ants who have decided that our kitchen is their new home. (Ummmm as a postscript the boiler wasn't broken - it actually appears that oil is far too easy to use up and despite a relatively recent delivery of it, we had run out. The poor boiler man turned up only to tell me that we had run out of oil. But then he had to come back and fix the boiler because if you run out, the boiler sucks in air, and apparently this is bad for boilers. It has cost quite a lot of money to find all of this out.)

So, boiler, ants and broken stuff aside all is well avec nous. The BIG news is that today I dropped four children off at ONE SCHOOL. Yes, finally, a few weeks ago some awesome little dude called Dexter who I will never meet, left with his family for pastures new so Ted joined his brother and sister at the local school and today was Cybil's trial session at the nursery. Happiness level peaked when we also found out that Bea had been given her first choice of secondary school. Although it is a slight worry as it is a brand new school, it isn't even built yet, it's not full and it's not the school all of Bea's friends are going to, so I have sort of gone out on a limb with choosing it - only time will tell if it was the right decision but I still remain hopeful. At the very least with such a small year (it's not full and there were only 120 spaces) Bea has much more chance of becoming head girl/prefect when the time comes. Not that I am insistent on her living my dreams for me, but I was the only person in my group of friends not to become a prefect and that has stayed with me. I am also a secret wannabe dancer which is why she is still 'encouraged' to weekly dancing lessons...

As you might imagine, an awful lot has happened since we last met but do not fret, I don't intend to regale you with every minute detail. We have had many birthdays and many parties, many, many play dates, spent an awful lot of money, done Christmas plays/concerts/carols, had nits, fleas, flu, sick bugs, coughs that won't end, trips to London, filled in thousands of forms and loaded and unloaded the dishwasher approximately a million times. The children are thriving, K is working all hours 5/6 days a week and I have made some lovely friends to whom I moan to about K working all hours and so all in all life has settled down to 'normal' after all the excitement of last year. It is in fact, gloriously boring and I love it.

Before Christmas, mother was working five days a week and so I was pretty much on my own when it came to school runs/tidying/cooking/childcare/present buying etc. It was busy. Since Christmas, mother hasn't been working at all so that means we have been seeing a lot more of her. This has pros and cons. The benefits are her being able to do the odd school run, or taking Cybil for a few hours and she is very partial to busying herself in my kitchen preparing food or 'clearing my sink'. I like to think I am helping to keep her busy and she likes to think I couldn't manage without her. Even though I have. The down side to her being around all the time is she does not agree with a lot of my parenting methods. Not that I have a method in particular. It is mainly just 'getting through'. She rang me recently, to tell me she 'knew what I was doing'. She had read about it in the Telegraph. Apparently it is 'Positive Parenting'. I am not a fan of this whole labelling thing. Gentle bloody parenting, helicopter, tiger, attachment, baby led weaning blah blah blah. She is wrong, as it happens - I am not positive parenting, I am 'Wrong parenting'. The thing I have learnt, is that whatever you do, however you do it, someone (or many) believes it is the wrong way. And therefore, we are all doing it 'wrong'.

For example, pink. 'People' hate the idea of girls wearing/loving pink, as if the colour alone is anti-feminist. I like pink. I'd like my boys to wear pink, but sadly they won't, Cybil loves pink, I let her wear it. I don't really care if this is bad. It makes her happy. She likes other colours too. This is also ok. She is also a kick arse, scary mother-fo when she wants to be and has recently taken to threatening to punch people in the face if they cross her path. She also loves to get messy, playing with dirt, is a speed freak, brave and many, many other things besides. Her loving pink doesn't make her a 'princess' so I don't really understand why we have to programme her to hate it. I wouldn't replace a toy we already had with a 'pink' version but I also wouldn't refuse to buy her something just because it was pink.

Rolemodel
I am, according to many, a terrible role model for my daughters. I do not have a job/career. I am unlikely to rush out and find work just to rectify this. If our economic survival depended upon it, I would obviously rush out and find paid employment, but whilst we can get by, I shall stay here. And probably while we can't actually. I'm not really good for much at the moment anyway. I'm totally institutionalised. A few weeks ago I went to pick up my first prescription of antibiotics for many years (mastitis - first ever bout - nine months in to the fifth breastfed baby - I have no idea why) and I genuinely thought they would be giving me 'banana medicine' or the liquid solution I usually pick up for the children - I put it upright in my bag and everything. I had also imagined where I would put it in the fridge, next to K's beer, so that he would see that I had penicillin and therefore hopefully feel guilty for paying absolutely NO attention to my pain and suffering. It was a total shock when I realised that what I had was pills - the sort of things they give grown ups. It also put paid to my genius idea to make K worry about me. He has STILL not mentioned it and I have since had a second course when the mastitis helpfully joined me on the other boob. Feeding a toothy baby off a sodding sore boob is the kind of sacrifice not many would make willingly, but 'ability to take pain in the name of job' is not something I could put on a CV so I worry I'm pretty much unemployable aside from in the child sector and if I do return to work, I really don't want it to involve children. Although my ability to catch sick and wipe poo without gagging would make me a good carer. But I really don't want to do that either. Therefore I shall remain a terrible role model for my daughters as I lazily and selfishly devote all my time to their care. (It annoys me - only because i would NEVER say I thought a mother was a bad role model for going to work and leaving her daughter/s in the care of others and yet I sometimes feel like it's open season for stay at homers. For the record I think working mothers are superheroes and I often tell them so. Why can't we just live and let live people)

Sugar
I don't mind it. I haven't spent years researching the affect it has on mutating cells in the body, or its affiliation with the devil or anything, so my opinion on it is really just personal and not based on anything, but I like it. It makes things taste nice. I don't think we should have a plate of it morning, noon and night with a coke to wash it down with, but I don't live in fear of it. I don't panic if my children are given Haribo at school by other children to celebrate their birthday. I don't freak out if they drink apple juice. I actually buy them sweets and chocolate and apple juice. Same with carbs and fat and salt. I feed it all to them. Maybe they will live ten years less than their non sugar eating counterparts. But that's their issue, not mine. I'll be dead. I'm ok with that. As a 'nod' to the current sugar hysteria and my mother's helpful insistence that my children will all lose limbs to Type 2 diabetes, I have switched to the 'reduce sugar and salt' tomato ketchup and made G swap to corn flakes instead of coco pops. I can't say I've noticed a difference.

Shouting
I shout. It's cathartic, helpful and extremely rarely it is life saving. People who parent 'gently' do not shout, or use 'time out', or any such things. They most probably take time to sit down and talk everthing through in a calm and gentle way. I think that is ok for them to do, it is probably really nice of them. They think I am wrong. I'm more than happy about that. I couldn't give a flying fig. The world is noisy. I believe it is best to prepare children for that noise by being noisy. Also if I didn't expel my pent up agression, angst and exceedingly high levels of annoyance by raising my voice to a shout, then I would be sitting in a corner somewhere rocking gently whilst emitting a low and constant humming noise. Also, what is so wrong with getting angry. FFS, I am a bit fed up with all this, 'be calm and serene and gentle' crap. Get fricking angry people. Not all the time, not every single day, not over small crap, but what's wrong with anger? If people didn't get angry we'd still have the fricking poll tax - let's raise angry people, let them get bloody angry with arseholes who cut disability benefits, maybe they'll change the world. Or maybe not. I'm also pretty lazy and my children have inherited it, so maybe they'll just do what I do and get angry, shout about it, but then be very ineffectual about putting any of their shouty threats in to practise.

TV
They watch it. I watch it. My little sister and I watched it lots when we were young. I am fat, she is not. I do not worry that watching the TV makes you fat or stupid. Eating too much and not doing enough makes you fat. The TV is educational. The stuff G comes out with is amazing. And then when I express amazement at his worldly knowledge and ask where he learnt it from, he repeats the line from Matilda 'All I learnt I learnt from telly'. It is also great at teaching children patience when the adverts come on. From a very young age my children are aware that if they just wait for the adverts to finish, their chosen programme will eventually appear. It is also a great help when it comes to Christmas shopping - just one advert break combined with an amazon order can completely sort out one child.

Children
Population matters people believe that I shouldn't have even had most of my children. Therefore I am in the wrong for having them, let alone how I choose to raise them. Ideally no one would have children and we would leave the world to go back to how it was before we raped and pillaged it for our own end. To them I say, I'm sorry, but again, tough shit. If we all die, who is here to appreciate the earth as a planet anyway? If all humanity dies then it is just a planet in the solar system and in the event of its extinction, no one on Mars is going to cry about it. So, again, sorry, sorry, sorry. But I've had them now, if I kill them to make you all happy then I will go to prison and also it's really just not very nice. So stop making me feel bad with your FB posts about how awful I am. I haven't been on a plane in ten years, I recycle and I eat local produce (sometimes). I'm trying to make amends, I know it's not enough and I am partially directly responsible for the early demise of this great planet, but, it's done now. I promise not to have anymore. Pinky promise. Babies are incredibly labour intensive and as much as I do absolutely adore them, I really cannot be arsed to do it anymore.

Weight
Tonight, Cybil stood up at the table and announced that Dottie was getting a fat tummy from all the food she was eating and now she looks like a mummy, 'like you, mummy'.  According to all 'studies' fat people are basically responsible for all evil, so I can only conclude that her knowing I am fat is a terrible thing. My obesity will not only make my children obese, it will also cause my untimely death from a whole host of hideous diseases. It has probably already caused a million terrible things for my children's future as I over ate when pregnant and breast feeding. The catch 22 with this is that because I have daughters I am not meant to draw attention to the fact that I am fat, or that I am in any way unhappy with my appearance. I keep reading all of these features about how I am meant to 'not mention' my weight, or losing weight, I am also not meant to draw attention to my daughters' weight. Most recently, I learnt that I am to compliment them without mentioning their beauty or size. Instead I am meant to say they look 'strong' and 'confident'. Now. Imagine for a minute that you (supposing you are a female) had spent an hour or so getting ready, you were wearing your favourite outfit, most beautiful shoes and you had tried out a new make up technique and had spent extra special amounts of time on your normally wayward hair. Imagine then, you descend the stairs to see the person who is special to you or you meet up with your friend/date and they greet you with the words, "WOW! you look so amazingly strong and healthy! You exude a great confidence". I'm quite sure I wouldn't be the only person who would be greatly pissed off.  Being called strong and healthy in my eyes is another way of saying you are looking a bit porky. I'm sorry if this is wrong, and potentially this is what we're meant to be working to change, but what the hell is wrong with saying someone is beautiful? No one looks at the Daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses and comments on their apparent strength (I am quite countrified now - I stop the car to admire these flowers which are currently in bloom and making the countryside even more beautiful) so why can't I tell my beautiful babies how beautiful I believe them to be? I also tell them how brilliant they are and clever and annoying and all those other things a mother should think. But there is no harm in being beauitful. As long as it's not all you are.

Just so you know, I am back at weight watchers and am much less obese than I was. I mean, I couldn't guarantee it wasn't still 'morbid' or something equally as attractive sounding, but it is less, and that is surely what counts. And Bea knows I go. And George. Bea and my mother are the only ones that remember to ask how I got on. I officially apologise if this insight in to my life has far reaching and negative affects on their future lives. I'm unlikely to lose any sleep over it. I'm too tired.

So, there you have it, my life is boring and I'm parenting the 'wrong' way. I couldn't recommend it highly enough.

I shall be back to tell you more whenever I think of something more interesting to tell you. 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx






Friday, 25 September 2015

The Modern Guide to Returning From Work To a Stay at Home Parent

My take on the 1950s housewifery guide on how a woman should greet her husband upon his return from a hard day's toil in the office. No ribbons in the hair, clean children or supper in the oven on this one:

The Modern Guide to Returning From Work To a Stay at Home Parent

Upon your return from work, please remember that the partner you left behind in the morning may well have had a lovely day with your offspring - drinking coffee and tea, baking cakes, visiting museums, swinging on swings in the park and generally making hay in the sunshine. However he/she may well have had a day that would test the patience of every saint living or dead. And they may be hanging on to their sanity by little more than a thread. And so, as you gingerly open the front door to see what lays in store, please try and keep in mind this brief guide on what not to do/say upon your return in case any or all of it has happened to them during the day.
  • Do not wipe your nose on their clothing whilst pretending to hug them
  • Do not say 'You Know' in response to anything they say to you, even if it is telling you your own name, just thank them for the information they have provided
  • Do not say anything is unfair
  • Do not use the term 'everyone else does' in response to anything, but especially not in a bid to win an argument
  • Do not throw up on them
  • Do not get ill
  • Do not cry
  • If you get in the car with them, do not fight to the death over where you sit in the car
  • Do not suddenly decide you hate all food you have previously liked
  • Do not say you are hungry
  • Do not ask for any food
  • Do not spend hours asking repeatedly for the sweets you know are in the kitchen but have thus far been denied to you
  • Do not wee in your pants
  • Do not cry because you cannot find your kindle/ipad 
  • Do not cry because you can't find the charger to your kindle/ipad
  • Do not cry because your kindle/ipad is not working
  • Do not cry/fight because someone entered your minecraft world and killed the minecraft 'you'
  • Do not cry/fight because someone entered your minecraft world and blew up your village
  • Do not say you have looked everywhere for something you desperately want to find when you haven't even vaguely looked anywhere
  • Do not cry if someone touches your lego creation
  • Do not cry if someone breaks your lego creation
  • Do not cry because you don't have any lego
  • Do not ask if there is another baby in their tummy
  • Do not ask why their tummy still looks like there is another baby in it
  • Do not ask them to download an app, especially if they are feeding a baby and sitting on the loo
  • Do not try and find them when they are on the loo
  • Do not accompany them to the loo/help them to 'wipe'
  • Do not complain of tummy ache
  • Do not find a twig/feather/scrap of paper and then fight to the death over it 
  • Do not ask where a piece of paper is after you left it on the floor a week ago
  • Do not have a tantrum over a lost piece of paper
  • Do not pretend you can't hear them yelling your name
  • Do not refuse to wear underwear
  • Do not draw on the walls
  • Do not ignore everything they say as a matter of course
  • Do not crush up a pack of biscuits and scatter the crumbs everywhere
  • Do not take all of your anger and frustrations from the day out on them with verbal abuse
  • Do not hit them
  • Do not kick them
  • Do not insist you can do things on your own and then spend pain staking minutes attempting to do so even though you know everyone needs to leave the house immediately
  • Do not insist you can do something on your own that you patently cannot and then attempt to do so whilst risking your life and the lives of others
  • Do not refuse to leave the house without a bag full of crap that you have decided is vital right at the last minute thereby making you late for the event you were leaving the house for
  • Do not ask if they were alive in the first world war
  • Do not be surprised to learn that cars and televisions had been invented, even when they were a child
  • Do not spend hours crazing to play with a toy/game with a million different pieces and then empty it all out on to the floor, then lose interest and walk off
  • Do not hit/bite anyone
  • Do not refuse to leave the house
  • Do not refuse to return to the house if you leave
  • Do not throw yourself to the ground and scream if you are refused something
  • Do not pull their clothing
  • Do not deliberately do something naughty and then shrug and say 'sorry' whilst smiling
  • Do not refuse to get dressed
  • Do not refuse to get undressed
  • Do not refuse to get in the bath
  • Do not refuse to get out of the bath
  • Do not become hyperactive after your bath and run around the house naked and screaming 
  • Do not refuse to get in to bed
  • Do not tease them about your reluctance to get in to bed
  • Do not promise to go to sleep if they read 'just one more' story even though they are clearly about to cry with hunger, tiredness and the previous ten stories they have just read you spurred on by the very same promise
  • Do not whine
  • Do not drink their wine
And, finally, in response to them complaining of exhaustion from the day, NEVER, EVER, advise them to have an early night. Sleeping will just bring about the next day whereas staying up means more time to eat, drink, bathe and generally bask in the beauty and glory of the silence that late night brings. Et voila. You can't go wrong.



Thursday, 6 August 2015

Number Three

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

Bonjourno. Four months in and nine weeks after the birth of Dottie Dot the Full Stop it is time to take down the New Home and New Baby cards and admit that nothing is very 'new' any more. K's new job is four weeks in and I have survived. He seems to like it. I think. I get a very descriptive 'Yeah it's all right' when I enquire as to his daily grind. I still don't like him being away all day and being tired when he is home but he is resolutely refusing to gain 10 stone so that we might be able to claim disability benefits for being too fat to work. Such a shame because I am dangerously close and I think with five children we could really rake it in. He keeps wittering on about self respect but I'm totally over that.

So, that is all old. What is new is the pool. It is up and running and quite frankly fabulous. I realise that this is all quite temporary as it is just the novelty of it all but the children are loving it. It is really helping with the summer holidays which I think I might have found even more taxing if it wasn't for the fact that for hours on end they can amuse themselves in our back garden. Mother is still very concerned for their lives as we don't have a 'walk on' cover at the moment but as Cybs can stand up in it and Dot can't currently move I am less worried than I was. Only today mother was telling me how I would be aghast at the cost of a funeral.  Because naturally, if we lost a child, THAT would be what we would be most worried about.

Although the pool has claimed one victim - I managed to drop the exceedingly heavy wooden beam which forms part of our temporary cover, directly on to my foot. The pain was pretty magnificent. I have become a bit of a pompous twit about pain since Dot's birth. I have been known, on one or two occasions, to tell the child making a big fuss about some pain I deem trivial to 'try giving birth to a baby bottom first'. However, the pain of the beam on my foot was pretty close. I managed with nurofen and frozen peas initially, but after a few days the swelling and the pain hadn't subsided enough to enable me to walk properly so I took myself off to A and E. On what turned out to be my final morning without any older children thanks to a delightful sick bug which started the summer holidays a few days earlier than planned. Cybs was FINALLY enjoying a full morning session at nursery after an epic two months settling in period. I have become firm friends with a number of 3 and 4 year olds, mainly girls, who have watched me breastfeed Dot twice a week, every week for a whole half term. Lily, Sophia, Josie - we are all great mates - I was entrusted with their dolls, told of their weekend activities and moving house excitement whilst they waited patiently for a 'turn' with Dot. Never has a child been so gently eased in to a few flipping hours without their mother.

So, I spent my only and final few hours of the summer term having an x ray and awaiting the results. I breastfed and waited. I was secretly hoping that someone might object to me breastfeeding. I have always hoped for this. Just so I could reply with some witty and scathing retort - although I would probably do what most other people do and clam up and feel embarrassed. The problem I have with breastfeeding in public is not nipple flashing or worrying about other people being offended or upset at seeing my unwieldy infant trying to latch on to my giant boobs, my worry is trying to abide by the fat person's code - not upsetting normal sized people by revealing my unholy amount of fatty flesh.  Being fat brings on a whole new aspect to public breastfeeding. It can make the whole thing quite  a spectacle - although the recent addition to my wardrobe of breastfeeding tops thanks to a very generous friend who gifted me all of hers, has gone quite a long way towards simplifying the process.

It's not just when I am feeding actually. I do not enjoy being fat, but I enjoy eating lots. Post baby and in the middle of full on breastfeeding mode, I can't stop eating. I think it is a disease. Abiding by the fat persons code becomes harder and harder. Especially in the heat. Some days I worry more than others about it. Some days I cover all but the socially acceptable parts of my body - ankles and lower arms - and some days I throw caution to the wind and reveal my upper arms and lower legs (gasp).  In the past I have assumed I am a lot thinner than I actually am post baby - I realise now that this was because I didn't have a full length mirror when we lived in London. The best mirror in the house was in the bathroom and the sink unit cleverly covered my lower body, so I never realised the true horror. In this house there are a number of full length mirrors and one is opposite Dot's changing unit so I will suddenly catch a glimpse of myself before I have a chance to breathe in or pose in a way that softens the blow. It is probably for the best - it does stop me eating the whole pack of biscuits and only eating half a cheesecake at a time.

Luckily, the foot was not broken. Just badly bruised. Thank goodness. The idea of being here without the ability to drive is unfathomable. And no one asked me to spare their blushes by covering up my boob or my stomach. People are usually too polite to make a fuss anyway. Last week I took Bea for a physiotherapy session back at the hospital (boring issue with leg pain) and managed to replace the wrong flap on my breastfeeding top in my hurry to stand up when Bea's name was called, so I accidentally greeted the lovely student physio with my nipple poking out, loud and proud, as if a feature of the top. Luckily he seemed largely unphased and I acted as if nothing had happened as policy dictates, and quickly replaced the correct flap and bra over the offending boob and we managed to get through it without note. 

The summer holidays at home on my own are something I have never tried before. I have always run away to Suffolk to enjoy a bit of a break from all the cooking, cleaning and childcare. However now that we are in Suffolk I have nowhere to run. I am here and in charge of five children all day, every day. K now works six days every other week as well, so it is pretty full on. Hence yet another long silence from me. The silence of the evenings with just the whirring of the machines is something I crave for most of the day and doing anything else but eating and falling asleep is asking too much. I spend almost all day saying 'in a minute', 'hang on', 'wait', 'IN A MINUTE', 'don't fight', 'stop fighting', 'get off me', 'you cannot be hungry I fed you five minutes ago', 'no', 'I said no', 'I SAID NO',  'who's done this??!' and 'IN A BLOODY MINUTE'. I have largely given up with worrying what is right and wrong with raising children and just try to keep them alive. (purely to save on funeral costs). They get up and come downstairs before I have finished feeding Dot woken up in the morning and so Ted has been having a lot of ice creams for breakfast and he's also been handing them out to Cybs. The first fight of the day has often taken place before I am fully conscious. Cybs has taken to wiping her bottom with her clothing. G has worked out most of my threats are meaningless and therefore acts accordingly and is encouraging others to do so as well - I heard him tell Ted not to do as I had told him because there was no way I would actually cancel his friend coming over. The boys have collectively decided that living in squalor is actually fun so leave every item of clothing they have worn, thought about wearing or just come vaguely in to contact with, on the floor. Bea has decided she is now fully grown up and is in need of pierced ears, a bank account and a mobile phone. So, whilst I keep them alive and their clothes washed and dried, I have decided to become obsessed with the health of the pool and leave them to it. The temperature of the pool is now so interlinked with my mood and general well being that I am becoming concerned. It is MEANT to be able to get to 40 degrees but at the moment I can't get it beyond 27/28 which is maddening. I have also been known to tell the children that they can't get in the pool in case it gets too cold with the cover off or they splash so much I have to top it up with cold water.....

I am missing my friends so much at the moment. It has been four months now and the reality of not having them around all the time is setting in. I am very lucky to already have lots of shiny new friends, it's not that I am lonely, it is just that I miss my grubby old friends being nearby and the ease of the friendship.  I am not able to keep up with almost anything I want to at the moment as I seem to be permanently trying to achieve things and not managing and before I know it a whole day has gone by again. This includes updating this, writing thank you cards, emailing/writing to friends and trying to keep the old folks from over the road in London up to date with 'their' babies who have up and left them. I am lucky that a lot of good pals have made the trip up here already and more are planned so I do not fear being forgotten or losing a friend, and obviously lovely FB keeps me up to date with most things, but there is no replacement for seeing someone every day or every week, or popping to their house for a cuppa or meeting for lunch etc.  I know it is still early days in my 'new' life and eventually it will all fall in to place and soon feel 'old' but even planning birthday parties is a whole new ball game here. Although I am quite friendly with Cybs' pals from nursery, I don't know the parents at all so wasn't properly able to organise her party before the end of term which means she has a fairly random mix of children attending her party tomorrow. Only two of the children are even vaguely her age. Not that she will care. There is a bouncy castle and bunting and a lot of children so she is unlikely to notice. Oh! There will also be balloons.  You will all be relieved to know that I have managed to locate a local balloon person who will deliver all that we require in the way of helium filled celebratory shapes. The first party kicks off tomorrow and then it's the first birthday of the season for Cybs before we leave for two weeks at the coast. I can't wait. I don't think I have ever looked forward to a holiday more. For one thing I will finally have K back for two weeks. I may even find out how is job is going.

I shall update you all as soon as the opportunity next presents itself. If it does.

Until then. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Number Two

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

Hello!  Thank you for your patience it has taken me a magnificently long time to get on here and get it all written down.

So she is out. And she is a she. Dorothea Honor or Dottie for short, finally touched down on June 2nd. Again, I didn't manage the home birth we wanted (I am now 3 for 3 on having girls in hospital and 2 for 2 on the boys at home). But this was actually quite lucky as she not only surprised us by getting in there in the first place but also gave us quite a shock in how she came out.

I don't have an awful lot of time to fill you in, as you might imagine/know, having four children and a newborn is pretty exhausting. But here we go:

After being slightly scathing of local midwives, I went along to a 'VBAC' appointment (vaginal birth after c section for those not in the know and apologies for the use of the word 'vaginal' if, like K, you object to me using an official term and not 'down there') and met one who appeared to be very much on my side and who set forth a plan to help get the baby out 'on time'. She agreed I wasn't actually high risk and that I was more than likely to have a normal delivery so suggested they start twice weekly stretch and sweeps from 37 weeks to ensure that I didn't go overdue and would hopefully have the home birth I wanted and all would be dandy. This was all very positive and I was very excited by the possibility of missing out on the last heinous few weeks of pregnancy and having a smaller baby than usual.

Fast forward to 41 weeks and I was at the hospital meeting the VBAC Consultant for my EIGHTH stretch and sweep and a discussion on what should be done moving forward. At nearly every one of the preceding seven painful encounters with midwives (again, for those not in the know a stretch and sweep isn't the most pleasant thing ever - google it if you have no idea) they assured me that the baby would be out shortly, they made appointments for the next S+S saying how unlikely it would be that I would need it and I became well acquainted with a number of midwives and their living situations as we chatted about that night's arrangements and who was on call, in case our encounter that day elicited the desired results. After a number of the sweeps I got some contractions, sometimes there was even a run of them over a few hours, but other times there were none at all and eventually they all came to nothing. So, I ended up at the 'over due' appointment at the hospital with the consultant who explained my options.

The consultant sent me away with an appointment for the following morning to have my waters broken and yet again, reassurances that I was unlikely to need it as I would no doubt have the baby that evening as her sweeps were, according to her, 'legendary'. And it was indeed the most painful one I have ever had. And I did indeed have a number of painful contractions for the rest of the day. So much so, that K was quite insistent that I sit on a tarpaulin in his car just in case my waters broke. He was very concerned that the liquid could seep in to the stitches and leather and he would never get the smell out of his car. He tried to get the tarpaulin out of the boot and was desperately trying to 'sell' the idea to me but it actually just made me want to leak amniotic fluid all over his leather interior all the more.

We had left Cybs with mum and the big children were back at school after the half term so it was just K and I, awaiting the contractions to get serious. We went in to town to pick up my repaired iphone (the screen had been repaired for the second time in a month). I wanted to be distracted from the wait and the occasional contractions with a slap up meal and champagne but K had just paid for my phone so decided he would 'treat' me to a Burger King meal instead. He did say I was able to choose anything I wanted from the menu though.....

Anyhoo, my waters remained intact for the rest of the day so his car seats and Burger King were spared any fluid disasters. We collected the children from school and still nothing happened. Nothing happened that night either so the following morning I rang labour ward and confirmed I would be in for my waters to be broken. I made three packed lunches, got the children ready, finished writing Ted's book he really wanted finished in time for school, dropped them off at their respective schools, returned home, packed my bag and off we went. The consultant had persuaded me to go ahead with the induction because she said that unlike my previous experience at King's, I would be given 24 hours to go in to labour after the breaking of waters and if I wanted, I would be allowed to go home afterwards so that I could wait for labour to begin. She also insinuated that 'should' I not be able to get back in to the hospital in time for the birth, then there was nothing anyone could do and the midwives would have to come out to me so that I would wind up having my home birth as I planned. This had all seemed like a great idea the day before.

However. My determination to have a home birth was already waning on the way in to the hospital. I had worked myself in to a bit of a state worrying about the pain of contractions. The pain of Cybs' birth was over two and a half years before but it was remarkably fresh in my memory and I was terribly worried that I might have such a quick labour (the eight stretch and sweeps and the fact that it was my fifth meant that I was already 3cms dilated and fully effaced so that when labour did eventually start, it was likely to be quick) that I might not be near gas and air or the gas and air might never arrive and I would be stuck with K as my only form of pain relief and comfort. He was also very worried about me returning home in his car with freshly broken waters..... so by the time we got in to our room I was pretty sure we were going nowhere and the final baby, like the first, would be born in West Suffolk Hospital. 

The labour ward was mercifully quiet and our allocated midwife was very lovely. All seemed well. I was hopeful we could get the waters broken and the baby out quickly. I hadn't at that point arranged anyone to pick up the children from their schools. Labour had started with Cybs three hours after they broke my waters so I was sure I could pop this one out even sooner. Sure enough, when the midwife did break them at 11 am I started having contractions almost straight away.  Each one pushed more water out of me. At one point a small flood ensued which then created a smelly waterfall over the edge of the hospital bed. We called the lovely midwife back in who very sweetly started cleaning it up for me as I apologised profusely (for something I had no control over - but I am British so therefore one must apologise for such things). Laughing at the situation also made me leak more fluid and at one point the midwife was unfortunately positioned as I laughed and a small gush splashed her. This made me laugh more. Other than that high point it was a very dull few hours - the 'view' from my room was a wall with some very noisy machinery behind it which made a loud bang when it kicked in every 15 minutes. K who had been finding various reasons to nip out for errands eventually settled in his comfy chair and became very sleepy as, like all hospitals, the room was very warm and there was also a loud humming noise coming from the building opposite in between the loud bangs which lulled him into a deep slumber.

I continued to contract infrequently and sporadically as he slept. Some were uncomfortable so I began to use the tens machine. However nothing much else happened and the midwife, when she popped in to check on progress, remained unimpressed with my 'progression'. So much so, that after four hours of non standard contractioning I was chucked out of the labour ward and relegated to the antenatal ward. This was not in my plan. I had waited a jolly long time for this baby, I had even been waiting patiently as I wasn't as fussed about it getting out as I had been with Cybil where I had driven myself half mad with it. This time around I was almost happy for her to stay in, if it hadn't been for the constant need to wee and the inability to plan anything I would have quite happily continued being pregnant for at least another week. With children who need to be taken to school and Cybil in need of childcare in the event of labour, it wasn't particularly helpful not to be able to plan when the baby would come out. I had thought that finally forcing the issue by having my waters broken would mean we would have the baby that day and that would put an end to the speculation, planning and back up planning that had preceded induction day for weeks. I felt particularly guilty about half term where we could only really work on things on a day to day basis as we had no idea what would happen over night. Mother had taken various days off work 'in case' and even stopped drinking in the evenings in case we needed her urgently. When you 'fail' to go in to labour you can feel like your body is letting you down and you are in turn letting everyone else down by not making things easy and just bloody well getting on with it. People always talk about keeping the sex of the baby a 'surprise' as it's the biggest surprise you get in life - I would argue that labour is a bit of a shock as that really has so many variables - there are only two possible options on the sex front so it isn't a massive surprise.

Back to antenatal ward. I was NOT happy. Not only do I hate wards but I hate other people in wards with me - even though they are no doubt delightful people out of the hospital, I hate having to share rooms with strangers. Particularly when I am leaking water, attached to a tens machine, having contractions and in a bad mood. The flimsy curtains that surround each bed are no protection against the sound of people burping, eating and my all time least favourite, talking. I realise I am not the most interesting of people, but when I am in a bad mood and in occasional pain, I really don't want to listen to other people talking about crap. The view was at least better, I could see a road and some trees and a small building that was no longer in use. I spent a long time looking out of that window so that there was no chance the other two residents of my 'bay' would engage me in conversation. It was unlikely anyway. It was clear I thought myself to be too good for the 'waiting' ward. Or maybe that was just my paranoia because I really did think I was too good for the waiting ward. This was my fifth sodding baby for christ's sake - I had been told it would come tumbling out as I was so 'favourable' and yet here I was, hours and hours after induction and I was no better than the woman on her first over the aisle to me bouncing on her sodding ball and heavy breathing. I became slightly belligerent at this stage in the process. Particularly because the communal loo (which was, like the rest of the loos I encountered, brand new back in the 70s, so gave the air of an old boarding school which badly needed funds to renovate) was a good walk away from my bed. When you are constantly leaking, the need to be near a nice comfortable loo really cannot be over rated. Especially when you have to carry a Tena Lady pant with you for changing purposes. (OMG if you are ever in a similar situation and have had your waters broken, you MUST invest in some tena lady pants - they are amazing. I mean truly. No more waterfalls over the bed or water down the leg. These things are the bees knees when it comes to saturation.)

Fast forward some more boring hours, K left and collected children from a friend's house and deposited them with mum along with their swimming stuff for the morning and returned with 'food' - I asked him to get some because I was obviously not going to eat the 'slop' the hospital was offering. He returned with about 10 packets of crisps, 5 chocolate bars and a chicken wrap - I became paranoid people would look at this haul and think 'no wonder she's so fat'. He had a sleep. I read more of my book (Paradise City by Elizabeth Day - another recommendation - it kept me going through the whole thing). They ran a trace and noticed my 'tightenings' - also known as contractions if they are happening in your uterus. I got fed up. We went for a walk when K awoke. We returned and I informed the midwife that I intended to leave. I was going to self discharge and get in my own bath and my own bed and come back in the morning. Unsurprisingly they were not keen. Another midwife came back to try and dissuade me. K was on their side. He didn't say it but he was entirely unkeen to take a leaky wife back in his car (the leather) and then potentially have her give birth whilst he was the only other person around. Just as I was wavering and having just had another large contraction, he asked if I could be put in a private room. The midwife was thrilled with this compromise. I relented and ten minutes later we were shown to our new quarters. Still no flipping ensuite, although the communal loo was at least right next door. By this time it was gone 7 pm and K was getting quite itchy to leave for the evening now that he had procured me suitable accommodation for the night. He set off to find me a tv viewing card and came back with enough credit on the card to keep me goggle boxing for a month. I refused to let him leave immediately and so he sat down and read his book. I sat on the bed and began my evening's viewing, occasionally holding on to his hand if there was a contraction that hurt. By this stage they were still not at all regular, not that frequent and also varied wildly in strength. I set about furious texting complaining about the 'very un-Portland like facilities' and stupid baby that wouldn't come out. I watched Phil and Kirsty's 'Love it or List it' programme, waited to see the end, put the red hot phone down and visited the communal facilities next door.

From this point it all became very surreal. No sooner did my Tena lady's hit the floor and my bottom the seat, I felt a very odd sensation. One I had felt a number of times before but not in this situation. I put my fingers down to check and my suspicions were confirmed, the baby was coming out. I also felt that it was not the head that was leading the charge, it was in fact, a squishy bottom. I yelled incredibly loudly at this point. K came running as did a charge of midwives. I apologised profusely (obviously - I am British and I had stupidly not realised I was fully dilated and I had my tena lady pants around my ankles and I had yelled). They said I needed to get back on the bed for them to see what was happening, I said I needed to wash my hands first (MRSA and all that). I got on the bed, spread my legs and then the sides of the bed were up, a sheet was put over me to cover my dignity and the bed was being moved at a brisk speed over to labour ward. I will admit that I was highly scared at this point. Not only because the risk to the baby was huge but because I had had no drugs, was as alert as it is possible to be and I didn't think that pushing a folded up baby out of a small space would be that comfortable. In seconds we were in a labour room filled with midwives and doctors. I apologised to all of them, obviously. They used 'calm' voices to tell me not to panic but that time was very much of the essence and I had to do exactly as I was told. I apologised. Obviously. I did exactly as I was told. I moved myself on to the bed, put my feet in stirrups and pushed so hard I thought I might split in two. The second push was quite honesty the worst pain I have ever experienced. I swore badly. I said I couldn't do it. I asked for gas and air. I apologised. No gas and air was allowed. I delivered the body. More calm voice instructions from the amazing old school midwife sitting front and centre of all the action. She told me that it was vital to deliver the head as quickly as we could. I pushed for the third time and out came the head. As I had been warned, the baby was quiet and lifeless when she was put on to me. Being told something doesn't necessarily make it any less scary though and I was convinced she wasn't in a good way. 'They' took her over in to the corner to check on her and get her life like. It seems like quite a long time when you are waiting for that all important first cry, the confirmation that you have done your job and delivered your offspring 'safely'. It did finally come though and suddenly it all seemed wonderful. K and I were a bit high from the drama of it all. I KEPT saying 'I was just watching kirsty and phil'. I was in such shock. I have never been fully dilated and in minimal pain or able to walk and talk and focus on a tv programme and texting before. I have never had an undiagnosed breach baby and I have never been the one to diagnose it. It was a lot of firsts. And she was perfect, as they always seem to the euphoric and relieved parents. I did want to then find the three midwives I had been involved with over the course of the day and yell "I TOLD YOU THEY WERE CONTRACTIONS AND NOT FLIPPING TIGHTENINGS. WHY DIDN'T YOU EXAMINE ME YOU IDIOTS". But I did not. I just kept on apologising to anyone who would listen for 'all the fuss'.

Twelve hours after they broke my waters and two hours after she was born, I was wheeled back to our private room without ensuite facilities and K was told to go home. West Suffolk hospital has an odd policy which decrees that partners are not allowed on the ward between the hours of 9pm and 11am. That is an exceedingly long time in the life of a newborn baby. It also would have meant that if we had adhered to the rules, K would have missed the birth. (They had actually been yelling for all partners to leave whilst I was busy watching Kirsty and Phil but we had assumed that it couldn't possibly be applicable to us as a) I was having contractions and b) we were in a room and not on the ward - it turns out we were entirely wrong and he should have left just as I was discovering my undiagnosed breach baby was trying to enter the world). However I didn't mind him leaving as the baby, by this point, was very sleepy and so was I. I was also 'buzzing' a bit from the shock and drama of it all and the tea they had given me with about four sugars in it after the birth so needed time to calm down. Although in the morning 11am felt like a very long time coming. I really can't think that such a draconian policy is entirely necessary..... 

So, there you have it. By and large. The safe arrival of our little Dot. Dotster or Dottie. Or, as she is most commonly referred to - the New Baby.  The children were all so thrilled to meet her when I got home - even Cybil.  Her reaction was my main concern, obviously, but then and even now, her main concern seems to be the baby and her well being. She even sings when Dottie cries. 'Don't cry ickle baby, don't cry ickle baby, mummy's coming' that kind of thing. And my boobs which have belonged to cybs for the last two and half years have been permitted to nurse The New Baby and if Cybs still wants to cop a hold she very kindly holds the one not in use at the time. More of a shock was G's reaction to her. I have never really seen him go all soft over babies but he holds her and even kisses her when he thinks no one is looking. Ted has his usual exuberance for all things in life and can't contain his love and affection for the New Baby. If I pick him up from school he runs out and yells 'the New Baby' as if it is the first time he's seen her. Bea was extremely keen for about a week. Now she is quite variable, sometimes keen and sometimes exceedingly not so. Unless there is someone from outside the family around when she becomes overcome with love and affection for the baby and demands to hold her - purely for acclaim on her mothering skills. I suppose this is precisely why nature didn't intend for 10 year olds to have babies. To be fair, a crying baby is an annoying noise and both her and G have realised that if you get 'stuck' holding a baby you are unable to do anything else, so their desperation to have a 'go' holding her has waned. So, other than not really having any time to do anything other than essential housework and child maintenance because of her, Dot has fitted in well to family life.  There have been times when I have questioned how on earth this is all going to work, particularly as K has very selfishly found paid employment and is leaving us to start it in just over a week. I have also spent some time in tears at the enormity of how I am now in charge of an awful lot of shit. Literal and metaphorical. But I have also had an amazing few weeks. Ten days after Dot was born (and one of the main reasons I decided to have an induction) I went down to London to enjoy a fabulous lunch with my SE23 mum chums, who showered me with gifts, cards and cake, and then I had the pleasure of going back to the old school playground to deposit Bea and G with their respective friends so they could go off on their sleepovers. It was indescribably lovely to be able to see lots of old friends and show Dot off to all and sundry. Then I carried on to Kent with Dot and we spent a fabulous weekend in Herne Bay with ten old school friends in a gorgeous house right opposite the sea. It was quite honestly the best thing I have ever done with a newborn. Like Tena Lady pants and a good book in labour, a weekend by the sea with excellent friends and food when you need a rest, is hard to beat. Dottie was held almost all weekend and before we left, two very clever people were left in charge of her whilst I retrieved the car and when I returned she was fast asleep after a bit of a scream and she continued to sleep the entire way home - via London for two pick ups and then on to Suffolk. Four hours in total. Bea and G were shattered and happy from all the fun they had had with their friends and slept too. I had a blissful few hours alone with my thoughts and my music. It was the perfect end to the perfect weekend.

More apologies. This has become rather long. I have more to say but shall save it for next time.
Enjoy the sun whilst you can, our pool is nearing completion and from then on it will no doubt be constant cold and wet weather. I apologise for that too.

A toute a l'heure. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx



Monday, 4 May 2015

First one

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

I can't be bothered to change the name. I didn't bother changing my surname for eleven years after I was married ("just in case" but also as I liked my maiden name and also because it seemed like a faff) so as I've only been in Suffolk for four weeks it seems entirely premature to choose a new name so I shall just number them from now on and add the above sub-heading. It will do. 

I have been thinking of writing so often to let everyone know how we are getting on but I have never, ever been so busy. Ever. I now wonder why I was such a major wimp about being pregnant with Cybs as I had nothing to do but look after three children and clean a house. I can't think what the fuss was about. Now I have no choice but to get on with being heavily pregnant whilst the house is being renovated, boxes are unpacked, children are ferried to various schools and clubs and friends and six lives are transplanted in to a new place.  However, the worst thing of all is my big swollen fingers and feet (actually worse than the huge stomach). It makes gripping things tricky, walking uncomfortable and both are constantly irritating.  It also makes touch typing trickier than usual. Anyway, we are in, I am alive, the children are happy. All is well. Read on for a brief (I hope) summation of the good and bad of our new country life.

THE BAD

DAB radio signal is shit. I hadn't thought much about this in the grand scheme of the move, but my daily joy of Radio 2 is being seriously hampered by this problem. We are only four miles from a major town so we're hardly in the flipping sticks. I don't understand why it isn't a crystal clear reception. I had assumed that there must be an easy fix for this but the woman at Currys didn't seem to think there was any solution whatsoever which was very disheartening. So I either go back to FM or somehow rig up a very obvious aerial in my kitchen and keep the stereo at a particular angle in order to hear Chris Evans, Simon Mayo and Jeremy Vine etc without interference. If anyone knows what to do to solve this problem, do let me know post haste.

The broadband took a while to get set up and the speed is quite slow, but Bea is still able to watch her programmes on her ipad and the boys can still link up to play on each other's minecraft worlds (and then fight to the death in real and virtual life about anything that goes on in the virtual world) and K is able to access Netflix on our new and flashy 'smart' TV (smart for us, btw not for the world at large) so it is entirely fine and within the next few years we will hopefully be getting this new superfast broadband BT are rolling out so it is very liveable with for the moment. Amusingly, my niece had a sleepover with Bea last weekend and before she agreed to come and stay she checked if a. we had broadband and b. if it still worked in Bea's room. I have never before been vetted for my broadband but I am happy to report it met her expectations so it is obviously entirely adequate and I shall have to adjust.

The schools are all full/or not full but not good. This has caused me quite a headache and a lot of heartache and stress. The very lovely local school which was a big 'PLUS' when we wanted to buy the house had spaces for newcomers but in years 2, 4 and 6.  I needed spaces in Reception, year 3 and year 5.  Luckily one space became available for year 3 which I quickly applied for and got confirmed for G but that left two more to house. I found another amazingly good school ten minutes away from the house (in the opposite direction to the local school) which had a space for Ted but that wasn't accepting years 5 and 6 until next year. Which left Bea school less. I refused to send her to yet another school so decided to appeal to the local school to admit one extra child in to year 5, making it a class of 31. The problem was that the appeal date was last week, two weeks after term started so she had nowhere to go to school at the beginning of term. The first day we dropped G off and they showed us around the school, Bea was incredibly upset. She was just desperate to get in to school after the Easter holidays and make friends and have some structure and order to her life.  Without formal education, I was in charge of 'schooling'. I home schooled her for three days.  We did well for two days but then Bea became so upset at bedtime on day two because she missed her friends, I took her on a 'school trip' in to town the following day for shopping and lunch therapy. It worked and she cheered up, but then the absolutely amazingly wondrous head teacher at Ted's school (who must remain anonymous) said Bea could secretly join their year 4 class until she had somewhere permanent arranged. This truly saved the day. I think the last few weeks would have been hellish without this intervention - Bea has been so happy just to go to a school and have friends again, even if they are the year below, she loves the school and the teacher and has been incredibly happy there. 

Luckily, I can now report that Bea does have a permanent place at the local school and will start tomorrow after some form of divine intervention caused a child from year 5 to defect to our 'back up' school for Bea (to a school in town that is closing in just over a year so it really is quite bizarre) and gave in her notice the afternoon before our appeal. K and I still had to attend the appeal and put across our points just in case the local authority had a child in greater need of the place but we found out that they do not and as we won the appeal anyway, there is now nothing stopping her! The relief is quite magnificent. The alternative was a 45 minute and about a ten mile round car trip in the morning and similar in the evening as well as trying to juggle three different schools/uniforms/rules/sports days etc. Plus I really, really, REALLY wanted the local school for Bea. It is small, lovely, has its own heated outside pool and she already has a fabulous friend in her year who we found during the first week of term through mutual friends.  I only wish we hadn't had to wait three weeks for her to get in there.

The midwives are hideously Fatist. I went to my first appointment without expecting too much 'ado'. As you may have guessed, I am a bit of an old pro when it comes to the whole birth thing - in that I pretty much know the form, know what to expect etc (obviously it still hurts and I never, ever emerge looking like Kate Middleton ten hours after birth, I just mean I am fairly well acquainted with the lay of the land when it comes to pregnancy and labour). However, the lovely young midwife I met seemed to take my relatively high BMI and run with it. Within minutes I was being advised to take daily injections to stop blood clots, to attend antenatal classes with 'gentle exercise' included, to see a nutritionist, to take daily aspirin tablets and to be scanned regularly at the hospital (in case the baby was as enormous as me) and put under consultant led care. This was a shock to me. My BP had reduced in the move, not increased. My weight gain with this pregnancy is far less than my gain with Cybs (although my BMI was far less at the beginning of that pregnancy which meant no one gave a shit). It will come as little surprise to know that I politely declined the exercise/antenatal classes. I also refused the daily injections. I promised to take aspirin as a compromise (I lied). I laughed at the idea of a nutritionist but said I would be scanned at least once to prove that I was not having a gigantic baby just because I am gigantic. (I am actually smaller than I was with Ted but my previous experiences of giving birth unharmed seems to fall on deaf ears). I went to the scan. Shockingly, the baby is entirely normal. I am now not attending any further appointments until medical evidence necessitates it. I very much wish I had a sedentary lifestyle but that is just not the case and therefore my risk of deep vein thrombosis or blood clotting is unlikely. There is more risk that I will be unable to stop bleeding after the birth as the uterus can apparently get a bit lazy after the fourth and might not contract efficiently.  I feel awful being so mean as she is a very lovely midwife, but really, it is a little tiresome. I do not need extra appointments to attend as I am quite busy with lots of other stuff and I also don't believe I am the 'high risk' fatty bum bum they seem to think I am. I have freaked her out totally by insisting on a home birth. Luckily it is entirely my right to insist upon it but clearly they are very keen to advise a hospital birth. I am enjoying freaking them out though.

I thought having money and shopping for lots of house stuff would be fun, and don't misunderstand, it is WAY more fun than having absolutely no money and needing to get essential stuff, but after the initial excitement of choosing a lovely fridge, TV and sofa, the daily decision making over every little thing - chairs, wallpaper, light fittings, table, chest of drawers, curtains, wall colours etc etc. has actually become a chore. I had no idea this was possible. Ideally, I would like someone else to know what I like and want and go and buy it all and then organise its implementation at the house (for free). And sometimes, when it is a really expensive decision like a vast expanse of carpet, I would like someone else to tell me what to do without having any input whatsoever. I hate being entirely responsible for such vast outgoings. Obviously K is a very useful second opinion but he tends to just agree with me (it makes his life a lot easier) unless he absolutely hates my suggestion (or it's way more expensive than he was expecting). I am VERY much looking forward to the house being finished so I don't have to make any more interior design decisions.

Oh and lack of mobile signal in the house - although this is being rectified shortly with the arrival of our signal booster so it seems churlish to complain but it has been slightly irritating when you are used to using your mobile for everything. We have had to rely on our landline which seems very old school.


THE GOOD


Where to begin.

Space. Space cannot be overestimated for what it does it to one's state of mind.  The house isn't enormous but it is noticeably bigger than our old house and the garden is at least ten times as big. And it's not just the space in the house and garden, it is the vast expanse of open fields and skies that surround the house that make me feel so much better.  I can't actually express why it helps but it really and truly does. The children just love the garden and K seems to be having a love affair with his double garage. Bea even has her own en suite bathroom which makes her feel like she's living in her own flat and she can disappear for hours up to her room (it is a loft conversion without a dorma or proper stairs so doesn't officially count as an extra bedroom but it is surprisingly large and the fact that she has steep steps up to her room means she doesn't get bothered by anyone very often so she absolutely loves it). Cybs' new room is three times the size of her old one (she will probably have to share it at some point so that's not all hers forever) and the boys still have to share a room which will have to be rectified at some point, especially when they get big enough to do serious harm to each other, but all in all everyone is very happy with their new living space. I am writing in our 'grown up' room. On my new duck egg blue sofa. K has his own new chair to my left so this sofa is JUST for me and I am very protective of it. This room is only used in the evening. I LOVE it. And it has an open fire which we have used a lot already. The children are allowed in here, but not for long. And most certainly not with food. They have a big playroom, complete with our old large sofa and Sky TV which leads off the kitchen and so far the segregation is working a treat.

Garden. We are now the proud owners of a decent sized, south facing back garden, and thanks to me it has an extremely large climbing frame. And thanks to K who agreed to my crazy purchase and then spent three exceedingly long days putting it together. On two of the days he had my lovely Godmother's husband helping him as well. It was a particularly epic build. But it is now up and extremely well loved and it means that the children spend an awful lot of time outside. At the moment. Mother is very quick to point out that no one will use it in a few weeks' time once the novelty wears off. Still, that is not an issue as we are also having a pool put it in! It is EXCEEDINGLY exciting. I am hoping that this will 'do' for an entire summer's entertainment whilst I am busy breast feeding the newbie. Now, it is by no means a full sized, proper pool. It is being converted from the site of the old pond that was here and should make a really decent children's pool - like the shallow end of a normal pool. No one uses the deep end anyway. As long as no one tries to dive in or use it for professional swimming training, we should be ok.  I am just desperate for work to start so it will be ready in time for the summer.

Schools. I am a massive fan of both schools so far.  They were almost tailor made for my boys. The week after Ted started at his school the theme in Ted's class was spiders. I couldn't actually believe it. He was even asked to bring a live one in to class. Luckily the house is covered with them (they are taking a while to adjust to the fact that the house is now inhabited after a long time vacant). There is also a forest school which he loves and a great playground. All children are amazed by the expanse of grass they get to play on every day - particularly G. Most of the after school clubs are free - and quite cool - G is starting Gardening club on Thursday, K is quite jealous. And you can chop and choose whether you want packed lunch or school dinners on the day without having to pre-book. This sounds like a crap thing to be excited about but when you have to make three lunches every morning during the chaos of breakfast and pre-school shenanigans, the fact that there are some days the children will stomach the school offerings instead, means a lot to me. Also Bea came home from her first day as a pretend year 4 pupil and told me she was amazed because the head teacher knew everyone's names and didn't just point at them and say 'You', like the dragon Head she had at her London school - this kind of thing makes me very happy. And they get given instruments to learn like the violin for FREE (I used to learn the violin so I am particularly excited about that). Oh and obviously there's the academic side of stuff. But to be honest I care less about that than I do about all the extra stuff like nice parents, nice buildings, good playground, great after school clubs and the outdoor swimming pool. We even get to use the school pool during the summer holidays. Again, we are new to all of this so it might all turn out to be crap but as a wide-eyed ex-Londoner this all seems totally amazing. OH OH OH and the very best bit of it all is that at Bea and G's school there is a car door opener. You literally pull in to a lay by at the gate, the door-opener opens the doors and helps the children out and you say your goodbyes, the doors are shut and you drive off. IMAGINE. K likes to call it the Concierge service. I am thrilled that this means after the baby is out I could sometimes do the school run in my pyjamas without anyone realising. Awesome.

People. They are SO NICE. So far. Potentially they may turn out to be intensely annoying in the future but for now I have collected lots of numbers from people who seem to be desperate to help me with school pick ups/drop offs and one generous soul who offered to unpack boxes for me whilst I sat on the sofa. What could potentially be a negative in some ways has turned out to be a rather fabulous positive for us as everyone seems to know our business. We are known as the family who have just moved with lots of children who couldn't get them all in to the local school. News of Bea's school place spread like wildfire and G was told at lunch time at his school before Bea even knew about it. It is quite amazing. Not only this but people seem to genuinely want to help. Like the lovely headmistress who wanted to make Bea happy and my life easier by allowing her to illegally join year 4.  G has already been over for a playdate with his new best friend and Bea met her new friend because I rang the mother, explained our situation and asked if she would bring her daughter over to play with Bea, and she did. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers and relative strangers. The morning I arrived at the house I discovered a beautifully decorated box waiting for us with home made flapjacks, a Suffolk magazine, tea towel, loo roll, tea bags etc and a card from an old school friend I hadn't seen for years and years. She lives in the next door village and had tracked down the house from Right Move and left us the lovely welcome.  Not that there weren't amazingly lovely people in London, it just took me longer to find them when we moved in there.

Car. I am a huge fan of driving.  Every morning I get to do the school run in the car I am a grateful bunny. Especially at this size. The baby is basically ready to go (I am 37 weeks) and what with my hurty swollen feet as well I am so happy not to be walking the school run. It also means I get to listen to my new CDs which is the best bit of all. Meghan Trainor and Taylor Swift are my new bestest buds. Also as K is still at home (mercifully he is not yet gainfully employed which I couldn't be happier about), he quite often takes Cybs to do G's school run which means I get a beautiful ten minute journey (longer if I decided to find a circuitous route) home after dropping off Ted to myself with my favourite new music. This is pretty much the best thing ever.

Waitrose. Enough said. 

CONCLUSION

We are all much happier.  K and G in particular. It is so noticeable it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Bea and I were pretty distressed as we said goodbye to our old house and we pulled away in the car. We had said a heartbreaking goodbye to the old folks over the road who were there to see us off and to the house. I kept running back in to the house for things I thought I had forgotten, unable to believe we wouldn't be going back there ever again and taking a last look at every room, knowing that we couldn't forget anything as the removals men were about to pack it all up and bring it all to us. The boys were just keen to leave and had their heads buried in Kindles in the back of the car and Cybs just wanted to get on the road to see her Grandma and obviously didn't quite comprehend the enormity of the goodbye she was saying, but Bea and I really felt it. And it was so very hard. BUT, that was the very worst bit of the whole process. The last four and a bit weeks have been some of the happiest we have ever known. It feels like we are on holiday and yet it's real life. Obviously it helps that the sun has shone most days, that K is off work and that there is some slush fund money for fun things like shopping trips and cinema visits and meals out etc. Who knows what it will be like when there is another child (who I am incredibly hopeful will be far less trouble than Cybs but could actually turn out to be far worse) to look after and pay for and it has rained every day for a month and K is at work all day long and we have had to go to Aldi not Waitrose for our evening meal and the children are telling me that they are REALLY BORED. It will clearly not feel like a holiday for ever but for now life is good, Suffolk is good and once the house is finished I will be even happier with it than I am already. Although leaving was hard and we miss our friends and the lovely Honor Oak, we have definitely made the right decision for our family. As far as I can tell.

Until the next time lovely ones, when hopefully I shall report on the safe arrival of No. 5. The final delivery. I hope. xxxxxxxxxxxxxx



Sunday, 29 March 2015

So long, Farewell

SO, that's it. The end is nigh. We have exchanged, the move is happening and we are facing the very last days of living in London before completion.

I don't know where to begin. I am all over the place emotionally. It's a bit like when you know you have to break up with someone even though you really love them, but you have to go ahead and go through the heartbreak as you know it's for the best. I don't particularly have strong feelings for the structure of my house or any of its features but I have loved our life here (on the whole - obvs the rat in the loo and various periods of time in severe penury weren't particularly enjoyable), but it is the centre of our world. Bea was six months old when we completed on this house ten years ago (almost to the day), two of my babies were born in the house, four of them were conceived here (TMI?), it is the only home any of them have ever known and most of our lives revolve around this place and the surrounding streets. I can't realistically imagine calling anywhere else 'home'. The new baby will be born and raised in Suffolk and have no idea of our former London life. Cybs also won't remember any of the life Bea and G have enjoyed here for almost a decade. It is so odd to think about it. I was fortunate enough to never move as a child, mum still lives in the only family home I have ever known, so to me this feels like a massive upheaval for them and for me.

It's not that I don't want to move, I am desperate to do so, but I want to move and stay here at the same time. Ideally I'd like to have kept this house and move as well but that was obviously never an option.  As you know, we haven't always had the easiest of times with money. This last year hasn't been that great and it is just not at all fun. I don't know who on earth thought that money doesn't buy you happiness, they are entirely wrong. Maybe someone with money said it.  Living in fear of not having any money is terrifically dull.  It dominates everything and makes your decisions for you.  It limits your options considerably and makes you feel very vulnerable, particularly when you have children. With this in mind, we decided to be very sensible and went for a slightly smaller and less grand house than my original plans for a 'forever' home, but it will still fit us all in and there is room for improvement and extension for our growing brood. The important things are that it has a nice big kitchen, a garden big enough to play in, a drive to rollerskate on and a school nearby. AND its main advantage is that it is marvellously cheap. (In comparison to our London house I mean, it's not a fiver or anything). So, it means that we will finally have something that I believe 'normal' people call 'disposable income'. We may even finally get on a plane with our brood for a foreign holiday which they are quite desperate to do. (Not that I am keen after all the recent air disasters and the price of buying six passports - K is currently the only person equipped to leave the country. A fact he has mentioned once or twice as an advantage....)

I am quite scared of doing things like taking a flight. I have a feeling that we weren't meant to have money. It somehow feels as if we are going against the universe's plans for us and I do worry we may feel its wrath in penance. I have a recurring hideous thought that a great tragedy will befall us soon after we move and I can envisage the front pages of the newspapers with pictures of our smiling faces beaming out with headlines screaming of a family who left the perils of life in the wilds of South East London for the safety and tranquillity of the Suffolk countryside, only to be murdered in their beds/burnt alive/mown down by a tractor. That kind of thing. Or, we all die in a hideous pile up on the motorway now that we have to use it far more often. The car pile up thing is actually the fault of the Speed Awareness Course I was forced to attend after being caught on the way back from my first visit to the house (initially I thought this was a really bad 'sign' but then I found lots of other, more positive 'signs' like the owners having a cat called Keith and decided to go for it anyway). They are quite hot on the whole speeding thing in Suffolk. Another thing I will have to get used to. Although the fact that I am still terrifically haunted by what they showed me on the course should help.....

I will have to get very used to spending a large amount of time in the car from now on. We can't walk to the children's new schools (I will explain at a later date but they can't all go to the local school at the moment...) so we have done our final school run on foot for many years to come. I can't say I'm upset. Not only is it a lot easier to drive than to push a buggy when you are carrying another heavy human and its various add ons inside you, but it also means we don't have to dodge the urine trails, vomit and various poo we usually encounter on our daily commute to their London school.  I had the 'final' day all planned in my head. Our final morning school run was going to be jovial and calm, the pick up was going to be emotional and there would be much time spent in the playground as the children and I bid farewell to all our friends. It didn't turn out at all that way. The children didn't get ready in time, I ended up shouting, there were fights over the bags of sweets I'd arranged for them to give out to their classmates, Ted left his bookbag at home with his farewell cards inside and we all ended up at the school gates in bad moods. I tried to turn it around in the final few minutes before they left me, with cuddles and kisses, wishing them a lovely last day etc but it didn't help. Annoyingly I was more angry that they had ruined 'my' final school run. My last wait in the playground and my last chance to chat to the mothers I had spoken to every morning for years. As Ted was finally ushered in by his teacher with a face of thunder it suddenly hit me. Right as someone was saying their final goodbye to me. I started to well up.

Crying in public is a real no no for me. I don't really like to show emotion. I am fairly traditionally British in that way. Obviously I will happily show anger when provoked but crying is really not something I am at all comfortable with. I don't like other people crying either. It's not that I am cross with them but I would like them to stop, for their sake as well as to ease my own discomfort. I will obviously be sympathetic to start but then I will try and lighten the mood with humour as soon as is appropriate. I don't want people to feel the same discomfort as I do which is why I hate people seeing me cry. Luckily, I am able to bury painful emotions and act as if nothing is happening so that is what I did to spare anyone's blushes. After those few tears on Friday morning I haven't shed a tear about my departure. I have done the final farewells in the playground, said goodbye to my closest friends - both individually and en masse at my goodbye night out, I have seen the children bid sad goodbyes to their best friends and walked the well worn path to the school I've been going to for five years for the last time without even a lump in my throat. Fizzy alcohol has helped. I know it's not good to use drink to stop feeling unpleasant emotions, or to drink (in moderation) whilst pregnant, but seriously, I don't care. It has worked. No one has felt uncomfortable. If I can't stop snivelling and snotting and weeping when we finally say goodbye to our happy family home then only the children and K will suffer and K is incredibly used to it.

Even though we are literally about to leave I still can't quite believe it is happening. Although I have been going through the motions of finding schools, doctors, midwives, moving utilities and stressing over exchanges and removals people, I have also been assuming that at any moment it would all fall through and we would go back to our 'normal' life. What makes it more surreal is that we are having a full packing service - obviously we needed it with me being pretty pregnant and fairly immobile already - but because of this the house has no idea what is coming. We are living in it as if nothing is happening. Dirty washing is still going in the basket, ketchup is still going back in the cupboard and the floors are still littered with things that should be somewhere else. It is entirely 'normal'.  Only very soon the children and I are going to walk out with our suitcases of clothes and a few special toys and most importantly their flipping ipads/kindles and never walk back through the door. I am taking the children and running away to mother's before the packers arrive so I can pretend nothing is happening. And to enable the packers to get on with their ninja like packing work without tripping over children or having to deal with an angry Cybs who might assume they are stealing her books (the most important thing to her - they all had a box to pack and hers is entirely filled with story books) and clothes and toys.  K is staying on to oversee the packing and completion and then coming up afterwards. It won't feel like we have finally left London for a while I don't think. I won't get to see the empty house, or hand over the keys or anything that might feel like 'closure'. The children and I will just get in the car and go to Grandma's for our usual country break and never come back. Well. Not to live. We will of course visit frequently.

For a person who doesn't like change or uncertainty, this is pretty much a nightmare for me.  I know it will all be worth it in the end and eventually it will all begin to feel 'normal', but for now I am much like the children, varying between utter excitement and total panic. Right now I shall ignore the rising fear and spend time trying to think about what on earth I should now call my blog. In hindsight a geographically specific name wasn't a good idea. The new postcode is IP30 but it doesn't quite have the same ring to it. I will forever be grateful to the wonderful SE23 (and its close postcode neighbours) and to all the magnificent people who live within it to whom I have become incredibly close and who have become so very important to me. I don't 'do' emotion, but if I did, I would be balling my eyes out at the thought of no longer having them near me and how on earth I can live without them.

There is little more to be said. We need to get ready, get on and ship out. This house needs some tidier residents to inhabit it. I shall of course keep you informed and updated on all my trials and tribulations of suddenly being a new country mother.  Until then lovely ones. Wish me luck.
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