Friday, 11 July 2014

Onwards and Upwards

Once again I lament the fact that you are not all telepathic. I write so much in my head as I go about my day, but by the evening I am too tired to translate that on to screen, which means you have missed out on several instalments of my Thrilling Life.  However the Sky is not working and I am totally up to date with Nashville so I had nothing else to do this evening except for talk to K, and we have had a conversation already today so there really was nothing left to do but finally come on here and talk to you. I shall endeavour to catch you up with some edited highlights.

On to why the Sky doesn't work. There has been a seismic shift in the M&O household since the half term holiday. A great occurrence has occurred. YES, we finally have the builders in situ and they are busily turning our hideous loft in to a rather spiffing bedroom and bathroom. The excitement is overwhelming (although obviously tinged with sadness by the loss of our Sky - hopefully very temporarily until we work out a suitable place for the aerial). K and I have waited nearly a decade for this to happen. When we first moved in to this house it needed entirely gutting. Stripping, plastering, electrical overhaul, plumbing, walls knocked down and put up, painting, carpeting etc etc the whole shebang. I was very confident that our HUGE budget of about £15k would be enough to turn the entire house around AND turn the loft in to a fourth bedroom. I had watched property ladder, I had overseen an overhaul of the bathroom in our old flat. I knew it all. K gave up his job to do the labouring and oversee the trades he couldn't manage like the electrics, plumbing and plastering and I sought refuge at my mother's with our little baby Bea and waited for the magic to happen.

It turns out I didn't know anything. We needed tens of thousands more than I thought (particularly as I spent quite a bit on the furniture and furnishings section) and that didn't even include the loft. It transpires that trades are expensive, it turns out that not having an income means money you do have dwindles spectacularly quickly and it also turns out that trying to remortgage whilst no one in the household is earning money, is actually almost impossible. So, we ended up in something of a financial pickle hideous black hole of near destitution. K went back to work, mum stopped us starving and then a bank of dubious accreditation finally offered us a remortgage. We were saved, and so was the house. Since then we have tried to get the loft done a few times but failed miserably. Then the rats moved in up there and to be honest I just wanted to move as quickly as possible and leave them for someone else to deal with. However, just as we are planning to up sticks and move to the country we have decided to splash out (with the help of a bank obviously, we weren't just sitting here on hoards of cash wondering what to do with it all) and have the (previously) rat infested storage hell converted. The preparation of the start of works has actually taken up quite a lot of my time, what with getting plans, agreements, building regs, quotes etc so that we could start the work and then of course the weekends spent entertaining the children so that K could empty the loft of all our rat infested possessions and past lives. But as I sit here now, the roof is off, the dormer structure is up and insulation has gone in and in a few days it will be watertight and the floor will be down. It is surreal. I never thought it would happen. I am literally finding it hard to wait for it to be completed. The builders worked throughout last weekend and on the Sunday evening when we returned home the children fully expected it to be ready to move in to and although I was telling them not to be silly, I shared their feelings. Bea (who is doing her best to fully inhabit the role as 'tweenager') is very keen to move in to the  'master suite' once it is finished, as she feels she deserves it, K and I have put our collective feet down and insisted that this luxury is to be ours and ours alone. She will have to put up with her old bedroom which K and I will helpfully vacate.  Not that she has to cope for long....

On to the moving part. Yes, we are planning to up sticks and start 'the good life' in the country. The loft is the final part of the puzzle. When it came to it, I just couldn't leave the house for someone else to do it. Also I couldn't bear the idea of not getting the most money out of the house as was humanly possible (so sue me - four bedroom places seem to be going for so much more than three beds that the cost and inconvenience of converting the loft seemed like a no brainer). Plus the delay will give the children a final term at their beloved schools and for us all to say our goodbyes and tie up all the loose ends. So once the loft is finished and the bathroom is re-tiled we are putting it on the market and finally finding 'the forever house' in the Suffolk countryside. I am scared and excited in equal measure. When I am in Suffolk and the children are all playing outside in the sunshine I can't think of a single reason to stay in London. When I am in London I can think of quite a few and worry I will make a terrible full time country dweller.  I am sure that there will be times when I think I am a fool for moving, and times when I think I was a fool for not doing it sooner. Much like I can't quite imagine the loft actually being finished, I can't quite manage to picture our final goodbyes or leaving the house never to return, but I remain convinced that it is the best thing to do for all concerned. A smaller mortgage, bigger house, huge garden, smaller schools and hopefully a nice new job for K - it all seems to me to be the best thing for everyone. If I am wrong then there is really nothing much I can do about it other than live with my mistake for the rest of my life.  We can't even afford to buy the house we currently inhabit, let alone move back should it all turn out to be a disaster.

Mother is adamantly opposed to the move. Which is odd as you would assume it would make her ridiculously happy to have me and the brood nearby. But you can never second guess what the woman is thinking. She has come up with a myriad of reasons why I will hate it, but I tend to ignore her, particularly her concern over what I will do when 'one of them needs to go to a party' (she is very concerned about the amount of time I will have to spend in the car and her party scenario was to highlight the fact that when one of them has a party, should I be alone, I will have to put all of them in the car and take them to and from the party....). Potentially she worries that I am moving purely for free childcare and that she will be forced to spend her retirement being dumped with a number of small children whilst I galavant about the place. I must admit, the idea of having her to help out on an occasional basis with childcare was definitely a bonus, but the whole point of the move was to enable us to spend more time altogether as a family. We can't wait to have a big garden that we can all spend the weekends enjoying and a house that is big enough to accommodate us both together and separately. It just seems to us that the stars have aligned and everything seems to suggest that this is our opportunity, and we intend to make the most of it.

Anyway, back to the here and now.  We are tantalisingly close to the end of term - a week and a half to go! I have watched two sports days, with one more to attend, the children are up to date with all jabs, doctors appointments and dental checks. I have even given in the registration forms for Ted so that he can start school in September. I am totally on the ball. I have also attended Bea's end of year dance show which was something I hope I will never forget.

If I could live a different life I would love to be graceful and dance. I was desperate to be Penny from Dirty Dancing and have the ability to move with rhythm and beauty (and be tall and really skinny). Sadly it was never to be. Aside from the weight issue I was not one for learning to dance, I hated ballet and I was the only child who had a written excuse to get me out of having to do 'pliés'.  I have watched elegant dancers and felt an ache that I will never be able to do anything like that. However, watching my first born prance effortlessly across the stage made me cry with an odd mix of emotions. Naturally pride, love, joy, but also an overwhelming happiness that she gets to experience something I will never know.  I am at a loss as to where she inherited it from - K is lovely but I wouldn't say he sets the dancefloor alight with his dance moves although he is arguably more rhythmic than me. My mother and I are very much the 'galumphing' sort of folk - we have big hands and feet and are naturally quite clumsy. There were definitely some dancers on stage at various times who reminded me of me. The ones that 'have it' are mesmerising for all the right reasons; those without draw attention for all the wrong reasons. But I mentally high fived them for going ahead with it anyway. I would never have had the confidence.

Sadly for me I was gifted with musicality which is all well and good if you like playing in an orchestra (I hated it) and practising for hours on end every day (I hated it) and you liked performing said instruments in front of an audience (GUESS how much I hated that). The minute I stopped having to play them, I did. Dance is something you can do all the time and I am so happy that she has it. She performed four dances in all and we were all there to watch her - a first for us - we have never before taken children who can move to any of her performances lest it annoy us distract us. We clearly had a point as Cybs attempted to join her on stage at one point. After doing quite a lot of 'twirling' in the aisle and some balletic arm moves throughout the rest of the show, for Bea's final dance Cybs decided that she would chance her luck and make a run for the stairs to the side of the stage, so that she could get up and there and take part. Luckily a woman grabbed her before she achieved her goal as I was too far away to stop her, although it was more that I was sort of interested to see what would happen if she did. It would have made a lovely family video for us.  Akin to the bit in the film Parenthood when the younger boy gets on stage to protect his sister. I love that film.

So, that is really it, apart from an INCREDIBLY exciting surprise trip to Legoland to stay in the hotel next week. Two whole naughty skive days spent blowing their tiny minds and a night in a themed room with a view of the park. K and I are beside ourselves with anticipation and the excitement of surprising them.  We have decided to act like it's a normal morning, making them get in school uniform and everything, before getting in the car and seeing how long we can last with their constant questioning about where we are going before we give in and spill the beans. We have envisaged getting all the way to the first sign post for Legoland, however I am pretty sure that half a mile down the road and we will want to rip out our ears. It is bad enough when they do know where they are going, let alone without and with seemingly deranged parents who have decided not to take them to school for some peculiar reason. Whatever happens, it is literally the most exciting thing to ever happen to us.

One of the best parts of my half term was a trip to and from London entirely on my own. The reason for the trip was rather dull - boring banking stuff to help get the money for the loft - I was only going up for a half an hour meeting so it was decided the children were best left at home with Mum. It was four and a half hours of utter bliss - just me, the car and four Nashville CDs. Awesome. Like being in a spa but without stressing about the fact that the 'one size fits all' dressing gown doesn't quite fit 'all' of you and with traffic.

And finally, I shall leave you with my favourite comment from Ted from the half term - I was lying in bed and trying to grab a few more seconds of lying down before I forced myself upright, so I asked Ted to go behind the curtain and see what the weather was like. He was quiet for a bit and I said, 'what can you see'. He replied, 'I can't see anything'. I asked if he was looking from behind the curtain or in front of it. He said 'I'm behind the curtain, but I can't see any weather through all this rain. I think it's a bit windy'. That amused me for a long time.

So, yet again I shall make hollow promises about getting in touch shortly and not leaving it nearly two months, but we both know the truth. I may come on briefly to brag about my new snazzy room, but I may be too busy sitting in it watching tv in my new comfy bed to come down the two flights of stairs in order to retrieve the laptop. But, with the shiny long stretch of holidays ahead of us, anything is possible.

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Pregnancy Perspective

Glad tidings! I greet you with the happy news that Shiny Life Sister is with child.  Mother's eleventh grandchild and Shiny Life Sister's first child, is cooking nicely and due for arrival in November.

So exciting. Obviously you can imagine that at first I was thrilled - finally a mewling infant to take some of the shine off her life! Mwa ha ha ha ha ha (evil laugh - wasn't sure if it was obvious). I was hopeful that she would look slightly less polished and manicured too - I was thinking weight gain, greasy hair, lack of up to date clothing, baby sick etc etc. BUT, then she started to feel terrifically sick. And then she started being terrifically sick. She has been suffering a lot - especially with her final work trip to China where she felt dreadfully ill. And then last week there was a mad hospital dash in an ambulance (demanded by me), in severe abdominal pain which turned out, after an excruciatingly long wait, to be a horrible cyst, twisting her ovary. All is mercifully fine with the baby and she will be closely monitored from now on but she is still being sick which is really not fun.   (AND quite gallingly, she still looks amazingly glam and not at all like she is suffering so all my hoping for her looks go to pot are in vain - I have had to come to terms with the fact that she will no doubt even have immaculate hair and make up for the birth and post birth pictures - I have made peace with it, I advise you to do the same).

So, all in all, her pregnancy has not been easy thus far and there is still a long way to go. And that is just the pregnancy. There is an even longer way to go after that. So, in order to make her feel better about how horrid pregnancy is, I thought I would dedicate this post to some of the crap that comes after. To help her put all the pregnancy crap in perspective. I do like to be helpful. So, here are some of the highlights:

  • You become the unofficial goddess of all that is disgusting. The Goddess of Gross.  I know there must be some homes where this isn't the case obviously, (Blonde Bombshell's husband is responsible for the sick in her house because she can't stomach it) but by and large the poo, wee, sick, dog poo on shoes, stringy snot, plug hole gunk, nits, blood, worms and any other associated gross, is entirely up to you, and only you, to sort out. 
Example: Last week I was upstairs when I heard my lovely cleaner scream and yell my name in a panicked sort of way. I came downstairs to discover her up against the wall outside the playroom looking as if she had seen a ghost. It would appear that the cat had had a go on a mouse and left the decapitated head complete with blood and trailing veins, on the rug in the playroom. I had been in the room frequently in the lead up to my cleaner's arrival and had failed to notice it, (which gives you an insight in to the state of our playroom on a day to day basis) and so, going about her business, she had gone to pick it up, assuming it was another bit of a toy, only to make the grizzly discovery.  At this point it really does fall to the only other grown up in the house to sort it out and that was obviously me. Luckily the 'rug' on which the decapitated head lay, was in fact a large off cut of carpet so rather than scoop up the grossness in a plastic bag, which was my initial plan, I just rolled up the carpet and chucked it in the bin. This week I did a THOROUGH sweep of the floor before she tentatively tip toed inside to begin the clear up.

This is the least of my gross encounters though. On Easter Sunday I was called downstairs by the children because the cat had either been taken very ill, was very naughty or was potentially trapped in the room overnight and had defecated three times on my new carpet. It was a hideous start to the day, particularly because he clearly wasn't that well for some of it so it was hard to clean up, because it was the same colour as the chocolate the children were all merrily eating whilst watching me clean up and because Cybs seemed to want to step in it, which made cleaning up all the harder. K was at least in the house at that point but there was little point in trying to get him to deal with it - by the time I had woken him up and got him down to help, Cybs would have achieved her wish to walk in it which would have made the whole situation far worse and to be honest, I knew he wouldn't clean it the way I wanted him to, so it was just easier to do it myself. The cat has also taken to pooing in the bath far more frequently than is at all acceptable. Although it is the most practical of places for him to do it and very easy to clean, it is still majorly gross and not really something I want to wake up to  - particularly when there is a perfectly good flipping cat litter that is actually designed for him to use. Hey Ho.

And finally, on Sunday evening, after a lovely day in the sun, I got in the bath with the little two. Ted got out to do a wee and when he started to get back in, he commented on the fact that it looked like someone had been sick in the bath. No one had been sick. Unfortunately, it was a matter of the other end and I was mid hair wash. Obviously I vacated the bath pretty quickly and took Cybs out too but then there was a drainage issue. The water was not going down fast enough which left us all staring at a bath full of poo water. Eventually I decided enough was enough. I shan't go in to the gory details but I managed to use a wire coat hanger to dislodge whatever was causing the issue in the drain and eventually the bath was cleared enough for the clear up to commence. After a thorough bleaching we all took turns to shower as it seemed the best option in light of what we had witnessed. After what seemed like the longest bath and bed session ever, everyone was clean and dry and the children were in bed. For five minutes. Just as we breathed a sigh of relief downstairs, we heard a huge commotion upstairs. It turns out that the sore tummy G was complaining about pre-bed was in fact the tummy bug going around and we arrived upstairs to find a big pile of sick on their bedroom carpet and a poorly George. Bea was being very motherly but also retching slightly. Ted, who had not yet had his fill of grossness (he was the one that kept pointing out recognisable bits of food from the bath debacle) came over to have a peek and quickly ran back to his bed and hid under the duvet. It was quite late by now due to the bath delay and it being a Sunday night n'all so I was quite keen to get them back in to bed so my sick clear up window was brief.  I clearly didn't do a good enough job of the interim clear up because the following morning the stench of sick was really quite bad. The splatter had gone further than I had thought possible and so I spent Monday morning scrubbing quite a large area of carpet with anything I could think of to try and rid us of the smell and the stain. (That is the end of the story but for those of you caught in a similar situation I would highly recommend Bicarbonate of Soda which I used to great effect today. Sprinkled a whole box of the stuff over the area, left for two hours and hoovered up - et voila, no sick smell.)

  • You are CONSTANTLY preparing food.  
In the early days when they can't yet have food, you look forward to the day when they are able to eat and the first few times they do so are big occasions and jolly exciting events for which picture taking is mandatory.  However, after the novelty wears off and they stop being small and cute and eating small amounts of things with their hands and potentially that child is not your only offspring, the entire day is centred around the preparation of food, the serving of food and then the clearing up of food and then the packing of snack food to have when you are out lest a child be suddenly struck by hideous hunger pangs in the few hours that you are not serving it a meal. I know it sounds like something obvious that I should have considered before multiple reproduction occurred, but there are times when the need to constantly think about food and its preparation seems ridiculously overwhelming. The big two have packed lunches, so I am entirely responsible for three meals a day for four children, every day.  I am in the kitchen for a disproportionate amount of my day. The lack of their adventurous taste buds also means that I prepare the same meals over and over and over again and it can feel like groundhog day very quickly. And I have further to go than I have already come. Another sixteen-ish years. That is a flipping long time to be in the kitchen. I hope I can persuade Cybs to take up cooking from a young age so she can do the last stint for me. I may well never want to see a baked bean or a sausage for the rest of my life by that point.
  • You become the parent you never thought you would. And not in a good way.  
Even after I had Bea I still had very hard and fast rules about what sort of parent I was/would be. I merrily judged other parents of older children as they did a 'terrible' job of parenting (whilst also smugly knowing that my beautiful tiny baby was not only the MOST beautiful baby that ever lived but also that she was never going to grow up, just like I am never going to get old or grey).  Not that it was an example of the parent that I judged, but an example of my changing standards, my sister had four by the time I had Bea so her fourth and my first were these lovely little blonde twins who spent an awful lot of time together. On one occasion we were in the car and her daughter wanted something she couldn't have or some such (it was a long time ago) and so my sister promised her a packet of crisps which she duly pulled over to purchase. I sighed, or similar and asked if she HAD to buy them as Bea would then want them and I really didn't want her eating crisps at the tender age of one and I maybe said that perhaps she shouldn't give them to her daughter either as they were terribly bad for her. Luckily she was able to just smile and say, 'wait until it's your fourth'. And proceeded to buy the crisps. Fast forward to Cybs who probably had crisps shortly after she was six months, has had more lollipops than you can shake a stick at and quite often eats her lunch in front of Peppa Pig (another of my absolute parenting no-nos was eating in front of the tv). 

Food is just one example. There are millions of others. Telling them to 'shut up'. If I heard a parent tell their child to shut up in the supermarket when Bea was little, I may well have tutted and/or given the child a sympathetic look. I must say it almost every day now. As well as 'bloody' - swearing in front/at children is most certainly not what I would have wanted. Also I say things my mother used to say which I hate. 'Because' as an answer. 'I'm Friday' to yet another yell of 'I'm Thirsty'.  I shout. I swear. I tell them to shut up. I feed them shit. I yank their arms when they won't walk and we're in a hurry. I am fat (I didn't want to be a bad example). I don't exercise (ditto). I don't listen to them read very often at all (please don't tell anyone - I feel terrifically guilty about it).  These are all things I would have been horrified by as I sat, smugly waxing lyrical about the type of parent I would be as I rubbed my swollen, first pregnant tummy. That 'me' would have judged this 'me' very harshly. But this 'me' would think that 'me' had absolutely no idea what was coming....

  • You enter an unofficial, unspecified, never ending competition. Even if you are entirely uncompetitive or incredibly lazy like me.
You are competing for brilliant children as well as being a brilliant parent whether you want to or not. Intelligence, development, manners, behaviour - it is ALL judged. And sometimes commented on. A friend who lives in Chelsea is apparently repeatedly asked 'how many words' her daughter has - from when she was only a year old.  It is mainly so the enquiree can brag about how many words their genius offspring has mastered 'already'. Even if you are not remotely interested in the competition, thousands of others are, and they rope you in to their weird game. A brilliant child is, by association, the product of a brilliant parent/gene pool, therefore to the competitive, children are the perfect fodder.  Sadly even I am beginning to be bothered by Cybil's lack of vocabulary. She is twenty one months old and rarely forms a word. She has Mummy, more, George and something that sounds like 'stop'. She also makes a noise like scooter but isn't actually scooter but I know that that is what it means. Babies far younger than her are more understandable. Sigh. No doubt she will be a late bloomer in that department. She can scooter to school and back very competently and stops and waits to cross the roads, so she has talents in other departments which are incredibly useful. And she makes herself understood without words so maybe she is alarmingly intelligent and has realised that she has no need to actually speak and therefore won't waste her time doing something so mundane. Like Maggy from The Simpsons. Or that evil baby out of Family Guy. Or perhaps a mix of both.

The Internet has taken competitive parenting to all new levels. You can't JUST take your child to Euro Disney, which is, in my book the very pinnacle of great parenting, you have to keep it a secret and then let them know in a 'magical' way just before you go, which has to be filmed and then posted on the Internet to show exactly how happy you have made your child and by insinuation how unhappy our children are in comparison. And it isn't enough to just throw money at the parenting competition, you also have to be amazingly creative which is hideously time consuming. Every day there is another 'what an amazing parent' link on facebook, twitter or even worse - making the news.  From elaborate 'themed' packed lunches (do not get me started on that), to taking a photo every day for eighteen years to make a tear jerking time lapse video for their coming of age, to the Dreamworks animator who makes 'superhero' films of his son, to the inexplicable month long, nightly shenanigans putting toy dinosaurs in different creative and amazing situations for the excitable children to find in the morning.

Every now and again I put some effort in to the whole parenting shebang, just for the hell of it, but I certainly couldn't guarantee 'effort' every day for a month. I see the efforts of other 'brilliant' parents and I feel exhausted.  Maybe that is why my children are so average. Although that is actually a relief. Gifted children require an awful lot of attention and looking after - that also seems exhausting.

  • You can NEVER rely on attending anything ever again. 
This one never ends actually, although obviously lessens over time. However, when they are young their illnesses mean that any number of nights out, weekends away etc can be cancelled at short notice.

For example. For the last year I have been looking forward to a very special long weekend away with my very special friends from school. It was to be three nights of blissed out magnificence in a lovely big house near the Suffolk coast. On the Thursday night, the day before I was due to drop the little two off at my mum's, Cybs started to cough. It appeared that she just had a cold which I thought mum could handle so I merrily left her on the Friday afternoon and drove with indecent haste and happiness to our holiday house.  The Friday night was just bliss. It was all that was right with the world. My Saturday morning phone call to mum revealed that Cybs' breathing was quite heavey and that she was coughing badly. I was quite hopeful it was just a cold so told mum to keep giving her pain relief.  By the afternoon mum assured me she was fine and I stayed for the second night, which was even better than the first, eight old friends eating delicious food, drinking way too much wine, playing games and living the life. I could have stayed for a week, but the following morning mum put Cybs to the phone and her breathing was so incredibly laboured I was immediately terrified. I rang 111 who rang mum to try and organise a doctor's appointment whilst I threw my stuff in to a bag and drove far too fast, back to mum's. On my way there I spoke to mum who told me that the 111 operative had called an ambulance. I drove a tad faster. I got home and found the paramedic still there who had been largely useless. Cybs became so upset whenever he went near her that he hadn't been able to listen to her chest or in fact do anything. He decided she wasn't an emergency and made us an out of hours GP appointment.

Anyhoo, to cut a long and dull story short, we ended up having to wait hours for the GP appointment, I started crying in the waiting room when we got there, we got bumped up the list and managed to avoid the hour delay, saw the GP who agreed she was struggling to breathe and we ended up in A and E for steroids, nebuliser and monitoring. So, instead of my lovely last few days with my lovely gal pals of old, I spent a very scary and long day with a very ill Cybs and finished off the day in the paediatric ward of West Suffolk hospital (which is very lovely for anyone wondering - I highly recommend it as paediatric wards go). I was obviously very upset for poor Cybs but I was bitterly disappointed for me. I do not go away for weekends - it isn't really 'me'. I don't do it out of martyrdom but I am with the children 99.9% of the time (I mean outside of school hours obvs) and this weekend was so incredibly important to me that I was a bit heartbroken for about 48 hours. (I KNOW Cybs is more important. I mean I didn't wallow or anything, I was just silently heartbroken whilst also being very grateful that I was able to get immediate medical help for my poor baby. I am able to see both sides.)

Interestingly not really it turned out that Cybs didn't have croup as everyone (except me) said, because on the Wednesday when we were safely back in London, I took her back to A and E after her breathing, which had never fully recovered, became ever worse. They did all the same sort of stuff, only this time they also took an x ray which revealed a chest infection (my original diagnosis). Happily, she is much improved and back to her wicked but wonderful ways.

  • You HAVE to know where the hell they are, all the time. And even when you think you know where they are you quite often have to triple check.  
Example. During the Easter Holidays we were lucky enough to go to Center Parcs for the day as a guest of Bea's best pal. All was going 'swimmingly' in the Subtropical Paradise (which is a misleading title as it is really nothing at all like paradise and the headache you get after a few minutes inside it, lasts for an awfully long time) until the last twenty minutes when we were trying to wrap things up and have the 'last go' on things. I was giving G his last go on the rapids, Bea and Alice were having their last go on the Tropical Cyclone and Ted was shattered from the two hours he had spent racing around the pirate ship and baby slides in the children's area and was happily sitting in 'our' spot outside the pirate ship wrapped in a towel and tucking in to a bag of crisps and an apple juice, patiently waiting for Alice's mum to return.

G and I finished our ride down the rapids and were just going to chance another final run when I heard a worrying alarm. At first I thought it was telling people the waves were beginning again - but a few seconds later I realised there was a different air to the tropical paradise and like meerkats on the Savannah, all these heads were popping up looking for something. It was then I knew, deep in my mothering bones, that Bea was dying. I saw a group of lifeguards running in the direction of the Tropical Cyclone. I grabbed G's arm and yanked him in the direction of the running life guards. I pushed through the crowds with a hammering heart and tears in my eyes as I thought I saw Bea's friend, with fingers in her mouth, looking scared and bewildered. I think I actually started crying at that point but it all happened so fast. I was busy looking for the lifeguards who would surely be trying to resuscitate my beautiful daughter who had obviously fallen off the stupid rubber ring thing on the death defying ride and was in serious trouble, WHEN, a small child grabbed me. I looked down and saw Ted clinging to my side and I remember thinking what the hell are you doing, get off me I need to save Bea. Then a lifeguard asked me if he was with me and I said yes - again annoyed that everyone wasn't trying to save Bea - she then said 'He can't swim' which was when I realised that all the lifeguards were all stood still, staring at me and Ted. As were a number of fellow guests in the incredibly noisy SubTropical Paradise. It transpires that the alarms were actually for Ted. Bea and Alice had admirably managed not to drown. G was with me and Cybs was safely at home with my mother. Ted had been the missing link, and instead of waiting for Alice's mother, he had evidently decided that he would go for a wander. He had wandered up the stairs that G and I had gone up and then he had found an unattended flume ride and as it seemed quite fun, he sat at the top and pushed himself off. He didn't realise that at the bottom of the flumes that aren't in the children's area, there is a deep pool in which to splash land. So, as he splashed down at the end of the flume he was probably somewhat taken aback and a little scared as he realised he was drowning.

As luck would have it, a very kind man who came down after Ted had seen him unsuccessfully trying to save himself as he attempted to grab hold of the circular floats that divided the plunge pool in to two, and realised that the man in front of Ted was in fact nothing to do with him and that this little boy was on his own and in some distress, so he saved him. It was then that the alarm was raised and all the lifeguards had come running. I was in total shock. All I kept thinking was that he couldn't possibly have nearly drowned as he was sitting on a chair eating crisps. But I knew it was all true as I had a very wet and scared Ted clamped to me and a calm and rational lifeguard telling me that he could have drowned but for a very nice man who was luckily using the flume at the same time.

An hour or so later as we were using the swings in the playground Ted casually said, 'that's the man that saved me when I was drowning' and we went to say thank you, and thank you and a bit more thanking. He told me all the details the lifeguard didn't know and that I hadn't taken in at the time. I am most extremely grateful to him. But, people like him aren't always around and I was clearly in the wrong by assuming that an exhausted and troublesome four year old would stay where I left him for a few minutes. You must always know where they are. Do not rely on assumptions.

  • There will forever be 'stuff' - lots of it and very little of it will be yours.  
  • Leaving the house will always take five times longer than you hope - for an extremely long time to come. Even longer if you have more than one. 
  •  If you are anything like me your jeans will always be slightly falling down and needing to be yanked up. 
  • Leftover children's food will always be appealing even if you are fat and trying not to be.
There are many, many more but this will have to do for now.

On the flip side there are also some good things. Obviously. Or the world would be very sparsely populated. In the interest of fairness here are some: They are quite cuddly and sometimes they have moments of loveliness. And when they get older they can be very good company. And on the whole they are a lot more fun and a lot more smiley than most adults. And they find getting wet more fun and are more open to spontaneous outbreaks of dancing. Dressing them up in fancy dress is also jolly good fun.

And there you have it. I apologise to anyone reading this who hasn't had children or has no interest in having them. It's a bit late to point this out, but this isn't the post for you.

Until we meet again,

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx











Saturday, 12 April 2014

K

April has begun. This means three things. Easter Holidays, Easter and Anniversary time.

I have decided not to bore you with the ins and outs of illness, tiredness, child antics and poverty but instead I am dedicating this post to the long suffering (and cause of long suffering); K.

Last Saturday marked eleven years of marriage to the man. This is not a momentous amount of time in the grand scheme of long marriages, but it feels like a jolly long time. It is, I am pleased to announce, a year longer than the power couple Gwynnie and Chris managed. News of their 'conscious uncoupling' after ten years, means that we have beaten them. It may be wrong to feel a sense of satisfaction about that but I couldn't care less - I do. Other people have their careers to take pride in which would clearly be very peculiar for me to crow about, (although I was once responsible for making Kerry Katona Celebrity Mum of the Year which I think you will agree, is something of which I should be magnificently proud), so my ability to stay in holy matrimony affords me a small modicum of pride. I/we have, at times, found staying married pretty hard work. Over the years there have been times (as my blog will attest) where I have thought I might welcome his demise, other times I have thought I would jump in the ground after him, should the worst happen. Most of the time however, we just spend our days happily getting through them. As we were unable to celebrate the first major milestone of ten years last year due to illness and a small baby (we spent the evening in front of the TV with my mother....), I have decided to make a small fanfare over eleven years. To that end I planned a small surprise for him in the shape of a romantic getaway (I even booked a secret day off work and everything), I changed my surname (finally) on FaceAche and I had also planned to make an old fashioned 'mix tape' as a gift - although I failed in my task of trying to 'burn' things to a CD (all of this technology totally eludes me) and I have no idea where to start on making a play list for his ipod/iphone. Therefore, please use your imagination and open your ears to my 'Open Mix Tape' below. (Open letters seem to be very popular with the celebrities, so I thought I would emulate it - it isn't quite Sinead O'Connor to Miley Cyrus or Gordon Ramsay to his Mother in Law but then we are not s'lebs - but hopefully you get the idea.)

K's Anniversary Open Mix Tape

A Side

1. Common People,  Pulp

Do not be alarmed. I am not being rude. (I would never be so insulting to his mother!). However, at the time we got together, K was living in the most horrideous shared flat in Chelmsford with three other boys. It was a shit hole. I had never seen anything like it before and I was a student living in a shared student house. According to K this wasn't even the worst place he had lived since leaving home which seemed impossible at the time but he later showed me the window over the sex shop which was his previous 'home', so he was clearly telling the truth. However, and it shocked me to learn, but there was a bit of me that rather liked slumming it. I went all Charlotte Church in her wild days and revelled in being able to smoke inside and not worry about spilling things and eating in bed.  In return for me 'feminising' the room (I bought a whole new set of sheets for the bed and other bits to prettify his room) and in return he taught me more about Mcdonalds, Burger Kind and KFC and took me to some clubs I wouldn't normally have chosen to frequent. I found myself loving it all. The best thing was returning to my very comfortable, daddy funded, student house, which had a beautiful and large room I had had re-carpeted as soon as I moved in. And that is why I find this Pulp song so amusing. It was very 'me' at the time, especially the line in the song about 'calling dad' to stop it all.

2. Yellow, Coldplay

The words aren't especially important in this one although I always 'thought' they were rather lovely, (see later) it is the song as a whole that is noteworthy. When K and I first moved to London we lived above a launderette on Battersea Park Road, which sounds more glamorous than it was, although one of the advantages was the beautiful park just behind the flat. The first November after we moved in, we went to watch the firework display they put on every year. One of the songs that accompanied the grand finale of the spectacular display was Yellow, and it was so lovely, being there with K, near our first home together, watching the fabulous fireworks (which I totally love) and it just felt like one of those 'magic moments' and so from then on it sort of stuck as 'our song'.  After we got engaged quietly at home in the very same flat a few months later, we decided to go to Asda and pick up some treats and bubbles to celebrate (we have always been terrifically classy) and as we walked through the aisles this song came over the tinny tannoy and I took that as a very clear 'sign'. Clearly this was the official stamp of approval for this to be 'our' song and the universe approved of our engagement. It was also, inevitably, the song we had our first dance to as man and wife at our wedding eleven years ago.  Sadly someone has recently told me that the meaning behind the song is not that nice and Chris Martin wrote the song as a sort of joke, but I have decided never to find out as I don't want it ruining the song for me and so I try and forget that piece of information and not imagine what sinister meaning the words have. Instead, I look at the stars and see how they 'shine for me' with no hidden meaning.

3. Nobody Does it Better, Carly Simon

Embarrassingly, I decided to sing this to K at our wedding reception. I can only blame the folly of youth for this. I was in my early 20s and had clearly not matured sufficiently to learn that singing along to a karaoke machine at my wedding reception was not a brilliant idea. Worse still was that it was filmed so there is a permanent record of my epic fail. Luckily I have only seen the video of it once and briefly at that - enough to understand why people on the X Factor are shocked to learn they cannot sing having previously assumed that they could. Also, on reflection, it sounds a bit saucy. I wasn't going for that angle I can assure you. It was meant to be sweet. Although I was a big fan of  karaoke at the time, I would raise an eyebrow or two if I went to a wedding with that as the evening entertainment now.  Although in my defence, it did come very late in the day, after a professional singer had had a 'go' and everyone had had quite a bit to drink, so it was quite popular and I wasn't the only one to get up and sing. But still, hindsight and all that. It still makes me cringe a bit whenever I hear the song, although obviously I still sing along. Naturally.

4. Fix You, Coldplay

As most of you will know, Gwyneth and I have more in common than our skinny frames, blonde hair and bank balances (only one of those is actually true and only half of that as I can't afford a whole head of highlights); we have also both lost our lovely Fathers. Regardless of who you are, if you have a good and loving relationship with your father and he dies, the pain is really unimaginable. (I am sure it is the same for either parent but I wouldn't know about mothers as 'luckily' mine is sitting in the same room and making terrifically annoying comments to the TV as she watches it.  I know it sounds disrespectful to those who have lost their mothers but if you were here you would entirely understand. People who have received awards from the Queen have suffered less.) Anyway, this song always makes me stop and think. K can't write songs and he was pretty useless at times, but there were many more times when he was entirely magnificent. This song makes me think of both him and my brilliant Father whom I still miss.

5. All That She Wants (Is Another Baby), Ace of Base

I'm not sure this needs much explanation. After the first one came along I pretty much constantly badgered K for the next. Each and every one has been at my request, although naturally K was happy (ish) to go along with them all. He was always keen to have children, which was part of his original allure, and he assures me that if we won the lottery we would have a few more, but for now, this part of our lives is very much in the past. I heard the song the other day and it made me chuckle as I finally don't want another one and K is safe. Although we are playing the lottery a lot more. Just in case we change our minds.

 B Side
(It was a short tape - no pricey 90 minutes for me)

6. I Won't Give Up,  Jason Mraz

Again, do not be alarmed. The words in this song are more important than the title. Eleven years has seen a lot; four pregnancies (I don't 'do' pregnancy that well), four crying babies, a death, a miscarriage, poverty, house renovation, redundancies, four demanding children, a house that isn't quite big enough for us all etc etc With all this going on, it is, I hope, not hard to imagine why K and I might, on occasion weekly, have an argument. We have, on occasion quite a lot in the early days had huge shouting ones with storming-out type of outcomes. It is quite easy on those occasions to feel sorry for oneself and despairing of one's life choices. In the very early days I assumed it meant we were ill matched and should quite clearly divorce. I think that when Bea was small and we were broke and the house was still unrenovated and K was temporarily unemployed, I may well have mentioned it to him, because I assumed 'happy marriages' were nothing like this. Mercifully we loved each other enough that this was never a real option and now we are this side of ten years, being married feels a whole lot easier and a whole lot more fun. Not that there wasn't any fun in the beginning, it was just that there was a lot more to work on in between the fun. We married relatively young and had to grow up together, and fairly quickly, with an awful lot going on in the background. But we did. And we carried on. The words of this song resonate with me and stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it. I don't 'do' soppy or gushy but I do think 'we're worth it'.

7. Lady Madonna - The Beatles

This is 'me' as far as I'm concerned. Children at my feet, baby at the breast (although mercifully not for the past few months) and never enough money. Not only is it my ring tone but I think it should be my theme tune.

8. Happy - Pharrell Williams

Because, not only do the children and I LOVE this song, but because on the whole, we are.

THE END
(It's a very short B side)
(Apologies for the two Coldplay songs btw - I know they aren't 'cool' but then I am not. If K were doing this tape there would be far more 'Absolute Radio' type tracks and Elvis and The Prodigy and Esser and Rage Against the Machine etc. We have incredibly different tastes in music. I don't want you judging him by association)


 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Things I don't Understand - Part 2

4.  Why I Can't Just Sit Down and Write

Almost everything in the world is more appealing than sitting and writing in the evening. I have no idea why. I meant to sit down and write this the day after I posted the last one. A month on it would appear I didn't quite hit my target.


5. February half term plagues

Every year the first half term is a total germ fest. This year was no exception. Ted began proceedings by turning totally white and demanding to sleep upon his return from swimming on the first Sunday. He seemed to have recovered slightly once we got to Mum's later that day but that was short lived and he spent most of the following week being incredibly ill. I enjoyed three visits to the doctors with varying waiting times and only one course of antibiotics to show for my troubles. I became ill on the Wednesday as did Bea and Cybil soon followed. Only G bucked the trend by staying decidedly well for the entire duration. I managed to venture out for three expeditions during the nine day break, other than to the doctors - once for an afternoon in to town so that Bea and George could spend some vouchers, once to the park and once to see the fabulous Lego Movie (I really didn't think I would enjoy it but it was a genius film and I highly recommend it). G was happy as Larry that he could spend almost the entire time in his pyjamas which is his idea of the perfect holiday. The Lazy Gene is strong in that one and the very idea of staying in your pyjamas for nine days is like a bespoke luxury holiday for him.  He was largely unaffected by the swathes of groaning people who occupied sofas and required almost constant medication. I took a tray of medicine bottles and syringes (the ones you give babies medicine with, not the needle ones) to bed every night - it looked like a calpol crack den on my bedside table. It was hard to find any joy in the half term really and Bea and I felt exceedingly cheated by the whole thing. We returned home and felt like we hadn't had a break at all. Me in particular.

6. Gendering Animals

This is odd. Cats are 'female', Horses tend to be 'female', Dinosaurs are 'male'  Crocodiles, foxes, monkeys etc are all male and happily adorn male t-shirts along with dogs, lizards and spiders etc but I have never seen a boy's top with a cat or a horse on it. WHY?  If you try to buy a cat outfit for a small boy it is quite hard to find one that doesn't have pink or sparkles or some reference to it being for a girl. I know because I tried for Ted last year. It bugged me then but I didn't think about it until Ted refused to call Charlie The Spider a 'he' because 'she' was small and cute and a kitten. He got quite angry when I insisted that he was wrong and that kittens come in both boy and girl categories and boy kittens are just as cute as girl kittens. This reminded me of the female cat outfit and I am now mystified as to why popular Animals are assigned to a particular gender.  Dog outfits are quite boyish and you rarely find them with pink sequins adorning the collar. Horsey toys are almost exclusively aimed at girls with potentially the exception of the hobby horse and rocking horse although even the rocking horse seems to be more for 'girls'. And obviously Dinosaurs belong in the 'male' category (although I have no idea why as I know a lot of girls who love them but you would never find any in the 'girl' aisle or pictured on 'girl' tops). Now, I don't want to jump on the bandwagon and the current zeitgeist for demanding non pink, gender neutral toy stuff - I 'get' that there are some over-the-top-crappy girl toys which are laughable and I understand that sometimes manufacturers take it too far (Early Learning Centre take note - a Till does not need to be produced in both a primary colours version and a pink version - girls will 'cope' with the primary colour version...) but on the whole I think girls prefer to pet and preen and mother their toys and boys are more physical and enjoy building and destroying and fighting and setting up 'battles' with their toys. On the WHOLE. Obviously having two of each I am well aware that Bea enjoyed playing Ben 10 with G as much as G enjoyed playing 'mums and dads' with her and they all like science and chemistry sets etc BUT animals? They all play vets, they all like/have liked dressing up as animals so why are cats only for girls and dogs mainly for boys? It doesn't make sense. Both animals come in both the female and male form or the species would clearly die out. Potentially the 'fe' in feline and the 'fe' in female are matches and therefore as a society we have dictated that cats, much like cupcakes, are female and dogs who are the messier, muddier, more simple species, are male. But I am not happy about it and I don't fully understand it. Ted shows a great deal of solidarity with my misunderstanding and proudly wears his cat pyjamas which were kindly handed down from a family with three daughters. And he still occasionally dresses up in the cat outfit I did find. With a purple collar.

7. How I can Be so Stupid

I am not entirely without sense or intelligence so sometimes I am entirely baffled by my own stupidity. On a recent shopping trip G decided he wanted a knitted weasel toy which was sadly not for sale so, instead I had to purchase the pattern and wool to knit it for him. I began in earnest after the worst of the half term illness had abated. I was excitedly about to cast off the main bulk of the knitting which had taken about five days to complete (fitted in and around the children during the day and in the evenings) only to realise that I had in fact, knitted the entire thing in the wrong colour wool. I had assumed, exceedingly wrongly, that I was knitting the underbody of the blasted weasel when in actual fact I was knitting the 'body back' as it CLEARLY STATES above all the instructions I had begun. So, I managed to correctly follow all the casting on, increasing, knitting, decreasing, alternative row this, that and other crap and yet I couldn't read the word 'beige'. Baffling.

Before half term I took Ted to a party at the wrong venue. Even though I absolutely knew it wasn't at the venue I took him to. I knew because the invite had been on the noticeboard for a month with the logo in large writing of the correct venue all across the invite - a place we had been for previous parties.  The invite had been on the notice board for around a month and discussions had taken place to ensure Ted's best friend would also be attending and whether we would make it in time for the party which followed not long after. And yet I managed to walk him down to entirely the wrong venue, much to the bemusement of the university hockey players who were trying to use the venue as it was intended and must have thought a woman pushing around a baby with an excited four year old in tow was a peculiar sight for a Sunday. There was then a mad dash for K to come down in the car and whisk poor Ted off to the actual venue which I knew was in Dulwich at exactly the same place as the last party with exactly the same invitation. I felt irrationally guilty that Ted missed half of the party and almost cried at my spectacularly stupidity.

I say very stupid things. A lot. A lot more than you would think. And then I worry about what I have said to people for weeks on end and sometimes even apologise to them and sometimes they have no idea what I am talking about. Or at least they pretend not to know.  For example, last week, when a lovely friend of mine said that her son really enjoyed babysitting for us (potentially this was the shock that put me in to such a silly frame of mind), she said that one of the reasons was because he felt like it was just like being at home, and for some reason I then GROANED and said 'Oh No - is it because it's so messy!'  WHY on earth would I say that. WHY? It is so rude and she was being so nice. There have been others but this was my worst of recent weeks. It haunts me. I have only ever been to her house when it was extremely tidy so it is mind boggling as to why I would say that.We were sadly cut off by the school spewing out children so I was left unable to rectify my mistake and don't want to bring it up again in case she is reminded of my rudeness. I also spent a good few drunken minutes at a party earlier in the month telling a heavily pregnant and therefore sober woman, how it made me feel sick just looking at her bump. NICE. I meant, because I am very over being pregnant and having babies and now the very idea of me ever having another one turns my stomach. I felt so bad about that one I did find her in the playground and apologise. I mean honestly, what the hell is wrong with me. Although my feelings on pregnancy are understandable because of Cybs. Which leads me on to number eight.

8. How I was cheated of an easy fourth

I was told that the fourth 'just fitted in' because they had to, that they were 'no trouble', that they practically 'raised themselves'. Somehow I have been cheated and given Cybs. As delightful as she can be at times, she is constant hard work from the minute she wakes up. If she is not having a horrible tantrum about something, then she is quietly emptying cupboards, bins, bags or bookshelves, packets of porridge oats ALL OVER THE FLOOR, the fridge of its contents or putting dirty things in the dishwasher full of clean things, or tearing up precious pieces of paper or eating tea bags and spitting the leaves EVERYWHERE  or various other many, many incredibly messy and irritating things. She makes the most amazing mess. And the tantrums are spectacular. She hates to get dressed in to her pyjamas at night. I usually have to hold her down with my elbow as she screams and struggles and fights to flee my grip. Ditto with tooth brushing. On any given day she can flip out about one or all of the following: waking up, going to sleep, getting in to the buggy, getting out of the buggy, having her nappy taken off, having a nappy put on, putting on clothes, taking off clothes, putting on shoes, taking off shoes, eating, not being given food, brushing her teeth (actually this happens every single day regardless), me going to the loo, me walking upstairs, me not allowing her to walk on a main road, me not letting her eat butter with a spoon etc etc.  Before half term I was quite keen to get rid of her and find someone else to bear the brunt. Post half term I only felt marginally less like that. Luckily last week I finally decided to take her for her inoculations which were long overdue and included the all important MMR. I have no idea what it does to other children but after a sleep on the way home from the doctors Cybs woke up and has been remarkably improved ever since. It is magic. She is finally bearable and has periods of being quite nice and vaguely charming in between the major tantrums. If you have a tricky toddler I thoroughly recommend overloading them with vaccines to major viruses. It works a treat.

9. How Bea is Coeliac

This is a total doozy. At 9 years old we have finally got the answer as to why Bea has suffered from tummy troubles for the last few years and why she has always had quite a pronounced tummy even though she is quite slim. It turns out that she is totally unable to tolerate Gluten and is now part of a very exclusive club. It has a society and everything and you can only join it once you are officially diagnosed which does make it feel quite elite.  Bea started suffering before Cybs was born but the problem became unbearable about a year ago when we went to our local Doctor and he prescribed some medicine which Bea has duly been taking daily ever since. The meds helped but without them the problem returned immediately. Every time we returned to see the Doctor, he just gave us a repeat prescription and told us to keep on going and watch her diet. So, after half term I decided that a year was long enough to be on a daily dose of medicine and to take advantage of the lovely private medical insurance we are lucky enough to benefit from courtesy of the late, great Mr T (my dad). Within a week we had seen a very nice Doctor in Blackheath and had the results to her blood test and it showed that she was most likely Coeliac. For confirmation we had to go through the drama of an Endoscopy and Colonoscopy under General Anaesthetic.

Luckily for Bea we got to do it at the Portland which was total luxury. We were showed to her room by a Concierge. A flipping Concierge. Imagine. There were touch screen TVs and nurses in abundance - we were vaguely excited, although Bea was also quite scared. Within an hour of our arrival I was crying and Bea was under (via the gas from a mask and not an injection which was also a blessing). Four hours after we arrived I got to half carry (she is surprisingly heavy considering she hasn't been fully absorbing her food) and half limp my first baby back to the car and take her home. She was sore and tired and desperate to see her daddy but surprisingly brave and brilliant. I was less so and found it so hard to see her in distress when she came round after the procedure. It took an hour for her to calm down properly and relax - mainly due to the cannula in her hand and the pain from her wrist where they had taken bloods (in her wrist? so odd) although there was some stomach pain from where they had taken two biopsies. I know that this made the lining of her stomach bleed because bizarrely enough - along with the lovely decor, ensuite bathroom, smart TVs, amazing cleanliness, abundance of attentive and friendly staff and unrivalled service all round - the private hospital experience also provides you with a DVD to take home. AND A PICTURE. We now have a lovely snap shot of Bea's insides as well as a film showing us the journey from her mouth to her stomach and what a biopsy looks like. The boys loved it. Poor Bea had to leave the room. K never entered the room. Still, it will make an interesting souvenir for her when she is older.

Bea is recovering well and even attempted her Street Dance exam the following day which was above and beyond - particularly as we didn't get home until 10pm. She managed to complete the rehearsals and the exam but came out and cried from the pain in her wrist which was upsetting, but I was immensely proud of her for going along and trying. She is an amazing dancer which is another thing I don't understand - I have no idea how I produced a person with rhythm and the ability to follow dance steps. I couldn't even manage to follow the short steps in Zumba. She is an anomaly. And now, to add to her long list of physical quirks - long sighted, glue ear, dyslexia and the alopecia she suffered at five, she now has confirmed Coeliac to boot.  She will no doubt be entirely fine with it all, as she has been with all her odd quirks, but it means that I have to be far more fastidious and not my usual laid back self in regards to food buying and preparation which is a total pain. It is just so not like me. Still, at least I can still eat every type of cake available which poor Bea can't so I shall put up and shut up and try to be anally retentive. I wonder if there is a course you can go on?

So there it is, the end of another one. I will leave you with this from my physically flawed daughter - as we half hobbled, half carried our way back to the car down the dark London Street, I remarked about something being magic and she asked me if 'Magic was just science we don't understand yet'.  9.15pm and groggy from a GA and in pain, even if she was just repeating something from one of her crappy American TV programmes, I thought it was just brilliant.




Thursday, 20 February 2014

Things I don't understand - Part 1

1. How I have developed a stoop

One of the plus sides of Bea's ipad is that she makes many, many films - some are charming and some are less so but many of them show you how to make food. Bea, George and latterly Ted have all developed a fascination with the You Tube videos of 'Nerdy Nummies' which is an American woman showing you how to decorate cakes in to various popular characters/themes from the confines of her teeny tiny kitchen. It isn't the most obvious of You Tube sensations for children but it keeps them occupied for many a happy hour and Bea has attempted to recreate the Nerdy Nummies format in many a video. Last weekend as we were making a rather fabulous birthday cake for the lovely Gwen over t'road (who I thought was going to be 86 and we thusly decorated the cake to correspond however she turns out to be 86 and even at that age apparently an extra year matters.....) Anyhoo, Bea was also decorating a batch of cupcakes and was patiently explaining 'to camera' how to cut out coloured fondant and stick it on to the cupcake and when I watched it afterwards I saw that I had made a cameo appearance as I busied myself at the oven in the background. To my total horror I realised that my shoulders were so hunched forward my top was riding up at the back and my head was further away from the rest of my body than it should be. I STOOP. Obviously as soon as I saw it I sat up straight and rolled my shoulders back which bought about a distinct pain in the muscles which I clearly never use as I am always and forever hunched over. I was horrified. I have no idea what has happened to me. I sometimes see those elderly women who are permanently facing the floor because their back has hunched right over and they are no longer able to stand upright. I have felt inordinately sorry for them and wondered what on earth had happened to them - but without realising it I too could very easily become one of their number. (obviously I have no medical background whatsoever and it is probably something to do with arthritis or somesuch but to me they are just people who slouched too much and their muscles 'set' them like that - it is a very plausible explanation).

Immediately I began to wonder why. These are a selection of my explanations:
a. An apologetic stance - being fat is shameful - it is very well documented and the Daily Mail have written endless features about how it does this, that and the other to all aspects of your health, wealth and happiness so I wonder if I have been subconsciously hunching myself over to try and cover myself or bow my head in shame and avoid eye contact with those who have not let their gluttony run away with itself.
b. I am worried my tops are too short and exposing my bulging tummy and I have subconsciously started to bend forward slightly to lengthen the top and therefore avoid exposure.
c. The recent wind and rain has forced me in to a permanent buggy pushing posture where you automatically bend over to force the buggy through the gale force winds and protect your face from the rain.
d. Our worktops are the wrong height and I spend so much of my time standing at them I have had to develop a stoop in order for my hands to comfortably work at their height.
e. Gravity is forcing the weight of my upper torso downwards. My brain, bust and belly weigh an awful lot when combined and my bottom is rather flat so there is nothing anchoring me from the other side - hence my head naturally falling towards the ground.
f. Severe tiredness leading to excessive slouching which in turn led to permanent slouching
g. Hunching over a laptop on my knees
h. Pregnancy (it can be blamed for absolutely everything that ever goes wrong with your body from the moment you conceive - even health professionals agree with me on this - from the dentist to the chiropractor via your GP, when you ask 'but why though' they say - "it's probably the effects of the pregnancy"...)
i. All of the above.

It is so upsetting. I am now making a huge effort to keep my shoulders back and my head up. It feels very wrong and as if I am trying to show off my cleavage (again something I very rarely try to do as I am very conscious of looking a bit 'Ma Larkin' which really isn't the look I'm going for). So, if you see me slouch feel free to yell 'stand up straight' or similar in my direction - I am hoping that standing tall becomes second nature very soon and it has the benefit of making me look taller and slimmer instantly which can only be a bonus.

2. Mumpreneurs

WHY OH WHY are they not just Entrepreneurs - why is there this new hideous word to let the world know that this clever businesswoman/inventor has also reproduced and is therefore different to her non childbearing female counterpart or any male entrepreneur? I understand that there was a sudden boom of 'modern' women who, once on Mat leave from their brain busting jobs, got bored, and decided to invent something/start up a company to 'help make life easier' for parents and therefore because the ideas were started with small babies and the ideas were usually for small babies, I can see that there was an editorial need to distinguish these women as a new 'trend' of entrepreneurs. I understand that whoever invented dribble bibs and those clever towels that I saw on Dragon's Den which allow you to get children/babies out of the bath hands free and cushions to put under you whilst breastfeeding etc - I sort of get why they would be referred to as mumpreneurs BUT it seems that every time I read anything about any woman who produced any offspring then had an idea for a business/product which she happened to start after the birth - suddenly they are only referred to as 'Mumpreneurs' and not simply as an entrepreneur. It BUGS ME. Whatshisface Dyson is not referred to as a Dadpreneur - he has three children. That one from Dragon's Den, Peter Jones - he has FIVE children (according to Wikipedia) - but again no Dadpreneuer moniker for all his clever company start ups. The creator of Ella's Kitchen baby food is a phenomenal success story - each packet tells you that Ella's Daddy started the company because he wanted to make organic baby food free especially for her, free from all the crap but full of taste etc etc etc. Ella's daddy is never referred to as a Dadpreneur as far as I can see. And yet more and more I see interviews with women or I see things on TV when they tell us amazing things they have done and yet crowbar in how they have children as if it is as relevant as whatever amazing thing they are being recognised for. I can't think of a time they have done it for men.  In fact I pretty much get angry at anything with the word 'mum' stuck on the front of it - like we are all a brand of total lemmings who must be all the same. I don't even LIKE the word mum. I HATE it when health professionals dealing with my children refer to me as 'mum' or ask if I'm 'mum'. My hair actually stands on end - although if it was life and death and they were trying to help the child on to the side of life I may be more lenient, but whenever they begin by asking me if I'm 'Mum' or asking if 'mum' would like this or that I immediately hate them and find it hard to like them again. If, from this point forward, I ever invent anything totally life changingly brilliant and become very rich I will take particular pleasure in suing anyone who ever refers to me as a Mumpreneur. (LORD save us I have just put that vile word in to google and there is even a Mumpreneur Directory which is 'fast becoming the ultimate business directory for Mums' WHY, WHY, WHY can't 'we' just use a normal business directory? Why does it all have to be segregated in such a ridiculous way? I have no answers I just beg you to stop using the word as well and let us all hope it dies a death and in 40 years time we can laugh about how silly it all was - like smoking in cars with children as passengers which will now hopefully be made illegal forever more)


3. Hair growth

It would appear that not only does Cybil look and act just like Bea but she also seems to share her follicular challenges. The boys - in particular George - had the most amazing crop of hair when they were young. They both had blonde and curly angelic locks which I only cut when people started assuming they were girls and they were old enough to understand and object. Not so for the girls. It just DOESN'T GROW. 18 months in and Cybs is just like Bea and has a mild scattering of thin dirty blonde hair with a bit of length at the back which basically gives them a mullet. I was constantly asked if Bea was a boy - even dressed in red t-bar shoes and pink dungarees - such was her lack of hair. I was even more aware of it because I felt horrideous guilt over what I had assumed was my part in her lack of hair. The great thing with Cybs having no hair as well means I can finally relinquish nine years of guilt I have been carrying around with me. You see, far from being the 'earth mother' who was a 'natural' as soon as Beatrice was pulled out from my paralysed body through layers of fat, uterine wall and a teeny bit of muscle, I was in fact, a bit of a mess. Dad had died two weeks ago to the day that I came round in a recovery ward in West Suffolk hospital with a nurse who wasn't even aware that I had had a baby, let alone what sex it was or whether she was fit and well. And I was exhausted, bewildered and in pain.

The birth had started off well enough, albeit steeped in grief and misery - far too many people trying to live in mum's house as we all tried to cope with our collective but equally very personal grief. I had got to 8 cms without any pain relief or any serious pain. But then I failed to progress. At the hospital by this point I/we did everything we could to get things going - walking, bathing, walking, bouncing, walking etc. At one point a midwife suggested she could distract my mother and sister and shut the door on me and K so we could attempt nipple stimulation. I told her to leave - I wasn't THAT desperate to get things going. So, eventually they broke my waters, I got in to the birth pool and things again seemed to be going jolly well. They told me to push, I did. I pushed and pushed and nothing happened. They put mirrors in the pool and looked for signs of something. Nothing ever materialised and after quite a while they decided to take me out of my happy place in the pool and lay me flat on my back  - and this is when everything went totally tits up. I screamed and wailed and begged to be shot just to end the agony. They told me that the baby was back to back, had not turned and was therefore not going to be descending down the birth canal anytime soon. From then on all the drugs in the world were administered - including a wonderful epidural. By the time I was hooked up to a syntocinon drip and the contractions were coming thick and fast, the epidural started to wear off and still the baby had made no progress. By this point I had been in hospital for about 18 hours and I was so weak from it all I couldn't sign my name for consent to the Cesarean. I signed a cross. They tried a last minute ventouse in the theatre but to no avail, in a very scary environment with people milling around everywhere I was told that the new epidural wasn't working and I would have to have a general anaesthetic. K was pushed out the room and that was all I remember, luckily, until I came round in the recovery room. Once I was wheeled out of there I was dumped in a ward with a drip in each hand and a tiny baby who I had expected to meet some 20 hours earlier. I was shattered and scared. My sister and K were ordered to leave as visiting hours were over. I attempted to breastfeed. I spent the next three days attempting to breastfeed and recover before being let out to return to mum's house and a house already full with Cupcake sister and her four children who had moved in before all the drama whilst their new home was renovated. Breastfeeding did not work - or not how it should at any rate - she sometimes went on and seemed to be sucking but mainly she screamed and screamed when presented with the boob. I tried everything I could think of to sort it out but nothing was doing. I sat up at night and cried to myself as I had no idea what on earth I was going to do or how I was ever going to sleep again. I assumed it was wind. I assumed it was illness. But two days after I arrived home and five days in to her life, the midwife came to weigh her and she had lost weight - a lot. She had dropped from 7lbs, 9oz to 6lbs, 4oz. It was incredibly upsetting. I had clearly not been feeding her properly. Mercifully on that same day Cupcake sister came to my aid and bought me nipple shields. These were life changing. For the first time in her life Bea had a full feed and came off sated. It was miraculous. I cried in relief. From then on in she gained weight exceedingly slowly but steadily and I eventually relaxed.

A bit. I still had sleepless nights I couldn't cope with and bad days when she cried for no reason but all in all everything was going well. Except for the nagging doubt that I wasn't doing the whole breastfeeding thing 'properly' - particularly as I had been told by a breastfeeding counsellor that I should only use the shields for a few weeks and then 'try to get off them as soon as possible'.  So, by four months-ish I decided to do away with them as they were a total faff and I had assumed that Bea and I were established enough with our feeding that we didn't need them. Unfortunately I also decided that it was about time that I stopped being the size of a house so I also enrolled in Weight Watchers and followed their breastfeeding plan. All was going well and I was confident I finally had the 'hang' of it all. So, after about three weeks on my new regime I went back to the clinic to get her weighed. Yet again I had a nasty shock as it turned out that she had dropped off the all important 'growth chart' and had actually lost weight since I was last there. I was chastised for leaving it so long and told to do something immediately. I felt sick. I went to the shop and bought formula and a bottle and that night K gave her her first bottle which she drained without fuss. She had been starving. Yet again. The GUILT of starving her twice in her short life had made me believe that I had stunted her hair growth. I had decided that her body, so small and frail and hungry, had clearly decided to stop producing hair and once stopped, the follicles never fully recovered. From then on Bea was almost overfed and became totally rotund. Like the Michelin tyre man. She had folds of fat on her folds of fat. I loved it but she remained short of hair until very recently. I have enviously stroked the bunches of girls half her age and yearned for her to need a hair cut etc and it is only in the last few years that we have achieved that. Of course it doesn't help that an older cousin once gave her an unprompted and very unwanted hair cut and then of course she suffered from Alopecia Areata after suffering badly with Chicken pox. So all in all the hair debacle with Bea has affected my mother guilt complex greatly. Now, although I am a tad disappointed that I have another girl with no hair who is often mistaken for a boy I am thrilled to learn that it is clearly something genetic and not something I can be blamed for.  Although I still dont understand why. Why did my boys have loads of beautiful curly hair and my girls only grow an inch of the delicate stuff a year? It is mystifying.

(Part 2 to follow. This is a genius idea, I don't know why I didn't think of it before - keeping to my shorter and more frequent posts resolution - I am just splitting the longer ones in two.  Genius!)

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Still January

Good Grief, is it STILL January? Does this month never end?  If you include the last week of December (which you should as December ends with Christmas - the following week is no man's land) then it really is over five weeks long but feels more like seven. It is ridiculous. Thank goodness tomorrow finally marks the end of it so that we may once again welcome the warm embrace of February and all collectively sigh with relief.  Although January has not been all bad - it has been an odd mix of miserable weather and high jinx celebrations. There are an unfeasibly high number of birthdays in January - an awful lot of my friends and their children seem to have been born in the longest month of the year. Either I just particularly get on well with Januarians or the beginning of Spring is when people feel at their friskiest and ovaries are at their most opulent. It surely cannot just be a coincidence.

It is such a long month I have managed to get on here twice. That is not an occurrence that happens oft enough.  It is however one of my resolutions/goals for this year. To write more. And to be better at it. After three years I sometimes find it a tad tricky to get motivated to write and I usually find passing out on the new sofa a far more alluring prospect. This year I am going to force myself to write more frequently so the posts are shorter (as per sister's request) and I shall attempt to write them without the TV on in the background so that I am better able to concentrate. To that end I have removed myself from 'my spot' and am now positioned in the slightly less comfortable surroundings of the playroom. The only distractions in here are toys and the mess and luckily I am neither a child or OCD so I am able to ignore both.

Here are the rest of my resolutions/goals for the year:
  • Get Charlie (the cat) and K (the husband) 'done'. I have made inroads with Charlie after he attended his very first appointment with the vet, although sadly it turns out you need more than one. He has had his first round of immunisations but he needs yet more before we can finally take him back to be 'de-sexed'. Although having him immunised will mean he can finally go outside and I can therefore finally stop foraging around in cat litter for poo - it really is the very worst kind of Lucky Dip. Charlie is on the right path but sadly K is still very much not. I forwarded an interesting article to him about a U.S. man who had donated one of his testicles to medical research for the princely sum of $10,000 - the heading of the email I sent was 'two birds, one stone'. I tried to reason with him by pointing out that we would be nicely on the way to affording our loft conversion if he had two of his (now useless) appendages removed and generously donated them to advancing medical knowledge. He is being unashamedly selfish and refusing. Tsk.  Failing that idea I shall keep on trying to persuade him to be 'snipped'. I have suffered enough what with all the palaver of pregnancy and birth four times over and I feel now the ball (or balls in this case) should really be in his court when it comes to a permanent solution.  It is a shame no one wants Charlie's for any research. I have a feeling that that appointment isn't going to be cheap.
  • Shout Less. Particularly in the mornings. And evenings. There is an unfounded presumption that I am an 'earth mother'. I have no idea of its literal meaning but in my mind an earth mother is less shouty, more hairy and far more holistic than I am.  Whilst I am able to stay at home and look after my children without going clinically insane I don't think this makes me 'earthy' (now I sound like a mushroom or a red wine). Examples of my non-earth motherlyness: I never give the children homoeopathic remedies to any of their ailments; I do not 'juice' vegetables for them; I wear deodorant; I allow the children to skip their reading practise if we can't be bothered/are all too tired; I let them watch far too much television (I mean really lots. Hours. Once I turned it off and G asked if it was broken - in front of adult guests I was clearly trying to impress - hence turning it off) and spend far too much time on the ipad (again, I mean hours - sometimes Ted spends a whole afternoon on it if I can't be bothered to fight him off it); their diet includes an awful lot of sugar (I notice that this is now the new 'hate' food to follow fat and carbs before it - all food groups are created equal in my world - let's stop the hate people it is so dull) and I am also a terrific shouter. If we are running short of time this increases tenfold. When I ascend the stairs a good twenty minutes after sending G up in the morning to get dressed and discover him standing in the middle of his room, naked save for a pair of socks, busily swirling his pants/top/trousers/jumper around on his finger in his own little world, entirely oblivious to the urgent need for clothing, when I know we have to leave the house in five minutes flat - my shouting goes crazy. It is not a side of me that I am keen on. If it were up to me I would waft around all benevolent smiles, calm voice and loving hugs but quite frankly they are so annoying at times that far from wafting around I would like to start swatting them away like flies. Particularly Cybs. There is some bullshit crap 'study' doing the rounds on FB (do not get me started on the crap that circulates) which assures us that three children is in fact, easier, than having four. I had endured quite a few hours of Cybs whining and crying at me and pulling on my leg whilst I was trying to cook supper for umpteen children and then clearing up from umpteen children eating - when I clicked on to FB to be greeted with that joyous 'news'. My comment on the survey was less than polite. When Cybil is happy, she is a joy to behold and makes me wonder if we could manage one more, but when she is vile she really makes you want to open the front door and hand her to any passer by brave enough to take her on. She has a hideous temper and if you say no to her - even if it is purely for her own benefit (e.g 'No, you can't eat a stock cube it really won't taste very nice', but she thinks it's a chocolate and you are trying to keep it from her...), she can be very angry for a VERY long time. And if she wants to be held, regardless of how much stuff you want to get on with, then she can also be back breaking and exhausting. This is not 'easier' than not having her. She is a human being who will need care and attention and money spent on her for the rest of her life which is a pretty big undertaking so how this can 'be easier' than not having that extra child is a big pile of doggie do do. I try not to allow myself to be taken in by spurious surveys and studies - as I used to work in the world of PR I am well aware that they are to be disregarded at all costs - however this caught me unexpectedly and could not go without comment. Sorry. 
  • I also need to swear less. I am pretty sure earth mothers do not swear like I do. Or in fact most mothers. I have to tell the extra children not to tell their parents what I say within their earshot on an almost daily basis. I live in fear of Cybs clearly saying 'Shit' - it is a surprisingly easy word to say and she hears it so much she might think it is an important word - potentially more important than 'stop' and 'more', her current favourite words. G asked me yesterday if Ducking was a 'bad word' as well as the 'f' word (I think K is to be blamed for this one though - I say Ducking very infrequently.....). Walking home from school pick up I accidentally called an inconsiderate driver a wanker. Loudly. In front of a lot of children, who once again, weren't all mine (in my defence I thought I had only said it in my head). I found myself saying shouting to Cybs "I just wanted a "FUCKING" wee" (the swear word was quasi under my breath hence the inverted commas) when she ran after me crying YET AGAIN as I tried to escape for a minute of privacy and relief. This is not how I imagine myself. I want to be a cool, calm, consummate, in control mother, able to bake brownies before breakfast and still sweep up the cheerios and put the dishwasher on before we calmly leave for a slow amble to school all smiles and merriment with absolutely no tears (from me or them) and no swear words shouted loud enough for neighbours to hear through the walls. I am determined I shall achieve such greatness this year.
  • To appreciate something from each and every day. Regardless of how crap the day may have been. I get incredibly annoyed by the phrase, 'Live every day like it's your last'. If you lived every day as if it were your last and then live to see tomorrow, and the next day and the next day etc then eventually you will end up very fat, very broke and I should imagine your family will all be incredibly fed up with spending 'quality time' with you. There was an article once about a woman who was suing a hospital for wrongly informing her that she only had months to live. Although relieved when she was told that they had made an error and she was not imminently for it, by that point she had spent all of her life savings and put on three stone (or some such amount) so she was suing them because far from learning a lesson about what was important in life, she awoke the day after being told the good news to realise that she was broke and fat. This gave me comfort. It confirmed to me that you can't run around whooping for joy every day just because you are lucky enough to be alive to see another day or wearing uncomfortable fancy pants matching underwear just in case you get knocked down by a bus. However, it IS important to find something good about your day and be happy about it. Even on a day where you feel hideously fat and it doesn't stop raining all flipping day long so that all three school runs are conducted in the wet and your youngest screams about being in the buggy for the school run because you feel it is only kind to try and protect her from the freezing, driving rain with a rain cover (all toddlers HATE these) and you realise that your coat is 'shower proof' not 'water proof' which is actually what you wanted from it and then you come back to make yet more supper with an angry child around your ankles - even on days such as these it is important to find something to make you smile - I think that is the point and what I am trying to achieve in 2014. 
  • To that end I also want to go out more.  January has been full (relatively) of nights out for me and I have enjoyed it far more than I imagined I would. I even stayed out for a whole night! Not out out, obviously, I am not that sort of person, but I went out to celebrate The Replacement's birthday at a fancy pants place in Chelsea and then I stayed overnight with The Magician and the Magician's Wife. It was my first night away from Cybs and it was glorious. I am still relatively fresh from giving up breastfeeding so it did feel incredibly decadent. Especially because it was like staying in a very comfortable hotel with Sky TV, ensuite bathroom and a Ferrero Roche on my bedside table - bliss. It wasn't even tarnished by my early alarm call at 7.15am so that I could get up and return home by 8am in order to ensure the big three could get to swimming. The hangover wasn't particularly pleasant but it was entirely bearable and I was still 'high' from the decadence of the night before. So, now I know that leaving Cybs for the night is possible and we all lived to tell the tale, I shall be attempting it more frequently in 2014 and beyond. In order to truly enjoy going out though, I shall have to adhere to my final bullet point....
  • Lose weight. Always. I shall always and forever be in the throws of some weight loss scheme. It doesn't really need to be stated. I am back on track with the 5:2 diet (finally lost 2.5 pounds this week) so I am hopeful that this year will result in me looking a lot better at the end of it than I do at the beginning. It is just jolly slow going. Some days I think I look ok for someone of such girth and then other days/nights I look in the mirror and my soul cries for me as I am sure I look just like White Dee from Benefit Street (albeit with better breastal support). This is not acceptable. I am definitely doing something serious about it this year.
And there it is. The end of January THANK flippety jibbets. A less fish-wife-worthy me for 2014, less of the physical me and less of me on each post.  Let us all raise a drink to that. Chin Chin.
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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Happy New Year

HELLOOOOO! WELCOME. Welcome to this shiny, brand spanking new year. I do love a fresh new year. And I have been enjoying it all the more since Tuesday when I finally got to offload some children in to the care of others. It was a lovely moment.

We are already quite far in to the new year but for some reason I have been entirely unable to put finger to keyboard and write eloquently about the Christmas break. I attempted to write many times but gave up each and every time. I think it's because Christmas is pretty much the same for every one and a lot happens but none of it is really noteworthy. However, I am determined to break the writers block and get over the hump so, I am in my spot, K is out, my new fleecy onesie is ON and the TV is OFF so I can concentrate. Let's get this written.   

I hope you all had a wonderful festive break. It seems like a ridiculously long time ago now - I can't believe how long the build up to Christmas is and yet how quickly it is all over. My favourite part of the whole time is seeing the fruits of all my labour - going to bed on Christmas Eve knowing that all the presents are wrapped, present and correct under the tree and knowing I have managed to keep the gifts from being discovered by any child in the lead up to the big day. It is quite a feat with the number of gifts there were this year.  I even managed to pack up and drive to Suffolk with all children and all gifts in the car without the two parties crossing paths. I thought that was rather clever. The magic of the big FC still remains and despite many, many, many naysayers who tell her to the contrary, Bea is still an ardent believer so the stakes are high. There is nothing like the feeling of knowing you have pulled it all off and all they have to do now is open them and be happy. (Although when we have Christmas in London I do spend quite a bit of my pre-sleep time in bed worrying about being burgled because I think I once heard of this happening and the arseholes had stolen all the gifts from under the tree - this thought haunts me and I encourage K to sleep in the chair downstairs until the wee small hours to give me greater piece of mind).  When they see their piles is my second favourite - they are so amazed and so happy - Bea and G did their 'happy dance' this year when they came down and saw it all. It does make all the stress and money spent feel worth it. Although the opening of the gifts never lasts as long as I hope it would. Ted opened all of his gifts in a matter of minutes - it was like a frenzied attack on wrapping paper. G was less frenzied but still incredibly enthusiastic so his pile lasted a fraction longer. However Bea was a total pleasure to buy gifts for - she took her time with each and every one and had most of hers left to open long after the boys had moved off and started pointing out what they didn't get (Ted was most put out that FC hadn't read his mind and delivered a cuddly Luigi of Mario Kart fame and G - who had the most of everyone - became a little jealous of Bea's Furby Boom and wondered why he hadn't had one as well - I had expected as much from Ted but G was a surprise - although as I suspected the allure of the boom wore off very quickly and he hasn't once mentioned his lack of furby since).

So, Christmas was pretty standard fare. Although it never works out quite how I imagine it will. There was a lot less sleep than I imagined - Cybs seemed to find the excitement too much to bear on Christmas Eve and was awake for around three hours which meant the night was extraordinarily short but the day itself was extraordinarily long. Lovely, but long. My gifts weren't quite what I imagined either. K had seemingly forgotten (he says not but he quite obviously had) that he was meant to be getting me the replacement to the wrongly gifted DAB radio alarm clock from my birthday, so in its place I received a series of things I hadn't asked for. Always a mistake. Most of them will get used (although the Gary Barlow CD might not) and so are not going to go to waste but none of them were really what I had in mind. Yet again I now have a voucher for the beautician's at the end of our road to use up. I had only just managed to get through the ones from my birthday 15 months ago so I was surprised to find more waiting for me. All I wanted, and had foolishly assumed would be waiting for me, was this sodding swanky stereo system on which to dock my iphone, listen to my CDs and tune the exciting DAB radio in to BBC 2 and enjoy crystal clear Chris Evans in the morning and Simon Mayo in the afternoon. I found it pretty hard to hide my disappointment. I fell short of throwing a full on Ted tantrum but my frustration at not receiving my longed for gift twice in a row was pretty evident. 

The biggest surprise of the day was Ted's epic dislike of what I had rather excitedly thought would be his most treasured present. It was a personalised Spiderman book which was dedicated to him and included 'him' (in name only) in the story, helping Spidey with all the crime fighting.  K had predicted that he wouldn't like his surname being included (Ted cannot stand, stomach or even entertain the idea that he has a surname or is known as anything other than Ted - obviously a middle name is also totally out of the question - so I did know that this probably wasn't the best idea but I wanted to make it entirely clear that this wasn't a generic spiderman book for all Ted fans but one specifically for him) but I was so excited and sure that he would LOVE it I thought the surname would be a minor issue. It turns out that in fact any part of his name being included was actually a disastrous idea. Ted is a Spiderman purist and was absolutely furious that the book referred to Ted and not Peter Parker. My attempts to interest him in the book led to a bit of a tantrum (one of a number on the big day - I'm not sure being a hyperactive 4 year old gels that well with the excitement and over stimulation of Christmas) and it took quite a while to calm him down. You live and learn. In other successes G was thrilled with his scooter and Skylanders, Cybil loves her kitchen (since we got home where she found it built), Bea LOVED her vintage/old Singer sewing machine - a beautiful manual one - and was totally amazed that Father Christmas had got her one even though she hadn't written it on her list.  I was particularly pleased with this find - on the Monday before Christmas on a last minute shopping trip. Just happily waiting for me in the Cancer Charity shop.  Having done 95% (roughly) of my Christmas shopping online it was rather nice to get out and about in the 'real' world to source gifts. I was child free as mum had kept all the children to make it less of a chore and mercifully so as it was the busiest I think I have ever known a town centre to be. Nothing is guaranteed to make a fat and clumsy person feel more fat, clumsy and generally cumbersome than attempting to manoeuvre around shops armed with many shopping bags two days before Christmas. I think I said Sorry approximately a million times and only half of it was unwarranted. I must be thinner for next Christmas if only to make it easier to shop and less dangerous for my fellow shoppers.

Other than that and the incident when Ted was hit in the eye by a Nerf bullet (a very long and emotionally draining debacle ensued) the break was a very lovely, family Christmas. There was a LOT of food. I ate an awful lot of it. My Brother in Law ate more. That was comforting.  I also got some great presents (always a bonus) - Shiny Life sister made me some rather beautiful Liberty print cushions (she is annoyingly talented as well as shiny), mum gave me a gorgeous handbag and the scarf Keith gave me turned out to be rather pretty and useful so all in all I was happy. We also had a very enjoyable day with K's family where we got to eat even more and open even more presents which does help to elongate the fun. My favourite gift from that day was my fleecy onesie.  It is fabulous. Although according to those close to me (mum and K) it shouldn't be worn in the company of others as I look terrible in it, but this worries me not - it is magnificently comfy and like wearing a slanket (another favourite gift from many moons ago) and luckily enough I don't have to look at me wearing it so it isn't going anywhere soon.

After the festivities in Essex with K's family, Shiny Life sister left and Kent Sister joined in the fun at mum's (Cupcake Sister had visited on Christmas Eve with her brood so it was a very family Christmas this year).  We got in to the swing of keeping our pyjamas on until lunch, watched films, played with toys and avoided the persistent rain outside. G got an ear infection (standard) and K spent two hours waiting with him at the out of hours surgery for penicillin. K departed for the silence and solitude of London shortly afterwards with his brand spanking new Chimenea (my fabulous Christmas gift to him which he was remarkably underwhelmed with at the time and has taken the piss out of many times since but actually turns out to be totally fabulous  - many happy hours have been spent in the garden burning stuff and roasting marshmallows with the children since our return). My sister and I ventured to the cinema with the children to see Frozen - the BEST Disney film for many years and a huge hit in our house. I have downloaded the album which is epic and I am going to spend the year getting all the costumes together for the children to wear in next year's Christmas card. I am just waiting for some spare cash so that I can go crazy in the Disney store. That, Gangsta Granny and Death Comes to Pemberley were my screen highlights of the holidays.

And that brings me on to New Year - a thrilling, once in a lifetime fun factory of fabulousness naturally.  K and I couldn't really be bothered to drive to either of our locations in order to be together so we spent the night apart - him at home alone and me at mum's alone after she went to bed at 8.30 leaving me with the laptop (I tried to write to you then but it was crap) and Midsomer Murders (a repeat which I realised I had seen a couple of times before once it got to the end). It was rocking. I have decided that next year I am going to open a child hostel and make some money out of NYE. Parents can pay £20 a head (discount for multiples) plus a bottle of nice booze to drop their children here for the evening for a great big slumber party. As they are not my children I won't really care what they get up to so they can spend the evening watching films and eating crap until their parents return to collect. I shall most likely lock myself in my bedroom with headphones. I'm pretty sure I am a GENIUS.

And that brings us back to the brand spanking and shiny new year. I love the new year and January. I  am so relieved Christmas is all over and safely done and dusted and that this joyous month contains no reason whatsoever for me to buy any toys or presents of any kind for any member of this family. I LOVE it.  And it just gets better and better as I can officially announce that Cybil had just completed 5 days NOT breastfeeding. WAHOOOOOOO. Enough is enough and 17 months in I have given up trying to encourage her to move straight from the boob to the cup and have instead allowed her to regress to a bottle as I am so very keen to have a little detachment from her.  The big transition started over the holidays whilst we were staying with mum who very kindly moved Cybil's cot in to her room so that I could get some sleep and finally culminated in me watching in shocked awe as she accepted a bottle of warm milk at bed time. The relief was immense. Although I didn't realise at the time that that was going to be my last ever breastfeed and I must admit to feeling a tad emotional since.  Not emotional enough to give in to her still daily demands for me to whip them out though. I am resolute. No more boob.

The New Year is looking rather rosie actually. Not only are my breasts my own once again but last night K and I even went OUT. I know, big stuff. I believe nowadays the 'youth' refer to it as a 'date night' but when I was young and mum and dad used to go out we called it 'mum and dad going out'. Whatever it is known as it was a stunning way to start the new year - we failed to celebrate much last year due to Cybil and her lack of sleeping prowess so this was long overdue. I have already had my hair done, attended a 40th Birthday Party for the Magician, I have another night out planned next week for The Replacement's birthday and this half term is also incredibly short so it's only a month before we get another week of lying around in pyjamas all day - so, all in all 2014 has started off very nicely indeed. No doubt there will be many ups and downs to the rest of the year but I am very pleased to have welcomed it so happily so far.  The only fly in my ointment is a rather unattractive weight gain from my prolific Christmas eating. I have only missed one fast day over the last three weeks but have managed a decent four pound gain. I have decided not to panic and am attempting to wean myself off chocolate and overeating gradually. There is no hurry.

So. There you have it. A pretty bog standard one for us - gifts, food, family and festivities. I'm not sure how long my happiness with 2014 will last but I really hope we will at least get through January. All that remains to be said is Happy New Year. xxx