Wednesday, 18 December 2013

All I want for Christmas

Surprise! It turns out that if you ignore the ironing pile, the dirty washing and the present pile that needs wrapping then there is more than enough time to pop on here and write. Sadly the keyboard is very sticky thanks to Cybs who has smeared God knows what all over it but I shall persevere regardless, such is my desire to share.

Picture me if you will, wrapped up in blankets on my new spot, storm raging outside, beautifully decorated Christmas tree in front of me, stockings hung by the chimney with care, delicious red wine to hand (courtesy of mum obvs - we only buy cheap shit), laptop on lap, two remotes to the side (Cybs has managed to lose our skyplus remote which means we have had to 'make do and mend' with the old sky remote and the TV one for volume - I imagine this was a common post war issue...) and I am surrounded by the scent of overwhelming tea tree oil emanating from my hair which is smothered in a hearty dose of nit treatment.  K is out the lucky swine so he isn't suffering. Far from it.

He left me, all suited and booted, to spend the evening being wined and dined in Mayfair. Admittedly it is for his Work Christmas Do and it wasn't like he had a choice, but still, the polar opposites of our evenings was a little stark. I was scraping a comb through Bea's hair with Cybs emptying out all the cupboards by my feet, Ted was requiring a bottom wipe on one loo and G needed to 'go' on another next to us just as K bid me a jolly goodbye. He was off to enjoy the Michelin star rated food and views from the 'Windows' restaurant on Park Lane - I was to finish scraping nits out of hair, wipe bottoms, wash all hairs, treat my own hair, eat a cold beef burger leftover from the children's tea and clear up all the crap from the day.  I know one mustn't grumble but seriously - as he was busy enjoying pre-dinner drinks in Dulwich I was desperately trying to convince the boys to let me scrape their hair too. Mercifully they have short hair so it took mere minutes to actually comb, unlike the half an hour for Bea but rather crucially, she is a far more willing victim and needs less cajoling and consoling so it ended up taking about the same amount of time in the end. I managed the task and was beginning to brighten as they showed no signs of infection, when I turned round to see that Cybs had helpfully left a few deposits on the bathroom floor and mat. Sigh. I am more than used to shovelling shit but it just seems a tad less appealing when I know K is out enjoying himself in such style.

This morning I did the school run and ran a number of errands before returning home and finally looking in the mirror (I had eschewed my normal make up application in favour of getting to school on time. I am a saint) where I discovered a smear of Nutella left on my jawline courtesy of Cybs. I hope it was obviously Nutella and no one thought I had left the house with poo smeared on my face but who knows. Sometimes I find dubious stains on my clothing and to be honest I am never a hundred percent sure whether it is nutella or poo. Cybs fondness for malt loaf has caused a number of false alarms in the house as well  - she has a tendency to walk around with it hidden in her fist so I don't notice until I am asked by another child or adult to investigate a suspicious smear. These are the times when I think going to work really is the better option. That and when I derive an unhealthy level of pleasure at successfully pairing up socks I had previously assumed unpairable. I ALMOST wrote a blog post about the fact that I had only a few odd socks left in my odd sock bag. Thank goodness I thought better of it. Although it would have meant all the working mothers could have slept soundly, safe in the knowledge that they would never, ever be that dull.

Is it wrong that as I look out of the window and see the pouring, driving rain I think that at least K's views will be obscured and he won't get the full benefit of the amazing vista? That is so mean. Even I feel bad thinking that. But then he isn't sitting there looking at the rain with nit cream on his head, so, it could be worse.  I shouldn't be so mean hearted. I did have my Christmas 'do' with the local mums on Saturday when we went to Fortnum's for a slap up afternoon tea. I left K with the children and a screaming Cybs (she was very tired and very pissed off - although she has warmed to K considerably recently - it wasn't enough for him to be acceptable in those circumstances) and I trotted off to central London to gaze in awe at the lights and huge Christmas trees and eat incredibly expensive sandwiches and scones. Upsettingly the cake part of the tea was not that great but we more than made up for it with our constant requests for sandwich replenishment. It was a lovely afternoon and I made it home in time for the children's bed time so I still got to enjoy the X factor final which in retrospect made the afternoon even more enjoyable.

I EVEN managed to pop in to a new huge Cath Kidston shop on the way back to the tube. It was more of a visual pleasure than a shopping one as my bank balance is now frighteningly tiny, but I managed to get some pleasing stocking fillers for Bea and a birthday present for her friend so I experienced a small frisson of excitement.  I have done so well this year on the present front - even if I do say so myself.  Yesterday I got all the children's presents out and put them in piles and I am thrilled with what I have achieved so far.  (The Internet really has revolutionised Christmas shopping. My life would be hell if I had to spend the month preceding Christmas trudging around the shops - especially if my trip in to 'London proper' at the weekend was anything to go by. Hideous.) Even their stockings are brilliant. I really have excelled myself this year. Cybs has the most beautiful little wooden kitchen which I am thrilled with - who knows what she will think of it.  There is an hilarious viral blog post doing the rounds at the moment which is a 'letter' from a 10 month old baby to Father Christmas about what he really wants for Christmas. It lists the hilarious things babies find fun to play with in place of the expensive, 'educational' toys their parents have lavished them with e.g. computer cables, iphones etc. I could go one better for Cybs. Ideally, under the tree this Christmas, Cybs would like to find a block of knives, a pack of dishwasher tablets, a box of tea bags and a pack of sanitary towels. Quite often throughout the day you will hear me say very firmly 'Cybs, put the Knife DOWN' - she is excellent at handling them but I still worry. It wouldn't take much for it to all go horribly wrong. Especially with some of the bigger ones. She loves to pull them out of the dishwasher whilst I'm emptying it or to pull them straight out of the knife block and then she likes to put them in the block of butter and attempt to eat from it. Ideally I would put her out of the way of the knives or the knives out of her way, but the problem is she spends an awful lot of her time following me around in the kitchen and knives are an inevitable part of that environment. I am hoping that eventually she will get the message if I just keep reiterating my firm denials of their toy-ness. I do try to stop her getting at them - I don't keep them on the worktop where she can climb up by herself - I mean I am vaguely safety conscious.

The worktop she can get up to has the kettle and the teabags etc on it and I recently walked in to the kitchen to find her sitting next to the kettle, with it on and boiling, a mug in her hand and an annoyed look on her face that I had discovered her. She is a huge fan of tea. It is almost impossible to have a cup of tea in her presence without her demanding some. So, having observed me make a number of cups of the stuff, she was clearly planning to help herself from hence forth rather than waiting for me to make it. She also loves moving tea bags from one mug to another and pouring water on to them and in particular pulling them apart so the little bits of tea go flipping everywhere. The dishwasher tablets are more understandable I suppose. They come in pleasingly bright colours, they are brick shaped and there are lots of them. They are terrific fun to empty out all over the floor and to put in the dishwasher before turning it on, 'just like mummy' - that and the teabags are understandable. The knives are shiny I guess, which could make them appealing BUT I have struggled to find the appeal of the sanitary towels. I have had to put them all out of reach as she cannot resist. I suppose it is like a mini gift to her - they all come wrapped up and contain a large 'sticker' toy inside. She is a big fan of sticking them to things. Or using them as nappies on her dolls. It is something I really wish she wouldn't enjoy playing with - I hope people don't judge but there must be times that I have missed a rogue one and rather than saying anything, people have assumed that I have left a used sanitary towel in the playroom or in her bedroom - it is an almost unbearable thought. Urgh. K is not mad keen either. Hopefully you will remember his total aversion to anything related to 'feminine hygiene' or the 'P' word and to see his baby merrily walking around using them as toys really turns his stomach. Not as much as the new advert for a product to help women who sweat in their 'intimate' area though. I am surprised he even lets the commercial channels on to the tv now that that is in circulation. Even I was surprised by that one though. Who knew you could get a deodorant for 'down there'. I am on the edge of my seat to see what they will come up with next to sell to poor unsuspecting women. One assumes that men also sweat in their 'intimate' area but they are unlikely to have an advert extolling the virtues of a specialist deodorant made by a stupidly named company like Penisil or somesuch to ease their problem......

Anyhoo, moving swiftly on. I have managed to view all three nativities/carol songs/curriculum assemblies with huge success. I even sat at the very front for Ted's show which is a first and meant Cybs had a clear view of the action so she sat still for almost all of it. Until the end anyway, when she could wait no longer and attempted to join in with the final carol. Bea's was a bit more hectic as Ted was off sick after an asthma attack and a high temperature so I had to look after him and Cybs whilst trying to film/watch Bea say her bit. She also did a short mime to illustrate the narrative and even had her Christmas card flash up on a huge screen behind the stage which was all very exciting. I knew it was her card instantly - not only because of her distinctive drawing style but because hers was the only card wishing the recipient a 'Marry Chritmas'. Yet another advantage of having a dyslexic daughter - their work is far easier to recognise. G's was eventful because it took place on a Monday morning and he HATES Mondays so it took an awful lot of patience and persuasion to get him there and through the doors and I was quite convinced that he wouldn't open his mouth to sing a word. As there was only one performance of the carol concert - approximately 300 people tried to cram in to half of a small hall to watch, which made it all a little stressful but mercifully I was lucky enough to have dumped Cybs on a friend in the playground and I got a chair in the fourth row so I had a great view of G - who SANG. And did the actions. I was amazed. So there you are - every single one has been ill, three have performed in various stage performances, Cybs has attended a playgroup Christmas party dressed as Mrs Claus and we have ALL been to the doctors or dentist in a flurry of appointments over the last fortnight and I have remained resolutely ill with a cough and cold that won't go away for nearly three weeks now. I am hoping that this will have it all firmly out of the way before the big day itself. I know that at least we will definitely be nit free. Although I have given up all hope that I shall ever regain full sinus and lung function ever again. But I at least feel less 'ill' which I will happily accept until the sun comes back out and I can feel properly 'well' again.

I must bid you goodnight now. I have finished the chocolates off and I need to rinse the nit crap out of my hair before I can crawl in to bed. Have a WONDERFUL Christmas and I shall no doubt be in touch before the New Year to thrill you with our Suffolk/Essex festive extravaganza and fill you with open mouthed awe at the amount I have managed to consume. My fasting diet has resulted in a loss of a stone (minus a pound) however I fear my Christmas Consumption will wipe most of that out. Although the food will be entirely worth it so I shan't complain.

Let's hope K hasn't got me another pair of slippers for my collection or some nit shampoo and the children don't see any of their gifts on the drive down to Suffolk. As Ted would say - We Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New York!

Joyeux noel toutes les monde!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Dino Snores and Exotic Carrots

Hi. You are in it for the long haul so don't think of going anywhere. I have to stay up until midnight so I am just going to write my way through it. I am full of nervous energy and there is an awful lot to catch up on so I apologise in advance for the length and waffling nature of this post - I had promised a friend that I would keep my paragraphs short and Shiny Life Sister has often requested shorter posts for ease of reading but I'm sorry - if I am staying up late then you are keeping me company and I am too tired to worry about brevity.

It is eerily quiet in the house as well as extremely messy and I only have X factor to keep me company. Even Ted found it weird - he kept freaking out in the bath because it was too quiet and kept whispering to himself about how he wished 'Daddy, Bea and George were here'.  In fact he became so upset by the quiet that he kept crying if I spoke without warning as it 'scared him'.  To be honest it began to freak me out in the end so we got out of the bath, got in to my bed and put the telly on to give him a comforting and reassuring background noise. He has had to go to sleep in my bed too - with me staying with him, as he couldn't face being in the 'dorm' room alone. I fear he will grow up never being able to be alone.....

So, on to why we are all freaked out by the silence. Bea, G and K are all staying overnight at the Natural History Museum for G's belated birthday party.  When I first decided on letting him join a 'Dino Snore' event in place of a proper party I paid scant attention to finding out all the fine details. All I heard was - dinosaurs, sleepover and Natural History Museum. I thought 'Fab'. I found it online, realised it was almost the same price as a party (ish) and quickly went about encouraging my friend to book it for her son's birthday as well (a friend of G's and the same age so helpful for splitting the cost) as you had to have at least five children all of over 7 years old in order to book. She agreed and wheels were put in motion.  However, just as I was about to sign on the dotted line back in July, my lovely friend, Cybil's Godmother, took the time to read all the information and it emerged that the sleepover began at 7pm (when I would normally be putting the children to bed), it went on until midnight (neither child has ever stayed up to midnight) and girls were not allowed to sleep with the boys or male adults (even if that adult was their father) and so Bea would require her own female adult companion. At this point the worry set in. The long suffering and splendid Replacement was quickly roped in to stay with Bea which solved one problem but from the moment I booked the tickets I  have worried about how on earth we were going to keep the children awake to enjoy this rather immense event. My children are not like others I hear about - those children who can be taken out for evening meals and sit there happily until you are ready to leave; can stay up on New Year's Eve and then walk home in the wee small hours; can attend weddings and hog the dance floor until the bitter end  - these are mythical creatures to me.  My children need to sleep. They are hideous creatures without it. Not only do they start crying at about 9pm (we did try one New Year's Eve - unlikely to do it again for a while) or tantruming spectacularly - but even if you do manage to get them to 10pm (I did manage with the big three for their Uncle's wedding) putting them to bed late does not mean that they just wake up later the following day - it means that they wake up at the same early time, but spend every waking moment arguing, crying or throwing epic tantrums and the whole day feels like an endurance test.

After much worrying I decided that I would finally let them have diet coke to drink - they have been desperate to have one and keep trying to sneak a sip of mine, so this seemed a great way to inject them with sufficient caffeine in order to make it through to the literal middle of the night. I have packed them off with a bottle each, and lots of sweets and chocolates after seeing the effects it had on the girls at Bea's sleepover (although again, she was asleep by 9.30 on that occasion.....). People have assured me that the fun of it all and the adrenalin will keep them going to midnight and beyond but I am not so sure - they have had all the fun of the school Christmas Fair this afternoon and they have both had days off school with illness this week - it isn't a promising start.

We got back so late from the fair (I couldn't find Bea who, it turns out, was happily having her hair styled - to great effect - but I wasn't even aware that there was a hairdressing station so I didn't look there for half an hour) that I only had time to pack the picnic and make sure everyone had their sleeping bags, pants and diet coke, before it was time for them to rush back out of the door. So not only am I worrying over whether they will manage to stay awake I am also beginning to panic that they will faint with hunger before they reach the time allotted for eating.  I also want G to enjoy his birthday treat; it was a lot of money and quite a bit of effort to organise so I am very keen that it should be a success. I have already found out that as they were queueing to get in to the museum they realised that G had left his sleeping bag on the train - so either he or K will be pretty chilly tonight as I can't imagine it is the warmest of places and the only thing between them and the floor is a thin camping mat. So. That is why I am here, full of nervous energy, pouncing on the phone with every text or email for any updates, and why Ted was freaking out about the silence surrounding us when we were in the bath.  I am intending to stay up until midnight to ensure that they are both happy and well and my money was well spent before I can sleep. 

In other news I have a great big announcement - I am sitting somewhere entirely new! I know. I am now positioned in the corner of the living room on MY NEW SOFA!! We can finally all fit on one sofa with space to spare with our new giant L shaped beast of new sitting-furniture. I am on the chaise longue part which is my new 'spot'. It is ideally positioned for the TV, the window, the arm for putting drinks on and now for blog writing. It has caused huge levels of excitement with me and the children. Although if I were to split hairs I would say that our new sofa glut (four in two rooms) is making me anxious. We could now comfortably seat around 25 people should they all turn up unannounced, however there isn't enough floor space to swing a cat (I know this for a fact as Cybs and Ted try on a regular basis). I decided to be charitable and donate the two surplus sofas to the British Heart Foundation but I am waiting for them to come and collect and have so far missed the calls to finalise the details. What with the arrival of our huge (magnificent) Christmas tree today as well, the living room is feeling a little over full and therefore my sofa is not fully able to shine and bask in its true glory.

I built the sofa - it being from Ikea it came in a lot of boxes - (pleasingly so for the children obviously - they built a mini homeless city in their bedroom and then insisted on sleeping in it in sleeping bags with varied success) and it took most of an afternoon, hindered as I was by two small children and a school run.  However I was thrilled by my hands on brilliance and informed my mother on our subsequent phone call. She immediately told me I was a fool and should have waited for K to return and build it (I momentarily assumed it was because she was concerned that I already had so much on my plate that this was the last thing I needed but no....) because he was a man and therefore so much stronger than me he would have been able to tighten all the bolts much better and therefore it is unlikely to last as long. You can just never anticipate what she will say.  So far so good though. It has stayed together nicely for the last three days. I shall keep you posted. I suspect that the staining and general wear and tear from the children will do for the sofa far before my screwing ability effects it stability. (Ha Ha - I said screwing ability - this has tickled my funny bone greatly. Potentially I need to go to bed.)

More news: As soon as I finished the last post - the loo blocked. Clearly Karma thought me moaning about my poo quota required immediate attention and therefore decided to up the ante. It may not have been Karma's fault though. There is a small chance it was actually mine. When it was my turn to empty the cat litter I had decided (wisely I thought) to put the little deposits straight in to the loo. It seemed a very effective way to deal with it and better for the environment than using plastic bags. This was all fine at the start when we had the fancy pants cat litter that seemed to dissolve in water but then we bought normal stuff which clumps, and although I was careful not to put too much in along with the poo deposits, clearly I was not careful enough and it managed to clump together to make a big enough lump that it blocked the pipe. I assume. K, whose misfortune it was to unblock it, didn't mention the cat litter but he wasn't keen to go in to the true horror of it all and I didn't want to push for details just in case it was my fault. Although now I dispose of all deposits in nappy sacks along with Cybil's dirty nappies. The loo has not blocked since. Who knows what it was......

In other news, K has also turned 35. He had a lovely birthday with gifts and everything. Coming at the end of November and at the end of all the family birthdays, he does tend to suffer. But we managed to scrape together enough to make him feel special. He got a fancy pants pair of hummer trainers to keep him 'down with the kids' and just like the boys with their high top trainers;  Bea decorated a shoe box with pictures and wrapping paper and labelled it 'Daddy's Tuck Box' which we filled to bursting with all his favourite chocolate and crisp treats; the same great cake baker who made my cake whipped up a Guinness cake and finally but most importantly, Blonde Bombshell had us over for a slap up steak meal in the evening. It was the best a man, who had the misfortune to be born a few days before payday, could have hoped for.

We also got to go out a few days later. Events Organiser had arranged a large local Christmas dinner celebration at a great local restaurant and loads of our friends were going. I had been looking forward to it for months but sadly I had been ill since K's birthday and I was so full of ill and cold I was in a really bad mood and terrifically bad company. The only reason I went and didn't cry off was because there was salted caramel cheesecake for pudding (we had had to pre-order our menu) and nothing could keep me away from tasting it. I suspect both K, the lovely Blonde Bombshell and her husband all wish I had imagined what it tasted like instead and stayed in bed. Eventually I ran away (literally, to escape them trying to make me take a minicab) at 11.30 and caught a train home. (Only one stop and happily completely free! The ticket machine was locked up and the gates were open. Oddly, this fact made me feel a lot better and I was quite chipper by the time I got home. Although it could also have been because I had eaten the salted caramel cheesecake and was just about to get back in to my pyjamas and bed. All of my favourite things).

More news: It appears that Bea has inherited my genius for getting lyrics terrifically wrong.  My Macy Gray 'I Try' mistake still makes me laugh out loud if I ever hear it on the radio. (In case you missed it I thought she sang, 'I walk cobbles when you are not near' instead of 'My world crumbles when you are not near' - I think it is a pretty easy mistake to make and I was at University in Exeter at the time where there was a cobbled road around the Cathedral which was terrifically difficult to walk over if one was wearing high heels). Bea has taken my baton and run with it. This week as she was getting in to the bath she was singing Michael Jackson's, Thriller.  Instead of 'you start to freeze, As horror looks you right between the eyes, you're paralysed', Bea managed to invent the words "I got the goods, now nothing in this room will be exotic. Exotic.'  Instead of 'Thriller, thriller nights' she was belting out 'Street lights, street liiiiights.' It is surprisingly catchy though and after the initial hysteria at her dancing around to the words 'Exotic, exotic' in the nude (slightly worrying but it also transpires that she had no idea what Exotic meant) I have found myself singing her version an awful lot. Potentially she has a future as a lyricist.

And finally - I have wanted to ask someone this for ages - why do they use bananas for condom lessons? Surely carrots are a far better substitute? I think this every time I peel a carrot. They come in all shapes and sizes - some of the carrots I get are enormous but many of them are average penis sized. I have never encountered a male member shaped like a banana - I can't understand who came up with the idea originally - unless carrots used to be very different when the whole sex-education thing began and potentially bananas were smaller and less curved. If anyone teaches teenagers about condoms and how to apply them please could I recommend a bag of organic carrots from Tesco. They are far better for your purpose.

 - Interval -

NEWSFLASH  - they survived! After I wrote about the carrots I felt it best for everyone that I went to bed. I managed to keep one eye open long enough to see a picture of a sleeping G and receive a reassuring text from the Replacement before I passed out. For about ten minutes as it turns out as Cybs then woke up with YET ANOTHER COUGH. I didn't bore you with it last night but we have been the house of ill for a fortnight now and I am really VERY, VERY, VERY OVER illness. Not that that matters - what matters is that by some miracle both children were persuaded through to 11.30pm (when they were allowed to lie down)!  K had to carry Bea around for the last hour and G was very keen to sleep from 10pm BUT they made it. The reports are all glowing and I am so happy and relieved that it all worked out. They arrived home jolly tired and a sleeping bag down but they had hand drawn t-shirts, pictures of G and his friend holding a great big horrible snake, Certificates and lots of tales of the amazing time had by all. They slept next to the skeleton of a Diplodocus (always makes me think of One of Our Dinosaurs are Missing which is one of the top ten British films ever made and a huge favourite of mine) and managed to sleep through all the noise and disruption of a large hall full of 450 adults and children - G was asleep within minutes of getting in to 'his' bag even before the lights were switched off at midnight and Bea managed to sleep not long after. K did not fair so well on the sleep front. Deprived of warmth (he did obviously donate his sleeping bag to his dozy twit of a son) and comfort, he lay there being kicked on the feet as people stumbled past to get to the loos, listening to a man snore very loudly, getting irritated at badly behaved and very noisy older children and then apparently at least once an hour a man farted so loudly and stinkily that it was impossible to sleep through it.  I didn't think he was going to get much sleep ( I was exceedingly grateful to Cybs for still being on the boob so that I couldn't go) but I didn't think he was going to suffer that badly and I did feel for him a bit. He did enjoy an awful lot of it though, especially the fab lecture they were given and watching how much the children loved it. All in all it was a major success and I am chuffed. It was definitely worth all the worry and I would heartily recommend it to anyone - as long as you don't have to be the one who goes along..... The Replacement assures me that she also really enjoyed it and that it was a pleasure - which I hope is true - potentially she didn't hear or smell the farting man as keenly as K did.......

So, now that we can all rest easy I shall leave you to it. I must get on as I have MUCH to do before Christmas Day. I have a list on Amazon that needs ordering and Minions to pick up at various Argos stores around London, three nativity/carol singing/curriculum assemblies to attend and I also need to sort out the sofas. I am struggling not to go a bit loopy at the lack of space we are currently suffering with. I am hardly the tidy type but even I can't cope with this level of mess. If it doesn't get sorted soon I shall pull them out on to the pavement myself and hope the council remove them due to complaints from the neighbours.  I can order my Amazon list on Wednesday which I am incredibly excited about. The children are going to be very spoilt yet again by the generous and bountiful Father Christmas. Ted is expecting a lot. Two recent trips to see the big FC have left him less than impressed - he declared that he didn't like the face of the first one - to his face and has since referred to the time he saw the 'not real Father Christmas' (he was so unlike the traditional version of FC I was totally with Ted on this one) and then at the Christmas Fair yesterday he walked in to the grotto and said straight away - 'This isn't the real one either'. And NEITHER sodding man gave him a spider as a gift which has made him quite cross. I need to restore the big man's reputation. Ted has high expectations and I can't disappoint.

(Also, did you notice? I managed to go back over it today and make my paragraphs shorter. I hope this has aided your reading pleasure and you appreciate the effort. )

If I do not get back in touch before the 25th then Happy Christmas to you! Have as good a time as it is possible to have and eat, drink and be merry, for in no time at all it will be January.

Good night, silent night and make sure nothing in your room is exotic. :-) xxxxxxxxxx

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Excitingly mid 30s

Hello and good evening. England are playing football again so I have the evening to myself to catch you up on all the happenings. A lot has occurred in a short space of time - I have turned 35, I have become lodged in a multi storey car park, adopted a kitten and most importantly, I have new boots.

So, shortly after I left you K arrived home one evening with a surprise. A little black kitten which would go on to be named Charlie The Spider (Ted can think of little else than spiders and was pretty insistent that Spider should be his only name but the other children objected heartily to calling something so cute such an un-cute name so a compromise was met). His cuteness is in no question but he does actually need quite a lot of looking after which I am less than thrilled about. Particularly as his arrival now brings my poo quota up to a new high with the frequent emptying of his litter tray. Even with only one child in nappies, you would be surprised how much of the stuff I have to deal with on a daily basis and from the most surprising of sources. Aside from the rancid nappies from the baby who eats everything and anything and the kitten who does the same (I must investigate what they can actually eat - he is quite obsessed with melon and the milk from their cereal but is happy to try soy sauce, curry and spag bol - I am unsure if this is dangerous/normal?) I am also chief bottom wiper to Ted who refuses to wipe his own bottom which means that wherever I am in the house (even in bed trying to sleep) if I hear the plaintive and repetitive 'muuuuuuuuum' I have to hurry to find him in either of the loos where he will be naked from the waist down and facing the wall in what I have named the 'prison search pose'. He is so against having anything to do with the business end of proceedings he closes his eyes and rests them on his hands against the wall and will only open them once he has ascertained that I have 'finished'.  No one is allowed to see what goes on preceding my role in matters - there is a strict privacy role to Ted's lavatorial habits. He refuses to allow anything to happen until the door is closed and he's definitely alone. He told Cybil's lovely Godmother on a recent sleepover that she best close the door and 'give him 5 minutes' which is far more polite than I ever get - should I ever be attempting to use the bathroom/utility room at the time he needs it, I am yelled at to get out. 'Now'. Other than this, I also get the daily 'oops I forgot to flush' moment when I walk in and discover an horrific gift from the previous tenant. Now, I am sympathetic when it comes to the 7 and 8 times tables, spelling 'accommodation' and all the 'there' options, I am exceedingly understanding when it comes to not realising where countries are in the world (I could hardly comment after placing Vietnam in the wrong continent for two decades) however, flushing the loo is so simple some cats and dogs have mastered the art. Ted is so keen on flushing that the ritual has to be performed before I am permitted to enter and he has only recently turned 4 - which begs the question - WHY WHY WHY do the older ones not have it sorted yet?  I don't mind (I do actually) having to clean the loo every day because other people are too little/don't feel it's their job (it is) but not even making it to the flushing process is beyond lazy. I shout very loudly every time I make a new grizzly discovery but to no avail. Just as Cybs will no doubt be breast feeding until she hits puberty I am quite sure that G's girlfriend will be calling me up in 20 years and asking why I never thought to fully toilet train him. (Bea is less forgetful but it does happen, although girls get to an age where everything is so mortifyingly embarrassing that I am hoping there is no chance of her getting past 13 and still not mastering the art).  Extra poo quota aside, Charlie The Spider (hereonin known as CTS) makes an excellent addition to our family. After initial shyness he decided to become part of the pack after 24 hours, when the children devoted their after school time to 'training' him and coaxing him out from under the playroom sofa. Cybs is now very adept at picking him up and throwing him before pointing her finger and yelling (my new daily routine requires me to remove him from the work tops/table tops/beds/pillows/children's faces about a million times before shouting at him in what I hope is a scary arsed manner - so far he seems terrifically unafraid); George has decided to channel all the animal husbandry expertise he has gleaned over the last few years, in to caring for the cat and is constantly picking him up for a cuddle or more 'training'; Bea is acting like he is her new baby and as well as lavishing attention on to him has devoted much memory space on her ipad to cute pictures and films of him; Ted is happy to have found something more energetic and naughty than he is and is most pleased that he even loves Spiderman. A friend bought Ted a knitted spiderman finger puppet which was very lovely for Ted, but he only had it for a day before CTS decided it was a mouse substitute and runs from one end of the house to the other chasing it and jumping around catching it and biting it. I am most hopeful that he will be an excellent rodent deterrent (the main factor behind his purchase) - whilst he may not be much cop in a ring with a rat quite yet, they will hopefully not know he is only a baby from his smell and will therefore stay away on the off chance. Mice, which I now view as an almost welcome alternative to rats, should be very afraid as I am pretty sure he would decapitate them on sight even at his tender age.

Anyhoo, on to brighter things. Let me explain the car park. I must add that although I am quite large as normal-sized people go, I am not quite American-fat sized so I am unlikely to physically get trapped in a multi-storey carpark in any capacity - it was in fact my car. Ever since Cybs was born and we went away on holiday we have been borrowing a roof box from K's brother and as it is quite useful every time I go to mum's, we have left it on. The car is already quite tall as it is one of those seven seater people carriers and with the roof racks and roof box added on to that it makes us the height of a van. I give the height of my car such little thought on a yearly basis that none of this has ever bothered me. It was exceedingly tight in the Bromley car park when I visited in October so i gave it a bit of thought then, but it did fit and I managed to exit sans incident. Lewisham is a different story. Whilst G was at a party last weekend, I had promised Kent Sister that I would journey in to Lewisham (a task not performed for many years) and procure the last Flutterbye Flying Fairy doll on sale in what appeared to be the whole of the UK.  With no children on board and a whole hour to achieve my task, I was quite looking forward to the fun and larks I may get up to in a town centre full of shops. My excitement ended as I exited the one way street and went up the one way ramp and discovered at the top of the ramp, was a low hanging sign warning me of a low ceiling height in the car park. It was then that I casually pondered what height my mini-bus-sized car with roof box might be. It was mere seconds as it turned out, as I then hit the said sign and ascertained that the car was too tall. At this point there was nothing I could do as there were cars behind me and so, hoping for the best, I ventured further in and collected my ticket from the machine. My trepidation grew as I looked forward and saw that this car park did indeed have the lowest ceiling height I had ever seen, ever and I panicked. I drove slowly forward and realised that as I did so I was making a loud scraping sound. Once through the barrier I truly panicked and decided to attempt a U turn. I have no idea why - there was nowhere I could go. The cars trying to come through the barriers were now beeping at me and getting pretty irate. I decided to abandon the U turn and continue further in to the too small car park. This was an error. I scraped loudly up the first ramp and turned on to the first level. This was slightly better and I had about an inch clearance overhead. I pulled over where I could and panic dialled K. "Helpful" people pulled up beside me and "helpfully" pointed to my roof box. I wound down the window. They did too. They said, "It's your roof box". It's at times like these I wish I wasn't British and I could respond "no shit Sherlock - did you think I was such an idiotic woman that I might think my inability to advance forward freely might be something to do with the gear box?????". Alas I am British so I said - "yes I know!" (apologetically obviously for causing them this momentary delay) - "I don't know how to get it off - any ideas?" They replied no, wished me good luck and drove off - being unencumbered as they were, by a giant vehicle. K failed to answer the phone for quite some time as he was, as it turned out later, dealing with Cybs. The time I spent sitting and waiting for him to answer allowed me to survey the lay of the land and I realised that I could just about scrape through the car park as long as I avoided the strip lighting which was affixed to the beams and reduced clearance by a good three inches. I slowly advanced forward skillfully avoiding the lights and as a car exited their space I attempted to get in to it, going in at a peculiar angle to avoid yet another flipping light. K called. I spoke to him. He had no idea how I could remove the box without tools. He said to rip the lid off. I thought that was genius. Until I realised that I couldn't even open the box as you need space above it in order to allow the hinge to serve a purpose. Defeated, I abandoned the car parked at a peculiar angle in its space and went in search of the fricking fluttering fairy. I felt sick the entire time but managed to achieve my task and return back to the scene of devastation. As I tried to drive away more "helpful" people pointed to my box. Again, I asked if they could help. Again they could not. There was only one thing to do. G needed collecting and I was becoming panicky at the idea of spending the night in Lewisham multi storey car park. I was going to just keep going regardless of damage to box or car park. So I did. Although I had to first negotiate the ramp on to the next level to get to the freedom of the car park exit. The ramp I had to drive up had a bloody light hanging down and there was no room for manoeuvre either side. That was unless I put one set of tyres in the pedestrian path which was separated from the car ramp by a 5 inch concrete wall. I attempted to turn on to the ramp keeping the wheels in their allotted spaces. Failure. I scraped the side of the car on a sign which was rather unhelpfully stuck to the wall. I reversed and swung out further before turning up the ramp and this time I managed it - just about avoiding the strip light and not scraping the car too badly on the other side. Then I just had to mount the 5 inch concrete divider whilst not bursting my tyres and I was a few inches nearer freedom. Mercifully the tyres stayed in one piece and the next level up had a few more inches on it so the scraping was only bad when there was something hanging low and we collided. The next ramp was downwards and had another low flying light but there was no room for shenanigans with this one and as I was so close to freedom, I just drove straight at it. The noise as the box and light scraped together was not easy to hear but by then I could see the sky and I was determined to get out in to the open. However one more hurdle stood in my way. As I handed the machine my ticket I noticed that the barrier allowing my exit didn't fully open up  - it was hinged in the middle and gave a very low clearance height, yet again. There was nothing for it. I just drove at the barrier and hoped it wasn't going to fly off as my box collided. I also noticed that there was a rather large camera aimed right at the barriers and exit pay machines. At this point I really had no choice so I just drove forward and didn't look back. I didn't see the barrier fall in front of the car but I also didn't look in my mirror to see if it had fallen behind. I was so happy to have open space above the car and the chance to get to G in time I just kept going regardless of cameras. I am dreading a letter through the door asking me to compensate the council for damage to their lights and barrier but luckily nothing yet. The car needs a bit of TLC and the box isn't quite what it once was but at least I am not living in a car park and my niece will have the toy she wants for Christmas. (Even though all the reviews say it doesn't actually work that well, at least she can discover this for herself on the big day. The car and an hour of my life were totally worth it).

What else. Ooh yes. I turned a year older. This is largely uneventful. I went to bed 34 and I awoke 35. The day itself was lovely and full of being made to feel special which is what a birthday was designed for. I do not quibble over the age gain. I used to dread the whole getting older thing but then I realised how lucky I am to have birthday after birthday so I have decided to enjoy each and every one. I started with this one. After a mini lie in and a bath I went downstairs to discover that K had decorated the room with banners and balloons and had even got me a cake, complete with burning candles. The children sang happy birthday and I opened my gifts. I had been expecting a pair of boots as my gift. I had sent the link, a follow up email confirming size and colour and a follow up follow up email with a discount voucher to K in the hope that this subtle help might aid his present buying. It did not. He went, as expected, to Sainsbury's, and purchased a number of more random gifts I wasn't expecting at all. An extra pair of slippers - lest my other two be out of reach; a collection of 3 Christmas CDS - lest my other collection of 3 CDs be lost forever; Jennifer Saunder's biography - I have finished my last book and although biographies aren't totally my bag, I did enjoy Micheal McIntyre's, which is where he got the idea; and finally an alarm clock - lest I want to awake long before dawn and the awakening children..... Actually that is not fair - the alarm clock was not what he thought it was. Since the change of my iphone I have been requiring a new docking station to charge it and listen to my music through and I had also said I wanted a digital radio so, he had failed to notice the 'alarm clock' signage on the box, but had seen the 'docking station' and 'digital radio' information and decided it would do be the perfect gift and do the job required. Sadly it didn't even do that as it wasn't compatible with iphone 5s (he took it back for a refund and will retry at Christmas). Odd present choices aside, I appreciated each and every gift and was very grateful to have something to open. He had even wrapped up my sisters' gifts which had arrived via the post direct from their suppliers. All in all it felt very birthdayish and lovely.  Quick school run over and I raced (literally - thanks to a traffic jam slowing things up I managed to beat a truck - a triumph for a fat mid-30yr old pushing a buggy) up the Honor Oak hill and to the home of Events Organiser who had organised a birthday coffee morning and lunch in my honour. It was delightful and full of yummy treats, yummy people and the most delicious cake ever. I drank a little too much Cava which I probably shouldn't have done but it made the tricky afternoon with small children far more bearable so who cares. That evening I went to the beautician's at the end of my road and utiltised my birthday vouchers from last year for a luxury facial. It was bliss. If I had the money I would go for one on a weekly basis. Although, as I was lying there I couldn't help but think of all the things the money for one 45 minute session could have bought instead. Most pertinently I imagined how exceptionally clean my house would be if I paid my lovely cleaner to clean for six whole hours a week. It would also pay for school dinners for half a term for one child. That is a lot of hot meals and cleaning in place of 45 minutes. Mercifully I wasn't paying hard cash for the treatment so I did enjoy it immensely but I can't imagine a time when we are so rich that I would ever be able to lie there and not think about what the money could have bought in place of such luxury. Also I am not convinced that they do your skin any good whatsoever. It is a nice luxury having a woman smear gloop on to your face and then clean it off again, before applying more gloop and repeating over and over again, but I don't think my skin is any more rehydrated or rejuvenated which was kind of what I was expecting for £60. The birthday celebrations continued with a manicure the following evening (K's gift from last year), hair do (K's main gift to me for this year but as it couldn't be wrapped he felt I needed smaller gifts in compensation to open on the day) and a fantabulous night out with girl pals at the local tapas place that coincidentally also had a live band playing which made the night feel a lot more celebratory. All in all I definitely marked the occasion and am happily and officially now mid-30s. What a relief.

And finally the boots. Sadly missing from my birthday table my lovely lady friends took pity on me and gave me a card stuffed with vouchers at my meal celebration. I was so happy - it was the perfect end to a great deal of celebration and my new exciting boots arrived yesterday to great fanfare from me. I love them.

And that is about that. You are by and large up to date.  I must go to bed now as today has been an incredibly long one as Cybs and Ted are both ill. Not that I don't feel sorry for the ill baby who is just lying around being ill and whiny and looked after and stuffed with medicine but I feel far more sorry for the poor adult who has to look after it and attempt to carry out menial tasks with a clinging chimp hanging on to them constantly looking for boob to latch on to for comfort. It really makes the day a ridiculously long one. yawn. Buenos Noches.



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Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Tedium of Life

Well hello and good evening. Isn't this a treat? Just you, me, a laptop and the X factor.  K is out watching our eldest offspring skip the light fantastic in her annual dance show so I have the sofa and the remote control all to myself which means I can sing along to X factor unchecked - wahoo.  Although sadly this also means there is no chocolate and no one to get me any. I have some Maltesers which will just have to do but they really are not a good substitute for the good stuff.  They certainly don't count as actual chocolate in my eyes.

So, let's get on with all the tedium. On reflection 'The Tedium of life' would have been a far better blog name for me. I am kicking myself that it has taken two and a half years to realise this. I might re-launch. Anyway, wrong name aside there has been an awful lot of tedium over the last few weeks. If you live a high octane kind of life you might find it all a bit much so best rejoin me for another post. 

I will start where we left off last time - which I believe was just as the teachers went on strike.  I am all for a bit of striking as it goes.  Although I am never thrilled at the prospect of a weekday with all of the children, the plus side is that I get to earn money looking after the poor unfortunates whose parents can't also strike. I did idly wonder, when I heard they were striking yet again, how many stay at home parents would need to join together to form a Union of Stay at Home Parents so that we might also go on strike. Our pay conditions, pension and holidays are SHOCKING so we could legitimately strike on a very regular basis which would be quite fun, but I cannot imagine it would do anyone any good and we would just wake up the next day to a filthy house and feral children.  But, back to reality - as the teachers enjoyed their day off  (all except G's year who very kindly agreed to go ahead with the year 2 school trip regardless)  I took five children to Crystal Palace Park and spent an enjoyable-ish three hours messing around in the mud whilst fielding endless questions as well as trying to placate Ted who was tremendously disappointed with the whole experience. It appears that when I told him we were going to see the Dinosaurs at the Dinosaur Park, he was expecting actual, real life ones in all their gigantic, vicious beauty and the impressive statues we actually saw were an extraordinary let down. I suppose, in a world where Father Christmas is able to drop off presents to every child in the world in one night, fairies appear and donate money in return for lost teeth and magic bunnies give you chocolate eggs - real dinosaurs are totally a possibility.  An extra child did  valiantly try to convince him that a T Rex had eaten all of the dinosaurs which was why the statues were the only things left, but it did little to pacify a newly four year old who was looking forward to a Jurassic Park experience.  An attempt to steer his attentions towards the live spiders at the farm was also thwarted when we walked in and saw that the whole 'exotic animals' room was closed for refurbishment. By that point I deemed the trip had lasted long enough, particularly as another extra child had done a full on mud splat and was covered head to toe with the stuff.  All this combined with the fact that Bea was having a particularly 'special' day. I have no idea what goes on internally with children, but I am pretty sure there are occasional chemical imbalances which causes the most improbable behaviour from them. Bea had been having a chemical imbalance episode for quite a while and the strike day was the very pinnacle.  By bed time that evening I had stropped out of her bedroom vowing to never parent her again and that she was 'on her own from hereonin'.  There is only so much a person can take and I had totally reached my limit.  She was rude, stroppy, a total know it all and although I'm not a big fan of the word 'disrespectful'. And not just to me.  Her siblings and the extra children were not safe either.  It is just terrifically wearing. I was also terrified that it was how things were heading on a permanent basis as she moved in to the dreaded 'Tween' stage. It made me tearful to think about it. Mercifully my strop finally seemed to make her see sense and her chemicals have been far more balanced since then.

George took his chemical imbalance turn last week when we visited the dentist to check out a filling he thought had come out.  Due to his rather weak teeth and potentially my terrible parenting, we have had cause to frequent the dentists on a number of occasions, so I wasn't expecting anything particularly out of the ordinary. That is always how these episodes get you - you are going about your daily life not worrying about anything and then BAM a class A chemical imbalance of a melt down hits you right between the eyes. This one was over an Xray. Initially G was particularly jovial to the lovely female dentist as he sat in her chair - answering her questions and seeming genuinely excited about the prospect of an xray. But THEN the lovely dentist attempted to put the plastic instrument that holds the xray film, inside his mouth. The hell that broke loose started off innocently enough with him exclaiming that he didn't like it and that it hurt. Further attempts to convince him only served to rattle his cage and push him further in to the path of full on hysteria. By some miracle and quite a bit of stern talking by me, we just about managed to get an xray by me holding the film next to the tooth in place of the plastic instrument and the lovely lady dentist grabbing Cybs just as the Xray was taken. However we didn't realise this attempt had been successful as no one had heard the beep and he had struggled loose before we could be sure, so as i tried to (quite forcefully) get him to let me hold it next to his tooth once again - he became manic and his shouts, cries and protestations became louder.  He tried to escape - I got angry, the dentist and technician became desperate. Cybs continued to potter around. Luckily, just as it looked like G and I might enter in to a physical fight they discovered that the xray had come through and we had enough to go on. We all relaxed and returned to the dentist's chair - all except G who was still sobbing and hyper ventilating and very keen to leave. He did agree to get back in to the chair and I thought we were almost through the ordeal as he opened his mouth and the dentist began her work.  However by that point G had decided that nothing further was going to happen and he kept moving his head and forcing them to halt proceedings after a few seconds of each attempt to work on the tooth.  The lovely dentist managed to, eventually, remove the half of the filling that was still remaining and was all set to try and refill it. However G was still sobbing and refusing to stay still. Me holding his hand, the technician being kind, me getting cross, the dentist being firm, none of it convinced him to stay still or cope with even slight discomfort. At one point he said it hurt too much before they had even touched the tooth - it was then that everyone in the room lost patience and I saw the technician roll her eyes and sigh more than once. I became increasingly angry. None of it helped. We gave up. The dentist agreed to put a temporary topping on to the exposed tooth. G relaxed. He lay back and was suddenly able to hold still. She applied the temporary fix. G went crazy. He was screaming about his tongue. He went red and started gagging. He tried rinsing. It didn't help. We left as soon as possible and as I stood at reception trying to book another appointment, G started acting as if he was going to be sick. He went bright red and doubled over making throat grunts and retching through his hysteria. I was so cross and the woman waiting next to him seemed so alarmed, that I sent him outside where he just alarmed a number of passers by with his grade A performance of a child in great distress and about to be sick. I was having none of it. AS soon as Cybs and I walked out I began quite a tirade of angry hissing before we shut the car doors and I did a lot of actual shouting. Luckily for G the car journey was ridiculously short as we stopped to pick up Ted from a friend's house. Within minutes G was able to control his hysteria and the tongue issue disappeared. I am a tad apprehensive about returning on Monday for round two. I hope this isn't the beginning of a full of dentist phobia..... I really need lessons for how to cope with this sort of thing.

I have had my fair share of tantrums recently as well.  My last one culminated in a rather unfortunate incident with my phone. After a quick swim in the bath, the phone had become increasingly temperamental, eventually becoming almost unusable as the 'home' button kept sticking meaning that it was impossible to navigate the phone, and even if you did manage,  the voice of Siri (an allegedly helpful service apple provide) piped up asking if he could help me with anything. By the time he had asked me for the millionth time and was preventing me from doing something vital (I forget what it was now) I threw it down with such force that it smashed in to a million little pieces. So for a ridiculously long time (not hours or days but actual weeks),  I had no phone. It has been quite an eye opener. We have no land line or Internet (an ongoing battle) either so it meant I really had no way of ringing anyone or using the Internet until K came home each night.  There were no doubt texts I failed to reply to and events I missed out on but as I have no idea what they were, I have to conclude that it wasn't much. When the schools rang to inform of bumped heads or lost fillings, K passed on the message via email (my ipad worked for emails and selective texts with my phone sim) and I did what i could through the ever helpful FB in the evenings.  After a week we discovered that my new iphone was not going to be arriving for some time and it was then that I had a small (big) breakdown and began to panic. Luckily Kent Sister very kindly sent me her old iphone to help out. Sadly her help wasn't reciprocated by the Royal Mail who are exceptionally annoying. They delivered it a day late when I wasn't home. I had to wait until the following day to pick it up from the sorting office a mile away. The exciting day came and I set off full of hope that I might be reunited with cellular communication. I drove the mile, parked the car, exited the car, put Cybs in the buggy, walked the short distance to the sorting office and proudly produced my red card and driving licence which had my address on it. However, the package was addressed using my married surname and my licence still had my maiden name (I STILL haven't changed anything - I am definitely planning on it though I promise) and as it was a special delivery package the man behind the glass was not at all impressed with my lack of surname organisation and refused to hand over the package. My subsequent imploring fell on deaf ears and it became quickly apparent that he was not to be moved and insisted I return another time. I almost cried. I did the reverse journey - buggy, car, collapsing buggy, drive keeping cybs awake by opening windows and shouting etc. I couldn't park near the house so had to park a way off, get out, carry an angry Cybs who was quite keen to stay put and fall asleep, walk home, find Marriage Certificate even with a screamingly unhappy cybs, walk back, drive the mile there, exit car, put even angrier Cybs in buggy, walk to sorting office where a different man took an extremely cursory glance at my ID and handed over the package with very little ado. Finally I thought - a phone. NOT so. Kent sister is with O2 so the phone needed unlocking for me to use my Orange sim card. Cybs was not going to undertake another trip so I retreated home and let her sleep until we picked up Ted. With Ted collected and a packed lunch proffered, I set off with more high hopes towards the delightful Catford and the shop that had fixed my ipad.  Parking was yet again an issue so we opted for Halfords car park and a small walk over a potential parking ticket and convenient parking space. This involved emptying both children, looking around Halfords (I know they don't actually know I am not intending to use the shop but I feel guilt quite intensely so felt obliged), walking under the bridge courtesy of a vile subway, up the other side and triumphantly in to the shop through the fog of fag smoke. I produced my broken phone and asked how much to fix it - he sucked in breath and said "£65 - if you can find the home key" (I had thrown it away that morning) - I asked how long it would take and he said "while you wait". I gave him my sister's phone and asked how much to unlock it. He said "£45". I asked how long it would take. He said "5-7 days".  I sighed loudly, bundled up the children and walked out.  I was a broken woman. Neither option seemed a good one and I knew for a fact that many people had had their phones unlocked within minutes so I was very suspicious of a man who needed a week to do it. I went back through the stinking subway and up the other side, down the hill and back in to halfords to purchase the Spiderman bell Ted had seen and taken a fancy to. As he was buying it i saw an O2 pay as you go sim for 99p and purchased it. It worked. On a different number obviously but I was once again 'mobile'. Relief.

Unexpectedly and two weeks earlier than promised, my new iphone arrived 48 hours later. I was THRILLED. In time for half term and G's bday. However as we had no internet I couldn't get it up and running which was crashingly disappointing. I had to bundle the children in to the car, drive to a friend's house (who was out) but whose wireless broadband was already set up with my laptop which meant that we could sit there and configure my new phone via itunes without having to get out of the car.  The children were remarkably patient and eventually the phone was raring to go. We were all jubilant. Until I inserted the new sim once we got back home and it failed to work. I had to wait another 24 hours for EE to sort it out and then I was finally, finally back up and running.  It was actually something of an anticlimax as I was expecting a deluge of missed texts and voicemail messages.  However the phone remained belligerently quiet. Nothing momentous occurred.  And nothing momentous has occurred since either. Although I am greatly relieved to be back in the world of modern technology. 

That was duller than you thought wasn't it?


Hello and welcome back to another weekend and another X factor. I wrote that bit before half term but then fell asleep and didn't have a chance to finish it.  You didn't miss much - there was just a Halloween disco for G and Ted (it wasn't that much fun for me but they had fun) and a 'date' with G's hot teacher left to fill you in on. Sadly the date didn't go as planned as he kept talking about G and even gave me targets for him and what with me having to keep half an eye on the three children who were also on the 'date' with me and him dismissing me after ten minutes, it was not entirely what I had hoped for. The fresh make up application and perfume were a total waste of time.

Half term has been and gone - I went to see Bea's dance show which was fabulous, and then we packed up and braved the storm and travelled safely to Suffolk. It was an incredibly busy time with a lot to cram in to an abbreviated trip - particularly with halloween and G's birthday. It actually flew by. I had no time to get anything sorted or even finish off this post. Still, I am back now and G's birthday is well and truly over and done with. He has been exceptionally spoilt and has had an awful lot of celebrating.  Oooh and thanks to a bit of a tummy bug and the fabulous 5:2 plan I managed to lose weight on a school break! My new exciting total weight loss for the month is a heartening 9.5 pounds! I am beyond thrilled. Other than that life is pretty much as it ever was. The children are all getting bigger, the house gets messy and then gets clean and then gets messy again, money comes in and then goes straight back out again. Cybs and Ted keep me on my toes  so i don't tend to get too bored. Cybs is developing at an alarming rate and can now scooter which makes life a bit tricky as she can't even see over the handlebars of Ted's microscooter but that doesn't stop her thinking she should be allowed to scoot off as he does - albeit at a much, much slower pace. On one of the last days before half term she was casually scooting across the playground with one hand on the handles and the other by her side holding a cereal bar. She occasionally took a mouthful of it whilst still on the move. It was then that I really missed having my phone. I would have loved to have that on film. I write it now in the hope that I can bring back the memory if I ever re-read this. She insists on her breakfast being just the same as the others - Cheerios served in a bowl with milk and a spoon and she also likes to drink from a glass and isn't a big fan of the sippy cups that i keep trying to force upon her. She is still not a fan of milk but I am now really and truly over breastfeeding. I think I have now reached a point where I could happily put my baps firmly back in my bra never to release them again.
So, that is all that there is to report. We had a jolly half term, I now have a phone back and I am less fat than I was at the end of September. It really is a thriller of an entry. I shall go and investigate if The Tedium of Life is already taken as a blog title.

Let's re-group when I am 35 and see if I am a bit more interesting then. It is beginning to sound decidedly middle aged which doesn't sound decidedly fascinating but you never know.
Goodbye 34 - you were just as useful as all the other years. I thank you.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Family Planning

So much has happened in such a short space of time. There is much to catch up on peeps. Let me commence post haste.

I have now completed 4 fast/starvation/nothing special to K days and lost a whopping whopping 6 pounds. SO EXCITING. Although this weekend may just have pushed the plan to its absolute limits as I seem to have gone a tad crazy. I am not entirely sure of the actual 'official' 5:2 plan as it will not surprise you in the least to learn that I have not read the book or in fact anything at all on how one is properly supposed to follow the diet. All I know is that I have to stick to the 500 kcalories on my two days and try to eat 'normally' the rest of the time. Sadly this weekend seems to have been entirely abnormal and I, seemingly powerless to control it.

This weekend was Bea's sleepover party and I let her and her friends go to the new local sainsburys (SO EXCITING - have I told you about this before? It recently opened literally around the corner from our house - you don't even have to cross a road. It has changed our lives and hopefully the house prices too - you know your area has made it when Sainsbury's moves in) anyway I let them go alone (Cybs and I were a safe distance behind) with a hefty budget to purchase their midgnight feast goodies and being over excitable 8/9 year olds they over bought in ridiculous quantities. They waited patiently until after they had devoured their pizza to commence on depleting the treat mountain and to be fair they did a totally amazing job considering there was only four of them.  However I did have to step inwhen they all started acting a little 'drugged up' on all the chocolate and sweets and remove them all but sadly that left them within easy reach of me, a confirmed over eater, and that is what I did today and last night. I haven't really eaten that much chocolate in the last two weeks but I have certainly made up for it over tha last twenty four hours. I am deseperate to fast/starve/average day for K tomorrow so that I can put an end to the madness.

Apart from the ridiculous over eating the party was a huge success, even if I do say so myself. I am in fact the only person who would say so as Bea is too over tired and too childish to spend too much time praising me for my brilliance and when I gently tried to coax some even mild praise from K on how it was going and whether Bea was happy, he simply said 'She seems happy enough'. Always one for a grand understatement. So, I shall be the one to say how brilliantly it went. THEY LOVED IT. It was everything she wanted for her inaugral slumber party and more. The buying of their own 'midnight feast' was super exciting and then we had an amazing few hours making their own jewellery courtesy of a lovely local jewellery maker (Kath Dare Jewellery - find her on FB) they hammered letters in to a copper horse and made it in to a necklace, created clip on earrings and threaded very fancy bracelets. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to entertain the tricky tween ages. Then Dominoes pizza was swiftly ordered and delivered just as the four had changed in to their new fleecy animal onesies (courtesy of moi) and they settled down for a non-midnight feast sensation of pizza, garlic bread and mountains and mountains of chocolate and sweets. I even managed to get two of them to sleep by 9.30 and the other two were asleep within the following hour. Or i think they were as K and I were fast asleep by then so we have no way of knowing. Cybs slept through all their shrieks and silliness and even slept past their ridiculously early awakening at 5.40am. The boys had mercifully been shipped off to Cybs' extremely kind Godmother so they could have fun with her andI her boys. Luckily so as they would have had virtually no sleep if they had stayed here.  And there you have it. Everyone survived, Bea was beyond happy and K and I got a fair amount of sleep to boot. I am greatly relieved to have it all over and done with. Her birthday was also a resounding success. Obviously the ipad mini (a controversial choice of gift according to some although I would hasten to point out that if I had got her a nintendo 3DS XL and two games we are looking at the same sort of cash and no one would have questioned it......) went down a storm and she was totally beyond thrilled to own one. It was very sweet actually, K and I pretended that the few token gifts we had got her to beef up the present pile, were in fact her only gifts from us, I even asked her if she had received everything she wanted to which she replied that she had and was very happy. Then K pulled out the doozy from behind the utility room door and when she opened it she took off like a firework. I think it was worth every penny. YES the fighting over who can use it and when and her utter frustration that we are currently without internet (a very dull annoyance - it seems we have accidentally been receiving free broadband from Sky for four years and so when it stopped working they wern't that fussed about fixing the problem and we weren't that keen for them to investigate in case they decided to charge us for the last four years) have been tricky but no more than when it was just my ipad they were fighting over.  The Birthday tea with all the extra children and her own siblings was just as much fun as a full blown party party. The balloons, biscuit tower, birthday tea and games were all greatly appreciated and I think it is fair to say that we have thoroughly marked the occassion of her turning nine.

In other thrilling news,  I have FIXED the tumble dryer. Only a person who washes as many clothes as I do will understand the sheer joy of this statement. After MONTHS of having to put it on twice to get anything dry, rewash whole loads of washing because I forgot there was a load in there and they had become damp and smelly, not using it at all and perservering with the broken drying stand etc etc etc I suddenly saw a small button I had never seen before in the main opening. Being inquisitive I opened it and a hiterhto unseen compartment in the bottom corner of the macihne magically opened. Inside I found a new fresh hell of disgustingness. It turns out that if I had bothered to read the instructions - I NEVER read instructions before using anything, I just assume that I must be able to work it and reading instructions is a total waste of time unless something is totally perplexing in which case I may give them a cursery glance - anyhoo if I HAD taken the time to do something properly for once, I am quite sure it would have alerted me to this little hidden 'gem' which I think is some kind of filter system and I might have tried cleaning it in the last 4ish years because hidden behind the secret compartment door was many years of dark matter (presumably once fluff) mixed with dampness which had congealed to make a truly revolting black mess of nastiness. It was a bit like the congealed mess in a plug hole, only in vast quantities. I removed the revolting fliter to find that it was entirely blocked by this thick black matter and quickly surmised that this was what was causing all the issues. It took a while to clean it and then even longer to clean the hole from which it sprang. I had to do that blind and with my bare hands - I know damp fluff sounds innocent enough but honestly, four years of damp black fluff really is quite something to behold in its grossness. Anyway, it is mercifully all over with now and the first load of test washing went straight in and was dry so rapidly I whooped with excitement when I felt it. I virtuatlly skipped in to the living room to tell K who I had assumed (wrongly) would be as jubilant as I. He MAY have muttered in response. He MAY have said 'oh really?' it is hard to tell with a muttering. He definitly didn't look up from what he was doing.

Men and women are clearly different breeds. I know this has been documented for many centuries and in many books but sometimes the difference still shocks me. I cannot understand how he wasn't more thrilled over the tumble dryer excitement but I would hazard a guess it's because he uses the dryer once a month at most and not twice a day like me so the effect of it being out of work was felt far more keenly by me.  And this is true for so many things in life that are predominantly 'female' (in our house anyway) - but also in the most major way as well. I draw your attention to the absolute and ludicrous inequalities surrounding birth control. I have no idea what it is like where you live but here in my corner of paradise one is no longer able to simply visit one's doctor for help and tools on the whole 'family planning' area of life. Instead this is now outsourced to one central place where all residents wishing to 'plan' families and not just have a baby every year, need to frequent. This place is no longer the 'family planning centre' as it was in my day.  It is now very refreshingly just known as the 'Sexual health clinic'. HOW lovely. So, at the doctors post G when I actually wanted to begin 'planning' I was given a list of these delightfully named centres and told to visit. I duly did.  What greeted me was a fairly run down place in a run down area with a first come first served 'drop in' service which saw me waiting for over two hours with a small child to be seen. Since G I have had occasion to go back for a coil removal (ted) a coil insertion (post ted) and then heavens of joy I was permitted to go back to my doctors since they changed the rules, for a coil removal (Cybs - hopefully rather obviously). Post Cybs I have been a little laissez faire with my attitude to birth control. Mainly becuase the breastfeeding debacle meant that I was not ovulating again until she was almost a year and secondly because I could not face going back to that sodding clinic. Even with a makeover between G and Ted's arrival and appointments being made available, I really couldn't  bring mysefl to get there. Until last week when I suddenly became incredibly fearful of a fifth. I rang up on the Friday to see if I could make an appointment. The service had changed again and now it was all drop in sessions with absolutely no appointments available. Oh joy. The slots for the drop in clinics were from 2pm -7pm week days (entirely useless to me on any level) and Saturday from 9.30-11.30am, BUT she warned, if you are not queueing outside from 9am you are very unlikely to be seen as we only accpet the first twenty people.  AHHHHHH - goodo the service has worsened during my four year absence, not improved. Jolly good.  Regardless of my apprehension I informed K he would be enjoying an early morning spell of cihldcare for all four and off I set.

I was thrilled to be the first in the queue. And there I stood, outside the sign for Sexual Health Clinic from 9am, on a main road, next to a huge local supermarket, in the cold for half an hour. I was joined fairly swiftly by all kinds of fellow patients. One lone male also joined the queue and a few more males who had clearly been forced to attend by their female partners who were dragging them up the path and in to the queue. I wondered whether they were there for an STD test or something - is that what couples do now? Surely they weren't both there talking about condoms and the pill? This passed the time for a few minutes.  Eventually on the dot of 9.30 a burly 'Green Mile' bouncer opened the shutters and told us to walk 'that way' and 'Not that window - the next one'. The receptionist asked if I had been there before and gave me a form to fill in. Standing up next to the rest of the queue I ticked all the boxes that applied and gave it to the other window. She told me a doctor wouldn't be in for half an hour so I would have to wait but in the mean time to see the nurse. She then efficiently called my name and in I went.  She asked some awkward (for me as I always feel a bit silly talking about 'it' with people I don't know and even those I do - it's like toilet habits - it's not something I really feel happy discussing to a stranger) then told me that I was too far along in my cycle for anything useful to be done and to come back to enjoy the whole shebang again another time. Oh and that they were moving to a bigger better clinic further away so to go there instead. NICE. Although on the plus side the new clinic has appointments available for a short period on a wednesday morning. Progress indeed. NOW. I have no problem with people wanting to look after their sexual health, in fact I think it is a jolly good idea. HOwever I have been married for over a decade, I am of advancing years and I have four children - I really don't understand why I am being forced to join the same queue as people who want to know if they have chlamydia or the bloke who wants more free condoms.  I mean it is just not a nice way to treat me. I know this was long and detailed and no doubt dull, but IMAGINE FOR A MINUTE THAT MEN HAD THE FRICKING BABIES.  There is no way in hell that would be the case.  It would be like some sort of Carlsberg advert where beautiful women greeted you at the door and handed you a drink - it would be pristine and white and so clean you could eat your dinner off the floor. Appointments would be available at all times of the day or night and if by some strange reason there was a delay in your appointment there would be all kinds of screens and entertainment systems to keep you amused.  The same would apply for all aspects of birth - I mean imagine the birthing centres if it was men doing the labouring! They would be like hotels and midwives would be amongst the highest paid professionals in the land..... Anyway I mustn't go on, you get my point. I am not being anti-men I am just being pro-women. I don't feel like I should get a reward for being boring and middle aged but I do feel that I at least deserve a comfortable surrounding in which to have my coil fitted.  Enough said.

Oh! and I forgot the biggest excitement of all - we have new carpet!  The transformation of our bedroom is now complete and looks rather good considering the budget and our living room is now happily covered in a clean and very soft carpet.  These are life changing advancements. It makes hoovering and tidying totally worth while. And discovering what was behind the sofa when I moved it toget the old carpet up, has spurred me on to clean behind more furniture from now on. It wasn't quite congealed tumble dryer crap but it wasn't pretty. There is now a STRICT no food beyond the kitchen boundary policy.

And on that Bombshell I shall leave you to your evening. I shall just say that luckily the carpet was fitted in time for an extremely rare visit from mother. She was staying with Shiny Life Sister and they came for a Friday afternoon playdate barely 24 hours after the new carpets were laid. It was an extremely nice way to round off a very busy week - but only because I knew it was extremely clean behind my sofa...

Adios mis amigos. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Worry and mess

Hello and welcome and howdy. You join me on a momentous day.  Today is the second day of my 5:2 intermittent fasting/starvation diet. I know, I know - this is absolutely not a very 'me' eating plan. I am more of a gluttonous, chocolate and cake eating fan but in recent months I have performed a very slow about turn with my thinking and on Tuesday I awoke with a tiny  bit of determination to give it a go. Sadly I didn't think it through fully as that is also the day of Great British Bake Off which is the very worst time to try and stick to a very restricted diet but stick to it I did and I have even done another day today - hoorah! I didn't realise when I first heard of the plan, that you were allowed to eat something on your fast days - I thought it was a nil by mouth type of plan, but the more I learnt of it and the more I realised what you could actually eat for 500 calories, I became more and more interested. And then a friend from the playground became very skinny on the plan and that seemed to spur me on more than anything else.  So, here it is. I am on the plan I have poo pooed and belittled for around six months.

I can't say it is the easiest thing I have ever done - especially as I am still breast feeding which always makes me feel hunger quite acutely - however it also is not the hardest thing I have ever done either. I have no idea why I can't 'just eat less' (as I am so often told by K) because I want to not be fat,  but I can't. I need someone to tell me what to do. It always amazes me that one day I can wake up fat and carry on eating regardless of my desire to do something about it, but then the next I can wake up and follow a strict eating plan be it weight watchers or fasting. Why I can't 'just eat less' every day of my life will always be a complete mystery to me. Anyway the fact is I do need someone and this book is now my 'someone'. I will of course let you know whether it works.

I suspect that my need to do as I'm told comes from my rather forthright mother. Last weekend I popped back to Suffolk  for Kent Sister's new baby's christening. There are numerous reasons why it happened back in Suffolk and not in her beloved Kent and at first I was less than enthusiastic about a weekend trip back and forth to the motherland. However, a quick shift in parental responsibilities with the big two (I have no extra children on Friday thank goodness) meant that I was able to leave at lunch time on Friday with just the little two.  After a fairly lengthy journey (the M 11 was clearly having its time of the month as it was in a hideous mood both for the journey there and back) we arrived in a very sunny Suffolk. It actually turned out to be a fabulous weekend and felt a little bit like a mini break. However, due to the christening party taking place at mother's on the Saturday afternoon, Friday afternoon and first thing Saturday morning were a little tense. I was on high alert not to make a 'mess'.  My laziness and messiness has now reached rather legendary heights within the family. I have no idea how I am now deemed one step removed from Stig of the Dump but the warnings from mother over how i must act and behave in the lead up to the weekend were so dire, at one point I was scared to arrive even an hour early. However I did brave it and spent every waking moment scared witless over the children making a mess (for actually it is them that makes the majority of the mess and it is I that decides whether I do or do not pick it up) and following cybs around wiping her hands/walls/putting away toys that she got out. I also used the same glass for my drinks every time I poured myself one. This is a BIG problem for me usually.  Apparently. Mother was kind enough to point it out and then when she saw me re-use my glass she followed with 'Well done - that does help - seeeeee you are learning.' It was all I could to bite my tongue and not to point out that the reason I repeatedly take a new glass for each drink I make, is because the very second I put my empty glass down on any surface and dare to look the other way is precisely when she swoops in, picks it up and takes it away. I then can't find it for my next drink and take another glass. The 'you're learning' helpful hints were not refined to my glass usage either. I hoovered as well, which she was most pleased about. You would think I was 14 and was using it for the first time. I did, in my defence use the hoover over the summer as well and I might add that I use the hoover in my own house almost every single day and manage to keep a family of six fed, clothed and in relative cleanliness comfort, but I didn't point it out as it all seemed futile.  I think in her eyes I will always be a messy freak in my mid-teens.

I AM a tad messy. However I am not revolting. I just prioritise my time differently to people who are ordered and neat and OCDish. I can turn a blind eye to toys that have not been put away. I am able to go to bed with dirty dishes left on the side. If I see fit I can leave piles of clean clothes for days on end before I sort them and put them away.  None of this keeps me awake at night. I don't think this is something to be upset about. In my house if I don't sort the dirty dishes when I go to bed that is because I know that they will still be dirty and waiting for me in the morning. Ditto with the toys and the clothes. I know that eventually it will all have to be dealt with and that I will be the person who does the dealing, so when I get around to it really doesn't upset me.  I would like to be the type of person that spends every waking moment cleaning and polishing and organising so that when I walk in to the house it is a gleaming example of cleanliness and organisational mastermindednes, but, I don't want it enough to spend every evening and spare moment making that happen. In a bit of a low point during the holidays Mother lamented my messiness so much that one morning I came downstairs to be told that it 'would be such a shame if your children turned out like you'.  She was quick to point out that she didn't mean my personality, just my messiness. I have to confess that it stung, regardless of her meaning.  I am pretty sure my propensity to mess (which to be honest I still refute partially - yes I am not the tidiest person on earth but I am not the sort of person who leaves cups out to grow mould in or who doesn't do the washing up for days on end so that you end up eating your pot noodles with a tea strainer - I do have a base level tidiness and hygiene) is actually at the very core of my personality and being as a whole. I am, therefore I am.  I have always, always, always been slap dash in everything I do. I have never EVER, EVER been neat. My writing is appalling. Almost illegible. Most of my school projects and homework books had splodges of drinks or food on them and I was never ever able to file or keep things in safe places and then find them again. That is just not in my genetic make up.  On the whole this is a good thing as it means I do not spend nights unable to sleep for worrying about every little thing. I am able to let vast swathes of worries wash right over me. This is an excellent skill to have. I am also able to spend weeks on end with my mother. If I were unable to let things wash over me this would be a totally untenable set up. Comments over my weight, parenting ability and proclivity to make mess and my general disorganisation as well as all of her quite bizarre views on people who appear on TV, would cause heated arguments and messy scenes if it wasn't for my incredibly laid back attitude. My messiness, my weight, my disorganisation - they all go together to make up my personality. They mix in well with my more positive attributes which I shan't go in to now lest you think me boastful and immodest and thoroughly unbritish. I am aware that along with all my negative points there are also many positives so I do try not to get too down about it all. After all it isn't really in my nature to do so.

I do worry almost constantly though. I assume everyone does. At the moment my worries are many and splendid in their ordinariness. A few of them are listed:

Are the children spoilt ?
Should Bea be allowed a mini ipad for her birthday?
Are they deprived?
Will we ever take them abroad/to disneyland/legoland?
Should I do more for them/with them?
Do I shout too much?
Am I too soft?
Do I treat them all equally?
Do I feed them too much?
Do I feed them enough?
Do I read with them enough?
Shit I haven't paid for their school dinners - will they feed them today?
I have no pension.
Children in Syria.
Nairobi. What would I do if I was in a siege situation with the children?
What will I do when the children are all at school full time?
Am I a bad role model?
Am I doing any of this right?
What if I get ill?
Am I ill ?
Can I keep doing this?
What on earth would I have done if I was doing this 50 years ago?

The latter worries me on a weekly basis. How on EARTH would I have coped with all of this fifty years ago.  I am pretty sure that I would have ended up sticking my head in the oven.  I know that sounds extreme and slightly odd to worry over but I do. I wonder how on earth women coped. It must have been so incredibly lonely to have to be a stay at home mother whether you liked it or not, to have to clean and tidy a house and prepare a warm meal for your husband every night whether you wanted to or not, to have no dishwashers, no grocery delivery service, probably no tumble dryers, no dedicated children's channels on tv, no free nursery places for three years olds etc etc etc. And the major life changers - no mobile phones or internet. It is totally unfathomable to me how different things would be for me if I had no one to talk to at the end of the phone which is not stuck in one place in the house but with me wherever I go and has the benefit of twitter, facebook and Words with Friends at the flick of a finger. These things make the unbearable monotony bearable. There are times when I can vividly understand why someone would deem sticking their head in the oven a peaceful resolution to the stultifying monotony and never ending drudgery of daily life as a housewife  (I must just say that the peaceful part comes from falling asleep from the gases and NOT from roasting your head as my university housemate had assumed - that would take an exceedingly determined woman and would be a hideous and horrific way to go although the idea of our friend assuming this was what they meant every time she heard/read about someone 'sticking their head in the oven' made us laugh until we peed ourselves. That happened more times than you would think probable actually....) Mercifully I do not harbour suicidal thoughts so I am not warning you of my imminent demise but sometimes as I clean the loo, pick up umpteen gazillion toys, make yet another bed, sweep the floor at least three times a day, get shouted out, shout at someone or close a frickin drawer that any member of the family may have 'forgotten' (read couldn't be bothered) to close, I always thank my lucky stars that I live now and not any earlier.  Sometimes I worry far too much about the housewives that have come before me.  Essentially I have it easy. And an electric oven.

The other worries are pretty normal I think. I can do very little about the hideous atrocities that are happening in Syria - although we are, in a typically middle class mummy fashion, organising a coffee morning to raise some money to send to the Red Cross so that they can help.  That is as much as I feel I can do at the moment.  I did risk a shopping centre today which was mercifully not under attack from terrorists so I didn't have to think about what to do in a siege situation and I did buy Bea the ipad mini - although it felt wrong and will no doubt come back to bite me firmly on the bum when every subsequent child thinks they will get one on their birthdays too but there you have it.  The fighting over her ipad and the worry over her breaking it will keep me occupied for many months to come. One thing I do not have to worry about is their Christmas jumpers - I am feeling incredibly happy as I already have one for every child!  It makes me feel exceptionally organised. It is only just October!  I shall sleep soundly tonight in my smug organisedness, surrounded by the piles of my clean washing.  And sleep I shall have to do as quickly as possible - before the hunger kicks in.

And with that I bid you adieu.  More excitement and news of weight loss and Bea's Birthday shenanigans to follow shortly. Worry not.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

After the fun of summer has gone

Hello hello and good morrow to one and all. It has been an exceedingly long time has it not, and it feels like an exceedingly lot of stuff has happened in that time. So let's get on with the show.

Firstly and foremostly, we are back in London and back at school. Sigh. The children were thrilled that they were finally allowed to wear their new school shoes (even I find that a trifle sad - they are dull and black - where is the excitement in that?) but I had grown quite attached to them over the long break and was sad to see them go and once again be back at the mercy of the school timetable and pounding the pavement on the blessed school run. I am back to making my usual morning cries of 'mind the poo' and 'hurry up' and 'how the hell did you forget your book bag, you had it at the door as we walked out?'  What a difference a week and fifty geographical miles makes. We noticed as soon as we got off the M11. If not a bit before actually. You can tell you are nearing London before any signs might warn you of the fact. People drive way more angrily in the big smoke. The anger seeps out through their windshields. It's all fast and angry and quick. You get the odd idiot like that in Suffolk but it seems everyone else in London hates you, just for daring to be in your car and on the road. Especially if you dare to overtake in the fast lane but fail to speed or pull quickly back in to the middle lane. In essence it was, as always, a sure sign that we were back in the land of the angry. Then, near home, we opened the windows of the car and smelt the dirty air. London stinks, literally and metaphorically. We have only been back a few weeks and I already miss the fresh air, open spaces and mainly clean pavements - sorry to sound like a cliche. (Although medically speaking it is interesting that after a week at mum's the inhaler began to gather dust pretty quickly and I think we only got it out once for the entire summer holidays. He has already had to use it since we got back. Sad face.)

So, we arrived back after THE MOST glorious week's holiday in England I think it is possible to have. It was the stuff my dreams are made of. Hard work and petty arguments aside (adults and children) the sun shone every single day. And properly shone, not just sunny with clouds and occasions when you had to huddle in your beach tent and wait for a bit of bad weather to pass, I mean actual hot, sun. Necessitating frequent ice creams and sun cream application (or in my case frequent asking K whether he thought we needed to put any on before doing nothing because they were all sandy and or wet) and swims in the sea. It all began a bit soggily - we arrived in Southwold to a bit of drizzle late in the afternoon, but a new house to explore and a park at the end of the road was exciting enough to make the children ridiculously over excited. The day after we arrived the sun began to shine and we went to check out a local castle (I have decided this is now our new tradition and wherever we holiday we MUST visit a castle) and then we got back, had a quick dip in the sea, stopped at the park at the end of the road and found the delightful replacement there with K and the non beach attending children.  It was then that the holiday truly began in earnest. The replacement was staying for a while and the whole family were ridiculously over excited by her arrival. It had been many moons since we had seen her. We spent the next two days accepting visitors from far and wide to our daily camp on the beach. The children played, swam, jumped waves, built sandcastles and dug holes, played with visiting friends and we ate, drank and were merry. The rest of the holiday involved more beach days, crabbing fun and even meals out! I went out twice in a row, once with Em and once with K, which was our first 'date night' in over a year, well over a year actually, and both nights involved fizz and took place at my favourite place in the world - The Crown in Southwold. We all turned brown, got fed up with sand in every nook and cranny and the big two became fish like with the amount of time they spent in the sea. It was absolute bliss and what holidays are all about. Sadly we had to bid a mournful goodbye to The Replacement a few days before we left but luckily for her she missed the final day which had been chosen as our day to visit Pleasurewood Hills. For those not in the know, it is a low rent theme park near Lowestoft. Legoland it ain't. However, as it was our first family visit to a theme park the children were thrilled and the plus side is that it isn't too big (in fact as theme parks go it is tiny). It did exactly what we wanted though - K took the big three on the water flume, we saw sea lions clapping, jumping and diving, we ate chips off a napkin (plates were clearly an expense the 'restaurant' we chose to eat in could well do without), we went on merry go rounds, boat and train rides and spent many hours trying to persuade the boys that even if we spent £50 trying to win a Mario and a Luigi from the rip off fairground game, we would still come away empty handed. (They refused to listen so I ended up having to find the equivalents on ebay and persuading them to use their pocket money to buy them. Such is the mad whims of children.)'  By 4pm the insistence to spend time in the very 'special' arcade became too much to bear and the final part of our day trip was spent inside a dark and noisy enclave for K, whilst I waited outside with Cybs who was busy eating a cold bag of chips whilst sitting on rides I refused to put money in. By the time we were finally permitted to depart K and I were giddy with relief and happiness. Although we were most thrilled to have escaped without anyone insisting on riding any rollercoasters and the scariest thing K had to do all day was take Ted down an extremely high water slide (the pic of ted's face was priceless though - although the powers that be believed it was worth £5, naturally). The following day we packed up, shipped out and with an extremely heavy heart we bid farewell to our beloved Southwold and headed back to mum's.

Once there I discovered that she had packed up all the stuff we had left behind in to four excessively large bags (she calls them Indian airport bags amusingly although i hope that is not offensive - it is indeed the only time I have seen the bags in use so I think it's ok....). The day we left for our holiday she went out and bought them to clear away any sign of our visit or existence - clean clothes, toys, DVDs and various gifts for Ted's bday were all bundled together in these huge, smelly plastic bags. I have to say that on the morning we packed up and prepared to leave, she spent a lot of time walking around the house and garden loudly 'whooping' with happiness, which was very disconcerting if you weren't expecting it. I think the children were a tad confused as they expected her to be devastated at the loss of their presence but after five weeks of washing, cooking and cleaning after the five of us she was slightly unsurprisingly looking forward to a rest and clearing all her surfaces of anything that belonged to us. She could have kept her celebrations to a minimum or even waited for us to leave first before she began punching the air in delight, but luckily my children aren't that sensitive and Ted still believed as we pulled out of the drive that, 'She will be sad because she misses me'. Accompanied by a sad face at what he imagined she would be feeling. Little did he know that around the corner of the house she was doing a happy dance.

Anyway, as we did last year as well, we arrived back at our house the evening before Ted's birthday which meant that from the moment we got back from our rural idyll all my beautiful rest and recuperation was almost immediately obliterated. I spent Saturday night wrapping up, Sunday was spent trying to unpack, prepare for a party and to try and give Ted a suitable 4th birthday experience (I'm not sure we succeeded really - he was clearly expecting twice the number of gifts he received and far more Spiderman things than I had thought was decent). On Monday morning K left for work and I had to ready four children and prepare the party food (with a lot of help from Bea) before leaving to pick up the balloons and getting to the venue nice and early in order to prepare. It was all achieved in time but it wasn't one of my best if I'm honest, but for the cost and effort involved it went as well as it could have done. The bouncy castle was, as per usual, very popular and sadly so was the ball pool which I wouldn't recommend to anyone considering it for a future party - the sides of the pool were held together by velcro which did not sustain the weight of small children jumping on them, which meant that a lot of time was spent repairing them (easier said than done) before painstakingly picking up 1000 plastic balls and chucking them back in. Luckily a number of parents stayed on site and helped enormously. K popped in from work and 'helped' by chatting to other dads for half an hour before leaving again. Sadly because I had arrived so early to set up, Ted had spent an extra hour partying before the official party had started so he was all partied out half an hour before the official end, but he loved his gifts, loved seeing his friends again and he especially loved his fantastic two tier spiderman cake and cupcakes made by the very talented former extra child's mother (that is a mouthful of a name - she has a company on FB called Eats, Knits and Weaves if you fancy a fancy cake). Tuesday was the last day of the school holidays and totally bittersweet. I was looking after two extra children (Bea's friends) so it was particularly nice for her to be reunited with them after such a long break. We spent our final day of freedom splashing around at a local water park which was new to us and a lovely way to make the most of one of the final days of the glorious sun which made this year's summer one of the best I can remember. I was extremely sad to see the back of it. And the children. Although obviously it was bittersweet as I must admit to being a tad excited at the prospect of offloading a few children for six hours a day. All four all day is quite a bit of work. I do just hate the morning rush and the tired children you pick up at the end of the day.

Although these days I am now picking up a number of children after school who aren't mine as well as the ones that are. I have more than replaced the extra child and the missing income he bought in. I am hoping this will mean that I can get my hair done slightly more often and not feel any guilt over the expense of having a cleaner.  So far it is all working out quite well although we are only ten days in to the new regime. Who knows how I will feel a few months down the line. I actually quite like the madness of having a house full of children though. It is all I have ever wanted, and now I have to stop having my own, this is the next best thing. Especially as they are only here for a short time.  Plus it means I have virtually no time to sit on my big fat arse during the day which can only help my weight situation. I hope.

And that is about that. Yet another year has begun (I went around wishing everyone a New Year on the first day of term because I have always, and probably always will, worked on the academic year not the calendar year - a bit like accountants and April) and will no doubt whizz past before I know where we are but for now, so far so good. Bea and G are happy to be back at school and love their new teachers which is a huge relief. Ted feels pretty much as I do about his teacher but is happy to associate with his TAs instead and is going in happily - although he does think they need a few more toy spiders as he can only find two.  K and I have begun our New Year's resolutions and started a major house sort out to help me try and love it again. When I returned home K had already started by painting our bedroom and creating a feature wall on the chimney breast with some very snazzy wallpaper. It is amazing what that and a few other changes can make. I actually like my room now and when the new bed and carpet are fitted it will be a total sanctuary. I may even put a lock on the door. For my part I have taken throwing out to a whole new level. I have already over filled the four big bags mum sent me home with, full of stuff to be donated to mum's village jumble sale.  I should have my own stall at a car boot sale but for some reason I can't be bothered. It is ridiculously lazy of me as I could quite easily make a hundred quid but the idea of mobilising it all and setting it out and then dealing with the general public who haggle over 10p, fills me with enough dread that I would rather go without the money.

Oh, and finally I must leave you with a small amusement. During our holiday I had a bath with Ted who, like the others before him, is naturally inquisitive about the difference in anatomy between men and women. He, as he does quite often, pointed out that I was without a willy,  which led on to a conversation about where the wee came out. Caught on the hoof a bit I likened it to having a small bucket inside women (K wet himself that I chose a bucket of all things) with a hole in and therefore we didn't need a willy for weeing purposes. After some thought on the matter he said, "it's just like an ice cream without a flake. Boys have ice creams with flakes because they have a willy but girls don't have a flake because they don't have a willy." I love the ice cream analogy. A cone is so much better than an inverted bucket.

And so I shall leave you with buckets and ice creams on holiday. If only we were still there and the sun was still shining.  It actually hurts a bit to think back on it. It seems impossible that it was only a few weeks ago as we sit here contemplating putting the heating on and it seems to have rained nearly every day for a week. Still I mustn't grumble. There are birthdays afoot, harvest festivals and house renovations to keep me going through the long wet winter until we can roam free in the sun once again.

Happy Autumn everyone.  xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx