Thursday, 29 September 2016

Autumn '16

So, they are all back at school. No. 4 is now no longer under my control for most of the week and is getting on brilliantly - far above my expectations. Bea is also getting on wonderfully well at her secondary school. By the end of the first day her tears and tantrums from the term before were forgotten and she was brimming with its brilliance. The school is very strict and has a weird policy regarding the compulsory wearing of tights if you wear a skirt - regardless of temperature - and there is an awful lot more homework and hard work, but on the whole she likes her teachers, loves her new friends and has entirely forgiven me 'ruining her life' by sending her to a different school to her primary school friends. Even the boys are happy, (for now). G is happily reunited with his friends and and Ted's class tables are helpfully named after different types of sharks which are his current obsession. And both boys have been voted by their classmates to be School Councillors which is rather lovely as there are only two per year so I was most proud.  I can't pretend that everyone is happy every day but, on the whole, the new school term has not been quite the trauma I had feared for anyone.

Cybs isn't screaming and clinging on to me every morning and sits on the mat with the other children with very little fuss. I am quite amazed by it all. I don't know quite what I was expecting but that wasn't it. It was me that cried on the first day and had to escape quickly to ensure that she didn't see me. It is quite unlike me to cry about such things - I certainly didn't for the last two. But as she is a summer baby she seems so much smaller and more baby like. I think that, combined with the lovely summer, made leaving her that much harder. I'm pretty sure the worst thing about a child starting school is that having known every little detail of their life, from how much liquid they've ingested to how much poo they have ejected, you suddenly don't know anything about six hours of their day. Other people are now far more involved in their lives and you are just 'the mum' - the teacher even refers to them as 'her children' which for some reason struck me on Cybil's first day. Also they are assessed for various things from the moment they arrive on site and although I am more than happy to point out the children's faults and moan and write about them, the moment anyone else does it I become immediately defensive and pretty annoyed. After a few days of Cybs being at school it dawned on me that any minute now I will have to sign a form allowing her to be weighed as part of the government screening programme and yet again I will get a letter home telling me she is bloody obese. I HATE THESE. I know it's important, there's an epidemic blah blah blah. But I already know she's heavy. I think it's delicious, as I did with G before her. I will do my best as a responsible parent to ensure she doesn't end up with Type 2 Diabetes and using a mobility scooter at 16 because her bones can't carry her heft but I really don't want anyone else to point it out to me and include helpful 'tips and ideas' for small changes - "Don't give them cans of coke - why not swap it for a lovely glass of water?" NO SHIT. Why don't they extend the whole monitoring thing to more important stuff, like personality. Why don't other people get letters home telling them that their child has almost no personality and is borderline thick as shit. HUH? But no, it's how heavy you are that seems to be all that matters. I have no idea where I need to send it but I have taken the time to re-write the letter they send out to the parents of those children who have a little more meat to their bones in order to soften the blow a bit. It is far more useful than their current standard correspondence.

Dear parents of X
We had the pleasure of meeting your child, X, last week who is obviously a very enthusiastic and happy child. One of the many things we noticed was her great love of food. This is a wonderful aspect to her multi faceted personality and may well lead her on to an exciting career in catering in later years, however we think it might help her in the future if she enjoyed a little less food in the present. I'm sure you're already well aware of this and have plans in place, we just bring it to your attention on the off chance you were blind or thick as two short planks, which is actually more common that you might think! Please don't worry about it as it won't take too much to make a huge difference. If you can't think of any changes we have helpfully included 'An idiots guide' to feeding children and exercise.
All the best
Govt people

Interestingly, my ability to adjust to her being at school every day is remarkable. It is quiet at home, yes, but Dot is more than happy to make up for that and create quite a lot of noise and mess so I don't feel too bereft at the loss. She is happy to empty absolutely every cupboard and drawer in the kitchen and I have just spent half an hour recovering bits of Weetabix that she had thoughtfully scattered throughout the downstairs. She's also a big fan of spending hours on end moving things that belong in one room to another room where they most definitely do not belong. And she gets pretty pissed off when you don't give her what she wants, the minute she wants it. Mainly food and my iPhone. I had, once again, planned to achieve an awful lot in the weeks where I only have one at home. So far the six years of thank you notes I need to write/the children need to write have gone unwritten. Photobooks have also not been lovingly created from the million or so photos I am keen to organise. Clothes remain unsorted and exercise remains very much not undertaken. However I HAVE managed to organise the kitchen cupboards and my scary coat cupboard which was waist high with absolutely everything you can ever imagine. It is now possible to not only find coats/shoes/cleaning equipment with exceptional ease BUT you can also walk in to the cupboard and reach the far end. It is miraculous.

My sudden urge to sort and tidy has been precipitated by my selfish solo departure this weekend. It is just basic science that the further you go from your home and the more selfish the reason for the trip, then the more likely you are die. It's basically D (distance) + S (selfishness) = % chance of death. So, if you have to go somewhere locally for work, all good. If you go to Barbados for two weeks of indulgence and decadence then it's curtains for sure.  I am only going to Kent for two nights of old-school-friend fun so I think it's pretty much 50:50. I'm not a massive fan of those odds so I am making sure that the children know that I love them, the house is tidy and that all the tupperware, shoes and coats are sorted and easy to find. It's bad enough that K will suddenly be left in charge of five grieving children without struggling to find a plastic container with a lid that fits in the mayhem of the school mornings. As I haven't managed to sort the photos into photobooks or albums it is imperative that in the event of my death my Facebook page is made in to a memorial site as they are currently the only photo albums in existence for 90% of the children's lives.  Just in case anything does happen I'll let you guys know that the rest of the photos are on my phone/external hard drive and a few laptops - the hard drive is in my underwear drawer - I keep it there to hide it from burglars, obviously and the passwords for the laptops are Alicia0. If I don't die this weekend and go on to win the lottery and therefore able to build my 'dream' house it would contain a dedicated photo room - just for photo albums, photo filing cabinets, photo printing, photo framing, photo sorting and its walls would be adorned with photo wallpaper. I would also hire a photo archivist to do all of the above - I just thought I'd share that with you.

It's funny but with every stage of baby/childhood you inevitably end up looking forward to the next stage. Even from the very first day when I am deeply in love and hormonally 'high' I look forward to the milk coming in so that I can properly feed and for the days my bits feel slightly less battered. Then I start looking forward to the days when they have a regular sleep and are able to go more than an hour or so without my boob in their mouth. Then it's the days when they will go to bed at bedtime and I can have my evenings back, then the days you can bribe them with chocolate, drop them off at nursery/school and have time to sort the washing and pair up socks etc etc. But with every stage I find that you gain and lose in equal measure. Obviously it comes with a whole new heap of utter cuteness or useful independence (depending on the age) but it also comes with a whole new host of problems. When Dot started talking I was so excited. "Cat". I was so pleased she was an early talker and the children and I were keen to get her to say it over and over again for our own amusement and to show off her obvious brilliance to others. Fast forward a month or so and dear god it has lost its appeal. It doesn't help that she is scared of the cat so whilst she might spend the day in search of the 'cat' and then pointing at it and saying 'cat' over and over and over again, as soon as it moves or comes near her she screams and yells CAT because, ultimately, she doesn't actually want the fricking cat. She also says Ted. But he has a tendency to play with her in a 'boy' way which usually means shouting in her face or throwing stuff and this tends to result in her crying so, again, she says Ted over and over and over again, finds him, and then cries. It is pretty annoying. (He has also helpfully taught her to say 'shake that booty' and then filmed it for hilarity's sake - which is exceedingly 'boy' of him). Same with any stage to be honest. The excitement at them all growing up and the changes this brings to us as a family, also throws up new issues you hadn't thought about. Instagram, homework, boys, girls, friendship woes, willies, bits (I'm still not ok with the whole labia/vagina thing - I don't care what 'right on' folks say - I don't ask if the children want to urinate or defecate or to wipe their anus - I don't think all things need to be bloody anatomically correct so I will still use 'bits' until I find a suitable alternative)  puberty, freedom, choices, future - and we're only twelve years in. I can't imagine how much life is going to change in the next twelve years - Dot will be a teenager then and Bea will be 24 - this is all unimaginable right now. My greatest fear though, is the fear that I might not get to see it. I think it is every mothers fear.  I think that is why we go a bit crazy worrying about stuff and trying to control everything. I think. Or it is age or the fact that we are turning in to our mothers. Either way, I shall be driving extremely carefully all the way to Kent and back.

Until the next time (if all goes well). 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx






Saturday, 10 September 2016

Summer '16


Time and Money. I struggle with both. The minute I know I have a lot of either coming my way I get terrifically over excited and spend the lead up to their arrival imagining all the wonderful things I will do with them. I research lots of things I will buy with the money - totally forgetting all the things I have already committed to, cheques I have written or tedious direct debits I choose to pretend don't exist.  I buy the things/pay for the things I've been looking forward to with the sudden influx of money and when it is all gone (which it all does, in around 24 hours), I suddenly remember all the mundane things the money should have been used for and become quite depressed about the fact that I have no way of meeting the commitments and then the realisation that I will have to break the news to K that he will have to meet them instead, and then he becomes pretty annoyed and normally tells me he doesn't have any money either. The same is true of time. Six weeks of summer holidays sounds like a blissful amount of time. I researched all the things we could do, planned and promised all sorts of day trips, cinema trips and play dates. I achieved a mere fraction of them. I am genuinely shocked that the six weeks went by so bloody quickly. I find myself wishing we had two more weeks which is a first. I can only conclude that the sun has made the difference. 

We have had such a wonderful summer holiday it seems cruel that it should all come to such an abrupt end. Obviously it hasn't all been sunshine and lollipops, there has been plenty of shouting and ranting and threats to kill people to boot but on the whole, it has been stupendous but we have seen lots of lovely people, been to lovely places and swum in the lovely and bracing British sea lots and lots and lots. I even managed to get the boys out of the house time and time again thanks to the wonderful Pok√©mon Go. I will not hear a word against it. Even going in to town to run the dullest of errands was met with joyous excitement (and intense argument over who was going to hold the phone first) because they were happy to search for new pokemon and pokeballs to add to their virtual collection. Such a nice change to Minecraft which has them sitting down for hours on end and then having real life fisticuffs over people invading each other's virtual 'worlds' and ruining virtual buildings with virtual TNT.

Our family holiday to the Isle of Wight was a stupendous success. We managed to actually enjoy large parts of the week even with five children, the British weather and that I had paid scant attention to the finer details in regards to the house we hired, and only realised the day before that it was a three bed, not the four beds I had planned and that it wasn't actually suitable for small children. None of it hampered the week as badly as I feared. I just kept a closer eye on Dot than I would normally and we spent lots of time out and about, even enjoying a day at a theme park - which isn't a sentence I thought I would ever utter. The ferry crossing there and back gave the children a sufficient enough experience of 'travel' and the long car journey on the mainland was more than enough to convince the adults that any ideas of driving to foreign lands would have to wait for several years thanks to a two hour traffic jam and copious sick. G is not a great traveller and half way through the stop/starting two hour M25 'fun' the complaints of his tummy ache reached an interesting climax when he began to spray everything within a few feet of his mouth with the eclectic contents of his stomach. I was in the front, driving and was lucky enough to have him sitting next to me in the passenger seat so I had the unenviable task of trying to clear up the mess/stem the flow whilst driving forward a few metres every few minutes. K had come up with the genius idea of sitting in the very back of our people carrier to better 'control' the children en route (I suspect it was also to fit in a long nap, which he commenced after about half an hour in to the five hour journey) and was therefore unable to be any use to us other than to dry heave at the smell and  yell for the windows to be opened permanently. Due to the jam, we managed to miss our allotted ferry time but luckily made it on the very next one and I cleaned G and the car up sufficiently enough to be able to continue our journey onwards once we made it on to the island. Although I couldn't have predicted that he would then be sick yet again, but by that point I really had gone past the point of caring about the damage/smell and just concentrated on getting us to the house and the washing machine it housed, as quickly as possible. The journey home was mercifully sick free although still long but an awful lot quieter and more pleasant smelling.

Starting the holidays with our holiday, was, in hindsight, a master move. The end of the school year was incredibly bitter sweet as Beatrice had to say goodbye to her beloved school. The tears flowed at her leavers' ceremony and even I welled up at one point - thanks to a few hundred children singing about seasons changing and people growing and time passing etc. Bea absolutely loved that school and her happiness has been infectious. Her sadness at leaving such a happy place left me feeling uneasy and equally sad. I have chosen to send her to a different school to the one that almost all of her classmates are going to move on to so not only did she feel the loss of her beloved school but 99% of her friends as well. I do feel a bit guilty for tearing her away but she'll get over it and like most parental decisions, I have done it in the belief that it is in her best interest. Anyway, the fact that we immediately left on a family holiday helped her not to sit and brood and actually meant that the children had to get on with one another straight away and not spend any time getting used to being in each other's company constantly. It was lovely to witness actually. Other than the usual petty squabbles and silliness, B and G got on beautifully and G and Ted were thick as thieves as they realised the benefit in having each other now that they are outnumbered by girls. The little girls slept unexpectedly well as well - even though they were sharing a room - Dot started sleeping through the night in her borrowed travel cot and even Cybs stayed in her own bed a few times - a hitherto unheard of event. As soon as we got home we made the same changes - put her in a single bed as opposed to a toddler bed and bought a big travel cot for Dot and shoved her in the room too. So far, so good. Cybs still comes in to my bed every night but now, more often than not, Dot does not, and if she does it is well past midnight which has made life far more enjoyable and bearable for me.

Another life changing event has been the loss of Cybil's bloody dummies. I have no idea how we managed to get to her being four years old with her still insisting on taking one everywhere, but we did and my happiness at their demise is untold. As luck would have it I didn't even have to go through the rigmarole/expense of the dummy fairy to do it which adds to my happiness. On our second break of the holidays - to a lovely little holiday let in Spexhall next to the house of some friends of ours - I was left in charge as K sadly had to return to work for the last few days. I soothed my despair with wine and totally neglected the children and their bedtime needs as I indulged in a lovely grown up BBQ. By 9.30 pm and after a fruitless search for the sodding dummy, I allowed Cybs to fall asleep on the sofa in front of the TV in return for not crying about the lack of a silicone teat between her teeth. She happily agreed and the rest, as they say, is history. Sometimes neglect really is the way forward. Just in time actually as she is about to start school. I can't quite believe it. She is my first summer baby (she turned 4 at the beginning of August) so I'm not used to sending them in to full time education at such a ridiculously young age. My mother is convinced I should have tried to keep her off for another year so that she could start her reception year as the oldest, not the youngest. I wasn't convinced that that was any better an option than being the youngest so Monday it is. She will be leaving me. Initially for four days a week but then eventually the full five days a week. It seems an impossible thing but I know that it will be possible and it will happen. I'm not looking forward to it. Just me and Dot five days a week seems equally as odd and impossible. I've said it before I know, but how on earth I will actually send Dot to school so that I am here all alone five days a week - I have no idea. It is not something I can currently contemplate. I think I may just hate being alone. Even though I crave small pockets of time alone, great acres of time is not on my wish list. Maybe that is why I keep having babies.

I think it is also because on the whole, I genuinely enjoy the company of children. Again, I do not mean all of the time - I really do have times when I would like it to be ok to kick them because I am so unbearably frustrated at their behaviour, but, more often than not, doing stuff with them is pretty fun.  One of the absolute best of the best things about parenting is watching your children being joyful. All consuming, natural joy from something that hasn't been bought. Like watching Bea prance around in the shallow clear sea water of the Isle of Wight and performing endless hand stands and cartwheels, or them all playing a game together or when they realise Dot has learnt a new word (cat is pretty big news right now). It is what I find keeps me going and helps me deep breathe through the ridiculous fighting and whining and moaning and haranguing that I have relentlessly endured for six weeks. That is the greatest thing about the holidays. Watching the children playing happily, running around outside, in the sun, with other children and being childishly happy about it all is why the summer holidays are so much better with the sun and why I couldn't have planned what was going to happen to my time and money this summer because I quite simply couldn't have planned it better.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Wouldn't change a thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Number Four

THE SUFFOLK SECTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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