Saturday, 12 April 2014

K

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

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

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

K's Anniversary Open Mix Tape

A Side

1. Common People,  Pulp

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

2. Yellow, Coldplay

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

3. Nobody Does it Better, Carly Simon

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

4. Fix You, Coldplay

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

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

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

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

6. I Won't Give Up,  Jason Mraz

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

7. Lady Madonna - The Beatles

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

8. Happy - Pharrell Williams

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

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


 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Things I don't Understand - Part 2

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

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


5. February half term plagues

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

6. Gendering Animals

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

7. How I can Be so Stupid

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

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

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

8. How I was cheated of an easy fourth

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

9. How Bea is Coeliac

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

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

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

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




Thursday, 20 February 2014

Things I don't understand - Part 1

1. How I have developed a stoop

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

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

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

2. Mumpreneurs

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


3. Hair growth

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Still January

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

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

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

Happy New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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