Sunday, 29 March 2015

So long, Farewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Unrealistic Resolutions

HELLO! Happy New Year! Or Happy New Yeast as my predictive text would have me bid people. I hope you had a suitably non eventful and enjoyable festive period.

So, as we are still in January (JUST) I will once again start off the new year with a list of highly unrealistic resolutions I shall very likely not achieve in the coming year:

To Control My Threats
For some reason my threats have become wildly out of hand. As my lack of control over the children grows, my desperate threats to get them to do what have I asked become ever more violent.  Basic threats of killing and beating grew to chopping off heads, stabbing, removing fingers one at a time until I found myself on one dark December day threatening to stab G, who no surprise said I wouldn't, so I said I would do it whilst he was asleep so that he wouldn't be able to stop me. He looked slightly surprised and said mothers don't do that. For a SPLIT second it crossed my mind to show him the news reports of the hideous massacre in Australia that had recently happened where a woman, who was clearly extremely mentally ill, had stabbed her eight children. It flashed through my mind that showing him that mothers do do it would be a good idea as he might take my threats more seriously in the future and I would finally gain control.  Luckily common sense beat me to it and I thought it might also cause irreversible fractures in our mother/son relationship and give him a sleep disorder.

The problem I have is that following through on real, achievable threats is exceedingly hard work. Removal of kindles/ipads is really all I have at my disposal. Going to their rooms is not a punishment - Bea voluntarily does that to be alone and watch some shite Aussie programme called Mermaids. At 8 and 10 the step isn't an option and Ted is totally unable to sit still - he is constantly moving for some odd reason - it is like a permanent 'wee dance' which I find boys do when keen for a wee but haven't quite decided it is desperate enough to formally relieve themselves - except that when I ask him if he needs a wee he says 'no, I'm just dancing'. (I hope to get him in to formal dance training at some point - he may well be my Billy Elliot). I can't actually whack them (although honestly the desire to do so often flits through my head. I think any parent is telling a big, fat, fib if they can't admit the instinct to smack a bottom crosses their mind when pushed to the very limits of patience and endurance). I can't send them to bed without supper because I wouldn't sleep for fear that they were hungry.  They don't go on a huge number of after school playdates and I would never stop them going on one because it is a pain having to rearrange them as a parent and that would mean upsetting the expectant child as well.  Ditto with parties.  I also see no point in removing a favourite toy as they have so many they would barely notice.

SO, I am left with removing screens. This causes such hysteria I would only use it for the most heinous of crimes. I mean you would have to almost stab someone for this to occur. Bea is the very worst. She goes in to some sort of psychotic episode and also becomes entirely fearless whilst simultaneously crying, such is her determination to retrieve her most prized possession. She will argue and argue and argue with you, ignoring all reason or sense. K tried to take her on the other day for simply not tidying her room when asked. The fallout was intense. She would not stop asking for it back, coming back time and time again, fearless and teary and 'getting all up in K's grille' about her desperate and urgent need for the ipad back. He kept his cool for as long as possible but then resorted (understandably) to shouting. I kept out of it, mainly because I hate conflict but also as she hadn't actually stabbed anyone, I did feel he was over reacting and the subsequent drama was entirely of his own doing. 

Therefore, my resolution I won't keep No. 1 of 2015 - Threaten the children with only normal and child friendly punishments. Also potentially Resolution I won't keep No. 2 - try following through on normal and child friendly threats so that they respond to your requests to come for supper, get in/out of the bath, do homework, pick up their coats, stop fighting, get dressed etc in the future so that there will be no need to break resolution No. 1.

Stop Shouting as Much
I fear I have made this resolution a number of times before. This evening I screamed/shouted so loudly at George to get out of the bath that my throat still hurts several hours later. Although in keeping with my No. 1 resolution I did at least not threaten him with any physical violence. I just kept saying GET OUT OF THE BATH at rising decibels. So in a way, this is a step forward. However, it does seem that bath time is a particular flash point for me. After 7pm all patience and reason evaporates and I become some wicked harridan. Sadly that means that almost all of the bath and bed routine is spent with my anger levels rising. It is only as I finally descend/ascend (depending on whether I am tired enough to go straight to bed or I think I might manage a few hours downstairs) at nearing 8 o'clock that I find I become calm and rational once again.

I can't help thinking that the newbie isn't helping. I am not at my best whilst pregnant. Even I can objectively admit that I have slight issues with tiredness, anger and hormones when in this state. And even though it is far too early to be doing so, I am finding the bump a bit weighty - there is still a whopping 16 weeks to go and there is no way I can continue a normal life at the end if I am already finding it a bit uncomfortable now. However I need to move house before then so I can't actually think about it.

Resolution I Shall Never Keep No. 3 - to stay calm and not resort to mad-woman-levels of shouting which should be reserved for life and death situations only. 

Master Using a Sling
This is something I have longed for for ten years. A baby sling/carrier looks so lovely on other people. I see the small baby wrapped up inside a Baby Bjorn or one of those wrap around material jobbies, all warm and cosy, sleeping on their mother and I feel a deep sense of longing. I have tried them with each and every sodding baby I've had but the problem I have is that I am jolly large each and every time I give birth to each and every sodding baby. The Baby Bjorn structured thingy seems the best option, but I have to let the straps out a fair bit to fit around my stomach and back but you have to wear it quite tightly in order for it to hold the baby comfortably. Any fat person will know that pulling something tightly around your middle looks awful. That is strike one. The other strike is that my boobs are enormous post baby and my babies are usually heavy (all except the poor starving Bea in the early days), so combined with the excess weight in my boob and tummy I am already carting about every minute of the day, a heavy baby added on to that area means my back gives up fairly early on and results in acute pain.

For George I bought a stripy hammocky sling thing that goes across your body like a bag. Again, it worked for a few weeks if that. The minute he got huge (G went from 8lbs 8 to 10lbs 4 oz in the first ten days - he was always a massive eater) he was only portable in a buggy. For number three I invested in the wrap around material thingy - it looked very earth mothery and easy to use and I was very keen on the idea of having my hands free to cook and care for the other two. This was vaguely ok for a few weeks except that getting it on and off took a level of care and expertise which wasn't easy to do in a hurry and again, it required me to tie it tightly around my middle. Added to this I stupidly bought it in a cream colour. The last time I wore it, when Ted was a few weeks old, I opened the door to my elderly neighbour and she gasped in horror. I was a little thrown by her reaction but when she asked me what on earth I had done to myself, it transpired that she thought I was swathed in bandages and she was under the impression that I had done my torso a serious harm.  I realised immediately that my illusions of looking like the lithe mothers I see walking effortlessly down the street, hands swinging, baby happily attached to their bandage free torsos was in fact all in my head. In real life I looked like a tightly wrapped, fat, Egyptian Mummy.  This scarred me so deeply that I didn't even invest in a sling for Cybs. I dug out the stripy hammock which K wore on our holiday in Devon when she was two weeks old as it was easier than a buggy and three children for getting in and out of trains and on and off beaches etc but that was the only time we needed one. She was in the buggy, car or in my arms at all other times. 

Even though I am still fat and my babies are still heavy I am determined to try again with the fifth. I am once again convinced that the perfect baby sling/carrier is out there and waiting for me, regardless of bad back and tummy fat. I am going to track it down. Potentially I shall begin my search in America where there are quite a number of fat people - maybe they produce a nice sturdy baby sling with extra large straps and a sturdy back support. Or I may give the bandage type thing a go once again, but this time in black or a very dark colour - not only is it slimming but it will also look more like a top to save any cause for alarm to the elderly.

Resolution I will never keep No. 4. Use a sling with the new baby. More than once and for longer than a few weeks.

Enjoy December
This is a big one. I really do not like December.

December and I are not happy bedfellows. It is one long (or short as it is only actually 24 days long and it races by far quicker than I ever want) ball of stress as far as I'm concerned.  Every waking (and a number of sleeping) moment is taken up with concern over gift purchasing and keeping the 'magic alive'. There were also a few tense days awaiting the opportunity to book my Tesco delivery slot. Add to that a number of social engagements (some welcome, some not) as well as three school concerts (some good, some not) and it is hard to find any of it enjoyable. The children's growing excitement and anticipation as the days roll on, just compounds my fear and loathing. Maybe if you have lots of sleep, lots of money and spare time, it is an awful lot of fun preparing for the big day but as I had none of the above this year I really couldn't find the fun in it.

I am VERY over people believing in the big man. It was really fabulous when Bea and G were very little but the novelty wore off after about five years and now it just adds to the stress. Bea STILL believes and yet she is old enough to be incredibly inquisitive and read and understand that all the boxes arriving in the post can't possibly be for the neighbours because they have my name and our address on them. I am quite keen to rid her of her belief this year. I need an ally to help decide what to get, what people want and someone to know that I have to work with budget restrictions. K's answer to almost everything I show him for a second opinion on whether to buy the gift or not is 'they don't need it'. Oddly enough I agree. I would estimate that less than 1% of people in the western world receive items for which they have a genuine need as opposed to something they want. Potentially homeless people being provided with warmth, shelter and food but other than that, the entire point of a modern Christmas is commercialism. Trying to fight it with reason is pointless.

As it happens I surpassed myself with gift buying this year, even with an exceedingly low budget. All the children were thrilled and the day itself was actually pretty delightful. I felt a massive weight leave me as the last present was opened. Although I felt a little stupid for getting myself in to such a state about the whole thing. G is normally happy for days on end if I return from a shopping trip with a multi pack of socks - why I worried that a pile of gifts containing anything even vaguely relevant to his life would fall short of expectation was entirely idiotic. Ted is pickier and can be quite vocal about his thoughts on gifts but even he was beside himself with happiness at his haul.  The girls were naturally happy with each and everything they opened, Bea always is and Cybs is only two so you can pretty much wrap up anything and she would be happy. My meal was pretty darn good as well thanks to my efficient Tesco slot booking ability. It was probably my most favourite Christmas ever even though the December was my worst.

So, Resolution I Shall Never Keep No. 5 - Enjoy December more as it always turns out perfectly whether you spend the weeks and months preceding it in a state of misery or not.

Be More Patient
Somehow, from somewhere I need to find more patience. I am not sure it is at all possible but I really have to find a way to deal with Cybbie on a daily basis without going crazy (and potentially this will help with resolution number one and two as well). I am seriously thinking of asking the powers that be at Sandhurst if they have ever considered employing tired two year olds to test the metal of their new recruits. I honestly have no idea how you are meant to stay calm in the face of total illogic and pedantry. And the need to do everything herself. The words I dread most are 'I help you with that!'.  She has to help with EVERYTHING I DO, from cooking, hoovering, washing, pouring milk and making tea to me going to the sodding loo. Sometimes I just want to do things quickly and on MY OWN.

It is also the relentlessness of it all. Aside from the 5/6 hours I am afforded, between putting her to bed and then her joining me in my bed (of which I am awake for only half), I am with Cybs all the time. At her best, she is an utter delight, but as I have discussed before, at her worst she really could try the patience of a Saint (or an entire army barrack). In a good mood you can get her dressed, leave the house and go about your business as needed. On a bad day leaving the house can take such a long time it can stop you wanting to do it at all. Sadly, I have to leave five mornings a week for the school run and she just about lets me most days but for the rest of the day we are pretty much housebound unless we are going out to get sweets or do something she deems acceptable. I am allowed to go to one playgroup a week, IF she consents. The rest of the time she is quite happy to stay in the house until the afternoon school run.  It doesn't help that it's the winter. And that before Christmas she gave up nappies and agreed to wear knickers and use the potty. It has been largely successful. She was far quicker on the uptake than the lovely Ted BUT she was instantly aware of the power this gave her.  I realised my patience needed a makeover when I was imploring her to do the wee she so desperately needed and after watching her become ever more desperate to wee and yet ever more resistant to the idea of weeing I yelled 'Oh For GOD's SAKE JUST GO FOR A BLOODY WEE'. 

So, my final unachievable resolution for the beginning of the year is To Be More Patient with my truculent two year old. Who is adorable in small doses. But can drive you to distraction in larger doses.

There. I have a way to go before I reach enlightenment and parenting glory. I don't think 2015 is going to be the year I achieve it. I can't see it in 2016 either if I'm desperately honest. This year I have to get another baby out and to move house and get three children in to an already full school etc etc. Oh yes, we're under offer by the way - turns out being on the internet was pretty vital to the whole house selling thing - the first Saturday after it went on Right Move we got our offer. We have also found a house to move to so if all goes well and no one starts being stupid we should be moved by Easter. The buyers seem keen but I don't believe that they won't pull out at any moment so I shan't celebrate until we exchange. K has had a number of idiots pulling out just before exchange and one who tried to do it post exchange. I will not pack one thing until we are legally required to vacate the property just in case.

That's your lot for now. It doesn't really catch you up much and it makes me sounds like I'm having a horrid time which I'm really not, I am quite happy now that it is January and there are no gifts to be bought and I don't have to keep the house spotless for viewings on short notice. I am very excited about the move and now we have our head around the idea of another one, we are also quite excited about the new baby too, so all in all things are pretty good. But this doesn't stop me losing my temper, my patience and, momentarily, my mind as well when it comes to the children.

I shall be back with more thrilling updates and details of the Great Move shortly. Ish.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Things That Keep Me Awake At Night

Hello! I'm BACK. I am in my usual spot, the house is silent and mainly tidy, I have hoovered up the cheerios and corn flakes from the living room carpet (never piss off a two year old and then leave her unattended) and I have a full hour and a half before my peace and tranquility are shattered by demands for yet more Peppa Pig and milk.  I shall attempt to catch you up with the various excitements that have occured in the last few months.

Things That Keep Me Up At Night

1. Worries

I have various and many worries that keep me from sleeping even when I am desperate to do so.  A while ago I couldn't sleep because I was panicking that the children couldn't speak Chinese. It was so unlike me to worry about such stupid things that made me worry more. I began to panic that everyone was secretly taking their children to Chinese lessons and mine would be woefully left behind when the great Chinese take over of the world occurred. How would they get any job if they couldn't converse with their Chinese counterparts? If they got too old to learn would they be able to learn at all? Isn't now the prime time to get their brains around such things? Maybe this would make up for me not teaching them to play the piano?? In the cold light of day I realised that they are not only still learning to spell and write English but potentially extra French or Spanish lessons to compliment what they are already doing at school, might be a better place to start. I also realised that we couldn't afford any extra lessons on top of what they already do so it was an entirely moot point. Quite why I spent a good few hours thinking about trying to get two reluctant learners and one very busy child taking on another very complicated extra language is a total mystery to me. I have gone back to worrying about all the usuals, 'Why will no one buy my house?', 'Should we move?', 'how will I afford x, y and z?', 'how much fatter will I get?', 'Will I ever sleep enough?', 'Is that Ted - does he need his inhaler?', 'Shit did I put the tumble dryer on?', 'Bugger - I haven't paid that bill', 'Should we move?' etc etc etc

2. Birthdays

We have finally completed the birthday marathon. All four done and dusted. Four Birthday surprises, three parties, a tonne of cake and hideous, hideous amounts of money on plastic stuff all behind me for another year. The panic beforehand was higher than ever this year. I have no idea why. Before Bea's I awoke in a cold sweat after a nightmare in which I had forgotten to lay her birthday table, wrap presents or in fact do anything to celebrate her big day in any which way because I had managed to fall asleep instead. In the nightmare I had luckily awoken at 2am and screamed at K to wake up and we had set about rectifying the situation. I have no idea if we managed because luckily I woke up before I got to found out and then wallowed in my sweet relief for quite a while before I felt the shock wear off and my pulse rate return to normal. I don't know if, as they get older, the expectations and anticipation is more exaggerated which in turn increases the pressure on me. Or maybe it was my subconscious forcing me to check all the details of her impending extravaganza as the following day I realised the balloon lady and I hadn't actually confirmed a date for delivery and sure enough - her balloons were not scheduled to arrive on time! QUELLE HORREUR. I know normal people would not panic at such things but about seven years ago I stupidly set a precedent when we only had one very cute three year old and a non plussed one year old so it seemed totally ok to over indulge and spoil the then three year old with a pile of gifts and balloons and cakes and a massive and pricey party. And seven years is a long time to get used to something, so I couldn't very well have her waking up with no foil number balloons - particularly as she had reminded me for about six weeks that finally making it to double figures wasVERY important.  Anyhoo, there is no point in wallowing in the past. On to the present. I found a local party shop and a very helpful woman was able to come to my aid although sadly she didn't deliver. (This is relevant - keep reading I am not just being dull for the sake of it).

The morning I picked them up happened to be quite windy and I had unfortunately decided to wear some comfy jeggings on my bottom half. I couldn't park outside the party shop so I had to carry a number of helium balloons, including a large 1 and 0 and a small 'airwalker' dog a little way back to the safety of my car boot. The wind wasn't kind and I had no hand free to yank up the irritatingly saggy jeggings so I was very desperate to deposit the balloons quickly so that I could prevent exposing myself entirely. By the time I reached the car I also realised that we had so much crap in the car which we were hiding from the house viewers, that fitting the balloons in at all was going to be tricky. Just as I managed to shove in what I thought was all of the unwielding and cumbersome balloons I saw a small, cute dog balloon fly off down the high street. My initial thought was to leave it to its fate and  write it off. Then by some bizarre luck it didn't get instantly run over by the oncoming traffic so I decided to fight for the dog. I slammed shut the boot ensuring the remaining balloons were safe and well and then set off down the middle of Sydenham high street with one hand on my jeans and the other obsessively pointing the key fob at the car and pressing 'lock' in case any local thief had seen this as an opportunity to steal my car and the blessed balloons. The dog (which had weights on its feet to keep it just above ground level - like a real dog) was quite realistically running away and then tantalisingly stopping when the wind died down.  I try not to imagine what an overweight middle aged woman trying to surreptitiously run down the middle of a busy high street whilst holding up her trousers in order to retrieve an inflatable dog looked like, but I do think if I had been an onlooker rather than the victim it may have been quite a funny scene. As luck would have it the dog made it to the other side of the road (albeit quite a way down) entirely unharmed and I managed to scoop it up and place it firmly under my arm before the recalcitrant jeggings had revealed the entirety of my backside. I was quite desperate not to turn around and see if anyone had witnessed the whole thing so I was very pleased to see the shop we had stopped outside was a stationers - I went inside and accidentally bought a number of rolls of hideously expensive wrapping paper I had foolishly assumed would be cheap. Still, it gave me a chance to regroup and calm down before I proceeded to return to the car and make it back home in time to deposit the pesky balloons at my obliging neighbour's house so that Bea wouldn't see them.

Turns out I needn't have panicked. Bea's Birthday Bash was a huge success, she was thrilled, her slumber party was just what she wanted, mainly thanks to a superb Magic Masterclass courtesy of her Godmother's talented husband, the Magician and a huge number of sweets (slight sore point there in that when I came down in the morning I discovered that half the children had lost teeth during the night. It was quite surreal as one after another they presented me with bloody tissues and tiny teeth that had succumbed to toffee consumption). Equally George's birthday went without a balloon escaping hitch. Aside from a distinct lack of money after the first three had had their turn, and a pesky viewing by a rude woman on his actual birthday, he received the giant stuffed wolf he had been desperate for (I have no idea where he gets his ideas from - for Christmas I have to find a large stuffed Skunk - any tips gratefully received) and he had all manner of hideous and not so hideous creatures at his party with the very thorough (but exceedingly pricey) Ranger Stu. And now that it is all blissfully completed, I finally get to start diverting all available funds towards the money black hole that is Christmas. Wahoo! I want my advent calendar to end with January 1st which is when I truly start celebrating.

3. Birthing Sister

During the rather dull half term (there is nothing to report on that front - I was forced to sit through a frankly terrifying ((I really cannot do suspense or threats of danger or any violence in any film - I am ruined for anything but rom coms - I do not exaggerate - I find some things tricky to get through on Cbeebies and cried real, heartfelt tears in Toy Story 3)) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and the far more enjoyable Book of Life and that was really it) Shiny Life Sister went in to obediently timed labour.  Typically for her, she was actually a day ahead of her due date and perfectly timed for me - as she wanted me at the birth I had told her it would have to be during half term so I could abandon the children with mother at short notice and one day in, she obliged. 

Not that I wish to compete in the tiredness stakes when someone is in the throes of labour but it actually wasn't the best day for me - I had only just arrived at mother's in dire need of some long periods of sleep but thanks to the clocks going back and my very beautiful but early rising nephew deciding that that was the morning to start the day at 5.20 am (old time) - I was pretty done in before I even got in the car to return to London. However, much like in actual labour, adrenalin kicked in and I imagined that she was imminently about to push the baby out so I became panicked about my need to get to the hospital. At the first sign of traffic I dumped the car at Tottenham Hale tube and jumped on my most hated form of public transport (I used to use it every week day but now I find it difficult to cope with - so dirty, noisy, everyone is miserable and if it breaks down I am stuck in the dark underground - what is to like about that?) to Warren Street. Again, it wasn't really my moment in the spotlight but I managed to make it to University College Hospital from leaving mum's front door in precisely one hour and forty five minutes. I felt heroic. I rang mother for praise but surprisingly received none (she was not only more interested in what was going on with Shiny Life Sister but she also had nine children at the house and only one other mother (Kent Sister) for help so was understandably not able to recognise my own heroism in the midst of her own) so I saved it for an appropriate time in the birthing room. Mercifully the father-to-be was suitably impressed by my speed and ability and I felt my accomplishment had been justly recognised. On to the birth.

Well. Turns out that she hadn't been imminently about to push it out and I had become far too used to secondary plus births where things don't tend to take twenty four hours but are mercifully far swifter. As soon as I got in to the room I made the incumbent midwife (who I didn't warm to and mercifully left us very quickly after my arrival) provide my poor suffering sister with some gas and air. This was gratefully received and imbibed. From then on it was just a waiting game. She progressed steadily but slowly and the contractions seemed unfairly strong and painful for the stage she was at. Eventually we opted for some diamorphine to help with the pain, and when that wore off we were lucky enough to get her a birth pool. By the time she entered the pool her husband and I were getting very excited about the birth finally seeming imminent (poor SLS had really had enough by this point - it was about 5pm and she had been in constant pain since 1.30am that morning). By the time she got to fully dilated there was lots of excited speculation about being back in time for Downton and how she was SO close to being out of pain and eating toast in bed. She began to push. She pushed like a 'Mother Fo' (I think that is the term) and she pushed and she pushed and she pushed. The midwife kept putting her bent mirror in to the water to see any sign of a head. I started virtually pushing with her and squeezing her hand in solidarity. Nothing happened. Except that SLS, who was already at her limit of endurance when it had got to the pushing stage, got to a point that there are no words to describe. She was broken. She came out of the pool and tried pushing on a stool. After an hour and a half of pushing she admitted defeat - the baby was not coming out regardless of what she did. Then she suffered an excruciating further half an hour wait whilst plans were put in place to move her to the labour floor as the midwife led unit was not equipped for epidural/forceps etc. The wait was agonising. SLS was in tears and I knew exactly how she felt having had the same experience almost ten years ago to the day. To cut an agonising story short, once she eventually made it to labour ward and the obstetrician eventually made it to our room, it was gone 11pm. I have never seen a more broken human and I would have done anything I could to have taken the pain for her for even a little bit. Finally they wheeled her off to theatre to attempt forceps delivery of this back to back, badly positioned baby girl. At one minute to midnight they managed to drag the reluctant Lia in to the world with brute force and forceps and she was gloriously healthy and well. Finally the ordeal was over. When they wheeled SLS back in to the room her relief was palpable. Although not for long as she started to have a reaction to the drugs and couldn't stop vomiting. So much so that they had to give her anti nausea drugs intravenously. By 2.30am, with her still vomiting, it was my time to leave and finally retrieve my abandoned car and get to bed for a few blissful hours of sleep.

Since then Shiny Life has lived up to her name. In the first week she went for a shopping trip to John Lewis Oxford Street, had her hair done, took Lia trick or treating and when I took Bea and Cybs back for a visit on the 7th day, found her with full hair and make up, in an immaculate flat with a very happy breastfed baby. I was not in ANY way envious of her ability to adapt or keep her figure or manage great make up and have a tiny new baby. Not AT ALL.  All hopes for her to get fat, tired and haggard have been entirely dashed. I bet her boobs even stay perky. Sometimes shit like that just happens. I have decided to just deal with it and be a very grown up big sister and to be happy for her. (Albeit through gritted teeth).

4. The Accidental Fifth

It sounds like a musical chord. It isn't though. Somehow, with the excitement of the loft and all the birthdays we have managed to have a small accident. An accident that will get bigger and bigger until in May next year when it rips me in two to enter the world and take its place in this big family. Am I thrilled? Honestly, even with my love of newborns and children I really can't summon too much excitement about it. It sounds ungrateful and I know that 99.9% of people assume it was intentional even with my protestations to the contrary but really, it was truly a surprise to both of us. I am sure once the tiredness eventually wears off (I am hoping that it must be soon, surely - I have been so exhausted I can't stay up past 9pm, and have nearly been to the doctors on a number of occasions to find out if I have some serious, undiagnosed major health issue) I will feel more positive, but at the moment I am just getting through the days. I also seem to be causing issue with the medical peeps because not only am I fat for this pregnancy but I also turned a year older last week so now I am fat AND old. This is not a combination the medical world seem to be keen on. I have been referred to several different consultants to 'consult' on my fatness and elderliness. One supposes that were I to attend these appointments they would tell me to be less fat and possibly try to be less old (I jest).  Due to the high blood pressure issues with Cybs I am also 'on the radar' as 'high risk'. SIGH. Oh and also my placenta is lying low (maybe due to the sheer weight of the rest of my body pushing is southwards...) so I have to attend something called the Placenta Clinic. Such Fun. These appointments annoy me immensely. Not only because I would just like to get on with the hell of pregnancy, not keep being interrupted by people wanting to talk about it or take my blood or measure my sodding blood pressure or tell me to eat less and move more. Also each appointment means either leaving Cybs with Lovely Friend or worse, taking her with me. She is adorable, naturally, but as a two year old with a temper she isn't the best appointment partner. Anyway, this is why the Accidental Fifth keeps me awake at night. Not only does it make me need a wee in the middle of the night, it also makes me worry about a. coping b. being hideously fat c. stupid BMI fattists who now have a say in my fat which drives me mad. I will lose weight, I just can't be arsed to do it right now. d. how the hell Cybs, who still shares my bed every night, will cope with something smaller and cuter wanting me and my boobs at night. (Just to clarify, she comes in to me in the middle of the night after going to sleep beautifully in her own cot and also, she is actually off the boob, she just still likes to stick her hand down my top to go to sleep - like a warm, squishy comfort blanket. Much as I hate the hand down my top, I do actually love sleeping with her. I can't imagine not doing it.)

So, there you have it. That is sort of the last few months in a nutshell, and why I haven't managed to write for two months. I think that brings you all up to speed. Oh, re the house - no one has liked the house enough to make an offer which is intensly annoying.  I HATE having to keep the house tidy for stupid people to view - ideally someone would just drive past and decide to buy it from the pictures but people are stupendously picky when it comes to parting with hundreds of thousands of pounds - weirdos. We aren't on the internet at the moment so as not to jeopordise K's job which isn't helping. We are planning to try again in January, all guns blazing and on every property website known to man. Hopefully that will bring a steady stream of people willing to buy.  I can't really think ahead until we know where are on the house front so in the mean time we will just settle down to enjoy our final SE23 Christmas and as a family of six.

Now I shall leave you to your lives. I must go and sleep. As per usual.

Until the next time.

(As a footnote to all this - how the hellidy hell do people work from home? I have taken hours and hours and hours to write this - an hour and a half was nowhere near enough - I have checked facebook and emails around a hundred times, I have taken a long and leisurely lunch hour, had a little lie down with Cybs ((to get her to sleep but also because it is lying down)), taken an unusually fervent interest in the outcome of an episode of Cowboy Builders and also played a lot of Words With Friends. I think it is quite obvious that if in the unlikely future, I ever had to return to the world of work, it would most definitely need to be in a formal setting with time structures, no kitchen and no TV. And preferably no internet access.)

Monday, 22 September 2014

Finally, Summer Part 2

WARNING: As is now becoming quite normal, this post contains explicit references to poo. Do not read if you unable to cope with descriptions of defecation or suffer from a weak stomach.

Onwards. We eventually made it on to the road with our traumatised boys and bemused girls and travelled the hour and a half (as K did point out it wasn't as if we were going very far and we probably didn't need quite as much stuff as I had packed) to the glorious Suffolk coast. My mood improved as soon as we arrived at the holiday house and after some excitable running around the house from the children, K took the big three off to play whilst I unpacked with Cybs.

I must at this point stop the story and take you back a month to when Cybs and I returned home from a delightful lunch in North London with my old school friends and all of their many offspring, held at a very brave friend's house. For some reason, (potentially being with so many other children she decided it was time to move on a bit with her development), that evening Cybs removed her nappy and took herself off to poo on the potty, and then came to tell me about it. This was obviously lovely and I was justifiably proud of her and did lots of the usual excited 'Wows' and congratulatory kissing and cuddling that one is expected to react with in such situations. I didn't however, decide to potty train her. Having thought about it overnight, it seemed a bit of a hassle, I didn't particularly want to spend our entire holiday asking her if she wanted a wee, worrying about her wetting herself or worse, and trying to understand whether she was saying she wanted a wee a poo or something else that sounded just like it in her very babyish speech (her language skills are still lamentably slow and so an awful lot of her words sound extremely similar and you also can't rely on a nod meaning yes - hence all the 'do you need a wee' queries from me would have her nodding away but it wouldn't necessarily mean that she wants one at all - in her mind, she could be agreeing to go to a park and slide down the big slide.)  So, I did what all good lazy arsed mothers did and put her back in a nappy the very next day. The reason I inform you of such things is because that was not a once off. From then on she would sporadically do the same thing but with the added excitement of trying to empty it in to the loo herself with various delightful outcomes. Also wiping. With or without loo roll.

So, (back to the story) when she went for an explore whilst I was busying myself unpacking the millions of things we probably didn't need but I had deemed essential, I didn't think much of it. However, after quite a long silence I went to investigate and opened the door to the downstairs loo to discover that Cybs had discovered that there was no potty in this loo so had chosen to use the floor instead. My opening the door had simply helped to smear it in an artistic arc, over the tiled floor.  As we were renting this house I was already pretty worried about keeping it clean and well cared for, and less than an hour after entering, Cybs had managed to create quite a scene of devastation in the smallest room of the house. I set about clearing her up and then plonking her elsewhere whilst I dealt with the walls and the floor. As anyone who has read this before will know, I am most accustomed to levels of disgusting that most would find stomach churning, so that was not the problem. The issue I was faced with was that there wasn't actually enough room between the bottom of the door and the tiled floor in order to be able to remove the poo from it. Which meant that however much I cleaned the floor, one move from the door and it needed to be done all over again. That is when I hit upon my genius use of the now empty loo roll. I cut the cardboard down the length of the roll. slid it under the door and moved it back and forth several times. Et Voila! An ideal under door poo scrapper. (Patent pending so don't go stealing it). It did sterling work and very soon there were no traces left of the unfortunate event. Shortly afterwards K arrived back and decided to query why I hadn't managed to get any bags upstairs to unpack. As I say, things didn't start THAT well.

After that first rather un-holiday-for-me like day, things did mercifully improve. I do find that it takes a good three to four days for a family used to working separately to adjust to being together all day every day, and for us all to adjust to a 'holiday' pace of life. It took K that long to adjust to the change from work mode to holiday-with-four-children mode - it is a very different kettle of fish. I also became a tad upset when the boys decided to take against the beach for the first time in their lives. For me and Bea, the beach IS the holiday - it is the very thing that makes a holiday a holiday for me. Cybs loves it too but then for chocolate and a bottle of milk Cybs will do almost anything for anyone so I couldn't really use her in my argument 'for' spending all our days there. In an ideal world, the boys wanted to spend all day everyday playing on Minecraft and on the inhouse Playstation 2 unless a particularly interesting day trip was suggested. Eventually though, we all got the hang of it and we ended up, yet again, having the best holiday ever. Bea and I got more than enough beach time thanks to some unexpectedly good weather and some compromising with the boys, we also got a lovely bit of mother and daughter shopping fun (I am now the proud owner of the most fabulous Diane Von Furstenburg shoes which I will almost definitely never ever wear but will adore forever) and we saw lots and lots of friends who were either staying in the area or came up specifically to visit. Cybil LOVED turning two and having her birthday and K and I got to go out for one of the loveliest meals I have ever had. We flew kites, we played, we had great day trips, we went for lunches, we 'mooched', G and K even got to walk a dog which made them both extremely happy - all in all it was everything to everyone.

Although it wasn't without its problems, naturally. Unbeknown to us, Cybs had worked out how to open the garden gate and whilst K was in charge and momentarily occupied, she used her new found skill and went for an unauthorised walkabout - eventually being rumbled a few streets away by some very useful old ladies who then went door to door knocking on houses to try and find her owner; G trapped his finger in the car door the day before Cybil's birthday and I was almost ready to send him to A and E there was so much blood and tears, but thankfully the bleeding did stop and I used my very useful made up medical knowledge to decide he hadn't broken anything so he got to spend the day on the sofa playing Minecraft with K instead; G also fell out of bed the following night and split his lip open on the bedside table, which left him with a very fat and very sore lip for quite a while..... and obviously there was some less than wonderful behaviour from each of them at some point or other, but on the whole, for a family holiday with small children in England, it was marvellous. It was terrifically sad to leave, all bronzed and relaxed and happy together as we were, but we at least had the utter thrill of the loft progression to look forward to.

Bea stayed on with mum for five days as she had her best friend staying there, and I took the younger three back to London a few days after K returned for work. The stairs to the loft were in, the bathroom plumbed and the whole thing painted. It was amazing what had happened during our three week absence. The only down side was the quite remarkable levels of dust on the first floor. Up until they had 'broken through' to fit the stairs, the dust had been at a very manageable level and I was finding the whole thing very un-stressful. When I arrived home with a car full of our stuff, three children used to a summer holiday of entertainment and a house full of dust that needed at least a week of unadulterated cleaning, I became terrifically stressed very quickly. And very tired. However, as soon as was humanly possible (and well before the builders would have liked) we decided to 'move in' to the loft and Bea moved in to her longed for own room. We were effectively camping up there for the first week, there was no electrics to begin with, no carpet, we had to cover the bed every morning with plastic sheeting and for 24 desperate hours, we couldn't find the remote for the newly mounted TV (SUCH excitement - we have never, ever had a wall mounted TV - it feel JUST like being in a hotel room). Still, it was all desperately exciting and quite romantic and the children were besides themselves with the thrill of it all.

Before the carpet went down, every evening I had to hoover the stairs and the room to stop us getting very dusty feet, then remove the sheets and put the bed back in its position and put the rugs down etc etc in order for it to be habitable. After a few nights G decided he would like to do it for me 'as a surprise', Bea then got involved and eventually they were all insisting on bathing in double quick time, throwing on their pjs and running up the stairs to help with 'the surprise'. It was very sweet - Ted was usually on 'look out' and kept running down the stairs squealing with excitement and telling me to 'stay downstairs'. Bea and G went to great lengths to make sure all was perfect for us and even put the pillows in different formations each evening and then her and G photographed it so they could remember how to do it differently the following night. Cybs took to hoovering the stairs and the sight of her naked bottom struggling with the hoover at the top of the stairs will be hard to top. (Cybs couldn't wait to be pyjama'd so just got out of the bath and went straight to it). It was an odd end to the holidays but lovely nonetheless. Although I have to say that the last few weeks of 'freedom' could have been immeasurably improved if it hadn't been for the daily battles getting the big two to finish their holiday homework. It was, in some instances, like having root canal surgery without anaesthetic. Getting G to do more than a few minutes at a time was almost impossible. Every letter he wrote seemed to be simultaneously burning his hand (I mused at the time that Harry Potter made a lot less fuss when it actually did).

And then came Ted's 5th Birthday. Another triumph (I know - even if I do say so myself, but seriously - even I was proud of this one and I don't say that lightly). I managed to get a huge Spiderman helium balloon (it was crouching so it was difficult to measure him but he took up most of a room when in it and was noticeably bigger than K in a crouching position  - I know because I put them side by side and took photos.)  As well as many fabulous presents he also had a stupendous party in the afternoon - mainly thanks to the wonderful Magician who once again did an amazing job. I am not sure how it could have been better for him. (That is rubbish actually - I could have given him a live spider as a pet which is his dearest wish, but I have, I think rather reasonably, said that if anyone moves a live tarantula in to my house, I will move out. Oh and we could have taken him back to Legoland which he is incredibly keen to do....)

For the final day of the holidays I took them out for a last magical day in London to end on a high. We started off with the big three volunteering for cognitive studies at Birkbeck college (which oddly enough they all love doing - I would highly recommend - it's called The Babylab but they need all ages for different studies and they pay travel and hotels if you need to come from afar) then we did an amazingly efficient whistle stop guided tour of the British Museum, courtesy of a very patient and kind friend of mine from school who is not only a PHD and very important in the whole museum world, but is also able to seek out a 1cm squared spider, engraved on to the side of a small glass bottle, displayed on the bottom of a glass cabinet, inside the vast Museum in order to appease a spider obsessed, newly five year old. That to me is even better than a PHD. It took some looking and some phone calls and some searching on the internet to find it, but find it she did.  Although obviously their favourite part of the entire place was the shop. And actually they quite liked the loos.  But their favourite part of the day was an impromptu trip to Southbank and the beach there. G found (what he truly believes) to be a dinosaur bone, Ted couldn't believe I had kept this place a secret and we had an actual beach so close to home and they all managed to walk inside an epic sandcastle creation being built.  After some ice creams we wandered back to London Bridge for the train home. It was such a perfect day. The sun shone, the children were happy and I even bumped in to some school friends on our walk back to the station. It was such a lovely day it was almost sad to send them back to school the next day.

But send them I did. They were actually thrilled to go. In fact they were so excited they were up, dressed and ready to go by 7am and I was pretty pleased to finally get back in control of the housework in their absence.  Sadly since then the boys have reverted back to type and are now complaining daily about how much they hate school. Just as they did on holiday, they would like to spend their every day in pyjamas, watching TV, eating and playing Minecraft or watching Minecraft videos on You Tube (Stampycat and I are not friends...). School really gets in the way of that. Ted was fine for the first week when he was doing half days but as soon as he hit full days it has gone massively downhill. Reception has come as something of a massive shock to him. He is the very oldest in the year and I can't really understand why he is finding it such a shock to the system.  I also can't believe I have said goodbye to my third baby in to full time education. It seems madness. If I want to, I can send Cybs to nursery for three hours every day from next September.  Madness upon Madness. In my mind they were all born about five minutes ago and how we have managed to arrive here is totally beyond me.

So, there you have it, other than another wedding (I was bridesmaid again - so exciting) and a weekend away with the local mums (I know - my life is a social whirlwind at the moment) you are pretty much up to date with toute. Oh and I still haven't bothered to train Cybs. Although she does now have some very lovely 'nicks' (as she calls them) which she is very happy to wear, but is still so incredibly unreliable she is not in them full time. I will get around to doing it soon.... 

In the next thrilling instalment I will amaze and entertain you all with details of the great build and redecoration debacle. As per usual, it may be a while....

Until then my lovelies. x

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Finally, the Summer. Part 1

GOOD evening.  I have been staring at this page and the TV for nearly an hour not really knowing where on earth to start. Or end. Or fill in to the middle. An awful lot has occurred in two months - most of it is not noteworthy so don't panic - it won't take you two months to read - not only have I reduced it to the bare essentials but I have also helpfully divided it in to two parts. One today, one tomorrow.  Such excitement for you all. 

I shall cast you back to the end of term, or the middle/end of July for those of you who don't live in terms. (I cannot imagine such a world. I am quietly confident I shall mentally inhabit a world of school terms for the rest of my life. Long after the youngest has left formal education.) So, all sports days were attended (by moi) and I even ran in the mother's race for the last one. This was a first for me. I don't usually agree to such blatant demonstration of my unfit and unhealthy body, but Bea was upset AGAIN after her running race (it happens every year now - it is always her last activity after tug of war, throwing, catching, hurdles etc and she always finishes the race and then collapses in a heap, complaining of leg pain) but this year I was moved by her tears and decided to humiliate myself to take her mind off it all. I still don't know what came over me. BUT in huge excitement I didn't come last. I quite obviously didn't come anywhere near winning either, but with a small advantage of a staggered start for the old/fat amongst the throng of willing racers, I did admirably well for someone of my stature and levels of fitness.

After sports day came Legoland. The surprise worked beautifully, with the boys being thrilled by our naughtiness at skiving off the day from school - complete with fake phone calls to the schools saying they were sick. (Although it would appear that my letter to the head informing the school that we were taking the days off appears to have not been read properly or passed on as I had two messages informing me that the boys had officially been marked as absent and I needed to explain why - I really should have made Actual phone calls...). We got nearly all the way there without them having any idea (Bea had to have some of the information beforehand as she was so flipping desperate to go to school and wouldn't even hear of skiving off - loser - so in order to stop her ruining it all K spilled a few of the beans) but we eventually had to spill the beans when  G started to get rather upset that we weren't going to go to London Zoo and began to start crying. I handed him my phone and asked him to read the words at the top of the map - he said, 'Why does it say Legoland' and then seconds later the penny dropped to much excitement and whooping and even Cybs awoke from her slumber and even though she had absolutely no idea what was about to happen, started joining in the whooping.

Obviously the stay itself was incredibly hard work - from the moment we entered the hotel and pretended to see if they had any rooms left on the off chance - we were 'on duty'. The children were in a constant state of hyper excitement for about 36 hours. It was also incredibly hot. The heat on the second day topped 30 degrees which made everything very sweaty and tired out the children even more. However, we did it. The hotel was awesome (for them) and had a great swimming pool and splash area (which they loved) and the restaurant were even incredibly helpful on the whole coeliac front and provided entertainment in the form of 'hilarious' kids shows. I even managed a glass of something fizzy whilst the children played outside and the sun went down over the Legoland lake. The heat was so intense even at that stage of the day that it felt a teeny tiny bit like being on holiday. For about ten minutes - until someone fell off the seesaw and we had to abandon it all and put them to bed.  Legoland is definitely not my most favourite of places to stay or spend two days in, (and spend a FORTUNE on), however with the hotel, Qbots and refillable drinks on tap, it was definitely far better than I feared and the children were totally amazed by the whole experience. It was worth all of the sweat, tears and ludicrous sums of money just for how bowled over they were by the whole thing.

Then they broke up and we all breathed a sigh of collective and tired relief. It is always a bit of an anti climax though.  On that thrilling last day when I pick them up I expect fireworks to be let off in the playground, tears of joy from the teachers and rousing music over a loudspeaker - but it is never like that. The teachers doll out the children just like they do every other day of the year and the only difference with the parents in the playground is that we all say 'enjoy the holidays' or similar instead of just the standard 'hi' when we see each other.  At the very least the teachers could pop a party popper every time another child leaves the classroom door for the last time. Hey ho. I shall suggest it to the PTA.  The following morning after the anti-climactic last day of term I took delivery of two extra children for the day and then we all nipped off to the doctors for a blood test (Bea) and an asthma check up (Ted). I had deliberately engineered it this way so that they didn't expect too much from their six weeks off - nothing sets the tone of a summer holiday more than a trip to the doctors on the very first morning  - it makes them grateful for any future seemingly mundane trips to supermakets and similar.  I say, start shit and you've got somewhere to go - only fools go big on the first day/week. The rest of the time spent here was so incredibly dull I shall not waste anyone's time explaining what went on. We lived, we breathed, we went to parks. Blah Blah.

On to the holiday. It had an inauspicious start.  The packing of the car with everything we might need for two weeks of indeterminate weather wasn't a major issue to begin with, but as the hours passed and I put more and more and more in to the car I began to get quite stressed about the pressure of it all. And then I misplaced my phone. Normally I rely very heavily on the Find My Iphone App in such situations but sadly, as I was packing at my mum's, my phone had no signal and was basically lost until proven otherwise. When I have lost something and I am under time pressure and imagined pressure I become quite tense. The HILARIOUS jokes about my crapness at losing things from my mother and subsequently K when he eventually arrived did not add to my mood - along with the OH so helpful "Where did you have it last" questions (NEVER ASK ANYONE LOOKING FOR ANYTHING THAT QUESTION). And then we heard terrific shrieking and 'My life is in danger' screaming emanating from the new 'tree house' (it is two foot off the ground - technically it should be called a 'raised playhouse' but that seems a rather unromantic title) at the bottom of mum's garden. I saw in the distance an extremely panicked face at the small window screaming for me to help and I suddenly for some reason decided that the tree house was on fire and they were trapped and burning inside. (It sounds silly now but in the split second my mind had to process the information that it was given it really was the best it could come up with). K and I legged it down the garden, flung open the door and found perfectly well, unburnt and unharmed children. Two were my nieces who were laughing and three were mine, two of whom were screaming and tearful. I yanked the boys out and began a full scale shouting rant demanding to know what the hell was going on. Ted was shaking in my arms and as they weren't on fire, or in any other life threatening danger my mind made another snap decision and decided to start shouting at my older nieces, who I assumed had been scaring them in to this frenzy. After I stopped the rant, the truth emerged. The older girls had not been filling their heads with scary stories, there had not been a fire, in fact not a hair on their head was damaged. It turns out that the door had been stuck and they couldn't open it. PAUSE.

I got "pretty" cross at the boys, who K then tried to stand up for and so I ranted at him instead, and then my mother told us all to calm down. I stropped off to finish the packing and resume my frantic phone searching. When K joined me he asked me what I was doing. Being the grown up that I am I replied grumpily, "What do you think?" to which he said "Are you STILL looking for your phone". This was not wise. AS IF I would stop and jolly along on a two week holiday without it - not only am I surgically attached to the thing but I was also rather in need of it to remotely oversee the loft conversion and organise all the other bits and pieces we were having done to the house whilst we were away and also WHO on earth just shrugs their shoulders and says - sod it, it's only a phone - and stops looking??  My thoughts towards him at this point became venomous and he became pretty prickly in return. I then decided the only way to find the sodding phone was to empty the entire car (it is, as you may already know a rather large Ford people carrier type thing which had all its seats down and was rammed to the ceiling with crap I thought was vital) and start from scratch. K disagreed. We disagreed. Then as I was walking around to the front of the car to commence my angry emptying, I found it.  It had fallen down off the dashboard (where I suddenly remembered was where I had put it last) and was wedged between the small triangular part of the passenger side front window and the side of the dashboard. I hastily retrieved it and pretended to mother and anyone else who would listen that it was actually somewhere very hard to find indeed, in order to cover my embarrassment.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Onwards and Upwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Pregnancy Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until we meet again,