Monday, 22 October 2012

Starting off on The Right Lines.

Like most of my New Year's Resolutions, this one seems to have gone down the swanny. At the end of last year, I wrote, 'Please don't give up on me...come the New Year, I'll be back [blogging] with both cylinders. Promise. Until then, I apologise for my bad blogging behaviour and consider myself well and truly put on the naughty step'.

Despite my genuinely good intentions, I've only written five posts since then. Bugger.

I've never been great at maintaining that bouncy motivation that comes with all January's newness. If it helps, I'm also back on half a bottle of red most nights and screaming like a lunatic at my offspring when they refuse to put a single fecking shoe on between them. But hey, at least I feel more like the real me again instead of pretending to be some kind of zenned-up-Pilates-going-cupcake-baker.

I do have a little excuse to share with you all (I'm also probably going to lose any remaining respect with some shameless promotion)...

...I've started a little business. 

I've launched a range of Greetings Cards which I've written and co-designed and printed and, well...launched. I've been accepted as a Partner to sell through and have got them on the shelves of several independent retailers (by digging out a grown-up suit, dusting off some heels and tottering into shops spouting some sales patter I learnt from the late 1990s). And it's going quite well. I'm getting a big kick out of people I don't know buying cards I've written and sending them to other people I don't know. I think it's unlikely I'm going to get a barn conversion in Somerset out of it (perhaps I'll add that to next year's Resolutions list) but it's brought a little sense of satisfaction which is really rather good for us mums.

So, please do have a look and tell me what you think. Or even buy some if you want to be extra fabulous. They're called The Right Lines and my website (including Shop) is here:

And finally, back to you. I think the parent blogging community is wonderful. I absolutely take my (yoghurt stained) hat off to those bloggers who continue to post brilliantly written, observationally hilarious, touchingly true tales of life with the little ones. For those of you who can and do keep it up, then well bloody done. It's not easy. You should be very proud. 

Monday, 30 April 2012

I Don't Know How She Does It.

Well that’s just it, I don’t. Do 'it' that is.

So as part of this blog post, I am appealing to the Sisterhood out there – including you Sarah Jessica Parker – to share with me how you bloody well do it.

I realise I’m very much not alone: trying to manage two under fives, a freelance job, the endless chore-age of running a home, cramming in the odd quest to do something for me and attempting to keep on top of waxing, threading and grey-covering (I swear hair maintenance alone could be a full-time career for me).

And I’m hoping that I’m not alone in feeling like I just can’t cope with it all a lot of the time. And then feeling like a failure. And then eating some Hobnobs. And then feeling shit. And then shouting at The Husband as if it’s all his fault (which confuses his poor brain since it is built solely on logic and reason).

This weekend, we decided to tackle the plastic toy invasion and general misplacement of everything (bicycle pump in the fruit bowl, a single winter glove living happily in the bathroom…that sort of thing) and have a good old tidy up. This (I am told) the children do dutifully at nursery, yet when I suggest it at home they look at me like I’ve suddenly started speaking in Swahili.

What ensued for the next two hours was that I went about all whirling-dervish-like, clearing, boxing, gathering and sorting everything in my sight. Behind me, the rest of the family created more destruction than we started with. The main problem being my in-laws have just cleared out their loft and delivered four large boxes of dusty memorabilia to The Husband to sort through. This he decided would be his contribution to the Big Tidy Up. But amidst pleading love letters from broken hearted teenage girls and faded Blur tickets, were a whole load of The Husband’s old toys, which of course soon found themselves all over the playroom floor. Before long, my two year old was trying to swipe the screen on a Commodore 64 and my son had Mr Potato Head astride a delicate electric Hornby train. It was like my plastic invasion had just morphed into a vintage one and now I was just faced with tidying up three children’s toys…one of whom is 37.

Needless to say, yesterday my John Lewis image of plumped up cushions, sparkling surfaces, fluffy rugs and everything in matching middle-class storage, pretty quickly disintegrated. And the bicycle pump is still in the fruit bowl.

They say the home is where the heart is and I’m just not feeling a whole lot of love for my house. I’m sure it tries to wind me up on purpose. There is some weird Law (definitely a derivative of Sod’s) to the laundry basket. I empty it ALL the freakin’ time and whenever I go back it’s full to the brim (with the addition of the pair of dirty boxers and socks always placed carefully on top). It fills itself up, I swear. My tumble drier creases things just to piss me off, my toaster spews crumbs out over the top so they land all over the kitchen floor, my Brita water filter leaks everywhere but customer services insist there’s nothing wrong with the design. It’s like my appliances all have a little private agreement to really fuck with me. When I started writing this post, even my Mac decided it couldn’t be arsed to comply and went to sleep all hot and bothered demanding a new motherboard.

Maybe I need a new motherboard? Maybe I’m a bored mother? The relentlessness, the lack of knowledge of the extraordinary amount that goes on behind the scenes in order to create a happy platform for my little ones. The constant additions to the To Do list before you’ve started crossing anything off. I don’t really know what the answer is but I’d love to know how all you ladies do it? And if you have any top tips? I’m hoping at least I’ll discover I’m not alone and perhaps it is only Sarah bloody Jessica Parker who really does it after all. (And even that’s fiction).

Monday, 6 February 2012

Boy, Does it Suck

In our NCT class for our firstborn, was an exercise involving the teacher reading out statements. We were asked to stand by the wall if we strongly agreed, or by the window if we strongly disagreed. Since partners were free to choose independently, it mostly unearthed pre-parental panic that one's Other Half was more often than not at the complete opposite end of the room.

One of the statements was 'I will consider giving my baby a dummy'. On hearing it, I was so far at the window end I was practically on the street. Luckily The Husband was with me on that one and we stood united in our judgment: we thought they were ugly, we thought they were chav, we thought they were cheating.

Fast forward to our son at age 4...still needing a dummy to get to sleep (ahem).

In yer face Judgement. Hello Irony. So how did we get from our slightly smug A to such an unlikely B?

Well...our boy was not the best sleeper, and beyond six months old was still having to be jiggled, rocked or paced about with if there was any hope hed drop off not the best for the old lumbar spine given that he was off the percentile charts in the first place.

One particularly bloody awful Saturday, sleep deprived, ratty and minus The Husband who was gallivanting in North Wales on a stag do, I spontaneously U-turned my Maclaren - and its screaming contents - into a Boots I happened to be passing and bought a dummy there and then. I ripped open the packaging and popped it in, fully expecting there to be some weaning onto it required. Apparently not. He took hold of it like that baby out of The Simpsons and for the next 20 minutes he sucked so hard he created a ring of redness around his lips. But he was quiet and he was happy. And so was I apart from the lurid ugliness of the darn thing. So, I texted The Husband to inform him of my Executive Decision and its happy conclusion (who incidentally didnt give a toss since he himself was merrily pacified with around eight pints at the time) and from then on in we enjoyed weeks, which became months, which became years of really quite manageable bedtimes.

We swore we'd wean him off it at two. And then our daughter was born (so instead we just gave her one as well). We promised we'd do it at two and a half, then three then every month after that, but each time something would pop up on the calendar which made it a tad inconvenient to fit dummy weaning around, so we'd put it off again. The Husband and I were all too aware this was now as much of a crutch for us as it was for the boy, but we were addicted to the easiness. For under a fiver it bought us all sanity and none of us were willing to go cold turkey.

But a couple of weeks ago, we DID do it. And Irony came back to say Hello. Because it was really pretty easy. And of course I'm delighted, I feel free, I feel a big box ticked.

But most importantly, this little 4 year experience has taught me:
  • I must try not to judge
  • Smugness comes with karma
  • I must try not to worry about things before they've happened (the day I nail this one, The Husband will reach a state of ΓΌber happiness)
  • If we have another child I must, without question, give them a dummy from the off

Monday, 30 January 2012

Going Potty.

I am about to start potty training my daughter.

My first attempt at potty training my son drove me to an entire bottle of Merlot and an emergency rollie on night one.

I later heard that a ‘Down-to-business, control-freak mum’ (check) and a ‘Laid-back-chilled-out boy’ (check) are the worst possible combination when it comes to successful potty training.

No shit. (Well, quite).

I was following Gina Ford’s book (regular readers will know I can’t stand the woman, but someone I trust had promised me it was the quickest route). In hindsight it was ridiculous, because my son did absolutely nothing the book said, despite scoring full marks in the little ‘Are they ready’ quiz. He is a child who does very little ‘on-time’, in a text-book fashion, the way he’s ‘meant’ to. When I explained to The Husband how I was approaching it – waving Gina Ford at him manically - he just shot me a puzzled look and said’ Have you met your son?’

It was a horrible few days. He didn’t and wouldn’t and couldn’t ‘go’. It was a mixture of fear, confusion and downright stubbornness because he knew I wanted him to jump through Gina’s little hoops. So I spent hours having to watch him squirm with pain until his bladder would eventually burst and I would react with either comfort / anger / sympathy / frustration depending on what time of day it was and how many biscuits I’d eaten.

I would comb forums desperately looking for a chink of hope that would tell me it’ll pass and he’ll eventually get it. And then I wouldn’t believe it anyway. I kept telling myself that even Wayne Rooney had managed to get out of pull-ups so surely there was hope for my boy.

He did, of course, eventually get it. But I did not emerge mentally unscathed.

So this time round my approach is going to be different.

1.     Flush Gina Ford’s book down the loo.
2.     Pour a glass of Merlot.
3.     Follow my instincts.

Wish me luck.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Kid Wife Crisis.

I am writing this wearing a pair of maternity jeggings. I am not pregnant.

In the last 24 hours, I have been told ‘You’s got hairy bottom’ by my two year old and ‘Your teeth are yellow (when actually mummy, they should be white’) by my four year old.

Nothing like children to take a sledgehammer to your blissful ignorance.

I’m feeling frumpy. I’m feeling fat. I can’t fit into any of my pre-Christmas jeans. I’m not even sure how to dress myself anymore (is it too shiny / too glittery / too hipster / too short for my late-30s?). I’ve tried canvassing The Husband, who just says encouraging things like ‘I think you’re gooooorgeous’ (sub-text: ‘Fancy a shag?’) whilst squeezing my sagging bottom like a stress ball, which ironically just makes me feel fatter. So in order to assess how much of my body blues are down to time-of-the-month hormonal nonsense (please God let it be water retention) and how much is reality, I asked one of my closest friends for an honest opinion, to which I got ‘You’re chubbier than I’ve ever seen you’ and ‘Stop shopping in New Look, you’re too old’. Right. Good job I love her so much.

I know at 37 I should have grown out of this (at University, The Husband used to point out that I would grow old spectacularly ungracefully). He’s right – to a point – but it’s not so much the wrinkles I have an issue with.  Nobody managed my expectations that childbirth would turn my stomach into playdough and replace each of my tits with a marble in a sock.

I know I should wear these body ‘scars’ with pride, like Badges of Motherhood, but I still can’t help feeling envious of those pert 20-somethings with their bumpy midriffs and tiny thighs.

And then the conundrum: I could do something about it. I could log every calorie and spend any glorious free time chasing pavements in lycra. And I would eventually get back to 9 stone. But is it a hollow victory? What am I expecting from this body equivalent to a Porsche? Am I just in a text-book middle-aged place, yearning for years gone by? Will being thinner change anything or make me happier? Really? I’m more fulfilled than I’ve ever been. I have a brilliant family who make me laugh daily and love me unconditionally (hairy bottom, yellow teeth, sagging arse an’ all). Why do I still want to be a size 8?

The Jury in my head is still out. Which is why, for now, I am finishing writing this - still in my maternity jeggings - with a large glass of Shiraz (that’s 170 calories for the record).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

From 10 to 1 and back up again...

So, I’ve decided to start the New Year by introducing some more rigid boundaries for my children. I announced this proudly to a good friend the other day, who politely pointed out that as my eldest is four, perhaps four years ago would have been the time to start thinking of boundary introduction. A fair point.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some. Like they’re not allowed to eat upstairs and they can only watch three episodes of Peppa Pig in a row in order to keep me out of a mental institution. But certain things have slipped of late, meaning that my son is frequently found snoring in between The Husband and I at 3.30am and my two year old daughter often addresses me like I’m a sista from her ghetto.

So this week I have dusted the naughty step, ready and waiting for tiny bottoms to perch on it.  Mwah ha ha….

Trouble is, my son is exceptionally laid back, reasonably bright and – it turns out - rather manipulative. And what happens is this:

ME: ‘If you don’t go and clean your teeth now I will take away your fire engine’.

HIM: (Nothing).

ME: ‘I’m going to count to 10’
(I know most kids get three, but he needs 10 – purely because it takes until I’ve got to three for him to even notice I’ve started to count).

HIM: A fixed look, right into my eyes of – I’m not even sure what – just chilling in da crib, boredom, exasperation, puzzlement and, above all, stubbornness.

At four, he knows exactly what’s going on here and he knows exactly what the consequences are.  He just doesn’t care. You can almost see his little brain through the backs of his eyes, working it all out and saying to itself ‘You know what? Fuck the fire engine’.

And when they genuinely don’t give a shit, it’s kind of hard to know where to go with the discipline isn’t it?

To add insult to injury, there was a fight in the bath last night as he wouldn't share the toys when asked nicely by his little sister. As I go to fetch a towel I hear a clumsy little toddler voice say ‘You do your told, I count to ten…one….two…three’. Brilliant, now my two year old daughter is taking the piss out of me.

And you know what? He bloody well did as he was told.

Friday, 9 December 2011

'Tis the Season to be Trollied

Lately I have been a BAD blogger. I have barely posted, I haven't replied to comments, I've not even acknowledged awards some kind people have given me. Please don't give up on me, thank you for sending lovely comments and emails and, come the New Year, I'll be back on it with both cylinders. Promise. Until then, I apologise for my bad blogging behaviour and consider myself well and truly put on the naughty step.

Truth is, despite having TWO of the X chromosomes, I seem to have lost my ability to multi-task. What with both our children's birthdays within a month of Christmas (bad family planning, we know), a change of childcare, a demanding freelance job, a zillion illnesses and the eldest coming into our bed every two minutes, my coping mechanism over the last few weeks has generally involved at least half a bottle of red per evening, with the occasional hot spicy cider thrown in for festive measure. Our recycling box is such an embarrassment in our well-heeled neighbourhood, The Husband has to take it out after dark and place it down gingerly to avoid the 'clink' factor. Last week we had more bottles than next door's flats put together. Oops.

All this does of course is result in 'duvet brain', more tiredness and a greater relaxing of parenting boundaries, because I'm too knackered to give a shit. I know supernanny would have me trotting my 4 year old back to his bed 15 times a night but frankly I'd rather spend that time trying to get back to the dream about me and Spencer from Made in Chelsea.

As The Husband has taken on a new 'stressful' job, I'm also in charge of all the Christmas shopping this year, which basically means wasting a great deal of my life saying the words 'Do you take American Express?' It was an idea of The Husband's that, since we were caning the credit cards, we might as well make money out of it, so he's switched us to some scheme where we clock up free air miles every time we chip and pin it. Last night he proudly announced we'd racked up enough to get us somewhere in Europe. I started mentally planning a Gite in the Loire Valley or a pretty yellow villa in Tuscany. Only to learn that apparently it's only enough for one. One way.

So it turns out The Husband is planning his quiet Christmas somewhere over the Channel, and I shall continue my wine-based meltdown towards the 25th, hoping I get there with enough brain cells still intact to play Cranium with my in-laws (or, God forbid, Trivial Pursuit...when will they bring out a celebrity gossip version?!) 

Merry Christmas fellow bloggers and faithful followers. See you on the other side x