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You’ve come a long way, baby

‘Good morning, I’ve got no eyebrows’.

Such was the greeting I received from my three-year old this morning. His eyebrows (in case you were concerned) were entirely intact, as were mummy’s, daddy’s and Sam’s (we did a census). Ah, the musings of a three-year old; a threenager. And here I am, the mother of a toddler and a pre-schooler. At least I think I’m qualified to say that. It doesn’t quite feel right to say that I have a baby and a toddler any more. The ‘baby’ has a mouthful of teeth and a head of blonde hair and makes a dash for any staircase he senses within 20 metres. The older one lists all the reasons why he can’t eat his vegetables or shouldn’t go to bed and asks you to help him tell the time.

I’m writing this on the eve of my youngest child’s first birthday. A year ago I was packing my hospital bag and feeling anxious about leaving my (then) only child for a night or two (with his grandparents, we weren’t expecting him to fend for himself). Now I’m baking a birthday cake for a kid who eats ham sandwiches and pom bears and arranging actual school visits for his older brother.

I was hoping to write an insightful and virtuous piece when the baby reached nine months, all about how we’d turned a corner and everyday life was on the up. Nine months came and went and my post remained unwritten. No corners were turned in everyday life, and although things were much easier than in the early days and we no longer had to deal with incidents like this, I was still feeling very much in the trenches. Sam’s reflux had not magically vanished as it had for his older brother (I know, shouldn’t compare) and I was still knackered and generally feeling like I was failing at parenthood.

So, are we an advert for the perfect 2.4 children family now, a couple of months on? Of course we’re bloody not but things are a darn sight easier. Some days my domestic skills would give Mary Poppins a run for her money and others I struggle to butter a piece of toast. It’s taken me a year to work out that the three of us go stir crazy at home, so I try to pack up and go out as much as we can manage. I’ve amassed a year’s worth of tricks to pull out of the bag when needed; some standard (TV and fishfingers); some maybe slightly less so (speaking in French to divert the older one away from the tantrum he was hurtling towards).

Max silly glasses

At the risk of coming across all sentimental (although I won’t apologise for it, what with my baby turning one on the day my mum should be turning 66), these last twelve months have been a bit of a rough old ride. Reading through my blog posts, that’s no secret. Was I suffering a touch of PND? Quite possibly. Though after a few £100 therapy sessions, during which I mostly thought about how many pairs of shoes could have been purchased instead, I concluded that the hormone imbalance of having Grave’s combined with breastfeeding and the general day to day as a mum of two young children were more than likely the causes of my struggles.

It’s taken time, tantrums (mine) and a few brisk conversations with various people but the old me is definitely on her way back. I’m carving out the opportunities and energy to do what I enjoy; running; socialising; writing (ahem, when my head and my children are in the right place at least) to name a few. In 10 days time we move into our forever house. We’re currently modeling it on the very on-trend ‘building site chic’.

So as kiss the curls of my baby and replace the sleepy, flailing limbs of my first-born, I will admit to feeling pretty flipping pleased. I can’t bloody wait to move house and begin that exciting new chapter. And as for the journey that has been this last year, well, I reckon I’ve certainly come a long way, baby.

Sam cute

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Going on a Bear Hunt

It seems that people read my blog. A few murmurings recently have indicated that not only is this the case but that it has been noticed that I haven’t posted for a while.

It was all going so well, I had lots of things that I felt warranted some air time and just about enough time between batch cooking bolognaise and wiping snot to jot these ideas down (on the internet, as it turns out). Then, boom, Max stopped napping. We went from daily two-hourly loafings in bed to nothing. Just like that. No warning, no gradual decline of the nap. Hero to zero in 24 hours. So now we have two hours a day extra of reading Mog’s ABC and trying to fathom what ‘craft’ to do with lolly sticks and pipe cleaners. And two hours less to clear up ten thousand miniature dinosaurs, cook something relatively nutritious for dinner and, yes, blog about our escapades.

And if anyone has successfully managed to enforce ‘quiet time’, tips very much wanted here please.

So, anyway, I have managed to find some time (it’s 7am on a Sunday morning) and I’m back with tales of Max’s third birthday party, which happened yesterday.

Now before you go thinking I’m some kind of Pinterest mom, it took all the strength I could muster to not try to fob him off, party-less, like I did last year (poor boy didn’t even get a cake). But, I thought I should take advantage of having a summer-born child and aim for a garden-based party for a few of his friends. I kept the number of invitees right down; we live in London, so naturally our garden is typical postage-stamp size. Plus, he was turning three, I figured I have years ahead of me of having to invite the whole class or whatever the current etiquette is.

Having a theme somehow made the party-planning seem a lot easier, so, racking my brains for all of 30 seconds, I came up with the Bear Hunt idea. It’s one of Max’s favourite books and it seemed like a fun (and, moreover, easy) idea to organise.

blackboard

I honestly don’t know what we did before Amazon. Probably we didn’t spend a month’s salary on shit that somehow seemed necessary in order for 8 three year olds to enjoy their two hours chez nous.

But after just a few easy clicks, we ended up with a plethora of bear-themed tat. My favourites being the bear paw decals which may in fact become a permanent feature in our hallway and the plastic binoculars which immediately caused Max to cry as he ran eye-first into something whilst looking through them.

paw prints

After half an hour of hard-core chasing balloons around our too small living room, I managed to get all kids binoculared-up, sitting on he kitchen floor ready to start the bear hunt. Almost from nowhere my teacher skills re-emerged. I have no idea how I can be so incapable of getting my own children to do anything I want them to, yet faced with a group of pre-schoolers, any command I issue is followed without a blink.

As the inrepid bear hunters we are, we swished through the long, wavy grass (crepe paper stapled to elastic and stretched between two garden chairs); splashed through the deep cold river (paddling pool); squelched through the thick oozy mud (some soil, in a washing up bowl, my child, naturally, leading the way stepping into it); stumbled through the big dark forest (a play tunnel with some plants at the entrance); the swirling whirling snowstorm (trusty bubble machine) and tiptoed into the narrow gloomy cave (play tent decorated in brown crepe paper with trusty ‘Big Ted’ holding fort within). Those (mainly dads) taking shelter from the weirdness going on outside were slightly bemused as the party ran into the living room and leapt under the duvet (although it did clear up the question as to why there was a duvet on the sofa in the first place).

So, the most basic, simple props and the kids seemed to love it (as did I). We picnicked with our teddy bears outside on rugs. Fortunately (and it was touch and go) the weather held long enough to take the mealtime carnage outside and we ate/trod crisps into picnic blankets while our cling-film flew around the garden threatening the wildlife of South East London. I made each child a bear bag and filled it with sandwiches (mostly uneaten), a tub of grapes (not even looked at in nearly all cases), a juice box, pom bears and barney bear biscuits.

Luckily Sainsbury’s do a bear birthday cake which was a stroke of luck. I am not a baker, and I wasn’t going to teach (embarrass) myself by making a bear for my first birthday cake effort. Moreover, the boy doesn’t like cake. We had to have one for the obligatory candle-blowing-out but I felt I could get away with a shop-bought short cut since he wasn’t even going to eat any.

And there we have it. Two hours of bear and bubbles fun, sugared up kids (two of whom got drenched in the paddling pool, one being my own baby) and only one unclaimed bear at the end of it all.

 

 

 

Giving it up

booze

Giving up booze?  No thank you

Is it just me or does there seem to be some sort of obsession with giving things up?

On a recent night out, a friend mentioned that the glass of wine she was about to imbibe would be the first of the year. Now, being mid-March, I guess it wasn’t quite fall-off-your-chair news but still…

Another (and there were only four of us there) had given up caffeine over roughly the same time span and the third had (as far as I could make out) had given up most of my favourite food groups. I sank lower in my seat waiting to be asked what my offerings were.

In reality there is undoubtedly scope for my to cut down on things, most specifically gin, chocolate and biscuits (and chocolate biscuits). But do I have to give them up completely?

I’ve certainly done my fair share of abstinence; most recently, booze whilst pregnant (um, in the first trimester at least). I didn’t drink tea or coffee until my mid-twenties so I guess I enjoyed a long period of being relatively caffeine-free. I spent a few years attempting to give up most food, which obviously left me miserable and hangry.

coffee

I just can’t seem to make it through the day without one (or two) of these

It was about this time when I finally re-entered the world of gaining pleasure from food, drink and other fun stuff that I realised that life doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can be very healthy, happy and well balanced by maintaining, well, balance in your outlook.

I’m sure I’m not alone in desiring something even more when I have ‘given it up’. And it’s for these reasons that I will be continuing to enjoy my two flat whites a day, my g&t after several (most) of the week’s bath/bedtime shenanigans and chocolate biscuits whenever I see fit. Sometime I have to rein it in, of course. But to go without completely – non merci.

(Top) Tips for managing life with a baby and a toddler

double 1

The Double – lifesaver!

I feel I need to start this entry with a disclaimer. I feel totally unqualified to write such a piece as this. I mean, I do have a baby and a toddler and have for just over 9 months. And, yes, we are all still alive. But I feel like the kind of mum who can really give guidance like I am about to is one who floats effortlessly though the day. I don’t do crafts, baking or phonics with my toddler. My baby squawks for attention pretty much the entire time he is awake. However, we are:

  1. all still alive
  2. pretty happy (most days)
  3. probably not all that different to any other family with such young children

So I’ll begin. These are the things that have kept (and keep) me sane. I understand everyone has a very different lifestyle/different prioritites.

double 2

 

  • the double (bloody) buggy. Yes, I curse it pretty much every time I use it. It’s big, cumbersome and so heavy I get a back ache from just looking at it. Its wheels are a dog poo magnet and there’s no storage. Jostling Sam into the second seat underneath makes him puke EVERY TIME. And yet, I really couldn’t be without it. Max is small and not particularly strong, he’s not big into walking. I’m basically the size of a (small) 12 year old so finding ‘slinging’ Sam really hard work (plus, the vom issue means slinging is very much reserved for desperate times). We needed a double buggy and it has meant I haven’t ever felt housebound. Winner
  • Along the same lines, getting out whenever possible. Max still naps so each day is broken into morning and afternoon activities (unless we venture out for the day – rare). We get out of the house at least once a day and I do aim to plan something for each ‘section’ of the day (even if it’s playtime at home). I lose my mind if I don’t have a plan.

    sam swings

    everyone loves the playground!

  • When Sam was born, I went to and hosted bazillions of playdates. I soon learned that they are often really bloody hard work if the toddlers don’t get on. I’ve streamlined it a lot so only see people that both Max and I get on with. That way we both enjoy ourselves and there are fewer arguments over toys. I also try to keep some sort of social life without the kids (generally this involves meeting friends for drinks and often talking about our offspring).
  • My time. This is a toughie – there are not many opportunities for this. But I do carve out ‘slots’ in my day for myself. Sometimes this means getting up early early to do some exercise before the boys wake up; moving heaven and earth to get them down for a nap at the same time or taking some time at the weekend. It is not easy but I can’t function properly without some time alone so it’s very much a priority.
  • I love coffee. I seem to have bred a very urban 21st century child who delights in going to a café. So that’s what we do. We get out of the house, do some people watching (‘mummy, is that a lady or a man?’), enjoy a flat white/babyccino and feel like part of the real world again. Of course, I also keep coffee at home, so I can have a treat without having to go out (though it’s never as nice and I always seem to have to have to reheat it in the microwave).

    caffe nero

    coffee dates are standard most days

  • Lowering my expectations. This only dawned on me about 4 months in. I spent a lot of mental energy beating myself up for ‘failing’ because my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night/my toddler had tantrums/I sometimes forgot to buy milk. I gave myself a good talking to. I was aiming for the unattainable. So I relaxed my outlook, took more time to enjoy playing cars/reading books to Sam and found life that bit easier.

There’s noting mindblowing in the list above. The fact is, it’s hard having two small kids. Harder than I ever anticipated. I feel I have lost a lot of ‘my’ things (yes, I have gained more than I could ever imagine too). I won’t be going back to work when Sam is one. A decision I am happy with. But for my sanity I have to work hard to ensure I am looking after myself as much as my children. So I aim to do whatever I can to make life easier and more enjoyable for the whole clan.

what’s on TV?

What’s going on with the TV these days? Besides Broadchurch there just nothing worth watching.

Yes, I am quite picky about my programmes. When I only have an hour of sit-down time after kids’ bedtime, my dinnertime and going to bed myself, it needs to be a high-quality hour, whatever it is I’m doing*.

It’s becoming an increasingly rare occurrence that Piano Man and I sit down together to watch something really enjoyable. This might have something to do with the fact we can’t agree on what to watch. I have little interest in lasers and hot (female) totty. He doesn’t get excited by BBC dramas and Benedict Cumberbatch. But I wonder whether the bigger issue here is the dearth of decent telly.

TV

My TV.  Off because there’s nothing on

I do recall TV-watching being the highlight of my day when I was growing up. I could always find something good to watch. At the risk of showing my age (although, let’s face it, I show my age whenever I show my face), I would while away many an hour watching The Darling Buds of May, Morse, Keeping up Appearances, May to December. I could go on.

My evenings were full of BBC (sometimes ITV) series. Hardly any reality TV, not loads from across the Atlantic either. I would just lose myself in the escapism that happy, slightly cheesy British family dramas/sitcoms provided. Where have they all gone?

Sitting down last night, I flicked through the channels. Masterchef – I can just about manage it, as long as there are some interesting characters to keep the amusement factor strong. But the voiceover lady can really grate. Then I stumbled across ‘Three Wives, One Husband and ‘Rich House, Poor House’. I mean, wtf? Is this what we’ve been reduced to? Where are Crimewatch? Watchdog or Tomorrow’s World? Or any of the other decent stuff about important things.

I went to bed in disgust (and faffed on instagram for ages).

It must be me, right? Maybe I need to adopt a slightly more conscientious approach and sit down with the Radio Times and a highlighter pen. Maybe stop mourning TV of yesteryear and start enjoying what’s on offer now.

But when you’re just not feeling it, what can you do? I guess switching the box off could have its merits; I could read any of the books in the ‘waiting to be read’ pile; tackle my disproportionately long ‘to-do’ list’ or (gasp) sit and chat to my husband. And, well, there’s always instagram.

 

*for instance high-quality instagram faffing

Wardrobe dilemmas

not jeans

NOT jeans

Spring is coming (supposedly) and I am having a mammoth what-to-wear crisis. I’m officially a SAHM (stay at home mum to those who get pee’d off with acronyms), much the same (I believe) as a housewife, homemaker, full time mother (never quite understand this one, you don’t stop being a mother when you’re at work – never mind, questions for another day) etc.

So with my ‘work clothes’ safely filed away for future use I’m living my life pretty much 100% in jeans (obvs the exception being overnight, I love my jeans but there are limits).

But I just can’t help feeling that I ‘should’ be putting more effort into my outfits. I basically look a scruff pretty much all of the time. Why? Because I’m just a bit lazy. And comfort is paramount.

Yes, I know the arguments for not wearing decent clothes when you’re traipsing round on the floor playing cars/dinosaurs/tea parties all day. And it’s hard to muster the motivation to don your favourite LBD when it’s immediately going to be covered in Weetabix, vomit or paint (or all three). But I spend my entire day looking like I’ve just thrown on my post-daytime outfit comfies. Which, in a way, I have.

Pinterest is no bloody good. Search for ‘SAHM style’ (cringe-worthy of the highest order) and you’re bombarded with images of glam-looking mums wearing all sorts of ensembles that just aren’t going to cut it in soft play – never mind be easy access for breastfeeders.

There is also the very real issue for many mums who have waved goodbye to their salary that you just can’t go on big shopping sprees any more. There is so much other stuff to buy and (for now) your wardrobe is not going to take precedence.*

If you read my post on my jeans, you’ll know I do live in them. Maybe that’s ok, maybe I don’t need to be wearing skirts or (gasp) dresses. Maybe I don’t need to bin the denim in order to maintain some modicum of style (or at least look like I’ve made a slight effort). But I do know I ought (self imposed pressure, you’ll understand) to at least make a bit of effort with the rest of the ensemble. And just maybe feeling like I’ve made an effort to join the yummies out there will stop me feeling like such a scummie.

 

*I say many. I’m sure there are a fair few mums who don’t work outside the home (Jeez, we really have to be sensitive with our job titles these days) who can and do spend lots of time and money updating and maintaining their style. Jealous, moi??

 

 

 

cry baby

There are days when I feel like if my life were to be televised the soundtrack would be the sound of children crying. Every single day of the last week has been of those days.

Sometimes I put it down to me being a slightly shit mum and causing my children to be miserable for a large portion of their waking day. Other times there is a valid reason why they are both crying (often at the same time). For instance that the porridge was too hot or too cold, or in the wrong bowl or because it’s Tuesday.

Max crying

I try, I really try not to let it get to me. I know all the tricks; distraction; anticipating and avoiding the tears in the first place (my particular favourite – gives you so much comfort as they reach full-blown meltdown state); ignoring; cuddling etc etc. But when it’s the twelfth tantrum of the day and you’re still wiping weetabix off the highchair, it starts to grate.

I’m chain-eating chocolate digestives as I write this in order to try to lower my angst levels. Both kids in bed at their own request. This morning has consisted of playgroup where they both cried; the baby because he was tired and the toddler because the other children weren’t sharing the toys. We then went to the café (at the toddler’s request). The baby was now crying because he was hungry. Baby halfway through being fed, toddler’s cheese on toast (his request) arrives and we have to leave early because ‘it makes me cold’. So home to bed before tired/hungry/possibly ill meltdown ensues (managed to anticipate this time).

Sam cryinh

I’m fully aware that it’s my own fault for having two with such a small age gap.  I also understand (hope) that it won’t always be like this (those wonderful words spoken by people who have lived through this exact thing). But for now, the sight of snot and tears is beginning to leave me slightly deranged and the half bottle of chardonnay in the fridge is calling my name.

I know there is so much I’ll miss of these days when my babies are older and hairier. But the whinge ping-pong? Not so much.