Friday, 27 February 2009

The most memorable present ever given

I wore my sunglasses for the first time this year today. And what with the emergence of little yellow daffodils everywhere, I pretended, for a moment at least, that Spring was upon us. That was until I left the house and felt the North wind blow. But the tiny bit of sunshine and flowers reminded me of a present that Renée received last year. And thinking back to it, I felt the urge to offer you just the smallest piece of advice, in case the sunshine gave you any odd ideas. So this is the advice. Never buy a child a butterfly rearing kit for their birthday. Seriously. It may seem like a good idea when it's all prettily packaged in the shop, but once you've opened it, it's like a time bomb waiting to go off (or fly away in this instance). Now don't get me wrong, Renée loved the present (and in a funny way, so did I). Perhaps that was part of the problem. Let me explain.

Renée turned 4 half way through August and one of her presents happened to be a 'Grow your own Butterfly kit'. 'How original' I thought. 'Fantastic. Let's open this up and see what we have to do'. The kit itself contained a fold-away butterfly cage, a magnifying glass, a pair of plastic tweezers, an instruction booklet on how to care for the butterflies and a colouring book to keep the child occupied whilst they were waiting for their delivery of butterfly larvae. On closer inspection there was no actual butterfly larvae (that's baby caterpillars to you and I). No, this had to be ordered on the Internet, at an extra cost. 'Never mind', I thought, 'It's the least I can do to make my child happy'. So I did exactly that. I ordered a batch of baby caterpillars on the Internet and six weeks later they arrived. Now bear in mind that that's six weeks of 'Mummy are my caterpillars here yet.' After a week I was slightly impatient, after two weeks, mildly annoyed, and after a month I was ready to phone up and cancel the order. Funnily enough, when they did finally arrive both Renée and I had forgotten they were coming.

Caterpillars are funny things. In their embryonic state they are tiny, wriggly creatures that are completely unobtrusive, yet strangely they need more looking after than a newborn baby. The instruction booklet stated that they would eat only 'organic' cabbage. 'Oh how ridiculous', I thought, 'how stupidly middle class and unnecessary. Even my own children aren't fed organic food'. So when they first arrived, I ignored the instructions and instead scoured the depths of my cupboards to find something just as suitable. Brussel sprouts were what I came up with. Surely they're from the cabbage family and they'll be just as nutritious...? Within two days, three out of the five baby caterpillars had carked it. 'Oops', I thought. 'Better not let Renée see'. Maybe I should have gone organic after all.

It was at this exact time that I mentioned my predicament to some friends. 'You don't happen to have any organic cabbage lying around do you?' I asked almost as a joke. 'No we don't' they replied, 'but our neighbours grow their own cabbages. Let's go over and see if they'll give you a couple of leaves.' The neighbours turned out to be overly generous and I was rewarded with not just a couple of leaves, but a whole cabbage instead. A whole cabbage complete with it's own treasure trove of insects, and you've guessed it, even more caterpillars. I couldn't believe my luck. Inadvertently I had managed to shield Renée from the inevitable pet/death scenario (for the time being at least).

So with a brand new hoard of five or six caterpillars, a future butterfly seemed like a dead cert. But did I mention they needed more looking after than a newborn baby? If it wasn't washing leaves, it was cleaning up poo and if it wasn't cleaning up poo it was counting the tiny creatures to make sure they were still there, and if they were still there, prodding them ever so slightly to see if they were still breathing, just in case they too decided to cark it. It was exhausting work. And it got even more exhausting when Renée volunteered to look after two giant African snails for the half term holidays. All of a sudden our kitchen was a veritable menagerie of insects and crustaceans. Renée was in seventh heaven. I, on the other hand, was not. As a parent who's familiar with Eric Carle's 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', I had assumed that the life-cycle of the butterfly (or at least of the caterpillar part was a little over a week). You remember the book - on the Monday the caterpillar eats one apple, on the Tuesday two pears and by Sunday, after eating half the countries' supply of fruit and food, he has a tummy ache. The very next day he emerges as a beautiful butterfly. I had never realised, reading the book, that Carle had employed artistic licence. How naive of me. Day after day our caterpillars ate and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate and ate. I can't tell you how much they were costing me in organic cabbages.

Then one day, after more than a month of, well nothing much other than eating and occasional skin shedding, we woke to find that one caterpillar had disappeared and left behind a funny-looking brown creature. I could only assume it was the chrysallis. A week or so later, a butterfly emerged. But by this point in time, not only were we slightly jaded by the whole affair, but it was also November and far too cold to let the poor creature loose outside. So we kept it caged for a day or two and then when the rain had cleared enough, we took it into the garden. It was like watching your child walk for the first time. With baited breath we looked on, unable to assist. Just watching and hoping that it would take flight. After a few moments settling itself on a leaf, it took off and fluttered over the fence. And that was it. After six weeks of waiting for the larvae and another six weeks of daily maintenance, our one and only (have I forgotten to mention that somehow only one caterpillar managed to survive to butterfly stage), flew off and left us. Just like that. No 'thankyou for raising me. I'm glad it was you and no one else. I feel priviledged to have known you, if only for a short time.' No little glance over it's cabbage white wing. No sly wink and promises of return visits. Nothing. It left me cold. But maybe that was because it was November. I dread to think how the butterfly felt. Or even if it lived to see the end of the day. As for Renée, I think she was a bit disappointed that it didn't stick around a bit longer too. But for six whole weeks she had indeed witnessed the life-cycle of a cabbage white butterfly and I can safely say it is a present she will never forget. Just don't take the giving or receiving of this gift lightly!

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Loose ends

I'm feeling slightly exhausted this evening (nothing new there), so instead of entertaining you with my endlessly amusing anecdotes on parenting, I'm just going to tie up a few loose ends instead...

1. I finally managed to secure a cot for my friend's cotless baby. I did entertain the idea of a princess canopy over Edie's bed (thanks for all the suggestions), but she snuggles down so happily in her cot that I just couldn't bring myself to oust her from it just yet. If she's still in her cot by the time she goes to school then I may yet revert to the Princess canopy! I'll keep you posted on that one. Anyway, I was so ecstatic at having solved the problem (turns out another friend of mine has a spare cot) that I even offered her £20 for it. After all, I thought, what's £20 when it means you can sleep at night without feelings of guilt caused by thoughts of a poor child sleeping in their pushchair? If you've got no idea what I'm talking about, then I refer you to 'Cot Dilemma'. The thing is, no sooner had I happily delivered the news, when my friend (the one with the baby, not the cot) delivered her own news...just that day they had been given another cot!!!! Crikey, what's the probability of that happening? You wait all day for a bus and then two come along together... Anyway, I'm pleased for my least both our children will now be able to sleep at night. The only other thing is...I've now promised her a highchair!

2. Despite the nit scare yesterday, I have had a thorough check of 3 scalps in the house (neither Chloe the cat nor Marion the au pair were keen for me to look through theirs) and I'm pleased to say that no crawly creatures or offspring have been detected.

3. Car mended (although I have been hearing various suspicious rattly sounds). Am ignoring them.

4. Dad/Grandpa mended (although he now has terrible tooth ache and blisters on his feet from a new pair of shoes). There's just no telling the oldies.

5. Despite my over indulgence with the pancakes yesterday I still managed to lose some weight!! Of course I hate to boast, but seven pounds in seven days here I come...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pancakes and crawly creatures

So the day has finally arrived - for Renée it's almost as thrilling as Christmas - or at least that's how it sounded when she woke up in a frenzied state of excitement. Her first words, before 'morning Mummy' or 'quick I need a pee pee' (which are amongst the usuals) were 'It's Shrove Tuesday today isn't it Mummy?' Er, yes it is I thought, but I don't remember mentioning it yesterday. Of course, I know it's Shrove Tuesday, but that's because I'm an adult and I just know these things. Renée, on the other hand, is still only 4 (although she has just started saying she's 4 and a half as though that's a different age altogether). 'How do you know it's Shrove Tuesday then?' I asked. 'Did Mummy mention it yesterday?' 'No I don't think so', she replied. 'Miss Anscombe told me at school'. Aaaah...I see. So that's what you get from sending your child to a church school. I thought I'd see how far I could take it...'So, er, what does Shrove Tuesday mean then Renée?'. 'It means we eat lots of Pancakes, silly. Don't tell me you didn't know that Mummy.' Now that's more like it.

Anyway, of course I knew it was Pancake Day. Our French au pair has been dying to make pancakes, or 'crepes' since the day she arrived. Apparently they're Marion's speciality, so we've had today's date marked out for her to do her stuff since early January. Even I'm excited. Having said that, back at the beginning of the year I didn't forsee that I would be on a diet this week. Darn it. I might have to sacrifice the diet just for one night. Besides, what are diets for, if not for breaking? I'm just imagining cheese and ham and eggs and nutella and maple syrup and lemon and sugar and lots and lots of them...yum....told you I was weak when it came to food!

At the school gates this morning, just as I was in the middle of silently salivating over pancakes (please bear with me - I had just eaten half a grapefruit), I was stopped by another Mother. 'Does Renée want to come round and play this afternoon? I'll do some pancakes for them'. There and then my cheese, ham and egg bubble burst. I had to think fast. 'Well we've kind of got this French thing going on - Marion's going to make pancakes round at ours. Why don't you come to us instead?' 'Yeah, no problem', she replied, 'sounds good'. Phew I thought... 'Although there is one slight problem', she said. 'Yes?' I said. 'Well...' she hesitated... 'Yes?' I repeated. I was on tenterhooks. I could feel my voice getting higher. 'Well, I just have to warn you, my daughter's got nits.' 'Nits?' I said...And my mind was cast back to 6 years old, head over the bath, shaking out all these funny crawly creatures with my Mother looking on, hysterically (actually she probably wasn't in hysterics at all because she was good with those sorts of things but sometimes your memory is suited to what you want to remember). And a hysterical Mother makes for a funnier memory.

So it was nits and pancakes or nits and no pancakes. 'Never mind', I said, they're all bound to get it one day. Come over anyway.' My stomach had won of course. The other Mother then went on to assure me that she'd spent over an hour with the nit comb the night before and that little A was bound to be clear after all. But as I stood there, speaking with her, I suddenly felt the urge to scratch. And so I did. But the more I scratched, the more I wanted to. What is it about psychological itching? Anyway, I'm sure the pancakes will be delicious. The nits I'm not so sure about. I'll keep you posted on that one.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Morning scuppered

I am so annoyed. My whole morning has been scuppered by a series of unfortunate incidents. Now what you have to understand is that Monday and Thursday mornings are sacred to me. Those are the days when Renée is at school and Edie is at nursery. In other words, those are my only two mornings during the entire week where I'm child free, and as much as I love my children, I relish these times. So imagine my horror when I woke up this morning to discover that not one, but both of my children were ill. All my plans of a quiet morning catch-up with my friend Isabel were thrown into disarray. Although it was just a coffee and a natter we'd had this morning ear-marked for at least a month and I was, how shall I put this?, somewhat reluctant to cancel. So, call me selfish and irresposnsible, but I sent them to school and nursery anyway.

Now before you all take a collective intake of breath, I just need to clarify that when I say they were ill, they weren't that ill (I mean there were no red spots or suspicious welts). I was going to say that there were no limbs hanging off but I hate to tempt fate, so I deleted it. But seriously, anyone with small children can testify that a runny nose and a little cough are commonplace and if something like that was to keep them off school then they'd never attend. And besides, Renée actually told me herself that she wanted to go to school. Obviously I jumped on that, and it did help ease the feelings of guilt when I waved goodbye at the school gates. 'Darling if you are reluctant in any way to go to school then that's one thing, but if you yourself want to go, then how can I deny you?' Between the coughs and the sniffs we parted. As for Edie, well she was a bit teary, but I put it down to her having not been at nursery for over a week because of half term and was sure she'd settle down after I left.

So that was that. Or so I thought. No sooner had I made it over to Isabel's when I received a phone call from nursery. Edie had taken longer than normal to settle down. In fact, her nose was streaming, she had a temperature and well, it was probably a good idea for her to go home. So I climbed back into the car and said my quick goodbyes to Isabel. But what was this at the bottom of her road? A helicopter, a fire engine, a couple of ambulances, half a dozen police cars and almost the entire collection of the Brighton and Hove police force. It soon became clear that poor Edie would have a fairly long wait for her Mummy due to the fact that a slightly unhinged gentleman wielding a machete was threatening to throw himself off the rooftop of a nearby building...and as a consequence all the roads within a half-mile radius were closed. As far as I was concerened, this was pay back time for not putting my children's health at the forefront of my priorities.

In the end, I made it to Edie's nursery within an hour. And guess what? She was fine. Ok, so her nose was slightly runny and her cheeks were a bit pink, but she'd still managed to give the nursery staff the run-around all morning. Now if she had been truly ill, and maybe this is wishful thinking for Edie, but I'm sure she wouldn't have had the energy to be naughty. Possibly. Anyway, I'm back home now. Edie's having a sleep. All I've eaten is a bloomin' grapefruit and I'm half expecting a phone call from Renée's school to tell me that she's ill too. You see when you're a full-time Mother you can never truly relax. And that is the most exhausting part of all.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Diet tips

I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. After a week in Norfolk I've only gone and put on half a stone. I'm so annoyed. Of course, I take no responsibility for this. I totally blame my parents. If it hadn't been for the trifle, the fish and chips, the chinese takeaway, the meal out at the pub, the scones and jam, the chocolate shortbread, the maple pecan cereal, the lemon possets, the meringues, the other various chocolates which came out on an hourly basis, not to mention finishing off all the children's meals, then my clothes would all still fit me. I tried to tell them it wasn't a good idea. I almost said 'No, I can't eat all this food. It's not good for me. I just won't do it.' But when push came to shove, I couldn't quite get the words out. I am so weak when it comes to food.

So this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to go on a diet. As of tomorrow. Now please don't panic or think I'm ridiculous or vain. Well, actually you can think whatever you want because it's a free world, but you know what I mean. I've been through all this before. I think I may have mentioned somewhere (possibly in Labour Day Part 1) that I put on 5 stone during my first pregnancy. What I didn't mention is that I also put on 3 stone during my second pregnancy. And, despite being told by a number of people that if I were to breastfeed my children, then the weight would 'just drop off', it didn't. In fact, 4 months after giving birth to Renée I hadn't even lost a pound. And it wasn't until I suffered a terrible bout of food poisoning that I lost any weight at all. No, the only way I managed to shift those excess pounds, was not by going on a mad fitness regime (in fact, and I shouldn't really advocate this, I did no exercise at all), but to go on a diet. Plain and simple. Shocking I know, but I can't just say the weight fell off because I was running around non-stop after the children. That would be a lie.

Anyway, in case you're interested (apologies if you're not), I did manage to lose that combined total of 8 stone. And because I'm that sort of person, I'm going to share my little secret with you. It's called the Scarsdale Diet.


BREAKFAST EVERY DAY: One half grapefruit, One slice of bread, toasted, no spread added Coffee/tea (no sugar, cream or milk, no honey).


Lunch: Assorted cold cuts of meat. Tomatoes - sliced, grillled, or stewed. Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.
Dinner: Fish or shellfish, any kind, combination salad, any greens and vegetables as you wish, One slice bread - toasted, grapefruit. Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.


Lunch: Fruit salad, any combination of fruits. Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.
Dinner: Plenty of grilled, lean hamburgers, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, olives, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.


Lunch: Tuna fish or salmon salad (oil drained off) with lemon and vinegar dressing, grapefruit, or melon, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.
Dinner: Sliced roast lamb, all visible fat removed, salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.


Lunch: Two eggs, any style (no fat used in cooking), low-fat cottage cheese, courgettes, or string beans, or sliced/stewed tomatoes, one slice of bread, toasted, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.
Dinner: Roast, grilled or barbequed chicken (skin and visible fat removed before eating), plenty of spinach, green peppers, string beans, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.


Lunch: Assorted cheese slices, spinach, one slice of bread, toasted, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.
Dinner: Fish or shellfish, combination salad (any fresh vegetables desired, raw or cooked), one slice of bread, toasted, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.


Lunch: Fruit salad, any combination of fruits, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.
Dinner: Roast turkey or chicken, salad of tomatoes and lettuce, grapefruit, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.


Lunch: Cold or hot turkey or chicken, tomatoes, carrots, cooked cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower, grapefruit, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.
Dinner: Plenty of grilled steak, (all visible fat removed before eating), salad of lettuce, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes (sliced or cooked), brussel sprouts, Coffee/Tea/Diet Soda/Water.

SECOND WEEK OF SCARSDALE MEDICAL DIET - Repeat all menus of the first week.

So that's the plan. I'm just going to do it for a week...and not because I'm hideously vain and obsessed with my weight, (contrary to what you may think having just read this post), but because I just want to fit back into my clothes again. (And my parents in law are turning up in a week and I know I won't be able to resist all these cheese and wine and saucisson they're going to bring over from France).

So give me a week and I'll report back to you next Sunday....and in the meantime, spare a thought for me in the mornings when I'll be eating my half a grapefruit and dry toast.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Good news

I am relieved to be able to report that my Father has made it home in one piece (minus a stone of course which we can only assume was successfully 'passed' at some point during the night). Both the girls were asking the wheareabouts of Grandpa all day, so when he finally arrived, just before bedtime I thought he'd enter to rapturous applause. Instead, Renée took one look at him and said 'Grandpa, why are you still wearing your dressing gown?' Shortly followed by 'Why did you eat some stones?' Edie just carried on watching Dora. Poor Grandpa. It's going to take more than a night in hospital to win them over. Children are so fickle!

So that's it really. My car is fixed. Grandpa is home. We've spent an extra two days away and, according to Marion, Chloe the cat is missing us. Oh yeah, and my husband is still away working. Some things never change.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Sixth Sense

Wasn't I saying just yesterday that everything happens for a reason? And that there must have been a reason for my car to break down and keep me at my parents' house for an extra day? Well I think I must have a sixth sense or something. Halfway through supper tonight my Dad was struck down with terrible back and abdominal pains and had to be carted off to hospital in an ambulance. If my car hadn't broken down then I wouldn't still be here and my Mother wouldn't have any support. We think it's kidney stones, which they say is more painful than childbirth. Eek. My poor Dad. I'll keep you posted with the news.

Thursday, 19 February 2009


I'm full of a list of questions today (and they all start with why?) Now I'm beginning to sound like my 4-year old daughter. Why does my car always break down away from home? Why do I always eat too much when I'm at my parents' house? Why is my skin so dry when I don't wash in my own water? Why is the bedroom I'm staying in always so messy when I'm a neat freak at home? Why is there no bloody reception on my mobile phone? And why oh why am I still exhausted even though I'm going to bed early and I have help with the children? Somebody please answer me...

Secretly I really know the answers to all these questions, but I just like to pretend that my life is so difficult by asking them. Oh woe is me...It's ok, I'll stop moaning soon enough, but in the meantime, I'm just going to have a little grumble about my car because it is just mightily annoying and totally inconvenient. So we're supposed to be travelling home tomorrow but my car has now broken down. I noticed yesterday that it felt very low to the ground - either that or the roads had suddenly got a lot bumpier. I thought at first that maybe the exhaust had dropped down, but on closer inspection it's the suspension on the driver's I'm no mechanic but luckily I am an AA member and they sent a lovely chap out to fix my car (which incidentally he was unable to do, but we had a good chat whilst he was attempting to do so). Turns out he doesn't have any children (because obviously that's my first port of call re:questions whenever I meet somebody - how predictable)...but guess what? He may have no children but he has 16 dogs instead! Crikey - and I moan about having to wipe up poo and dribble and never being able to have a conversation. Imagine what's it's like for him? Maybe two children isn't such a handful after all...And then I thought everything happens for a reason and maybe my car broke down in order for me to have a chat with this man and to make me realise that no one has it easy...but then I thought not...the car hasn't actually been fixed yet so there could be an even greater reason for that to have happened. I shall keep you posted on that one.

In the meantime, the girls will have one more day of being spoilt by their grandparents, my skin will become one day dryer, my bedroom even messier, my phone will go another whole day without contact from the outside world (heaven forbid), my jeans will become just that tiniest bit tighter and I will be just as exhausted. As much as I love my parents, please fix my car quickly Mr mechanic.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Two free hours

Quite unexpectedly, I have manged to secure myself two free hours. Or put another way, two hours without the children. How this happened, I'm not quite sure, although with Grandparents around these sorts of things are always possibilities, but when I realised it had happened I even considered doing a little jump in the air. Instead, I did what I always do when I sense the tiniest prospect of relaxation. I put the kettle on and made myself a cup of tea. What normally happens when I have even the smallest amount of time to myself is that I tend to waste it. I enjoy my cup of tea so much that I have to have another straight afterwards. It's like small biscuits or short chapters in books, or really cheap clothes. You think that just one more won't make a difference until before you realise you've eaten the whole packet, or read half the book and it's two o'clock in the morning, or bought more clothes than you need just because they were a bargain and you've spent more than you would have done if they'd been expensive. Or in my case with the cup of tea, I savour the moment too long and before I've had a chance to do anything constructive, Edie's woken up, or the time has come to pick Renée up from school, or the phone has rung and it's someone I have to speak to.

So today, with my two free hours stretching ahead of me like, well two free hours, I'm going to try to make the most of it. But then it's got me thinking about what 'making the most of it' means for a parent. Does 'making the most of it' mean doing the jobs that you would be doing anyway even if the children were around, like putting a wash on, or hanging up clothes, or tidying the house, or stacking the dishwasher, or does 'making the most of it' mean finishing all the jobs which are left undone week after week - like painting the circle of grey filler on the dining room ceiling and while the paint is out covering over Renée's doodle on the study wall, not to mention the other scribbles which Edie has made on the sitting room wall, and come to think of it her bedroom wall as well, or catching up on e-mails which are, literally, months out of date, or making those phone calls which have been put off because each one is bound to take at least an hour (excessive I know, but when you leave conversations too long there's so much more to catch up on), or sorting out the girls' clothes into items which actually fit them because they're growing so quickly that I struggle to keep up with their new clothes and all the old ones are taking up so much space that I can hardly close their drawers. Would doing these jobs be making the most of two free hours? I'm not so sure.

For me, a woman who's favourite pastime is doing absolutely nothing, 'making the most of two free hours' is curling up on the sofa with a good book, or turning on the stereo and listening to an album that I haven't heard for months, or even turning on the television and watching something other than Dora or Peppa Pig. Just to be able to take a big deep breath and let my shoulders relax without hearing 'Mummy I've just spilt my drink everywhere', or 'Mummy caca' (that's French for poo poo and is Edie's favourite word), is the most exciting treat I can give myself. And the best thing about today is that I'm not actually at home. We're still in Norfolk on our half-term holidays, so all the jobs that I would normally be doing on a daily basis as well as all the jobs left undone are not applicable, which is even better because I don't even have to feel guilty about not doing them. So without further ado and procrastination, I am going to leave the computer and make the most of my two free hours. Although, I might just have one more cup of tea while I decide what to do.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

A woman's work is never done

As it turns out, I'm actually far too exhausted to write anything about our treetop escapades at Bewilderwood today, so I may have to leave that for another occasion (along with Labour Day Part 2 which I'm hoping no one will pick me up on). But trust me please, they will materialise at some point. This is, of course, a perfect example of what it's like to be a Mother. Leave everything other than children's stuff to the evening and then you're far too exhausted to do it anyway. So what I'm going to do today is leave you with another great example of what it's like to be a Mother, in the form of an e-mail that I received a couple of weeks ago.

Mum and Dad were watching TV when Mum said, 'I'm tired, and it's getting late. I think I'll go to bed'.

She went to the kitchen to make sandwiches for the next day's lunches, rinsed out the popcorn bowls, took meat out of the freezer for dinner the following evening, checked the cereal box levels, filled the sugar container and put spoons and bowls on the table. She then put some wet clothes in the dryer, put a load of clothes into the washer, ironed a shirt and secured a loose button. She picked up the game pieces left on the table, put the phone back on the charger and put the telephone book into the drawer. She watered the plants, emptied a rubbish bin and hung up a towel to dry. She yawned and stretched and headed for the bedroom. She stopped by the desk and wrote a note to the teacher, counted out some cash for a school trip, and pulled a text book out from hiding under the chair. She signed a birthday card for a friend, addressed and stamped the envelope and wrote a quick note for the doctor. She put both near her purse.

Mum then washed her face with 3 in 1 cleanser, put on her Night solution & age fighting moisturiser, brushed and flossed her teeth and filed her nails.

Dad called out, 'I thought you were going to bed.' I'm on my way,' she said.

She put some water into the dog's dish and put the cat outside, then made sure the doors were locked. She looked in on each of the kids and turned out their bedside lamps and TV's, hung up a shirt, threw some dirty socks into the basket, and had a brief conversation with the one up still doing homework. In her own room, she set the alarm; laid out clothing for the next day, straightened up the shoe rack. She added three things to her 6 most important things to do list. She said her prayers, and visualised the accomplishment of her goals.

About that time, Dad turned off the TV and announced to no one in particular. 'I'm going to bed.' And he did...without another thought.

Now if my husband reads this he'll think I'm unfair because he actually does do half the stuff in the list above and I thank him for it. But I wanted to share it with you anyway because it made me laugh.

An now I'm off to bed to try to recover from an exhausting day. As usual!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Half Term Activities

So it's half-term for the kiddies and we're visiting Grandma and Grandpa which means I'm absolutely worn out because not only has it taken me five hours to drive here, but we've been doing 'activities'. Not that we don't do activities when we're at home, but when we're here (which is Norfolk) it just seems more appropriate. Today we were fulfilling Renée's half-term homework demands which were to produce a woodland picture in the style of Andy Goldsworthy, which even I thought was a tad pretentious for a Reception class. Having said that I totally got in to the spirit of things and 20 brown leaves, 15 green leaves, 10 acorns, 5 feathers and 2 twigs later I am very proud of my creation - or rather Renée's creation, because of course I had nothing to do with it!

And as for Edie - well with two grandparents to spoil her, her naughtiness knows no bounds. Far from helping make supper (beans, mashed potatoes and sausages which Renée had requested as a special treat - poor thing, you can tell that she's deprived if that's a special treat), Edie decided to squish the whole packet of sausages through her fingers when no one was watching. As they say, you only need to take your eye off them for a second! Not surprisingly, Renée was not at all impressed with the subsequent sausage melange and decided that it wasn't her favourite meal after all. But Grandma was on hand to offer solace - in the form of her special trifle, which if you don't dig down too deep is perfect for children, but if you plunge to the depths of the sponge layers then it's an adult only delicacy. Unfortunately, when we took it out of the fridge all we could see was an Edie-sized handprint on one side of the cream and on the other side, a few telling holes. On closer inspection, there was not much trifle left at all and my youngest child was covered from head to toe. How could that have been missed?

So that's our first day of half-term. Tomorrow we're planning on taking the girls to an adventure playground called 'Bewilderwood', which is described as 'a curious treehouse of wild family fun and adventure'. It also states in the brochure that it is a 'relaxing time for parents and a brilliantly exciting time for kids'. Exciting time for kids maybe, but 'relaxing'?? Have they met Edie? In fact, have they met any two year old? Of course, I will reserve judgement until tomorrow, but I can tell you now, to be high up in the trees with little Miss Edie, a relaxing experience it most certainly will not be. The things we do for our children!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

A naughty child and feelings of guilt

Ok, so I have a problem. I have a naughty child. Of course she's totally gorgeous and wonderful and sometimes her naughtiness actually makes me laugh, but she is nonetheless, naughty. Now I know some parents wouldn't dream of using the word naughty for fear of labelling their child or giving negative association, but I try not to be too pc about it all. For me, naughty just means they don't do what they are told. And if that's the case, then my little Edie is most certainly very very naughty. So much so that it's beginning to drive me crazy. I have no memories of Renée being naughty in the same way and I'm sure I haven't blanked out the memories of her being naughty. I just don't think she was. So how can two children, of the same sex, from the same parents, with exactly the same upbringing, be so different? Is it something to do with being a second child? Are they constantly in the shadow of their older sibling so they are forever seeking attention?

I'll give you an example of Edie's naughtiness. Last night, just before bedtime, Edie pulled Renée's hair. She didn't just pull it a little bit, but she gave it a good old yank. And this was without any provocation at all. Edie just marched up to her and decided to pull her hair. It was as simple as that. Now if it had been the first time she had done it then I would have told her off, made her apologise, explained to her why she shouldn't do it, etc etc. But this wasn't the first time she had done it, or the second, or even the third. I haven't been counting, so who knows how many times she has done it, but it has been quite a few. I have tried the good old 'naughty step' and although it has always worked amazingly well for Renée, Edie just won't take it seriously. She laughs when she's made to sit there, constantly gets off and runs away from it and even politely requests to be sent there as if it's a treat. So by the time she had pulled Renée's hair for, let's say the 20th time, I was starting to think about taking drastic action.

Edie has always been, not only a hair puller, but a biter as well. And in the past, when I've been searching for ways to stop her from biting, I have come accross tales of mothers biting their children back. Apparently it causes the child so much shock (and probably pain as well) that it makes them realise just how horrible it is to be bitten and so they never do it again. Although I couldn't quite bring myself to bite Edie, I thought maybe this was the time to employ similar tactics with the hair-pulling problem. So, against my better judgement, I decided to pull Edie's hair. I have to say, her reaction was quite heart-breaking. She looked at me, her bottom lip started to quiver and she burst into tears. I think she was in total shock that the person who she always turns to for love and comfort was the instigator of her pain. She didn't know what to do. Instead of coming to me with her arms up wanting a kiss and a cuddle, as she normall would have done, she ran to the corner of the room and stayed there sucking her thumb. I found that, not only did I want to turn back the clock and not pull her hair, but I wanted to scoop her up and my arms and comfort her until she stopped crying. The resistance brought tears to my eyes. Literally. But I had to stay strong. I went over to her and said 'Edie, Mummy is really sorry to have hurt you. Pulling hair is wrong. But now you understand that pulling hair hurts. When you pull Renée's hair you hurt her. And this makes Renée sad. Mummy says sorry for pulling your hair. I won't do it again. Please say sorry to Renée for pulling her hair and tell her you won't do it again.' So she went over, apologised to her sister and we all had a big cuddle. I felt vindicated. Maybe you need a little pain to have any sort of gain at all.

Ten minutes later, Edie pulled Renée's hair again. So this is why I am writing this post. I need help. How do I stop Edie from being so naughty? I know she loves her sister and I have never felt any resentment or jealousy from either of them. Edie follows Renée around everywhere and wants to do exactly what her sister is doing, and Renée likes the role of big sister and relishes teaching her all the things she knows. When friends come round to play they sometimes prefer to play together even though they see each other every day. So I really don't think there is sibling rivalry. I am hoping that this is a phase and that she will grow out of it very, very soon, but in the meantime, can somebody please help me out??!!

Friday, 13 February 2009

Randoms and a little bit of romance

I'm going to avoid mentioning what date it is today because JP left yesterday for two weeks in India and I get to spend Valentine's Day (whoops mentioned it) alone. Again. Earlier in the week JP asked me what we had done for Valentine's Day last year. 'Er nothing', I had said. 'You were in Burkina Faso'. And the year before I can't remember. Edie wasn't even three months old so I probably didn't realise what the date was at the time. I'm not annoyed. Well, not hugely. So instead of mentioning hearts and flowers and all sorts of things like that, I'm going to finish off my labour story because, if you haven't gathered by now, Renée was actually born on Saturday 14th.

Now this is where I just have to stop and take back everything I've said in the last paragraph. I've just opened the door to the largest bunch of red roses I've ever seen. And before I had even opened the envelope to see who it was from I phoned my husband to thank him. Luckily it was him who had sent them or that could have been embarrassing!! So he's saved for another year. And that's all it takes. You see I'm not demanding.

Anyway, I have a very busy day ahead of me. I have to leave in er...well I should have left two minutes ago to pick up Renée from her French lesson, then she has a five year old birthday party to go to which we have yet to wrap the present or write the card for (and believe me, writing the card takes time) and then I'm even considering taking the train to London to see a friend who's just over for the weekend from New York. Too many things and as always too little time. But as a consequence I may have to leave Labour Day Part 2 until tomorrow. Apologies if you're chomping at the bit for it.

Friday 13th - Labour Day Part 1

Friday the 13th occurs at the most three times a year, but more often than not just once a year. I know this because I've just looked it up on Wikipedia and want to get my facts straight before I write a post concerning this ominous date. So given those statistics, what is the probability of a child being born on Friday the 13th? I'm not actually sure of this because if it were possible to be numerically dyslexic (I don't think it is), I would be. What I'm saying is that I've always hated maths and can't be bothered to work it out. But the point I'm getting at is that the probability is pretty low. So imagine my relief when, exactly four and a half years ago, on the morning of Thursday 12th August, I went into to labour. My first reaction (apart from extreme panic) was to think 'Aah, at least I'll miss Friday 13th'. The funny thing is, I don't even know why I cared at all because I've never been superstitious - I walk under ladders without my heart skipping a beat and the number 13 has never represented anything to me other than the next in line to number 12. But there was just something about Friday 13th that made me not want to have a child born on it.

This post, you'll see is just an excuse to tell you my labour story, but I'm trying to do it in a roundabout way so I won't seem so obvious! Anyway, as my labour progressed (or not as it turned out), the scary date loomed closer and closer. With your first child you have no idea what to expect from childbirth. As I mentioned in my post a couple of days ago, no one could tell me what it was like. Not even my own Mother. And the two people who had been pregnant at the same time as me, my sister in law and an old friend, had had, by any standards, pretty easy labours. Both six or seven hours, no pain relief, no tearing, no stitches, no intervention, just pleasant memories and a beautiful baby at the end of it all. Crikey, if they could do it, I thought, then I definitely could. I hadn't put my pain threshold to the test particularly up until that point - a couple of broken bones and stitches, even a tattoo, and I'd been ok with them, so I was pretty sure I'd come through with flying colours. Now this is where I just have to say ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha foolish.

So when I went into labour on the morning of Thursday 12th I was pretty sure that I'd have a baby before it even got dark outside. I'd done my maths and I thought 7 hours - I'll be home for supper!!!! As it turned out I wasn't home for supper that night, or the night after or the night after that. And probably not for two more nights after that. But the funny thing is JP had actually cooked stuffed peppers and when it was clear neither of us would be eating them, he'd left them in the oven (turned off thankfully) and we'd found them four days later covered in mould. I was devastated at the waste and even tried to salvage some of it! Anyway, back to the labour. Mid way through Thursday the 12th, when I was pretty sure I couldn't take any more pain (the contractions seemed to be only a couple of minutes apart) I begged JP to take me to the hospital. In one of my ante natal classes we'd been advised to stay at home for as long as possible, so I was pretty confident that I'd pushed the timescale to the limit and I'd be congratulated for holding out so long. I had a contraction in the car on the way to the hospital (it was a three minute drive) and another just outside the door to casualty. This was it. The baby was about to be born. I could feel it. A Mother just knows these things. So imagine my complete and utter dismay when, following an examination by a midwife, I was told that I wasn't even 1cm dilated. Now for those of you that don't know, you have to be 10cm dilated for the babies head to fit down your passages (still not sure of all the technical terms). And this is the worst bit - on average it takes about an hour per centimetre of dilation. So despite my discomfort, I did my maths again. It was going to be another 10 hours...surely not?!! Hold on, that means the baby's going to be born on Friday 13th. Oops...

And to make matters much much worse, we were sent home. Not advised. But sent. There was no room for us and we should go home. Try to get some sleep. Some sleep? Were they crazy? I couldn't sleep. I couldn't speak. I couldn't even bloody breathe. How on earth was I going to be able to sleep? But of course we didn't want to cause a scene (I am very English after all) so we went home, JP clutching the stereo which I'd demanded he bring because my best friend Olaf had made me some reggae cd's to listen to and I was determined to play them at the crucial moment. But seeing JP with the redundant stereo and me sweating and screeching and waddling (oh yeah I forgot to mention that I had put on 5 stone in weight) I just felt pissed off and humiliated. So we trundled off home and I spent the rest of the day and night screaming in complete agony. And that's true. I'm not quite sure why my labour was so slow and so hideously painful, but it was.

So following another 12 hours of excrutiating, unbearable pain, I really felt the time had come again and we made our way back to the hospital...But guess what? Not even 1cm dilated. Now this is where I just had to swear. 'For fuck's sake. Can somebody please tell me what the fuck is going on?' This time, we were advised to go home again, but I was having none of it. 'I need an epidural. Please can I have an epidural??' (Of course, in the days leading up to the birth I had debated the pros and cons of having an epidural and had definitely decided not to have one). An epidural, for those who don't know is a form of anaesthetic that helps numb the pain caused by contractions. Now when I hear pregnant women proudly stating that they won't be having an epidural I want to shout at them and say 'don't be so bloody stupid. Who knows how your labour's going to be. You could end up begging for one'. But of course I don't say anything of the sort because I was that person once. It turned out that because my waters had broken more than 12 hours previously, I needed to be induced (which means having your labour artificially speeded up with the help of hormones). There are a few different types of induction. My type was a drip in the arm and, as I read the description on a tatty peice of paper handed to me by a midwife, it was 'the most painful form of induction.' An epidural was 'advised'. Well seeing as I'd already requested an epidural, I was 'happy' to receive it. But as my contractions got stronger and stronger and more painful due to the hormone being dripped into my arm, the epidural (which consisted of an enormous needle being stabbed into my spinal cord) seemed to be more and more useless. 'Well it should be working by now', said the midwife. 'Well it's not'. I screamed. So I had another one. It still didn't work. 'Well let's roll you over on to your side (like a sack of potatoes) and try to get the anaesthetic to move to the right places'. And this was not as easy as it sounded. Already with a whopping great needle sticking out of my back, a bump the size of an triplet pregnancy and five extra stone just hanging around, it was a huge effort. It didn't work. Neither did the spinal block which they tried next (because my back was so swollen from the epidural that they couldn't get the needle in). It was at this point that I thought - 'Do you know what? I don't care if this baby is born on Friday 13th. I just want to get it out'.

But this is where I have to leave you. This whole post concerns Friday the 13th and unless I publish it in the next five minutes, then the whole date subject thing will be completely useless because I would have missed not only the day, but the point as well. So I will be back tomorrow to finish off this story. Apologies if childbirth is not your thing, but if you give me a couple of days I will have got it out of my system. Until tomorrow.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Cot Dilemma

Today I have a dilemma. It has something to do with a cot. Now I know that cot speak is not everyone's cup of tea, but although the subject of my dilemma is about a cot, I can sense some underlying issues which affect us all. Issues like guilt and broken promises. You see, some time ago I made a promise to a friend and due to circumstances beyond my control, I have yet to fulfil this promise. Every day it eats away at me until I feel sensations which vary between mild annoyance and extreme guilt. And until I fulfil this promise I won't be able to rest easy.

I shall explain. Last Summer some good friends of ours were moving from Brighton to Seattle. I try not to think of this too often because I still miss them and it makes me sad. And although they are still my e-mail, Skype and Facebook friends, it's just nowhere near as fun as popping round for a chat and a coffee and a good old heart to heart. Anyway, when these friends left the country they spent a month or so ridding themselves of furniture, clothes and all sorts of knick knacks and paraphenalia that they couldn't take with them on their epic emigration. I enjoyed this time immensely as I measured up spaces for fridges we didn't really need but quite fancied, tables and mirrors which one day would be sure to come in handy, a pair of Lelli Kelli children's shoes (which incidentally Jane are still worn every day), and my absolute favourite, the entire contents of their food cupboard and alcohol supplies. We really were vultures and I loved every minute of it. But back to the point. One of the items we managed to aquire during this time was a fantastic children's bed. It's not a bunk bed, but a higher than normal bed - the sort with three steps up to the sleeping area and space to play underneath. It was the sort of bed that I'd wanted to buy Renée when she had graduated from a cot but my maternal instincts got the better of me and I'd opted for something slightly safer and low to the ground. But last Summer, just before her 4th birthday I decided that the time was right for a really big girl's bed. So we swapped her low-to-the-ground singleton for this new aquisition and she was a happy little thing. So where does the guilt come in? Read on please...

We decided that instead of dismantling the original single bed we would just move it into Edie's room because although she was still in her cot it wouldn't be long until she too would graduate to something bigger. There's nothing like a good old hand me down for a younger sibling! So that's what we did. And from the first moment Edie saw it in her room she said 'Edie's bed. Me want go Edie's bed.' I resisted at first because a cot to bed transition is not always a smooth one and I do try to make things easy for myself. Anyway, during this time of resistance I was chatting with a very heavily pregnant friend. 'You don't have a cot for the new baby?' I asked. 'Oh, well you can have Edie's. We won't be needing it soon. She's got Renée's old bed and it's a really good quality cot. You're very welcome to it.' My friend was over the moon and happily accepted it. But this is where the guilt comes in. This conversation took place back in August and the very next day my friend gave birth to a beautiful little boy. It was as though she had been holding on to the baby until she felt safe that he had somewhere to rest. And as soon as I had promised the resting place, bob's your uncle, baby's born. So what's the problem?

The problem, my dear friends, is that Edie is still happily snuggled in her cot every single night. And although I try to introduce her to the pleasures of a big grown up girl's bed, she is stubborn to the end. Despite the early signs of wanting to graduate to the bed, she is no nearer doing it than she was back in August. And the worst is yet to come - my friend's baby is sleeping in his pushchair every night and he's 6 months old. So please help me out. What can I do? I have explained to my friend that Edie will not, under any circumstances, relinquish her cot, and perhaps it's best to look around for another one, but my friend just says that she's happy to wait. Aaarghh. I'm sure in time Edie will decide that her bed is a better bet than her cot, but it's not time that we have. Any suggestions would be hugely appreciated.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Certain things get in the way of writing

I'm trying to be prolific here and get three blogs out in three days, but certain things have got in my way. Like Renée's mass at her school which all the parents were invited to. I was just about to sit down and write my thoughts for the day when I remembered that we were supposed to be there in 20 minutes. Obviously I gave up the blog and hotfooted it over to Rottingdean to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes with all the other parents. And thank the Lord we made it in time because our little sausage was chosen as her class representative to do a reading. Well it wasn't exactly a reading because she's still only 4 and her reading consists of a (very talented) pointy finger and a succession of phonetic sounds. But she did have words to say and even though it was just a line (which I can't even recall), it almost brought me to tears. I think I may have cried properly if she hadn't been swishing her bunches so much.

This morning, after much pleading on her behalf, I relented and put her hair in bunches. I normally don't have time for bunches (see the First Day blog), but for some reason this morning there were minutes and minutes to spare. So without remembering that there was a special mass at school, I set her hair in bunches (as opposed to a pony tail which she usually has). If I had remembered about the mass there is NO WAY I would have done anything other than a pony tail. During the entire mass she swished this way and that, played with, tugged, flicked, carressed and tightened and loosened both her bunches. I think it was a combination of her not being used to the style and the fact that she's a Leo and (as my Mother always tells me because she's really into star signs) Leo's love their hair. But aside from the hair she remembered her line and my husband and I were so proud that we then proceeded to stand around afterwards and discuss how confident and eloquent our child was with all the other parents (whilst at the same time obviously remaining entirely modest). But that was that. That took a good part of the day.

So I thought great, now I can get on and write this blog. I'll put the television on for the girls and I can quickly think of something interesting to write. But for some unexplained reason Edie wanted me to sit and watch Peppa Pig with her. She's normally very happy to watch Peppa Pig on her own but today, just when I had something to do, it was 'Cuggle Mummy. Edie cuggle Peppa. Mummy cuggle Peppa too. Nenée cuggle Peppa. Peppa cuggle Edie and Nenée. Chloe (that's the cat) cuggle Peppa.' And on it went. I just couldn't get away. So then it was supper time quickly followed by bathtime and bedtime and before I could even think about getting back to the computer I remembered that JP (that's my husband) and I were supposed to be going to the cinema. That's the beauty of having an au pair - we can actually go out without having to go thorough the whole rigmorol of getting a babysitter, which is probably why I hadn't remembered.

But the problem was, there wasn't actually anything we wanted to see at the cinema. The only film we had any desire to see was Slumdog Millionaire and we saw that a couple of weeks ago, but we had to go out because not only did we have the lovely Marion at our disposal, but we were going to be apart on Valentines Day because JP is off to India for two weeks (he's a cameraman and always away from home). So this was our Valentines evening. So we turned up at the cinema and decided between Madagascar 2 (which I had already taken Renée to see twice), My Bloody Valentine (I'm not a fan of horror films), Slumdog Millionaire (see above) and The Curious case of Benjamin Button. So taking all things into account, we chose the latter. It sounded good - it had been nominated for 13 Academy Awards, which is obviously no mean feat. But purlease, 2 hours and 45 minutes later (not including the almost half an hour of adverts and trailers), we were almost asleep. I still don't know if it's because the film was boring or because we're parents of two young children and will never be anything other than exhausted. Actually the film was pretty good - I cried - but then I always cry when there's even a touch of romance so that doesn't mean a thing. I will never be a film critic. It was good, but not that good.

So that's that. The end of my third day of blogging and I've just about managed to fill the space, despite all the obstacles that having two children inevitably brings. Who knows what delights I will be bringing to the screen tomorrow. Even I'm quite excited!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Swimming and a reminisce on childbirth

Today I took my daughter swimming. Well actually it wasn't exactly swimming and I didn't actually take her myself, but that's the rough description. My husband is now home. He got back from Latvia yesterday afternoon just in time for Edie's Tuesday 'swimming' lesson. She's only 2 years old, so swimming is quite an exaggerated word for what she does, but she can jump into the pool on her own, hold her breath under the water, come up for air, turn around and splash and splutter her way to the side, cling on, clamber along the edge and climb out at the steps, so in an emergency I think she'd be ok. But I do find myself watching from the side and sometimes wondering whether it's all worth it - and whether maybe we should just wait until she's a little older and strong enough to swim properly. But then I think that there are two reasons why it's all worth it. The first is that her elder sister also started 'swimming' when she was little (they both started at 4 months) and now at 4 years old she is fantastic. Of course there are days when I sit on the side of the pool, chatting with other mothers, and when they ask 'which one is yours?', I am almost tempted to say 'that one there, the one who looks like she's drowning', but of course I don't because that wouldn't be fair, although one would be forgiven for thinking that she was drowning. She's not actually drowning, she's just sinking as she tries to take in air. She needs to work on her position a little bit more. But, on the plus side, she doesn't need arm bands and she recently got her 50m badge and for a 4 year old I would say that is pretty good going.

But the other reason why I think it's all worth it is a purely selfish one. It cheers me up. That's the bottom line. I can enter the swimming pool in the foulest of moods (which admittedly is very rare seeing as I'm normally quite a cheery soul), but for argument's sake, the foulest of moods, and I will always leave with a smile on my face. No matter what. There's just something about watching those little faces laughing and giggling and enjoying themselves that is totally contageous, especially if they are your little ones. I think it's something to do with watching them find their way in the world and witnessing their struggle and finally seeing them succeed. There's an enormous amount of pride, (and sometimes embarrassment too - especially when it's your child who's the class clown). I have been known to have hysterics at the side of the pool - I think it was nervous laughter than got out of control. Something to do with Edie pulling another child's hair and then throwing a tantrum when she was told off.

And it got me thinking about how much we love our children and how blinkered some of us are when it comes to them. I recently completed a '25 Random Facts' about myself and posted it on Facebook so my friends could read it. Later that day I was chatting to a friend on the phone and we were discussing my number 25 which went something like this, 'I sometimes look at my children and think that they're the most beautiful creatures on this planet, but really I know that they're quite ordinary looking' and she was totally aghast that I could say they were ordinary looking. Of course, to me, they're not ordinary looking, but that's because they're mine and if I didn't think they were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen then I wouldn't be so protective of them and my maternal instincts wouldn't be so strong. But I try to be realistic about them. In a crowd of 30 children no one who wasn't their Mother or Father would point to them and say that they were the most beautiful children there. I would, but I've already explained why. But my friend (who also has two children of similar ages) said that she genuinely does think that her children are the most beautiful creatures she's ever seen. Does that make her maternal instincts stronger than mine, or am I just a bad mother? I know what she'd say. She'd probably say that her children were better looking than mine and that was all. But I'm not so sure. I have another few examples here. Childbirth for instance. It's a well known fact that you're supposed to forget the pain of childbirth as soon as you are holding your precious bundle in your arms. Why on earth would we ever choose to go through it all again if we remembered the pain? Despite the fact that you've gone through hours and hours of torturous labour, the moment the baby is born none of it matters because love is the painkiller you need to see you through childbirth. No one, including my own Mother, could tell me that childbirth was bad. She actually remembered it as quite enjoyable. Well, I can tell you this. I will NEVER forget the pain of childbirth. I can still remember it in every excrutiating detail, and in fact I might even write a blog about it one day. And as far as thinking that my precious little bundle was the most beautiful thing on this planet, of course I didn't. Her nose was squashed, she was covered in slime and her head was a funny cone shape because of the ventouse used to suck her out. She looked like she'd been in a car crash. I may even have said, 'Well you're not a looker, but I still love you'. And I did. I felt an overwhelming rush of love for her (and I even cried when she had her first injection because her pain was my pain), but I just couldn't be so blinkered to think that she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. I don't think that makes me a bad Mother, just a realistic one.

So those are my thoughts for the day. I'm now off out to take both my children to the hairdressers. The youngest one is going to have her hair cut for the very first time and as a mark of the occasion I'm taking a camera to record the very special moment. And not because I think she's the most beautiful creature I've ever seen, but because I took photos of her sister's first haircut and I am nothing, if not fair.

And just as a post script, I did get pregnant again, but I spent nine months absolutely petrified of the impending childbirth and didn't enjoy my pregnancy at all.

Monday, 9 February 2009

The First Day

Well it has to begin somewhere so this is it...

I had a thought this morning that when your children wake up late it's almost as bad as when they wake up early - especially if you have something to do. I shall explain. I have no alarm clock - my children are that thing. And unless I'm waking up really early to catch a flight (although come to think of it that hasn't happened in a few years but then I always did like living in the past), I never need to wake up before I hear that little call of 'Mummy'. I have two children. Two girls. They are two and four. I used to know which one was calling me because the elder would call 'Mummy' and the younger would just kind of cry out or just generally cry. But now the little one can speak they both call out 'Mummy' and I'm expected to go into their rooms and lift them out of their little beds (or cot as in the younger one's case) - although that's a different story - one I will share with you another time. But now when I hear 'Mummy' I don't know which one is calling me. It has been known for me to enter into the wrong one's bedroom and inadvertently wake them up before they are ready. I hate doing this.

Anyway, back to today. This morning I didn't hear the first of the cries until 7.45 at which point I looked at the time on my phone (remember no alarm clock) and I started to panic. The little one (that's Edie) had to be at nursery in 15 minutes and the elder one (that's Renée) had to be at school in 45 minutes. Actually writing it down now it doesn't seem so bad, but this morning it was horrible. There was milk to warm up (for one of us), clothes to put on (for three of us) and breakfast to make (for two of us). I would have liked it to be breakfast for three, but that's a sacrifice I am prepared to make when I'm in a hurry. And that's not even mentioning hair brushing, teeth brushing, tantrum control, dawdling prevention and all the other things that seem to need doing. And then when we're all ready to go it's into the car (why does it take so long to put children into car seats?) and drive to the nursery miles away where we used to live because there's still no place for Edie in the one over the road even though we put her name down when she was six weeks old. Which just so happens to be more than two years ago. I shall save that rant for another time. Anyway, so that's why it was all such a panic.

But the funny thing is, I had forgotten that we now have the wonderful Marion staying with us, our French au pair who's kind of related, although we had never actually met her before she stepped off the plane about a month ago. I have spent so long moaning about never having enough time to myself and begging for just a tiny bit of help, but now we have her I'm not sure what to do with her. Like this morning, I had forgotten that she was there and that I was supposed to utilise her. I think I am totally the wrong person to have an au pair simply because I can never ask people to help me. I can moan about not having help, but when help is given I insist that I can cope on my own. Oh what an idiot. I think that side of my character needs some working on.

So thank goodness for Marion. When I heard 'I'll make the breakfast and get the girls dressed' I almost burst into tears. All I had to do was to get myself dressed. I even toyed with the idea of making breakfast for myself but I decided it was too induldgent after all. So that was that. Instead of putting both girls in the car, I left Renée with Marion and took Edie to nursery on her own. It was almost relaxing. Except I was then a bit panicked on the way home that I was going to be late to drop Renée off at school, and it was a bit of a rush, especially since she insisted on taking almost her entire collection of soft toys in the car with her, some of which she dropped in the rain outside the front door, but we made it with minutes to spare.

I would like to say that I don't know what I would have done without Marion's help. But I do know. I know because I've done it for the last four years - I have coped. I didn't realise until Renée replied to a question I asked her a few weeks ago with 'I can just about cope Mummy' that that must be something I say all the time. When your four year old child is repeating sentences like that it makes you feel a tiny bit guilty, although actually it made me laugh when I heard it. She is very earnest for her age. And if she can just about cope with all the horrors that a four year old is faced with (like a younger sister who refuses to share and continually bites her even though she says sorry whilst doing it), then I can most certainly cope. I know I can cope. I have proved that. I can cope with or without Marion. Marion just makes coping a little bit more fun. Having said that, she still doesn't load the dishwasher in the right way, but maybe accepting that is all part of coping too.