Monday, 30 March 2009

Just another day in A & E

There's too many things to tell you all - I don't even know where to begin.

If I'd written a post on Saturday night I would have told you all about the Superhero party we went to and the two beautiful Supergirl costumes I picked up on e-bay for a third of the normal retail price (I just love a bargain). The party was fabulous, of course, and Renée and Edie had a blast - believing pehaps that for two hours, at least, they were indeed Supergirls. I remember those days of feeling invincible and it made me a touch nostalgic and sad to think that I am no longer. And neither is Renée - more on that in a minute.

But I didn't write a post on Saturday night because for some inexplicable reason (nothing to do with screaming children, too much chocolate and a long drive back in the dark with contact lenses that needed changing), I had a raging headache and it was all I could do to put my two Supergirls in bed before I hit the sack myself.

And if I'd written a post yesterday afternoon I could have told you about the wonderful time we'd had at the sushi restaurant and how proud I am that my children eat raw fish without pulling funny faces and despite the cost (don't ask), it's Renée's favourite treat and we all ate so much that I'm now full up for the rest of the week. But I didn't write about that either because I was overly shattered and all I could think about was getting the girls into bed before I sat down with a cup of tea to get my Sunday night fill of Lost. That was until...

'Waaahhhhhhhhhh'. Renée's piercing screams jolted me away from whatever it was I was doing (strangely I can not recall although it probably had something to do with reading someone else's blog).

Now for those of you who've ever visited our house, you'll know those bloody lethal concrete steps that lead into the sitting room and you can thus envisage the carnage. For those who don't, I'm sure you can imagine. In case you can't, I shall describe the scene of devastation for you. Renée was lying flat out with her chin literally stuck to the edge of the step, blood spewing forth like a pressurised leaking pipe. Through her blood, tears and snot she uttered the most heartbreaking of words.

'Mummy I think I need a plaster'.

'Ooh, I think you're gonna need more than a plaster sweetie'.

It's times like this I could really do with a husband. But hold on, I have one...oooh he's just a hundred thousand miles away in Zambia and I'm left to pick up the pieces (literally - I think there was something that looked a bit like flesh on the step).

Husband - if you're reading this, I'm sorry. I know you'd be here if you could and you're away earning money for us so we can live and eat (more sushi) - but really, I needed you yesterday. A LOT.

So, with poor Renée trying her hardest to be brave whilst clutching a red sodden piece of loo paper to her chin, I attempted to get Edie dressed for the car journey. She had, up until that moment, been wondering around naked, teasing me, as she does, with promises of potty use. No little presents have yet been delivered into the potty, but the teasing promises are there nonetheless. Edie decided, of course, that she would rather scream and throw one of her delightful tantrums than put a nappy on, but as it was rather imperative we left the house as soon as possible, a nappy it was. Two screaming children, plenty of blood, snot and sweat (all mine) later we arrived at the hospital.

Now I don't know if any of you are familiar with the Royal Sussex County Hospital, but if you are, you will know that it has recently been re-designed with the new addition of an ultra-modern children's hospital. All very lovely, apart from the fact that the car park is now about a ten minute walk from A & E. Fine if you're visiting, but possibly not fine if you're in labour and definitely not fine if you have two screaming children (one with a gash the size of a small mobile phone and a constant drip, drip, drip of blood and the other with arms in the air demanding to be carried). Not fine at all.

I eventually arrived in A & E carrying my two children (both of who weigh about 3 stone), absolutely drenched in sweat (that's the last time I'm responsible enough to make sure we all leave the house wearing full outdoor gear in case we catch a cold), and having the most terrible hot flush. You would have been forgiven for thinking that I was either slightly deranged or going through the menopause. I can assure you neither is the case...yet.

Luckily the woman at reception took pity on us and we were seen almost straight away. And instead of stitches, Renée's chin was literally superglued together. Just like that. She was a total trooper and I salute her for being so brave. I'm relieved to say that the gash is not in the middle of her face, but on the underside of her chin, no bones were broken and I have every hope that she won't be mentally scarred. As for the physical scarring - well, I used to go to school with a girl who had a scar in the exact same place and even though she was slim and there was no sign of any fat, it looked like she had an enormous double chin...

I'm hoping, for Renée's sake that she will be spared that injustice at least.

Friday, 27 March 2009

To Iron or not to Iron?

Ok, so I won't be winning any awards for deep thinking with this post, but I know for a fact that it's a subject close to every Mother's (or Father's) heart. And because I care about you all I'm interested to know your opinions on the subject. To Iron or not to Iron? I, for one, never ever ever ever ever ever (have I said that enough?) iron. Never ever. Despite the fact that I own about 4 irons, I don't think any of them work and I'm not even sure where the ironing board is. But before you stop and berate me for being scruffy and creased, I can assure you that I am nothing of the sort (well my Mother might refute that but then, she does have certain standards)...

As a stay-at-home Mum with two small children I am constantly lamenting the fact that I have no spare time for myself. There are meals to cook, nappies to change, children to dress, noses to wipe, books to read, cuddles to give, dishwashers to load/unload, clothes to wash, more nappies to change and a host of other things I may have forgotten like fiddling around on the computer or gassing on the phone. So when on earth is there time for ironing?? In my book there just isn't time. Only yesterday I popped over to see a friend who has two children and after a quick coffee she waved goodbye to me with the parting words 'Oh, now I've got about three hour's worth or ironing to do'. And then I noticed a blog post from Single Parent Dad that mentioned he too had ironing. And not only that, a couple of Twitter updates from Mothers with, you've guessed it, more ironing.

So, come it really necessary? I'm not suggesting here that we all start to walk around with crumpled clothes. There are other options (apart from paying a laundry service to do them of course). So this is what you do. You hang your clothes on a line in the garden (when it's sunny enough) or on a dryer or radiators when it's not and you make sure that they are lying in such a way that when they dry, they dry with no creases. And then you fold them well and put them away and that is all there is to it. Seriously. And how much time have you saved yoursleves? Oooh, I'd say about three hours a day. That's three hours more to fill with...well, that's up to you... Unless of course you're one of those freaks who actually like ironing. I did once know someone like that. But they're not my friend any more...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

What's in a name?

Naming a child is one of the most important decisions a parent ever has to make. Indeed, studies have shown that children with obscure names perform worse at school and are less popular with other classmates. And by the time they reach University they are more likely to drop out or become 'psychoneurotic'. I will, therefore, be forever grateful to my parents for naming me Emily because it is a name which, not for one moment, have I ever disliked (and despite having two children who push me to breaking point on a daily basis, I can safely say that I am not yet psychoneurotic). When it came to naming our own children, I took great pleasure in the decision making process, wanting to choose names which would work in both English and French (my husband is French). But of course, I didn't want them to be too popular and have the poor child be called by both their first and second names for the rest of their lives, or be too obscure that they would have to be repeated two or three times before anyone even understood them. We eventually chose Renée and Edie and, although my Granny took great delight in telling me that she hated them, I have never regretted the decisions, not even for a second.

So when some good friends of ours recently had a baby girl I was interested to know what name they had chosen. For the first few days they were undecided which I found extremely frustrating. Not only could I not imagine having an unnamed child (Edie had been 'baby Edie' since my 5 month scan), but I also wanted to send a congratulatory card and needed to write the name inside. So after a week of no news I sent a text. The text 'conversation' went something like this.

Me: Hope all good and that N is getting some sleep. Any news on the name?
Baby's Dad: All's fine. Yep, N getting some sleep. Have called the baby Helga.
Me: Glad all's good. Not sure whether to believe you about the name or not.
Baby's Dad: Why what's wrong with the name?
Me: Well nothing if you're a 6 foot German shotputter.
Baby's Dad: Helga's actually the name of my late Gran.
Me: Please tell me you're joking or I risk offending you and your baby daughter for the rest of your lives.
Baby's Dad: No offence taken.

End of message. Oops. Call me stupid, but they had named their first child Rory and I explicitly remember them telling us the reason they had chosen it was because it was a good, strong, solid British name. So when I had seen the name 'Helga' texted on my phone, I had assumed they were joking. Well, what can I say? Assumption is the Mother of all Fuckups....

But even after the text I still couldn't quite accept it. I was hoping that it was some elaborate plan to make me look a fool and resisted writing her name in the card, just in case. So when 'Helga's' Father popped by the next day, my first reaction was to ask how 'the baby' was. Not only was I struggling to say her name, but I couldn't even look her Father in the eye. My husband, thankfully was not so reluctant. 'How's Helga?' He enquired. 'Yeah, she's doing well thanks', replied the Father, showing no signs of either stifling a laugh or regretting their decision. So that was it then. This baby had really been called Helga. I would just have to accept it.

But I couldn't. I have no idea why, but I was having a really strange reaction to the name. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to shield the baby from years of bullying and trauma. But more than likely I just didn't like the name. Whatever it was, as my pen was poised over the card, hand shaking, I literally had to force pen to paper to write the words. And this is what they were.

'Congratulations on the birth of baby Helga. We are so happy for you all.'

Nothing too difficult. And then I went into the next room and hand-delivered it.

Helga's Dad: So you don't like our choice of name then?
Me: No. I love it. It's funny, the more you say it, the better it sounds. I'm sorry about the text. It's a really great name. Very original. (I was squirming at this point).
Helga's Dad: Come on Emily. You know us. Do you honestly think we would have called our child Helga?

I couldn't believe it. I have vague memories of swearing at him. A lot.

Me: So what have you called the baby then?
Baby's Dad: Oh we haven't decided on that yet...

For the record, the baby was eventually called Isla. Personally, I much prefer it to Helga. But then again, I was beginning to come round...

Oh yeah, and let's not forget the card which will be forever cherished and pulled out to laugh at. The shame.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Letter to my daughters

So after a hectic weekend of Grandparents and yet more eating, I have finally been able to sit down and read the newspapers. This is a huge treat since I normally don't have time to buy them, let alone indulge in them. But today, for an hour or so at least, I did. And as it was Mother's Day yesterday I came across a few articles relating to the very subject. My favourite was a collection of letters written by three or four authors to their daughters offering help and advice for their later life (all the daughters were young and this letter was to be given to them at the age of 21). And it got me thinking about what I would write in a letter to my two daughters. This is what I came up with.

To my darling girls,

I'm going to start with a cliché, but believe me when I say that it is true. I would die for you both. I really would. I never understood how that felt until the first moment I saw one of you in pain. You were a day old and the doctors were performing their routine 'heel-prick' test which involved extracting four or five drops of blood from your heel. You were hysterical with pain and shock, not understanding why anyone could hurt you so. And in that moment, as I watched your rigid body and your contorted face I felt it. And I still feel it now and every day. I feel it when I watch you sleep at night with your soft, peachy skin and your perfect features, your eyelids flickering with all your excited thoughts. I feel it when you tell me that you love me and when you put your arms around my neck and let me take in your irresistible scent. I feel it when you share your excitement with me and when you are wise beyond your years. I would die for you in a heartbeat my darlings, and this is the truth. But don't let that make you feel under any pressure to please - the love I feel for you will always be there - no matter what you do, or who you are. Because here is another cliché for you - I just want you to be happy. Truly. Of course I want you to be healthy too, and adored by all who meet you, and kind and successful and loving. But most of all I want you to be happy with whatever it is you choose to do.

So here's my advice to you - and I hope it helps somewhat towards your path of happiness.

  1. Try not to fixate on the future so much that you don't enjoy the present. The journey itself can be so much more rewarding than the destination.

  2. Always treat people the way in which you would like to be treated. Be kind to everyone you meet. And if they are not kind back, then don't think it is your fault. Maybe they're having a bad day.

  3. Don't be afraid to follow your dreams, whatever they may be. Only you know what really makes you tick.
  4. Travel if you can. Go to places that make you open your eyes and realise that there is so much more to life than what is inside your own front door.

  5. Don't be afraid to trust people - but only if you understand that sometimes the people you trust can let you down.

  6. Marry for love, but try to remember (and this piece of advice comes from Grandma) that however much love you have, if you have no money, then love sometimes goes out of the window.

  7. Believe that you are capable of doing anything that you want. Don't be scared of trying. If at first you don't succeed, then try and try again. You can and you will do it.
  8. Always be yourself - whoever that may be.

  9. Try not to get excessively angry about things - nothing is that important. And if you realise half-way through an argument that you are wrong, then have the courage to back down.

  10. Never forget that I will always love you.

  11. Never bite your fingernails.

  12. Always put on clean underwear.

  13. Eat your vegetables.

  14. Don't shave your legs - wax them.

  15. Never go to bed on an argument or with an untidy kitchen.

  16. Always listen to your Mummy and do exactly what she says.

And if at any point you forget this advice, then remember just one thing. I will always be here for you. If your heart is broken and all you want to do is curl up into a ball and sob, then I will be here for you. If someone hurts you, I will be here for you. If you are scared or lonely or panicked, I will be here. Never ever forget that.

Your Mummy

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Am I neurotic?

A strange thing happened to me yesterday which has made me question whether I am slightly more neurotic than I originally thought. I have to say I don't think I'm neurotic at all - I let my children walk around the house eating food and don't mind clearing up mess (but now I'm sounding more like Slummy Mummy). Ok, so I let my children ride bikes and don't panic about them falling off, or I let them climb climbing frames in playgrounds and feel relaxed about it. That's what I mean about not being neurotic. But after yesterday's incident, I am beginning to doubt myself. So I need someone to tell me that I did the right thing, although in simply asking the question maybe it confirms what I don't want. Let me explain.

As I was leaving Renée's swimming lesson yesterday I noticed a little boy, around three years of age (I am basing this guesstimation on the fact that he was slightly older than Edie, but nearer Edie's age than Renée's). He was starting to climb along the edge of a wall whilst his Mother (or the person I assumed to be his Mother) was engaged in chit chat with another Mother and her children. As I loaded Renée into the car I kept my eye on the little boy who seemed to be edging further and further along the wall. And although the beginning of the wall was low enough for him to climb on, the furthest part was at least ten feet off the ground and directly below, nothing but concrete. Now I know for a fact that I wouldn't have wanted my youngest child walking along the ledge, nor even my eldest child, or my very capable husband for that matter. In brief, the wall was extremely high for anyone, especially a little boy, who, had he fallen, would have done himself more than a great deal of damage.

I stood for a while, hoping that his Mother would turn around, realise he was gone, and when she did, run straight to his rescue. But she didn't. She continued her chat, all the while with her back to the child, oblivious to his increasing danger. I meanwhile, was left wondering what to do. Should I alert her to the fact that her child was in danger? Or should I forget about it, climb into my car and drive off? For a while I kept watching, urging his Mother to turn around. Still no joy. And then a wobble from the little boy and my heart almost jumped out of my body. Now I really had to say something.

'Excuse me'. I shrieked (this was truly scary stuff, believe me). 'Do any of you have a little boy with a red jumper? Well, he's just about to fall off a really high wall over here.' There, I'd said it. I could no longer be held responsible for any hideous accidents. I expected the Mother to run to her child, and if not exactly catch him as he fell, at least reach up for him and guide him down and cover him with kisses in a warm motherly embrace, grateful that disaster had been averted just in time. But maybe that's just me. Because that's not at all what happened.

Instead, she turned around, without moving her body, just her head. And she looked at me, somewhat frostily I might add, and said 'Yeah, I know. He does that every week.' And then she turned back to her friend and carried on chatting. There was no 'Thankyou for saving my child.' Ok, so maybe that's a little over the top since he didn't actually fall. But if that had been me, I would at least have said 'Thanks. Yep, he's mine. And I know it looks ridiculously dangerous, but he somehow manages it every week and I'm not worried about him, but thanks for letting me know.' But then, I would never have let my child climb along such a high wall in the first place. Or maybe that's just me...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Mother to stay

So The Mother has arrived...and just in the nick of time, since I have been without help or (adult) company for almost a week now. And there I was thinking I had been coping unbelievably well - I mean I almost had a spring in my step - until I was stopped not once, or even twice, but three times yesterday by people asking me if I was 'ok'. One even asked if I'd been cying (I hadn't)...although I had come pretty close. The first time I tried not to take it personally - I mean I wasn't exactly looking my best. The second time made me think that maybe I should at least have put on some sunglasses, but by the third time, well, let's just say she won't be asking me that question again. I mean what do they expect? My husband is away, the au pair has left us, Edie's been up half the night with sore gums and they have both woken up at 6am for the past four mornings. Not to mention the fact that I've been swimming and my hair has frizzed up, and I haven't had time to locate any clean clothes or even makeup for that matter. Now I know I am in the habit of looking like a supermodel every day (ahem), but please give me a break...

So The can I put this? She likes a clean house. Well you can imagine after the comments about my appearance, what the house was looking like. Not a pretty sight. So she was due in at lunchtime, which gave me the morning to tidy up. And taking Edie's swimming lesson into account it actually gave me only an hour to tidy up which is what I need on a good day anyway. The odds were not with me. But for some reason I just couldn't do it. My love of procrastination coupled with about five tea beaks were not in the least bit helpful. And when the doorbell rang about an hour before she was due, my heart nearly stopped. But, thankfully it was the Tesco delivery man with my food shopping for the week. 'Real' supermarket shopping with two children would have just about finished me off.

But it's never that simple is it? Not only were my delux sesame and honey biscuits 'unavailable', but the delivery man had just about the worst body odour I have ever smelt. I mean I know it was a warm day yesterday, but please. Just one waft was enough to make my knees buckle, not to mention the damage it was doing to the already less than fresh air in the house. And with The Mother arriving imminently, I started to panic ever so slightly. And even more so when the phone rang. 'Darling, I got the earlier train. I'll be with you in 15 minutes.'

Windows were opened, sprays were sprayed, food was put away hastily, beds were made, carpets were vacuumed, clothes were folded, tables were wiped. You get the picture. All that in 15 minutes. When I finally opened the door I was, how shall I put this? A little breathless verging on hysterical. 'Hi Mum. Good journey?' I waited with baited breath as she scoured her surroundings. 'Darling, the house looks beautiful'. And then she looked at me. 'You, on the other hand...'

Damn. If only I had had that extra 15 minutes...

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Lists and things like tantrum control

I love my children. I love my children. I love my children. This is actually just a precursor to the fact that I'm going to moan about them and not because they've done anything particulalrly cute today. But now I've written that I feel a tad guilty, so I'll just give you a couple of cute tidbits before I start the moan.

From Renée - 'Mummy - you're the best Mummy in the world. And if they had Mummy's on other planets then you'd be better than them as well.'

From Edie - 'Mummy - Edie Nenée's big sister.' 'No Edie, Renée is the big sister. Renée is Edie's big sister'. 'No' (going red in the face and stamping her feet). 'Edie Nenée's big sister.' 'No Edie. Edie is Renée's little sister.' 'No' (throwing herself on the ground and thumping her fists). 'Edie big sister. Edie got bigger bot bot.' 'Well, yes possibly...if you look at it like that.'

But aside from the cuteness of it all, I do like a good moan. I should really be called 'Moaning Mum' but I found a blog written by someone who uses that pseudonym already so I'll just stick to being Emily and I promise that my next blog post will be slightly more upbeat because in all honesty I adore my children and wouldn't have it any other way. But in the meantime, here's the moan...encouraged somewhat by a Twitter update I read today from Backpacking Dad. It read something like this...(actually it read entirely like this because I've just cut and pasted it)...

'If toddlers could fire rifles with any accuracy they could take over the world. Temperaments of freedom fighters. Uncompromising.'

It made me laugh because it reminded me of Edie. She will not stop until she gets what she wants. I honestly don't remember the tantrum stage with Renée (a case of rose-coloured spectacles possibly), but Edie has one every five minutes. A tantrum putting on shoes (if I try to help). A tantrum leaving the house (if I try to open the front door instead of her). A tantrum getting into the car (if I don't let her climb into the car seat all by herself). A tantrum if I put her in her own car seat (instead of Renée's which is infinitely superior because Renée's is a 'big girl's seat'). I could go on and on. I let it wash over me most of the time because I'm sincerely hoping it's just a phase. I'll come back to you in 8 months time when she's out of the 'terrible twos' and let you know then.

But it did get me thinking that my daily life now revolves around hair brushing, teeth brushing, tantrum control, dawdling prevention, meal cooking, more tantrum control, breaking up sibling brawls and various other exciting things which I had no idea about before I became a Mother. And then I thought about how different my life is now compared with how it was just a few precious years ago. So let me share these lists with you.

10 exciting things I did before having children

  1. Interviewed the legend that is Magic Johnson and made him laugh at my jokes.
  2. Climbed to the top of one of the highest active volcanoes in the world - Cotopaxi in Ecuador - whilst filming the Raid Gauloises for Trans World Sport.
  3. Sat next to Stevie Wonder in a bar in Paris.
  4. Flew in a 4-seater aircraft and landed in the middle of the Sahara Desert on my way to film the Marathon des Sables in Morocco.
  5. Ate Dog in South Korea. Not intentionally of course.
  6. Went to Equatorial Guinea to film Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani. Ok, so probably most of you won't know who that is but he was big at the Sydney Olympics. Remember, this is a pre-children list!
  7. Had Stephen Fry sing Happy Birthday to me when I was 17. Well the truth is, he sat at the next table to us when I was blowing out the candles on my cake and everyone else joined in - so he may have hummed along. And yes, I know he's not even following me on Twitter, but that's because I'm too proud to ask.
  8. Won a Blue Peter badge for being runner-up in the Winter Wonderland competion when I was 9 years old.
  9. Got married to a wonderful man who was my partner in crime for so many years as we filmed around the world.
  10. Gave birth to my two beautiful daughters and became a Mother. Which leads me neatly on to the next list.

10 exciting things I do now that I have children

  1. Wake up in the night because one child has been sick all over her cot. Spend almost an hour bathing said child and changing sheets and mopping up sick. Child is too upset to sleep in cot so comes in to bed with me. Finally drift back to sleep to be awoken by child throwing up all over my bed clothes instead of hers. Spend half an hour changing my sheets. Finally drift back to sleep only to be awoken by other child who has wet the bed. Change sheets and try to go back to sleep but am unable to for fear of being woken again. To be fair this did only happen once and it was more than a year ago, but something like that is hard to forget.
  2. Clean up chocolate biscuits left on the floor by toddlers. Decide to eat a few large crumbs whilst tidying up only to discover that they are not chocolate biscuits after all...but child's poo. (Yes I know I already told you that one), but it is a corker.
  3. Put on a combined total of 8 stone during my two pregnancies. And yes I know I told you that one too, but I obviously haven't got over it.
  4. Never ever ever have a lie in because my husband is always away and when he's home he's so full of energy that there's too many things to do.
  5. Leave the house wearing a brand new cashmere jumper (and thinking I don't look half bad) only to discover that there's vomit down my back and has been there all day.
  6. Regularly clean up sick and poo and don't even think twice about it.
  7. Spend all day trying to stop one child pulling another child's hair only to have my hair pulled instead.
  8. Spend so much of my life talking to children that when I'm faced with talking to adults I momentarily forget how to speak.
  9. Load the washing machine at least three times a day. Then dry the clothes, fold them and put them away only to take them straight back out to get them dirty all over again. Told you these were exciting things...
  10. Oh yes, I almost forgot. Write a blog about how exciting my life is because I really do think it's exciting (in a funny sort of way).

Friday, 13 March 2009

Marion's Departure

Edie's happily curled up in her cot (still not in her bed but that's another story entirely) and Renée's at school so I now have a two-hour window in which to write my post of the day, but I'm feeling strangely subdued and totally uninspired. And the reason behind this is not because my husband left yesterday for almost a month away - well it could be partly to do with that, don't get me wrong - it's just that I'm used to him being away. No, I think the real reason while I'm feeling so miserable is because Marion has gone. There I've said it. Our au pair has left us. I knew she was leaving, even before she came. We had agreed on two months...and at the time I honestly thought that would be enough. Turns out I was wrong.

You see, I've never had help with the children before....never never never. One set of Grandparents live in France and the other set live a five-hour drive away. And there are no brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or cousins even remotely near to help out. No, up until Marion's arrival at the beginning of January, everything I did always involved dragging children along with me. There were even instances, on more than one occasion, where I had to wake a sleeping baby to make a hospital dash in the middle of the night because I had a toddler who was writhing around in agony (I thought it was appendicitis) or boiling and blue (I don't think the doctors ever knew what that was). And whilst I was doing this, my husband was in New Zealand, or China, or somewhere in Africa and I might as well have been a single mother. So when the request came through from Marion - a niece of JP's brother-in-law who we'd never met before, to spend some time in England, I didn't know what to think. On the one hand I was in desperate need of some help, and Marion was being offered on a plate. But on the other hand, I was reluctant to commit to having her for eight months in case we couldn't stand the sight of each other after five minutes. Or worse still, it became clear that I didn't need help at all and there was nothing for her to do.

So we settled on two months. And that two months has today come and gone. And the truth is -we could stand the sight of each other. And there was always something for her to do. And the children loved her. And she read them bedtime stories in French. And she kept me company when JP was away. And she made them meals. And she helped me dress them. And she allowed me some time to breathe. And she made me laugh. And now she's gone and I want her back. And so does Edie - if her morning call of 'Marion, Marion. Where Marion gone?' is anything to go by. And in a pathetic attempt to make myself feel better I wrote a list of the pros and cons of having an au pair (somehow hoping to find some cons) - but there were too many pros and no cons and it didn't make me feel any better. But I thought I'd share the list with you anyway...

Pros of having an au pair:-Everythng

Cons of having an au pair:-Nothing

Insightful hey? I miss Marion. What can I say?

I can say, Marion thank you for being so wonderful. Thank you for cooking us crepes and making me cups of tea even though you didn't drink them yourself. Thank you for loving my children even though they pulled your hair and threw tantrums when you tried to dress them. Thank you for listening to all my woes on a daily basis and never ever complaining. Thank you for speaking such good English that I never had to repeat myself or talk slowly. Thank you for enjoying the same television programmes as me so we never had to argue about what to watch in the evening. Thank you for folding the clothes just the way I like them and thank you for learning how to load the dishwasher properly. But most of all thank you for giving me back a few spare moments so I can remember what it's like to feel sane again. And contrary to what Mr or Mrs Anonymous might have said at the end of my last post, I do like spending time with my children. That's why I'm still here. But 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without ever having a break is a little bit too much time. Even for me. And now Marion's gone, I'm just going to have to learn how to do it on my own all over again.

Monday, 9 March 2009

This takes the biscuit

The time has almost come. I'm thinking of potty training Edie. Although if the little 'accident' on the stairs yesterday is an example of what's to come, then I may delay it even further (despite scrubbing for a good half hour, the stains are still pretty evident). Hmmm. Funnily enough it brings to mind an incident which happened a couple of years ago during Renée's 'potty training period'. A friend had come round for a coffee with her two children. Both our youngest were babies so they slept whilst the two eldest played in Renée's bedroom. I was breast feeding at the time (and possibly on a diet too if my memory serves me well) let's just say I was pretty hungry and the chocolate biscuits my friend brought round were slightly too tempting to refuse. So that's the scene. Two Mummies chit-chatting on the sofa...two babies asleep...two toddlers playing happily in another room. What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it happens, quite a lot.

No sooner had the two toddlers spied the packet of chocolate biscuits, they were upon us, demanding that they too be given a share of the goodies. Keen to carry on chatting with my friend, I dismissed the two girls with a hastily given supply of biscuits and the promise of more if they played quietly together for at least ten minutes. Chit chat chit chat chit chat. All was going according to plan until Renée walked into the sitting room clutching the potty...'Mummy, Roxy done caca' (that's French for poo poo just in case you were wondering). 'Right - thanks darling. Lovely.' I took the potty and handed it to the other Mother (it was her child's poo after all). I like to think I'm a great hostess but I only deal with other children's poo if it's a dire emergency. This, as it happens, was not.

So that was that. Potty emptied. Babies still sleeping. Toddlers demanding more biscuits (and getting them). Mummies still chatting. It was a great morning. Great, that was, until the moment of departure came. Now for two toddlers to play happily together, a certain amount of mess has to be made. That's inevitable. But that doesn't send shockwaves through me in any way. A ten-minute tidy-up and no one need ever know that the bedroom was a disaster zone. But this time it was, how shall I put it, different. It wasn't the scale of the mess which surprised me, or the extent to which two little children had been able to run riot. No, it was this simple fact. Chocolate biscuits do not mix well with toys or bedding or carpets, or rugs, or white walls. Somehow, whilst I was happily chit-chatting away in the other room, I had managed to completely ignore the fact that almost a whole packet of crumbly biscuits with melting potential had been taken away by two two-year-olds. I mean what was I thinking? I'll tell you what I was thinking. I was thinking that just a little bit of peace and quiet is worth a ten-minute tidy up at the end of the day. But on this occasion I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

After ten minutes of crawling around on my hands and knees trying to tidy up the toys which hadn't been smeared in chocolate or crumbs, I made it to the potty corner. I don't know what had happened, but it looked as though either one or both of the children had been eating whilst sitting on the potty - like a man reading the Sunday papers on his 'throne' - and the whole surrounding area was covered with chocolate biscuit crumbs...or so I thought. And before you pass judgement - please remember - I was on a diet (and I just hate wasting food). So what did I do? I started eating the chocolate biscuits crumbs of course. Aside from the covering of tiny particles which I later had to vacuum up, there were a few big pieces of biscuit lying around. So piece by piece I put them in my mouth, pleased with myself for not only tidying up quickly, but doing it in a very efficient manner. But hold on, that doesn't taste like chocolate. Does it? No, it can't be. Can it? Just one more chew to make sure. Oh no. It really is what I think it is. It's POO. Aaaaaarrrrrggghhhh. And I'm eating it. Of course, I rushed straight to the bathroom where I spat my mouthful of biscuit and poo into the sink and quickly filled my mouth with mouthwash and water and mouthwash and water. Over and over again. But I'm telling you this - however many times I washed my mouth out and scrubbed and brushed my teeth, I still couldn't rid myself of the taste of poo. I could smell it. I could feel it. I knew it was there invading my every sense.

When I went to bed that evening, a good ten hours after the 'incident' I could still taste it somewhere deep in the back of my throat. And as I lay there thinking about it (how could I even try to think about anything else) it dawned on me why it was so horrific. It wasn't that I had eaten poo, as much as that in itself was hideous. But it was that it wasn't even my own child's poo. It was Roxy's poo. And she wasn't my own. Poo is bad enough when it comes from the ones you adore, but when it's someone else's child's poo, then that really does take the biscuit. And as for potty training Edie, well maybe I can leave it just a little bit longer...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Scuppered again

Just as I'm about to sit down and take a deep breath and fill you in on all that's been happening over the past week (apologies for the lack of posts) - my morning has been scuppered yet again. Remember, Mondays and Thursdays are my 'free' mornings. Ha. Now that's a joke. Nothing in this world is free (and I can tell you that for free)!! So last week, Edie had a temperature and a runny nose. This week, 20 minutes after she was deposited at nursery, the phone rings and I'm told that Edie has a runny nappy. Yes? And what do you want me to do about it? She eats lots of fruit, what can I say? Or else, if it's not the fruit then it's her back teeth coming through - I know this because she just so happened to bite me with them while I was prodding around a few days ago. Isn't teething supposed to cause runny nappies? Anyway, I explained all this on the phone, but even as I was saying it, I knew it was futile. 'Well of course if you think it's a tummy bug then I had better come and pick her up.' So obviously, because they gave me no choice, that's exactly what I did.

And now I feel like screaming. Or crying. Or eating. Or just doing something to make me feel better because my life is so frustrating at the moment. I've had the parents-in-law staying for five days (hence the lack of posts). The lack of posts being not because of a shortage of material (on the contrary, as you can imagine), but simply because I've not had a spare second to breathe, let alone write. As much as I love the in-laws (and indeed I do, otherwise I'd be the first to indulge in a spot of verbal in-law bashing), they really are all-consuming. I put it down to their Frenchness. You see, at the heart of every true French household is the dining table. Now that's a given. And that's not a bad thing you may think. And I'd agree. It most certainly is not a bad thing. For one day, or two, or at a push three. But when it's a sit-down, all the plates, all the glasses, all the cutlery, all the mats, all the condiments, all the eating, all the mess, all the clearing-away, all the stacking the dishwasher three times a day for five days, then the excitement of a crusty French baguette wears a little thin. Even for me.

Take Monday as an example. JP had finally made it home after two weeks in India and, understandably, his parents (who by this time were already happily ensconsed in the house) were excited to see him. Edie was at nursery. Renée was at school. It was time to sit back, relax, break out some French bread and olives and get the wine flowing. But this was lunchtime, and being English and not an alcoholic I'm not in the habit of drinking in the middle of the day. But, of course, who was I to deny them their heritage? Four glasses of Cotes du Rhone later and I was feeling a little giddy. The in-laws, unpeturbed by noon-time drinking, went off for their afternoon walk along the seafront and JP decided to catch up on 40 winks, while I was left with just one task - to collect Renée from school. Now when the Frenchies aren't in town and JP's not around, I don't think twice about this task. Obviously it's just something that has to be done. But by 2.30 on Monday afternoon, it was slowly beginning to dawn on me that this time it may not be so easy. The later I left it, the more likely it was that I would be late to pick Renée up (if I walked). So that left me only one choice. To drive. But after four glasses of Cotes du Rhone I was, if not exactly pissed, at least a little flushed and giggly (not to mention decidedly over the limit). So as much as I hated having to do this, I crept into the bedroom and woke my husband from his jet-lagged sleep. He was surprisingly amenable about the whole affair. Maybe he realised that it wasn't entirely my fault. Personally I blamed his parents one hundred percent - you should have seen the size of the glasses his Father was pouring. And of course, I didn't want to be rude and refuse...

So Renée was picked up from school by her Papa. As for her Mummy, well I quickly regained my composure only to lose it again by the evening...and it continued in this vein until their departure yesterday. Which is why I'm sitting here wanting to scream. This morning was going to be my first 'English' morning for a week. A cup of tea on the hop, followed by a slice of toast on the go, a quick deposit of the girls at school and nursery and a return home to catch up on the mountains of washing and cleaning that have now accumulated in every room (well not exactly - but you know what I mean). Isn't it funny what you wish for? Maybe I need to learn how to appreciate the good things when they happen - like a glass of wine and a crusty French baguette. But hold that thought for a moment - I just have to go and change a runny nappy.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

25 random facts about me

Now some of you may have seen this list already, but for those of you who haven't I thought I'd reproduce it on a very quiet blogworthy day.

1. I put on 5 stone (70lbs) during my first pregnancy. Even though I could see I was getting bigger, I convinced myself that it was just 'the bump' and continued to eat. I even woke up in the middle of the night to eat. Needless to say, after giving birth, it was obvious to all concerned that it hadn't just been 'the bump'. Whoops.

2. I used to think that I wasn't scared of anything until I developed a sudden fear of heights right at the top of the highest temple in Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Eventually I had to be escorted down sweating and shaking. Not a very pleasant experience.

3. I believe in platonic relationships. My best friend is male and we have been friends since I was 12.

4. Although I adore my children, I secretly blame them for all that is wrong in my life.

5. I eat everything except for baked beans which make me want to puke.

6. Er...I have decided to censor this one!!

7. My favourite book was 'Life of Pi' until someone introduced me to 'Shantaram'. Now when I say that 'Shantaram' is my favourite book I feel bad for 'Life of Pi'.

8. Music can make me happier and sadder than most other things. Sometimes when I hear a song that reminds me of a moment in time I can bawl my eyes out or sit and smile for hours.

9. I think I'm hilarious when I'm drunk.

10. I can't watch any film with Nicole Kidman in because, inexplicably, she makes my skin crawl.

11. I think that turquoise is a beautiful colour.

12. The people I get on best with are the ones who laugh at my jokes.

13. I have had my heart broken twice in my life. But I think I have broken more hearts than 2.

14. Even though I studied French at University, lived in France for a year and am married to a Frenchman, I don't actually like speaking French. I'm always embarrassed by how bad my French really is.

15. As a result of number 14 I don't think that any of my husband's family really know me and this saddens me and frustrates me each time I see them.

16. I love watching Bruce Lee films and have the whole collection, but actually I haven't watched any of them for years.

17. My Chinese star sign is a Tiger of which I have a tattoo on my right ankle. I had it done when I was 19 and managed to hide it from my parents until I was 27.

18. I haven't cried so much during my adult years as I did in 2008.

19. I once sat next to Stevie Wonder in a bar in Paris, but was so tongue-tied that I didn't say anything. What a wasted opportunity!

20. I love playing Backgammon and once won a tournament at the Groucho Club, but I have never played Chess and wish someone would teach me.

21. I know how to say "I have small tits, but a big penis" in Thai. Strangely enough, it has never been that useful.

22. I hate British cynicism, but then again I also hate American optimism. Somewhere in between would be nice. Any suggestions?

23. Some of my happiest times were when I was single.

24. My Mother once sent me 8 Mars Delights in the post and I ate them in one sitting.

25. I sometimes look at my children and genuinely believe that they're the most beautiful creatures on this planet even though I really know that they're quite ordinary looking.