Feeling thankful for the ties that bind

Well we’ve reached that ‘weird bit’ in the middle of Christmas and New Year again.

When you stop feeling festive, may be working and try to kid yourself that it really isn’t possible to put on half a stone of flab in a week.

(It is of course and the only way to deal with it is to demolish another box of chocolates and curse the person who gave them to you. It’s all their fault that your skinny jeans no longer fit – obviously!)

When you wake up thinking you must have a night off the booze and find yourself downing a G and T by 7.30pm.

Usually this time of year my thoughts turn to New Year’s resolutions. The ones I didn’t keep last year, the ones I hope I’ll stick to this year and the ones that will probably always be wishful thinking.

It’s also a time for family and good friends of course and how, despite occasionally driving each other bonkers, pondering just how crucial they are to keeping you sane.

Someone wise once said to me that really close friends are often a second family, the family that you choose.

Not that this means you wouldn’t choose your actual family you understand, just that the people you know you’ll always be able to rely on aren’t limited to the ones you’re related to.

Since becoming a mum I’ve realised just how true this is. When we started our little family with Mini-me friends that I’ve known for decades became even more important to me – even if having kids in tow means that literally years can go by between us meeting up.

I know that should I ever need them they’ll be there, no matter what different directions life has taken us in.

But also the new friends you make as a parent, especially when thrust into the scary world of becoming one for the first time, are some of the most important of your life.

There’s no pretence or glamour about discussing the perils of labour, breastfeeding and which bits of you have gone irreversibly saggy, but that’s why the bonds you forge are so quick and so strong.

It’s been less than five years that I’ve known many of my mum friends, but they’ve seen me through not only those sleep-deprived, blurry, wonderful early days, but also a heart-breaking miscarriage and the darkness that followed, a difficult pregnancy and then adapting to life with two and keeping both offspring alive without losing the plot completely.

I really don’t know what I would do without them now and I say a little prayer for them coming into our lives every single day.

So whether they’re living next door to me or hundreds of miles away I think this is probably the perfect time of year to say a massive thankyou.

Thanks for understanding when I want a glass of wine and not a cuppa at 4.30pm on a playdate.

Thanks for picking up Mini-me from school for me when I’m poorly.

Thanks for listening when I need a protracted, disjointed, barely comprehensible rant.

Thanks for pointing out all the good things on days when I can only see the grumbles.

Thanks for making me laugh until my bloody pelvic floor lets me down again.

Thanks in advance for sticking around for the next five years. And the forty after that!

And Happy New Year, of course, to you and yours.

How many plates can you carry?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, on certain days, parenting is a little like one, long waitressing shift.

Except for the fact that you don’t get paid and the only ‘tips’ on offer are stroppy about-to-start-school ones along the lines of: ‘Mummy, I need more blueberries,’ and ‘You need to buy more chocolate biscuits.’

I know – I can’t believe it took me this look to make the connection either.

Maybe it’s something about turning four, but Mini-me’s diva demands are definitely on the rise. And considering that her favourite ‘hobbies’ include picnics (garden, park and woodland based naturally), frequenting cafes and seeing how many snacks she can wheedle out of relatives and close friends, I’m starting to feel like a plate balancer as well as spinner.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain, after all ‘waitressing’ these days keeps me constantly on my toes and thus provides at least a grudging form of exercise, and I don’t have to wear short skirts like I did ‘back in the day.’

And actually Mini-me requesting that I pause the TV so she can take a quick ‘snack break’ has been the cause of much hilarity. (I know, I need to get out more to somewhere without swings and buggies.)

But let’s face it, fetching, carrying, raising voice when perfectly capable offspring is just being lazy, and wiping up spills with one foot whilst clearing dirty plates with hands is bloody knackering.

I have fairly painful memories of my pre-children waitressing ‘career’ – which actually constituted the revenue source of one university summer.

I was a pretty awful ‘restaurant attendant’ as I recall. I could only carry two plates at a time, would forget to put some meals through the till and then blame the chefs for their lateness and objected to having to plaster on a huge smile when I was quite often massively hungover.

Also I wasn’t shagging one of the managers which, if I remember correctly, was the only way to bag yourself decent tips!

Now of course I can cater to numerous demands in minutes and am brilliant at anticipating the customers’ needs.

Time for your bottle of milk sir? Here’s one I microwaved earlier.

More carrot sticks madam? Of course, here are some extra ones I prepared just in case.

You’d like a third custard pot of the day you say? You must be joking!

At least I’m not alone in this business of order taking and continual washing up.

One of my best friends now enjoys the delights of her child shouting ‘rubbish!’ when he’s finished consuming something on an outing and needs the remains disposing of.

Another has crisp packets thrown at her when her kids have finished munching. Obviously they are incapable of putting them in the bin themselves you understand.

Personally I’m looking forward to seeing what Mini-me tries to get away with at school mealtimes.

I’ll bet we’re the only parents called in because their child wishes to dine atop a blanket in the playground with her teddy bears.

And due to concerns over worrying custard pot addiction…

Parenting in a heatwave

So is it just me or has it been rather humid today?!

Seriously, if I want to be roasted alive I’ll go and live on Mars…

Grumpy levels in the Neat Freak household tend to rapidly rise with thermometer levels if I’m honest.

As my dad is part Indian people always tend to assume I’m a sun worshipper along with my sister. She thrives on weather hotter than living inside a microwave, and during her teen years used to oil up and lie out under the midday rays rotating herself occasionally a little like a rotisserie chicken.

Yes one of those slightly annoying types who breezes around looking cool whatever the temperature gauge says in one of her sparkly summer frocks.

Not me. I used to come out in a charming combination of prickly heat and hives. Brilliant when trying to impress teenage boys on a campsite holiday let me assure you…

Anyway, I’ll try to stop moaning, except to say that parenting in a heatwave isn’t much fun. And here’s why.

  1. The kids don’t sleep, so neither do you.
  1. Fans can only do so much. Like push hot air around an already sweltering room.
  1. Your ‘waitressing’ demands go on the rapid rise. Now you have ice cubes, ice pops, ice cream, iced drinks and copious straws to add to the never-ending list of requests.
  1. Sweat patches and stripes around the middle region (lovely!) tend to be larger when hefting around a large, lazy one-year-old.
  1. Public transport of any kind descends into total chaos. Meaning hubby is uber-cranky, and so are you. And while we’re on the subject why don’t rail tracks ‘melt’ in other countries?!
  1. There’s no chance of a rest when feeling light-headed.
  1. You are not even ‘allowed’ to watch Wimbledon. And why would you want to when you can enjoy your third Night Garden of the day?!
  1. You are constantly worried that the 13 layers of sun-cream you have coated your children in will be insufficient, they’ll burn and turn beetroot and you’ll become one of those ‘neglectful mothers’ vilified and shamed in the Daily Mail.
  1. You cannot under any circumstances get your child to wear their sunhat. And the ‘game’ of retrieving and trying to put it back on their head every 30 seconds ISN’T FUNNY ANY MORE.
  1. You haven’t got the energy to take the kids to the splash park. So you throw jugs of water over them in the garden and weep at how rubbish you are.
  1. You know you should be drinking water, after all it’s only 11am, but all you want is a gin and tonic.
  1. You hate all your summer clothes. They don’t mix with ‘mummy tummy.’
  1. You know you really must stop complaining. After all as soon as it’s freezing outside you’ll be praying for summer again…

It’s the little things really…

This parenting lark is strange isn’t it?

Without sounding too like a therapy session I can imagine Gwyneth sitting through, I think sometimes it makes you forget to look at the bigger picture. At least I know that’s the case for me.

I can also be more ‘glass half empty’ than I should when work and looking after little people is pushing up the stress levels, and that only adds to a certain sleep deprived, blinkered view of the world.

In those very early days of having children, when everything is all new and shiny (and you’re not too knackered yet) you can often spend literally hours just staring at your baby thinking: ‘How on earth did we produce someone so amazing?!’ and: ‘Every tiny fingernail is a miracle!’

You know, a tad cheesy. A bit like the script of a Jennifer Aniston film!

Then those 2 and 5am feeds start to stack up and you find yourself, through furrowed brow, wondering how you are, inevitably, going to mess them up!

Becoming a mum or dad is the point at which you’re supposed to really count your blessings – and of course you do.

But equally all the plate-spinning that comes with the job means you’re sometimes so focused on simply getting through the day that you can forget the daily wonder of it all.

I certainly know I’m guilty of fobbing off Mini-me on occasion, telling her that I’ll be there in a minute when in reality I’m furtively listening to the radio with a semi-hot beverage.

Sticking Beebies or a film on so I can get a job done when I really should have spent longer asking about what she enjoyed at nursery today.

Rushing through Blue-eyed boy’s bed-time book so the ‘bath production line’ can continue moving.

Bizarrely it’s been him coming out in chickenpox – not welcomed, but expected – that has given me a bit of a wake-up call in the Neat Freak household this week.

I’ve been so knackered that I’ve just let the laundry mountain, and other mind-numbing but ‘essential’ chores, continue to mount up. That’s given me more time to reflect on those little gems that are the things we really want to remember when they’re all grown up and don’t need us anymore.

Mini-me and I decided to go on a bear hunt around the garden as we couldn’t inflict poor ‘spotty baby’ on the outside world – with me sporting a fetching PJs and wellies combo – and we enjoyed it so much that we’ve now decided to make it a daily thing.

I’ve re-discovered that Blue-eyed boy really does enjoy a waltz around the living room. And that it makes me dizzier than it used to!

The point is that I had forgotten just how lucky I am to have more time with them while poor hubby contends with his daily three-hour plus commute.

I hope once the ‘pock pocks’ are finally faded and I’m fully back in the world of permanent multi-tasking that I don’t forget to stop a few times a day and just soak it all in.

Before they’re both stroppy teenagers who want nothing to do with me!

The things I (sometimes) think as a Mum – but don’t say

I’m pretty sure this little lot don’t only apply to me…

Hopefully not anyway!

  1. On being handed a sticky, slightly dog-eared, ‘hand iced’ biscuit from nursery…

‘Oh goody, I could really do with another row with my daughter about her wanting to eat this in the car when she can have it in two minutes when we get home…

‘And no, I don’t feel lucky to be handed the second half to eat as a ‘special present’ after you’ve licked it!’

  1. On being handed Mini-me’s sixth ‘artistic masterpiece’ of the week from nursery…

‘Oh goody, another piece for the ‘very special art folder’ – otherwise known as the filing system before the recycling bin…’

  1. When telling Mini-me at bedtime that I’m just on my way up (again) with water/ to deal with miniscule and possibly imaginary insect/ to read third book of the evening…

‘Will you PLEASE just go to ******* sleep! I want to down a glass of wine and watch Teen Mom OG!’

 

  1. When debating with Mini-me the likelihood of her being given her third custard pot of the day…

‘Where the bloody hell does she put it all?!’

 

  1. When dropping off both my kids at nursery…

‘Hooray! Some actual time to myself to work/ read Grazia/ watch some crap on TV!’

 

  1. When dealing with yet another exploding nappy…

‘Brilliant – more sodding poo-stained laundry…’

 

  1. When promising to do yet another jigsaw with Mini-me…

‘Can’t I just sit here with my hot drink and watch MTV?! Please!!!’

 

  1. When trying to immerse myself in art projects and/or cooking with Mini-me…

‘Isn’t this what nursery is for?!’

 

  1. When trying to do my daughter’s hair…

‘If you don’t stand still for one minute while I try to make these bunches look semi decent I may have some kind of breakdown!’

 

  1. When greeting hubby and kids after a trip running errands…

‘How the **** can the house get this messy in just two hours?!’

 

  1. When negotiating with either/both the kids over teeth cleaning…

‘I haven’t got the energy. Are their teeth really going to drop out if I leave it just this once?!’

 

  1. When watching the other half dress one or both of the children…

‘I can’t go out in public with them looking like this!’

 

No doubt more to follow…

Not getting better with age…

They say a fine vintage only improves with the passing years.

Probably not the case with buying whichever white is on offer in the supermarket eh?!

Anyway, wine consumption aside, it’s been a ‘prop those eyes open with matchsticks’ sort of week in the Neat Freak household.

Mini-me has valiantly fought, and scratched, off ‘the pox’ and we now wait with anticipation (more like total dread) for some sign of the small, itchy little sods blooming on poor blue-eyed boy.

Hubby’s friend, who has children almost exactly the same age as us, regaled him with a heart-warming tale yesterday of how they thought they’d got away with it with bubba number two. Until the pox re-appeared, like some sort of scary Jim Carrey sequel, when enough time had passed that they’d allowed themselves to relax.

‘Now he’s been exposed he’s bound to get it,’ said the voice of doom.

Oh goody!

More lack of shut-eye and passing out on the sofa because I’m so exhausted then, before blearily staggering up the stairs at 2am.

Last Sunday I woke up on the sofa at 4.30 in the morning. It was light outside. Birds were singing. Ridiculous!

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to read a news article about how, if you get by on only six hours of sleep a night, this will play havoc with your health.

Think dark circles hovering like bean bags under the eyes and skin a flattering shade of grey.

One expert said six hours of snooze time was the equivalent of driving your car over the same pothole every day. Apparently we should be getting eight or nine!

Now, correct me if I’m mad, but I thought six hours was pretty good when you have pre-school age children?!

And it’s even worse news for hubby, as when I finally do lumber into bed I’m a notoriously heavy sleeper, so more often than not he ends up getting up first with the kids.

Yes even kicking me in the ribs doesn’t work so I’m told…

I’d never really worried about obvious signs of ageing until mini-me approached her first birthday.

By then the inherent exhaustion that goes hand in hand with parenting had set in, and since then there have been (many) more grey hairs, more crinkly lines on my face and more ‘middle-aged spread.’

Yes, I’m clearly transforming into exactly Bradley Cooper’s type of woman. (Probably only if he actually was the Elephant Man… and even then he’d trade me in for someone younger, and firmer.)

The good news of course is that hubby will have to get over his Jessica Alba fetish as well!

The final insult hit home though, like a verbal punch to the chops, when mini-me was playing ‘families’ with her dolls and stuffed animals.

‘I’m the mummy, Mummy,’ she explained. ‘Baby brother is the baby and Moo Moo Cow is the daddy.’

‘Lovely. Who can I be?’ I asked.

She pondered for a few seconds.

‘You can be the granny,’ she beamed.

Fan-bloody-tastic.

If anyone could send me the number of a reputable face lift surgeon I’d be much obliged.

Welcome to the House of Pox

Today we hit a new low in the Neat Freak household. I ate a handful of wine gums for breakfast.

And before you ask no I wasn’t hungover, and it wasn’t simply down to my increasingly bad ‘Mummy eating habits’ – it was because we’ve been hit by the dreaded pox.

Yes that ‘mild’ – according to the NHS website – yet horrible disease, Chickenpox – or ‘pock pocks’ as Mini-me is calling it.

Many friends have recounted the weeks of woe when their poor offspring succumbed to the horrible crusty spots, but until my little girl woke up coated in the nasty blighters this week I have to say I didn’t fully understand the sheer grim-ness of it all.

I have vague memories of course of my own battle with the pox at the age of around eight. Copious baths filled with ‘bicarb’ and my mother recording just how many spots I had on camera so certain poor relatives could get the full effect. (Thanks Mum… and, Why?!!)

I also remember her ringing my gran in tears after my sister came down with it too, and Gran riding to the rescue and moving in for a week.

Anyway, it’s still early days here at the House of Pox, and I’m praying to the god of small people illnesses that Blue-eyed boy doesn’t also succumb. Probably wishful thinking eh!

After taking advice from the greatest parenting minds on the planet – my friends! – we have now taken stock of more anti-itch medications than the nearest chemist. Some of them, thankfully, seem to be working a little too.

Mini-me is being her usual brilliant self and is in surprisingly good spirits – probably buoyed by lots of presents to cheer her up including her beloved new Frozen PJs.

Hopefully ours will turn out to be a not-so-bad case. Certainly true if the various parenting threads Googling the pox has thrown up is anything to go by. This thing can be really, REALLY nasty it seems for some.

Without doubt one of my biggest parenting lows though was cuddling Mini-me last night in bed as she sobbed and squirmed in pain and discomfort that I could really do nothing to ease.

Makes me wonder how parents of little ones who are seriously ill cope with it all. I think they’re amazing.

Well I’d better be off for another ‘spot check,’ ahem!

Then I’m leaving hubby in charge for a few hours while I escape to the pub…

And as for you ‘pock pocks’, you can do one.